Fragile Essence, Chapter Four

Fragile Essence
Chapter Four
Author: Aquariuslover
Pairings: Yunho, Jaejoong
Rating: R
Genre: Romance, Angst, AU
Length: Chaptered
Beta: tahoeturquoise

Summary: Jaejoong, the half Korean child nobody wanted, and Yunho, the beloved golden son of a town, form an unlikely bond; one that is forever evolving through the passing years as it is repeatedly tested by love, loss, and fire. This is part one of their story.

Author’s Note: This story is set in an alternate universe, in an imaginary town, and during an ambiguous time period.   High School AU!  OMG!  What won't I write!?!  My old self wants to ride through the Guardian of Time to slap me.  

Chapter List

Two evenings later Jaejoong was in his backyard sitting in the rose garden, lavishing affection on Ringo the cat while humming a song he didn’t know the name of, when Yunho popped out from behind the roses scaring him.

“Yunho!” Jaejoong screeched as Ringo took off like bullet.

Yunho plopped down on the ground besides Jaejoong, laughing. “I really got you! You scream like a girl!”

“Jerk,” Jaejoong snapped, elbowing the laughing teenager. “You scared Ringo! You know she’s old!”

“She’ll live,” Yunho responded as he nudged Jaejoong back. “Remember when you thought she was a boy cat? I remember telling you she was a girl, and you were all heartbroken.”

“Ringo is a boy’s name,” Jaejoong said in his defense. “How was I to know my aunt had four cats at one time and named them all after the Beatles, and poor Ringo just happened to be a girl?”

“They all ran away from your aunt, except poor Ringo. She’s a glutton for punishment,” Yunho teased.

Something about Yunho’s words irritated Jaejoong and he snapped back at him, “If you are going to insult my aunt, you can leave.”

Yunho stopped laughing immediately. “What?”

“You heard me. My aunt is the only person in this world that I can count on, and I would appreciate it if you would treat her with a little respect,” Jaejoong said in defense of his aunt. Jaejoong had done a lot of thinking over the past two days.

Yunho reached out and took Jaejoong’s hand and apologized, “I was teasing. I always tease you about her; I didn’t know you would mind.”

“I do.”


“Why are you here? Why aren’t you at church?” Jaejoong questioned, trying to pull his hand away. Yunho’s father was a deacon, so Yunho never missed church.

Yunho didn’t let go of Jaejoong’s hand. “You know that isn’t true,” Yunho told Jaejoong, ignoring his questions.


“Your aunt isn’t the only person you can count on. You can count on me,” Yunho told Jaejoong, studying him intently. “Have you been crying?”


“You are lying; why have you been crying? What happened?”


“Why did you go home the other night?”

Jaejoong exhaled, knowing Yunho was like a dog with a bone, but this was one thing that Yunho would not get out of him. “I just had the urge to go home.”


“I just wanted to.”

Yunho, who was still holding Jaejoong’s hand stated, “You weren’t mad at me when we went to bed.”

He suddenly felt bad. This wasn’t Yunho’s fault. Jaejoong, who had been avoiding Yunho’s gaze, turned to the confused boy and said, “I wasn’t mad at you, I promise, and I’m not mad at you now. I am just cranky. I just feel…I am not mad at you though.”

“You promise?”

“I swear.”

Yunho let go of Jaejoong’s hand, relieved. “Well, I am pissed at my parents!”

Jaejoong swallowed nervously, as he imagined why Yunho would be angry with his parents. Had they forbidden him to be friends with Jaejoong? If they had, apparently they had not explained to Yunho why. With a heavy heart Jaejoong, asked, “Why?”

Yunho held up his hands and clenched his fists and barked, “They got me freaking bunk beds!”

“They what?”

“Bunk beds! They got me bunk beds! I am fifteen years old, and now I get bunk beds! When I was a kid and I wanted bunk beds I couldn’t have them, but now when I don’t want them, I get freaking bunk beds! It’s ridiculous!”

Jaejoong’s mouth fell open; he didn’t know what to say.

“Speechless, huh? I know the feeling. Although come to think about it…this is your fault!”

“My fault?”


“How is it my fault?” Jaejoong asked in dread.

“My dear mother,” Yunho said with open scorn. “She said this way you would always know you had a bed at our house. How stupid is that?”

Jaejoong was frozen in astonishment.

“Like you didn’t know that already,” Yunho griped. “Bunk beds! Like a little kid. Now, nobody but you can ever stay over at my house. It would be too humiliating.”

Jaejoong’s mouth had slowly closed as a relief greater than any he had ever known washed over him. Mrs. Jung had not told anybody, and instead she got him his own bed. He didn’t have to lose them and they still loved him. She didn’t want him sleeping with Yunho anymore, but she didn’t want him gone either.

