Title: BaggagePairing(s): JB/JR, Markson, Yugbam, past Youngbam, past MarksonRating: NC17Warning(s): Drug abuse, major character death, smut, characters with HIV, homophobia, angstSummary: 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.
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Mark stirred from his slumber quickly, used to having to be alert and ready to face whatever dangers his sleeping spot had in store for him that day, but found himself caught in a pair of warm, strong arms, soft breaths tickling the nape of his neck. Relaxing against Jackson's firm chest, he snuggled deeper into the flat pillow he had balled up beneath his head, breathing deeply in lazy content. It had been a while since he'd been able to rest, been able to laze about without the fear of frostbite or robbery.
Too soon, though, he was drawn from his daydreams by the sound of shuffling feet, running water and shallow coughs, and he relented, lifting Jackson's heavy arm and throwing back the covers to brave the cold of the floorboards against his toes. Rubbing his face groggily, he stumbled into the living room on wobbly, sleep-stiff legs and saw Jinyoung - or what was left of Jinyoung - making coffee with slumped, bony shoulders; t-shirt baggy and loose as it hung from his skeletal form.
Jinyoung noticed him standing there when he turned, and he raised an eyebrow before smiling widely in the way that made his eyes turn to crescents. He was so much thinner than he used to be and his eyes were deeply set and underlined in grey, no longer bright and wild like back then. It hurt Mark deeply to see him this way, to see him succumbing to the disease so easily, so willingly. Mark returned the smile, albeit with a tinge of sadness, walking over to wrap him in a tight hug. He could feel every bone, the dip between Jinyoung's shoulder blades, the ridges of his spine.
Pulling away, Jinyoung grinned widely. 'I didn't know you were here already.'
'I got in last night, I had no money to call. Are you eating, Jinyoung?'
Jinyoung's eyes flitted away, turning from him quickly as he returned to the coffee pot and poured out two mugs slowly. 'I eat enough.'
Mark sighed, fighting to keep the consternation from his voice. 'Are you even taking your meds? You can't just lay back and let it burn you out.'
Jinyoung leaned against the counter, eyes focused on the ground, shoulders tight. 'I'm taking my meds, Mark. Don't mother me when I know you're not looking after yourself either.' Mark rolled his eyes, almost having forgotten Jinyoung's amazing ability to deflect. He'd always been the one suffering while worrying too much about others, pushing attention away from himself to focus on anyone else.
'I haven't exactly been in a position to stay healthy, Jin. I've saved a bit of cash, though, what do you need?'
Jinyoung just shook his head, still not meeting Mark's eyes. 'I have food, I just have no appetite.'
Mark deflated, too tired to fight such a losing battle and deciding to let it go as he walked over to a garishly patterned couch he remembered being an entirely different colour back when he lived here. He bounced as he sat down, and his eyes fell upon the burnt spoon, the rubber tubing. His heart sank, mouth going dry as he slowly shook his head in mute disbelief.
Jinyoung approached with the coffee's, but stopped short when he saw where Mark's eyes had landed. 'Mark, please-'
A look of betrayal in his eyes, Mark snapped, regarding Jinyoung with pure disbelief. 'You're still using? After what happened?' Jinyoung just looked sad, worn out. He set the mugs of coffee on the table, throwing himself down beside Mark heavily for someone who was just skin and bones. Clasping his hands between his knees, he looked numbly at the steam rising from the battered ceramic, voice leaving him quietly, weakly.
'I have nothing, Mark. Nothing. Let me have this.'
Mark only scoffed, hurt, and clutched Jinyoung around the shoulders, shaking him until he met his eyes. 'You have me, Jinyoung. I won't let you fuck yourself up again, you nearly died.'
Jinyoung batted his hands away with sudden anger, turning to him with pain in his eyes, and Mark could only wonder how long it had been stagnant within him. 'And where were you?
I'm not going to fucking overdose again, I'm not a kid anymore. It's the only thing that takes the pain away; it's not like you stuck around to help me.'
