Title: Park Strangers, and it is possible to be happy (Part 1)
Pairing: JaeSu, Broken!Soulmates, slight HoMin
Genre: Angst, Hurt and Comfort
Rating: PG-13 for language
Length: Two Shot
A delighted peal of laughter drew Jaejoong’s attention out of his book, a cold breeze whipping around his face and making the pages laying in his lap flutter. His nose was red, he could tell, and the pull of the icy wind left his face a little raw. A coffee cup warmed the side of his thigh and sent pleasant earthy smells wafting through the air.
Glancing around, he searched for the source of the laughter. A small, amused smile slid onto his face as he found it.
A man was rolling around on the pale winter grass, a chocolate lab puppy stumbling over it’s own legs as it chased him, licking and lapping at his face. His skullcap was tucked down over his ears, but it slid up as the puppy clambered up on his chest and quickly lost purchase. It thumped down onto his broad chest, coming face to face with him.
The man stared straight into his dog’s eyes for a second before giggling and picking the puppy up. “You’re a cutie, aren’t ya? Hmm?” He nuzzled his nose with the dog’s before putting it down and sighing contentedly.
Jaejoong quietly observed him from his usual park bench, absentmindedly pulling his red scarf a little tighter.
“He’s cute.” Jaejoong thought, “I wonder how often he comes to the park?”
He himself came to the park everyday to read. A small shadow flitted across his delicate features. “Yoochun used to come with me.”
A sudden ache blossomed in his chest, and he rubbed his freezing nose. “No, can’t think about him. He’s gone. He’s been gone.”
He chuckled sadly to himself, blinking away the bittersweet sting behind his eyes. His thoughts returning to the real world, he realized that he had zoned out still staring at the man with the puppy. To his surprise, the man was looking back at him, his back flat on the ground and the little brown dog lying peacefully on his chest.
As the man stroked the soft ears absent mindedly, he studied Jaejoong, a gently curious look pervading his rounded face. His mouth looked soft and ready to smile.
Jaejoong gave a little jump at the eye contact, swiftly looking down as a blush spread through his already red cheeks.
Smoothing out the page of his book, he tried to read again, but he could feel the man’s eyes still trained on him. Looking shyly back up, he confirmed his suspicion. The man was indeed still looking at him, and when he saw Jaejoong look back up a good-natured smile was easily offered forwards. Jaejoong smiled back, forgetting for a moment that he’d never even exchanged a word with this man.
But their moment came to an end when they both heard a loud, “Junsu!”
The man’s head whipped around and Jaejoong followed his eyes to where he was looking. A long legged man was crossing the field, a scowl placed front and center on his striking face.
“Junsu!” He called again.
The man Jaejoong now knew to be named Junsu stayed where he was, but watched the tall man stride across the field.
“Hey.” He said chirpily once the man was standing over him. Jaejoong liked his voice. It was higher than he would have expected from a man of his size, but it was kind and slightly rough, giving off a kind of warmth that made Jaejoong want to listen to him talk.
“Junsu, I’ve asked you before to not run off like that. I get worried.” The man said crossly, folding his arms. Junsu sat up and pouted, sticking his lower lip out.
“Changmin, you know I’d never run away from you. You’re too cute.” He grinned charmingly and tugged on the tall man’s pant leg. Changmin reluctantly let the scowl melt off his face in the presence of Junsu’s playful smile. He gave a small smile back and knelt down. “I know, I know. I just…” He sighed. “You know me.” He shrugged and sighed again.
Reaching over to pet the puppy that was now lying in a furry puddle of puppy fat in Junsu’s lap he asked, “Did you have fun with him today?”
Junsu nodded happily. “You should come next time. You need to get out more. I swear, the only time you come outside is to go find me when I run off with your puppy.” He scolded.
Changmin chuckled. “But it’s so cold, Su!” He whined.
Junsu smiled mischievously and leaned forward and said lowly, only just loud enough for Jaejoong to hear, “ I could warm you up, if you want.”
Changmin flushed and whacked the back of Junsu’s head. “Idiot.” He muttered as Junsu cackled and flopped back onto the grass, and the bright high pitched laughed that came out of him all at once embodied him and seemed completely out of place. Jaejoong couldn’t help but giggle at the sound as he observed Changmin’s embarrassment.
