The Wrong Sun
Junsu learns, after getting hit by a bus, that the accidentally-dead get a second chance at life. Except here, it’s always summer.
Set in death!verse but it’s actually not a depressing story overall.
Even on a day like this accidents happen. They don’t occur in slow-motion or fast-forward to the happy ending just because the sky is perfectly clear (but Hyukjae’s mother made him take an umbrella anyways because the weather man said to). But, Junsu absently thinks, it’s a nice day out despite the morning traffic.
The stoplight flips to go. Grumbling, Junsu fumbles with his tie for an extra second before pedaling faster to catch up with his best friend.
“So how do you think we placed on that mock-exam?” he asks, dilly-dallying for some proper talk.
“Dead last and second to dead last, just like last time. What, did you think video games made you smarter?” Hyukjae retorts. Junsu’s jaw falls to the asphalt and says hello to the bike tires.
“Maybe you got dead last but I stayed up until three actually studying this time!” Junsu protests over Hyukjae’s snorts and car horns. “Fine, you can emo over how you suck by yourself over during lunch without any of the pineapple and ham pizza my mum packed for me—“
A perfect ‘o’ suddenly crosses Hyukjae’s face. He points, too late, at a school bus the color of said pineapples speeding out of nowhere. Junsu’s last thoughts linger between yellow is supposed to be a happy color and well, that wasn’t a very epic last thing to say, should I declare my undying love to some passerby now?
Then he’s falling, flung onto his back, and he never hits the pavement.
Dumpster diving is at least ten times better here, and so are the things that people throw out. Yoochun and Jaejoong are sitting on a green suede loveseat, long legs tangled together, pilfering through a pile of rubbish. They pass a bottle of rum back and forth over discoveries of old eighties vinyl records and once-watched DVDs. This is how they spend their weeknights.
“Hey, it’s ‘I wanna hold your hand’,” Yoochun admires the dusty cover of the Beatles record.
“Febreze!” Jaejoong yelps, knocking over a bunch of CDs to grab at the blue bottle and spraying it until the stale air (which could be a lot worse) smells like laundry detergent and chamomile.
Simultaneously, they lean into each other under their cloud of air freshener, close enough to hear each other’s thoughts. He knows Jaejoong’s remembering what time Yunho gets out of his night class and when Changmin’s graveyard shift at Seven-Eleven ends. Jaejoong knows Yoochun’s not thinking about much. Maybe his mother.
The sun starts to come up at around five (for Jaejoong). Shaking Yoochun awake and off his shoulder, he starts throwing what he’s found into his bag, zipping it up and clapping a bit of life into the otherwise sleeping man.
“I have to go make breakfast for a couple of little piggies,” he announces, pulling Yoochun to his feet. “Do you want to come with? It’s French toast and sausage day.”
With a crooked smile, Yoochun holds up a new bottle of rum and shakes his head. “Nah, I’m good. I’ve got some work to catch up on, beautiful sonnets to compose, that kind of shit.”
“I guess if you change your mind, you can call. Don’t let Captain Morgan swindle you into thinking you’re immortal,” Jaejoong warns in his usual motherly tone. Rolling his eyes, Yoochun plants a wet, messy kiss on the blond’s cheek and mischief suddenly smudges his eyes.
“Do you have enough time to do me a little favor?” he asks, grinning.
“Will it make me love you less after?”
“Okay, I have time.”
A lot of tugging and shoving later, the house right by the train tracks gets a new green suede couch. It sits just outside of the backyard, the curve of the worn-in cushions forming a smile when the sun hits it.
Junsu kicks at a rock. It jumps three times, like it thinks it’s a pebble skipping water, and dumbly stops. He kicks at it again and this time, he loses track of where it lands. Like how he’s lost track of how many hours it has been since he got run over by a school bus and probably caused more than a few people years of therapy when they realized he wasn’t breathing. Still, it doesn’t explain where he is.
Everything looks the same as before, except with less people. He had followed a couple of students wearing the same uniform as him onto campus and sat in an empty classroom for half an hour before realizing nobody else was going to show up.
Maybe it’s Sunday here.
A calendar taped to the wall of a convenience store says it’s Tuesday.
Junsu empties out his spare change onto the checkout desk and grabs the first cold drink he sees from the convenience store refrigerator.
