Rating: Eventually NC-17 (probably)
Summary: When words and time create a distance between two beating hearts, Yoochun and Junsu must decide if their love can be resurrected from the ashes of their pain.
Their lives were different now, so very different from where Yoochun thought they would be when he’d been wide-eyed and naïve. As young as he was, he felt every ache in his body and when he first stretched in the mornings, his muscles pulled along his bones, reminding him of the abuse he’d put himself through over the recent years.
He was certain that if he could look at the scars on his heart, the pains he felt in his limbs and shoulders would pale in comparison to the anguish he kept hidden in his soul.
“Too many things have changed,” Yoochun muttered, rocking back in the swivel chair he used in his make-shift studio. “Everything is too damned…different.”
His gaze swept through the tiny room, falling on bits and pieces of his life. Walls once plastered with accolades too many to tape to the whiteboard he’d purchased to gather up news articles on were now nearly barren. A few new pieces were displayed, mostly centering his historical drama role but hardly anything about his passion for music.
“So many things changed after the Fall,” He thought, pinching at his lower lip with his fingers as he let his mind wander down a dark, soulful path of his past.
The Fall is what Jaejoong called their departure from the company. At the time Yoochun thought the older man was being overly dramatic but once again the flighty singer was unerringly accurate in his assessment of a situation. Their fight to gain control over their lives set off a battle that was being waged before millions of people across Asia and not for the first time, Yoochun wondered if they would survive their war.
Declared gods by the stable that raised them, the three found themselves stripped of their divinity and plummeted down from the heavens once they discovered the wings they’d been gifted with were nothing more than wax feathers turned molten by the fury of their disgraced maker.
When they first fell, Yoochun wondered how long it would be until they hit bottom. The ground was still far away and the bruises they bore were from striking the cliffs jutting into their spiral downward. His mind was clouded by worry, fragmented mist that made it impossible to see how far they had left to go but he could clearly see the pinnacle they’d fallen from. The receding silhouettes of his once-brothers were burnt into his mind, their expressions shuttered and hard.
“I can stand the Fall,” Yoochun whispered, casting his eyes up to the heavens. “What hurts the most is the distance between the members, God. I beg you. Please help me with that. Please help repair my heart. I can stand to lose my wings. I don’t care if I bleed to death from hitting the ground but please… let the others be there to hold my body as I die. I beg that of you, God.”
The sky slowly churned with darkening clouds and what little sunlight that made it into the tall narrow windows lining the room’s outside wall faded, leaving long shadows in its absence. Yoochun turned towards the framed skyscape and let his melancholy thoughts drift.
It was no surprise when his mind settled on one particular face and the sad, bright smile Junsu wore more and more with each passing day.
“Oh God, of all the losses I’ve had…why Junsu?” Yoochun’s shoulders drooped and he hung his head. Hot tears scaled his eyes, turning his world to a wash of watercoloured pain. “Why him, Lord? Why did you have to take him from me?”
The pain was sharp, a stabbing reminder of the drifting death of the couple’s relationship. By the time Yoochun realized he was no longer in Junsu’s heart, the time to repair their separation had passed and he found himself stumbling blind through the heartache Junsu left behind.
“It was my fault.” The truth was bitter, a foul-tasting sting on his tongue. “You have no one to blame but yourself. You were too caught up in your own pursuits…your own star-chasing, You didn’t see he needed you. You didn’t see how much pain he was in.”
Sprawled under Yoochun’s feet, Harang let out a whimpering woof, his legs twitching as he chased something in his sleep. Using his toes, Chunnie scratched his dog’s bared belly, increasing the pressure when Harang rolled over and grunted with pleasure. Sighing, the canine relaxed and snored softly.
They sat in companionable silence, a sleeping dog and his heartsick master. Outside, Seoul ran black first with rain clouds followed by the night as the sun was swallowed by the horizon. The overcast city keeps what little stars behind the veil of the incoming storm and the ambient glow of the streets turn the gale’s belly orange as it rolls over Seoul’s crowded downtown.
