Fic For: winterbubbletea
Set in Paris for: belchan, tumi, suah and a whole bunch of other people
Rating: PG in this section.
Summary: Junsu searches Venice with only the scent of another man to guide him.
Set a couple of years after Red Windmill.
Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four (LEMON)
Venice’s canals shone. Gondolas heavy with jeweled and masked partiers wove through the sparkling night waters. The punters pushed their passengers along, trying to outshine one another’s calls with their deep sonorous voices belling operatic through the cool spring air. The smell of wine was in the air, coupled with roses and the sweetness of traditional pastries. The bakery below was closed but the workers inside were already labouring for tomorrow’s opening. A fragrance lingered, one of Yoochun’s much loved combinations for the Venetian festival; roasting pignoili nuts and anisette, mingled with candied fruit and simmering chocolate.
In his own home, his housekeeper baked for days on end, leaving him with stacks of sweets. Preparing to meet Junsu’s family for the first time was frightening enough. Yoochun didn’t need to wonder about what to bring. He woke to a mountain of packages left for them on the table, each expertly wrapped in foil or cellophane and marked with a label in Duenna’s beautiful handwriting. Tin containers of his favourite cookie were stored on the butcher’s block in the kitchen and he gave in often to the temptation of the sweet biscotti dell'arcobaleno*.
The rainbow cookies were impossible to resist. Even better was the taste of one in his mouth when he kisses Junsu, leaving behind a kiss of almond, raspberry and chocolate.
“Stand still,” Junsu scolded, placing himself close to Yoochun’s legs, standing on either side of his lover’s feet. “You’re ruining the look of your costume.”
He’d re-laced Yoochun’s necktie four or five times and fixed the buttons more than that. Junsu shuddered to think how Yoochun would play with the wide cuffs of his jacket. The heavy midnight blue brocade glistened with gold trim and buttons, an understated elegance suitable for his gentle, shy lover. Small insets of diamonds glittered from the shirt’s lace cuffs and the discreet spill falling from its high collar. A dark onyx button closed the collar, nested up against Yoochun’s apple. The overall effect was both European and Asian, a tribute to the musician’s blood and his home.
Stepping back, he nodded, happy with his work and gave Yoochun permission to don his jacket.
Shrugging on his doublet, Junsu laced the front closed, meeting Yoochun’s bemused grin with a wink. “What are you smiling at?”
“You’re wearing the burgundy again,” He said, running his hand over the velvet trim. “Someone like you should have a different costume for each night.”
“Ah, nuna will love you,” Junsu kissed the tip of Yoochun’s nose, leaving a wet mark on the man’s skin. “I’m wearing this… for sentimental reasons. I have other costumes at the palace. It’s just that… this one is lucky. I found you when I wore it.”
“Then I should wear my old one,” Yoochun shouted, making to run to the bedroom where his discards lay in a chest at the end of the bed.
“Touch one item of that costume and I will burn it, no matter how fond of it I am,” The vampire cautioned, laughing when Yoochun peeked out from around the archway to wink at him. “Besides, from now on, you should only wear that for me — when you are pretending to be an pirate from the rough seas.”
“I’ll need a captive,” Yoochun pondered. “Someone to ravage, of course.”
“Of course,” Junsu agreed, handing his lover the tricorn to complete his costume. Donning the feathered hat, Yoochun cocked his head to one side, trying for a jaunty sneer but the predatory look he was aiming for reduced Junsu to a fit of giggles, earning him a growl. “I am sorry, but truly you make a horrible villain. Your face is too sweet for it. Maybe we’ll work on it, bacio.”
Wisteria decorated the gondola Junsu hailed to the dock. The long purple clusters hung from green leaf garlands, strung delicate near the bow and thickening to a canopy screen above the gondola’s passenger seat. The gondolier held the boat steady as they mounted, pressing the punt against the dock to lock it in place and to keep the craft from swaying under their weight. After they boarded, he pushed off, greeting others of his stable with a baritone call, lifting the words in a dipping aria as he rowed. Falling into a rhythm, the gondolier began to sing passages from an old Italian opera, his deep booming voice carrying over the canals as the boat cut swiftly through the waters.