Mark glanced away as if recoiling from a strike, eyebrows drawn tight and lips set in a hard line. 'I'm sorry, for leaving.' He muttered, the words long overdue, and Jinyoung's anger dissipated as fast as it came, never one to stay angry. He slumped against the backrest, head falling to the side as he looked at Mark softly.
'Where were you?'
'I've been around. Used all that money I was saving to go back to Cali, but my parents didn't want me back.' He picked at a thread in his jeans absently, fighting through the lump in his throat. 'I came back, but I couldn't face you after how we fell out, the things I said. I've been sleeping rough, busking, stealing here and there when I have to.' When he dared to look at Jinyoung, he was met with a gaze full of only love and sympathy.
'I'm sorry, for everything. You never gave me time to say that before. We were friends before anything else happened between us, I wish we never lost that. My world ended when you left, Mark.'
Mark could feel his eyes growing wet, wondering how he ever left Jinyoung here to waste away. 'Sleeping with your best friend really isn't the best idea is it?' He choked, and Jinyoung laughed softly, pulling him into a tight, sharp hug. Jinyoung always gave the best hugs, and he still did, just a little less soft than before.
'I wasn't that bad, was I?' Jinyoung breathed into Mark's hair where he held him to his chest, and Mark could hear his voice breaking.
'If you're trying to get me to tell you how great you were in bed, it aint gonna happen,' Mark snickered, sniffing and squeezing his eyes against the burn of tears, 'You already know that, you smug little shit.' Jinyoung's chest shuddered with quiet laughter, then with repressed sobs.
'You know I still love you, Mark? Not in a gay way, though. I think we can both agree we weren't good at the gay way.' Mark giggled, head still buried in Jinyoung's shirt, and his chest was tight just having his best friend here again, as what he should always have been; not his lover, but his soulmate.
'I love you too, you idiot.'
Of course, Jackson had to walk in at just that moment, voice blurting almost immediately, 'Am I interrupting something?'
Jaebum paused at the window, leaning close to the fogged glass and inspecting the words written by a finger.
He clicked his tongue, and almost jumped when he noticed Youngjae breathing down his neck. 'What's this? Who's JYP?'
ME + U?
'Some crazy guy from downstairs.'
Youngjae raised his eyebrows, 'Oh, the stripper?'
'He's a stripper? How do you know?'
'I actually talk to our neighbours, unlike you.' Youngjae shrugged, returning to where he'd been sat on the sofa flicking through some music he'd written. Jaebum rolled his eyes, grumbling.
'Why would I talk to our neighbours? They're just random people living in the same shitty place.'
Youngjae sighed wistfully, as he often did when Jaebum said something negative. It pissed him off to no end. 'It's called making friends. Friends. Do you know that word? F-R-I-E-N-D-S.'
Jaebum swatted at the back of his head, Youngjae chuckling despite the assault. 'Don't get cheeky.' Jaebum muttered halfheartedly, falling into his armchair lazily with no intention to get back up from it for at least a few hours. At the sound of keys turning in the lock, he looked with mild interest toward the door, surprised to see Jackson entering with that all-encompassing smile and arms weighted with plastic bags.
'Firewood and food bitches, Merry Christmas!'
Jaebum wouldn't admit it, but it was unhealthy just how much he'd missed that voice.
Youngjae immediately jumped up to wrap him in a tight hug, the two laughing away as they wrestled each other side to side in glee. Jaebum grunted a 'hey' from where he was sat, and Jackson let go of Youngjae with a scoff, pulling a grumpy face. ''Hey'' He mimicked, 'Hey? After two years?' He threw his arms open exaggeratedly and Jaebum relented, getting to his feet reluctantly despite the smile tugging at his lips and letting Jackson smother him, thumping his back hard. There was something about Jackson that always dragged a smile from
Jaebum, whatever the weather.
'That's the first time I've seen him smile since you left.' Youngjae laughed, and Jaebum threw him a half-hearted glare over Jackson's shoulder. Jackson let go after he'd squeezed Jaebum to his satisfaction, patting him on the shoulder and looking him up and down for a moment. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but he just patted Jaebum's shoulder one last time and gave him a tight lipped smile, letting his hand fall away. Jaebum knew the unspoken comment; how thin he was, how ill he looked. Contrary to popular belief, Jackson knew when to keep his mouth shut.
