Pairings: JaeMin, HoSu, JaeSu (past), YooMin bff
Genre: Romance, Angst, Drama
Summary: They both gave up on love, one thinking that he doesn’t deserve it and the other unable to let go of a painful past. As Changmin and Jaejoong slowly discover in the other something they weren’t aware they needed, they don’t know yet that their growing feelings will get tangled in a web of secrets. And that it may change everything in a merciless fight between truth and power.
I'm writing you enthralled by the paths now opening before me.
Jaejoong stops and looks around him apprehensively as soon as he passes the boarding gates, a lone unmoving figure in the busy crowd walking past him. There it is, two weeks in Japan ahead, holding the promise of too many bitter memories and a confrontation with a failure he's been running away from for two years. He dreads the mere idea of having to face the past again, and there's a part of himself that just wants to turn back and go home, say he's sick or any other pretext so that he doesn't have to take that damn plane and land foot in Tokyo again.
The last time he went there was also the last time he tried to get Junsu back, and he can still feel acutely the burning shame for how he behaved back then. Begging, pleading, crying… Above all, he remembers the pity and guilt in the younger man's eyes on him; Junsu's tentative offer to remain friends at least, and his own harsh words. The bitterness and need to hurt.
Jaejoong had wanted Junsu to feel bad, to hate himself for leaving like that, so he stubbornly refused any compromise. If he couldn't be everything to Junsu, then he'd be nothing. He made him choose between Jung Yunho and him, and Junsu chose.
Jaejoong stares at the row of seats in the boarding hall, reminiscing about what seems like another time in another world. He can still see himself seated next to Junsu, the two of them whispering words of love and promises of forever in that same room, confident and carefree. Even now, it feels like those moments were the happiest of his life.
He realizes only now how naïve and young they were; despite the dark moments they both had to face already, they knew nothing of reality and its tricks. Jaejoong honestly believed that love was enough, that feelings would triumph of everything, and he couldn't foresee the cruel disillusion life had in store for him.
He couldn't just forgive and forget, not because the younger man fell in love with someone else, but because he put Yunho above him. Jaejoong knows all too well that if their situations had been reversed, he'd still have chosen Junsu. Even if it was a lie, even if his heart was looking somewhere else, he'd have ignored it and stayed, and tried to love Junsu even more to make up for the betrayal. He's weak like that, clinging tightly and stubbornly to the few people who showed sincere affection and concern for him. He can count them on the fingers of one hand. His father. Junsu. Maybe someone else now.
But Junsu isn't like him, and he left.
Jaejoong doesn't know how to feel about it anymore, he's still hurting, he hasn't healed yet, but he misses him. Junsu was his first friend ever, the first person to have come to him, and he feels lost without him by his side.
Jaejoong remembers their long talks at night, about Junsu's father and what they wanted to be later, and the days they spent glued to each other at school. They didn't have any other friend, because they didn't need anyone else if they had each other. He misses Junsu's laughter and how he always saw it, when Jaejoong was feeling down. How he knew exactly what to do or say to make him feel better. He wonders at times if Junsu is happy now, if he cries a lot, if he smiles like before; if he still sings like he believes his voice can make people's hearts brighter, even if it's just a little, even if it's for one second only.
Jaejoong is scared of facing him. The desire to hurt Junsu is still here, along with the shame and guilt for his own behavior, regrets and resentment so intricately tangled that he has no idea of how he'll act if he ends up meeting him in the days to come.
He sighs, shaking his head slightly like it can help him chase the thoughts away. Come what may. He won't go to see Junsu, but if the younger man tries to meet him, he'll know soon enough if he's ready to let go and move on at last.
Jaejoong looks up, trying to distract himself with the buzzing activity in the airport. He is wondering if the three others are here already when he spots Seunghyun passing through the boarding gates. He makes his way to his assistant, who greets him politely but with a smile belying the formality of the words. They exchange a warm handshake and head towards the farthest corner of the room, near where they will board in barely 30 minutes now.
"I don't know where the other two are…?" he says, looking questioningly at Seunghyun.
