Jaejoong copes using alcohol and Junsu.
Yup, I still exist. There's lots of references in this fic to things that actually happened in real life, but I know I definitely screwed up the timeline for them. Oh well.
It took 10 years for Jaejoong to kiss Junsu.
The first four years, he didn't even know he wanted to. He kept dating his high school sweetheart after debut, at least until a few days of not seeing each other turned into a few weeks. No one actually told him they were no longer a couple - he discovered it all on his own when he went to buy her a first year anniversary ring from a street vendor and came upon her new boyfriend slipping a shiny 1 month ring on her finger instead.
At age 18, Kim Jaejoong learned to love alcohol. The day he found out he was newly single was the day he went back to the tiny, cramped hole the five of them called home and emptied out half of the secret soju stash they had meticulously gathered to be consumed when they received their first music award. Yoochun got pissed at him, Yunho disappointed, and Changmin just looked at him with disgust as he opened up his third bottle. But Junsu sat by his side and wiped up the soju he spilled each time he slammed the glass down. Junsu would also end up rubbing his back when he puked everything up an hour later.
Jaejoong couldn't look at Junsu or be around him without feeling ashamed for a long time after that, but he made sure to be there with a bottle of comfort when Junsu came home crying six months later, hurt over a broken relationship that could only be spent in green rooms and underground garages.
It wasn't even that special, the first time Jaejoong thought about wanting to kiss Junsu. If it hadn't been such an absurd thought, he probably would have forgotten the moment completely. It was a day typical of then: wake up at 6, breakfast of champions (leftovers) at 6:30, and on the road by 7 for music shows and talk shows and being gracious always even when men with receding hairlines would tell them how amazing it was that they could still be so popular at their age. As if 22 was the new 50.
Their popularity afforded them a new apartment with more rooms, but still only one bathroom. Jaejoong would wake and shower first, insomnia now a hobby, and spend the moments before sunrise heating up breakfast and lost in his thoughts. Lately, he had begun to wonder why bringing in tens of millions of dollars for the company wasn't enough to earn more than 4 hours of sleep.
The rest of them trickled in like clockwork, Yunho first and Junsu last. Breakfast was always a quiet affair, aside from Junsu's sniffling because his allergy medicine hadn't kicked in yet. It was a typical day with a typical schedule and at 6:48 am Jaejoong looked up from his bowl, wiped a stray grain of rice from Junsu's cheek, and thought, it might be nice to kiss you.
On the first day of 2010, Jaejoong got a new number. He transferred nearly his entire contact list over, leaving just a couple on his old SIM card that he couldn't delete, but knew he wouldn't be using again anytime soon. His new number got sent out as a text blast and the replies came almost immediately. Some complained about having to edit his information for the 3rd time, others were awkward inquiries into his mental well-being, and then there was Junsu wondering if this was really him.
'it's me. you're wearing the monkey underwear today.'
I would never show you my underwear, Junsu wrote back.
Jaejoong called him. "Happy New Year."
"Are you alone again?" In the background, Xiahki barked happily and the laughter of a roomful of people filtered through. "And drinking?"
"I am secure in my inability to find a lady friend to celebrate the holidays with." After that breakfast, Jaejoong has thought about kissing Junsu more than 50 times. A lot more. He stopped keeping track after it started happening on a daily basis and things in other parts of his life unraveled too quickly to prioritize revisiting his sexuality. But now, without a schedule to keep him busy for the first time in 6 years, he listened to Junsu's voice and could feel it slowly lulling him to sleep. "Junsu. Junsu, you're so nice. I'm glad you said yes. I'm sorry if I ruined everything."
The background noise on Junsu's end slowly disappeared. "Hyung. Are you okay?" His voice echoed a bit and Jaejoong tried to remember what the bathroom at Junsu's house looked like.
Jaejoong nodded to his phone and put Junsu on speaker when holding it seemed to get too tiresome. "Jaejoong's okay," he said, pulling the blanket at the foot of the couch over his body. He shivered away the cold and let the warmth set in. "Jaejoong's okay, he just likes you. I really like you. Please don't hate me for ruining things."