He missed having Jackson around, that annoying laugh and insistent attention seeking - Jackson was the glue that kept Youngjae and Jaebum together; without him there was just a cold draft and awkward silences. Jackson was never scared to invade his personal space, never hesitant to kick him into shape and forgo formalities. Seeing him again made him feel suddenly guilty for how he'd been treating Youngjae, and he glanced at him quickly, seeing the big goofy smile on his face that hadn't been there while it was just the two of them.
Jaebum had been a real shitbag lately.
'I meant to get here yesterday but there was this kid getting mugged and I had to step in-'
A scoff sounded from the open door, and Jaebum raised an eyebrow, a voice following soon after. 'It was your ass getting beat.'
'Who's that?' Youngjae asked, perplexed, and Jackson beamed at them both.
At that, a lanky guy looking utterly mortified stepped into the room, nodding awkwardly to Jaebum and Youngjae and shaking a bag he was carrying. 'Breakfast?'
It wasn't long before the fire was crackling, warming Jaebum's numb extremities as they sat around catching up with each other. Jackson caught Jaebum's eye while Youngjae and the new guy - Mark - were engrossed in their own conversation, nodding towards the message on the window. Jaebum just shook his head with a small smile, giving Jackson the finger when he waggled his eyebrows suggestively.
He found that he liked Mark, his calmness and gentle tone. It was interesting to watch the way Jackson looked at him while he spoke, and how Mark seemed to listen to every word falling from Jackson's lips where others tended to switch off. Something in him began to wonder if he'd ever have that again, ever feel the warmth of another persons gaze. For a moment, Jinyoung prodded at his mind, and his eyes flicked over to the words written into the steamed up window, but he tore his gaze away just as quickly, shaking his head slightly.
That kid was too much trouble; he saw too much of his past self in him.
Jaebum wasn't a corpse by any means, not yet anyway; there was definitely a tightness in his jeans after Jinyoung had danced his way out of the window and left him in the dark, much to his own frustration. He knew by his own experience that Jinyoung was on a winding path that would only lead to pain, if he wasn't already at that destination already, and Jaebum knew that if he succumbed to Jinyoung's spell he'd lose himself trying to save him - not only was it unfair to Jaebum, it wasn't fair to Jinyoung.
Jaebum didn't know how long he had left, it was better to be alone than to drag others into the pain his condition brought. Jinyoung was too young to see the things Jaebum had seen, and if he could protect him from this one thing it would be the only kindness he could offer.
The words 'Life Support' brought him back to the conversation, noticing Youngjae and Jackson's eyes on him when Mark mentioned that anyone was welcome to come along.
'Hyung, you should go.' Youngjae pressed, but Jaebum simply frowned deterrently, sinking further into his armchair. Mark and Jackson stood, pulling on their coats and scarves before
Mark turned with a soft smile, leaning in with a quiet voice.
'Some people have nowhere else to go on Christmas Day. It's not as bad as it sounds.' Jaebum just looked at him blankly, surprised by how forthcoming he was, and Mark just left it at that. He didn't understand why people needed to meddle in his life so much, watching the two of them leave and heaving a deep sigh. Youngjae pulled on his coat shortly afterwards, lingering in the doorway with his camera in hand, seeming to agonise over something.
'Hyung, you're not dead yet - stop acting like it.' The sound of the door closing wass too loud, too jarring and Jaebum furrowed his brows, rubbing his sore eyes. These fucking kids.
He was glad to be alone, wishing people would stop interfering in his life. When he stood to take his mug back to the kitchen, his eyes were drawn to the poster on the wall, and he stopped before it. It was him when he was still a teen, colour still in his skin and a sultry smile on his lips as he sang into a microphone, fingers caught in motion as they deftly plucked at the strings of guitar. He's covered in sweat, coppery hair glued to his forehead and kohl smudged around his eyes. He must've been just eighteen or nineteen in the photo, back when he was sneaking out of college to play gigs in dirty bars; soaking up the almost religious rapture of the crowd and forgetting himself in the beds of the girls and guys who'd promise him the world for just one night pressed against him. He was the poster boy of a rich pretty boy pretending he was anything but, snubbing off his parents in the name of revolution and liberty.
