Title: Acts of Succession: Sunderance
Authors: butterflyweb and nemesis_cry
Summary: The death of the Empress splinters more than public opinion.
AN: First in a new story arc, set many years after Acts of Insurrection.
Your queen is dead, your king is through,
She's not coming back to you.
He runs through the palace, harsh winds chilling his tears to icicles, the news having reached him a moment too soon, a moment too late for him to do more.
When at last the doors swing open with a hiss, the scene he meets is not the one he expected. Yunho turns to him, grave and stoic. Jaejoong is crying. Junsu holds his hand, refusing to be shaken off.
"I just heard... did you... did Yoochun?"
Yunho shakes his head slowly. "Yoochun is fine. It's the Empress."
And that's when he notices that the shroud on the bed covers a woman's body. Momentary elation changes to numbing shock.
The Empress is dead.
A strange kind of torpor falls over the empire. The people are in shock, the Guard or what's left of it curbing protests and panic. From their gilded cage on Attica, Jiexi's men feel each shift keenly, as if standing on moving sands that can swallow them up at any moment. It's a strangely appropriate analogy, considering the whispers that paint the halls already, former rebels suddenly left without a symbol, former traitors betraying for a second time.
A kingdom breaking apart.
Jaejoong throws darts into the door, ignoring the eyes boring into his back for as long as he can.
"They want us to kill each other so they don't have to pick," he sighs, glancing at Changmin in the corner, shadows in his eyes.
There's no response. Jaejoong's footsteps are anxious, ringing out on the stone floor as he moves, tugging the darts out forcefully and sending splinters to clatter to the floor.
Changmin sits with elbows on his knees, head hanging and eyes boring into the ground. He hasn't moved in long, long minutes, and Jaejoong's shoulders ache on his behalf.
"Changmin." He's never liked the silence, however often he's used it as a weapon.
"Yunho should lead. He's made for the job." It's spoken with conviction if only the slightest sign of exasperation. It's been days, but one woman's death has turned the world upside down. And now matter how much time they waste, it doesn't feel like they have any to spare.
His suggestion is the right one, the best one. "That's what Yoochun says too." And Junsu, and everyone else..
Changmin meets his eyes, a sharp gaze fixing him. "You don't think so?"
Jaejoong pauses, looks down at the darts in his hands, fingering the sharp tip. "I didn't say that."
Dark eyes watch him, heavy on his skin. "Then what are you saying, Jaejoong?"
One snap of a trigger and that's all it took to end Her Majesty. Yunho - Changmin - is just as fragile. Just as easily brought down like a tree in a storm.
"I think he doesn't want to," Jaejoong replies, throwing the darts into a silver tray and staying the urge to stab, spear, rip apart the world around him.
Changmin rubs his hands over his face, exhaustion carved in the lines of his mouth, the bruises beneath his eyes. "There's no one else. They're looking at us...he's the only one with the experience to lead."
It's true, it's a fact, but the lack of choice has never meant submitting to what they've been given. It didn't mean that back on Elysia and it doesn't mean that here, now. Jaejoong tightens his jaw. "I wouldn't force him," he explains, throat tight because one of them is going to have to step up. One of them will be next in line for the firing squad.
Changmin looks at him, something so hauntingly young in his face, even as he's filled out, as he's lost baby fat and gained height. "Then what do we do? What do we do, Jae?"
The doors open with a hiss, Junsu stalking past them both and falling to the bed like his legs can't hold him up anymore. Like he'll crumple into a heap of bones and disappear like Jiexi.
"The cabinet wants an answer today," he mutters, voice muffled by the pillow. "Yoochun just lost all clout and Yunho isn't talking." He yawns. "Can you guys just wake me when the nightmare ends?"
It's only half-joke.
Jaejoong wanders to sit beside him, needing the comfort of skin. He trails fingers through Junsu's hair, as much for his own benefit as the other man.
"Bastards," he hears the younger man mutter. "They don't want to own the decision--easier to pawn it off onto us."
Changmin doesn't rise from his corner and it's a little sad, a little unnerving, but understandable. Jaejoong strokes a hand over a tired back, under the shirt though it barely helps. Junsu groans and shifts but doesn't push him away so he must be doing something right.