"Hyung, I can come over."
"No! Nonono. I'm sleeping."
Instead, Jaejoong asked Junsu to tell him secrets that no one else knew. He listened to Junsu's tales of stealing candy when he was 8 years old and the time he jumped off a 10ft wall and Hyukjae was supposed to catch him, but didn't, and he cracked his head on the cement ground. He listened and closed his eyes and when he opened them again, it was morning and his phone lay silent and dark next to his ear.
After Yoochun's birthday party, he's too wasted to do anything but let himself be manhandled into Junsu's car. He sang Happy Birthday at the top of his lungs until Yoochun disappeared from view, then belted his heart out to the radio, his head still hanging halfway out the window. This was at Junsu's insistence because the lease warranty didn't cover vomit stains.
When they arrived at his house, Jaejoong covered the belt buckle with both hands before he could be unfastened. "Junsu, let's have a sleepover."
"Okay. You still have to go inside to do that."
"No, we can just sleepover in here."
Junsu vetoed that quickly and five minutes later they stumbled through his front door. "How did I turn into your babysitter?" he said, tugging Jaejoong's boots off. "Didn't this used to be you and Yoochun?"
Jaejoong managed to get to his room mostly by himself and dug out pajamas for them both, handing Junsu's to him so he knew the sleepover was still happening. "Yoochun is new Yoochun now and you're going to be new Junsu soon."
"That makes no sense. Who is new Junsu?"
The sheets were freshly washed this morning and Jaejoong changed quickly so he could fall into bed face first and breathe in lemon verbena.
"What's new Junsu like?" The bed dipped and Jaejoong rolled over to Junsu's knee in his face.
"New Junsu doesn't need old Jaejoong."
"He sounds terrible."
The lemon verbena started to make him nauseous. Junsu didn't make him nauseous. He twisted his body with much effort and hugged Junsu's waist, his face pressed up against Junsu's ribs. "Old Jaejoong is terrible."
"I meant new Junsu."
Jaejoong sat up and pulled on Junsu's shirt. "New Junsu isn't here yet, put on your pajamas," he said, letting out a noise of accomplishment when it finally came off. His body was in that state between buzzed and wasted, where he knew he was drawing attention but too far gone to care.
So he ignored whatever Junsu said next and reached his hand out, holding his breath as his palm touched skin. Goosebumps appeared on Junsu's chest and he skimmed his fingers over them, stopping just short of the dip between Junsu's collarbones.
He was jarred from his thoughts when he finally looked up to see Junsu staring away, an expression on his face that Jaejoong couldn't read but knew wasn't good. He took his hand away and stared a hole in the bed as Junsu put his shirt back on.
"Please don't tell anyone." Jaejoong hadn't gotten sick from drinking for a long time, but he could feel his stomach churning now. That familiar and unwelcoming nausea creeped up his throat and he swallowed repeatedly, closed his eyes to will it away.
Junsu disappeared from the room without answering and Jaejoong waited for the sound of the front door, but it never came. Instead, he returned with water that he made Jaejoong drink diligently.
Then Jaejoong was alone.
It surprised Jaejoong most of all to learn that, nowadays, he cried more than anyone else. He cried alone, with people, at concerts, and at his own birthday party. He was relieved when he finally got Junsu and Yoochun going too, since he had begun to suspect there was something wrong with him.
Every time he broke out in tears in front of the other two, Yoochun would take the chance to make it clear that he could no longer be considered the crybaby of the group. Jaejoong kept silent about his willingness to carry every embarrassing title if it meant Yoochun's sentences kept ending in 'of the group'.
"Hyung's just had to hide his feelings for a long time," Junsu had said the night of Jaejoong's party. His voice was barely audible over the bass thumping in the bar they rented. Jaejoong thought renting out a bar meant no other customers - it was the only way to explain why he couldn't figure out who half the people were. "He ran out of room to put them, that's all."