Boats jostled for the centre of the canals, gliding seamlessly into place. Their punter rowed his passengers over when Ca’ Vendramin Calergi appeared around the bend, ducking as he passed under a low bridge. Yoochun gave Junsu a worried look, fussing with his sleeves until his lover smacked his fingers gently.
“Stop that,” He whispered. “You look fine.”
“I don’t feel fine,” Yoochun grumbled, checking the gift packages again. He was certain he’d left something behind, something important whose absence would surely embarrass Junsu but it seemed as if everything was there, even the small packet of burgundy glass beads and pearls he had strung for Signora di Cremisi. “I feel like I’m going to throw up.”
“Don’t throw up,” Junsu fretted, then found the masques he’d tucked into his cape folds. “Here, lean over so I can tie this on.”
A columbine baroque mask covered Yoochun’s eyes and nose, leaving his kissable mouth free. Junsu straightened the papier-mâché white and gold demi, arranging the gilded piece under Yoochun’s black hair. A fall of jet silk locks covered some of the detailing but overall, Junsu was happy with the effect. His lover’s strong jaw and soulful eyes dominated the mask, despite covering most of his face. He’d already heard a sigh of regret from a woman they’d passed on the canal. Junsu could only imagine how many hearts his quiet, shy lover would break at the gathering merely by walking through the palazzo’s doors.
His own demi was simpler although its diamond pattern of ruby and black provided some contrast to his pale skin and pink mouth. The mask maker matched the hue of his doublet perfectly, even daubing crystals along the trim to mimic the starred gems set into the brocade. Despite his mistress’ objections, he’d grown inordinately fond of the burgundy doublet and black pants, especially for the lover he’d snared while wearing it.
The queue to get to the dock was long, extending far around the building’s exterior. Several of the more impatient party-goers were risking a dunking by stretching over to hook their feet over the small rise of the outer building and hopping over. A scream of horror cut the chatter then bursts of mocking laughter as a drunken courtier bungled the jump, his costume’s robes filling with air and ballooning him up as he bobbed alongside the pier.
“Come along,” Junsu rose, stepping carefully onto the palazzo dock. Holding out his hand, he took the packages from Yoochun, then grumbled when he realized he’d left his hands too full to get payment for the gondolier. Laughing, Yoochun extended the fare and tipped him, passing over a small tribute of biscotti for the evening custom. “I shall pay next time. I promise.”
“Of course,” Yoochun’s eyes were sharply twinkling behind his mask. Junsu was generous with gifts and trinkets but paying for fares seemed to be something he often missed. “Besides, this frippery’s a bit expensive. More than enough to cover the fare.”
“That frippery isn’t expensive,” Junsu sniffed. “Not when you compare it to the pleasure I get in seeing you in it. It’s cut very nicely thank you. You don’t own anything that actually fits into the curves of your body.”
“My body doesn’t curve like yours,” Yoochun pointed out, sliding up behind his lover and boldly smacking him on the rear. The teasing was unusual, especially in a crowd like the one that clustered about palazzo’s entrance. Taking half of the packages from Junsu, he juggled some of the smaller ones in cellophane, nearly dropping a book of historical dramas they’d found in at a merchant’s shop.
The press of people tightened and Yoochun panicked, his breath growing short as the air around him heated up with the scent of bodies and warm blood. A touch of Junsu’s hand on the small of his back ground him, bringing him back to the present and he smiled, exhaling his anxiety out in a hard whoosh.
Junsu laid a soft whispering kiss on Yoochun’s cheek, hugging about the waist with the one arm he had free. “Don’t worry, bacio. I’m here.”
The palazzo brimmed with colour and lights. Chandeliers made of crystal and gold shone, wired with electricity and the soft steady whiteness was nearly blinding against the dazzle of the people gathered in the main salon. Yoochun lost count of the number of Petrucios he saw within a few minutes, their number only rivaled by the Harlequins dancing about the room. Jugglers competed for space next to contortionists and acrobats dressed in spangled leotards tumbled about the room, settling into a pyramid before they were off again. All round them, Venice’s monied elite and scandalous legends chattered and drank, their eyes watching for a new tidbit of gossip to be passed about the next morning.