The cashier eyes him all soulfully. “Since you’re wondering, yes, that calendar’s right and no, you’re not going crazy,” he says flatly and clears his throat when Junsu spits soft drink all over the tile he just cleaned. “Noob’s written all over your face. Here, maybe another Coke will do the trick. Everything here’s free. Guaranteed for the first week. Just swipe your debit card.”
Not knowing whether to start blabbering questions or to act totally insulted, Junsu grabs another bottle and gets the hell out of there. He bumps into a couple of people, apologizes and hurries along.
“You forgot your change!” the cashier shouts after him. “Not that it actually really does anything other than look shiny right now!”
Junsu walks a little faster down the street.
“Was that a cute, adorable, pink-cheeked noob just now?” Jaejoong inquires with the interest of a great white shark that hasn’t eaten in three days (or a pedophile living in a nursing home). Poking his head out of the store, Yunho watches him disappear around the next corner and shakes his head.
“He looks really young,” he comments, frowning.
“Yea. Poor kid. Hopefully, he’s not going to try dying again.”
Changmin shrugs the topic off. A mop misses the puddle on the floor and hits Jaejoong in the face.
When he gets tired of running away from nothing, Junsu lies down in the middle of the road (nothing bad can apparently happen here) and stares at the sky with its marshmallow clouds. After dark, the streetlamps all light up at once. Cars whiz by and one almost leaves tire tracks on his face.
An old lady passes him on the way back from her mailbox and offers him a smile and a place to stay for the night. Tired and dizzy, he follows her.
In the middle of his kimchee fried rice, Junsu hears a baby start to cry in the bedroom. The old lady brings out a baby, not even a year old, and eases into the chair across the table from him, rocking it back to sleep.
“Is she yours?” he suddenly wants to know.
“No, but she’s beautiful, isn’t she?” Junsu can only nod. “She’s going to be happy. Things are better here, usually. Nobody here dies until they’re supposed to, unless they want to.”
When the old lady shows him the needle hole where the nurse gave Sun-hee five milligrams too much anesthesia, Junsu sees the angry burns on the inside of her own arms. And in the bathroom, he finds tire marks on his own shoulder, a purpling bruise on his back.
The toothpaste tastes like mint chocolate.
During the morning news, the old lady hands Sun-hee to Junsu. Swaddled in blankets, she’s tinier than any other baby he’s seen, her skin a little too cold against the back of his hand, and she makes the happiest gurgling noises at the television. He kisses her forehead and thinks of all the things she could be now when she grows up. His heart stops for a second when she curls her fingers around his thumb.
And then he thinks of all the things he can be now too.
“Mostly sunny skies and a high of eighty-two…”
The train station looks better than before. Paint is no longer peeling off its sides and all of the escalators work, but there’s still a factory too close by and between the bars of the fence is a familiar gap. Junsu slips through it easily.
At a quarter to eight, his favorite song plays on the radio.
The music fades into the echo of a train pulling in, and he wanders away, humming the tune to himself. The gravel sounds like dried leaves crunching under his shoes. Where there were once weeds are patches of grass, green and soft and smelling of rain. He steps on some, watching in awe as it springs back when he lifts up his foot and chases after the ladybug that flies out to the bushes he used to steal raspberries from after school.
They’re more sweet than sour now, though. And there’s no old farmer to beat him away when he catches Junsu stuffing handfuls of raspberries into his mouth.
A little further down, he hears voices from the other side of the train tracks.
Stupidly and because he can’t see anybody even if he squints, he tumbles over the plateau the tracks were built on, trips on a rung, and comes to a rolling stop at the foot of a green couch.
“Oh my God.” Poke, poke. “This is new.”
“No, Jaejoong, there’s always been a corpse on the floor in front of this couch.”
“Aw, Yoochun, look how cute it is!” The pretty blond (man) picks him up from the rocks and sits Junsu down between himself and another man. And Junsu almost has a stroke just from looking at Yoochun wearing a thick coat and scarves in this kind of heat, even if he has a nice (that’s an understatement) profile.
“It looks scared ‘cos you touched it.”
“It’s blushing!” Jaejoong coos and smiles in a way that makes Junsu shudder. And he kind of wishes they would stop referring to him as it.
Yoochun finally turns his head to raise an eyebrow at Jaejoong and Junsu thinks his front view is nice (definitely an understatement, his front view is more along the lines of gorgeous, sophisticated, rugged, model-like) too. “I think the real world wants one of their creepers back,” he retorts and pulls his scarf up over his nose.