"If it's Yunho," the younger man continues, talking like he's afraid that if he'll stop he'll fall asleep, leave them like Jiexi did when she closed her eyes. "If it's Yunho, it's not like he'll be alone, right? Dark eyes move to fix Changmin. "We'll all be here to help." Unspoken lies the rest: we won't let him die like she died.
It wouldn't be a stretch to assume they feel a part of guilt in the Empress' death belongs to them. She was meant to be immortal - and they were meant to protect her.
Changmin rubs at the back of his neck, voice soft and uncertain.
"If it's Yunho."
Jaejoong opens his mouth to question, something in the younger man's eyes unnerving him when the door creaks.
Yoochun storms in, dark suit and dark circles under his eyes from too many sleepless nights and no peace of mind. He makes a beeline around the bed, heading straight for the liquor panel and pressing the controls blindly. He doesn't seem to care as long as it's alcoholic. Amrit or not, he looks like he wants to check himself out on the world.
Yunho lingers in the doorway for a long time before he follows. "I'm sorry," he breathes, arms folded over his chest.
"Spare me," Yoochun echoes angrily.
Jaejoong feels his heart clench in his chest, watching as Yoochun tips a bottle back past his lips, throat working in quick swallows. Yoochun has never been a drinker, not after his father and what it had done to him. He moves from the bed, meaning to take the bottle from his when his lover spins around, fixing Yunho with a glare.
"So what's your solution? You play at leader until we really need you, until it actually fucking matters?"
Dark eyes flash with hurt but Yunho stands tall, firm like a statue. "I'm not deserting you, but we need to change the system. You can't keep going back and forth between the good and the bad."
"There's no time for a revolution!" Yoochun all but yells back, fingers so tight around the bottle neck that his knuckles have turned white. "By the time we get approval from the council - if we ever do - the empire will be in pieces. It's down to us, the final five... and you're too much of a coward to do what must be done."
Junsu sits up at the remark, but Changmin is quicker to come between them.
"Hey! Cut it out." His hand on Yunho's chest is meant to stave off a response, but it won't be coming. Yunho's eyes say as much, mild to the point of pity.
"Wasn't this what you were fighting for on Elysia? A revolution?"
Yoochun's jaw is tight, Jaejoong's hand on his arm, trying and failing to soothe the corded muscles. "Our cause died with her," he spits. "There's nothing left of it. There's only keeping it from falling apart, from letting another group of power-hungry bastards take the reins." An angry shrug. "But who knows, maybe that's exactly what you want."
Changmin clenches his jaw. This is how they break apart, Jiexi and her old grudges cutting through what makes them strong until there's nothing left. And for what? The preservation of a fucked up world? It couldn't be more of a waste.
"This isn't helping," he hisses, turning to Yunho because it's what he knows to do. The only thing he knows. Look to the leader and pray, hope that he has a way out. "What do you want us to do?"
"Abstain from any vote. Admit we're deadlocked. Make a motion to the council in favor of a political reform."
It sounds so simple. Yunho looks so earnest. But even without Yoochun's snort he knows it's not realistic.
That, for the first time, Yunho's answer isn't the right one.
Silence meets the suggestion, none but Yoochun willing to challenge, to say anything against a man they trust with such depth, such devotion. Jaejoong can only look away, the tension in the room palpable in the silence.
"Changmin." Yunho's voice is quiet. Even. "You know this is the right move."
He bites his tongue in three places, the touch of hands against his shoulders fatherly and intimate all at once, gentle and stronger than he can stand.
"If we delay, the council will stop trusting us and-" Yunho's gaze slides to the ground, defeated. "-and without a council, there's anarchy." The pangs of guilt hit him deep and strong, a little like betrayal, like being back on Elysia and hearing Yunho tell him he wished the crash had ended his life.
"That's a soundbite, Changmin, not substance," the other man snaps and it stings just as deep the second time around.
He jerks free of him. "I'm not risking the empire on a hunch, Yunho." Fists clench, determination settling in to replace fear. "And if you don't do this, then I will," he adds, the ultimatum sinking like a stone in a deep well.
Yunho's jaw is tight with anger, gaze unflinching. "Don't be a fool."
"The empire needs a leader, even if he's just a figurehead," he retorts sharply, meeting his own promise head on. It doesn't help that he can't see the others, can't guess their expressions. No one's ever considered him a leader before. Maybe they don't want him.
