Part: 8 (Chaptered)
Previous Sections: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Se7en (LEMON)
Pairing: Yunho and Jaejoong
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?
Yunho let himself into the apartment he shared with Changmin. His hand trembled as he pulled the key from the lock, unsure about what to say to the man he knew was waiting for him inside. He’d spotted a light on in the living room from the foyer, the soft golden glow sending tremors of worry through his stomach and spine. Taking a deep breath, he toed off his shoes and padded into the apartment.
Who he saw sitting on the couch startled him and he couldn’t find the air in his lungs to speak.
He wasn’t certain what alarmed him the most, the man or his shocking blond hair.
Junsu was thinner than he remembered, thinner even than he’d seen in the pictures plastered around the city but the look was good on the younger man, bringing out the feline slant to his cheekbones and jaw. Black nail polish gleamed on his short nails and the velvety remains of ebony eyeliner clung to the curve of his lashes. The thick stage paint was nearly impossible to scrub off and Yunho’d cursed it more times than he could count but on Junsu, the smoky faint lines elongated the shape of his eyes, turning them into mysterious and enigmatic.
It was a different Junsu than the one Yunho knew, a more confident and mature man than the one he’d known.
“Hello, Yunho-sshi,” The tenor greeted him.
A half-full cup of tea sat on the coffee table in front of the man and a book lay upside down on the couch beside him, its pages worn at the edges. Angling his head, Yunho read the title on the spine. He recognized the title, a contemporary novel by Kim Young-ha, and looked up in surprise at Junsu’s choice of literature.
“How did you get in?” Yunho noted the vacuum pump tea pot on the side table and rocked it, glad it was nearly full. Picking up the empty mug on the tray, he filled it with a steaming stream of black tea, adding enough sugar cubes to turn it to a light syrup.
“Money,” Junsu replied, shrugging off Yunho’s surprised look. “Bribery works. It’s how the stalker fans get around security. I thought I would take a lesson from what they know.”
They sat across of one another, both assessing the changes in the other man. After a moment, Junsu chuckled, leaning back into sprawl and crossed his legs.
“What’s so funny?” Yunho glared at the other man.
“After all this time, you’re still trying to be the…leader,” Junsu remarked, waving his hand at Yunho’s body. “Straight back, shoulders up. We aren’t that any more, Yunho-sshi. We’ve both gone in different ways…become different things.”
“So I’ve noticed,” Yunho smirked, taking in Junsu’s bright hair. “You doing okay?”
“Yes.” Junsu glanced around the apartment, taking in the Spartan décor. “Better now that I’m away from all of…this.”
“Don’t you miss…this?” He had to ask it. Of the five, Junsu’d been the one most driven to become a star. It’d been the one thing that bound them closer together as they got older, a continuous striving for something nearly unobtainable by other Korean singers, world-wide recognition.
“What makes you think I didn’t take this with me?” The younger man smirked. “I am doing things I never would have imagined I could do when I was with the company. Even after everything they’ve done to try to destroy us, we’re stronger than ever. I’m in musicals, Yunho-sshi. And I may not be the best musical actor but I am being recognized as a singer… as someone worth listening to.”
“You look…odd,” Yunho admitted. “And… I can’t follow the three of you as much as I’d like. We don’t get as much access to information.”
Junsu grinned widely. “That I don’t miss. I like being able to hear what people say…what people think. It tells me more than I want sometimes but it’s a good thing. We, the three of us, hear from others about how they support us. After all of this is done, I have those people reaching out to me to tell me that I am okay. I wish you’d come with us. So you could do more than just…this.”
“I was scared,” Yunho confessed. “And well, my family…”
“If they were truly your family, they would have let you become everything that you can be,” He replied in a soft voice. “Not just what you’d become.”
“When did you get so wise, little sheep?” The older man teased.
“I’m Death.” Junsu spread out his arms and laughed. “I’ve even kissed a man onstage and heard people cheer me on as I take his innocence. Who could have guessed that is where I would be five years ago? It’s fun…and hard work. Jaejoong…he drives us so hard…he…”
Junsu faltered, casting a worried glance at the other man and Yunho shook his head, belaying Junsu’s fears.
“It’s okay to talk about him,” He murmured. “I’ve just come from his apartment. I guess you know I’d seen him before?”
“It’s why I’m here,” Junsu replied. “To talk about Jaejoong.”
“I’d expect Yoochun, not you.” Yunho’s bark of laughter was as bitter as too-dark tea.
“We’d talked about it,” He said, refilling his cup with tea. “He thinks there’s nothing to say to you. Chunnie-ah wants you to leave Jaejoong alone. Well, I do too but neither of us thinks that you can.”
“You’re right. I can’t.”
