Chaz (mertlekang) wrote,
Chaz
mertlekang

Baggage CHAPTER 1

Title: Baggage
Pairing(s): JB/JR, Markson, Yugbam, past Youngbam
Rating: NC17
Warning(s): Drug abuse, major character death, smut, characters with HIV, homophobia, angst
Summary: Rent!AU - Jaebum and Youngjae have been living together in a shitty apartment on the wrong side of town for years, struggling to pay their rent and carrying the weight of their past mistakes. With the introduction of a new neighbour, a meeting with an old flame and the help of a stranger after a mugging, new relationships are built and their lives grow all the more complicated.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4
ONE


'We begin on Christmas Eve with me, Youngjae, and my roommate, Jaebum.

We live in an industrial loft, the top floor of what was once a music publishing factory.

Old rock 'n' roll posters hang on the walls. They have Jaebum's picture advertising gigs at CBGB's and the Pyramid Club.

We have an illegal wood burning stove; its exhaust pipe crawls up to a skylight. All of our electrical appliances are plugged into one thick extension cord which snakes its way out a window.

Outside, it's snowing, inside, we are freezing because we have no heat.'



Youngjae snuggled deeper into the bundle of blankets he was swaddled in, breath ghosting the air as a warning of how cold it was outside of his cocoon. This place was always cold; except for in the summer, when it would get so hot you'd consider jumping out of the window just to catch a breeze before you died. Gritting his teeth, he threw back the blankets and tensed against the shock of cold bleeding in through his multiple layers of clothing like being pricked by a thousand needles. He didn't wait around, letting out sharp breaths as he jogged to the bathroom.

The toilet had been broken since he'd moved in, and you had to shove your hand into the icy water of the cistern to flush - which had frozen. He cursed, thankful he'd only needed to pee, before battling with the rusty shower until a weak spray dribbled out of the head. Brushing his teeth, he jumped from foot to foot as he waited for the water to heat up, eager for the warmth on his skin. Winter in this place was brutal.

He stripped miserably, every layer of clothing he removed bringing him closer and closer to the frigid air until he was naked and whimpering. Once his fifth pair of socks was off, he stepped into what he'd assumed would be a lukewarm - it never got anywhere near hot - shower, only to be assaulted with wet daggers of ice. He cried out in shock, dancing away from the offensive spray and pounding on the wall to get the heat moving like it usually did, but to no avail. He gave up, jumping out of the shower feeling miserable and pulling his clothes back on feverishly, chilled to the bone but very much awake.

Returning to his room, he threw on a coat and an extra pair of socks before heading into the living room and finding his housemate swaddled up as if he was ice fishing, more pale and gaunt than usual - he hadn't been looking after himself for a while, and Youngjae made a mental note to buy some groceries. It wasn't as if his housemate would actually cook anything for himself, but a stocked kitchen would probably be more encouraging. He was sat on their threadbare couch, throwing balled up paper into the flames of their stove.

'Heatings off.' Jaebum stated matter of factly without glancing at him, and he nodded absently before throwing himself down beside the older man. A spring jabbed him in the back and he shifted grumpily, finding some change shoved down the armrest in the process; the day wasn't going that badly after all.

'I gathered that. Is this safe?' He nodded towards the fire at the exact moment an unruly ball of lit paper rebounded, rolling across the bare floorboards before burning out to nothing.

'Does it matter? Place is a dump anyway. I wouldn't care if the whole place went up in flames, at least we'd be warm.'

Youngjae watched as Jaebum continued to ball the papers up rhythmically, eyes distant and face glum. They'd been living together for four years now; it was initially Jaebum's apartment, but he'd advertised his spare room when his father had disowned him. He liked to make out that he didn't want him around, but Youngjae had a sneaking suspicion that he thrived off the company. It was a big apartment, but it had been a dump since the day Youngjae had moved in; Jaebum's father had bought him the apartment, and Youngjae supposed it was some act of rebellion to ruin it, or maybe it was simply a reflection of how much of a mess his life turned into. Being an arts student, Youngjae couldn't say no to the cheap rent, even if it meant being frozen to the bone most of the time - even when the heating was on, Jaebum was just a frosty guy to be around, always wallowing in his own misery.

It had taken a lot of prying to find out anything about Jaebum, but it made sense to Youngjae why he was so cold and closed off. He was a good guy who'd got the short straw in life, and Youngjae could handle his short temper when compared to how he could be when he was in a happier mood. And the rent was really, really cheap.

'Why is the heating off, anyway?' Youngjae asked, voice echoing in the large space with only the crackling of the fire and the crunching of paper to accompany it.

'Didn't pay.' The older man muttered, and Youngjae raised an eyebrow incredulously.