“I think it’s lost,” Jaejoong points out the obvious, pushing Junsu until he’s pressed flush against Yoochun’s arm (and unable to breathe through wool). “Yoochun-yah, can we keep it?”
The sun shines all the time like it’s trying to apologize for his Shakespearean end.
I’m sorry I accidentally ran over you. Twice. But hey, hopefully always having cell phone signal, getting postcards from anonymous that say “have a nice day :),” and being accident-proof nowadays makes it more bearable.
Junsu just wants to go home. He misses his mother and father, Junho, the pizza shop, Hyukjae, being a normal person in a normal world.
“Homesick?” Yoochun asks when he sees Junsu curled up on the couch outside, chin pulled up to his knees and blankly staring at the empty train tracks. Because he’s best friends with Jaejoong, he expects a sarcastic no, I just like to emo. But Junsu is honest, wholeheartedly, and Yoochun likes him better for it.
“It’s like that for the first couple months.” He sits down on the empty cushion and pulls Junsu against him, the same way Jaejoong used to cradle him when he was lost and confused and lonely.
“Can we go back? Ever?”
“You’ve probably already been buried. Or cremated. Or something.”
“It’s kind of terrible, but I wish everybody I loved would get in an elevator together and then have one of the ropes accidentally break. Then they’d all be here at once,” Junsu mumbles, burrowing into the soft leather of Yoochun’s jacket that reminds him of gasoline and home.
“I would prefer my mother to not come here with her arm on backwards,” Yoochun tells him. “They’ve made mistakes putting people back together, you know. The reassembly team had a field day trying to sew Yunho back up.”
“Oh, did they have to do that to you too?”
It goes quiet for a second before Yoochun unravels his scarf.
“That’s not from an—“ A finger pushes against Junsu’s lips to keep him giving away the secret. Slowly, Junsu’s eyebrows start to knit together, looking like he’s going to cry from something other than homesickness, and he touches the rope burns tentatively, slipping his hands around Yoochun’s neck. They’re a perfect fit.
Yoochun’s first love story goes something like this: seven years old, waiting for the most beautiful girl in the world to come home, Hi can I have a kiss? No? Fine, go home and leave me heartbroken on your front step.
His second love story skips down the same rejection lane.
By the seventh time he tries this love story deal, it goes a little better: nineteen with a brand-new pack of Marlboros in his back pocket, a pretty girl sitting outside in collegetown drinking vodka by herself. She’s all pale skin, chapped lips, grey eyes with no kohl, a tattoo showing through the strings on the back of her shirt. He buys her an apple martini, soju for himself, and starts off dully, “You look lonely.”
“Yea, I guess I am,” she answers, her voice a little low, and pops the green olive into her mouth. “Thanks for the martini.”
“Are you free tonight?” he asks almost too eagerly.
“I’m always free.”
It’s not until the next morning that he finds out she’s actually a he.
And he doesn’t mind at all. He never has.
His eighth love story never comes around because he hangs himself in the bathroom a couple months later. The newspaper said it was a tragic shower accident. It wasn’t.
Still, one of the higher-ups in Heaven (or whatever it actually is) believed the article and stuck him in almostperfectworld. Best accident of his life.
He hasn’t tried love since. But when Yoochun feels Junsu’s face pressing into his shoulder, hearing him squeak in protest, he groans inwardly and knows that the eighth love story was just thrown into his lap.
“Automobile accident, huh?” Jaejoong seems sympathetic about his situation.
“You get a couple extra weeks of free stuff here for that. If somebody switched out your water with acid, you get a couple months. If somebody butchered you, you get a whole year. If you fell off a cliff, they just laugh at you and give you a gift card to Marie Calendars.”
“Oh, what happened to you?”
“I fell off a cliff.”
Junsu doesn’t know whether to tell him to stop taking off his shirt (he really doesn’t want to see the scars) or laugh. Underneath his clothes, Jaejoong’s black and blue all over. He puts his shirt back on when he sees Junsu close his eyes, pats the boy on the back in reassurance (“It’s just a flesh wound”), and bandages the last of his scrapes.
At a quarter to five, a couple of guys come tumbling in through the front door, holding hands.
