Author: Guu (guu_dammit)
Summary: "About the things that you hope for and the things that you get. About acceptance of others, and acceptance of oneself. But most importantly: about things that, no matter what, are always meant to be." A peek in the lives of DBSK if they had never made it to stardom.
Word count: 32,984
Author's Note: Sorry about the abrupt ending =/ Will probably write a sequel at some point. Thank you so much Steph for beta-ing this insanely long fic!! (And to Hoshi for bearing with me, as usual, with my writer's crankiness and need to be told that this-is-going-in-the-right-direction every half an hour or so XD Love you!)
He remembers dreaming about coming to Seoul to be a dancer when he was younger. He'd become a singer, and a dancer, and he'd be big. Bigger than any Korean celebrity had ever been.
He keeps that thought in mind when a mouth he barely recognizes licks at his lips and kisses him wantonly. Her face is blurry, a rush of color, and he can only tell apart the crimson red of her mouth from the paleness of her skin. Is she pretty? Is she skinny? Is she Korean?
His mind is fogged and his eyes look up without really seeing, black orbs contracting in pools of chocolate brown.
It doesn't really matter.
She goes down on him.
It will never really matter.
There is a large black and white picture of a Broadway street sign at the back of Jaejoong's room's door. He can barely remember who he bought it from-- some old street vendor selling his little possessions on the streets of Itaewon--but it's the first thing that flashes behind his lids when he closes his eyes, deep in concentration.
He breathes in and out. You can do this, he tells himself, stepping into the stage of the rather dim lit theatre with what he likes to think is a strong, willing attitude. Cast directors always like that; attitude.
He knows the song and knows his part like the role was meant for him, and he wants it. He's been waiting for years for this musical to finally come to Korea. God, he has to be a part of it.
The casting staff gives him an assessing look and Jaejoong feels himself shrink a little under their scrutiny, the memory of too many refusals still carved deep into his mind.
"Which role will you be auditioning for?" he is asked. He panics; he can't tell if the woman likes him or not, and he's probably standing the wrong way; hands too tight, stance too straight, smile too fake.
"Angel," he answers in a steady voice, because he has done this too many times, and his body knows the routine better than his nerves do.
"Good, did you bring your bars?"
He nods mechanically and hands the music sheets to the pianist. A few minutes later the music starts and Jaejoong breathes in, deep, Broadway street sign poster in mind. You can do this, he repeats to himself, and breaks into song.
When he comes back home he slams the front door fiercely and shoves his bag lividly onto the nearest surface--the floor. He can hear the piano playing somewhere in the house (a small, run-down flat on some dirty corner in Itaewon), and doesn't expect the sound to stop or its maker to give him any kind of greeting.
"They didn't give me the fucking part," he spits, kicking his roommate’s door open with his foot, carrying two beers in one hand and a pack of cigarettes in the other. Yoochun's room, unlike Jaejoong's which is a complete and utter mess, is tidy to the last magazine and the last CD on its corresponding shelf. There’s a bed neatly tucked in underneath the smaller windows, a little desk to its right, and an electric piano at the corner. Behind the instrument are bigger windows that observe the busy streets of the foreigner-infested neighbourhood from the second floor’s height.
"Face it, Joongie," says the man sitting at the piano, voice a little too raspy from smoking a little too much. "You would just look terrible in drag. Producers can sense that."
"Fuck all of them motherfuckers," answers Jaejoong around a gulp of beer. He sprawls himself over Yoochun's bed, tossing the spare bottle at him. Yoochun is about a year younger than him, and he’s in love with music. He came from America about six years ago hoping he'd be able to provide economic relief for his family, thanks to a music contest he won that didn't take him further than Itaewon and this shabby flat with too-small rooms and a beautiful view of the moon at night.
"To the stage," Yoochun says, holding up his bottle. He, too, lives with the weight of shattered dreams on his back.
There's a very old picture hidden in one of the drawers of Yunho's desk that he knows shouldn't be there. It shouldn't exist.
Yet there it is.
He takes it out when he feels lost, like today, and contemplates the smiling faces until he can't bear it anymore. He knows what his mother would say if she saw it, what his father would think. How the whole family would react if they knew.
But his mother and father and family are very far away from Seoul and they can't say, think or do anything about it.
So when his law books get too boring and too much, and he has the pleasure of solitude in his rather spacious room, he opens the drawer with a heavy hand and reaches past the small pill case until his fingers touch the glossy surface of the picture.
It's not really that old; probably from a year or two before he was born, and the face of his father looks very much like Yunho looks now. Next to him stands a young man whose face would be Yunho's if he only had that one beauty mark over his lip. His eyes are almond shape, proud and small, his mouth curves up in the same charming way and the sharp lines of his jaw are followed by a toned neck and broad muscular shoulders that could very well be Yunho's as well.
He can only recall one single time when he was ten years old and asked about Uncle Yunwoo. He had been Yunho's favourite uncle and his father's favourite brother; Yunwoo who was always talking about the world and the places he had visited, Yunwoo who was always so friendly and fun to be around with and loving with his nephews, Yunwoo who had disappeared one day and nobody ever mentioned him again. The mere uttering of his name had earned Yunho a harsh slap across the face, and at that very young age he had known better than to ask again.
Yet some sort of answer had come to him a few years later, when a heated conversation between his father and grandmother had enlightened a part of his life he had never considered on.
'He's my son, too! Why can't you understand?'
'He run away with a man, mother. With another man. He doesn't belong in this family anymore.'
He had wanted to leave Gwangju shortly after that, and chase after his dream of becoming a dancer, fueled by an anger that didn't have any explanation for but was deeply bonded with the memory of his uncle.
But he didn't, and, oh, if only his family knew.
He takes the subway to go to college at 2 p.m. The trains are crowded and he likes to feel he blends in, likes to be like everybody else.
At college, he is a little bit of a loner. He socializes with everyone, like the gentle guy that he is, but he doesn't let anybody go past that. It doesn't keep him from being popular.
Law has always been his other passion. When his dreams about dancing for a living started to fade, he decided to focus solely on it and that’s how he got here: Jung Yunho, one of the most prestigious law students in Seoul National University. His good grades at school had gotten him a full scholarship and his brains landed him a job as an assistant at a law firm, which pays for his room and vices but still leaves enough to put into his savings account.
