Jaejoong stared across the kitchen table at the small child determinedly pursing his lips together in refusal and thought that this might have been the worst idea he had ever not quite agreed to. He took a deep breath and stretched his arms out across the top of the polished wooden surface of the table to pick up the spoon the boy had refused to use.
“Changmin-ah, you need to eat.”
The boy folded his arms over his chest and glared defiantly back at Jaejoong.
Jaejoong’s grip on the spoon tightened, his knuckles fading to white with the pressure. It wouldn’t do anyone any good if he exploded now, except maybe all the people who had said he wasn’t worthy of being a parent, that vast multitude of bitter, hateful people who said people like him didn’t deserve to be parents, that he was an unnatural abomination. It wouldn’t do any good to give those people ammunition.
“Minnie,” he said softly, trying his hardest to keep his temper reigned in.
The boy shook his head once, firm and decisive. “No,” he said.
God or whoever or whatever was out there give Jaejoong the strength not to throttle this child. Who did this kid he think he was to behave like this? Jaejoong nearly scowled when the answer came to him unbidden.
Changmin was the child of Spring and Summer, one half of the global superstar group Four Seasons. Changmin was the reason he and Yunho had come out to the world without their company’s pre-approval or knowledge even though they’d had Heechul’s and Kangin’s (after much argument). Changmin was the child whose smiling face was plastered over posters, buttons, and banners of all sorts supporting the equal rights movement for people born with the genetic quirk like Jaejoong’s.
Changmin was Jaejoong’s child and Summer’s Sun, as the media had dubbed him, was as used to getting his way as Yunho was.
This display in front of Jaejoong, all quiet stubbornness was all Yunho.
There had been talk for a while that the four of them would be split up, that all the trainee groups would be split up and shuffled around. There had been more than talk. Although Jaejoong, Yunho, Heechul and Kangin lived together, they had all been put into practice with other trainee groups. It terrified them and left too many unanswered questions.
Would they debut soon? Would they debut with the boys they had come to view as a part of their extended family? Or would they be put into groups with others? Would these others be friends they’d made at the company or would they be those kids they saw half sneaking around the halls hustling into practice rooms after school, not speaking a word to the other trainees unless they had to? Or worse, would they be stuck with strangers, new kids at the company who had the skill and talent to make it as an idol but who hadn’t put in the hours and years of hard work and tired bodies that the rest of them had?
Or the most terrifying question any of them could think of and one everyone wondered but never gave voice to: Would they debut at all?
Jaejoong shook his head and jogged the few yards down the hallway to catch up with the others. He didn’t need to think about any of that anymore, it was obsolete. Four Seasons was staying together and they would debut before any of the other trainees.
“Can we go out and celebrate?” Jaejoong asked quietly so as not to be heard by anyone passing through the hallways. They had been called out of practice to meet with the president but they were supposed to go straight back. It wouldn’t do for Jaejoong to be overheard talking about sneaking out.
“Of course we’ll celebrate,” Heechul said though he muttered something under his breath that Jaejoong couldn’t make out.
“Can we go now, hyung?” Jaejoong was feeling an energy build up inside of him from the growing excitement caused by the good news. It was energy he didn’t want to spend on more dance practice. He wanted to do something fun.
“Now?” Heechul asked incredulously.
Jaejoong wanted to pout. The single word was enough of an answer. Heechul was almost always first to flout the company’s rules and somehow manage to slip out of trouble but he knew when not to push.
“No, later,” Jaejoong murmured.
“Humph.” Heechul looked at him with knowing eyes before he turned around to keep walking.
And why wouldn’t he know what Jaejoong was thinking? Out of all the trainees the two of them were more alike than different.
Kangin clapped Jaejoong on the shoulder with a smile and sympathetic eyes. If anyone would have agreed to go out now, reckless or not, it would be Kangin but he knew when not to push Heechul’s buttons and followed the other boy down the hallway.
