Part: 3 (Chaptered)
Previous Sections: One, Two
Pairing: Yunho and Jaejoong
Rating: R/NC-17ish (Unknown overall)
Genre: Angst, Romance
Written for swallowtt
Separation comes at a terrible price. Reconciliation demands an even greater coin but can they...are they willing to pay it?
The soju was cold but the temperature in the tiny back room of the restaurant was nearly steaming when Yoochun choked on Jaejoong’s words. Sputtering the high octane alcohol, he coughed, waving his friend off when the other man moved in to pat him on the back.
“You did what?” He gasped, coughing to clear the dregs of the liquor from his throat.
“I told him to leave,” Jaejoong whispered. His long fingers played with the shot glass in his hands, angling it so the soju sloshed back and forth against the walls but the alcohol had yet to touch his lips.
“So did he?”
Jaejoong nodded. “He said we weren’t done yet. He wasn’t done yet.”
It’d been two days since he’d shown Yunho the door but Jae’s skin still itched with the feel of the man’s hands on him. His mouth remembered Yunho, small tidbits of his kisses resurfacing in Jae’s mind at the most inconvenient times. Thankfully, the loose clothing he wore for the drama he was shooting camouflaged his sex or he’d have to explain why riding his horse caused his pants to tent out.
He’d already caught odd looks when he braided the horse’s mane. Jaejoong didn’t want to begin to imagine what would be said if they found him aroused while riding the animal.
The city was soaked through, sullen under a quickly moving storm. The winds were fierce, battering at hanging store signs until they creaked loudly, swaying under the onslaught. Jaejoong knew how those signs felt. His body echoed with twinges of bruised flesh when he moved. He’d been astonished to find long bruises on his upper arms from Yunho’s fingers clenching him. When he brushed his own hand over them, he could almost imagine it was Yunho’s touch, re-establishing his ownership over Jaejoong.
Then the emptiness in Jae’s heart brought him swiftly back down to reality. It was a hard, long fall. One he’d made countless times before but the old wounds were reopened, seeping out new pain like the drops of blood he’d cleaned up off his foyer floor.
“What are you going to do?” Yoochun picked at the pile of kim chee in front of him. Staring at the piece of cabbage he selected, he sighed and placed it back on the panchan dish. “I can’t. My stomach’s too upset. What… I don’t even know what to ask. Is he okay? I mean…. Fuck, I don’t know what I mean.”
“He’s skinny,” Jaejoong replied. “Too skinny.”
His own appetite skittered away and the only thing his stomach seemed willing to handle was more soju. Refilling his glass, he tossed a mouthful of the fiery liquid over his tongue, hissing at its acidic burn. Another tip of the bottle provided enough liquor to fill his glass only halfway and he peered around, looking for a waitress to grab him another.
Yoochun pulled down Jaejoong’s hand before the woman spotted it.
“Don’t, Joongie-ah,” Chun murmured. “We need to have this talk. And for that, you need a clear head.”
“What I need,” Jae grumbled as he lowered his arm. “Is a drunk heart.”
“Come on.” Yoochun tossed enough won on the table to pay their bill. “Let’s go walk. We can talk in private. Too many ears listening in here.”
“It’ll match your insides.” Tugging on his friend’s hand, Yoochun led the other man outside.
They ducked under a store awning long enough to grab a few bottles of iced Hite beer then sprinted down the street through the pouring rain to a spot they’d lingered at for years. The bridge overhang near the river was high enough for them to walk under without hitting their heads and the cement buttress’ tiers gave them ample room to sit down. In the shimmering dimness of a rain-soaked, brightly lit city, the friends shook off most of the storm’s damage and leaned against one another, flicking the bottle caps into the water to watch them bounce on the river’s surface.
They were halfway through the first two bottles when Jaejoong leaned back against the concrete shoring and sighed. The lights on the river were soothing and the sound of Yoochun breathing next to him was a familiar, faint whistling sound brought on by the walk in the cold misty air. The curve of the bridge’s beams kept them out of the wind but Jae fretted about Yoochun’s health.
“Did you bring your inhaler?” Jae gave his friend a sidelong glance.