'...Well, I paid. You. I paid you, what happened to the money that I paid you?' Youngjae asked, wide eyed and slightly frustrated. 'Are you using again?'

'I'm not fucking using, back off.' Jaebum got to his feet, broad back turned to him as he stormed grumpily into the kitchen. Youngjae's eyes fell upon the papers Jaebum had left behind, exasperated to see that it was his sheet music for the play he was working on.

'Jaebum, did you have to burn my shit?' Youngjae stood up abruptly, fingers flying to tangle in his hair in exasperation. 'I've been working on that piece for months.'

'There's still some left.' The older man mumbled from the kitchen, and Youngjae let out a silent scream, kicking the sofa hard. He'd known Jaebum too long to even attempt an argument, knowing it would only end in more frustration due his apathetic attitude. He sighed, thankful for his own easygoing nature, and heard Jaebum murmur again from the kitchen. 'Your money, I used it to pay for my medicine.' His voice was tired, as if it caused him great effort just to utter the words. Youngjae joined him in the kitchen, leaning on the countertop and folding his arms.

'If you needed help with money you should have just asked me, you know I can get my family to help every once in a while-'

'I'm not pathetic enough that I'd steal from my youngers.' He grumbled, rummaging through the empty cupboards with a frown.

'Pathetic enough to steal from them, though, huh?'

Youngjae would be lying if he said Jaebum slamming the cupboard door didn't make him jump out of his skin. It was hard living with someone with such a short temper, especially when said person had a physique like Jaebum. The two of them weren't as close as they should have been after so many years, Youngjae never being able to break down the towering, thick walls Jaebum had built around himself. He'd accepted that, supporting Jaebum from the background as much as he could - because Jaebum needed support, whether he wanted it or not.

Youngjae knew from experience that when he was in this kind of mood, staying silent was the best idea; a lesson learnt in the form of a black eye and a broken rib on a night Jaebum was feeding one of his other vices.

Jaebum slumped around the kitchen broodily, seemingly having settled on having coffee for breakfast. It wasn't a surprise to Youngjae when the older man finally paused, slouching against the counter and running his fingers through his copper hair - it always went this way, a storm that passed and left behind how Jaebum was truly feeling. 'I got laid off a month ago, didn't expect my money to run out this quickly. They fired me after someone complained about having - in the customers words - a dirty faggot touching their food.'

'You should've told me.' Youngjae breathed, trying to keep the pity out of his voice, off his face. Jaebum hated being pitied. 'You never went to that dance gym I mentioned - they were eager to interview you.'

'I can't dance any more, you know that. It's hard enough getting out of bed.'

'You can instruct, choreograph, you just need to start eating better-'

Jaebum gave Youngjae a sharp look, slanted eyes turning to slits of black as he closed himself off again. 'You meddle too much, Youngjae. I'll figure something out - I'm your hyung, not the other way around.'

He was caught between rolling his eyes or slapping the man, but he simply smiled the smile he was known for, relenting to Jaebum's stubbornness. 'Sorry, hyung.' He bit out, moving away from the counter to leave Jaebum in his mood, but the older man grabbed his wrist suddenly, eyes averted.

'Don't take it personally, I just... I don't want anyone controlling my life any more. I'll sort this out myself.' Youngjae sighed, nodding as Jaebum's hand slipped from its grip.

'Take your meds.' He muttered before he left him alone in the kitchen looking worn and defeated.

One thing he'd learnt in those four years was that you can't fix people, especially when they were as broken as Jaebum.

The answering machine clicked as he went to sit back down on the couch, and he hovered by the telephone. Youngjae had set it to go straight to the answering machine as soon as he'd moved in, knowing it would be ringing off the hook with worried calls from his parents. He sighed at the sound of his mothers antsy voice.
'That was a very loud beep

I don't even know if this is working

Youngjae - Youngjae - are you there?

It's Mom, we wanted to call and say we love you and we'll miss you tomorrow.

Your sister and the kids are here, they send their love

I know it's hard this time of year but be careful with your bills, don't leave your lights on! Make sure your fire is out before you leave the house, dear.

Oh, and Yugyeom, we're sorry to hear that Bambam dumped you.

I say let it be! Maybe now you can find a nice girl and settle down, I always told you it was simply an infatuation. It's not in God's plan for that kind of thing to last.

There are other fishies in the sea!

Merry Christmas, sweetie - call me back when you have time.'



He rolled his eyes, intending on tearing the damn thing from the wall at the sound of another incoming call, but paused at the voice that echoed out into the room. He picked up the receiver hastily, stumbling over his words for a moment.