Jaejoong could count on one hand the number of times he heard from Junsu in the six months since Yoochun's birthday. Half of them had been replies to his texts, short one-worded responses that failed to convince Jaejoong they were okay. Though he wasn't sure they were meant to anyway.
To tell the truth, Jaejoong was trying to keep the outings with his drinking buddies to a minimum, mostly because being in that buzzed state only reminded him off what happened rather than help him forget. He really wanted to be sober tonight because of that, and to show Junsu that he didn't always have to make a fool of himself.
Unfortunately, all the near-strangers wouldn't let him rest until he took a shot with each of them. By the time Junsu showed up, he was buzzed enough to immediately latch on to Junsu like a giddy puppy and giggle nonstop into his ear.
He kept Junsu by him the entire night and refused to let him leave though he knew Junsu had morning rehearsals the next day. Six months without Junsu messed with him more than he wanted to admit, so he didn't and pretended to be more wasted than he was to make guilting Junsu less guilty-feeling.
The party crowd finally dwindled to a few people singing karaoke, Jaejoong's manager passed out at a table, and Jaejoong and Junsu huddled in one of the back booths. He rambled at Junsu about anything he could think of: their new cats, Yoochun going snowboarding without them, the GPS in his car that always chastised him even when he followed directions perfectly.
When Junsu yawned for the fifth time in two minutes, Jaejoong felt bad enough to stop and offered Junsu an excuse to go. But Junsu shook his head and squeezed Jaejoong's hand on the table. "It's fine - haven't seen you for a while."
Jaejoong's skin burned up under Junsu's palm. "Hey, um. That night. After Yoochun's birthday."
"Are you going to tell me it didn't mean anything?"
"I was drunk."
Junsu laughed softly. "Aren't you always to some degree?"
The words hit Jaejoong in a weird way. They made him feel suddenly self-conscious and ashamed. It must've shown on his face because Junsu stopped smiling and leaned in. "I didn't mean it like that. I'm sorry."
"I am, though, right?" Jaejoong picked at a coaster, peeling the top layer off. "I'm a mess."
"You're not. If you were, we would've had an intervention a long time ago."
Jaejoong nodded, deciding not to bother with whether he believed Junsu's words. "It did mean something to me," he said after a long pause. "I just wanted to say it's okay if you want to pretend it never happened. I can do that for you."
The karaoke was starting to make his head pound, but having Junsu as a physical shield made it a little better.
"I'm only curious about how long."
"Oh." Jaejoong cleared his throat. He didn't know how to read Junsu at that moment. "A while, I guess. A few years."
He didn't understand why Junsu looked at him so sadly for the rest of the night and for weeks after.
They had just returned to their hotel in Chile after the concert. Yoochun was dead exhausted, but Jaejoong and Junsu were still high off the energy. They were unbearable and Yoochun told them as much in his most grumpy old man voice before disappearing into his room.
"Don't be like him," Jaejoong had said, catching Junsu in a vice-like grip. "Let's do something fun."
"I'm not doing shots with you."
Ever since he discovered Junsu's aversion to alcohol years ago, Jaejoong's been trying to convince Junsu that he just needs to experience the thrill of being wasted. He hasn't had much luck so far.
"Not shots - a shot. Just one. For me."
"You can have a shot for me."
Junsu managed to get his door open with Jaejoong still hanging on to him like a ragdoll. Jaejoong bee lined for the mini bar.
A half hour later, out of the 8 tiny bottles of various alcohol lined up on the desk 5 were empty and Jaejoong was giving it his all to make Junsu drink the rest.
"Just start with one!" Jaejoong said, placing a bottle in Junsu's palm. "When you start feeling it, the rest will be a piece of cake."
"Such overpriced booze can only be meant for you," Junsu says, giving the bottle back. "I'm fine watching you make one giant cocktail in your stomach."
Jaejoong paced the room and let the alcohol settle down to the tips of his fingers and toes, until everything was warm and fuzzy around the edges. He kept glancing at Junsu as he thought about them being alone in this room, about Yoochun and the staff all asleep right now because it was nearly two in the morning and they had an 8am flight.