His family has taken all chances on him, for he was the only one who made it to the big city and has a brilliant future ahead of him. They want him to graduate with honors. They want him to grow in his job and maybe become a member and then partner of the firm in the future. They want to see him big and settled and married to a rich young girl. They want, they want, they want.
The pressure is crazy: job, university, family, life. And above all is the nauseating feeling that he pretends to be someone he fears he might not be. He feels it when his phone rings and his answering machine speaks to a voice that he finds too sweet and too high and just too feminine for his taste. He feels it when he presses against lean hips and finds his hands too big over tiny waists and legs too thin and hair too long.
He knows because he finds the thought of dating girls absolutely revolting, and instead he picks them up at clubs when he's too stoned to care and he just can't tell.
He knows but he can't say. Because he's not. He's not, he's not, he's not.
Yoochun and Jaejoong are both part of an amateur musical company that puts on well known musicals with changed names (for copyright reasons) twice a year. Yoochun plays the piano in the band and Jaejoong is their lead singer, and they both have one main difference and one main thing in common. The first one is that Yoochun loves his band and his company and his so very bohemian way of life, while Jaejoong dreams about professional theatres and moving to New York and having his name on the billboards. The second one is they both suffer from an irreparable case of stage fright.
"So the opening date has been changed," announces Daesung, a fresh young man with a blinding smile that has joined the company barely two months ago. It only took so long for the cast and band to love him to bits, and he is currently playing assistant producer as well.
"Again?" grumbles Jaejoong. There's only three weeks before opening night and their schedule has switched from the usual 3 hours, three times a week to 5 hours, four times a week, and it'll get to 6 and five in a week or so. Daesung smiles apologetically and motions everybody to gather around the stage, getting ready for that day's rehearsal session. They're putting up a story about sexual awakening that is quite the buzz all the way back in Broadway, and had no Korean translation to go by. Jaejoong hates how English rolls through his tongue and how awkward it sounds and how much the audience is going to miss because nobody is gonna get what the hell they are singing about, but he was outvoted when they decided about the matter and there's nothing he can do about it now.
"The theatre was booked for Thursday night, and we're getting the stage for free so we can't really complain," continues the young singer, trying to lighten the mood, "Anyways, where is our choreographer?"
"Sick," says their main female actress.
Rehearsals don't go too well that day. Six of them stay back when everybody goes home and they end up sprawled in Jaejoong and Yoochun's flat, smoking weed by the glass doors in the living room, singing old Korean hits they all like. It's around 11 at night and Jaejoong will have to get ready to go to work soon.
"You know what I hate about being gay," he suddenly blurts out, producing a fit of giggles from Eunjee at his left, who is drunker than he's ever seen her before.
"Designer clothes?" she asks, trying hard not to slur the s sounds. Jaejoong looks at her in mock consternation, and passes the joint to Daesung, at his right, who waves his hand in refusal and gives it to Yoochun.
"I love designer clothes," he complains.
"That's why our Jaejoongie is always broke," comments Jeonghyun from the other end of their circle, gulping down the remains of his can of beer. He puts the can down and points his foot at the blue and yellow sneakers on Jaejoong's feet. The dirty soles still read ANDY and WARHOL each, and there's a banana crossing one of them at the side. They all laugh.
"So much for living la vie boheme," adds Yoonkyung, smiling gracefully and showing her perfect teeth. Jaejoong scowls for real this time, muttering underneath his breath his hatred for such notions. Bohemians.
"That's ridiculous. Being a struggling artist doesn't mean that I have to look like I'm fucking homeless," he answers, pointing instead at Jeonghyun's dirty worn-out Converse shoes. The younger man shrugs, cheeks going a little red, and they all drop the matter for the better.
"So you hate being gay," says Yoochun, who has heard this same conversation at least a million times.
"I just hate gay men. You see where I'm going?"
Jeonghyun, Eunjee, Yoonkyung and Yoochun burst into laughter, and Jaejoong turns towards Daesung with a childish pout on his mouth and a playful glint in his eyes.
"Daesungie, be my straight boyfriend?" he says, and the younger artist chokes on his beer before he can release a long, heartfelt laugh.
Both Jaejoong and Daesung work at the same place, so they leave shortly after midnight. The club, a small gay bar in one of the hidden alleys in Itaewon, goes by the name of Club Queen and gets quite crowded on weekends. Daesung is not gay but he gets the best tips after Jaejoong, who is really the main attraction of the place. Jaejoong likes to think the guy is just too goddamn funny to resist, despite his lack of good looks.
They use the back entrance, and the music is already loud and high. The owner greets them with a hug and a shot of tequila and announces Jaejoong will have to DJ for the night.
He looks around as he steps into the DJ booth. Men everywhere. Flaming, drunk, high. Big, small, blonde. Foreign, Korean. Gay, gay, gay. He hates them all.
Yunho likes Changmin. The boy is young and witty and smart, and he never asks too much. He's tall, taller that Yunho himself, and has such passion for everything he does that Yunho can't help but find him truly endearing. He strives to come out as Very Mature despite his young age and triggers a brotherly instinct in Yunho that the lack of younger brothers didn't let him know he had.
So Yunho decides he'll bring the lanky boy to his next weekly football gathering on Sunday, and he does.
Junsu and Hyukjae are already waiting for them at the campus gates a couple of minutes before 10. Yunho waves at Junsu, letting his mouth stretch into a large grin, and jogs the remaining steps to catch up. Junsu greets him with a warm hug, and Changmin's jaw drops when he is close enough that he can see the young man's face.
Later on, he corners Yunho in the changing room just a few minutes before the game.
"Kim Junsu," he whispers with stunned excitement, "he's the Kim Junsu."
Yunho shrugs as he nods. Junsu is the star player of an emerging football club and he's hitting it big time. It's only natural that Changmin knows about him.
"Yeah," says the older man, but Changmin's eyes are bright and his lips are pouty and Yunho chuckles as he explains himself. "We met a few years ago. Um. Did some training together before I went to college and he decided he wanted to try for professional football…"
The boy's expression turns from adoration to curiousity in just one second, and he arches both brows before he speaks again. "Hyung was training for football too?"
"Um…" Yunho turns as he answers, and cocks his head to indicate to Changmin that they need to go to the field before the game starts without them. "Um, it was more like... dancing training."
"Oh. You dance?"
The older man slumps his shoulders and a faint flash of defeat crosses his eyes when he answers.