Then, realizing that if he could hear them they could probably hear him, he looked sharply down to his book, a smile still playing around his mouth. When he looked up again Junsu, Changmin, and the puppy were all walking the away across the field.
“Junsu. That’s a good name.” Jaejoong thought, picking up his coffee and sipped at it contentedly. “It’s good to see happy people.”
The next day, Jaejoong was once again parked at what he had long ago started thinking of as his park bench. A new book occupied his lap today, the one from the day before long finished and shelved.
As he reached down for his coffee, he caught a flash of a black hat and blue jeans. Looking up, he found Junsu seated a few yards in front of him, puppy dog frolicking across his muscled legs.
He glanced up just after Jaejoong and their eyes caught. Jaejoong blushed but didn’t look away. Instead, he smiled shyly. Junsu’s eyes crinkled as he grinned back.
Nodding almost imperceptibly, Jaejoong’s smile widened as he looked back down to his book. He looked up again a while later when another voice joined Junsu’s giggles.
Changmin was crouched down next to Junsu, a bright smile making his previously stern face look gentle and amiable. Jaejoong felt a matching smile creep onto his face as he watched them.
His eyes trailed over to Junsu, who was holding the puppy in the air and laughing loudly. Jaejoong liked his laugh. He liked his laugh a lot. It inspired others to laugh, and Jaejoong hadn’t laughed in a while.
“Since Yoochun.” The little voice in his head reminded him. The smile slipped a bit, but with Junsu’s laugh filling the air it could never fully be gone.
“Thanks, Siwon.” Jaejoong smiled at the man behind the counter just as he did every day.
“No problem, Jaejoong.” Siwon returned with a cheerful wave.
“I wonder if Junsu likes coffee?”
Every day for a week now Jaejoong had gone to the park and been greeted by Junsu and his puppy. In his free time, when his mind would wander, Jaejoong would wonder what the cheerful man was like, what his interests were, what he did for a living. It had become a bit of a game, guessing Junsu’s details.
Jaejoong hissed as the first sip of coffee burned the tip of his tongue.
“Too hot?” Came a familiar voice from in front of him. Reluctantly, Jaejoong raised his eyes.
Yoochun stood in front of him, his hands shoved in his pockets and a sad smile gracing his face. “You always drink it while it’s too hot and burn your tongue.”
Jaejoong nodded, at loss for words. For months he had kept himself from contacting this man, torturing himself with pictures and long nights spent staring at the ceiling as memories played across his vision.
A stranger brushed by his shoulder and brought him out of his shocked state. “Uh… hi.” He said. “Hi. You’ve been angsting about him for months, planning out entire conversations in your head, and all you say is hi. You’re brilliant.” He mentally scolded himself.
Yoochun smiled and stepped forward, “Hi yourself.”
Jaejoong shifted his feet, toying with the strap of his messenger bag.
“Er... care to share a table with me?” Yoochun asked, uncertainty flickering behind his brown eyes.
Jaejoong started to nod, but stopped himself. “Just seeing him is painful. Why put myself through more?” Out loud he said, “Ah, that’s alright. I was just on my way to the ah, the…” He struggled to finish his sentence as Yoochun unwrapped his scarf and exposed his delicate neck.
“The park.” Yoochun finished. “You still go there?”
“That’s right. He always could finish my sentences.” Jaejoong nodded, tugging at the red scarf that seemed to be constricting his throat now.
“Yeah, I do. I’m the same as ever.” Yoochun scratched his arm as he responded, “That’s good. You still working at the book store?”
Jaejoong nodded again.
Yoochun bit his lip. “Er… anything new since… since we, ah…”
Jaejoong let out a bitter laugh. “No, nothing’s new, Yoochun. I’m just the same as I was when we broke up.”
Yoochun started and turned red at Jaejoong bluntness. “Does that… what does that mean, Jae?” He said, a hint of whimper hiding in his voice.
Jaejoong could feel a headache coming on. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he responded stiffly, “What do you think it means? I’m exactly the same as I was right after we broke up.” A pang of guilt stabbed his stomach as he saw the hurt register in Yoochun’s eyes.