Yunho peered closely at Jaejoong and demanded, “Why are you crying? I am the one who should be crying.”

“I’m not crying,” Jaejoong denied, trying to wipe away the evidence with both of his hands.

Yunho shook his head and reached up and wiped a stray tear away with his own hand. “You confuse me so much sometimes.”

“I’m sorry,” Jaejoong apologized through his tears, while at the same time smiling. He would always be grateful to his aunt, but she just couldn’t fill up his heart like Yunho did. Yunho was his everything.

Yunho stood up and brushed off his jeans. “So, I guess mom did a good thing. I suppose, if it means that much to you…having your own stupid bunk bed, then I can’t be mad anymore. You take away all my fun.”

“You have enough fun,” Jaejoong told the standing boy. “Why are you not in church?”

“I think they were sick of my griping,” Yunho answered, honestly. “Plus, I kinda have a date.”

“A date?”

Yunho grinned, and happily told the other boy, “Mandy Lewis is on her way over. She’s super easy, I hear.”


Yunho held up his hands. “Mom and Dad both said if they caught me in the house with her they would send me to live with my Granny in South Korea.”

“Your mom’s mom?” Jaejoong clarified. He had heard very little about Mrs. Jung’s mother. All he knew was the woman had returned to South Korea after her husband died, and Yunho had never met her.

“Yeah, and I would have to go to school there.”

Jaejoong grinned and told him, “Good thing you have been studying Korean all these years.”

“Shut up,” Yunho snapped. “It isn’t funny. My dad would do it. He would send me. He is convinced their schools are way better than American ones.”

“Well, you better not do anything with Easy Lewis then,” Jaejoong informed his friend, leaning back to look up at Yunho.

“Easy Lewis? Why Jaejoong, that is so catty of you.”

“You are the one that said she was easy.”

“That is what I heard. Why don’t you come with me?”


“Come on, Jaejoong. You can be my back up, make sure I don’t do something that will get me sent away. You can be the Robin to my Batman.”

“No,” Jaejoong said again, more forcefully. Yunho with girls was not something he enjoyed watching.

“You can be Jimmy Olsen to my—”

Jaejoong, who normally hid his jealousy well, spitefully interrupted him to say, “To your Lois Lane?”

“Ha! You are so funny! No, you can be Lois Lane to my Super…” Yunho trailed off, his eyes widening as he realized what he was about to say.

Jaejoong couldn’t have hid the smile on his face if his life had depended on it. “I admit I am much prettier than your Easy Lewis, but you are definitely not Superman.”

Yunho gently kicked Jaejoong. “Like I said, you are not funny. I have to go, I can’t keep her waiting. I have a reputation to protect.”

Jaejoong’s good mood vanished as he watched Yunho hurry off.

“Unrequited love sucks,” Jaejoong said with a groan as he flopped backwards onto the grass. Ringo reappeared and started rubbing against his foot, and Jaejoong knew the cat agreed with him. Unrequited love was the worst love of all. He knew at only fifteen years of age that he had a lifetime of it to look forward to…because he knew he would never fall out of love with Yunho.


“He can’t choose Elaina! He loves Kurston! He’s always loved her. He has to forgive her! Kurston and Lawrence are meant to be together. He can’t! It’s not fair,” Jaejoong, who was deeply enthralled by the television, protested.

Yunho who was spread out on the floor beside Jaejoong looked up from the notebook he had been writing in to roll his eyes at his friend. “It’s just a show.”

“It is not. It’s—I’m not watching it ever again if he picks Elaina.”

“You have to admit Elaina has bigger—”

“Not everybody judges a woman by the size of her breasts!” Jaejoong interrupted, not hiding his disgust with his best friend.

Yunho just grinned. “Oh, but they should. I find it to be most accurate in determining a woman’s character.”

Jaejoong frowned and sat up folding his legs in front of him. “You mean lack of character.”

“Ouch! How judgmental of you. Those poor girls can’t help it if they were born with perfect Cs and Ds.”

“They can if they are fake.”

“Tiss…tiss…tiss, let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Yunho chastised as he looked back down at the paper he was working on.

“I don’t sin,” Jaejoong blurted out.


A suddenly nervous Jaejoong looked down at his best friend and asked, uneasily, “What do you mean by that?”

Yunho tapped the notebook in front of him. “I believe I’m doing your homework, while you watch a meaningless soap.”

“It isn’t meaningless,” Jaejoong insisted, trying to hide his relief. “I am watching it for Aunt Bessie.”

“You know she is watching it at the hospital.”

“Not if she had to go for a test or something.”

“You are just as hooked on this soap as your aunt,” Yunho told his friend knowingly.

“Because they are good,” Jaejoong said in his defense as he fast forwarded the commercial. “Be quiet, this is an important part.”

“Okay, I will just keep my mouth shut as I do your homework, like the poor abused friend I am.”

