Title: Beginnings in San Francisco
Pairing: Jaemin (jaejoong/changmin) uke!min ; seme!jae
Genre: Fluff, Romance
Description: Jaejoong is a Korean Transferee at a prestigious school in the outskirts of San Francisco. Changmin is a high school student under the high school department of that same university. Jaejoong felt out-of place, Changmin blended in just fine. Jaejoong had no friends, Changmin had many. Nobody knew Jaejoong, Everyone knew Changmin. It's strange how fast the tables can turn. But in the end, no amount of friends or popularity can replace the other. Though things might have turned out a little too messy by the time they realize this.
“Changmin? Have you seen him?”
“O-oh I’m sorry but I haven’t.”
It was six in the evening.
Jaejoong had been searching for hours, but unfortunately neither Changmin nor Kyuhyun was anywhere in sight.
A few hours ago he had realized that today, was in fact, Changmin’s birthday. Today was the day he supposedly promised to greet the younger boy. To be the first one to do so. Though the situation seemed to convey otherwise, heck, he felt like the last person on earth to have remembered. And guilt was slowly eating him up inside.
A while ago, he sat among his friends (or rather changmin’s friends) silently trying his best to find excuses for his ignorance. I couldn’t possibly be the only one who he’d be mad at. He thought. Minho’s here, Jessica’s here, and Mia’s here, so that means I’m not the only one who must have forgotten. I could always make it up to him, right?
And his chain of thoughts continued. On and on they went linking together excuses and covers that he thought would be a good enough reason to justify his actions. Although, through all else, he kept failing. Hearing nothing but the endless replay of his promise.
I'll be the first one to greet you
It was too much to take. No alibi was reasonable enough to break that promise.
“Hyung? Where you going???”
“J? H-Hey what's gotten into you?”
Ignoring Minho, Mia and Jessica’s call, he abruptly stood up and began walking towards campus.
“Hyung! Yah hyung!”
“Jaejoong??? Wait for me!”
“Don’t follow me.”
“Wha— But…where are you going???? Yah JAEJOONG!”
But Jae heard nothing, the noise from his surroundings slowly drowning out as he listened to the loud beating of his own heart.
And that’s how he ended up where he was now. Breathless and panting, he had searched every place he knew Changmin would visit. The high school building, the greenhouse, the library and even min’s dorm. He would occasionally ask passers by if they had seen the well known Shim Changmin wandering around campus premises, but he would only be responded by a soft “I’m sorry I haven’t seen him” or a mere shake of their head.
Time was running and Jaejoong became more and more worried. Sweat trickled down his skin despite the cool weather, as thoughts of the younger boy crying alone in his bed drove up his adrenaline rush. He was going to find him no matter how long or how much of his time it took. How long had he turned his back on him? How long had he been ignoring the boy exactly? He didn’t know. But it sure felt awfully long. And for some reason, he missed seeing the other boy smile. He missed looking directly into those sweet, mismatched eyes. More than he ever thought he would.
The skies grew darker as the city lights came to life one by one in mixed colors of red, orange, yellow and green. People around lessened and the strand of hope Jaejoong held on to grew thinner. He stopped a moment to catch his breath.
Aah Changmin....Where are you.
The high pitched voice of a woman called out, interrupting his trail of thoughts.
It was Jessica.
She seemed to have been looking for Jaejoong, tiredly jogging up to where he was and panting foggy white puffs of air.
Both of them took a few minutes of silence to recover, Jaejoong lifting his head and closing his eyes while his mouth hung open, Jessica with her one hand to her stomach and the other to her knee, supporting her weight.
“Didn’t I tell you not to follow me?” Jaejoong said, in between huffs.
“You weren’t in your dorm.”
“Go back it’s late.”
“No! I want to know where you’re going!”
“I have something to take care of, now go back.”
“Not until you tell me!”
He ran a hand through his hair and let out a groan in frustration. Jessica seemed to quiet down at the simple gesture, she’s never seen him act like this before and it was starting to get worrisome.
“Don’t you remember what today is?”
“I…No I don’t—“
“It’s Changmin’s birthday!”
