Genre: tragedy, bit of sci-fi
Summary: Jaejoong has a voice like silk and Changmin falls in love with his voice
Warnings! Character death
A/N: This is prompt 53. The inspiration for the writing style comes from Cormac McCarthy, whose book All the Pretty Horses helped inspire “Slave of the System”. The style is very purposeful and you’ll see why if you read to the end.
This hole in the wall is not quite a desolate bar, not nearly welcoming enough to be a family restaurant but good enough for Changmin. The welcome sign buzzes and the electricity flowing through the neon lights makes him feel energetic, glad to be alive. The lights are quiet inside, the bar is lonely, the tables and their filled chairs drift towards the stage.
What will it be? The bartender asks when Changmin sits at a stool. The bartender has a laugh in his eyes and an adorable accent from the way he rolls his tongue trying to pronounce things correctly.
A show? Changmin wants to know because if there is, he needs the proper drink to go with it.
There will be. Changmin watches the mole on the bartender’s lip twitch. Ever heard of Kim Jaejoong?
Changmin makes a sound that might be laughing and shakes his head. No, he’d never heard of Kim Jaejoong. There were a lot of singers he had never heard of. That didn’t mean they weren’t good and that didn’t mean he couldn’t like them. Can’t say I have.
He’s not much, but he’s the best we got. He goes on stage in half an hour.
The bartender nods and starts his magic. It doesn’t take him long, but by the time he’s finished, the stage is being set up for the performance. Here, it’s called Silk.
The drink is a sunset on the beach, the waves seeping into the sand, the foam fizzling out into smooth waters, a breeze wrapping hands around somebody, a cool touch to the face. The drink is hiding from someone in sun bleached curtains, lying on a cool marble floor, taking a bath in creamy oils, rubbing a printed picture. The drink slides down Changmin’s throat as if it is made of liquid silk and everything makes sense.
You get why it’s called Silk, don’t you? Wait ‘til he starts singing.
Not long after an Angel walks onto the stage. His hair is a bitter aged wine and his clothes are just pieces of cloth hanging off a model. His face is a mixture of playful eyes and a passive nose and abused lips. His fingers are long, gripping the mike in a nervous hand. He settles on a stool and requires no introduction. He sings.
His voice is like a sunset on the beach, the waves seeping into the sand, the foam fizzling out into smooth waters, a breeze wrapping hands around somebody, a cool touch to the face. His voice is like hiding from someone in sun bleached curtains, lying on a cool marble floor, taking a bath in creamy oils, rubbing a printed picture. His voice slips around Changmin and fills his chest and brushes over his ears as if it is made of silk and everything makes sense.
Wow. It’s all Changmin can say.
He orders another drink, but he doesn’t drink it. Instead he holds the glass up to the shy lights and watches as Jaejoong sparkles. His image swirls and dances in the colors of the concoction. He is like red silk, royal and proud. He is red and captivating. His voice is like blue silk, quiet and healing. He is blue and unforgettable. His voice is yellow, vibrant and empowering. He is yellow and domineering. His voice is a drum, booming deep into the audience. His voice is a flute, flitting out the windows. His voice is a weapon, and everyone has lost to it.
Jaejoong sings for an hour and Changmin orders three more drinks in the meantime. Couples and families and loners leave the floor when Jaejoong leaves the stage. The tables and chairs are sleeping again. Only a few stranglers stay to finish their meals, some come to the bar and get one before the road. I’m not the driver. And they take a quick shot of the first thing they see.
Time is slow and soft and small until Jaejoong slides into the seat next to Changmin and orders a loud drink. Did you enjoy the show? And his voice has a rhythm Changmin can nod his head to and wire his brain to and beat his heart to.
I was blown away.
Jaejoong quirks an eyebrow, but doesn’t say anything.
I think he was drunk when he came in, says the bartender. Changmin frowns but doesn’t respond. He drinks his Silk and wishes it was velvet. Rough and soft and sticky.