“Please do,” Jaejoong told Yunho with his eyes glued to the television.

Hana, who had just walked into the den, sat down in Jaejoong’s lap and repeated, “Please do.”

“I am so mistreated,” Yunho muttered as he kept working on the other boy’s homework.

Jaejoong reached up and covered Hana’s eyes. “He’s going to kiss her! Urgh!”

“I want to see,” Hana pouted.

“You are too young,” Jaejoong told her.

“Am not!” Hana whined.

“You are too,” Yunho told his sister as he looked up to watch the kiss. “I will admit that although Elaina has bigger boobs…Kurston does have more spunk.”

Jaejoong reached out and patted Yunho on the head approvingly. “She does, and she is much prettier.”

“But still it would be hard to forgive a woman who shot you,” Yunho told Jaejoong.

“She was trying to avenge her father,” Jaejoong insisted.

“If some woman shot me, I wouldn’t give a—” the sound of the door bell going off interrupted Yunho. Yunho jumped to his feet and tried to sound innocent as he asked, “I wonder who that could be?”

Jaejoong turned away from the television and watched Yunho hurry from the room.

“Can I see now?” Hana asked.

Jaejoong quickly removed his hands that were covering Hana’s eyes. “Sorry, Hana.”

“I like Kurston best, too,” Hana told Jaejoong and was immediately rewarded with a kiss on the cheek.

“That’s because you are my best girl.”

Hana beamed. “I am your best girl.”

“Always,” Jaejoong told her, pausing the VCR while he listened to Yunho in the other room talking to someone. Jaejoong frowned as he recognized the voice.

Jaejoong got up quickly, telling Hana, “Hana, go find Gertrude and tell her I went back to my house.”

“You have to stay the night with us,” Hana immediately reminded Jaejoong. Jaejoong’s aunt was in the hospital again. She was doing much better and she was getting close to being released, but while she was in the hospital Jaejoong had to stay with the Jungs. “You said you were going to read me a story tonight.”

“I will, but right now I have to go look for something at my house,” Jaejoong told Hana, heading out of the den. He was eager to be gone.

Hana followed after Jaejoong, tugging at his arm. “I want to go with you!”

“Hana, please just be a good girl and go find Gertrude and tell her I will be back later,” Jaejoong pleaded.

“Where are you going?” Yunho, who had entered the den with Mandy Lewis, asked.

Jaejoong internally groaned, cursing his luck. Jaejoong turned around to face them. “I am going to go look for Aunt Bessie’s stash of cigarettes. I know she was smoking again. I could smell it on her clothes. When she gets out of the hospital she can’t be smoking.”

A puzzled Yunho asked, “You just now decided this?”

“No,” Jaejoong said, shaking his head. “I was just waiting for the show to be over.”

Mandy offered, “You want us to help you?”

“No, you two do whatever you were going to do,” Jaejoong insisted.

Yunho’s eyes narrowed, something about Jaejoong’s behavior seemed off to him. “Mandy just dropped by to ask if we wanted to go get some pizza at the new pizza restaurant with her.”

“Pizza,” Jaejoong repeated; he highly doubted Mandy wanted to eat pizza with him.

“Yes, you know that flat Italian food that tastes so good,” Yunho sarcastically informed his friend. “You are coming with us, and afterwards I will help you find her stash.”

Jaejoong swallowed nervously, but persisted, “No, I don’t think so. I better find it now. Gertrude will want me to cook dinner, since your parents are out of town for the night.”

“Jaejoong, you don’t always have to cook. Gertrude can cook something for Hana to eat.”

Hana let go of Jaejoong, her eyes widening in horror. “No! She’ll make goulash!”

Jaejoong looked down at Hana and then back at Yunho. “It’s better if I just stay and make dinner. I am spoiled to my own cooking anyways. I hate fast food. It’s not good for you and it just makes you fat.”

Yunho’s eyes narrowed now. “You are not going to get fat. You eat out all the time.”

“I do not. I only eat out when I am with you and your family. I love to cook! You know I love to cook. I would much rather cook than eat out.”

“True, but you still have to come with us.”

“I don’t want to go,” Jaejoong finally admitted.

Mandy, who was rubbing her arms, told Yunho, “Yunho, if he doesn’t want to go, that’s okay.”

“Thanks!” Jaejoong told Mandy, and quickly darted from the room. He knew he was being childish, but he couldn’t help it. Watching Yunho and Mandy together was not something he was going to do if he could find a way of getting out of it.

Jaejoong was out the backdoor and almost off the porch when a hand grabbed onto his arm. He winced, knowing he was caught. He turned around slowly to face an unhappy Yunho. “You know you can’t outrun me.”

“I was hoping you’d let me just this once,” Jaejoong admitted.

“Do you not like her?”

Jaejoong focused on the floor of the porch. “No, not really.”