Maybe they do and then the bluff will backfire.
"You do it, or I do."
Yunho stares at him, something shuttering off behind his eyes. "You won't blackmail me into this, Changmin. You want to play the court's dummy, set yourself up to get killed, then fine. You'll do it without me." His voice is ice.
One of the others lays a hand on his shoulder. He shakes it off.
"Then I will."
He doesn't want to. This isn't how Yunho is supposed to react, but fuck, the other man has always been stubborn and he won't give in. His pride is too big to let him and it'll cost him the empire - and his lovers. It's not a premonition, it's just logic.
Yunho's smile digs between his ribs, the expression ugly on the other man's handsome features.
"Of course. Your Majesty."
The words are spat at him, Yunho turning to the door, shrugging off Junsu as the younger man moves to catch his arm. Changmin is shaking, but keeps his jaw fixed, shoulders straight.
What the hell has he done?
"Thank you," Yoochun tells him and the bottle is gone from his hand, the expression he bears almost reason enough for Changmin to absolve himself of any guilt. The lesser of two evils. It's not what he should've said and done, but it's all he could.
Jaejoong says nothing, his eyes dark and full of questions.
Yunho doesn't come back.
Neither does Junsu.
He has bruises under his eyes from lack of sleep, hair flat and sticking to his forehead from sweat and the grime of the city air. Passing over the credits to wrinkled hands, he waits for the clack of keys to finish, a pair of holochips passed over the greasy counter.
"The transport to Annwn is boarding in docking bay C6," the bored clerk drawls, motioning to the next passenger with fingers tipped in overgrown nails.
Junsu pockets the chips, movements slow as his brain tries to wake up from the nightmare this has become.
The spaceport is crowded, billboards flashing names and faces, news from the palace coloring every news report. It's depressing, because he's one of the people now, but he knows just how much the real information is filtered out of the media. How tightly everything is controlled.
Skirting a news stand, he nods to Yunho, though the other man's eyes barely meet his.
"They've caught the assassin and executed him in an hour," he mutters, disgust dripping with every word. "There goes the scapegoat..."
There's no reply, Yunho staring straight ahead into the crowd, looking through the people rather than at them. Junsu fights the frustration bubbling up in his throat, pressing a boarding chip into Yunho's hand, even as he prays he won't have to use it.
The former Captain sighs and rubs his temples. "Bay?"
"C6," he replies, too used to following orders that he doesn't think to lie. It would be useless. Yunho can leave them just fine without his help. "Yunho..."
"You should stay on Attica." Yunho isn't joking. "They'll need you here."
Junsu looks down at his hands, staring at his fingers as they twist together, knotted in his own frustration.
"You shouldn't leave." It's quiet, but honest. "But if you are, then so am I."
He won't let any of them be alone, no matter how much it cuts at him.
Yunho doesn't say it's okay, that he won't abandon them and for the first time, Junsu rather needs the reassurance. He refrains from saying so, because the years haven't cured him of the old ways, of ranks and hierarchy built into his lover.
Stomach twisting, he trails him through the spaceport. They're really leaving. A few days ago, they were all together and happy and now the world is fracturing and they're running away. He tries not to judge but it hurts too much to see the ship that waits for them - so similar to the Cerberus in size and make that for a moment, he's back to running from the Guard to find his dead friend.
Except there's nothing waiting for them this time.
Nothing but loneliness.
Loyally, he follows Yunho onto the ship, squeezing between rows of travelers and grasping the older man's hand. He won't lose him.
Yunho's expression doesn't change, the blank mask fixed and firm, but Junsu watches his throat work, fingers tangling with his own.
We'll be together again soon, he promises himself, not allowing himself to look back.
He almost believes it.
Jaejoong stands behind him, shadow and spy all at once, looking over his shoulder at the long table and the faces gathered all around. Yoochun sits on his right, two empty seats in front of him. No one mentions them, but no one can ignore them ether.
A paper is pushed towards him. "The council agrees with your succession to the throne." The page nods, withdrawing with head bowed as if he's speaking to royalty.
Belatedly, Changmin realizes he is.
"You have to sign, Your Majesty." Yoochun doesn't smile.
The words carry all and none of the vitriol Yunho delivered with them, but he still feels them stick under his skin like shards of glass. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. He doesn't want this. Can't do this.