Jaejoong scowled when they were no longer looking at him. He heard a sigh from next to him and glanced up at Yunho. If he’d known the look on the other boy’s face was one he would have to endure for the rest of his life he might have changed his mind about his intentions towards him and cast his affections in another direction but Jaejoong didn’t know and at the moment all he felt when faced with the stoic disapproving gaze was slight annoyance.
How a chubby cheeked sixteen year old managed stoic was a puzzle to Jaejoong but Yunho did it without looking completely ridiculous.
“What?” he snapped, nearly wincing when they word came out harsher than he’d intended.
“Practice is more important now than it’s ever been,” Yunho said. “You can’t be skipping all the time.”
“I don’t,” Jaejoong said defensively. He had never skipped practice, not once. And he knew how much harder they were going to have to work now but that’s why he wanted to escape for a while. Didn’t they deserve a break before every second of their days would be filled with preparations for debut? And it was only dance practice he wanted to leave. It’s not like he would ever suggest they miss their vocal training.
Yunho just shook his head and left.
Times like this made Jaejoong question what was going to happen to their group. Kangin was the leader now but he wasn’t exactly the paragon of responsibility. Heechul was the oldest but the company would be crazy to make him the leader of their group and Jaejoong would be the first person to say that he himself wasn’t cut out for that position but that only left Yunho and he was the youngest. No one would make the youngest the leader, that was asking for all kinds of trouble.
Jaejoong gathered the bowl of soup and utensils from the table and carried them to the kitchen. If Changmin didn’t want to eat then fine. Jaejoong wasn’t going to force it down his throat.
Under regular circumstances he would be more worried, Changmin rarely refused food and a lack of appetite usually indicated something was severely wrong with his son but these weren’t normal circumstances.
Jaejoong leaned against the counter, his hands gripping the edges on either side of his hips and frowned at the ugly little tarp tent he could see sitting in the corner of the living room. It was an eyesore that clashed horribly with the decor of their apartment. Couldn’t the producers have made a better blending structure to hide the VJ inside? It wasn’t as if this show lacked money.
Jaejoong sighed and closed his eyes. He was being unfair. It wasn’t that terrible looking. He was projecting Changmin’s bad mood. The man in the little hut and the cameras spread out over the apartment contributed to Changmin’s current behavior and Jaejoong hadn’t expected it.
Changmin wasn’t a stranger to cameras. People had been taking pictures of him since he’d been born. He was the poster baby for alternative families. But this was more than than a couple shots to be distributed, more than a few hours of being poked and prodded and styled in front of a camera before going home with his parents and Changmin was smart enough to know the difference.
Why had Jaejoong let Yunho talk him into this? Their baby was theirs but anyone would think that Changmin belonged to all of South Korea to be gawked at.
Why did Jaejoong go along with any of it?
For his career.
No, not just his. If it had been just Jaejoong he would have taken his baby and ran. If it had been just him and Yunho Jaejoong could have eventually talked Yunho into leaving it all behind, Yunho’s sense of duty to his family (Jaejoong and Changmin, not his still disapproving father) would have won out over everything else. But it hadn’t been just the two of them. It had been Heechul’s and Kangin’s careers too. Their destinies had been tied together over a decade ago. If one of them fell off the pedestal then they all fell. Heechul and Kangin had done too much for Yunho and Jaejoong for the two of them to do that to them .
Jaejoong could have handled the backlash that would have come from breaking his contract with SM Entertainment, he would have scraped to pay it out. He could have handled walking away from the fame to fade into a life of obscurity. He could have handled becoming just another statistic, a has been idol recluse who just couldn’t cut it. He could have handled becoming one of South Korea’s ‘Ghost Mothers’. He could have handled the way he would have been vilified in the media if he had chosen to hide and someone had found out that Kim Jaejoong had given birth. He and Yunho could have handled that all if had been just the two of them.
How Jaejoong had wished it had been just the two of them back then. He could have avoided all the shame and the guilt he had felt when he found out he was pregnant. Well, not the shame, that had been a reaction he couldn’t help. He hadn’t even known he was one of the ‘anomalies’ until the doctor had told him he was expecting.