He could still remember the look on his dads face when he broke the door down, when he found him passed out on the floor with veins full of poison and bile coating his cheeks.
Tearing the poster down, he balled it up and threw it to the floor. He stormed into the kitchen with heavy feet, throwing his mug in the sink and flinching at the sound of it smashing, resting his hands on the countertop and letting his head hang between his shoulders for a moment. He'd been a fool to think his life was back on track, to think feeling nothing was easier than acknowledging the pain he was in. Pulling out the crinkling foil of his tablet packet from his jeans, he popped a pill into his mouth and swallowed it dry, throat bobbing before he walked back into the living room. Looking at the window one more time, he paused, thinking of pouting lips and big brown eyes.
He turned away.
'So, you used to fuck?' Jackson asked dumbly, shoes crunching on the crisp snow. Mark rolled his eyes, you really had to have patience with Jackson, and thank God Mark had plenty to spare.
'We went to highschool together, shared that apartment, screwed around a bit and things got confusing and fucked up so I left. We never really had feelings for each other beyond friendship, i guess we were just lonely.' Jackson hummed thoughtfully, looking up at the pale blue sky while they stopped at a crossing before he fixed his deep brown gaze on Mark again, making his heart jump slightly.
'So I still have a chance?' Mark scoffed, punching him in the arm slightly. 'You're cute when you're embarrassed.' Jackson teased, and Marks face heated when his digits suddenly intertwined with his own. Jackson had warm hands. 'What's this meeting about, anyway? Do you learn CPR here or something?'
Mark laughed incredulously, losing the fight against not smiling, 'No, you ass. Life Support is just a small gathering where people with AIDs can talk to each other. Your housemate didn't seem to like the idea.'
Jackson sighed heartily, face clouding, pensive. 'Yeah, he's a losing battle. Jaebum would rather pretend he's already dead than try and squeeze out whatever life has left for him. I love him, but he's an ass.'
Mark raised an eyebrow, 'He has AIDs?'
Jackson nodded thoughtfully, 'He wasn't that bad when I lived there, I guess I just bring out the best in people.' He said it jokingly, but Mark found himself agreeing. Jackson was like a ball of sunshine, from the little of him that he'd seen, anyway - but there was something sad about him, too, as if he was constantly reaching for the good rather than letting himself feel the bad. He squeezed Jackson's hand, not saying a word when the shorter man looked at him questioningly; simply pulling him across the street with a soft smile on his face and a warmth in his chest.
The meeting was already underway when they arrived, and they slipped into the circle as quietly as possible, muttering soft apologies. There were only seven of them, including the group leader who resumed what he was already talking about before looking around the circle with a smile. 'There's a few new faces today, so lets all introduce ourselves. I'm Jin, I've been living with AID's for seven years now.' He had a kind face, and Jackson thought he didn't look ill at all, fresh faced and vibrant. The man next to him cleared his throat, and people introduced themselves in turn. 'Kibum' 'Min' 'Taehyung' 'Krystal'
Mark ran his tongue over his lips, cleared his throat. 'Mark, I've been living with AID's for three years.' Jackson squeezed his knee softly, and warmed at the smile Mark gave in return.
'Jackson Wang. I've been living - not dying of AID's for five years.' A soft chuckle went around the room at his wit, but he could only hear Mark's soft giggle, a sound that made his heart feel full and heavy. People began to tell their stories, and Jackson was comforted by the acceptance in the room, the lack of judgement. He could almost sense Mark tensing as his turn came closer, and he patted his thigh softly, sending him a reassuring smile. Mark was truly, truly adorable. His voice cracked slightly when he first attempted to speak, and Jackson leaned forward slightly, urging him to focus on him and forget anyone else in the room. It seemed to work, those brown eyes sticking to Jackson's like glue, the tension slowly easing from his shoulders and the words falling from his lips without a stutter.