'Bambam? Your equipment won't work? Okay, all right, I'm on my way.'

-

Jackson sauntered down the snow-crusted street, breath fogging the air and ears burning pink. It had been a long time since he'd been back here, escaping the city and abandoning Jaebum's couch for a clean break interning at a record company. He'd never forgotten Jaebum's apartment, the way the walls seemed to close in on you the longer you stayed, and Jaebum's misery was something you could smell, taste and feel whenever he was around, which was almost all the time. As much as he loved the older man, his aura could be truly oppressive and even someone as bubbly as Jackson couldn't handle it for long. He tried his best, if not for Jaebum's sake then for Youngjae's, but even though he came across as simple and lighthearted, he had his own baggage to carry and taking on everyone else's sometimes proved too much for his shoulders to bear.

He'd been walking for hours and his toes were thoroughly numbed, fingers stiff in his pockets where he clutched his wallet. The neighbourhood was rough, and the streets were always badly lit closer to home. Almost as if his thoughts were being read, only a moment after turning into the alley that led him to the flat he heard the crunch of footsteps in the snow, hushed whispers and rustling clothes. If it was just one guy he could dispatch them easily, but of course his luck didn't stretch that far. Thankfully he had fast hands, shoving his wallet down his briefs and hoping none of these guys were perverts.

Turning, he saw the shadows of three men, all taller and wider than him. He walked backwards quickly, hoping to get as close to Jaebum's as possible if things turned sour, but they were upon him too quickly, the tallest pushing him up against the rough brick wall by the collar of his jacket.

'Hey, hey - if you wanted to kiss me you just had to ask, I'm not into all this kinky shit.' He coughed beneath the strong hand gripping his throat. A strong blow caught him in the stomach, knocking the air from him in a gust as he doubled over. Another guy rummaged through his pockets roughly, seeming disappointed at what he found in there - empty chewing gum wrappers, an out-of-date bus ticket, an extremely hairy chunk of candy. The second guy groaned in frustration, and the third guy seemed just as pissed off if the punch to his face was any indication. They laid into him in earnest, then, despite his attempts at fighting back. Fencing was a really useless thing to have under your belt in these situations, he often found.

By the time he was on the ground, they'd dispersed and disappeared, leaving him to cough blood onto the snow and pant through the pain.

'Merry Christmas.' He grunted, attempting to sit upright, but every muscle protested. It was getting colder, lying there, and it only added insult to injury that the flat was only a few paces away. 'Well, it's probably warmer here than in there.' He mumbled to himself, pulling his knees to his chest as he shivered, the snow biting into his cheek and burning his ear.

He must have actually managed to fall asleep somehow, because the next thing he knew it was snowing and footsteps were crunching towards him. 'Hey, are you okay?' Came a deep voice, and when Jackson turned his head to look he could've sworn he was dead or something. So he did.

'Am I dead or something?'

'What? Here, sit up, you're freezing.' The angel fussed, pulling him up to a sitting position despite his groans of pain. 'What happened? Are you drunk?'

'I wish I was,' He grinned his most flirtatious grin, which probably didn't go over well with blood in his teeth and snot all over his face. 'Got mugged. Well, I wasn't even good enough to mug, they just kicked the shit out of me and bounced.'

The stranger smiled sympathetically at that, and Jackson felt himself warm just at the sight of it. Even in the dim light of the alley, he could make out the things that mattered; the strong eyebrows, red lips - was this guy wearing lipstick? - and high cheekbones. In retrospect he should've told this guy he was drunk just so he could throw himself at him and have an excuse for doing so.

'Come here often?' He cheesed, head wobbling in his dizziness as the stranger laughed a strange, bubbly laugh. Jackson wanted to hear it again.

'No, actually. I'm visiting a friend, my name's Mark.' He smiled, and Jackson saw stars. 'Come on, get up. I think you were lying to me about not being drunk. Either that or you have a serious concussion.' He pulled one of Jackson's arms over his shoulder, pulling him up with surprising strength for someone so skinny.

'I'm Jackson, and m'not drunk.' He hissed at the pain in his ribs as he stood on both feet, supported by Mark's lithe frame, but the pain ebbed at the sound of that tittering laugh spilling forth again. 'You have a cute laugh.'

Mark looked at him quickly, raising an eyebrow before he turned away shyly. 'Do you live close?'

'You're eager,' Jackson smirked, satisfied when Mark's face scrunched up a little, flustered. 'I was on my way to surprise some old housemates, it's just five minutes away, thanks. Sorry if I'm making you uncomfortable.'