“Yeah! It’s min’s birthday and I forgot about it! We all did and that’s just fucking great!”
Jaejoong’s voice rose to his temper, his hands hooking to the back of his neck as he turned away from Jessica, gaze falling to the floor and jaws clenching.
“...Changmin-ssi…” Jessica murmured to herself.
Just then trickles of rain began to drop from the sky, one drop turned into two and two into three, until not too soon it was pouring. Jessica tried to shield herself with the little that her hands could cover but Jaejoong just stood there, letting the water soak through his clothes and hair. His mind wandered elsewhere, imagining Changmin’s laugh and his smile, the only thoughts that could bring warmth to his insides despite the cold gush of water against his skin.
“J-Jaejoong…it’s raining!” Jessica shouted, her voice faint against the roaring splashes of rain.
“. . .”
“Jae, let’s find some shade!”
“…You go, I have to find min!” As though it weren’t raining at all, Jaejoong began to jog the opposite way, his shirt clinging to his body as the rain seeped deeper into his clothes.
“Ja—jae! Wait! A-aish…
I know where he is!”
Jaejoong stopped to face her. “…What?"
“I-I know where Changmin is…”
“….Earlier when you left the group I saw kyuhyun. He was walking not too far away from where we were, carrying a bunch of things while talking on the phone. I waved at him but…but he didn’t respond. I barely heard his conversation, though I caught some of it. He was talking to Changmin, saying something like ‘just stay inside my dorm, I’ll be there in a few seconds.’”
“So…they’re in kyu’s dorm?”
“If I heard correctly…”
Kyuhyun’s dorm. Why hadn’t he thought of looking there?
He had been to Changmin’s, but the thought of going to Kyu’s dorm never crossed his mind. Maybe it was because he refused to think that the two of them were currently together, because he didn’t want to accept the fact that Kyuhyun remembered and he didn’t. Frustration reared up inside him.
“I’m coming with you!”
“No, it’s raining, you should go home.”
“No, I won’t go home! You’re not the only one who feels bad okay?! He’s my friend too!”
They both held each other’s gaze, piercing and intense.
Another wave of guilt coursed through Jaejoong, because although he hated to admit it, Changmin was far from his. He didn’t own the boy and he wasn’t the only one who had the right to worry about him. In fact, he was probably the last person who deserved to be with him, after all that he’s done.
He looked at Jessica, and he remembered that day he asked her to be his girlfriend, and he felt sorry. Because he knew he didn’t mean it, he knew what he felt wasn’t genuine, and he knew that he only did it because a pretty, smart and kind girl was what every good-looking guy was expected to have in a relationship.
He cared for her, but just not as much as he cared for Changmin.
Letting out a sigh, he gave in. “…Alright. Let’s go.”
Bracing themselves, they fought their way through the rain as they made their way to Kyuhyun’s dorm
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
By the time they arrived, they were soaking.
Drips of water trickled down from the tips of their hair to their chin. Jessica shivered uncontrollably and Jaejoong trembled not only to the cold, but to the nervous feeling that ate him up inside. As he stood there, a foot away from Kyuhyun’s door, he listened.
Inside, the soft murmured sounds of laughter could be heard. Jae listened a little more carefully, and immediately he recognized Changmin’s voice, along with Kyuhyun’s. Something inside him stirred, and there was this strong urge to barge into that room in hopes of catching a glimpse of that ever ready smile the younger boy would always wear. But there was also this force that stopped him, freezing him to where he was and preventing him from going any further. Filling him with a sense of what people commonly knew as jealousy, making him fear to see that smile, that smile that would prove how much the other didn’t need him, how much he was happy in the presence of someone else.
His thoughts continued to play with him, and as he stood there in the middle of the hallway, dripping wet and freezing cold, he found himself at a loss for what to do. He didn’t know how to face the younger boy who was somewhere behind that door, laughing, completely oblivious about the two soaking wet people who waited outside.
And as if she had read his thoughts, Jessica gently placed a hand on his shoulder and moved him aside. Taking his place in front of the door and gathering the courage to make three soft and hesitant knocks.