His hand is unsteady as he picks up the pen.
The ink wells up as he presses the tip to the paper, pulse thudding in his ears, and with a deep breath, he signs his name, ending in the flourish he was taught by countless tutors, a mark of professionalism and high birth. He drops the pen on the table pushes the papers forward.
The council rises, he doesn't look at them, doesn't heed the formality, the bullshit he's signed up for. He doesn't know how to do it alone, even with Jaejoong's hand on his arm and Yoochun's steady gaze. They're as lost as he is, they just won't admit it.
"Your people await, my Lord," Jaejoong murmurs in his ear, laying a protective hand on his back to steer him to the balcony, the gathered crowd - either out of curiosity or army intervention or propaganda, he doesn't know nor cares to ask.
Shamefully, he hopes Yunho and Junsu are down there somewhere. It's the only way he can bring himself to the edge, heart thudding in his chest. This is where Jiexi died. This is where he stands.
Yoochun flanks his side. "There's a shield in place," he whispers under his breath, voice almost drowned out by the crowds cheering or booing or screaming in fear below. "You're safe."
He nods, wanting to reach for his hand, wanting to anchor himself, but forcing him to stay strong, stay separate. Like Yunho would.
"Don't leave," he tells them quietly, even as he knows his words are lost to the roar.
Protocol says they should withdraw, leave the Emperor to greet his subjects - Jiexi wouldn't even have admitted to be followed this far - but they linger, oblivious to the sycophants behind them hissing their disapproval. Rules were meant to be disobeyed, tradition must be changed, if possible.
Yunho, he thinks, would approve.
Hands rise from the stone banister. The roar reaches a crescendo. Changmin bites his lip to hold back a scream. Enough. Enough lies and deceit, why won't you people wake up? Why do you need another victim to crucify?
He's not a leader, a ruler. He's a pilot. He's Shim Changmin, hotshot when he's in a fighter, a reasonably good shot when he's not. He knows mathematics and starcharts and formations and he knows the way Yoochun likes to be touched, the way Jaejoong kisses in the mornings, between dreams and the real world. The way Junsu laughs when no one else does.
The way Yunho held him just last week, all sweat and quivering muscle.
The way he feels now: lost, afraid. Convinced that he's going to screw this up.
"I... can't..." Two pairs of arms reach for him, pulling him back inside, shoving elderly councilmen out of the way. Changmin closes his eyes, feels feverish, tired. A little like dying.
A cool hand slides over his nape, lips against his ear and he's not sure who speaks, but he takes comfort in the words.
"It's okay. It's okay, we're here."
It doesn't get easier after the first hours. Requests are handed to him, people make demands and he doesn't know how to handle it, doesn't want to be the one to say no. In a couple of years he might have been ready, he might've understood the empire better. But it's too soon and Jiexi's secrets are only surfacing.
Worn out and alone, he sits at the council table, looking through orders of execution. He's never seen them before, but they all bear the Empress' sigil. What else did she hide from them?
Hundreds of names on dozens of systems, nearly all with a title or rank to precede them. Changmin touches the place where his dogtags used to hang, the action still unconscious after all this time, even though they've not be under his touch for years. He knows that Yunho still wears them, the tags inside his pocket and the chain around his neck--never a man to let go of his pride just because someone told him to. Changmin shakes his head, forcing away thoughts of the older man, for his own sanity.
He shuffles through a few more papers, disgust coiling in his stomach before his fingers catch on the edge of one, a name standing out at him in bold.
Admiral Shim Changhee.
The paper falls from his hands.
He ambles through the halls, checking the security protocols, making sure their bodyguards are who they say they are. Changmin will not be another Jiexi, he won't fail him like he failed her.
Trying the locking system on the council room, he sees the code is broken, that someone is inside. Against his better judgment, he lets that thing Jaejoong trusts so much - instinct - guide him forth, side arm still holstered.
"Changmin?" In different circumstances, he might've called out 'Yunho'.
His younger lover sits hunched over a wide desk, head in his hands, shoulders rigid with tension. He doesn't reply.
Yoochun takes a few more steps forward, coming to a halt at the edge of the desk, hesitating.