Mark shook his head, and Jackson realised just how close he was leaning in to the thinner man. He was warm. 'It's alright, I'm always uncomfortable.' They walked awkwardly, Jackson having no choice but to lean heavily on the slightly taller man, footsteps heavy as they closed in on the apartment at a snails pace. Jackson didn't mind - he didn't want to leave Mark's arms for a good while yet, so what if he was acting up the pain a little bit. 'Looks like we're going in the same direction, anyway. I think it's only fair you repay me for this kind deed.' Mark smirked, eyes twinkling in the dim light and Jackson took a moment to realise he'd even said words.

'All I have is some old chewing gum and a disturbing amount of boiled candy at the bottom of my pocket. Take what you want, unless you can think of something else.'

Mark huffed a laugh, throwing his head back and exposing a slender, pale neck previously hidden by his thick trenchcoat. 'I was thinking more along the lines of letting me take you back to my friends apartment, cleaning you up. You okay with that?' He looked at Jackson hesitantly, shoulders stiff and eyes wide.

'Yeah, sure. I'll be talking your ear off all night, though. That's what I do.'

'I can't remember the last time someone spoke to me, so talk away.' Mark beamed, a shy hue to his smile that made Jackson's fingers tingle - or maybe that was the cold. It seemed like he wanted to say more, but he hesitated before his lips moved. 'I uh, I have a Life Support meeting in the morning, if you want to tag along. I don't really know anyone there...'

'Life Support?'

'It's for people with AIDS,' he paused, looking into Jackson's eyes. 'People like me.'

Mark looked truly terrified, like he'd run if the wind changed, and Jackson just laughed softly. 'Looks like we have something in common.'

-

Jinyoung felt the music thrumming in his ears, sweat dripping from his brow as he threw his head back and spread his knee's on the dirty stage. He undulated his hips, tight jeans straining at the stretch as his abdomen rose and fell, breaths short and frantic. He always forgot his routines when the lights were on him and the money was being shoved down his pants, resorting to whatever dirty dance moves he could think up in the moment. He was surprised he hadn't been sacked yet, even he knew he was more trouble than he was worth, but he raked in the cash every time. The club wouldn't be the same without him.

He ground his hips filthily down against the polished wood, feeling a wandering hand slip down the back of his pants. He turned to slap the bastard, but noticed the handsome tip stuffed down his underwear, deciding to let it slide. No touching was a valid rule, but if the tip was good enough he'd ease up just a little. Unzipping his jeans teasingly, he faced the crowd of balding business men that clawed at him blindly, giving them a show by running a hand up his bare, wet chest and playing with his reddened nipples. He threw his head back in feigned ecstasy, jaw slackened and moans wanton, audible even over the booming bass.

Jinyoung was good at his job.

Sitting backstage, he tucked his feet up beside him on the chair, wearing only his boxers as he counted the sweaty, crumpled notes. He'd had better nights, but it was enough to get what he wanted. It stank of perfume back here, the harsh lights around the mirror making him look rakishly thin and worn, and he shoved his things into his backpack roughly. The way he saw it, if you were going to die, why not indulge in all the things that are supposed to kill you anyway? What was another hit when your body could give up this week or the next, regardless of what you were doing with it.

He'd had a life, once, a future, prospects. He'd had a lot of things, and it was funny how easy it was to live without them. Other things were a lot harder to shake.

The icy cold bit at his hands as he passed the folded bills inconspicuously into the man's hands, the two of them wrapped in shadow where they belonged. Feeling the lightness of the small plastic packet in his palm set him at ease, simply holding it serving to quell his nervous heart. He'd tried to quit a thousand times, but he always came back to its warm, heavy embrace. Life was easier if you didn't have to think, didn't have to feel, didn't have to be.

Tonight would be special, he thought giddily as he almost ran back to his flat. He hadn't jacked up in almost a week, and the anticipation was almost arousing, setting his nerves on fire as if he was about to get the best fuck of his life. Everything seemed to take too long, the steps going on forever, the key turning too slowly in the lock. By the time he was inside he was shaking, sweat beading on his forehead as he shook off his coat and kicked off his boots, pulling out his affectionately named 'magic box' with trembling hands.

It was then that he heard a soft melody, the lazy sound of fingers strumming strings, a voice both husky and light, rich like treacle as it dripped in through the open window. Rarely did Jinyoung get distracted from his fix, but curiosity was in his nature, and he padded over to his balcony with bare feet and naked shoulders, looking up the fire exit to see where that voice was coming from. Surprised wasn't the right word - enraptured, smitten, besotted, any one of those would do. Jinyoung was used to getting what he wanted, and right then his fix was second in line to the demon sat over the railing; guitar in hand and sharp jaw upturned to the frosty night.

Jinyoung wanted him.