They both held their breaths as the sounds from the inside came to an abrupt stop.
“…It’s open!” Kyuhyun shouted.
Jessica gave one last nervous look to Jaejoong, who leaned against the wall beside the door obscuring himself from the sight of anyone inside, before silently pushing the door open.
As she moved inside, her gaze turned from the cluttered floors, to the evidences of the people who have probably came and gone, and finally to the two figures who stared blankly back at her from across the room. An awkward silence hung in the air as she stood there, shivering from the cold. Jaejoong on the other hand, stayed where he was. Listening to the silence inside as he tried to calm his own heartbeat. He wasn’t ready to show himself.
“…Hi…” Her lips curved up to a small, sad smile.
“Jessica...…Noona.” It was Changmin who responded. Kyuhyun just shot an ice cold glare towards her.
“…I-I…I uhm….” She struggled to find the words she wanted to say. Fumbling with her hands and shifting awkwardly in her position.
“N-Noona you’re soaking wet!”
Changmin definitely didn’t expect Jessica to be talking to him again. Much less to see her barging into kyuhyun’s dorm at the middle of the night dripping wet from what he guessed was the rain. But it didn’t mean he had to be mean to her, it didn’t mean he had to ignore her, just because she was the girlfriend of the guy he was in love with. No definitely not, which was exactly why he was currently fumbling to his feet, scurrying to kyuhyun’s room to borrow a few towels.
“Noona, you’ll catch a cold….” He draped one towel over her shoulder while handing her another to dry herself with.
“Hmm, Gomawo Changmin-ssi…” She smiled.
“You shouldn’t have come here in a weather like that Noona, It’s too troublesome, also you still have your finals coming up don’t you? You should take care of your health a lot more and…”
The boy went on with his silly blabbers of concern. It touched her.
“I’m sorry.” Her eyes were wet, no longer from the rain but from the sting of her own tears. Slowly she pulled the younger boy into a hug.
“I’m sorry. And happy birthday.”
For a moment they stayed like that. Warm in each other’s embrace, Changmin felt comforted. he felt at ease as he let himself give in to the tight hold of the older woman.
“Aiisssh cut the mushy crap already” Kyuhyun interrupted “I’ve still got some soju in the ref and it’s not gonna drink itself so who’s with me.”
“...Me!” Jessica playfully raised her one hand while the other dabbed on the tears at the corner of her eyes as she sniffed away all her grief and guilt.
“Kyuhyun-ah, don’t make me in charge of you when you’re drunk…”
All at once the room had again drowned in the sound of laughter. The atmosphere a lot lighter that it was a few minutes ago and definitely a lot happier.
Jaejoong listened from the outside. His head leaning back against the wall, and his eyes falling closed. He tried to let the sound of their laughter, most especially Changimin’s, soothe him. He tried to let it comfort and pull him back to the warm memories he shared with the boy. He tried, but in the end it only felt more painful.
It would have been easy for him to simply walk in there, apologize, be forgiven, drink a few shots and get his happily ever after. After all, Jessica had done it why couldn’t he?
But it wasn’t that easy after all. Not with this queasy feeling he kept getting all the time. For some reason he wanted to have the younger boy all to himself. For some reason he didn’t want to just sit among his circle of friends and be contented with simple exchanges of smiles and small talks, no. He needed more than that. He wanted to hug the younger boy, to let their foreheads touch, to be so close that he could feel the heat of the other’s skin on his own…
And with that he let his thoughts trail off.
“Oh! That’s strange…” Jessica said as she turned to look at the empty space behind her.
“Hm? What’s the matter?”
“I…It’s silly but....I thought Jaejoong was behind me the whole time…”
Changmin stiffened at the mention of Jae’s name. Kyuhyun shifted in discomfort as well.
“But I swear, he was with me just a while ago....”
Jessica scrunched her forehead in confusion. Changmin awkwardly chewed on the biscuit he had propped into his mouth while Kyuhyun just drowned down another shot of soju.
“Give me a minute guys” She threw them one last smile before getting to her feet and heading to the door.
Outside the hallway was empty.