'I was Seventeen, thought condoms were just for straight people, y'know? It's amazing how such a stupid thing can affect everything. I was sleeping with my best friend at the time - he'd been injecting behind my back, I didn't find out until I walked in and found him nearly dead. He didn't know he was positive until the doctor told us, but I walked out on him in the heat of the moment. Parents didn't want me back, of course, and I've been on the streets doing what I can since. Turns out the meds are fucking expensive so, yeah, I missed a lot of my treatment. I'm too scared to see a doctor, to see just how far its developed. Sometimes I think it's better to just not know, to just live life in the moment and let whatever happens happen.'
He laughed awkwardly, knitting his eyebrows together. 'Sorry, I didn't mean to be depressing.'
The whole group chuckled at that, and Jackson couldn't help but wrap an arm around his shoulders, rubbing his arm comfortingly. Jackson couldn't fathom how such a bad thing could happen to such a beautiful person, and he made up his mind to get him healthy again; if that wasn't possible, if he really was getting worse, then he'd fill every moment with light and joy and never let him frown or cry again.
'Yeah, um. I uh, I was on the national fencing team-' The doors opened, a cold wind blowing in, and Jackson turned to see Youngjae looking flustered as he fought to close them against the blizzard outside. He managed to slam them shut, red faced as he turned to the rapt attention of the group and smiled brightly.
'Sorry! I uh- is it okay if I, uh - I don't have AID- God, sorry um-' He took a deep breath, obviously embarrassed, and Jackson resisted the urge to laugh at him, instead patiently waiting for his friend to collect himself. 'Is it okay if I just watch? I also, um, I have a camera so - if everyone's okay with it - can I record some of this? Shit, that sounds so bad; I'm working on a play and-'
A chuckle sounded in the silence, and Youngjae looked up from where his eyes had settled on the ground, Jackson turning toward the voice too to see Jin smiling brightly, sympathetically as he gestured toward a spare seat. 'Come and sit - is everyone okay with that?' A few people looked unsure, but everybody nodded.
'Thank you! Again, sorry for interrupting.' Youngjae blabbered, clumsily taking his coat off and scraping the chair noisily as he sat down. He dropped his camera with a thunk and scrambled to pick it up, turning pinker by the second. Jackson laughed heartily, then, and savoured the half-hearted glare Youngjae sent him.
'Jackson, if you'd like the continue.'
'Sure. I was on the fencing team-' Youngjae had his camera out, then, pointing it directly at Jackson, and he'd be lying if he said he didn't feel under pressure - but Jackson was never one to shy away from attention, focusing on Mark's warmth by his side, his intense gaze boring into him as if he wanted to hear this more than anything.
'-I was going places, I guess. The guys would go out on weekends, do all kinds of drugs - just the light stuff though, speed, ecstasy - party stuff. I was impressionable, wanted to fit in and look tough. I didn't know to stop at the recreational shit - started going out too much, making friends with the other kids, got close with the dealers. Before I knew it I was always too tired to train, too tired to go to school; I needed more, couldn't function without it. The light stuff wasn't doing it for me any more, the high was never as high as before, so I found a few kids selling the harder stuff and I'd crash at their places. You don't realise how dirty a crack den is when you're high, you don't care who's used the needle as long as you're getting what you need.' He sighed, throat tight, but he swallowed through the dryness, trying to ignore the pity in Youngjae's eyes - he'd never told him anything, and he felt guilty for keeping it from him.