Yoochun jumped when his phone chirped at him and he scrambled to reach it, nearly toppling out of the chair. Below him, Harang opened one wary eye as if to remonstrate the man then rolled out of the way, grumbling until he was comfortable again. The faint scrape of the dog’s nails on the wooden floor meant Harang had fallen back into his dreams and the man smiled, envying his dog’s ability to recapture sleep within seconds of being woken up.
“Hello?” Jaejoong’s voice tickled Yoochun’s ear. “Chunnie-ah?”
“Ah, hyung,” Yoochun teased lightly and his grin grew wider at the sound of Jaejoong’s irritated hiss. “It’s good to hear from you.”
“Don’t call me hyung,” Jae grumbled. “People think I’m egotistical when you say it. They think I’m raising myself above you. What are you doing?”
“Nothing. What time is it?” Yoochun stared blankly at the screen saver on his composing computer, wondering how long it had been since he’d last touched the keyboard. Moving the mouse, he pulled the desktop and winced at the clock’s display. Staring down at Harang, Yoochun muttered, “Why didn’t you tell me it was eight o’clock?”
“I called you…”
“No, Joongie-ah. I was talking to Harang.” He rubbed at his face, suddenly overwhelmed with fatigue. His stomach clenched and Yoochun tried to remember the last time he’d eaten. “Did you want to go out?”
Agreeing to meet Jaejoong at a nearby bibimbap café, Yoochun dressed quickly, throwing on a thick jacket before he headed out of the door. With his mother and brother off to the country to visit his aunt, he’d fallen behind on eating and his abdomen rumbled at the idea of crackling rice and smoked cuttlefish.
The rain hit in the short distance Yoochun had to sprint between his home and the restaurant. His hair was soaked down to his skull by the time he pushed through the café’s glass doors and the air conditioning sent shivers down his back. Shaking off as much water as he could, he bowed a quick greeting to the woman and asked after Jaejoong. She nodded and led him back to one of the smaller rooms. Already seated in a corner booth, Jaejoong rose slightly to give Yoochun a fierce hug then ordered the shivering man a draft beer.
“Aish, don’t get me drunk,” Yoochun scolded. “I’ve not eaten yet today. Let me get some food in me first.”
“Here,” Jae said, pushing a shallow bowl of sweet fish cake at Yoochun. “She just started to bring the panchan. I ordered some green onion pancakes for us to pick at before we ordered dinner.”
Food started to arrive and they ate in silence as the café filled with people. Yoochun cracked a raw egg against the side of the blistering hot stone pot their waitress placed in front of him and listened to the crackle of the rice as the cold egg seeped down the pot’s interior wall. Adding a small squirt of sweet gochujang sauce to the bibimbap, Yoochun ignored Jaejoong’s derisive snort at his cautious addition. Stealing the bottle from his friend, Jaejoong painted his rice a deep red with the sauce and stirred his rice up to cook the eggs he’d added.
“Are you going to talk about it?” Jae blew on a spoonful of hot vegetables, peering at his friend from under his long bangs.
“Talk about what?” Yoochun grumbled. He knew what Jae was talking about…or rather who. Most of his time lately had been avoiding both the subject and the person. The huffing snort from across the table told Yoochun he was not fooling his best friend.
“Really?” Jaejoong eyed Yoochun. “You’ve missed him…”
“How can I miss him? I see him nearly every day.” He waved his spoon at Jae’s nose. Hidden in a corner from the rest of the café, Yoochun was still careful not to raise his voice. They had enough trouble without rumours being started of their arguing. Any dissention among the three would be lauded in the press and give the company another piece of ammunition to wedge between them and the public.
It would be easier to lie if Jaejoong didn’t know his heart but Yoochun felt the piercing stab of his friend’s soulful gaze. He wasn’t fooling anyone except perhaps himself in ignoring the young man he’d given his heart to only to have it returned to him in pieces.
“You need to…”
“Don’t tell me what I need, hyung,” Yoochun cut Jaejoong off before he could finish. Stabbing at the egg cooking in the hot pot, he released the yolk onto the steaming rice and meat. The yellow syrupy yolk seeped down slowly, bits of cooked egg tumbling over shreds of bulgogi. He could barely Jaejoong’s gaze and the older man looked away but not before Yoochun caught a glimmer of hurt on the singer’s face.