"I'm not very good at it anymore," he says, and the somber tone of his voice is enough to let Changmin know he needs to drop the subject right now.
They go out for soju and jjigae to celebrate their victory at night. It's a men-only outing so they talk about football and cars and work and girls. Junho, Junsu's twin brother, is there too and Changmin has them both sitting at his left, and can't stop staring at them. Yunho excused himself a while ago, and hasn't yet returned.
"So it's Changmin-sshi right?" says Junsu, stealing some meat from his brother's plate. Changmin turns to him in surprise and the gentle smile he gets in return makes him flush. He nods.
"You're a good player," continues Junsu, "I hope Yunho-hyung will bring you again next time?"
Changmin nods again, eyes bright with adoration of both Junsu and his hyung.
"Do you see Yunho-hyung a lot?" says Junho, and Changmin thinks he notices a very slight trace of worry in his voice. "During the week, I mean."
"On weekdays," answers the youngest, "we have lunch together a lot. I live near the office where he works so I usually come to make sure he eats well."
"Yeah, he's always had stomach problems," adds Junsu. "But he's getting so skinny lately, no?" He turns to Junho who nods as well.
"He just needs a girlfriend to look after him." The three of them turn to Donghae, who is refilling everybody's shot glasses with a tipsy smile. They all agree and lift their drinks for a toast.
Yunho makes his appearance at this time. His face is red and he looks a little out of it, but they've all been drinking a lot and it could very well be because of that. Still, for the first time Changmin realizes that Yunho does look skinny. His cheeks look hollow and the rings under his eyes are a little darker than they were today.
"You all toasting without me?" he says in a childish voice that would probably make any girl melt. Junsu laughs-- his laughter is so unique and adorable that it sends everybody into a chuckling fit-- and lets Yunho know they were all agreeing on him needing a girlfriend.
"Our cousin is coming back to Seoul soon," comments the football player. "She's really pretty and smart, maybe we could introduce you."
"Jiyoonnie?" asks his brother. "Ah, she'd look really good with you, hyung."
Yunho takes his seat and flashes a short smile. He doesn't tell them his mother just called him on the phone. He doesn't tell them she's coming to Seoul next month and he doesn't tell them he dreads that moment more than he dreads his upcoming mid terms, and that he's not interested in dating girls.
"That would be good," he says instead, and they all toast again.
There's a gymnasium a few subway stations away from Jaejoong's house, where he works out a few times a week when rehearsals and his two jobs allow him to. He used to be part of the staff, but then the previous owners somehow managed to screw up and the place went bankrupt. Now management consisted of three Very Good Looking young guys who happened to be very fond of Jaejoong, and let him work out at discounted rates just for the heck of his company.
It is Taeyang's shift this time, who's back after a two month vacation around the world.
Jaejoong steps inside the place and spots the man talking to another one of their clients. Taeyang is his favourite person in the gym, and he's also a very good instructor.
"Taeyangieeeee," calls Jaejoong, rushing through the narrow corridor to jump into the younger man's arms.
"Jaejoongie-hyung!!" Taeyang catches him mid air, but Jaejoong is much taller than he is, and although the young instructor is strong, the impulse makes both of them hit the reception counter.
"So good to see you again!!" says Jaejoong, hugging and patting the man's back. "Your trip, how was your trip?"
They talk for a few minutes until another client comes and Jaejoong is sent to the room where the exercising machines are, with the promise of coffee and a longer chat one of these days. He complies and trots to the first floor, where he meets his second favourite person in the gym.
"Changmin-ah," he smiles. The young man is sitting down at the abdominal machines, wife beater drenched in sweat and his black hair messily covering his face. He's younger than Jaejoong by four years or so, but he already looks like a man, and sometimes Jaejoong can't help but stare at the way his muscles flex and relax when he works out.
He has always been a little bit in love with Changmin, and with Changmin's body, but he also has the slight suspicion that coming on to the kid will only make things between them unnecessarily awkward, so he settles with being a good hyung.
"You didn't come last week," says Changmin. "We missed you."
Jaejoong smiles so broadly that he has to cover his face to avoid embarrassing himself.
"Rehearsals," he explains, taking a seat on the closer weightlifting bench, and fixing the weight he's going to lift today. "Opening night is... two weeks from now. Technically."
"Wow, are you nervous?"
"I think I'll shit my pants on opening night. I hate opening nights so much."
Changmin laughs and Jaejoong notices with fond amusement how one of his eyes shrinks a little more than the other one. He thinks it's kind of creepy that he notices, but he tries not to care.
"I'll try to go, this time," promises the boy, but Jaejoong waves a hand in dismissal before curling his fingers around the metallic bar.
"Don't," he says. "It's gonna be terrible this time. Script's in English. We all suck. Choreographer caught some kind of mononucleosis and has been missing rehearsals for three weeks. Disaster."
He lifts the weights a couple of times, aware that Changmin has stopped exercising and is looking at him. For some reason, it makes him feel really uncomfortable. In his world 'discomfort' always came paired up with 'word vomit'.
"I mean, if we were doing Cats," he continues, "it could work because it’s just cats and pretty singing and pretty dancing and people going ooh and ahh, and they don't care what the hell you're saying; or if you're doing a super well-known musical like, say, Chicago, ‘cause everybody has seen the goddamn movie, right? But this one is just--it's deep so you gotta get the meaning, and it's off-Broadway and no big name and and--"
A little ring interrupts him and he thanks all Heavens for whoever is calling Changmin on his cell right now. He focuses on what he's doing, closes his eyes, and enjoys how his muscles tense and push the familiar weight up. He never works out so much that he looks as toned as Taeyang, but he likes to keep himself in shape, likes how his shirts always fit tight around his arms and the feeling of his fingertips tracing the hard lines of his abs. He's always been a sucker for hard muscles.
A man is waiting for Changmin when they are both done, and Jaejoong can't help but feel a little bit jealous of him. His friends never pick him up from anywhere, or randomly call to offer lifts to his house.
"He's a hyung from the university I'm applying for," explains the young man as he picks up his belongings and waits for Jaejoong to get his bag. "I think he's around your age. He offered to show me around once and then we met in the library a couple of times and I guess we became friends after that."
Jaejoong nods and when he's done he follows his friend out. He hopes Changmin's hyung is as good looking as he is, and if possible that he likes men and that they hit it off right away and have a magnificent mind-blowing affair.