What a nightmare that had been. He’d been feeling nauseous and out of sorts on and off for weeks before their manager had finally decided it was serious enough to seek medical attention. Four Seasons been gearing up for their second world tour and they could not afford for Jaejoong to be in anything less than perfect shape.
Jaejoong hadn’t believed the results when he’d seen them. Males with the genetic mutation that allowed them to become pregnant, or ‘Anapos’ for ‘anomaly positive’ as they were called, weren’t so rare as to be unheard of but they were rare enough to be considered strange, abominations if the more extremist protesters were asked. Since the 1970s every male child was tested at birth. If Jaejoong was Anapos then he would have known, his parents would have known.
And thus the whole story had come out. Jaejoong was adopted. Those sorts of records were sealed for children given up for adoption so prospective parents wouldn’t be influenced by a child’s genetic status. It had been a trying time, too much for one person to deal with. Jaejoong thought he could have done it on his own, but having Yunho had made everything seem less dire. Yunho had always been adamant that it would all work out for the best.
With everything going on back then there had been no way of keeping his pregnancy a secret from the company. Jaejoong and Yunho had been prepared to be fired. Heechul thought that the company might decide to have Jaejoong secluded, ‘recovering from an unexpected illness’, until the baby was born because Four Seasons made too much money to break them up. They’d all been surprised when neither of those things occurred.
What had happened instead was that Lee Soo Man had had a long discussion with Yunho and Jaejoong about what they wanted, the result of which had resulted in SM Entertainment and all its employees becoming some of the biggest supporters of the Pro Anapos movement in South Korea to the astonishment of everyone and Jaejoong, Yunho, and baby Changmin had been thrust to the front of the campaign.
Their role on The Return of Superman was the latest effort to generate goodwill. The producers had wanted Jaejoong when the show had first started but Four Seasons had been at the beginning of a world tour and none of them had time for the amount of filming the show required. But they must have really wanted them because a few months later when the Jang family had left the show, the producers had contacted SM Entertainment again. They wanted Jaejoong and Changmin.
Jaejoong didn’t know whether to be happy that he was the one they wanted on the show instead of Yunho. The show was supposed to be all about fathers taking care of their children alone and technically Jaejoong was the mother. But he was still a man and Changmin called him appa. Having Jaejoong on the show instead of Yunho was supposed to show that he wasn’t any different from any other parent. But Jaejoong already spent most of his life living under the microscope. Forty-eight hours of cameras in his own home was pushing his limits.
It was pushing Changmin’s limits.
Their son was highly intelligent and hyper aware. Jaejoong might have been projecting Changmin’s unease but Changmin’s unease was a direct reflection of Yunho’s. The man almost hadn’t left yesterday morning. He hadn’t made Jaejoong’s job any easier. Jaejoong was the one left to deal with a surly Changmin when Yunho was gone. Jaejoong had almost shouted at him that morning. If Yunho was just going to act like that then why had he convinced Jaejoong this was a good idea in the first place.
He sighed again and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his palms. He was one day in, he still had another to go.
Jaejoong packed the bundled up Changmin into the backseat of his SUV. Whether or not their excursion to SM Entertainment would brighten or darken Changmin’s mood remained to be seen. Usually, Changmin liked going to work with Jaejoong but he also usually ate well, cleaned up when he was told, and readied himself to go out. All things he hadn’t done this morning, Jaejoong had to fight to get his boots and jacket on and then had to carry his son to their building’s underground garage.
Jaejoong fastened the seat belt around the pouting child and shut the door. He went around to the driver side and got in. He spared a brief glance at the camera attached to the center of the windshield and glanced at Changmin through the rear view mirror. The pout was gone and his son had his Yunho face back on.
Jaejoong gave another internal sigh. He had a feeling he would be doing it all day.
Changmin spent the entire trip staring out the window but occasionally glancing at the cameras. Jaejoong tried to get his son to talk but the five year old kept his mouth shut. He usually had something to say about all the random things Jaejoong spewed even if it was just "why?". He always gave some sort of indication that he was listening to his parent but there was nothing this time.