“Did she do something to you?”

For a moment Jaejoong couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if he lied? What would Yunho do if he told him a lie? He could lie and say he had overheard Mandy saying awful things about him. He could lie to Yunho and say Mandy had hurt his feelings and he’d be easily rid of her. Jaejoong pushed those thoughts away and looked up at Yunho and answered honestly, “No, she didn’t do anything.”

Yunho studied his friend intently searching for any sign he was lying. “I like her.”

Jaejoong looked away from Yunho, and let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. “That’s all that matters.”

“My parents will not approve if I go somewhere with her alone, especially in her car. They don’t like that she is older than me. I can’t go eat pizza with her if you don’t come with us,” Yunho explained.

Jaejoong cringed, realizing the truth of Yunho’s words. Yunho’s parents had been very firm with Yunho lately. “Okay, I will go.”

Yunho pulled Jaejoong into a thankful hug and told him, “You are the best.”


                                                                              Six Years Earlier

“JJ!” Jennifer hollered from down the hall as he and Laura were exiting the music room. “Move it, people,” Jennifer ordered as she made it through the crowd of students.

Jaejoong and Laura both stopped to see the pretty blonde cheerleader bustling toward them.

“She looks awfully excited. The mall must have a sale going on,” Laura quipped as her best friend came to a sudden halt in front of them, and grabbed Jaejoong by the arm.

“No sale,” Jennifer replied as she dragged Jaejoong back into the music room with Laura following behind them.

Jaejoong looked at the flustered girl and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“You’ve seen Yunho naked before, right?” Jennifer asked, trying to catch her breath.

“Why are you asking him that?” Laura demanded.

“Laura, don’t get self-righteous on me. I have my reasons for asking.”

“Which are?” Jaejoong asked.

“You two know Milli Carter, right?”

Jaejoong and Laura both nodded their heads.

“Well, she’s pretending to be Mandy Lewis’s friend…when she is really my friend. And she just told me that Mandy Lewis is bragging that last night after church Yunho met up with her at her house and…” Jennifer did a dramatic pause as she brought her hand up to her heart, and whispered, “…they had sex.”

Jaejoong paled. Last night Yunho was supposed to have been with him, but he never showed up. Yunho had not been showing up a lot lately, when he was supposed to be with Jaejoong.

“That whore! And I mean both of them, not just Mandy, because guys can be whores too,” Laura said in disgust, shaking her head.

Jennifer rolled her eyes at Laura and smarted back at her, “Says you, who lost your virginity to Rick Houser at science camp.”

Laura’s green eyes glowed and she hissed, “This is not about me, and that was a huge mistake! You swore you wouldn’t ever mention it again!”

“Don’t call Yunho a whore then!”

“You just said he had sex with Mandy Lewis…does he even like her?” Laura questioned.

“I didn’t say he had sex. I said Mandy told Milli they had sex. I think Mandy is lying, so I asked Milli to ask for some proof. You know any slut could say she was sleeping with Yunho,” Jennifer explained, and then her expression turned dreamy. “You know he’s only the star quarterback and smartest student in the school.”

Laura growled, “He isn’t the smartest student! He might be the smartest guy, but he isn’t the smartest student.”

“He’s smarter than you, Laura! Just accept it!”

“He is not! We make the same grades!”

“You try a lot harder than him!” Jennifer reminded her.

“How do you know I try harder?”

“Everybody knows, plus you are older, Yunho was never held back a grade.”

Laura fumed, “I was a sickly child! I wasn’t held back because I was stupid! I was held back because I was sick!”

“I am not judging you; I love that you can already drive. I was so glad when you turned sixteen last year. Plus, your mom gave you a car. When I picked you as my best friend in kindergarten, I was really thinking ahead.”

“Stop!” Jaejoong shouted. “What proof did she give?’

Jennifer turned back to Jaejoong and told him, “Milli said that Mandy told her that on the right side of Yunho’s butt there are three freckles that make a triangle.”

Jaejoong’s legs suddenly felt wobbly. He leaned against the wall and slid to the floor. He had spent the best years of his youth with Yunho. They had showered together before…well, before Jaejoong realized how he really felt for his best friend. He had seen the triangle of freckles many times.

“Oh, God! He does!” A panic stricken Jennifer declared. “Damn her! I want to see Yunho’s freckled butt, too!”

Laura ignored her best friend and knelt down beside Jaejoong. “JJ, are you okay?”

Jaejoong, who had seen black spots for a short while, tried to focus his attention on Laura while Jennifer continued to rant. “No, I don’t think so,” he whispered as his heart broke into more pieces than he could ever put back together again.