"I think you'll like him. Well, everybody likes Yunho-hyung."
Liking is the biggest understatement Jaejoong has heard in his almost twenty-three years of life. The guy is simply gorgeous--tall, well-built and handsome, all in one. His hair is short and dyed to match the chocolate brown in his eyes, and he has the sexiest mouth (and oh, god, is that a mole over his lip?). He's waiting for Changmin in-- and this is the best part-- a smooth black suit, pale blue shirt and a nice blue-with-irregular-cyan-and-magenta-str
He looks so straight, Jaejoong thinks.
They greet each other politely, Changmin introducing them both with big smiles, but they leave soon and Jaejoong stares while the two of them hail a taxi, and thinks he needs to tear his eyes off the pair right now, unless he really wishes to have a situation under his pants.
He makes a mental note as he walks down the opposite way: need to get laid. ASAP.
When they meet again, two days later, Jaejoong doesn't even greet Changmin and cuts straight to the point.
"Is your friend single?"
Changmin looks up in surprise, dropping the dumbbells to the side in favour of a dry towel. His first guess is Yunho because he's the kind of man he has learned Jaejoong likes.
"Yunho-hyung?" Jaejoong nods, so he continues, "Um, I think one of his friends wants to introduce him to his cousin or something, but so far yes," he contemplates. "You like him?"
Jaejoong shrugs and somewhere in the back of his mind he's really glad Changmin has never been awkward with him being openly gay.
"He's hot. Got that executive look and all, with the suit he had on."
"Yeah, he's studying to be a lawyer," the younger one chuckles, "but I don't think he likes men."
Jaejoong goes back to his working out and summons the stranger's pretty face in his mind. He looked so straight, he thinks again, but his instinct has never failed him once and he knows that the guy definitely checked him out.
The girl's name is Jiyoon and he guesses she's everything he should want: pretty and slender and shy. Her hair is black and falls graciously over her shoulders and she has a cute round nose, full lips and small, gentle eyes. She wears as much make up as the other girls do, but her face looks natural and although she isn't beautiful she looks fresh and young and healthy. Yunho appreciates that.
They go to the movies and grab a coffee afterwards, and even though they don't talk a lot, the outing is much less awkward than Yunho had imagined it to be. She's tolerable, so they make plans for the weekend.
Junsu is happy to hear his cousin and his friend are getting along well, and he calls Yunho a million times to give him dating advice.
After the second date, Yunho comes back to his room feeling like he's the worst human being on the face of earth.
She doesn't touch him a lot, doesn't ask for anything, doesn't talk about things that make Yunho uncomfortable. Her smiles are shy and she's soft even when she talks. Her laughter, if she feels brave enough to laugh, resembles Junsu and it gives Yunho a fake sense of familiarity.
He doesn't like her. He hates women in a way he can't quite explain. All of them.
But she is so nice, so nice, and he hates himself. Junsu would hate him too, if he knew.
He still shows up for the third date, flowers in hand.
Opening night is just around the corner and Jaejoong is already freaking out. He lived through the last week in a constant state of panic, and he knows he needs to do something about his impending bad case of stage fright. He drops his job at Club Queen for the week, taking advantage of his boss's adoration of him, and shortens the shifts he works at Mint Cafe.
The hours he's not rehearsing are spent either horribly drunk or working out beyond his body's capacity at the gym.
He passes out one morning, halfway through his usual weight lifting, only Taeyang is not there to rescue him and the current manager has to call the instructor to call someone to come pick Jaejoong up. Fortunately for him Taeyang knows Daesung and they both appear about an hour later, looking grumpy and sleepy, and carry the unconscious man downstairs and shove him into a cab.
Yoochun is asleep when they ring the doorbell-- several times--, but Daesung has a copy of the keys and the two men carry Jaejoong all the way up the stairs and drop him onto his bed. Daesung, who has known Jaejoong for barely three months and has never seen him so unlike himself, like this, suggests they call a doctor, but apparently this is normal for Jae, and it happens twice a year, every year, exactly four days before opening night.
So Taeyang leaves and Daesung plops himself next to Jaejoong. It's Tuesday and they don't have to work that day. They sleep until Yoochun shoves some pillows at their faces and assures them if they don't get up right now they're going to miss the full rehearsal and Jiyong-- their director-- is gonna give them HELL.
When they come back home Jaejoong throws up the few things he had managed to eat that day.
Changmin drags Yunho to the theatre with him on Friday night. Yunho had been putting up all kinds of excuses the past week to avoid going out, and locked himself in his room with his law books. He refused even to see his closest friends, namely Junsu and his brother, and so the football player had resorted to calling newly befriended Changmin and plotting a way to get the guy out.
And so here they are.
There is a small queue in front of the ticket booths, over which stands a colorful sign in bold graffitied roman letters that reads '11th STREET LOT THEATRE'. Changmin grins and cocks his head and they both stand in line.
"I thought Junsu was coming too?" says Yunho, looking at his watch. 7:50 p.m. and the show starts at 8:30 sharp. He doesn't want to be there but he is, and he makes sure Changmin is aware of this. "I have upcoming exams, you know."
Changmin ignores him blissfully, until a voice he knows calls his name and he spins on his heel, turning towards its owner.
"Changmin-ah! You came."
A slender man with disheveled hair and impossibly long-and-straight shoulders approaches them, cigarette in hand, and Changmin greets him with a warm smile.
"Yoochun-sshi," he says. Yunho turns too, curiosity getting the best of him. The man has a laid-back thing about him that Yunho finds endearing, and he bows and flashes a lazy grin when he notices Yunho is acquainted with Changmin.
"Hi," he greets politely, "Park Yoochun."
"Jung Yunho," he bows back, and Yoochun turns to Changmin again, taking a drag of his cigarette.
"Joongie told me you might come, but I think he was hoping you wouldn't. He's a big sissy when it comes to performing live."
"I know--he refused to give me the theatre's address!"
Changmin chortles, followed by Yoochun, who pats the younger man affectionately on the shoulder.
"Anyways, I'm glad you came. I'm sure Joongie will be glad, too. I have to go back now. Guitar awaits and all."
"Suckers chose a play with no piano in it. Can you believe it?"
The pianist scowls with mock dramatics and takes one last drag of his smoke, throwing the butt carelessly to the side when he's done. Yunho then recalls Changmin telling him once he was taking piano lessons from a guy one of his friends from the gym had hooked him up with and he makes the instant connection to this man.