The blond singer took a sip from his now steaming mug and made a face, adding a cube of sugar to sweeten the brew. Tapping the spoon against the rim, he set it down on a napkin ringed with brown tea-stain circles and looked at his former leader.
“I’m here to ask you to think about it,” Junsu murmured, cupping his mug in his hand. “He almost didn’t survive you this last time and we…Yoochun and I… don’t think he can escape you again.”
“What are you talking about?” Yunho leaned forward, slamming his mug down on the table. It rattled, splashing tea over his hand but he shook it off, growling at the other man. “What do you mean?”
“I mean that while I play Death, Yunho-sshi,” The singer whispered, casting his eyes down in contrition. “You are Death for Jaejoong. It is your hand that holds the razor he used to peel back his skin and it is your voice that whispered in his ear that he is worthless and the world a better place without him in it. Or did you think no one heard you that day, Yunho-sshi? Did you believe no one else heard you tell Jaejoong-ah that if he were to turn to dust, you would finally find happiness?”
Yoochun sidestepped Jiji, scooting out of cat hair range. He’d taken an allergy pill and avoided touching the feline but the cat seemed to have an uncanny affection for him, clinging around his legs whenever he came over. Thinking Jaejoong was still asleep, he placed the groceries he’d purchased on the counter and jumped when he spotted the singer sitting on the couch, his lean body swaddled in an old Hello Kitty throw.
“Shit, you scared me.” Yoochun panted, patting at his chest. His heart was beating hard, trying to thump its way out of his ribcage. Staring thoughtfully at his friend’s weary face, he murmured, “Let me make you some tea…”
“No more tea,” Jaejoong muttered. “Please. Anything but tea.”
The scatter of cups in the kitchen sink confirmed Yoochun’s suspicions that Jaejoong hadn’t spent the night alone. Filling the tea kettle, he dug through his friend’s pantry, finding one of the many gold packages of Vinacafe cà phê sữa Jae stashed between stacks of dried noodles. Putting the kettle onto boil, Yoochun leaned against the half-bar between the kitchen and the living room to study his best friend.
More than fatigue pulled the weary up from out of Jaejoong’s skin. The strain of heartbreak and unshed tears stained his skin with shadows and his dark eyes were nearly blown black from lack of sleep. Twisting his long fingers into the soft blanket, Jae plucked at the minky silk, tugging its plush into small peaks.
“Yunho?” Yoochun picked up a discarded mug, rattling the spoon left inside its bowl. “You let him in here? After everything he’s done to us? Everything he’s done to you?”
Jaejoong’s shrug infuriated Yoochun, more than the somber frown on the pretty man’s face when the tea kettle sputtered its boil. Yoochun refused to let his hands shake as he poured water into the two clean mugs, whipping a froth on the Vietnamese instant coffee with a spoon. Delicately balancing the full cups in his hands, he padded over to the couch and set them down on the table to cool, sitting down besides his best friend with a huff.
“Give me your hand,” Yoochun muttered.
Jae’s eyes narrowed and his mouth thinned to a frown. “No.”
“Hand,” Chun ordered. “Now.”
It was a short struggle, a half-hearted attempt on Jaejoong’s part to avoid his friend’s grasping fingers but in the end, Yoochun won out. Turning the singer’s hand palm up in his lap, Yoochun traced the barely visible lines along the inside of Jaejoong’s wrist.
“I did that,” Jaejoong protested. “Not Yunho.”
“The only thing he didn’t do was buy the blade,” Yoochun whispered. Lifting his friend’s arm up, he kissed the lightly scored skin, feeling the long thin scar lines floating above the man’s strong pulse. “I can’t find you like that again, Joongie-ah. It… it was too much. You ask too much of me to wash the blood from your skin and pray while someone I don’t know wraps your skin together.”
“Maybe next time…”
“No, there will be no next time,” Yoochun insisted. “We didn’t come all this way… suffer all this much so they can win… so Yunho could take you from me even as he walks away. You deserve better than that. You deserve to be loved. You deserve… to share the starlight you have inside of you with the rest of the world. We deserve that.”
“I am not… your starlight,” Jaejoong growled. “Don’t confuse me with Junsu… don’t confuse the little I do with what he has inside of him.”
“You’re tired… and confused.” Leaning his friend against him, Yoochun stroked Jae’s dark hair, pressing his mouth against the top of the man’s head. “I just… don’t want to see you hurt. I can’t bear to stand by and watch you cry because I can’t do anything…because I want you to be happy. Is that so wrong?”
“No, it’s not wrong,” Jae murmured, sliding his arm around Yoochun’s waist. Snuggling into the man’s shoulder, he sighed, inhaling the sweet odor of the creamy coffee and the vanilla spiced scent of his friend’s skin. “I want that too.”