“We’re home, Jaejoong-sshi!” they both chirp—their nametags read Yunho, whose fingers look sewn on, and Changmin, who looks a bit poisoned (Jaejoong didn’t seem like the hypothetical situation type anyways)—and sweep Jaejoong off his feet for a hug. And two kisses. Junsu doesn’t even want to know.
“Be a sweetheart, will you Junsu, and help me do some grocery shopping?” Jaejoong motions to where Yoochun is out by the car, voice muffled in Changmin’s neck. “I need some French bread, onions, bonito flakes, all the fruit you can possibly get your hands on…”
“And,” Yoochun drawls after hauling a box of ripe mangoes into the cart, “A gallon-tub of pistachio almond ice cream. I hate to tell you this, Junsu, but Jaejoong’s really taking advantage of your noob status.”
“Is there anything you want?” Junsu eyes the wall of alcohol and absently throws a package of gummies on top of the bok choy.
“No, I’m good.”
Since there’s never a line at checkout, they’re out of there in less than five minutes. The trunk of Yoochun’s car is tiny but it manages to fit mostly everything; the box of mangoes ends up in the backseat.
Only green lights all the way home. Halfway, the windsheild wipers start to wave back and forth across the front window and Junsu purses his lips in confusion.
“It’s sunny out, Yoochun.”
“But it’s the middle of summer. How can it be sleeting?”
They pull into the driveway, where Yoochun parks the car and shuts off the engine, and heaves a sigh, reluctantly explaining, “The weather stays the same as the day you died ninety-percent of the year.”
“Oh. So it’s always going to be this sunny for me.”
“It’s always summer for Jaejoong too. For Changmin and Yunho, it’s spring.” Yoochun opens the car door after running his thumb along the handle for a while, one foot stepping out onto the concrete. He can tell that Junsu’s thinking about how lonely and cold it must be for him. “There’s nothing wrong with winter. I can make snowmen whenever I want and catch snowflakes on my tongue. All you and Jaejoong get to do is tan.”
Junsu laughs, which is a good sign.
“We should go before the milk spoils in the back,” Yoochun suggests. But Junsu sits there for a moment too long, lower lip stuck out in a frown, and Yoochun just has to lean over to kiss it better.
Later that night, Junsu learns the trio actually live across town in something the size of Yoochun’s kitchen, Changmin’s idea of a perfect date is a long walk on the beach, Yunho twitters on his iPhone to the point of carpal tunnel, and Jaejoong cramps everybody’s style.
“It’s what happens when you’ve been dead for three plus years,” Yoochun explains as they’re washing up for bed.
They sleep back to back in the same bed, rigid like they’re made of cast iron. When they wake up, Yoochun has fallen off the bed and Junsu is pressed so close to the wall it’s like he’s part of it. And out of nowhere, their hearts both start beating faster, it hurts to swallow, and Junsu is shaking when he gets out of bed.
Nervously, he helps Yoochun up.
Nervously, Yoochun hands Junsu some of his lighter clothes to change into. And maybe a kiss after brushing their teeth, if his heart decides to not vacation to cardiac-arrest-land and to unpack all the valves are clogged with Junsu and anxiety.
This goes on for about a week because, according to Jaejoong (who owns a matchmaking agency apparently), they’re both incredibly dim-witted dipshits suffering early midlife crises.
“That’s not how it is,” comes the lame reply-slash-excuse.
The oddest thing happens when it’s Wednesday again: it’s raining for Junsu and sunny for Yoochun.
They wake up tangled together on the floor, breathing each other’s air and rolled up together too close for comfort. Yoochun starts to pull away but Junsu holds on tighter, face buried in the other man’s neck.
“Let’s go outside,” he mumbles, fumbling for a kiss.
“Okay.” Yoochun’s lips find his from one side of the thing sheet and Junsu kisses back through the fabric. “Okay.” Clumsily, he pulls the sheet away so it bunches around their ribs. Pushing himself up on one elbow, Yoochun fits their mouths together again, and Junsu fits his hands around Yoochun’s jaw.
Their clothes crumple away with the sheets. Surprisingly, Junsu’s all muscle and Yoochun’s all soft and they lock and slide easily.
Pressed flush together, ridiculously hard, hot kisses and fingers dragging along bare skin, the edginess wearing into something that sounds like ohmygodohmygod. And then Yoochun’s slipping in between Junsu’s parted thighs. One thrust, Junsu lets out a keening whimper, two and Yoochun forgets where he ends and Junsu starts, three and they lose count of their kisses. The nightstand gets hit so hard that the lamp falls off, and they only sympathetically glance in the broken lamp’s general direction before Yoochun’s falling off too, into Junsu.