Yoochun snorted and tipped his beer back. “This is better. I’m fine. Just… talk.”
“I don’t know…where to start.” Jaejoong stared out at the water. The city’s lights shone in dappled circles on its surface, dancing motes of yellow, red and white against a rolling black canvas.
“Start with why you opened the door,” Yoochun murmured. “Then tell me why you shut it behind him again.”
He had no answers. Staring out at the bokeh shimmers on the river’s far shore, Jae let his mind drift and thought of the man he needed in his life.
Without Yunho, the world seemed to pale into a watery echo of its former vibrancy. He still found himself picking out choice bits of meat with his chopsticks at a restaurant, cupping his hand under the morsel so its fragrant juices didn’t drip as he lifted it up to a mouth that wasn’t there. Jae couldn’t walk through a clothes store without thinking of how a shirt would look on Yunho and whether or not it would be something he would steal from Yunho’s laundry so he could wear it with his lover’s scent against his skin. A simple thing like passing a street vendor turning a fish-shaped cake over in hot oil brought a wrenching pain in his heart and his lips seemed to find bits of medley and phrases to sing at the worst of times.
Usually while Jaejoong was alone and in the dark, with no one for him to reach out for to ease the ache in his heart.
“Why did you open the door, hyung?”
“I don’t know,” He whispered, putting all of the ache in his body into his words. “All I know is that when I did, it seemed like my heart began to beat again.”
“Then why did you tell him to leave?” Yoochun’s murmur was barely audible over the water’s rushing tide.
“Because I found out that when it started to beat, it also started to bleed again.” Jaejoong lowered his head, closing his eyes to stave off the pain shards digging into his throat and lungs. “His kisses burned me, Chunnie-ah. Every time his lips touched my skin…touched my mouth, it was like I needed to grab at it and hold onto it tight, no matter how much it hurt. It was like kissing a razor blade and filling my mouth with blood and metal but wanting it so much, I would swallow scraps of sharp tin just to have a taste of it again.”
“Oh, Jaejoong,” Yoochun whispered in horror.
“What do I do, Chunnie-ah? How is one supposed to hold onto a lover who fills your soul completely but one never knows when a simple kiss or touch will be the last one? How can I live like that? It would be like living with Death’s touch brushing over me with each second? How can I survive the death of my love when it flutters like an injured bird trapped in a cat’s mouth?”
“What are you going to do then?” His friend turned to him, leaning over to stroke away the tears on Jae’s lashes with the pad of his thumb. “What are you going to do if he comes back?”
“Not if. When. He made that clear,” Jae murmured, leaning his face into his friend’s palm. “And I don’t know, Chunnie-ah. A part of me wants to fight to escape the cat’s mouth and live. But, another part… a larger part… prays for the death of the cat’s mouth just so I can be consumed by him again.”
“You did what?” Changmin’s mouth dropped open in disbelief. “Are you fucking stupid? What were you thinking, hyung?”
“I was thinking I needed to start living again.” Yunho dipped the tea strainer back into the cup of hot water. The liquid was still too light for his liking and not for the first time, he wondered how the hell Jaejoong’d steeped a nearly black chai so quickly.
He was still pondering over what Jaejoong said about Changmin’s involvement in their fractured relationship and staring at the tall, stern-faced young man across the counter, Yunho wondered where the baby-faced brat of their group had gone. A bitterness as stark as overdone black tea clung to Min’s smile now and while always quick-witted and sarcastic, his sniping sometimes took on too sharp of a tone for Yunho’s liking.
And that was before Yunho took into account the bruises and scratches he got from Min when they performed together. He had nearly as many scars on his chest from Min as he did on his back from Jaejoong.
“They’re going to kill you if they find out,” Min hissed. “You should have left it alone. It’s not just your life you’re playing with. It’s mine too.”
Changmin was right. If anyone from their company discovered he’d crossed Jaejoong’s threshold, their lives would be more miserable and tightly scheduled than they were now. He didn’t think about Min when he’d sought out his former lover and from the worried pain on Min’s face, it was all the younger man could think of.