"Did you know about this?" his lover grits out through clenched teeth, anger in every word, and for a moment, it's like they're back on Elysia, enemies once more. A piece of paper is shoved towards him, Changmin turning away before he can see if he's crying, if he's horrified. Some kind of indication of what it is he's supposed to know.
Fingers turn the offending object over. It's a list of names. A long list. He doesn't recognize any.
"No... what is it?"
It's the wrong thing to say, Changmin standing from his chair, eyes red with anger and the tears that stain his cheeks. "It's your Empress's hit list," he growls, snatching the paper from him, fingers curled into fists. "Her execution orders for half of the Guard." The younger man's throat works, eyes still pinning Yoochun in place.
"For my father."
Yoochun gapes, hands grasping the edge of the desk because he didn't know, he didn't know and that still doesn't make it okay. Throat working, he tries to find his breath, fails, tries again with the sting of betrayal heavily embedded somewhere in his solar plexus. She was supposed to have rewarded them.
"When was it sent out?" he suggests, quietly. "Maybe... maybe it didn't go through."
Maybe, he thinks, he deserved it.
His gaze slides to the table, guilty as charged. The Guard was once everything he hated - is, now, everything he loves.
"She did it last month," Changmin thunders. "It's done." His laugh is bitter, stone cold. Unlike anything Yoochun has ever heard from him. "She exterminated what was left of my family... all for the greater good, right?"
He swallows hard, saliva sticking in his throat like tar. "Changmin..."
"Don't talk to me like I'm a child!" he snaps, the chair tumbling to the ground. "You've made me fucking Emperor, Yoochun! This is your--" He catches himself, teeth bared in a snarl but the last years not so far gone that he has forgotten.
It still stings. "My fault?" Yoochun finishes for him. His voice sounds flat, even to his own ears. "I didn't kill your father."
Shoulders shake with the tension in them. "No. You just fucking worshiped the woman who did."
Did you forget what happened on the Acheron? Did you forget what your friends did to me? he wants to scream, biting his tongue to hold back the words. Two wrongs don't make a right Jaejoong would tell him. The same Jaejoong who has put bullets into heads indiscriminately since - all in the name of justice. Retribution.
They're not just empty words.
"I'm sorry," he breathes, rounding the desk with tentative steps. "I have to believe that she had a reason for doing what she did... even if I don't understand it."
Changmin laughs, the sound jagged and empty as it falls from his lips. "I do. Vengence. She wasn't above it, above any of it. She put them all to death in the name of politics and revenge."
Yoochun wants to shakes him, to remind him of the past few decades of history, of the thousands the Guard slaughtered in the name of a New Order. This is a war, he wants to hiss, either you're on the right side, or you end up dead. Instead, he clenches his fists as tight as he can, trying to weed out the anger. He doesn't need to remind him, doesn't need to say--
"Ever think... ever think she did it for us? Her people?" It escapes him anyway, thick with resentment and cold, hard hate.
It gets him an ugly smile in return.
"It just goes to show that we're not her people," he retorts, gesturing at the lists, the papers spread over the desk. "That I'm not. Never was, never will be." He shakes his head, smacking a fist off of the wall in a sudden flare of anger. "Who knows how far this goes? A lot of good people were loyal to the Guard. And if they turn up dead, if I find their names on this fucking list, will you still stand by her? Still take comfort in the fact that she murdered families for you and Jaejoong?"
"No, of course not," he denies, wondering if somewhere inside he's not a little fucked up for excusing everything that woman did. Every decision, every order. "She did what had to be done to consolidate her rule, Changmin. You of all people know how loyal the Guard can be, she couldn't risk--"
"My father was a sixty year old man! Gray hair, walking stick, not exactly the revolutionary type."
Yoochun hisses under his breath, running hands through his hair in frustration.
"What do you want me to say, Changmin?"
The younger man smacks a hand down on the desk, the action echoing with a sharp crack through the cavernous room. "I want you to stop fucking defending her! She's dead! And good fucking riddance!"
"No." He can't. He won't. "Without her I'd have died on Elysia. No." He owes the woman a debt unto death and he won't give that up because she's gone.
Changmin folds his arms over his chest. "Bullshit. She didn't save you, she used you. Like she did everyone else."
"No." It's simple as that. Evident.
The younger man snarls at him, stepping forward with quick strides until he's in Yoochun's face, tapping at his temple. "Don't lie to me. I've seen it. Saw her manipulate you, buy you off with promises she never intended to keep. She thought of you as animals, as tools to further her fucking cause."