Junsu knew that Yoochun’s mysterious, athletic figure would be the most whispered on dit, especially when he sincerely bowed deep to an elderly woman inappropriately dressed as a seductress. Lady Leybourne was notorious for her refusal to acknowledge the years she’d put on with the young men she brought to each Carnivale getting closer and closer to short pants each year. And while she wielded a lot of influence in the London ton, she felt none paid her the proper respect she was due.
Yoochun’s shy, vaguely predatory smile brought a blush Junsu could see even through the powder on her cheeks. Her fan flicked up, waving cooler air over her face and he graciously let her pass, keeping his eyes on her face as she walked by, a simpering entourage following in her wake.
“You flirted with her,” Junsu muttered, slapping his lover on the arm. “She’s older than me, I think, and you flirted with her.”
“You say all women like chocolate,” Yoochun reminded him. “I think all women like being thought of as women and no woman is undesirable. It is the man who lacks understanding of her beauty that doesn’t see it.”
“God helps us,” Se7en said dryly, casually draping his arm around his brother’s shoulder. “A romantic. That’s the last thing we need to have around nuna.”
“Se7en!” Junsu exclaimed, trying to hug his older blood-brother. The packages made it difficult and he unloaded them into Yoochun’s waiting arms then tried again.
Returning the embrace, Se7en looked over Junsu’s shoulder at the graceful vampire standing patiently besides them. “So this is him?”
“This is he.” He grinned, tugging Yoochun forward. “Park Yoochun, this is Choi Dong-Wook. He is our seventh brother and really, the dumbest. We have to call him Se7en so he knows where he belongs in the family. He seems to think that he’s the oldest sometimes but we have to correct him.”
“Funny, dongsaeng,” Se7en retorted, giving Yoochun a smile. “It is good to meet you, Park.”
“No, call him Yoochun. He doesn’t feel comfortable with his last name,” Junsu prattled, taking back some of the packages. “Are the rest upstairs? Or down in the lower rooms?”
Junsu was off before Se7en could respond, weaving through the crowd. Yoochun glanced at the tall man standing next to him, slightly intimidated by his genial handsomeness and easy demeanor. Unlike Junsu and Yoochun, Dong-Wook wore no mask, leaving his Korean features bare. The younger vampire looked around, noticing the crowd paid little notice to the man’s Asiatic features and several women turned to surreptitiously watch the man’s lean form and broad shoulders when Se7en relieved Yoochun of some of his burden.
“I see he hasn’t changed,” Se7en laughed, nearly dropping a small package from the pile. “Always leaving someone else to clean up or to carry things. I’ll bet you even paid for the gondola.”
“I didn’t mind,” Yoochun admitted, smiling with the other’s broad grin. “He bought me the costume.”
“Hah, our mistress probably paid for it. Our Susu is always reluctant to part with his coins but he’s got a sweet heart,” The vampire remarked. “Come. Our suites are over this way. We’ll have to catch up with the little prince there.”
It was dizzying to follow Se7en through the crowd. After a few feet, Yoochun gave up trying to keep track of which way they turned, concentrating solely on keeping his eyes on Se7en’s back. The crowd unexpectedly thinned out and they came a wide hallway, its entrance blocked by a red velvet rope. A footman bowed and unhooked the tie from its fastening, pulling the rope aside to let the men pass. Yoochun fell into step besides Se7en, marveling at the art lining the palazzo’s walls. They stopped at a wooden door, its white face gilded with baroque emblems and Se7en called out for someone inside to open it to let them in.
A stunning man cracked open the door, his beauty pulling the breath from Yoochun’s throat. His dark hair lay against elegant cheekbones, a full wide mouth given to mysterious smiles half open as if he paused in mid-sentence to let them in. Taller than Junsu, his height was mostly leg but the cut of his simple white shirt strained with the press of hidden muscle. The sharpness of his eyes were wary, as if he expected something dangerous to spring up on him but the greeting he gave Yoochun was warm and genuine.