“I needed to see him, Changmin-ah.” Yunho let the strainer fall into the water, not caring if the tea steep to black bitters.
“What happens to me then? When they catch you, huh?” Min pressed. “It’s bad enough we carry on as two, do you think I can carry on as one?”
“What are they going to do to me that they’ve not already done?” Yunho came around the counter and put himself in Min’s face. Slightly shorter than the younger man, Yunho still had a greater breadth and presence. Shoving his wide shoulder against Min’s chest, Yunho pushed the man back a step. “What can they do to us? Milk us dry? Tire us out? Shut down our lives so we can’t breathe without tasting someone else’s sweat? What then, dongsaeng?”
“They only kept us because they can use us,” Min replied but he took a step back, giving Yunho space for his aggression. “They work at trying to recreate what we were, hoping that we’ll carry forward until they hit on another magical group but it’s not working, Yunho. You know it. I know it. They know it.”
“So we’re safe,” The man snarled.
“No, we’re not,” Min sniped. “Because maybe they’ll decide that we’re not worth having around for everyone to compare to. Maybe they’ll ship us off to the army like they did Kangin. We’ll be martyrs for their cause, Yunho-ah. Nothing more.”
“If you hate the thought of just the two of us, why did you stay with me then?” Yunho shot back. “You could have gone with them. Or is that what you wanted. Did you think we could be as strong without the three of them? Is that why you were so angry at Jaejoong? Is that why you hate him?”
“I hate him because he was the one to take the first step away from us.” Min’s voice rose, touching on the upper reaches of his range. A flush reddened his face, the dark blush spreading beneath his tanned skin. “He was distancing from us, plotting against the group. He’s the one who chose who went with him. And in the end, we weren’t good enough.”
“That’s not true, Changmin-ah,” Yunho murmured, suddenly deflating under Min’s rage. “It wasn’t like that.”
“Then why? Why did Jaejoong walk away with the other two and leave you…leave me behind?” Min clenched his fists at his side, willing himself not to strike out in anger. “He’d already been pushing us away, closing up and pulling back. I stayed because I didn’t want you to be alone but mostly I stayed because he didn’t ask us to leave with him. So yes, I hate him. I hate him with everything I’ve got because he’s hurt you…hurt me… and now you’re crawling back to him to lick his feet?”
“It wasn’t like that, Min. Listen to me,” Yunho pleaded with the younger man but Min turned his back to walk away. Grabbing Changmin’s arm, Yunho yanked the man to a stop. “He didn’t ask you to go because… I already knew they were leaving. Almost a year before they actually made the move, he told me he needed to leave. That Junsu and Yoochun weren’t going to survive the contract if they stayed… that he wasn’t going to survive if he stayed.”
“You knew?” Min hissed, unable to believe the older man’s confession. “Then why didn’t you… why did he leave us behind? Why did he leave you behind?”
“Because I told him to.” The words were a bare whisper leaving Yunho’s mouth but they might as well have been sonic booms on Min’s mind. He reeled back, gripping the counter for support. “I told him to leave me… to leave you so I wouldn’t be alone. That’s why he didn’t ask you to go with them. Because I didn’t want him to.”
“Why?” Changmin was nearly to tears, the truths he’d clung to shattering to bits under the hammer of Yunho’s words. “Why didn’t we go then? Why? Why did you want this for us?”
“Because I didn’t love him enough to risk my fame,” Yunho admitted. “I didn’t think they’d succeed. I told him not to ask you because I didn’t want him to ruin your life with his stupidity. I told Jaejoong I would give him three months before he crawled back to me on his hands and knees, begging to come back onto my stage… into my bed.”
“God, Yunho,” Min whispered, his heart aching at the harsh words. He’d spent so much time resenting Jaejoong and the others when they first challenged the contract then nursing that resentment to hatred when the three left. Yunho’s words were ice cold knives slivering away pieces of his carefully constructed life.
“I told him I would make him beg for me, Changmin.” Yunho murmured, looking away from Min’s tear-stained gaze. “I was so furious with him, for making me choose between the company my father was bound to and him so I told him I wouldn’t touch him until he begged me for it and then I would fuck him once before walking away like he did to me.”