"Dongwon-sshi will probably arrive at the last moment, as usual. As for Changmin-sshi, he asked me so many times about the meeting time and place that I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up sleeping in the airport, just to be sure he won't be late."
That makes Jaejoong smile, as he's reminded of the hasty departure for the trip around South Korea. Changmin would probably do anything rather than having the same scenario happen once more, including tying Yoochun up in some dark cave far away to make sure he doesn't come and mess up with his luggage again.
"Ah! I was right, here he is!"
Jaejoong instantly looks in the direction indicated by Seunghyun and spots Changmin standing near the huge glass panels allowing passengers to see the take-off and landing of planes. They go to join him, but the younger man is so engrossed with the sight of the tarmac below that he doesn't notice them before Seunghyun reaches out to tap him on the shoulder.
Changmin turns instantly, startled, and bows as soon as he sees them. He looks a bit embarrassed, but even like that he can't hide the excitement shining in his eyes. Jaejoong is about to probe when Seunghyun asks Changmin if it's the first time he's taking a plane, and the enthusiast "Yes!" that follows give him the answer he needs. The younger man abruptly turns back to the view outside when a plane takes off in the distance, and Jaejoong exchanges an amused grin with Seunghyun.
They both took planes more times than they can count, jaded about the whole flying thing, and just see it as a convenient way of transportation, eventually complaining about the long wait in airports and troublesome procedures for boarding and disembarkation. Changmin is obviously terribly excited about it though, and Jaejoong can't help but find it endearing.
He comes closer, joining the younger man in front of the window, and points to a white jet on the right, surrounded by airport staff and a little army of carts and tractors.
"That's our plane here."
"What?! Where?? This one?"
"Yeah, the JAL one, they should tract it here to prepare for boarding in a few minutes now."
Jaejoong barely ends his sentence that the staff leaves the area around the plane and the tractors position themselves to bring it in front of them. He watches with an half-amused, half-fond look as Changmin stares in barely concealed excitement, and damn him for finding that cute.
Dongwon arrives a few minutes later, and as soon as the boarding is announced, the four of them go to stand in the line for Business Class. Changmin puts that impressive height of his to good use, gaze searching eagerly ahead for any sign of the doors opening, and quite literally stamping on spot. They get amused glances from the other people around them when the boarding starts at last, the younger man rushing to present himself to the desk first in line and brightly answering the staff's questions.
If Dongwon looks a little annoyed, Seunghyun and he keep smiling at each other discreetly, making sure that Changmin doesn't see them. When they finally reach their seats inside, Jaejoong is still busy focusing on the younger man's wide smile and mismatched eyes, and he already forgot all about the purpose of the trip and his previous anxiety.
The plane is far from full at this time of the day and in the middle of the week, so they have the business class area nearly all to themselves. Jaejoong takes his seat next to the middle alley, his assistant next to him and Dongwon in the row in front of them. Without surprise, Changmin goes to sit near the window, gluing his face to the small panel of glass as soon as he's installed.
The take-off goes smoothly, and soon Jaejoong falls in his usual routine when he's travelling by plane, busying himself with schedules and folders. They are twenty minutes into the flight and he's studying the financial report of one of the hospitals subsidized by Kim Industries, when Seunghyun draws his attention by clearing his throat quietly, a hand on his arm. Jaejoong looks up at him questioningly, before following his assistant's concerned gaze to the right. He quickly puts the document aside, immediately understanding that something is wrong with Changmin.
The younger man is deadly pale, eyes tightly shut, and even from where he's sitting Jaejoong notices how his hands have a death grip on the armrests. Just as he's standing to go to him, one of the air hostesses stops by Changmin's side and softly asks if he is feeling alright. The younger man barely shakes his head in answer, probably afraid to move in the slightest. Jaejoong grimaces inwardly, while Seunghyun leaves to talk to the stewardess. Airsickness.
He makes his way to Changmin and sits near him as quietly as he can, careful not to disturb him. The younger is breathing in small, sharp intakes of air, visibly trying to regulate his respiration. Sweat already gathered on his face, dark locks of wet hair stuck on his forehead, and he's worryingly white. Jaejoong bites on his lips, not knowing if he should try to comfort him or just leave Changmin alone.
