The first time Yunho sees him he’s riding the underground, minding his own business like any other day, hardly paying attention to any of the people in his vicinity. People are immersed in their own little bubbles each, half of them sleeping, the rest staring with unseeing eyes, some at nothing, some at books or newspapers or cell phones.
It’s an almost collective experience, the moment the boy steps inside the carriage. He looks at nothing just like the rest of them, but the way he drops down to sit on the dirty floor of the underground carriage with absolutely no concern for his clothes or the judgement of others says a lot.
In fact the way he looks at nothing distinguishes him from everyone else as well, because the rest of the car is now either staring at him openly or sneaking inconspicuous, curious peeks.
The boy leans against the wall opposite of Yunho, spitting on the floor before closing his eyes as he lets his head clank against the cool metal. Yunho stares a bit more openly, still speechless at the stranger’s guts. The boy fumbles for something in his pocket, and then a shaky hand that looks too pallid to be warm emerges with a crumbled packet of cigarettes. When he flicks his lighter open, Yunho sees the cigarette burns decorating his knuckles, and the sudden wish to turn his eyes away makes him determined to stare even harder.
Yunho hears someone snort disapprovingly, but he’s too busy watching to investigate the open gesture of condemnation. The boy’s hands tremble visibly but he lights his cigarette with practised ease, discarding the now empty cardboard pack on the floor. When he brings the cigarette to his lips, Yunho’s eyes follow the movement to his face, only to meet a pair of lined eyes staring back at him.
The boy smokes in silence, his relaxed gaze never leaving Yunho’s form even after he coughs uncomfortably and turns away, embarrassed to have been caught staring.
He tries gathering each inch of courage inside him, but even when the underground finally reaches his station, he cannot bring himself to meet the boy’s eyes again. He feels them when he walks towards the boy and the door sliding open. In the last moment before stepping out of the carriage he manages to extend his hand to pluck the cigarette off the boy’s lips. There is an exclamation he distantly recognises to be a curse word, and a pale hand reaches out to grab his trouser leg, but before the grip is strong enough to hold him back Yunho is already out of the underground.
There’s a strange rush of adrenaline but Yunho refuses to let himself stop, turn around and watch the train leave the station.
The second time they meet is too clichéd even from Yunho’s viewpoint. It’s through common friends, what else—Yunho had always thought there was something fishy about Yoochun.
It’s in a subway under a very wide road, a tunnel that remains quite dark even during daytime. There’s a circle of guys smoking, loitering next to a dripping concrete wall, looking grim and oddly tensed at the same time. They are out of the reach of Yunho’s ears, but he’s not very interested in the conversation anyway. The one amongst the lanky teenagers that catches his attention is not part of it after all; he’s crouching down, resting his stretched-out arms relaxedly on his thighs, a stub of a burning cigarette glowing between his fingers. His head is tilted against his shoulder and his eyes are half-open, like he has no care in the world.
No-one introduces them to each other, but it’s clear to Yunho the guy remembers who he is. One of the guys standing around him nudges the blonde with his foot, maybe in order to get his opinion on some matter they are arguing about, but the boy barely glances upwards, bringing the end of his cigarette stump his lips, when Yunho catches his eyes. They widen slightly in recognition, but the boy makes no move to make further contact.
At some point someone gives Yunho something to drink, and he sips on it in silence. Just like the blond boy on the other side of the subway, he’s hardly included in the conversation going on around him. Yoochun notices his staring, following his gaze to the blond boy who has bummed a new cigarette off one of the guys around him and is still smoking peacefully, as indifferent to his surroundings as ever. One of the guys has started kicking the wall in a stable rhythm, another nudging him every now and then in a half-hearted effort to make him stop.
Yoochun snickers, grabbing Yunho’s cup and replacing it with a new, full one, a paper cup with slightly dampened edges, and Yunho doesn’t want to know how many people have drunk from it before him.