Well, I’m Jaejoong, and this guy is Yunho, and you’re welcome here anytime. His smile is a winter holiday and a fireplace warming up cold hands.
Changmin, he mumbles out. Jaejoong has a hard time understanding, but he manages.
Well, Changmin, I perform here every night except Tuesdays. Hope to see you again.
His head is hazy and his heart is happy when he leaves not long after. The night is lonely even though it is young. The world might be black and white to him, but at least he isn’t blind. If he was blind, Changmin would never be able to find his way home. Instead, Changmin feels the road lead him the right way. A car honks at him as it drives by and he sees a flash of light pink and he follows it with his eyes until the night is colorless again. He sees those pink lights all the way back. The first thing he does when he gets home (the door unlocking is yellow while the opening and closing is purple) is pour a glass of water from his water filter. Oddly enough, the water in the cup is orange.
Changmin lies in his bed, breathing in the thick air and drifting off. Jaejoong’s voice can’t get out of his mind. He is a rainbow, a blinding ray of colors, under control and so easy to embrace. It’s just a memory, but Changmin feels him as if they are in bed together. So easy to embrace. Changmin sees white.
You don’t talk much.
Changmin’s eyes drift blearily from the stage to get a glimpse of Yunho wiping the bar. He nods as if to indicate that, yes, he was the one who spoke. It’s an observation, but an obvious one, and Changmin makes no comment in reply. People will think what they want, but Changmin has grown up enough to stop caring about the things other do.
After the show Jaejoong comes up to him and nuzzles his cheek affectionately. He whispers silk into his ears and asks something that makes Changmin turn red and see red and think dirty. The singer’s laugh is a vibrant green. Jaejoong probably treats Changmin like a cute, easy to tease younger brother. When he sings, he sings to Changmin, and when he smiles, it is for Changmin too. He buys him drinks and lets him rest in his car when he’s drunk too much. Changmin likes it when Jaejoong talks over when Yunho does and everyone knows it. Changmin’s fascination is probably more than fascination.
He’s having a bad day when he forgets that today is Tuesday and the entire club is void of tables and diners and filled with young adults dancing to a rotation of live performers disgustingly loud and Changmin feels like he is being suffocated. The sound bounces around the room and fills Changmin so much he is full and sick. Blood pulses in his head and for a brief moment Changmin thinks he might be crazy enough to join the crowd on the floor, but when he’s squeezed between two young girls scantily dressed, he has to stop.
At the bar he orders one drink, the first is free on Tuesday, and makes to leave immediately.
Hey, are you alright?
But Changmin doesn’t hear Yunho. It’s just black. Dizzying, sharp, painful. Black.
When Changmin was in high school, he used to listen to classical music in clas because listening to the teacher was pointless anyway. When they thought he couldn’t hear, the other kids would laugh at him because how could an awkward kid like him appreciate art? He always knew. He could see the brown come from their mouths and permeate everywhere but towards him. As if they were ashamed and tried to hide it from him.
So it hurts a little bit when Changmin walks into the bar the next day and Yunho and Jaejoong are laughing but the laughs are brown instead of silk and cotton. But they don’t know the truth so they stop immediately when they see him. In a pointlessly hushed voice, Yunho says one last thing to which Jaejoong nods. What will it be Changmin? You came early today.
Yunho bites his lip as if he wants to laugh. Jaejoong shakes his head. That only makes Yunho want to laugh more. Quit it, it’s not fair. And Jaejoong shoves Yunho on the arm. The bartender was pushed so hard that he falls onto the counter and starts laughing where his face is hidden. I’m sorry he is so rude.
Sorry? Changmin repeats slowly.
Yeah, he probably ate something funny and can’t control himself.
Funny? Changmin repeats even slower and louder. You think I’m funny like this? Talking slow, stu-stuttering? Just the fact that he stuttered on the very word makes Changmin so frustrated with himself and with life that he just wants to leave. He just wants to leave and fuck Jaejoong’s silky voice, it feels like a prickly cactus right now with its hesitation and shame.