Junsu used to be ill in planes too, even though it didn't look that bad and he got rid of the airsickness after some years. Jaejoong was there to help him go through each flight back then, and he knew the exact gestures which would help him feel better. However he's not sure if it'd work with Changmin, maybe he'll just make it worse by trying to help him that way.
"They have all the medicine on board" Seunghyun comes to tell him, whispering and throwing worried glances towards Changmin, "but they can't give it to him without a medical accord."
"Even the alternative one? You know, those pills they make with plants or something?"
"I asked them already but they say it'd be useless. The flight barely lasts one hour, by the time it takes effect we'll have landed already."
Jaejoong nods and looks towards Changmin once again. There's no sign that he heard their conversation, his whole face tensed as he tries to concentrate on his breathing only. The older man decides that whatever he does can't really make things worse for him now, and he turns to Seunghyun.
"I'll stay here and see what I can do for him. Can you take care of the documents I left on my seat?"
"Alright, I'll be sitting right in front of you both. Tell me if you need something."
"A wet clothe would be good."
"I'll go ask the staff."
Seunghyun leaves his side, quickly heading to talk to the air hostess, just stopping on his way to explain the situation to Dongwon who realized something was going on at last and is throwing intrigued looks their way.
He turns his full attention back to Changmin; the younger is completely still and didn't move even one finger since he came to sit next to him. His knuckles are white from the tight grip he's having on the armrest, and Jaejoong finds himself staring at that hand. Again.
A dozen questions rush through his mind, with a hundred possible answers, but there is only one choice to make.
He doesn't really get to choose honestly, because his arm is already moving on its own accord, not caring about the confusion going on in his mind. Jaejoong hesitantly reaches forward, before gently laying his hand atop Changmin's, his breath halting for a heartbeat. He realizes belatedly that this time, he's the one who crossed a line.
It has nothing to do with the formal touch of a handshake. It's not Changmin reaching out to comfort him either.
It's him, it's the desire to reassure and to soothe pain, and if it scared him before, now it'd feel ten times worse not being able to help. To be here. How much did he change already to be able to do that simple gesture? How far did he go for the mere feeling of skin against skin to affect him so much?
The fingers under his palm twitch slightly, the only indication that the other is aware of his tentative move, but he doesn't remove his hand. That gives Jaejoong the assurance he needs to tighten his hold a little, adjusting it till his palm is resting on the back of Changmin's hand. He starts rubbing gently the younger man's fingers with his, carefully watching his face for any sign of improvement or annoyance.
He sees no change in the pained expression, but he can feel Changmin's grip on the seat relax a bit. Jaejoong keeps going with the small, circular rubbing motion, hoping that it's bringing comfort to younger man, even if only a little. He doesn't stop, even when Seunghyun comes to give him the wet clothe he wanted. He starts collecting the beads of sweat on Changmin's forehead, careful and gentle, and he's seeing some color coming back to the other's face with relief when the plane suddenly drops. The speakers' light turns red, a voice announcing turbulence, and the young man's face instantly goes back to the previous shade of white, if not even paler.
Jaejoong frowns, hating that he can't do anything for the other and instinctively tightening his hold. Changmin's hand is warm in his, sweaty and unresponsive, but it still triggers a wave of protectiveness that he wasn't prepared for. He saw the younger a lot in the past days, he saw him happy, shy, thoughtful, angry, embarrassed, unsure, but never like this, and he definitely doesn't like the helpless feeling.
He leans forward hesitantly, bringing his face near to Changmin's, and starts whispering words of comfort. It worked for Junsu, it helped him get distracted from the nausea and dizziness, and he hopes it'll do the trick for Changmin too. Jaejoong isn't even sure of what he's saying, random "it's alright" and "we'll be here soon", but he knows that his tone is more important than the words themselves, and tries to put as much care and reassurance as he can in his voice.
"Can you shut up?"