“Don’t tell me you have beef with Jaejoong hyung,” his friend says, peering into Yunho’s old cup before throwing his head back to gulp down the last drops left inside it. Yunho quickly tucks the name behind his ear, meeting the eyes of the boy named Jaejoong again. Jaejoong exhales slowly, a long, slithering trail of smoke snaking around his form.
“I don’t have beef with him,” Yunho mutters, watching Jaejoong run a white hand through his bleached hair, exposing the black roots. The guy kicking the wall behind him stops for a while, fuming as he faces the wall.
“You have business with him them?”
“No…no,” Yunho answers again.
“But you’ve met hyung before,” Yoochun says, and it's a statement, not a question. Yunho doesn’t know what to answer so he just knocks back his drink, enough to miss the first punches being thrown and Jaejoong standing up from his spot.
When he looks forward again, there’s a full-blown fistfight going on where the circle of smoking guys used to be, and Jaejoong is walking towards him with slow, rocking steps.
“Collecting debts, hyung?” Yoochun hollers, but Jaejoong doesn’t spare him a single glance. “Ah, so scary, so fucking scary,” Yoochun mocks, pretending to be shivering from fear as Jaejoong stops right in front of Yunho, throwing his burnt-out cigarette stub at Yunho’s feet, not bothering to put it out.
“You owe me a smoke,” is all he says before pulling Yunho up from his seat. His hand is just as freezing as it looks like and the skin around his knuckles is burnt and rough.
Yoochun keeps laughing behind them, and only the way his voice keeps getting smaller and smaller helps Yunho understand they are moving away.
Yunho is not sure how they end up alone in the narrow stairway leading up to the road, but he will never forget the contrast between the coldness of the edges of Jaejoong’s body and the heat of his core.
It doesn’t take eyes to know Jaejoong is close. The smell of cheap cigarettes follows him everywhere and the sounds of his various accessories clinking against each other announce his presence as soon as one comes within a two metres’ distance of him.
Yunho feels a presence hovering over him. He can almost hear Jaejoong’s contemplative stare until the boy lights another cigarette, sniffing a bit as he looks around. The weather has been turning chilly but Jaejoong remains utterly unconcerned. He would never wear a beanie or anything else that might make it look like he was affected by changes in his environment like everyone else, everyone normal is. He rather sniffs and spits and the habit is truthfully rather disgusting, but it’s not like Jaejoong gives a fuck.
Speaking of the devil, Yunho hears Jaejoong clear his throat and gather saliva in his mouth before he spits over the metre-tall railing surrounding the rooftop. Yunho sighs, hoping no unfortunate soul happened to be walking underneath that surprise bomb. Jaejoong nudges his side with the tip of his tennis shoe, but Yunho just stretches his body out, not bothering to even open his eyes.
When Yunho doesn’t answer him, Jaejoong plops down on the floor next to him. A bit forcefully, he pries Yunho’s arm from under his head, arranging it as he wants before he lies down next to Yunho, propping his head on top the newly claimed pillow. Yunho’s head scrapes against the concrete surface of the rooftop, his position awkward and a bit painful so he turns onto his side, facing Jaejoong. When he finally opens his eyes, the boy is just guiding the cigarette to his mouth, staring up at the sky.
Jaejoong sucks on his cigarette slowly, pursing his lips to exhale a lazy trail of smoke before leaving the cigarette to hang off the corner of his mouth. His fingers are almost blue with the poor peripheral blood circulation caused by excessive smoking, his eyeliner is smudged under his eyes, and his bleached hair is falling freely all over Yunho’s arm. Jaejoong closes his eyes, and since Yunho doesn’t have anything to lean his head on anyways he goes in for the pale expanse of the jaw and neck in front of him, grasping Jaejoong’s shoulder for leverage. The boy’s skin is cool under his mouth and he smells like smoke, but it’s one of the only times when Jaejoong smiles indulgently and tilts his head.