'My parents found out I was ditching school, they were so disgusted when they found out. The worst part was there was no animosity between us before, but suddenly all they held for me was rejection and hatred, like I wasn't their son anymore. They practically dragged me to rehab, dumped me there without looking back - I have to thank them for that, though, it got me clean. I found one of my best friends there, Jaebum; we both snuck out of there together, stayed clean and watched each others backs. He's like a big brother to me, made sure I was taking my AZT regularly, made me get a job, kicked my ass if I started sulking.' He smiled softly, remembering all the fights they'd had, all the awkward heart-to-hearts. He'd lost himself somewhere along in his speech, and he focused on the group again laughing awkwardly. 'Sorry, I talk alot'
'That's no problem, I'm sure at least one person in here is glad to have someone they can relate to. We're here to talk.' Jin reassured with a soft voice, crossing his legs. The group moved on to talk about how they were in that moment, a few people tearing up as they told of how their T-cells were low, of how they were scared to commit to someone in fear of a premature death, or that they were too terrified to reach out to someone incase they were disgusted by them.
Jackson couldn't help but pull Mark closer to him, and the younger man looked at him questioningly, noses brushing slightly. A fear had risen in him, anxiety buzzing through him at the idea of this gift slipping through his fingers before he'd even had time to unwrap it.
'Don't you dare die on me, Mark.'
Will I lose my dignity
Will someone care
Will I wake tomorrow
From this nightmare
Snow was falling in thick clumps, and Jinyoung leaned out over the balcony, tongue out to catch the flakes. After seeing Mark again, he felt some kind of spark of life running through him, keeping him buzzed. Too buzzed. He'd been anxious all day after Mark and Jackson had left, and he was thankful he had some pot left over to take him down a notch. Having Mark around again, just looking at his magic box had him feeling ashamed, guilt bubbling up and consuming him. It hadn't felt real, the fact that he was gone, for so long.
He remembered as clear as if it was yesterday; lying in that hospital bed, wired up and groggy, disapproving looks being thrown by every nurse that thought he was sinful and dirty, and the pain in Mark's eyes as he sat there holding his limp hand. He'd never forget his face when they'd told them he was positive, how betrayed Mark had looked even while Jinyoung was reeling from the news himself. He'd never seen Mark get angry, and it was frightening; he'd screamed, yelled, cried, thrown insult after insult while Jinyoung sobbed through the haze that still hung over him, not understanding any of it, the reality of it not sinking in until Mark was long gone and Jinyoung was alone.
They'd been like glue since highschool, Mark in the year above him - he remembered the first time they'd talked, the realisation that Jinyoung wasn't the only weirdo out there, that there were others like him too. Mark was quiet, a listener, similar to Jinyoung in many ways except for his positivity where Jinyoung was always thinking the negative. They balanced each other out, and Mark had taken Jinyoung in after he'd brazenly confessed his sexuality to his parents and regretted it immediately afterwards. There was something heart wrenchingly unnerving about seeing your parents look at you like that; where all they'd shown you before was love and acceptance there was only fear, disgust, horror. It was like looking at strangers and realising you never knew them at all, that they never knew you either.
In truth, this was Mark's apartment, but he'd never come back no matter how long Jinyoung had waited, and he had nowhere else to go. The snow was soaking his sweater and turning his fingers pink, but the cold was clearing his mind, a moment of peace in the chaos inside him. He'd known Mark was coming back a few weeks ago, how his hands had shook when he heard that voice at the end of the line; now he wished he'd cleaned the place, hidden his shame from view and saved Mark the heartache of seeing him as such a wreck. Then again,
Jinyoung had lied to him for so long, it was only fair he let Mark see the ugly truth this time, see him for who he was, who he'd become.
He'd waited around all day for Jaebum, clinging to the weak hope he might actually come down, but it was worthless. He could hear him again, plucking somber notes and singing softly with honey tones and muffled words. Jinyoung was no nun, he got around, but it was all numb satisfaction, as simple as taking a hit; Jaebum stirred something else inside him, a curiosity he'd never showed for anyone but Mark - and even then it was deeper, more rough and achey, a need he had to sate. He wanted to lie next to him while those long fingers strummed and his throat bobbed with soft lullabies, and he wanted to tangle his fingers into that coppery hair and watch him come undone, hear him whisper his name like a prayer as he ruined him.