He darted back inside, the air just as frigid, and rifled around for a condom, shoving it in his back pocket and grabbing a pack of cigarettes. He tiptoed up the fire escape, toes icy against the metal as he crept towards the man who'd currently snatched his attention. His back was broad, tapering nicely into a slim waist beneath his sweatshirt, and his thighs looked strong beneath his black ripped jeans. Coppery hair caught in the breeze and a pair of scuffed Doc Marten's on his feet, Jinyoung was praying the face was just as appealing.

'Do you have a light?' He asked suddenly, and he very nearly killed the man. He swayed violently, startled by Jinyoung's voice as he cursed before regaining his balance and turning to face him, flustered and pissed off. The face was definitely as appealing, even if it didn't look happy.

'What the fuck?' He growled, eyes in thin lines as he scowled at Jinyoung. All the thinner man could see were the twin moles above his left eye, the way his piercings glinted in the moonlight.

'Do you have a light? My gas is out, can't find a lighter.' He cocked his head to the side, biting his lip and watching the man look him up and down distractedly before he seemed to catch himself, snapping his eyes away abruptly.

'Yeah, yeah. Wait there.' He grumbled, voice thick and rough - just how Jinyoung liked it. Of course, he didn't do as he was told, following the man inside silently as a cat and startling him once again. 'Did I say you could come in?'

'If you were on my balcony in the cold, I'd let you come inside.' Jinyoung smirked, winking. Jaebum didn't seem amused by his wit, though, sighing in frustration as he held a lighter out. 'Hm, my hands are too cold, can you light it for me?' It really looked like he was pushing his luck, but Jinyoung was never one to turn away from a challenge. Grudgingly, the taller man flicked the lighter, an orange glow emanating between them and lighting up the taller boys features. Jinyoung cupped his hand, guiding the lighter closer to the stranger so he could lean in more. He made a show of slipping a cigarette between his lips and lighting the end, hollowing his cheeks as he sucked the smoke into his lungs. 'Thanks, what's your name by the way? I've never seen you around before.'

'I didn't realise this was a social call.' The taller man huffed, rolling his eyes. 'Im Jaebum.'

'Park Jinyoung, a pleasure to meet you.' He purred, leaning back against the sofa by the window, looking over every inch of Jaebum. 'Play me a song.'

'Excuse me?' Jaebum cocked an eyebrow, affronted. 'You have really bad manners, you know.'

'Play me a song, please?' Jinyoung smiled sweetly, not missing the way Jaebum looked away quickly.

'You got what you came for,' He muttered, slumping into the sad looking armchair across from Jinyoung and rubbing at his forehead tiredly. 'Close the window on your way out.'

Well, Jinyoung hadn't expected him to be such a downer. Twisting the threads hanging from the arm of the sofa, he huffed, looking around the dark apartment. Jinyoung's flat was half the size of it, but no less barren. This was the top floor, the loft; floor length windows lining one wall and bare floorboards spanning the vast space of the living room, helping to make it even more frigid. The fire wasn't lit, the only light in the room coming through the windows, painting Jaebum in silvery blue. A few years ago, Jinyoung would've thought about painting the scene; capturing Jaebum's apparent loneliness, the way the light highlighted the planes of his cheekbones and dyed his hair purple.

However, things were different now, and Jinyoung didn't think about those things anymore.

Jaebum's hand had fallen to rest over his eyes, making him seem even more exhausted, and Jinyoung was drawn to him, making the taller man jump as he settled into his lap. He jolted as if to shove Jinyoung off, but the smaller man wasn't so easily moved. Wrapping his arms around Jaebum's broad shoulders, he smirked devilishly, straddling him despite his resistance. 'You don't really think I climbed up here just for a lighter, honey.' Jaebum gave up resisting, going completely still but no less tense. 'Don't pretend you weren't checking out my ass, I saw you.'

The taller man fixed him with a steady look - not quite a glare, but it felt like one. 'Do you have nothing better to do?'

'You can touch me if you want to, I don't bite - unless you're into that.' He chuckled, taking Jaebum's hands from where they were firmly glued to the arm rests and placing them roughly on his ass. It was getting kind of boring, really; nothing Jinyoung did seemed to be ruffling this guys feathers, and there was nothing he hated more than being ignored. Jaebum cocked an eyebrow slowly, hands cupping Jinyoung's ass and drawing a surprised gasp from the smaller man before long fingers dipped into his back pocket quickly, withdrawing a small bag of white powder that he waved between them. Jinyoung smirked, 'There's enough to share.'

'You're far too young to be doing this shit.' He said seriously, as if he pitied Jinyoung. Jinyoung hated pity.

