Friends Like These
by Rana Eros

This is what happens when the language barrier prevents me from grokking the band's general state of health. I probably don't need to say this is not meant as any kind of accurate representation of the boys, their health, or their relationships, but I will anyway. Betaed by Eliza, as always.

This is not how it's supposed to be. Yunho sleeps sprawled on the sofa, his head on Jaejoong's lap, face pale and body over-thin. Jaejoong also sleeps, hands buried in Yunho's hair and head tilted awkwardly against the sofa's back. He's going to wake up sore, and Yoochun doesn't dare rearrange him because that might disturb him and the circles under his eyes are visible even through the dark fringe of closed lashes.

Yoochun himself feels too light and too warm, and he's come to the kitchen for a glass of water for Junsu, who's slumped down in a chair in his workroom and mouthing lyrics in Japanese. Not speaking them aloud, because his voice has gone husky with his cold and so he's on orders to preserve it, but not willing to take a real break either. Junsu's surprised them all in these months Yunho's been too sick to hide it, stepping out of his image to take over as their spokesperson until Yunho's recovered. Yoochun's forced to admit someone had to do it, and Junsu's the best one for the job. He and Jaejoong are too instinctively quiet, and Changmin could use some lessons in diplomacy; Junsu disarms people with his sweetness, a different approach than Yunho's air of authority, but it keeps the press pacified and at a distance. Mostly. As much as Yunho ever did, anyway.

Yunho stirs a little, murmuring something, sighs when Jaejoong's hands shift in his hair. Watching them's always made him a little misty-eyed, but the ache in his chest's been stronger this year. They've all gone through so much, and Jaejoong and Yunho don't even have the energy to argue with each other about who takes worse care of himself anymore. They just take care of each other as best they can, and collapse together when out of the public eye.

He knows how that goes.

The front door opens as he's passing it in the hall, and he pauses to see Changmin come in with a flushed face and wind-tossed hair. He'd gone out earlier to work off energy --Yoochun suspects frustration-- without disturbing his bandmates. Judging from the looseness of his long limbs, it seems to have worked.

"Hyung," Changmin greets him. "Everyone else asleep?"

"Junsu's awake, still in the workroom. Have fun?"

Changmin shrugs, and Yoochun wishes they could all do better by him. At least they usually manage to stagger their breakdowns, but it's been a rough summer. "Fun wasn't quite the point, but I'm feeling better. Think anyone will want dinner? I'll make it."

"You're offering to cook?"

"Hey, I can heat soup with the best of them, and I've heard soup is the meal of choice for sick old men."

"Who you calling old?" But it makes Yoochun smile, and Changmin looks happier, smiling back at him.

"Older than me, hyung."

"Yes, and you should respect your elders."

Changmin rolls his eyes. "As soon as my elders are done being dumbasses about their health, I'll get right on that."

Yoochun wants to argue that, he really, really does. Before he can come up with anything to say, though, Jaejoong's voice comes from the living room, soft and hoarse with sleep.

"Changmin, are you back?"

"Better go see what your mommy wants." It's weak, and they both know it, but Changmin's not about to stand in the hall and argue with him when Jaejoong's waiting. As they move in opposite directions, Yoochun has to wonder how much longer Changmin's going to wait. He's seen the speculative way Changmin looks at both Yunho and Jaejoong, though he's not sure they have. He thinks they're going to be very surprised to learn Changmin's not content to be their "baby" anymore.

Pettily, he hopes Changmin's patience runs out soon. The kid clearly needs to get laid.

Junsu's got his head down on his desk when Yoochun steps into the workroom, and for a minute he thinks Junsu's finally asleep again. Then he sniffs, and raises his head, and smiles at Yoochun in that way that always makes him forget how to breathe.

"Took you long enough," he says as Yoochun crosses the floor to him.

"Changmin's home. And you're supposed to be saving your voice, remember?"

"Sorry," Junsu mouths, takes the glass from him and sips. Yoochun watches the way his lips press against the rim, the way his throat works, and doesn't think the sudden warmth in the room is his own fever spiking.

"Are you hungry? I think Changmin's making soup."

Junsu nods, then reaches up to touch his forehead with cool fingers, brushing under his hair. He leans into the touch, even though he knows Junsu's going to scold him for not resting.

Down the hall, the house phone rings.

"You're warm."



"Only if you come with me."

Junsu glances at the lyrics displayed on his computer screen, then sighs and nods. He stands up, putting an arm around Yoochun's waist, and Yoochun's just reciprocated the gesture and turned them around when Changmin appears in the doorway.

"That was management," he says. He's stopped calling them by name these days. "We have tomorrow off, and one of them's coming over to discuss our schedule for the next few months."

Yoochun blinks, hears Junsu echo his, "What?"

"Tomorrow off. Not working," Changmin clarifies. "Resting." He makes a pillow of his hands, lays his cheek on them. "Taking a break, and not the kind that ends in crutches, for once."

"Yeah, yeah, we get it." It just doesn't make any sense. Today is their day off, more or less. They have their schedule, and tomorrow is studio time, followed by days of more studio time and photoshoots and interviews and filming and publicity appearances, just like always. He's been helping Junsu keep track of it. "Why would they give us tomorrow off? And why would they change our--"

"Changmin," Junsu interrupts, as clearly as he can, "where did you go today?"

"You should save your voice," Changmin says, but now Yoochun sees the satisfied gleam in his eyes, recognizes the cocky tilt of his chin.

"Did you talk to our managers, Changmin?"

"Somebody had to." Changmin gives them both a level look. "And I'm the only somebody here in any condition to do it. Now, come sit at the dining room table while I make dinner. We're eating together; it'll make Jaejoong happy."

Changmin turns and disappears back down the hall while Yoochun is too shocked to move. Junsu is still and silent beside him, and then begins to laugh. For once, the sound is soft and rather raspy.

"That's enough of that," Yoochun says, turning his head, but Junsu's wry grin is infectious, and he finds himself returning it.

"I'm just glad he's on our side," Junsu whispers. Yoochun has to agree. Management's probably none too pleased with any of them right now, but there's Junsu's voice and Jaejoong's bruised eyes and Yunho's limp, and he can't regret that Changmin's not diplomatic and doesn't respect his elders so much as he loves them. Even if it's the kind of love that involves hard words and a bit of subterfuge and dinner of instant soup.

Maybe this is how it's supposed to be, after all.

"Come on," he says, tightening his arm around Junsu. "Let's go make Mama happy."


Dong Bang Shin Ki
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