He hesitated this time before he mounted the steps, snow muffling his feet as his breath clouded the air, and he pressed his palms to the cool glass, peering in to see the glow of a fire lighting up Jaebum in a silhouette, guitar perched on his knee as he hunched over it in concentration. Jinyoung was still lazy from his high, but his heart was pounding anyway, thudding in his ears as he tapped the glass gently and saw that beautiful face turn towards him, at first in surprise, then annoyance. Jinyoung would be lying if he said it didn't hurt.
Jaebum stood, casting his guitar away on the sofa before he came to the window, opening it roughly and staring down at Jinyoung with palpable impatience. 'I have a front door, you know. Go back to bed, little boy, there's nothing for you here.' He sounded tired, worn out, but Jinyoung was tired of waiting around for his life to change - he was going to fight for this small slice of happiness, even if it was the last thing he did.
Jinyoung scowled, forcing the window back open as Jaebum tried to close it and stepping inside - incidentally pressing himself against the taller man in the act. 'Do you have to be so cold?' He asked beseechingly, gazing up at that marble face, hand reaching to touch it. 'Life is short, Jaebum, what's there to lose?'
Jaebum caught his wrist roughly, pulling him inside and slamming the window shut. He span Jinyoung around to face him, still holding his wrist in an iron grip, hard enough to bruise, and Jinyoung flinched, trying fruitlessly to wrestle it from him. 'Wise words from a smack addict, I'll make a note of them.' He let go abruptly, and Jinyoung recoiled from him, nursing the soreness Jaebum had left behind.
'What's your problem?' He asked softly, stung by the venom in Jaebum's voice, but not rising to his anger, simply wanting to understand what was wrong with him, why he didn't want him. 'What's so wrong with me?'
'Another time, another place. It looks like you've fucked your life up enough, kid, don't add me to your list of mistakes.' He growled, taking Jinyoung roughly by the shoulders and steering him towards the door. Jinyoung tried to resist, but Jaebum was strong - and for a reason Jinyoung still couldn't place, he was really angry.
'Give me a fucking chance!' Jinyoung fought weakly, but Jaebum kept a firm grip on his shoulders, shoving open the door. Jinyoung gripped the frame tightly, planting his feet as he adjusted his body weight and slipped free of Jaebum's hold, turning to face him defiantly. Jaebum's eyes had left him, though, focused on something behind Jinyoung, though he still looked as pissed as before. Jinyoung didn't bother to turn his head and follow Jaebum's gaze, determined to have him acknowledge him.
'I don't know what's happened to you to make you so uptight, but God at least hear me out. If not as anything else, at least a friend, you look like you need one. I know I do.' His words were soft, but Jaebum just closed his eyes tightly for a moment, fists balling before he span on his heel and snatched his coat off the sofa, storming past Jinyoung again - who turned to see Mark and Jackson, and another guy he recognised, standing there, looking completely baffled - and pushing the others aside before booking it down the stairs with heavy feet.
'Mark?' Jinyoung didn't expect his voice to catch, but he was wrapped in the taller boys arms before the tears could fall, burying his head in his snow-covered shoulder. He could hear Jackson saying something, the other guy chattering back, but all he cared about in that moment was Mark's arms around him and how much he wished he could be loved again.
The heart may freeze or it can burn
The pain will ease if I can learn
There is no future
There is no past
I live this moment as my last
There's only us
There's only this
Or life is yours to miss
No other road
No other way
No day but today
Youngjae watched Jinyoung shivering in Mark's arms and gripped his camera tighter, wondering if recording the Life Support meeting had been a good idea at all, if he'd fractured the dignity of the people there divesting their most painful thoughts and feelings. He'd asked Jackson and Mark on the way back, head full of worries and guilt, but Mark had smiled a radiant smile and assured him that for some, it would be the only thing left to remember them by, that he was glad to have some shred of himself kept safe in Youngjae's art. Jackson was right, Mark was an angel.
Youngjae had seen Jinyoung around a few times, spoken to him once or twice briefly when they'd passed eachother on the stairs. He knew the kid stripped at the club a few blocks away, though he wouldn't admit how he came to gather that piece of knowledge. He could only look on in pity at his trembling shoulders as he buried his face in Mark's shirt, wondering where he got the bad luck to fall for Jaebum of all people. If there was anyone in this would who needed a bit of love, it was Jaebum, but by God the guy would never take it - Jinyoung would have to find out the hard way.