'I'm nineteen not twelve, you can't be much older than me.' He spat, snatching at the small sachet, but Jaebum moved it out of his reach.

'Twenty-six. Old enough to know that this'll fuck your life up.'

Jinyoung rolled his eyes, not in the mood for another lecture he'd heard a thousand times over. He traced Jaebum's sharp jaw with his cold fingers - was this guy carved from marble or something? - not flustered by the way he simply stared back at him with dull eyes. leans in close, feeling his soft, steady breaths before he nudged at his lips with his own, breathing 'Gonna get high with me or what?'

'Fuck your life up if you want, but don't bring me into it.'

Jinyoung pulled away, exasperated as he sat back. 'I'd rather fuck up my life having fun than become this dull, you might as well be dead. Nobody lives forever, make the most of it.' He trailed his hand down Jaebum's hard chest, growing even more impatient at his lack of interest. Jinyoung never failed in his pursuits.

'You're shaking.'

'It's cold.'

'I used to shiver like that.'

'I told you-'

'I used to sweat.'

'I have a cold.'

'I used to be a junkie, too.'

Jinyoung recoiled for a moment, but collected himself quickly, plastering a smile on his face. 'What's wrong with...' He pressed his hand to Jaebum's crotch, and this time the man of marble couldn't keep up the façade, choking suddenly as his hips jumped. '...feeling good?'

Jinyoung was forced off the taller man's lap as he stood abruptly, barely inches between them as Jaebum stared down at him with a heavy gaze. Jinyoung raked his eyes down Jaebum's body slowly, taking in his slightly laboured breaths, before his fingers danced along the front seam of his jeans. Jaebum gulped audibly, and Jinyoung couldn't hide his gratified smirk, quickly snatching his dope from Jaebum's front pocket and dancing away from him, waving it victoriously in the air.

'You should come visit me sometime, I bet I could get that cold heart pumping again.' He snickered, giving Jaebum one last slow look before he climbed out of the window once more, heart thumping in anticipation of his hit and mind filled with thoughts of how Jaebum might look when he smiled - or when he came.

-

One New Message

Message Left At 14:44, 24th December

Hi. You've reached Bambam and Yugyeom. Leave a message and don't forget
"Over the Moon" -- My performance, protesting the eviction of the Homeless
(and artists) from the Eleventh Street Lot. Tonight at midnight in the lot
between A and B. Party at Life Café to follow


(BEEP)

'Well, Yugyeom - We're off.
I tried you at the office and they said you're stage managing or something, we'll be at the spa for new year's unless the senator changes his mind.

- The party

Oh, yes honey. Your mother's 40th is on the tenth, we'll need you, alone, by the sixth. You'll be staying the week. Don't bring your... friend.
For your mother's sake, son - don't mention any of this silly stuff you've been doing with that boy. None of those silly clothes either, dress like a man, there'll be contacts around for you to acquaint yourself with. You've been interning too long, it's time you got a real job.

Love, Dad.'



Yugyeom deleted the message, rolling his eyes as he paced up and down in the freezing warehouse. This was the last time he'd do a favour for Bambam. He turned at the sound of footsteps, a man swaddled in black coming in through the sliding door and heaving it closed with a groan.

'Youngjae?' His voice echoed in the vast space, and the other man turned to him with a smile that could put the sun to shame. If Yugyeom was a more sensitive soul, jealousy would've made an appearance right about now. Sadly, he was indeed a sensitive soul.

'That's me!'

'I told him not to call you.'

'Ah, well, that's Bambam.' Youngjae had a cheerful voice, as if it was filled with laughter that might burst forth at any moment. Yugyeom probably would've liked him if he was someone else. As it stood, the nicer he seemed, the more Yugyeom wanted to hit him. 'Since I'm here, can I help?'

'I've called a technician.'

Youngjae flashed him a bright smile, waving his hands about. 'Great! Well, it's nice to have met you.'

The older man turned to walk away, but Yugyeom let out a heavy sigh, reluctantly calling out to him. 'Wait. He's three hours late, sorry for being rude. I'm stressed.'

Youngjae stopped in his tracks, spinning on his heel and walking to the small podium Yugyeom stood on with a bounce in his step. 'It's alright, I'll have a look at it and see what I can do. What exactly isn't working?'

'There's a cable for the microphone that's been chewed through - is it fixable?'

Youngjae pondered over the mess of equipment that Bambam had made Yugyeom drag there earlier that day, poking at wires and making small contemplative noises. He wondered what Bambam had seen in him, if it was the allure of an older guy or the fact that he was just so damn nice. Actually, the latter was probably why they broke up - Bambam got bored fast, Yugyeom was already finding that out after just a few months living with the guy.