“I’m going to go all evil cheerleader on her! She’s a pervert! She’s a senior! Why is she eyeing a sophomore, and to be honest, she was eyeing him last year, too! Can’t she get a boyfriend her own age? Plus she is fat! She has a fat ass, and her arms are huge! She should never wear short shirtsleeves, ever!” Jennifer ranted as she paced the music room, plotting her revenge.

Laura squeezed Jaejoong’s shoulder and warned, “Jennifer is super self-absorbed, but she’s going to notice if you don’t pull it together.”

Jaejoong, who felt like the wronged woman in all the soaps he had ever watched, stared at Laura, realizing she knew his biggest secret. He allowed her to help him back up, while he willed his legs to work.

“There, that is better,” Laura told him, smiling at him encouragingly. “Plus, my mother always says don’t waste time being sad, get even instead.”

Jennifer, who was still pacing the music room, seethed, “I don’t know what mirror she looks into, but it’s extremely kind to her, or it’s some lying mirror…because she isn’t seeing what the rest of us are seeing.”

Jaejoong took Laura’s mother’s advice and spit out, “Who knows what Easy Lewis sees.”

Jennifer stopped her tirade, gazed at Jaejoong, and repeated, “Easy Lewis! I love that name! That’s awesome!”

Jaejoong grinned back at her. “It isn’t like it’s a secret. She was even bragging about it.”

Laura looked back and forth between her friends and reminded them, “Guys, it takes two. She wasn’t alone.”

“Easy Lewis,” Jennifer repeated, loving the sound of it.

“Yunho can just…Yunho can just…I am not going to his basketball game tomorrow,” Jaejoong declared.

“Me either!” Jennifer shouted.

“You are a cheerleader!” Laura reminded Jennifer.

Jennifer folded her arms and declared, “It’s an away game! This is great!”

“Let’s all do something together, then,” Laura couldn’t resist suggesting.

“It is my birthday,” Jaejoong shyly told them.

Jennifer and Laura both turned all their attention to him and shouted, “It’s your birthday?”

Jaejoong nodded his head.

“Why did you not tell us?” Jennifer demanded.

Jaejoong shrugged, explaining, “My birthday is not a big deal for me. It’s the day my mother abandoned me in the hospital to go to a Def Leppard concert.”

An appalled Laura brought her hands up to cover her mouth.

Jennifer engulfed Jaejoong in a big hug and whimpered, “JJ, that’s so sad.”

“JJ, what do you want to do for your birthday tomorrow?” Laura asked.

“Let’s go to the movies!” Jennifer proposed. “Let’s watch Delancy’s Way…it’s so sad.”

Jaejoong’s eyes lit up. “I have wanted to watch that so bad, and I want to go shopping, too!”

“I am always ready to shop!” Jennifer eagerly declared.

“I have been saving all my money, and I feel like getting some new clothes,” Jaejoong informed them. Even if Yunho was a straight jerk, Jaejoong would still look better than Easy Lewis.

“Can we go home now? Since we have tomorrow all planned?” Laura asked, eyeing the clock. “My mother is going to be worried.”

“Can you drive me to the restaurant?” Jaejoong asked, suddenly nervous, remembering that he was supposed to be walking to the restaurant after school with Yunho and his friends.

“Sure,” Laura answered him as they walked out of the music room. “If I stop and pick up one of the pies, my mom will totally forget that I am late.”

“I can also make a cake for tomorrow,” Jaejoong offered to the girls.

Jennifer’s mouth started to water as she smiled excitedly and exclaimed, “That would be freaking awesome!”

“Can you make that heavenly chocolate one? You know; the one you made for the fair last year?” Laura asked. “If you made that cake and let my mother have a piece, she would totally let us have a party tomorrow.”

“Would she give us liquor?” Jennifer asked, hopefully.

Laura smacked Jennifer on the arm. “No, she won’t give us liquor. She is an attorney! An officer of the court!”

“Ouch,” Jennifer whined, rubbing her arm. “Your mom is a defense attorney; I thought she might consider it. Although with JJ’s cake we won’t need liquor. I am going to eat so much of it that I will be as fat as Easy Lewis…wait, no I won’t; I’ll totally barf it up. I’d die if my ass was that big.”

“That is so bad for your teeth!” Laura snapped at her friend.

“It’s good for my figure though.”

As they walked out of the school, Jaejoong came to a dead stop, causing the two girls to stop also. On the rock wall that lined the school’s property Yunho and his friends sat. Yunho had always been popular but in high school his popularity was at a whole different level; everybody loved him. Jaejoong knew Yunho was waiting on him, but the sight of Mandy Lewis sitting beside Yunho made Jaejoong want to turn and run back inside the school.

“Look at that cow,” Jennifer hissed from behind him. “Laura, if I shoot her could your mom get the charges dropped?”


“Couldn’t your mom say I was crazy or something?”

“You are freaking crazy, but no, she couldn’t get you off. You would have to go to prison and shave all your hair off,” Laura said wisely, knowing her friend all too well.