"So see you later, dongsaeng, Yunho-sshi. Enjoy the show."
They both bow and watch Yoochun get into the ticket booth, whispering something to one of the girls there and disappearing through the door in the back.
When they reach the ticket counter they get special seats and discounts. Junsu shows up ten minutes before the show starts.
The Company isn't half bad. The theatre is small and cozy and all the tickets have been sold out. There are barely six musicians onstage, amongst whom Yoochun sits, back to the audience and guitar in hand. The stage consists of a big square wooden mat a few inches tall and a couple of chairs that get taken in and out according to the scene.
The play starts with a violin solo and dim lights and one single girl standing in front of the audience, singing in a language too foreign for her tongue that still sounds beautiful to Yunho's ears. As the song plays and three other girls join the main singer onstage Yunho feels a longing he never thought he could feel again.
It gets worse when Jaejoong comes onstage. Yunho recognizes him immediately and tries to forget his name, but he can't. Jaejoong and his jet black hair, shorter than he remembers, styled up in a messy mohawk that leaves his face uncovered. Jaejoong who is taller than the rest of the cast and stands up in a way his character probably shouldn't. Jaejoong who is all hard muscles and straight lines and moves his hips with feline grace and his limbs with childish clumsiness.
And his voice. God, his voice.
The first act ends and the theatre goes dark. Yunho breathes out.
Restlessness settles over Jaejoong as the third and last night comes to its end. His body is worn out and his muscles ache but he feels nothing but adrenaline rushing through his veins and he wants to go out, do something, move so much that he won't be able to lift his body up from bed for a whole week afterwards. The curtains come down and the crowd stands up to clap an ovation that they haven't had in a while. They liked it.
Jaejoong turns and Daesung stands at his side and he realizes they're both grinning like idiots. They liked it. He soon feels Jeonhyung's hands on his back and catches a glimpse of Yoonkyung's smile and Eunjee's laughter and they're all a pile of bodies and grins and the clapping lasts until the curtains go up again and they all bow one last time.
It's funny how this is the third time that they do it, in three days, and yet for some reason the last night seems to be the one that counts the most, and they're all cheering, ecstatic and proud.
The singer escapes the post-show meeting after stealing Yoochun's cigarette box and wanders through the now empty stage, restless, restless. The past week's mental exhaustion is taking its toll on him and he can feel his mind going into overdrive.
He exits the theatre through the ticket booth door and finds there are a lot of people there, mostly families and friends, still waiting for the cast to come out and greet them and congratulate them for their performance. Among all, only one face catches his attention.
He's alone, and he looks nervous. He's walking around in circles, looking impatiently at his watch. Jaejoong doesn't know when it happened, but he finds himself smiling broadly and when his body reacts he jumps into the walkway and makes his way towards the taller man.
"Hey!" he calls, and he's stopping his walk because an arm has snaked around his shoulders and somebody else is calling his name and he's being turned towards a circle of people and friends, all patting and greeting and showering him with compliments he doesn't care to hear. He barely manages to turn his head back, and finds the law student looking straight at him.
It's short. Two or three seconds, but their eyes meet and lock, and it's him, it's him, and then he's gone.
It's lunch out the next time, because Jaejoong wants to talk to Changmin without the distraction of his sweat-drenched abs.
When the younger man meets the singer in front of the restaurant they chose the first thing he notices is his jet black hair is now ash blonde and he looks healthier than the last time he saw him before the actual performance. He raises an eyebrow and says nothing, and that makes Jaejoong shrug.
"I needed a drastic change," he explains when they're sitting down and taking a look at the menu.
"I dunno, I just felt like it."
He spares Changmin his thoughts about being stuck in life. He loves what he does and he loves his company, but he's tired of the same theatre and the same faces and putting up plays for three days that nobody will remember. He's ready to move on, to hit it, to be big. He feels like he doesn't belong to the amateur scene anymore. Feels like he never did.
"I saw your friend at the show," he changes the subject with a shy grin, and fixes his gaze on the menu just in case his cheeks decide to betray him and get flushed.
"Yeah, we went on the first night, we saw Yoochun-sshi."
"Oh? You met Chun?"
"He didn't tell you?"
Jaejoong shrugs again and the waitress comes to take their order.
"He probably did." He closes the menu and orders a familiar sized Bulgogi Pizza and two beers. "So you went on night one."
"Just one night?"
Changmin nods and gives him a weird look that Jaejoong dismisses with a grin. He decides against telling the young student he saw his friend looking for him on the third night.
"So how did you like it?" he asks.
"It was actually pretty good. I can't understand that much English so I googled the synopsis at night. The story is really sad, no? And you were great, hyung. I didn't know your voice could be so amazing. You were the very, very best."
"Yes?" Jaejoong eyes light up and he covers his smile with a curled fist. He doesn't want to look too happy but he does. "Well it was the fullest we've ever had a theatre, ‘specially on the last night."
They drift into other topics and Changmin can't help but wonder what keeps Jaejoong's grin so bright.
This is hell.
Yunho sits on the left side of the cab, looking through the window numbly. At his right, his mother talks nonstop about things he's trying very hard not to hear. He takes her to her hotel and they have lunch together, and it's a never-ending parade of the same questions all over again. How is school? When are you getting that step up at work? Don't you have a girlfriend yet? You're 22 years old Yunho, all your cousins are getting married already, don't you think it's about time you settle with a girl as well? Why don't you ever come visit us in Gwangju anymore?
He makes non-committal sounds every now and then just to let her think he's paying attention to the conversation, and he finally gives in and tells her about Jiyoon. She makes him promise he's gonna introduce them, and is delighted with the knowledge that her only son has finally found a girl of his own.
Yunho sighs. He feels bad for Jiyoon, but he can't bring himself to care that much. Lately he's been having other things in his mind, and they all revolve around rough lines and messy jet black hair.
Two days later Yunho corrects himself.
Hell isn't sitting next to your mother in a cab while she speaks and speaks and you feel like putting a bullet through your brain.
Hell is leaving her alone in your room for five minutes and coming back to her with that one picture of your gay uncle in her hands. Her eyes are sharp and accusing and Yunho's face goes pale and he's suddenly rooted to the spot.
He wants to say So what if he was gay? There's nothing wrong with that! but his throat has gone dry. He tells himself: there is everything wrong with that.