'There's another way to patch it through, don't worry.' He smiled encouragingly, and Yugyeom couldn't help but return it, warming up to the guy already.

'This is weird.' He breathed, rubbing at his forehead tiredly, and Youngjae let out an open mouthed chuckle that made Yugyeom want to laugh too. Infectious.

'It's pretty weird, but being with Bambam will never be normal, sorry to break it to you.'

'You can say that again.' Yugyeom sighed, folding his arms as he sat tiredly on one of the television sets Bambam needed for his piece. It was a freestyle rap on living conditions and local authoritarian pressures in the community, or something, with some random shit thrown in. Yugyeom didn't really get it.

Youngjae glanced at him from where he was meddling with the wires. 'Wanna share?'

'I don't know if I should be talking to my boyfriends ex about my relationship troubles.' Yugyeom raised his eyebrows ironically, still uncomfortable to even be in the situation.

'Well, I've been in your position before. I can relate.' He spared a sympathetic look, and Yugyeom could see he was being honest. It was a relief that Youngjae seemed to understand his problems even without saying anything - apparently being with Bambam was a uniform experience. 'Looking at other boys - and other girls? Calling you weird pet names?'

'He doesn't call me pet names.'

'Got the first one right though, didn't I?' It wasn't said with malice at all, an almost exhausted tone to Youngjae's voice, and Yugyeom couldn't help but nod his assent.

'He only moved into my flat a few months ago and he's already taken over, even set the message on my answer machine. My parents didn't even know I was gay.'

'That's rough.' Youngjae pursed his lips, flicking a few switches and causing a high pitched noise to screech through the microphone and echo sharply. 'Well, it's fixed.' He stood up, awkwardly patting his hips before leaning against a large bass speaker. 'I don't know if it's the same for you, but it was like walking on a tightrope. Keeping him happy and giving him attention constantly - you're not allowed to do anything, but he's free as a bird. I always thought it was the age gap but, yeah, apparently not. Better to have had him at all than to never have known him, as infuriating as I'm sure that sounds.'

'Still in love with him?' Yugyeom asked halfheartedly, already knowing the answer.

'With Bambam, love is a losing game.'

Yugyeom jumped at the sound of his phone ringing loudly in the empty space, answering it abruptly. 'Bambam? Yeah, it's fixe- Gyeomie? You've never called me that before... No, it doesn't matter. It's fixed, see you later.'

Youngjae just raised an eyebrow, and Yugyeom hated him all over again.

-

Mark stirred his coffee, the spoon rattling against the ceramic loudly in the silence of the apartment. His friend was out somewhere, having left the window wide open and effectively turning the place into an freezer. He heard a series of bumps, an exclamation of pain.

'I told you to sit down and stay down.' He sighed, returning to the living room and setting the coffee on the stained, messy table. Jackson was lying in a heap beside the sofa, gripping at his abdomen with a pained grin. Christ, this guy was a dumbass - an adorable dumbass.

'I didn't know it was an order, I'll behave next time, master.' Jackson winked, and Mark rolled his eyes in exasperation. How Jackson could flirt so shamelessly even while injured was beyond him. He pulled the heavier man to sit on the sofa, kneeling across from him with a wet towel and dabbing at the cuts on his face as he hissed in pain.

'They messed you up pretty bad, huh. Do you need anything?'

'A kiss?'

'Are you always this flirty?' Mark laughed breathily, suddenly aware of how close he was to Jackson's full (though busted) lips, dabbing at the cut there to excuse the fact he was staring at them.

The shorter man smiled sunnily, 'Only with cute guys, like you.' Mark scoffed, eyes jumping around for something else to focus on as he grew flustered. It had been a long while since someone had taken an interest in him, and an even longer while since it was okay for that to happen. Jackson shifted, shrugging his coat off to reveal a pair of wonderfully broad shoulders. Mark didn't stare, not at all. 'So, how does someone as pretty as you end up in a town like this?'

'Parents didn't want a gay son, definitely didn't want a gay son with AIDS. They think it's infectious, but it's stupidity that's the real plague.'

'Ah, been there, done that.' Jackson smiled, and it made Mark's heart skip slightly, his eyes fixing upon the task at hand so he didn't end up losing himself in those deep brown eyes.

'What about you?'

'I used to be on the national fencing team in high school but, yeah. Drugs are bad - I'm clean now, but I guess those mistakes follow you around.' Mark raised an eyebrow, impressed by how athletic Jackson must have been and finding his thoughts drawn to how muscular legs those legs might be, whether he still knew how to use his sword.

'I would've thought an athlete could handle himself better than this.' Mark teased, raising an eyebrow and smirking, to which Jackson pouted petulantly.