Jaejoong flashed his company pass at the gate guard and pulled into the parking garage under the SM Entertainment building. Changmin didn't budge when Jaejoong got out of the car and pulled their bags out of the backseat.
He pulled on the backpack full of Changmin stuff and swung the strap of the tote bag over his shoulder before slamming the back door shut. He winced slightly. The last thing he needed to see in the headlines was 'Summer Rages Like the Sun'. The press had a tendency to make mountains out of molehills when it came to celebrities but when it concerned Four Seasons their small ant hills were turned into Mount Everest.
He walked around the front of the car to Changmin door and pulled on the handle. The door didn't open. Jaejoong knocked on the window, "Changmin". Jaejoong could see his son shaking his head through the tinted windows.
Jaejoong spared a discreet glance at the film crew and decided to just unlock the door himself instead of getting into an argument 'Summer Loses His Cool' flashing through his mind. He pulled the door open and with a stern look on his face reached over to unlock Changmin buckle.
He took the boy in his arms and Changmin was quickly wrapped around him, his legs circling Jaejoong's waist as far as they could go and his arms had a vice grip around Jaejoong’s neck. Under normal circumstances Changmin would have demanded to be put down, he hated being carried (Jung Changmin was not a baby thank you very much), but instead of the harsh vocalization Jaejoong had come to expect, Changmin just buried his face in the groove between Jaejoong’s neck and shoulder.
This was a terrible idea, Jaejoong thought as he carried all his excess cargo into the building. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea and he was going to let Yunho have it when this weekend was over. He should never have let his husband talk him into doing this. He could hardly believe that there would be much usable footage when most of it consisted of Changmin hiding. Not literally of course, Changmin rarely ran away from anything, but Jaejoong’s baby was definitely hiding somewhere inside the shell of child he’d been seeing this weekend, something else Changmin had gotten from Yunho.
The Yunho who talked to people other than Jaejoong, Kangin, and Heechul for the first time after learning about Jaejoong's pregnancy was a Yunho hiding behind a mask.
The three of them liked to tease and say that the Saint Yunho in the media who was always sweet, playful and respectful was a Yunho they had never met. More often than not they got the stern, demanding side of Yunho, he was still respectful but he rarely gave in to them they way he did with some others. But then it was difficult being the youngest in a group and still being the leader. Both versions were still Yunho though, not like the stranger Jaejoong watched when they told his family about their relationship and Jaejoong’s pregnancy.
The Yunho whose stayed blank faced in the face of his mother’s confusion and the Yunho whose eyes darkened at the anger Jaejoong could see boiling under the surface of Mr. Jung’s skin and the Yunho who answered all their demanding questions with a calm restrained type of fury was something Jaejoong had never seen before. The Yunho who refused to let Jaejoong sink to his knees when they turned their onslaught towards him and who declared with finality that they had his number and knew where he lived when they were ready to behave in a civilized manner was the mask hiding the Yunho who was hurting inside. Hiding the Yunho who had wanted his parents support and approval more than anything else. Hiding the Yunho Jaejoong wanted to wrap in cotton wool and keep safe from the rest of the unforgiving world.
Jaejoong ignored the questioning looks he got inside the building. He wasn’t the only one who recognized Changmin’s strange behavior, everyone who worked their company knew his son was more independent than most children. He shook his head at the raised eyebrow Yoochun gave him when they entered the recording studio, simply putting Changmin down on one of the sofas and handing his son his backpack.
Park Yoochun was one of SM Entertainment’s solo artists but he also composed many of the company’s hit songs and it was Yoochun who Jaejoong consulted with on all the songs on his upcoming solo album. Over the years he and Jaejoong had become close friends and if anyone was going to ask Jaejoong what was going on then it would be Yoochun but he didn’t, for which Jaejoong was grateful. He might actually have broken down then if the other man had forced him to talk about it.
They simply got to work and if Jaejoong spent most of the recording session distracted Yoochun didn’t mention it.