“Sorry, sorry…” he sighed. “I just… I just wasn’t expecting to see you. These past couple months have been rough.”
Yoochun nibbled on his lower lip as he agreed. “Same here.”
Jaejoong raised an eyebrow, remembering how Yoochun had been the one to break up with him. The same thought seemed to occur to Yoochun, because he ducked his head and flushed, his shoulders hunched.
“Ah... how’s Yunho?” Yoochun asked. Jaejoong thought about how kind his best friend had been to him over the months without Yoochun.
“He’s doing well. I’ll tell him you asked.”
Yoochun nodded slightly. “Have you… have you met anyone else?” he asked quietly.
Jaejoong sighed and pulled the strap to his bag over his head and plopped down on the other side of the table. “Not really, I mean there’s- well... no. I haven’t.” His thoughts flashed to Junsu, but he quickly reminded himself that he’d never even spoken to him.
More importantly, he didn’t even know if Junsu was gay. “And’s he probably not. Because my life sucks.” He looked up from his lap. “Have you?”
Yoochun shrugged. “No. No one. I’ve…” He groaned. “God, Jae. I really missed you.”
The unfairness of his suffering dragged another bitter laugh out of Jaejoong. “Really? Have you? Because I’ve more than missed you, Yoochun. My life’s been a fucking nightmare. I haven’t slept more than five hours a night and I’ve read more books these past couple of months than I’ve read in the whole rest of my life trying to not think about how much I fucking missed you and trying to figure what I did that made you leave.” He growled, his voice low and acidic and trembling with anger.
He hadn’t meant to say all that. In fact, he had planned on not actually speaking to the man sitting across from him for the rest of his natural born life. But, goddamn did it feel good now that it was out, and in all honesty Jaejoong felt a significant relief that Yoochun now had an inkling of what he had gone through.
All color had drained out of his face and his eyes were two round mirrors, reflecting regret, shock, and a certain amount of panic.
“Jae…” He started, his voice catching. He swallowed and then started again. “Jaejoong… I… God. I’m so sorry.” His voice trailed off into a whisper.
To keep himself from glaring Jaejoong looked away and watched Siwon do his job.
Yoochun caught his throat bob as he swallowed a sob. “Jaejoong…” he whispered softly. “Jae… I’m really sorry. I still think it was the right idea-“
Jaejoong looked at him sharply.
“-but I wish I hadn’t hurt you so much. Just because I broke up with you doesn’t mean I don’t care about you anymore. I really do. Like… A lot.” He sighed tiredly, his face worn out.
“You can’t spend two years with someone and not care about them. And as awful as you may have felt, I fucking missed you, okay?”
Some of the anger slid from Jaejoong’s flawless face. “It’s not your fault I loved you so much, Yoochun. And I’m sorry for being an asshole.”
Yoochun gave a sad little half grin. “It’s ok. I deserve it.”
Jaejoong shook his head. “No, you don’t. You did what you felt was right.”
Yoochun smiled faintly. “Yeah, I suppose.” He paused. “Doesn’t stop me from feeling bad about it.”
Jaejoong sighed and chuckled quietly. “So… are we going to stop avoiding each other now?”
Yoochun’s eyes widened again. “Are… well… um… yes? I think that’d be nice.” He smiled broadly.
Jaejoong returned it gladly. “That’s good. Well… I… er, I should probably get going.”
Yoochun’s face drooped. “Ah, okay.” An uncomfortable silence floated between them.
“Well… yeah. I’ll… I’ll see you, I guess.” Jaejoong stuttered out, flushing brightly.
Yoochun nodded and looked away, studying the table like a piece of artwork, folding his slender hands on his lap.
Jaejoong opened his mouth to say something, but abruptly closed it before he let himself say anything. Picking up his bag, he turned to leave.
“Jae?” He heard from behind him. When he turned back around he found Yoochun standing and taking a step forward. Two seconds later painfully familiar arms were wrapped around him.
“I missed you. I’m glad we’re friends again.” Was whispered into his ear. Jaejoong had to stop himself from shivering.
“Yeah. Me too.” He whispered back, slipping his arms around Yoochun.
Giving him a little squeeze, Jaejoong pulled himself away and had to stop himself from running from the coffee shop before he decided that he didn’t want to leave.