“Hello, you must be Chunnie.” The shortening of his name didn’t dawn on Yoochun, not under the brightness of the young man’s smile. It changed the coldness of his face, infusing it with a wicked humour and grace. “I’m Jaejoong. Come in. Junsu’s been telling tales about you.”
“Aish, don’t get me in trouble,” Junsu shouted out, waving Yoochun in. “Come, let me introduce you to the rest of these beggars.”
Jaejoong gathered up the packages from their arms, arranging the boxes and bags neatly on a side table. As Yoochun was set in front of two other men, the young man pressed a mug of honeyed beer into Yoochun’s hand, whispering into his ear. “Here, it’s better to have some of this in you when listening to them. It helps with the headache.”
Yunho stood dominant in the room, his deep purple and black costume a match for the almost twin Jaejoong wore. Between he and Se7en, the air was dizzy with masculinity, both vampires sure and confident in themselves. They bantered, argued with slight words and pushed at one another, poking at soft bubbles in their language until Yoochun was dizzy from trying to keep up. A sip of beer did help, he thought, especially when trying to follow the two older vampires as they spoke.
A slender young man sat on the arm of a chaise, his long legs encased in soft black suede. Solemnly dressed, his black long coat was severe, nearly militaristic and lacking in any of the gold or silver the others wore. Shiny ebony beads gave him a dash of glitter but the brightest thing about him was his wit as he skewered the older two with a well-placed word or teasing smile. The lace at his throat and cuffs were brilliantly white, offsetting his golden skin. A pair of boots pulled up to his mid thigh made Yoochun long for his own, left abandoned back in his apartment because they did not match the outfit Junsu picked out for him.
Jaejoong hovered between Yoochun and Yunho, the older vampire reaching out to grab his lover’s hand as he passed. At times they would speak, soft whispers in a gutter French that made Yoochun blush when he overheard the suggestions Yunho had for Jaejoong that night in bed. They resonated with a love that spoke of age although Yoochun knew they’d not been together longer than a few years. When one breathed, the other inhaled, taking in the air before giving it back in an unseen kiss. Their passion was evident, a burning firestorm stoked by gentle touches and hot words.
Yoochun grew hard imagining Junsu bent forward on his knees in the position Yunho murmured. A knowing wink from Jaejoong didn’t help matters, especially when the sloe-eyed beauty commented they should include red silken ties and dribbled caramel syrup. It was all Yoochun could do not to drag Junsu out and raid the bakery for sweet liquids to pour over his lover’s body.
Junsu sat near them, bouncing between conversations and Yoochun struggled to follow, thankful when Jaejoong joined him. Pointing to the black-clad young vampire, he made introductions and Changmin’s seriousness faded, a cunning grin wicked on his innocent face.
“Good, someone else to help Jae and I prick them of their arrogance,” Min declared, laughing when the others burst into objections. “Really, they are too sure of themselves. It’s as if they invented how to breathe or bathe. Junsu isn’t bad but these two — they are horrid.”
“And this you say to the man who introduced you to chocolate?” Se7en gasped, pretending to be hurt. He tangled his fingers into Min’s shock of hair, pulling his lover’s head back. Lowering his mouth over the other’s lips, he drank the night from Changmin’s mouth, only stopping when he heard a surrendering moan. Pulling back, he brushed his thumb over the younger man’s swollen lower lip and smiled. “I always thought that was the best way to silence you.”
“Try it on me and I’ll bite you,” Jaejoong remarked, snapping his teeth at Yunho.
The older man laughed, a hearty deep sound. “Any one who knows you would tell you that it’s far better to lure you out of your mood with a present and then try a kiss. Doing anything else usually leads to blood loss or a night in a cold salon.”
“He makes you sleep in the parlour?” Se7en mocked. “Ah, dear brother, how little you know of love when you can’t even get your lover to forgive you.”