His mother spits angry words about morality and what would people think and we've forgotten about him for a reason, and he knows that she thinks Yunho is just being sentimental and she doesn't have a clue about the real reason why that picture haunts him so much.
He shakes at the thought, and feels his stomach turn over. He's sick, and she doesn't know.
She can't even imagine, that her son...
That her son...
"I'm not gay, mom!!" he bursts out (--the word burns his tongue like acid). His mother freezes for a second and her face contorts in utter shock. She gasps, drops the picture, and rushes to her son's side, holding him into his arms.
"Oh, honey,” she cries, "I would never think something like that. But you have to understand that we only want to protect you. We don't want you to worry with whatever... whatever things your uncle thought he could get away with doing."
Yunho nods and gulps, and the comforting voice his mother uses terrifies him.
"Mom I, just. I have to work tomorrow, please. I'll call Jiyoon and we'll have lunch, on, on, Wednesday, okay? I'll call you."
He lets her go and she takes the picture with her. He cries that night for the first time in a very long time.
He presses the pink pill against his tongue, wondering if the numbing sensation he knows will come will help the burning go away.
An hour later he's walking with no direction through the dirty streets in Itaewon. It's late and winter is just around the corner, but it doesn't keep the neighbourhood from being busy, even at this ungodly hour.
Yunho shivers. He walks down a big avenue until he reaches an area he knows too well. He has never been to this particular street, but he knows what awaits just a few meters uphill.
He stays on the corner for a long hour, unable to bring his feet to move towards the street. It's chilling outside and he hangs onto his coat with numb fingers. He shouldn't. He should go home.
And then he can see his mother in front of him, and she has the picture of his uncle in her hand, and before he realizes he's walking and he's getting there and he's standing before a bar with white walls and big windows and bold silver letters that read Club Queen over the transparent door.
There are men inside, lots of men, both foreign and Korean, dancing and drinking, kissing and grinding and he doesn't know if he's jealous or terrified, but the magnitude of the feeling is overwhelming and he doesn't feel the door when he sees his hands pushing it back, and then he's inside. He's inside.
White. The walls are all white. There are couches at the back, a couple of tables and a makeshift stage in the middle, and then the bar and the DJ booth, and the whole place is twice the size of his room and that's it. The music is loud-- foreign music-- and it keeps him from listening to his thoughts which probably go along the lines of this is insane, get out right now.
The place is packed. He gets to the bar and settles on the only spare spot, and soon a guy with really narrow eyes and a dazzling smile comes to offer something to drink.
"Strongest that you have," he hears himself slur, and he knows this is the most stupid thing he has done in his life.
A good half hour goes by and he remains rooted to his spot, just drinking whatever the guy brings him. The alcohol has him completely numbed and he can feel the beat of the music in his chest rather than through his ears.
He dreams, eyes open and all, about a time where a fast beat was all he cared for, and he could dance his pain away and there were no lawyers or books or girlfriends to get in his way.
He dreams, gaze stuck on his shot glass, and longs for something different, something else, until fingers that are not his curl around his glass and lift it towards a plump mouth.
Had he been sober, he would have jumped in surprise.
"Next one's on the house," the owner of the lips and the fingers says, and it takes one second for Yunho's mind to recognize the now blond man with big shiny eyes and the beautiful voice.
"Jaejoong-sshi," he says. Jaejoong smiles and winks and Yunho is surprised at how sober he sounds because he's not, but then again he's so good at pretending that he has learned to fool himself as well.
"Let me get you something better than this," says the blond man, turning and juggling with ice and glasses and bright colored bottles. Yunho watches in awe, and it's the first time he has Jaejoong so close that he can take in the details that define the man. The strong cheeks, the wide jaw, the round mouth. He's staring, he knows, and he's probably being bold and creepy, but his mind is going through a comfortable state of fogginess that allows him not to care.
And Jaejoong, he realizes, is beautiful.
"You remember my name," says the blond man when he comes back a few minutes later with two red drinks. Yunho takes his and nods dumbly.
"I couldn't forget," he mumbles, voice muffled by the loud music. Another smile between his lips, and the law student feels something deep inside of him stir. Jaejoong is talking, but he can't hear his voice. He can only hear the loud bass and the deafening beating in his chest, so his mind produces the memory of Jaejoong singing.
Jaejoong talks and asks and Yunho nods and answers, but their conversation goes unheard and he doesn't know why.
Somewhere in the back of his mind a voice says It's the drugs and it's such a good explanation that he nods to nobody and then settles his gaze upon his hands, where playful fingers poke the back of his palm. He watches with great amusement and turns his hand around. The fingers then play with the ring on his pinky. It's the most fascinating thing he has seen in his life.
They talk and they talk and Jaejoong comes and goes, and the numbness starts to dissipate, and the noises turn into sounds and Jaejoong's voice is vivid and clear and oh god he's talking to me and oh god, he's - flirting - with me and it gets worse because oh god oh god I'm flirting back. He panics. This is all so very wrong. He panics.
What the hell is he doing here, talking to this guy? He can feel his pulse going into overdrive and everything around him screeches and Jaejoong is standing there in the middle of a whirl of color and noise and he needs to get the hell out of there now now now.
Outside his mind his body remains calm. His nerves are going haywire but his body doesn't respond, and Jaejoong barely notices the change because all the guy has done is switch his gaze from his hands to his eyes.
The singer's name comes in a yell from the back and Jaejoong lets go of Yunho's hand reluctantly, letting him know he needs to go to work now, but that he'll be back.
When the blond beauty is gone he stands up mechanically, as if some magic switch has put him in survival mode and he walks clumsily to the toilet, reaching frantically for the little case that lays somewhere inside his clothes. He needs this, and he needs it now.
He stomps into the little cubicle and ignores the hungry look a foreigner points his way, searching for the pills, the pills.
He fumbles with the case with desperate numb fingers and doesn't bother to be careful once it's finally open. He shakes it and a few pills fall, but some others land on his hand and he shoves them down his throat, and then everything goes blank.
"Damn, Jae, you always get the good-looking ones."
Jaejoong sticks his tongue out at one of his coworkers and lets a content smile creep onto his mouth. He's glad because a) Yunho is here and b) his gaydar was right.
Back in the storage room, the music is but a distant echo and the three of them enjoy a quick smoke before they go back to the club: Heechul, Taegoon and himself.