“And you think Yunho… he can give you that? This time?”
“I don’t know.” He inhaled deeply, taking in as much of his friend’s scent as he could. “But I need to try. Because I can tell you, Chunnie-ah, I am more dead without him than I am alive. If I turn him away now, I might as well take a knife and slit my own throat because I can’t live without him…not anymore, Chun. Not anymore.”
“Do you know how we found him, Yunho-sshi?” Junsu’s words were a smooth purr, a raspy soothing sound at odds with the barbed words he scraped over Yunho’s skin.
“If he wanted me to know, he would have told me.” He didn’t want to hear what Junsu had to say. The thought of Jaejoong suffering in the past wasn’t something he wanted in his memories.
Junsu seemed to have other ideas.
“Yoochun found him.” Junsu’s pause for tea grated along Yunho’s spine.
“You should...want to hear this,” Junsu remarked. “Because if you continue to seduce him, this is what we are going to have to face when you walk away. You should know what will remain behind. Because his split blood, it is on your hands...even though we were the ones who washed it from his skin.”
“We hadn’t heard from him for a few days.” The man shrugged, the remorseful expression on his face at odds with the elegant lift of his shoulders. “That isn’t unusual. Sometimes when we’re working, it’s hard to get a hold of either of them but he will always text. But this time, he didn’t.”
“I didn’t make him do...anything.”
“No?” Junsu leaned forward, regarding his former leader carefully. “You were the person he was closest to. Even above Yoochun, you were in his heart. What did you think was going to happen when you tossed him aside.”
“I thought he would be stronger!” Yunho slapped his hand on the table, knocking the mug over. The cooling tea cascaded over the glass top, spilling onto the floor. The beige carpet turned to rust, soaking in the liquid quickly and Yunho paced away from Junsu, wanting nothing more than to run away from the truths Junsu dealt him. “He was strong enough to leave me... leave us. Why wouldn’t he be strong enough to stand on his own?”
“Because he left for Yoochun...and me,” The tenor murmured. He would normally be on his feet, consoling the man, hoping to leech away his anger. It chilled Yunho’s guts to see Junsu remaining on the couch, his brown eyes cold with indifference. “If it hadn’t been for us, Jae would have stayed with you. And you could have watched the company kill while you did nothing to stop them.”
“Don’t...” Yunho warned the younger man off. “Don’t lay what the company does... or did on me. We all suffered. It wasn’t just the three of you.”
“You and Changmin were protected,” Junsu spat. He stood, stalking across the floor to where Yunho stood, rage contorting his face to a fierceness Yunho’d never seen. “You never were pushed as hard as we were. They didn’t drag you from place to place. They didn’t beat you for not learning choreography. How could you look at Jaejoong’s legs... his back...and not see what they’d done to him? Are you that blind, Yunho-sshi? Did he mean that little to you?”
“I couldn’t do anything!” Yunho pushed at Junsu’s shoulders, shoving the man back a step. “You seem to think that I had some kind of power. I was as helpless as you were!”
“You were never as helpless as we were!” He snarled in Yunho’s face. “You’ll never be as helpless as Jaejoong was when you broke his heart. And you’ll never be as strong as he was when he fought to come back from cutting himself open.”
“I didn’t...” Yunho stammered, stumbling back. “I didn’t want him to...”
“You might not have wanted him to but he did.” Junsu stepped forward, following the man before he could distance himself further. “He didn’t want to bother anyone. That’s what he told Yoochun. That’s why he was in the bathtub. Because he wanted to make it easier for...everyone.”
“He wouldn’t have killed himself.” He needed to deny what Junsu was saying. “The cuts weren’t deep enough,”
Junsu continued, stalking after Yunho, a slow steady pace keeping step with the older man. “And they were going the wrong way. At least that is what the doctor told us...the doctor we had to bribe to wrap up Jaejoong’s wrists.”
Shaking his head, Yunho pushed back, shoving his chest into Junsu’s shoulder. The slender man barely budged at the hit. “Jaejoong would never have... he wouldn’t have left you.”
Junsu brought his lips to the curve of Yunho’s ear. “He thought we didn’t need him anymore. So, Jae decided it would hurt less if he left... his life wouldn’t be full of pain any more if he could just find the right place to put the edge of his razor. But see, Yunho-shhi, God has a sense of grace because He wasn’t ready to give Jaejoong his angel wings. Not yet. Not for our Jaejoong. Or that is what I thought then.”
“And now?” Yunho whispered.
“Now I think God had nothing to do with it,” Junsu hissed. “Because only the Devil would have kept Jaejoong alive just to have you toy with him again. Only the Devil.”