“If I recall, dearest brother, you’re the one whose lover locked him outside on a balcony overlooking Hyde Park during the height of season.” Yunho cocked his head. “How many people do you suppose saw that thing you pass off as your manhood? Twenty five? Thirty? And for what? Because you leered at a sales girl?”
“She was a very ripe salesgirl,” Se7en defended himself and winced when Min slanted an evil glance his way. “But I’ve paid for that. Remember, Minku? Paid for it. The devil is that he lies in wait until you are at your most vulnerable and then he strikes. It’s like a mongoose preying on a cobra.”
“Is that any way to speak of your lover?” A woman stood in the archway connecting the main room to the bedchambers. She was slightly darker than the men, a tone of gold Yoochun had only seen in the folds of a sunrise during the fall and her heart-shaped face shone with a catlike beauty. Dark kohl outlined her brandy-flecked brown eyes and a beauty mark drew attention to her wide mouth, her lips painted a deep red that matched her crimson dress. Reminiscent of a French noblewoman’s dress, the gold embroidered silk fit snug against her slim chest, cutting in tight at her waist before filling out into a gathered tiered skirt. The long sleeves brushed her knuckles but her gestures revealed long feminine hands, a few delicate rings gracing her fingers. Gold square toed boots peeked out from under her dress and she lay a demi-masque frilled with matching crimson feathers and gold beads on a side table, its perching stick painted black to blend away from the eye.
“Nuna, you look gorgeous.” Jaejoong kissed her cheek first, a genuine affection beaming from his face. She hugged him back, welcoming the embrace.
“As always,” Se7en commented loudly, cutting Yunho off before he spoke.
“Asino stupido,” The other vampire muttered, jabbing an elbow into Se7en’s side.
“That’s the best you can come up with?” The older vampire took the blow without flinching. “Maybe I should take Jaejoong off your hands? He seems to be withering your strength. You can’t even think.”
“Touch Jaejoong…” Yunho cocked his head and smiled threateningly.
“And I’ll geld you,” Min finished, baring his teeth to his lover. Se7en held up his hands in surrender, walking over to assure his lover he was only joking.
“Looks like hyung should keep one eye open while he sleeps,” Junsu whispered into Yoochun’s ear. “Changmin has a most vicious and jealous temper.”
“He looks like fun,” Yoochun replied and stopped breathing as their mistress approached. Bowing, he waited for Junsu to introduce him then gasped in surprise when the woman clasped him in a tight hug.
“Welcome, beloved son,” She whispered as she held him. The words she spoke were familiar, in a language he’d not heard since he was a child and only recently attempted to speak with Junsu. It came to him haltingly, rusted so tightly that he had to hammer at the inflections to get the pronunciations correctly but he heard her clearly as she spoke. “Saranghae.”
His eyes welled, dazzled with tears and Yoochun blinked, trying to clear the room of the fog clouding his vision. Turning his head, he caught a shadow on the column of her throat, a question forming in his mind that resolved into reality as he realized the woman he held and called nuna was in fact a man.
She saw his confusion then the revelation that came to him, canting her head and waiting for his reaction. “Does this matter to you, little one?”
“No,” Yoochun shook his head, swallowing the lump in his throat. “Junsu taught me that we are what we chose to be. What we want to be. And that is who is loved. Not what other people expect or want from us.”
“Our Susu is our angel,” She smiled, wiping away a tear silvering Yoochun’s face.
“I just…” He stumbled, unsure of himself. “I don’t know what to call you.”
“You can call me Scarlet, Chunnie-ah.” The woman donned a coquettish look, the flirtatious flick of her lashes running a heat through him nearly as erotic as the idea of Junsu tied up and wiped clean of caramel. “But, I would rather like it, if you called me nuna. Like the others do.”
“Nuna, then,” Yoochun agreed. Kissing her cheek, he whispered, only loud enough for her to hear. “Thank you, nuna. Thank you for bringing him here for me to love. I would die without him.”
“It’s only fair,” Scarlet replied, cupping Yoochun’s face. “Junsu only has begun to live now that he has you to love.”