“Well, she isn’t worth cutting my hair for, much less shaving it off,” Jennifer immediately responded, reaching up to run her hand through her long blonde, wavy locks. “No man is worth it, either.”

Yunho had gotten off the wall and was walking toward Jaejoong. He did not look happy. Jaejoong felt his heart rate increasing. How in the world was he going to pull this off? Yunho was super attuned to all his moods.

Laura whispered for Jaejoong’s benefit, “Remember, it is better to get even than to get sad.”

Jennifer who thought Laura was talking to her, huffed, “Girl, you don’t have to tell me that.”

“Jaejoong, what has been taking you so long? Mom is going to be looking for you. She said she needed your help today,” Yunho asked as he approached the three of them.

Jaejoong swallowed nervously as he noticed Mandy Lewis has gotten off the wall to follow Yunho, as if…as if he was hers. Jaejoong told Yunho in a curt voice, “Laura is driving me to the restaurant. You can do whatever you want.”

“You could have told me that earlier,” Yunho told Jaejoong, irritated at having to wait for no reason.

Jaejoong just shrugged. “I didn’t know ‘til now.”

Jennifer wrapped an arm around Jaejoong and said with a level of false sweetness that only she could manage, “Sorry, Yunho, we were so busy planning JJ’s birthday party tomorrow, that the time totally slipped past us.”

Yunho, who had been turning around to leave, stopped, and turned back around to eye his best friend. “What birthday planning? It’s already planned. You are going to the game tomorrow and we are going out to eat afterwards. You get to pick the place, remember?”

“You know sports are really not JJ’s thing. Instead of spending it with a bunch of jocks, we are going to spoil him,” Laura informed Yunho, wrapping her arm around Jaejoong also. “He is going to get the birthday he wants…not the one that is convenient for you.”

Jaejoong’s eyes widened, but the truth of Laura’s words hit home. “Yeah, this is better for me. I am really excited about tomorrow.”

“See,” Jennifer told the suddenly stone faced Yunho. “It’s just going to be the three of us—” Jennifer stopped suddenly as if something had just occurred to her, and asked Jaejoong, “Do you mind if I ask Milli to come with us?”

“Milli?” Mandy Lewis, who was standing next to Yunho, asked shocked. It was no secret that Jennifer hated Mandy; why would Jennifer invite her friend Milli to Jaejoong’s party.

Jaejoong looked at the ground and told Jennifer, “I don’t mind.”

Jennifer gave Mandy a venomous smile and yelled, “Milli, you can stop pretending to be Mandy’s friend now.”

“Thank god!” Milli, a tall white girl with curly black hair declared as she jumped off the wall and hurried toward Jennifer. The others that had been waiting at the wall for Yunho started moving in, sensing something nasty was going on.

“You are such a bitch!” Mandy told Jennifer, realizing immediately what Jennifer had done.

Jennifer let go of Jaejoong and folded her arms and brutally told Mandy, “I’d rather be a bitch than a dumb slut like you.”

“I am not a slut!” Mandy denied.

“Really?” Jennifer scoffed. “Aren’t you the one bragging to everybody who will listen that you had sex with Yunho? Going on and on about his freckled butt?”

Mandy gasped, horrified, and cried, “I didn’t tell everybody.”

“Whatever, Easy Lewis,” Jennifer said with the proper infliction to cause even Yunho’s friends to laugh. “Yunho isn’t the first notch on your bed. What number is he? Isn’t it like 9095?”

Jaejoong continued to stare at the ground unable to meet Yunho’s eyes or anybody else’s. A part of him felt deeply shamed, and another part took special enjoyment in what Jennifer was doing…and he knew he shouldn’t. He knew it was wrong, but at the same time he wished he was the one saying those hurtful words.

Yunho’s eyes were locked on Jaejoong as he remembered where he had first heard that name. “Easy Lewis…”

The other’s around Yunho started repeating it also, causing a humiliated Mandy Lewis to run off. Jaejoong felt a hand on his shoulder that he knew too well, even if the grip was tighter than it had ever been before. He looked up to meet Yunho’s disappointed eyes. “What are you doing?” Yunho asked at a loss; this was so unlike Jaejoong.

“I am not doing anything,” Jaejoong told Yunho, trying to pull away from Yunho’s grip. “Let go of me.”

“No,” Yunho snapped back, his anger growing.

Laura grabbed Jaejoong by the arm and jerked him free of Yunho. “Well, we have to go. My mother will be wondering where I am.”

Jaejoong was in a daze as Laura pulled him away to her car. He knew only her strength was keeping him on his feet. The disappointment in Yunho’s eyes was etched into Jaejoong’s soul. A part of him wanted to turn around and tell Yunho how sorry he was, but he didn’t…because another part of him wasn’t sorry. He knew Yunho could never be his, but still…it didn’t make it easy to know that others could have what he never could.