It's nothing but a murmur, but it makes him startle all the same. Jaejoong stops talking immediately, embarrassed and admittedly a bit vexed too. Then Changmin opens his eyes a little and looks at him apologetically, conveying an unspoken "sorry". There is a faint smile on his face, and Jaejoong grins in return, amusement replacing irritation. Ok. No blabbering. He nods and Changmin closes his eyes once more, grimacing when the plane starts shaking them again.
Jaejoong thinks that maybe the younger man will feel better if he stops bothering him altogether, and with a tinge of regret, he gently removes his hand from Changmin's. He has barely started pulling away that the younger reaches out to hold it back though, his grip weak but pleading somehow, and the vulnerability in that simple gesture sends his heart into a pounding mess. The things that hand does to him.
Jaejoong pushes all hesitation away and intertwines their fingers tightly, all attention focused on Changmin's face and the feeling of their linked hands. He will have to decide later of what meaning he wants to give to that moment, but right now he just wants to engrave it in his memories. The "why" and "how" doesn't matter, Jaejoong just knows this is important.
He spends the rest of the flight like this, his thumb rubbing the back of Changmin's hand in small circles, tightening his hold whenever turbulences occur. When the speakers turn on again to announce landing, the younger's grip on his hand turns painful as he clings onto him for dear life, and Jaejoong gets really worried for a few minutes as Changmin becomes ashen, all blood drained from his face and breaking into a cold sweat.
The plane finally lands at last, and the younger man makes it somehow, sinking back into his seat as soon as they stop moving. It takes a few minutes of deep breathing for him to be able to open his eyes again, answering Jaejoong, Seunghyun and Dongwon's worried stares by a strained smile.
"Feeling better?", asks the latter hesitantly.
Changmin nods, not confident enough to open his mouth just yet, but Jaejoong notices how his face is slowly gaining a healthier shade at last.
"You have to leave the plane Changmin", Seunghyun explains gently, "but you can rest as soon as we are on ground again. You think it'll be alright?"
Changmin grimaces but nods again, unmoving for a minute more or so before he finally straightens up and proceeds with standing on wobbly legs.
Jaejoong wonders if they look like they are overreacting, as the three of them half-carry the youngest out of the plane. He throws an intrigued look in Dongwon's direction, not expecting what seems like sincere concern in the Head Secretary's attitude, but pushes the thought aside as they reach the airport's building at last. They help Changmin to sit, or rather prevent him from falling as the younger man nearly collapses on a bench, still looking nauseous and completely exhausted.
"That's quite bad", mutters Seunghyun, "it's bad luck Changmin, really."
He checks his watch and grimaces a little, hastily going to dig a paper from inside his briefcase.
"That's what I thought, we have to check-in at the hotel before 12. We need to go soon if we want to be there on time."
"Changmin should rest here", answers Dongwon hastily, and this time Jaejoong is really puzzled. It's the first time he hears him calling the younger man by his name.
"That'd be better yes, but…"
"He has to rest", the secretary interrupts briskly.
He seems to notice the surprise in his and Seunghyun's eyes and flushes a little as he explains.
"My son has airsickness, he gets seriously ill too when we have to travel by plane… I… Just, it'd be better for Changmin to recover before leaving, I don't think he can go through the ride by car to the hotel just yet."
Jaejoong's attention turns back on Changmin, who winced quite visibly at the mention of a car.
"Changmin? What do you think?"
The young man looks alternatively at three of them before speaking at last.
"I'm sorry, I don't think I…", he doesn’t end his sentence, but the question is settled as another wave of nausea arrives and he's back to deadly white and struggling to regulate his breathing.
"Don't be sorry Changmin, you couldn't know… I think you're right Dongwon-sshi."
"I agree… I'll go with Dongwon-sshi then, if you don't mind staying here with him Jaejoong-sshi?" Seunghyun asks, already readying himself to leave.
"Alright, I'll stay. Do you need anything for check-in?"
"It should be okay, the hotel staff knows us well anyway."