What? That’s not what I said at all. Listen, hey, you’re a great guy, don’t let people like Yunho get you down.
But all his life people like Yunho would laugh at him and people like Jaejoong would be beautiful and oblivious. Yunho might have lifted his head and bowed in that shameful brown apology, but his words are flat and Changmin sneers at him.
I loved you. I loved you and you’re voice. I fall asleep with you in my head. I fill the gray with your rainbows. But I hate when you laugh at me. It’s probably the most he’s ever spoken at once and he isn’t even sure Jaejoong can understand it all. Did he get caught up in the confession or did he get lost in the colors? Maybe he didn’t understand a damn word. The watery confusion on Jaejoong’s face is enough for Changmin to leave.
He storms to the heavy door and plans on plowing through it, but another man opens it and stops right in front of him. The door closes with a low sigh and Changmin freezes for a second. The man is suspicious, face covered and hand hiding. He pulls out an air horn and blows it right into the air by Changmin’s face.
There is a wave of sound that slices through Changmin and he is so stunned that all he sees is a hot pink. So hot that Changmin sways disoriented and wobbles around the room even as the man shouts. Everyone get on the ground! Barkeep, open the cash register! Everybody just stay on the ground! He keeps swaying and the robber looks at him funny and shoves him to the ground but he rolles around and the man thinks he is crazy.
Changmin, just listen to him!
There is some silk trying to save him from choking on the air horn, but he is so far lost that he can't tell where it was coming from and he climbs to his feet trying to find it.
This crazy bastard! Don’t try to be a hero!
Near him is an angry blue. It is so much closer than the scratches in what must be Jaejoong’s voice. It’s so sad, it’s really becoming velvet.
Yunho watches in horror as the robber swings a piece of silver metal around and Jaejoong shrieks when it makes contact with Changmin’s stomach. The man must have felt threatened because he stabs Changmin so hard that he makes no sound when falls to the ground. Not a grunt or a whine, he just collapses right there and doesn’t move.
Oh my god, he just killed someone! The manager in the back room is almost heard through the doors, but Jaejoong starts sobbing too loudly and the robber whacks him in the head when he won’t shut up. He stifles his cries and sobs into the ground as Yunho holds one hand in the air and uses the other to stuff cash into the robber’s bag.
It’s awful. There isn’t much money in the register and Jaejoong hates how they were attacked for so little. It could have just been armed robbery, but there Changmin is bleeding out on the floor and no one is moving and only Jaejoong is crying and Yunho is quiet for once and the cops don’t get there fast enough to catch him in the act but they are informed the next day after hours of interviews and meeting the victim’s mother that the man was caught after stashing the money and knife in a coin locker in the subway.
Changmin’s mother is a strict looking woman. She hardly seems fazed when she stares and the cold body of her son in the morgue. He was stabbed because he didn’t listen to a robber? Yeah, that’d be him.
How can you say that so nonchalantly? Jaejoong cries. Yunho squeezes his shoulder. The mother purses her lips.
He didn’t follow that man’s instructions so of course he will get hurt. I should never have had a useless son like him, it’s my fault. My husband’s family blames me for giving birth to a deaf child of course.
She stops talking and Yunho’s breath hitches and Jaejoong wants to die.
Changmin looks peaceful on the autopsy table. There is no need for an autopsy, it is clear how he died and the mother knows of his disabilities. But there he is and she is confirming that he is her deaf son.
He could never hear and had a hard time talking, but he always knew what we were saying and described things as if he heard them. He said they were colors and textures. He was a freak. But I got him through school, no thanks to his father. Got him through school so he can go and get himself killed.
She laughs dishearteningly and leaves. She doesn’t care to stay with the body.
Jaejoong sobs. What have we done? What have we done?
We need to calm down. We didn’t know.
He was deaf and he loved my voice. Oh god, what have we done?
We didn’t know. Shh, Jaejoong. We didn’t know.