Later that evening, Jaejoong was at the Jung’s restaurant working in the back kitchen, and doing his best not to think about Yunho. Mr. and Mrs. Jung had allowed him to work off and on at the restaurant since he turned fifteen. He mostly helped Mrs. Jung with complicated cakes and pastries.

Most of the other employees had already left, and Jaejoong had just finished putting the final touches on two six layered, moist chocolate cakes he had baked. He had used his own special recipe of chocolate buttery icing on them.

He had made one for his birthday tomorrow and one for the restaurant. He knew the girls would love it and Laura’s mom would probably offer to adopt him. The one thing Jaejoong was truly confident about in life was his ability to cook. Mrs. Jung had taught him everything she knew, and declared that his own special abilities far exceeded her own. Jaejoong loved to cook it distracted him, and on this night of all nights he needed to be distracted. He couldn’t let himself dwell on Yunho. The other boy had looked so disappointed in him.

Jaejoong tried to push thoughts of Yunho away as he carefully boxed one of the cakes to take home with him. He knew his aunt would be by to pick him up soon.

“We need to talk.”

Jaejoong’s head jerked around, alarmed to find Yunho standing in the kitchen looking none too happy with him.

“Aunt Bessie will be here to pick me up soon,” a panicked Jaejoong explained.

Yunho walked closer to him, undaunted. “So, we will talk until she gets here.”

“I don’t think we should,” Jaejoong said, moving backwards away from Yunho until he bumped into the large refrigerator in the kitchen.

“Oh, we are going to talk. You can’t pull stuff like that and think we are not going to talk about it. Jaejoong, I have never known you to be so cruel. In truth I’ve never ever known you to be cruel.”

“I am not cruel!” Jaejoong denied instantly. “I didn’t say anything! It was Jennifer!”

“Your new best friend,” Yunho spit out, disgusted.

“She isn’t!”

“Do you know how upset Mandy is? Don’t you know the whole school will be calling her Easy Lewis from now on?”

Something ugly stirred in Jaejoong. “So what, it’s true!”

Yunho clenched his jaw, dumbfounded at Jaejoong’s behavior.

“If she didn’t want everybody knowing, she shouldn’t have been bragging,” Jaejoong blurted out.

“She told Milli! She thought Milli was her friend,” Yunho pointed out to Jaejoong. “Jennifer obviously isn’t a good influence on you.”

“I like her!”

“Since when? You didn’t like her when she broke your leg.”

Jaejoong looked down at the floor, remembering the lie he had told Yunho a long time ago. “That was a long time ago, and she…she…she didn’t mean to break my leg. I shouldn’t have blamed her. You just make her crazy.”

“So it was my fault she flung you into a wall?”

“Ummm…yeah,” Jaejoong muttered, not looking up at Yunho.

Yunho gently thumped Jaejoong’s chest with the back of his hand causing Jaejoong to look up at him. “You are rewriting history, but forget that. Are you really not coming to my game tomorrow? You know we were going to let you pick out the restaurant where the team is going to eat at after the game. Mom was going to bring a cake for you.”

Jaejoong did feel guilty for not going to Yunho’s game, but he forced himself be honest with Yunho. “I am really not going. I don’t want to spend my birthday at a basketball game. I want to go shopping and to the movies instead…I’m sorry.”

“You make me so mad!”

“Why? Is it because I want to do what I want to do on my birthday? I always do what you want!”

Yunho’s eyes narrowed and Jaejoong couldn’t help but feel a little intimated by the larger boy. “No, you don’t. You always say that, but it’s a lie. You don’t always do what I want.”

Jaejoong groaned. “This isn’t about music again, is it?”

“Yes! And it’s also about how you would rather hang out with freaking girls than with me and the guys! What the hell!” Yunho practically growled, and Jaejoong noticed his fists were clenched at his sides

Jaejoong looked up from Yunho’s clenched fists to face him. “You hang out with girls all the times.”

“Because I want to fuck them!” Yunho barked, sounding unusually harsh. “Not because I want to go shopping with them! Not because I want to sing pretty songs with them! Not because I want to be Suzy Homemaker when I grow up!”

Jaejoong’s heart crashed to the floor. There it was, not in so many words, but there it was. Yunho was finally going to admit what he saw as Jaejoong’s ultimate failing in life, the one unforgivable sin. Jaejoong inhaled a deep breath and calmly told Yunho, “I can’t change who I am.”

Yunho said nothing; he just glared back at him.

Jaejoong moved away from the refrigerator, and said in a soft, apologetic voice, “I really am sorry.”

Yunho moved quickly and shoved a startled Jaejoong back against the refrigerator. “Have you ever even tried to change?”