Seunghyun and Dongwon leave a few minutes later, leaving Jaejoong to sit near Changmin and watch as the sickness slowly dissipate, for good this time. He doesn't dare to take the younger man's hand again, but now that they are safely on ground Changmin is quickly recovering. It still takes him a good ten minutes before he sits up straighter, opening his eyes and giving Jaejoong an apologetic look.
"It's okay Changmin, you couldn't know."
"… Thank you."
"It's alright, it's not a big deal."
Jaejoong smiles in what he hopes is a reassuring way, but he's still a bit worried seeing how strongly Changmin was affected by the airsickness. The younger man is pale even now, and he looks absolutely drained.
"Take your time recovering. Once you feel strong enough to walk we'll go to grab something to eat or drink before going to the hotel."
"I'd rather not eat anything…"
"That's quite a serious statement, coming from you."
He smiles at Changmin, happy when the younger man relaxes at the teasing.
"I'm sorry for snapping at you earlier too… I just hate it when I'm sick."
Jaejoong remembers the perfectly ordered vitamins and medicines boxes in Changmin's suitcase and nods, resisting the urge to go and press the younger's hand in his once more.
They don't speak for a few more minutes, Jaejoong evaluating in his head the time they'll need to leave the airport, and then reach the hotel, when Changmin breaks the silence.
"I hope you have a yacht or something, because I'm not stepping inside a plane again. Ever."
Jaejoong chuckles, relieved that Changmin is feeling good enough to go back to his usual witty self.
"Sorry I don't. I'm afraid plane is the only way. Unless you want to come back swimming."
"Can't you buy one then? Even a small boat… I'm not greedy."
"And what about seasickness?"
"That's what I thought."
Changmin sighs, rubbing a hand on his face wearily.
"I really can't see myself going through that again…"
"We know you have airsickness now. You'll have all the medicine you need before boarding next time, don't worry."
Changmin sounds doubtful, and Jaejoong can't really blame him. He wishes he could say something else to comfort him, but the limits between them are blurred now, too vague for him to be certain of what he's all allowed to do, and of what he's not supposed to.
"It'll be okay, don't worry. Do you think you can walk?"
"Yeah I think…"
Changmin stands up, wavering a little once he's on his two legs but still much better than a few minutes ago. Jaejoong adjusts his steps on the other's and they slowly head towards the disembarkation hall.
Somewhere on their way, a group of foreigners arrives from behind, noisy and excited, and pass by rapidly without caring if they bump into them with their arms or luggage. Jaejoong makes sure to keep near Changmin, scrutinizing his face and ignoring how bags keep coming to hit his side as the little crowd rushes by them. He catches the confused light in the younger man's eyes when he stops walking altogether, probably dizzy again, looking lost and unsure, and without thinking, Jaejoong reaches out to hold his hand again.
It feels right, so right, in spite of everything.
They are in the middle of an airport where everyone can see them, in the place he fears the most on earth, a dreaded stay in Japan ahead, but just the feeling of Changmin's fingers intertwined with his is enough to make it right again. Like if the other's presence is giving him the strength he needs, when he's supposed to be the one helping the younger man. Like if he falls, this time, someone will be here to catch him. Like he isn't alone.
He avoids looking at Changmin's face, he doesn't want to see the expression here, and gently tugs on his hand instead. The younger man starts walking again besides him, and they head towards the exit of the airport in silence. Jaejoong is aware of their linked hands only, and he wonders if Changmin's heart is beating as strongly as his.
Note: Tadaaa!!~ Ok, tbh this chapter is pretty useless plot-wise and awfully cliché and all that... but I feel like your drying JaeMin-deprived souls deserve that much after sticking with me all this time, because guess what??! It's the 20th chapter and they. are. holding. hands. Omg. XD *throws party*
So I proudly give you all this update as a token of my appreciation *using complicated words all wrong but it's okay* XD
Also, vhii1217 dear, I dunno if that's the "bolder" you were hoping for, but this is for you ♥
And rennie_88 the V-word is for you ;-) ♥
Unrelated but... should I make a masterpost for "If You Could See What I See"? With all the links to chapters, like brave authors usually do?
Thank you as always everyone for reading/commenting! ♫~