The thought came to him again, stronger than it had been for a long time. They were all alone and he was buzzed and Junsu was starting to fall asleep. It would be too easy to just lean over and do it, to stop wondering what it'd be like for once and finally know.
But he was only buzzed and not drunk. Junsu was tired but very sober. They had another concert in two days.
He grabbed a bottle of water from the mini bar and downed half of it in one go, his throat suddenly parched. In front of him, Junsu stripped down to his underwear and crawled under the covers.
"Hyung, we've got to be up in 4 hours. Hurry up and get in bed."
"You mean go to my room." The water helped with nothing.
Junsu pulled back the covers on the side he wasn't on. "No, it's late. Just sleep here." He then turned the light off on his nightstand and left Jaejoong standing in the glow of the city lights through the window.
By the time Jaejoong found the courage to slip into Junsu's bed, most of his clothes still on, Junsu had already fallen into deep sleep. The steady rise and fall of Junsu's chest was the last thing he saw before succumbing to exhaustion.
Jaejoong woke to the room blanketed in the soft darkness that came just before sunrise and a firm warmth pressed to his back. The alarm clock read 5:42 - earlier than they had to be up, but too late to go back to sleep.
Everything was still except for the rhythm of Junsu's breathing falling against his nape. It wasn't as if they had never shared beds before, but they hadn't since Jaejoong drunkenly put his feelings out there. He knew he was lucky to be in this situation when things could've turned out so much worse, but he couldn't help himself.
He held his breath and turned around slowly. Junsu blinked sleepily back at him and he nearly choked.
"Morning," Junsu said, his voice raspier than usual. It did horrible things to Jaejoong's nerves. He couldn't tell if his urge to vomit was because of mixing alcohol the night before or Junsu reaching for his hand under the covers.
"What are you doing?" He found himself wanting to tell Junsu to stop, even though this was something he only let himself imagine for years now. "Please don't."
Junsu shushed him and Jaejoong quieted all too obediently. They lay there just watching each other, though in Jaejoong's head his thoughts were going a mile a minute. Why was Junsu doing this, what did it mean, was it going to happen again. Time passed excruciatingly slow, but when Junsu went to get up, the moment was suddenly fleeting.
"You should get back to your room," Junsu said, mussing up his hair in a way that Jaejoong had always found adorable. "Someone's going to come by making sure we're up. You should probably be there when they knock."
Jaejoong still had his million questions, but he gathered his clothes and left with a wave from Junsu as the latter disappeared into the bathroom.
He stood half-naked in the hallway for a good ten seconds and slipped into his room just as he heard the sound of another door opening.
After that, the way Junsu acted made it seem nothing had actually happened. Maybe nothing had happened and he was turning things into something they're not.
Maybe he needed to stop thinking about kissing Junsu.
Months passed without a chance to be alone again for Jaejoong to ask. When they were in the same room, Jaejoong did what he thought he could get away with and peppered Junsu with nauseating displays of public affection that even Yoochun found questionable at times.
"What are you two doing?" Yoochun said one day during a photoshoot. Jaejoong had just spent the last five minutes of downtime hugging Junsu from behind while the crew set up the lighting. Junsu hadn't been fazed and only left when he was called to start his solo shoot.
"Hanging out...?" Jaejoong was never good at acting casual, but he still put in 110% effort every single time. "What are you doing?"
"Not hugging Junsu like we're dating."
"He held my hand," Jaejoong blurted out as if knowing that would make Yoochun immediately understand. "In bed."
Yoochun stared at him and not in any understanding way. "Seriously, are you guys...you know?"
Jaejoong grabbed a pillow from the prop pile and buried his face in it, letting out a long, put-upon cry of despair.
"Dude, I won't judge."
He needed a drink.
Jaejoong sent Junsu a string of texts later in the week once he had plenty of time to force-cuddle his cat and empty a few bottles of his wine collection.