"Yeah, bitch will bare his claws if you get a mile near the guy, so forget about him," sneers Heechul, taking a long drag from his cigarette. Jaejoong flips a finger at him.
"Just cause you never spot them on time, hyung," he answers. "If you actually came out and worked every now and then maybe you'd get a guy."
"The hell happened with that--what was his name?" Taegoon asks.
"Changmin," corrects Jaejoong, picking up a box of beers.
"Guy from the gym? Thought you said he was as straight as an arrow."
The singer nods and almost shoves the box into Heechul's hands. Heechul bares his teeth at him and swears in a language Jaejoong can't understand, probably learned from one of the many foreigner clients they have.
"He is. Such a waste of a fine piece of man." Taegoon laughs and he throws an arm over Jaejoong's shoulders.
"Well if our Jaejoongie can't bend him, then nobody else can."
He gets an elbow in his stomach and the three go back inside.
Jaejoong finds with great disappointment that Yunho (and his name tastes so good against his tongue) isn't at the bar anymore, and he pushes away the possibility he might be with another guy. No, no. There was a connection, he knows. The guy went to see him at the theatre.
He looks around but can't see the student and something within him sinks a little.
"Got dumped already?" he hears Heechul say from his side, but he ignores him with a frown and instead follows his boss' orders to take over the DJ booth for a while.
He gets to play about three songs because Daesung slips to his side with a concerned frown and Jaejoong knows it must be something serious because Daesung never looks like that. The younger actor barely waits for the singer to take the headphones of his head.
"Your guy", he explains in a fast, secretive voice, "he's outside, by the door, hyung. He's having a seizure. Get him before the police does."
Jaejoong's eyes go big and it takes him five seconds to jump over the booth and rush to the door outside. He pushes the couple making out by the exit and the cold bites his face as he sees an all too familiar body convulsing on the floor.
"Shit, holy fuck, goddamnit."
The guy is pale and his eyes have gone blank, and Jaejoong has seen cases like this too many times not to know it's about drugs.
He's fucking overdosing, his mind screams, do something now!
Somebody comes to check on him and he demands angrily for water, water! and it's Taegoon who appears a minute later with two bottles on his hand and helps him lift the man off the floor.
They drag him to the small alley by the club where nothing but garbage can be seen and Jaejoong forces the whole two bottles of liquid down the student's throat until he finally, finally looks like he's alive again. Jaejoong breathes out: the man in his arms moans and stirs and settles in his embrace peacefully. He tries not to think too much about the new skinny jeans he's wearing, ‘cause he's sitting on the ground and he knows just how clean this part of the alley happens to be.
It's late and it's cold and he presses Yunho tight against him. The boy's body temperature is unusually high and he knows he should take the guy somewhere else before it gets worse than this, but he doesn't know anything about where he lives and he doubts he can contact Changmin at this time. And why the hell am I taking responsibility for him anyway?.
Daesung comes out of the back door at this time.
"It's X." He approaches Jaejoong and ducks by his side. He has two pills on his hand. "Seulong found these on the toilet's floor."
"Ecstasy," whispers the singer. He sighs in frustration and watches as Daesung touches the man's cheek.
"You gotta take him somewhere fast, hyung."
Jaejoong nods. "Anybody brought a car?"
"Evil Queen Bitch did."
"You gotta be fucking kidding me."
Heechul agrees to help him because it will get him off his shift earlier and he won't have to clean up. He drives them both to Jaejoong's apartment and only very reluctantly assists his blond coworker in carrying the dead weight of the very handsome but also very unconscious man up the stairs.
They drop Yunho on Jaejoong's bed and unceremoniously take his clothes off him, until Heechul is staring a little too much and Jaejoong kicks him out of his house. It's five thirty in the morning and the singer feels like his head is about to explode.
He has done drugs many times before, but he has never once felt so against them in his life before. It just, for some reason, it feels so wrong to relate them to this man.
Jaejoong gazes at Yunho's now sleeping face for a very long time before sleep and exhaustion get the better of him, and feeling slightly awkward, he retreats to Yoochun's room to get some sleep.
As usual, Yunho dreams.
He's standing on a stage facing a red sea of lights, and his smile stretches past the boundaries of his face. There's people around him, and they're all dancing with him, bodies spinning and moving in a flawless unit, and the crowd screams and the lights are hot on his cheeks, and he thinks this is it. He belongs here, to this beat, to this dance.
He wakes up with the echo of his mother's voice ringing in his ears, and his mind is foggy and it's blank.
He opens his eyes and sees but a blur of yellow and light. Somewhere on the background he can pick up the sounds of a shower and a piano playing, and he realizes this is not his place.
When his vision adjusts to the place a messy room gets defined. There are posters over one of the walls, clothes thrown haphazardly all over the furniture and the floor and colorful shoes messily arranged in a makeshift shoe rack, a pile of books and CDs covering the night table and a picture of a green street sign that reads Broadway stuck on the only door, across the room. Behind him is a tall window that invites daylight to come through and its curtains-- cream and humidity-stained-- float about his head as the cold breeze from outside blows into the room.
He doesn't wonder why he's naked. Instead he tugs at the sheets thrown over him and covers his face from the light. The bed is warm and it smells like musk and men's perfume and he lets it wash over him.
What he's doing here is something he chooses not to think about, and all thoughts about his whereabouts get suspended in the limbo that is his mind. He doesn't want to care, right now.
The switch flips, and everything is fine.
He untangles himself from the warmth and the sheets when he hears someone rummaging around the room he's in, and maybe he should be more surprised to find Jaejoong there but he's not. It all fits, somehow. Him, naked on a bed, and Jaejoong.
The singer carries a towel on his head, and he's dripping wet, sorting through the mess on the cupboards for something to wear. He manages to slip on a blue pair of boxers before noticing the sharp chocolate gaze upon himself.
"That's kind of creepy," he says, but there's a smirk in his mouth and he doesn't cover himself with the towel he removes from his hair.
"You should check what kind of people you bring to your house then," he replies. His voice is distant, so distant. He feels like a spectator in his own body, and he has never been more grateful of feeling unlike himself. It's liberating, like flying.
Jaejoong chuckles and drops his task at hand, walking towards the bed and sitting on the side. He leans in and looks closely at Yunho's face.