Letting out a sigh when he was outside, he let his shoulders drop as he relaxed.
As his thoughts drifted away from the encounter in the coffee shop, he thought, “I wonder if Junsu’s at the park yet?”
Replays of the afternoon played over and over in Jaejoong’s head, causing an anxious tension to build up in his stomach. He picked at what had been said, thinking of things he should have said, analyzing what Yoochun had said, and crucifying his self confidence.
To distract himself he watched the cracks in the sidewalk move by as he walked towards his bench. When it came into view he looked up to find Junsu seated across from it on the grass, puppy in hand.
The adrenaline in his stomach receded a bit at the sight. Junsu raised his hand in greeting, a cheerful smile making his eyes crinkle in a way Jaejoong found adorable.
He raised his hand in return, even managing to muster something resembling a smile. Settling into his place on the bench, he tucked the cup of coffee between his legs before he readjusted his scarf so it covered all of his neck. A slight breeze ruffled his hair as he pulled his current novel out of his bag.
After a few minutes of reading, he put his coffee on the bench next to him and pulled his legs up next to him, resting his elbow on the back of the bench.
Glancing up, he was startled to find Junsu studying him, his face unusually serious.
When he realized Jaejoong was looking back at him, Junsu blushed and swiftly looked down. After a few seconds he peeked up to find Jaejoong smirking and still looking at him. He grinned, embarrassed.
Jaejoong just shook his head good-naturedly and looked back down at his book.
None of the butterflies that came from talking with Yoochun remained.
Weeks went by and the pattern remained. Every day after work Jaejoong would pick up his coffee from Siwon, who always had it ready, and walked to the park.
Everyday Junsu would already be there, puppy dog playing around his legs and a grin reserved for Jaejoong’s arrival on display. They’d wave and smile at each other and then Jaejoong would settle into his bench and read for an hour.
Occasionally they’d look at each other, never exchanging a word, just doing what they’d come there to do. At the end of the hour Changmin would walk up and say hello to Junsu and the dog, play with them for a while, and then the three of them would walk away.
Jaejoong would watch them go, and occasionally Junsu would turn around to wave goodbye. Jaejoong would wave back and be glad in knowing that the same thing would happen tomorrow.
It was something Jaejoong could rely on, and reminding himself that he’d get to see Junsu the next day always helped him during the long nights he’d spend staring at Yoochun’s name in his phone.
“It’s so good to see that there are happy people in the world. People who don’t have issues. Its like as long as Junsu is there I’ll know that its possible to be happy.” Jaejoong thought one night as he lay bundled in his covers, staring at the ceiling.
“That puppy and him… I should talk to him. I mean, I think he’s cute. Why not talk to him?” He told himself.
Of course, the next day, he didn’t. He never did. It was nice to just see them; to remind himself that happiness was possible.
He ignored the voice in the back of his head that said, “Its because you don’t want him to end up like Yoochun. Coward.”
The nights spent bonding with his ceiling and staring at his phone became fewer and fewer. Everyday Junsu would be there, a comforting reminder of happiness.
Jaejoong, for the first time in seven months, was content.
When Junsu wasn’t already there, Jaejoong figured he was probably just late. But the hour ticked on and no man and no dog appeared. After half and hour Jaejoong had to put his book down because he couldn’t concentrate.
“You’re being ridiculous, Jaejoong. Just because you come here everyday and expect to see him doesn’t mean he thinks the same thing about you. He’s fine. He just decided that he didn’t feel like going to the park today.”
That did nothing for the anxiety churning around in his stomach.
“Is he okay?” He wondered, quickly followed by, “Not that you should care. You’ve never even spoken to him. You don’t know him. It’s not like Yunho getting sick.”
But the rational voice in his head did nothing to calm his worries. He stared at the spot where Junsu usual sat, willing him to appear, playful and calming as usual.
At the end of the hour Jaejoong sighed and looked down at his barely touched coffee.
“All this angst over someone I don’t know. There’s something wrong with me.” He was nauseous as he threw the coffee into a trashcan.
That night he barely slept, his phone clutched in his hand and his heads filled with thoughts of a man he barely knew and a man he knew all too well.
( Read more... )