Yoochun drained the rest of his beer and waved the empty bottle at the waitress to get her attention. The young woman returned to their table with two fresh bottles and more panchan before disappearing back into the main room.
“I’m sorry, Joongie-ah,” Yoochun pursed his lips and rubbed at his face, wishing he could take back the sharp tone he’d used on his best friend. “If you ask me how many times I think of him in the day, I would have to tell you to look up into the night sky and count the stars to find out. I can’t stop thinking about him but he passes by me as if I am… nothing more than someone he barely knows and it hurts. I can’t let myself be hurt that much again.”
“He is hurting too, Chunnie-ah. I know he is.”
“I just… we’re just… Junsu and I are too far apart. What we had… what we were is gone now. Like…”
“You two are nothing like hyung and I.” The bitterness in Jae’s voice was palatable. “There is still… time. There’s still…something, Chunnie-ah.”
Of the three of them, the older man paid the greatest price for his supposed betrayal of the company sucking them dry. With so much time passing between Jaejoong and Yunho, Yoochun wondered if his best friend would ever be reunited with the man he’d loved so deeply.
What Yoochun never said to Jaejoong…not even whispered in the darkest night when they were alone and drunk… was that he believed if he and Junsu had been stronger, Jaejoong wouldn’t have had to take them away from the other members, severing his relationship with Yunho.
A buzzing numbness crept into his cheeks and he stared at the beer bottle he held in his hand. With the waitress taking away their empties, he had no idea how many he consumed but the shimmering of lights behind Jae’s head gave him some clue he’d had more than he should. Looking down at his bibimbap, Yoochun was horrified to discover he’d eaten hardly any of the rice and had drunk his beers on an empty stomach. Digging into his dinner, he shoveled a spoonful of sizzling rice and meat into his mouth, hoping to catch the beer in his belly before it did too much damage to his senses.
“Too much has happened. Between us, I mean,” Yoochun said with a sorrowful shake of his head. The rice was still too hot and it scalded his tongue but he chewed valiantly, needing something in his stomach besides alcohol. “He’s moved on.”
“Junsu buys cats,” Jaejoong pointed out. “He’s not moved on. He’s turned into one of those old women who collects cats because her lover left her for another woman. If you have any heart…any love for him… you’ll talk to him before they eat him in his sleep because he didn’t wake up in time to feed them all.”
“Is it that bad?” Yoochun asked. “You know I can’t go to his apartment. One cat is fine. Your Jiji doesn’t bother me but six? Seven? How many does he have now?”
“I don’t know. I fear for my life in that house. It’s like walking onto the Serengeti.” The older man shrugged. “He loves them and they keep him company but they are a substitute for you. They keep him warm in his bed and that is something you used to do, Chunnie-ah.”
Yoochun shifted in his seat, squeaking the vinyl under his butt. He’d not shared a bed with anyone since Junsu and even the thought of bringing himself off held no appeal. An image of Junsu naked against white sheets flashed in his mind and his sex responded, hard and needful for the other man’s heat. Shaking off the arousal proved to be difficult and Yoochun hoped Jaejoong thought the flush on his cheeks was from the beer and not his filthy thoughts.
“He accused me of sleeping with Song Joong Ki!” Yoochun hissed under his breath, hoping to deflect his need for Junsu with the stabbing pain the other man left him with. “Me! If I was going to sleep with anyone besides him, it would be you.”
Jaejoong’s spoon quivered as he froze in shock, his utensil halfway to his open mouth. Wide-eyed, he stared at Yoochun in horror. “Did you tell him that?”
“Yes,” Yoochun grumbled and waved off Jaejoong’s anguished moan. “He knows I wouldn’t sleep with you. I was just angry. That was the last time we…well, that was the end of it. He walked out.”
“You need to fix this, Chunnie-ah,” Jae said, biting into his bibimbap. “It’s been months and the more time you let get by you, the harder it will be.”
“We won’t make it hard for the group,” Yoochun replied. “You know we can be professional.”
“I don’t care about the group.” Jaejoong leaned forward and clasp his fingers over his friend’s arm. “I don’t care if we never sing again so long as your heart is whole, Chunnie-ah. I’d give up anything… I’ve given up everything… for your happiness. That is all that is important to me. For you and Junsu to be happy…and whole once again.”