When they finally paused for a break Jaejoong exited the recording room and headed straight for Changmin. He bent down and picked the child up from the sofa, smoothing a hand over Changmin’s hair at the startled look the boy gave. Changmin once again wrapped himself around Jaejoong’s body.
“I’ll be back in ten minutes.”
Yoochun waved a hand in the air as if to shoo him away, he’d already had his headphones back on and was fiddling with the controls on the sound board.
Jaejoong then turned to the VJ who had been filming and the few staff members in the room. “Can we take a break? Just ten minutes please?”
The man looked from Jaejoong to Changmin who has doing his best to merge himself back into Jaejoong’s body and put the camera down, nodding his head.
With the agreement to stop filming for a while Jaejoong quickly left the studio in search of an empty room. The only one he could find was the small bathroom at the end of one of the hallways. He carried Changmin inside and locked the door behind him. He adjusted Changmin so he could hold his son up with one arm and shut the lid in the toilet with the other.
Jaejoong sat on the closed lid, holding Changmin on his lap. He nudged Changmin back a little so that there was some distance between their bodies and cupped the child’s face in one hand. “How are you?” he asked.
Changmin tried to move back in closer but Jaejoong didn’t let him. “Minnie, talk to me,” he said in a low soothing tone. “How are you?”
Changmin scrunched his nose. “I don’t like them,” he whispered.
Jaejoong didn’t need to ask who ‘them’ was. He moved the hand on Changmin’s cheek up to card it through his son’s hair in comfort. “I know, but it’s just for a little while longer. Just for the weekend and then they’ll be gone.”
Jaejoong felt Changmin’s body shudder. “They’ll come back though. Haru says they always come back.”
Jaejoong made a decision then. It was one he would get hell from his company for but some things were more important than looking good for the public. It wasn’t Jaejoong’s responsibility to to be the face of the Pro Anapos campaign. He was done with it. Changmin’s comfort was more important and if two days of filming and camera crews following them around had made such a huge change in his baby than Changmin was more than just uncomfortable. They could use the footage from this weekend for some kind of special episode but Jaejoong wasn’t having any more of it.
“No, they won’t,” he said.
Changmin frowned and gave a tiny shake of his head. “But daddy said-”
“Hush,” Jaejoong interrupted and and pulled Changmin back into his body. He wrapped his arms around his son’s small frame and rubbed his cheek against Changmin’s hair. “They won’t be back. I promise, okay?”
Changmin’s fingers curled into his shirt but he didn’t say anything.
Jaejoong bounced one leg up to get some acknowledgment. “Okay?”
“Okay,” came a tiny whisper.
“Okay,” Jaejoong repeated firmly.
They sat there like that long enough for Changmin to fall asleep. It was definitely longer than ten minutes and he briefly wondered why no one had come to find them but it wasn’t of much concern to him.
He carefully shifted Changmin so that he could reach into a pocket to pull out his phone without waking his son up. With a few swipes he dialed Yunho and raised the phone to his ear.
“Jaejoong?” Yunho said on the other side of the phone.
“No more,” Jaejoong replied.
“What? What’s wrong?”
“No more, we’re done. No more filming.”
“Jaejoong, you can’t just-”
“Yes, I can.”
“You should see him,” Jaejoong said looking down at the top of Changmin’s head. “He’s not himself. This is too much.”
Yunho sighed audibly through the phone. Jaejoong could imagine him rubbing a hand over his face in exasperation. “Jae, we agreed-”
“No. It’s too much. Tell them we’re done.”
With that he hung up the phone. Yunho could explain everything to their managers. This had all been his brilliant idea in the first place. Yunho sounded angry now but Jaejoong wasn’t too worried. When the man came home, he’d see what this had all done to Changmin. He would agree with Jaejoong. They would go back to their regular lives.
Well, not completely regular. The media would be seeing a lot less of Summer’s Sun in the future. Jaejoong could deal with the fallout from these decisions (one that he would no doubt realize would be much bigger than he was making it out to be now once he had the time to fully think everything through). He just wanted his baby back.