'There were three of them, it's not like I was a champion boxer or something.' Mark smiled softly at Jackson's childishness, the way he was getting visibly wound up over that one comment. 'Why are you laughing? I really was an athlete, I'm not making it up.' Mark just nodded absently, clearing away the last trace of blood from Jackson's face before he sat back on the balls of his feet.

'Alright, alright. Were the communal showers as heavenly as I always imagined them to be? I was homeschooled.'

Jackson smirked, happy to return the teasing. 'Look at you, not good enough for us lowly public school peasants?' Mark chuckled, and Jackson looked away. 'Nothing fun happened in there, lots of sweaty ugly dudes who'd slap your ass and call you a faggot as if it was a funny pet name.'

Mark scrunched his nose up at the word, turned off from the fantasy. 'Geez, nevermind. Do you need some help standing? There's a heater in the spare room my friend has set me up in.'

'I uh, thought I'd be staying on the sofa, actually.' Jackson mumbled hesitantly, and Mark cocked his head to the side.

'You'd freeze to death out here, don't be shy.' He stood, offering a hand to Jackson who took it tentatively, wincing as he stood before Mark guided him to the spare room; taking his time just so he could enjoy the weight of Jackson's arm on his shoulder, the hardness of his body slumped against him. How long had it been since he'd touched another person?

'I don't mean to be rude but what a dump.' Jackson stated bluntly as he tapped the door open with his foot, and Mark couldn't hold in his giggle, not noticing the warm glance Jackson threw his way.

'My thoughts exactly, I haven't been back here in a while.' He guided Jackson over to the bed, a grunt leaving the shorter man's lips as he sat down heavily. 'My friend isn't in a good place at the moment, I came back to give him some support. Looks like it's worse than I thought it was.' Honestly, it saddened Mark deeply to see it in such a mess. He could only wonder what state his friends bedroom was in if this was the spare room - mould climbing the walls and broken canvases strewn all over the place. At least there was a bed, he thought dimly as he clicked on the heater, that was more than Mark had had in a while.

Jackson kicked off his snow-covered boots, unfastening his belt unabashedly. Mark averted his eyes, leaving the room quickly before calling back to give Jackson directions to the bathroom if he needed it. Once he was inside said bathroom, he leaned his head against the door for a moment, collecting his thoughts. He had a very attractive guy lying in his bed, a very sweet, funny, silly guy. Mark could touch this guy; he wouldn't be faced with revulsion and rejection at the revelation of his disease, could touch him as much as he wanted to without worrying about hurting him.

He washed his face in the ice cold water, deciding to forgo a shower tonight even if he stank - it was just too fucking cold. Sneakily using his friends toothbrush, he checked his appearance. It had been too long since he'd dyed his hair, completely brown save for the red at the tips; thankfully he'd been able to keep up with cutting it, even if it was rough and askew. He'd always been thin, so that wasn't something out of the ordinary; the bags under his eyes and his cracked lips were another story.

Going without his medication was taking its toll, he knew that. He felt weaker every day, fighting off the illnesses being dirty and cold might bring with willpower alone. Being here was his chance at getting things back together, getting some money, getting back on his meds... he just hoped Jackson stuck around to see him at his best rather than his worst. Then again, if Jackson found him cute as he was right then, he really didn't have much to worry about.

He dragged his fingers through his hair, slapping his cheeks and willing himself to go back in there. He didn't want the thought of actually sleeping with Jackson tonight to even cross his mind, thankful that the shorter guy was battered and bruised. While he was more than eager to be touched again, especially by Jackson's hands, it was too much for him to process. The last time had cost him everything, he wasn't going to risk the small amount that was left.

Jackson was a feast to Mark's hungry eyes, devouring the sight of him sprawled out on the bed already fast asleep in just his boxers. He was thin, but nowhere near as thin as Mark, bones still clinging to defined muscle where Mark's had long wasted away. He shrugged out of his clothes, keeping his sweater on to fight the chill that still lingered even with the heater at full whack, before climbing in gingerly beside the barely clothed stranger.

Thirty seconds hadn't even passed before strong arms were wrapped around him and Jackson's nose was pressed against his neck, warm breaths fluttering against the sensitive skin. Mark had never been one for spooning, but somehow it felt right to be in Jackson's embrace, pulling him down alongside him to the warm, thick sleep that had been eluding him for so long.

He didn't hear Jinyoung creep back in through the window, nor did he hear the groan of pleasure from the next room as he poured poison into his veins; the moan that left his bitten lips as he sank into the mattress and fell away into the welcoming arms of his vices
Tags: baggage, jjproject, markson, yugbam
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