"Still stoned," he mutters, eyes narrowing but never leaving his. Yunho nods. He's aware of this, just like he's aware of how little time he must have until he slips into full consciousness again. He knows because he can hear the warnings going crazy at the back of his head.
He's also aware that Jaejoong's hand is on his neck and travelling south; there's no mouth upon his but there are fingers ghosting over his chest and sneaking underneath the covers and he feels the heat in his groin going up up up.
He thinks it's indecent to moan like he does when the singer's fingers reach their final destination, and the friction they provide is oh so sweet. It's perfect, like dancing, and he feels. He feels. Jaejoong strokes him and he's alive, and he's more himself than he's been for the past twenty two years, and he understands the reason of his uncle Yunwoo's leave.
And then it happens just like that. Another switch. His eyes snap open and he's thrown from his comfortable last row audience seat to his face and bones and skin, and he's trapped between a mattress and a mouth he doesn't need to kiss.
It takes a few seconds for his body to respond, stiff as he is, and his mind registers with growing horror what compromising situation he's in, and that he's enjoying every second of it. He gasps for air, as if he were drowning, and it must have alarmed Jaejoong because he stops and Yunho wishes he hadn’t and the realization that he wants this to continue fills him with burning shame.
"You okay?" Jaejoong asks, and Yunho has to push him back and shake his head.
"No, no, no, I'm not okay, this is not okay." The words stumble out of his mouth with despair, and as something akin to hurt flashes through Jaejoong's eyes, he jumps out of the bed and out of the other man's touch, and is all too conscious that he's naked and he's uncovered and he's hard. He moves clumsily around the room, picking up his clothes with shaking hands while the blonde singer just stands there and watches him silently.
Yunho turns his back on him, too embarrassed to look him in the eye.
"I'm, I'm so sorry," he mutters, breathing getting ragged as he pulls his underwear and pants up. "I don't know-- I don't usually-- I didn't want to-- I'm not-- I'm not--"
He spins around involuntarily at the word, and finds himself nodding shortly before turning back. He can't see Jaejoong frowning or the anger creeping into his cheeks, but he feels him getting close and the proximity of Jaejoong's hand to his skin unleashes a fear he has never known to exist before. They might know, if he lets Jaejoong touch him. They will see it. His parents, his friends, the people at work. Everybody will see what he's done.
"Please don't touch me," he says, begs, voice hard. He regrets it immediately. He wrestles his shirt onto him and the faster he tries to button up, the more it takes for his fingers to obey. Jaejoong starts to dress up as well.
"You were having a seizure," the singer explains, because he's angry and frustrated and this is all just too awkward. "We found the X. Sorry that you had to come here." He spits the words and holds his tongue before he can't stop it anymore. He feels venomous.
Yunho nods, nods. When he's done with his shirt he picks up his coat. He's such a coward, he thinks, but he doesn't know any better than this. He can't know. He just can't.
"Thank you. I'll make up for it, I promise," he stutters on his way out. He bows, curving half of his body down, down, and it's much easier to look at the floor than to get up; he's used to his self-loathing but he doesn't think he can take it from Jaejoong's eyes.
He stops just once, with Jaejoong at his back.
"Jaejoong-sshi," he says. Jaejoong makes a noise. "Please... don't tell Changminnie about this."
The singer doesn't know if Yunho is talking about the drugs or about this, but he makes another agreeing noise before saying:
Yunho gets home and sinks in the middle of his room, ashamed and painfully aroused.
He masturbates angrily, thinking about Jaejoong, and the whole idea is simply disgusting.
(He's a man. A man.)
He has never felt this filthy before.
Because the last days haven't been horrible enough, Eunjee, Yoonkyung and Yoobin pay Jaejoong a visit one afternoon when he's working at Mint.
They sit on one of his tables and he takes a five minute break, hoping that they'll have something interesting to brighten up his mood. Apparently there was a producer at their musical on the last night scouting for female talents, and they want to take Yoobin in. Make her a star.
Jaejoong smiles weakly at the news. He wants to be happy for her, he really wants, but something strong pulls at his chest and he pats her shoulder before excusing himself with work.
Yoochun doesn't ask when he gets home because he has heard, and he understands Jaejoong a little bit more than the singer understands himself.
He comes instead to his room with a carton full of beers and lays by his side in his messy bed. He makes an effort not to complain about the disorder and Jaejoong appreciates the gesture.
They lay in silence for a few hours, until the blond man turns on his side and randomly cuddles against his friend.
"Nobody wants me," he whispers, and its barely a whisper because he's afraid it will be true if he says it too loud.
Yoochun has been ready for this for a while, but it still tugs at his heart to hear his friend voice it. Jaejoong has always been haunted by an abominable fear of rejection, originated in the knowledge that he was abandoned as a kid and adopted by his current family, and made deeper by his condition as a homosexual in a society so narrow-minded as the one he struggles in.
"That's not true, Joongie," he coos. "She got lucky this time, you'll have your chance."
Jaejoong burrows his face in the pianist's shoulder and sighs. He never cries, but his body shivers and spasms and it might as well be the same.
"You should have seen his face," he says. "When he left. He was horrified."
Yoochun frowns. If he could only put a wall around the singer to protect him from the world, because he knows how tough Jaejoong makes everybody think he is, but how easy it is to hurt him, and how deep.
"He was an asshole," Yoochun states, trying not to sound very upset, "and a creepy one. Jae, you don't go looking for a guy that way and then tell them you're not gay. You take it like a man."
He turns and Jaejoong's eyes are bright.
"Let's go to the river, we'll see the stars."
They take the last subway without talking a lot.
The night is clear, and the sky is vast upon their heads when they lie on the ground. They stick together because it's cold and they don't have that many clothes on.
The river is calm, and the night resembles that one night many years ago.
"I love that we met here," whispers Jaejoong, absentminded. They always come here when the weight of their slow lives is just too much to bear.
"We used to be such dreamers, when we were kids. Remember?"
"There was so much we wanted to do, back them."
"Where has all that gone?"
Yoochun wants to tell him it's still there, and you are that same boy, but his lines are rougher and there's this little bit more hopelessness in his eyes, and he's really not. He can't answer so he tightens his hold on Jaejoong's hand and offers the only thing he can.
"I love you, hyung," he says.
Sometimes he wishes they didn't have to see this place anymore.
Life continues, so the singer rebuilds his strong facade and faces the world with a smile.