“I’m coming,” he gasps against the shell of Junsu’s ear. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see that Junsu’s face is falling apart like his body, voice long reduced to yea yea yes and heavy breathing. There’s a warm splash against Yoochun’s stomach, a particularly low, drawn-out moan in the back of Junsu’s throat as he pushes back one last time, pulling Yoochun all the way down by his hair.
And then everything is unbelievably hot despite the rain.
There are no I love yous breathlessly exchanged afterwards, just Yoochun’s face in Junsu’s neck. Because things are better here.
A little less mismatched than usual, they stumble out the front door some time later (much better acquainted, to put it harmlessly). Yellow rainboots kick at rain puddles and melted snow. They forget where they were going to go somewhere down Cherry Avenue, so they end up holding hands in Jaejoong’s office.
The receptionist protests, “He’s with a client, you can’t—“ But Yoochun feels light-headed and light-footed, on cloud nine, and barges right in.
“We’re in love!” he declares so loudly Junsu looks like he might permanently be of tomato heritage. Jaejoong looks up from his client’s profile at the two lunatics that just showed up and swears there’s a romantic sunset in his office, waterfall and flying hearts and all.
“Congratulations. Please be removing all movie sets from this very professional businessplace.”
“Your loss,” Junsu pipes up, setting down the pink heart-shaped balloons by the door and skipping right back out with his scenery. Yoochun steals one and trails right after him.
“Thanks for reminding my clients what they’re missing the real version of! Next time, bring the real deal!” Jaejoong shouts after them. The woman turns to watch them wave happily from the elevator and he seizes the advertisement opportunity with a wink and points at the bunch of balloons. “And to think they just met last week. Must be my expertise.”
(“It’s love!” Changmin and Yunho would’ve chorused freakishly together on cue. “You’re not that smart. But that’s okay, we still find you sexy.”)
In two minutes, they have built what might be considered the world’s ugliest snowman. All mud, dried tree branches, no nose because they had no carrots. Yoochun tries his best to keep the snow from melting, but it does anyways, right into a pile of faded shirts somebody threw out. Junsu tries to help him fix it, getting dirt all over the sleeves of his shirt.
Vaguely, he wonders why he likes hanging out with all the important people in his life at dumpsters.
“Here, double chocolate fudge ice cream will make you feel all better,” Junsu teases, holding out the waffle cone wrapped up in a Baskin Robbins napkin. They find a cleaner pile of clothes to sit on.
“How many points is that going to be on my Weight Watchers?” Yoochun quips and the cone is shoved unceremoniously into his mouth. The cold makes his teeth hurt, but it’s sunny outside for the first time in forever and he’s taking up so much space under the umbrella that Junsu’s getting drenched and his heart flutters when Junsu tries to push him away and calls him names. His skin feels warm where it’s pressed against the other man’s arm.
The sun doesn’t stay for too long. Once it gets dark, Yoochun spots the first new snow falling and when he looks up, a thin blanket is already covering the earth and Junsu’s hand is covering his.
“It’s snowing again,” Yoochun says, almost sadly.
Junsu moves his umbrella to see the drizzling lines of rain and pretends for a moment that it’s snow. He imagines that it would be very pretty. Yoochun’s breath comes out white in the cold and Junsu pulls him into his chest, pressing a kiss to the other man’s clammy skin. He imagines that they aren’t the only people like this right now: hopelessly attached, caught in the rain and snow, yellow rainboots, trying not to think about how they have no idea what they’re supposed to do now that they’re in a second-chance lifetime.
Take another chance, he supposes. That’s how Junsu’s first love story goes.
“You’re my eighth chance,” Yoochun tells him, soft but sharply honest and Junsu finds this so so lovable.
There’s a kiss, the clatter of Junsu’s umbrella as it falls away, and they’re both getting drenched and shivering in middle of throwaway nowhere. Yoochun imagines there’d be a romantic saxophone solo right now, if their lives came with a soundtrack. Tomorrow, there’ll be sun for both of them.
Slowly, carefully, with Yoochun’s heart crowding up his chest, Junsu tilts his head back to catch snowflakes on his tongue.
notes: For the