Sometimes Yunho gets real sick of Jaejoong’s immediate rejection of being told to do anything or even just expected to go along with someone else’s plan. He has never really been convinced of the validity of any of the reasons behind Jaejoong’s hatred for authority. Even so, he has more than learned his lesson not to ask anything of the other boy. Yunho has concluded butting heads with Jaejoong won’t lead anywhere for at least another five years, not until the boy finally decides to grow the hell up. It’s much wiser to just sneak in from anywhere he can, and as peculiar as it seems, Jaejoong doesn’t usually seem bothered by his advances. So, Yunho continues to eat out his neck while Jaejoong continues to smoke, eyes closed but lips crooked into a tiny pleased smile.
“Wanna ditch school,” Jaejoong then says, his intonation slightly questioning but Yunho doesn’t bother answering. It’s not like he’s really got a say in the matter.
There are a lot of things about Jaejoong Yunho likes. While his indifferent, if not slightly hostile attitude towards everything might be the thing that first drew Yunho in, it’s actually one of his characteristics Yunho is less keen on. But the rare times he sees Jaejoong smile, or the times when he sees the boy swallowed by intense concentration are the times he really loves.
He also cannot get enough of Jaejoong’s hands. They’re strangely rough and soft at the same time, and the way Jaejoong keeps pulling on his sleeves to cover up more of his palms is strangely adorable. Yunho doesn’t know if the habit is caused by his eternally frozen hands, or just the fact that since his shoulders are almost unproportionally wide compared to his otherwise slight form, all his shirts seem to have sleeves too long for his arms, but he cannot keep his eyes off it anyway. It’s fortunate that Jaejoong tends to keep his hands close to his face, otherwise Yunho wouldn’t really know where to look.
Considering the amount of attention Yunho pays to Jaejoong’s hands, it’s no wonder he immediately notices it when the boy turns up with his nails painted black. Make-up is not a stranger to Yunho anymore, he has spent a few moments watching Jaejoong finish off his face with a touch of smudged eyeliner, but nail art is a first.
When Yunho questions him about it Jaejoong threatens to paint them pink the next time.
While Yunho disagrees with Jaejoong’s disregard of all social norms, his indifference can frankly be admirable at times. Utterly nonchalant towards how people think he should behave or look like, Jaejoong has always done everything the way he wants to since the very moment they met.
He gets it all, the weirdoes, the faggots, the who-do-you-even-think-you-are’s, but he mostly settles for a lazy middle finger as a response and, if in an active mood, a well-aimed spit.
Yunho can only wonder exactly how often he used to get his ass kicked before he had Yunho to throw everyone dark glances and drag him away from potentially dangerous situations.
Because let’s face it, Jaejoong’s body is not made for fighting. His fists are wide and solid, but his hands shake too much and his legs are like a pair of willow saplings. What would cause the most damage to his opponent would probably be his numerous rings.
“And I’ll do yours too, for free, as service,” Jaejoong says suddenly, grabbing Yunho’s hand and placing it next to his own, mouth pursing as he compares Yunho’s slender fingers and torn cuticles with his own neatly painted nails and knuckles reddened with raw skin.
Yunho doesn’t pay much attention to his own hands, eyes locked on Jae’s. Shivers run through his spine when Jaejoong’s cold fingers touch his wrist, and he grabs the hand, tucking it into the pocket of his coat. He doesn’t miss the jerk back nor the incredulous, slightly mocking stare, but hangs on anyway, tightening his hold of Jaejoong’s ice-like hand.
“Why are your hands always so cold?” he mutters as a justification to his actions.
“Cold hands, warm heart,” Jaejoong answers, but it’s hard to tell if he’s serious or just joking. Yunho snorts just in case, and for a while Jaejoong leans his head silently against his shoulder.
From then on Yunho takes it on as a stubborn habit, and after the first few times, when it becomes clear that Yunho is not giving up this time around, Jaejoong abandons his half-hearted protestations.
It’s an insignificant thing, but somehow keeping Jaejoong’s hands even satisfactorily lukewarm becomes a small obsession of his. Concentrating on such a detail makes everything feel simple. A strange kind of peace of mind can be achieved through knowing that though Jaejoong’s fingers are still shaking, they are less blue.
Yunho likes to believe it helps with the cigarette burns as well.