(1:32 AM) Yoochun knows
(1:32 AM) Seriously, he knows
(1:33 AM) I don't even know
(1:36 AM) Can you please tell me what's going on
(1:36 AM) Why did you hold my hand
(1:40 AM) I really like you please don't make it a joke
He stared at the screen after sending that last text. It was the most outright confession he'd given so far.
This was too stressful. He needed to find his cat again.
It was nearly 1AM when Jaejoong finally got home from the airport, having returned from one of his overseas fanmeets. The last thing he expected to find was Junsu hanging out at his front door.
"I gave you the key code," he said, which was the smoothest greeting he could muster.
"I know," Junsu said and punched it in. The lock beeped happily at them and Junsu held the door open as Jaejoong dragged his matching Louis Vuitton carry-on bags inside.
Jiji appeared and sniffed them both, deciding swiftly that they were boring and ran off to his cat tree. Jaejoong left his bags in the hallway and watched as Junsu toed his shoes off and made himself at home.
"Hungry?" Jaejoong said, filling the electric kettle in the kitchen. Junsu gave him a non-committal hum, so he grabbed a few bags of ramen just in case.
He was prepping two bowls for them when he suddenly felt Junsu's arms slip around him. He froze. Junsu was hugging him. After months of PDA that only resulted in failed attempts of soliciting a reaction from Junsu, he was now the one being hugged like they were dating.
"No!" he said, whirring around and getting spice mix all over their shirts. "You can't just do this! I just spent the last 24 hours in a different country just to sign a shitton of posters. I am hungry and exhausted and I just want to eat this stupid ramen and go to bed. If you want to eat with me, fine, but stop fucking with me. Okay? Stop it. I don't know what your endgame is, but I give up! Please just stop."
He sneezed then and cursed in his head because there was no way to look legitimately upset after that. Junsu didn't seem to notice.
"You came from out of nowhere," Junsu said. "There's no endgame. This is just...new to me."
The kettle shut off and Jaejoong laughed as he poured the boiling water into their bowls. "It'll be old soon. You like that I like you. We had really abnormal teenage years. It'll pass." He knew better. Things like your straight crush suddenly returning your feelings didn't happen. It was best they both understood that.
They ate in silence and Jaejoong offered Junsu the guest room after for the night.
"Why do you think I'm lying to you?" Junsu said as Jaejoong dug out an extra blanket and pillow. "Isn't this a good thing?"
Jaejoong sighed and cupped Junsu's face with both hands, leaning in close until their noses barely touched. Junsu tensed up immediately. "That's why," he said, and turned Junsu toward the guest room. "Good night."
Damn his stupid moral compass.
Junsu, for the most part, returned to normal after that. What Jaejoong thought of as normal anyhow. He played a lot of soccer and tweeted too many pictures of coconut trees. There was no more hugging or random appearances on his doorstep.
A few weeks later they were in the office to review the next endorsement deal. Yoochun was running late for a change instead of Junsu, but that just meant Jaejoong was stuck in a room with Junsu for however long it took Yoochun to stop for coffee. Their lawyer was on the phone in the hall and their manager smoking outside. It was like the world was trying to make life as awkward as possible for Jaejoong.
"You were right," Junsu said after minutes of silence. "It was just a phase."
Jaejoong acted like he needed to think for a second to remember, but he knew immediately what Junsu was talking about. It was only the thing he had been obsessing over the past few months.
He nodded, made sure to look like he didn't care that much. This is why he never got his hopes up. He expected Junsu to realize this. It made sense.
Yoochun walked in and Junsu looked away first.
No, Jaejoong definitely hadn't gotten his hopes up.
They never reunited on stage again, but Yunho and Changmin did accept Jaejoong's nothing-to-lose party invitation to ring in 2014. Truthfully, he had invited them for each year they'd been apart, but they had all gone ignored. He had stared at the acceptance for nearly half an hour, texting 20 people to ask if that was really Changmin's email. Finally, he wrangled out a number and called to ask if it was real and why.