A wide eyed Jaejoong stared back at his angry friend, speechless. Never had Yunho pushed him in anger, or even touched him in anger.

“I have done everything for you! I was your friend when nobody else was! I have defended you a thousand times! My family has bent over backwards for you! My father is a deacon! A deacon in the church! Do you ever think about him? Mom and Dad have always watched out for you! They have supported you in everything you have ever done, when your own family couldn’t be bothered to give a shit!” Yunho shouted in rage at Jaejoong, his hands coming up to clutch Jaejoong’s shirt. “Do you know what it will do to them if they find out…if they find out about how you are? Do you even care?”

“Of course, I care! I love them and I love yo—”

Yunho’s grip tightened and he screamed, drowning out Jaejoong’s voice, “Don’t say it! Don’t you ever say it! If you say that I swear I’ll—”

“You’ll what? Hit me?” Jaejoong screamed back at him, holding back his tears. Yunho knew his dark secret, and he hated him for it. “Do you want to hit me? It won’t change how I feel about you, but go ahead and hit me if it will make you feel better. I know it was me that you were really angry at all those times before when you fought. I won’t say it but know that nothing will ever change how I feel about you! If hitting me will help you feel better, do it.”

Yunho quickly let go of Jaejoong as he stepped back. He was trembling all over. He bent over and placed both his hands on his knees, lowered his head, and tried his best to control his raging emotions.

Jaejoong forced himself to look at Yunho, and the sight of Yunho struggling to control his hatred and disgust made Jaejoong physically ill. “Just go,” Jaejoong pleaded. “Just go.”

The taller boy raised his head to stare at him, causing Jaejoong to gasp. Yunho was crying, and Jaejoong knew how the other boy hated to cry. “I wanted us to be friends forever.”

“I know you did, and I did too.”

“I have to go,” Yunho told Jaejoong as he quickly turned and fled the kitchen.

Jaejoong leaned against the refrigerator and sank to the floor, allowing the tears to flow now, hating himself more than he had thought possible. He hated that he couldn’t be the person Yunho needed him to be; hated that he wasn’t better at pretending. He wished that his grandmother had never sent him to live with his aunt. He would rather have been in foster care, than to know this pain. The pain of knowing he disgusted Yunho. Knowing that Yunho was no longer his friend was more than he could bear. He had felt their friendship slipping away before, but Yunho would always reach out and reassure him, but Jaejoong knew those days were over.

He sat on the kitchen floor sobbing uncontrollably, wishing he was dead, because to be dead would be better than to feel this horrible pain…this horrible loss.

“JJ, what is wrong?”

Jaejoong looked up to see that his frail aunt had made her way inside the restaurant and into the back kitchen. Yunho had left the door to the restaurant unlocked in his panic to flee. Aunt Bessie was pushing her walker and had her oxygen fastened to it. A searing pain shot through Jaejoong’s heart as he realized she had been waiting for him. She must have been worried.

Jaejoong picked himself up from the floor, and apologized, “Aunt Bessie, I am so sorry for making you wait.”

“What’s wrong?” She asked, full of concern.

Jaejoong, who thought his emotions were going to burst out of him and flood everything around him, cried, “Yunho hates me…he knows…and he hates me.”

He watched as she paled and stepped away from her walker and held out her arms. She rarely hugged him. She and his grandmother were not affectionate people, but with her declining health Aunt Bessie had softened over the years.

He flew into her arms, hugging her tightly, sobbing uncontrollably. “He hates me, he hates me.”

“Shhh,” his aunt tried to soothe. “Does he know how you feel about him?”

“Yes; he wouldn’t let me say it, but I know he knows,” Jaejoong whimpered. “He hates me. You were right…our friendship wasn’t meant to last.”

“Those religious fools,” Aunt Bessie grumbled, holding her nephew tightly. “He should be flattered that somebody as special as you cares for him. Those silly girls that he pines over…not one of them has your heart, he will miss you. He will wish he was more opened minded and he will miss your friendship.”

“They aren’t fools,” Jaejoong whimpered, hiccupping.

“Yes, they are,” Aunt Bessie insisted. “They believe God to be judgmental and hateful; a god who loves only those who worship him properly, according to their rules. They preach love and peace, while they teach their children to hate. You can’t help how you are. This is why I detest organized religion, but we can discuss that later, my oxygen is going to run out.”

Jaejoong quickly pulled back, realizing his aunt only had her small portable tank with her.

“Don’t look so terribly guilty, we got plenty enough to get home with…if you drive fast,” his aunt told him with a wink.

“You are going to let me drive?” Jaejoong asked, shocked.

Aunt Bessie nodded her head and told him, “If you stop crying. I don’t think you can see two feet in front of you, much less the road, through those tears. Yunho was a good boy when he was small, but sadly, good kids don’t always grow up to be good people. You just have to accept that harsh fact of life.”

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