Mark looked up, rubbing slow circles into Jinyoung's back as he winked at Youngjae and caught Jackson eye, and Youngjae quickly understood his gist. Jackson was a bit slower to catch on, and Youngjae stood, guiding him by the shoulder to take him into the kitchen and give the other two some space.
'What's up?' he asked dumbly, and Youngjae just set to making some coffee, a quick sandwich for the emaciated thing crying on Mark's lap, making even Mark look healthy.
'They need some space. So, you and Mark, huh?' Glancing up he saw Jackson grow embarrassed, which was rare, shuffling awkwardly as a small smile tugged at his lips.
'I guess my luck hasn't run out yet.'
'Bambam's protest is tomorrow; you should ask Mark to come along, maybe even Jinyoung if he's up for it. I'm sure it'll be... unforgettable.'
Jackson chuckled softly, and he didn't need to look to imagine the knowing look on his face. 'Still his lapdog, huh? I love the kid but he plays you so easily.'
'There's no hard feelings between us, I don't see why I can't help him out and be his friend still.'
'You're so whipped, Youngjae.' Jackson patted him on the back heartily and Youngjae rolled his eyes with a smile, laughing at the whipping sounds Jackson was making.
'Are you coming or what?' He asked as he turned to lean on the counter, and Jackson grinned, shaking his head softly.
'I wouldn't miss this trainwreck for the world.'
Mark had held Jinyoung a thousand times while he cried, had wiped his tears away late at night when the world got too much for him, and knew every comforting word there was, but it still left him bereft to know there was nothing he could do to take the pain away. At the very least he could take comfort in the fact that he was here for him now, that Jinyoung wouldnt be sobbing into his pillow alone in the dead of night, that Mark wasn't another layer to his loneliness anymore.
That was the thing with Jinyoung, he locked himself inside his own head, answering his own questions and imagining the worst of every situation before it could play out naturally - though, the Jinyoung he'd seen tonight had been different; Jinyoung had never been the type to flirt, to approach someone. How lonely had he become without Mark? How much did he want this Jaebum guy? The latter thought brought a stale feeling of jealousy, but he shook it off, splashing water into his face and blinking at himself in the mirror.
He'd held Jinyoung until he fell asleep in his arms on the sofa, barely needing Jackson's help to carry his weightless form downstairs to his apartment and tuck him into bed - the bed they used to share. The red paint hadn't been peeling off back then, there was no mould climbing up the walls and Jinyoung's art had been everywhere. That was the biggest tragedy, he thought, that Jinyoung wasn't painting any more. He used to study the arts - from drama to etching - and gifted wasn't enough to describe him; Mark had loved watching him in the sunlight, perched at the end of the bed as he sketched him sleeping, the way he'd frown when he noticed Mark was awake and complain he'd ruined his drawing.
A far cry from the vulnerable child lying in pieces on his dirty bedsheets in the next room, tracks dotting his arms and tears still wet on his sore cheeks. Love could be a bitch, whether it was romantic or platonic, and Jinyoung deserved more than what this Jaebum guy was giving. It was odd; he'd seemed moody, sure, that morning when Mark had first met him - but there was kindness in his eyes beneath the hostility and awkwardness. Mark could see through people, he always had, and there was something about Jaebum that told him he was scared of something, as if a smile or a kind word would break him. It was strange that people like that could hurt somebody just as delicate as themselves.
Mark rolled his shoulders and stretched softly, yawning as he left the bathroom. He walked to the spare bedroom, but hesitated at the door, feet carrying him to where Jinyoung slept instead, and he watched him sleep for a while, the slow rise and fall of his chest and the way the moonlight made him look younger, breakable and bruisable. He walked over quietly, pulling the blankets up and sneaking under like a ghost, tugging Jinyoung's featherweight body close to his own and making a promise through whispered words against the nape of his neck.
For as long as Mark was alive, Jinyoung wouldn't cry anymore.