"We're old, hyung," Changmin said, every bit as insolent as Jaejoong remembered him. "Yunho met someone over the summer. I don't think he knows he's going to marry her yet. Get some perspective."
When they arrived at his doorstep, Jaejoong answered in his apron while wielding a ladle. He suddenly thought back to quiet breakfasts and was overwhelmed with the feeling of things finally being in the right place at the right time.
It turned out all of them had been following Yoochun's newest drama, a romantic comedy, and were caught up except for the latest episode. They crammed onto the couch, Jaejoong squished between Junsu and Changmin, and loaded the episode much to Yoochun's protest.
Halfway through, Yoochun's character got caught in his underwear by his future in-laws. Everyone laughed except for Jaejoong who burst into tears and dried them sloppily on Changmin's shoulder.
"I don't know what's going on," said Changmin, and pointed out his jacket was 100 percent $4,000 leather.
"He missed you," Junsu said, helpfully wedging tissues between Jaejoong's face and the jacket. "A lot."
"If you missed me, you should show it by not ruining my expensive clothing."
The rest of the episode, much to the relief of Changmin, didn't induce any more tears from the viewing party.
They broke out the champagne half an hour before midnight and switched the TV on to the annual New Year's program. A group was making their debut performance to a crowd of screaming girls, none of them looking a day over 14. Jaejoong felt old.
Jaejoong took his glass and slipped out onto the balcony. He smiled when Junsu joined him five minutes later. Below, a group of drunk college kids yelled indiscernible things and used slang he'd never heard of. He felt really old.
"I lied," Junsu said, his elbow touching Jaejoong's as they both leaned against the railing, "when I told you I was over it. It didn't pass. I'm still here."
Jaejoong laughed a little and rubbed his face. "I can't have this conversation."
Junsu took his hand and squeezed it tightly. "You mean you don't want to," he said, and Jaejoong started panicking about all sorts of things like how his palm was getting sweaty and that he just saw Yoochun catch sight of them from inside, the look on his face clearly indicating he was about to go tell all to Yunho and Changmin.
Even after ten years, he still wasn't ready for this. He didn't think he ever had to be.
"I think I'm going to pass out," Jaejoong said, looking everywhere except at Junsu's face. Junsu stepped in and hugged him. "Now I think I'm going to throw up."
"Changmin's onto something. For someone who claims to like me, you have a funny way of showing it." Jaejoong finally looked at Junsu. He's nervous enough that his champagne was spilling all over his hand from his shaking. Junsu grabbed it from him and downed it all at once. "There, a shot for you."
"No one takes shots of champagne."
"Shut up," Junsu said. "I'm going to kiss you now."
"You're supposed to wait until mid-"
Junsu's lips pressed against his and Jaejoong forgot to breathe. His hands were cold and clammy, he was wearing scrappy faded pajamas that he's had for forever, and he's pretty sure his dinner had been heavy on the garlic. Nothing about this was anything close to romantic, but Junsu's lips were soft and his body warm and it was everything Jaejoong had built it up to be.
When midnight struck, they were already gathered on the balcony to watch the fireworks show in the distance, huddled together for warmth. He had Junsu on one side and Yunho on the other, at least until Yunho left to take a call from someone who made him beam in a way Jaejoong hadn't witnessed in a long time. Yoochun took his spot and elbowed Jaejoong in the side, grinning until Jaejoong blushed.
"Don't. You said you wouldn't judge."
"Who's judging? I don't even know what you're talking about. And I totally did not recap everything to Yunho and Changmin either."
"God, you were so much more bearable when you had a girlfriend and were getting laid."
The fireworks show died down, but houses below were still setting off their own. Jaejoong looked over at Junsu who was stealing snacks off Changmin's plate, much to Changmin's disapproval, and laughed to himself. It took 10 years for Jaejoong to kiss Junsu and even then, Junsu kissed him first. For a second, he let himself think about what-ifs and what would have happened if he hadn't made things so difficult, but stopped himself. He had a feeling everything worked out the way it was meant to be.