The sound of a slap rings out hollow in the empty room.
Yoochun can't feel the sting until the blow has fallen and then it's too late. He can't take it back. It's treason and so much worse at the same time. It's hitting Junsu again, except this time he knew exactly what he was doing.
Dark eyes meet his coldly. "Truth hurts, doesn't it? You thought she cared, she did it for you... do you know she wanted to fuck you? And later, Yunho? Do you know she would've let you die on the Acheron?" A hand grabs his shirt, stopping him from trying to leave. "I've seen everything. I know what she was. Not a messiah, just a fucked up, bitter old woman."
He clenches his teeth so tightly he can hear his jaw creak, is certain it will pop out of place. "Shut up, Changmin. I'm warning you, s-shut your fucking mouth." His accent distorts the words, trips over them, thickening as emotion takes hold of him. Pure, white-hot anger and betrayal.
"You're warning me?" the other man laughs, the sound echoing off the walls. "I'm your Emperor, Yoochun. Don't fucking tell me what to do."
And it's true, he is, but he's so much more besides. He matters more than a distant ruler. It hurts more.
"Guess now we know why you got rid of Yunho," he shoots back, words sharper than fists. "Wanted your taste of power. Well guess what, Changmin, no one fucking wanted you. Emperor? You're a figurehead and a last resort." He teeth bare in a cruel smile, even as he hates himself for playing this game. Fighting this fight. "Familiar, isn't it?"
He doesn't hear the click of the plasma rifle charging until the muzzle is pressed to his stomach, Changmin's gaze blurred by water, his jaw set in determination. Gods damn him, he has quick hands to've removed Yoochun's own gun and turned it against him.
"Get the fuck out," he whispers darkly. "Get out."
Something inside him is cracking, buried deep under the thick tar of his fury, under the metal that prods his belly. He knows that the tears will taste hot on his skin, bitter with salt once he leaves this room and releases them. His hands find Changmin's shoulders, shoving him backwards. Uncaring of the gun, because at this point, a plasma wound is almost preferable.
He has no parting words, nothing to say to the man who not weeks ago, had been smiles and laughter and love.
Who is now blind hate.
Junsu doesn't cry. His lips form a fine line, tight to hold back his words, but he doesn't cry. Yunho is thankful.
The burnt ruins of must've once been beautiful homes line the street like landmarks.
"How did you know to come here?" the younger man calls to him, breaking his self-imposed silence.
Yunho shrugs. "Call it a hunch." Hoped I was wrong. It's a hope that's been fervent and frequent these pasts years.
The soft dusk of the planet chills his skin, even through a jacket, but he doesn't notice it, doesn't focus on the sea winds blowing his hair around his face, stinging his eyes. His boots are loud through the debris, crunching on broken glass and incinerated brick. Annwn had been a gem of the Guard's rule, a home of the nobility and those of prestige within the military's ranks. An easy target for the outlet of Jiexi's rage.
Junsu's voice is thick from unshed tears when he speaks. "You think...his family?"
A hand reaches back, waits for Junsu to take it. The terrain gets difficult from here on out, both figuratively and not. The villas here have been turned to hollow shells, glass and metal and bricks on the ground, silken folds from a curtain, a dress blowing in the wind like a flag waiving goodbye. So much destruction.
"Don't know," he replies more gently. He's not sure, but it's evident. Why else burn a home that could've been reused?
It's Jiexi's punishment; thoughtless, cruel. Final.
"I thought Annwn was supposed to be beautiful..." Junsu murmurs. "It's worse than the slums on Elysia."
Yunho closes his eyes for a brief moment, imagines that Changmin spoke of his homeworld with pride when they were boys. When it had been something to boast about.
"It was. I was here...a long time ago. But it was every bit as beautiful as people said." Now it's simply the product of war and strife, inherting the suffering of those who didn't emerge the victors.
Junsu releases his hand. "How didn't we know? We should've... We didn't do anything to stop it."
"No, we didn't." Yunho moves on, into the ruins, as far as he can go without feeling he's violating a sacred sanctum. Until he sees the bodies and his throat closes up uncomfortably. He turns, blocking Junsu's view. Not because he thinks the younger man can't handle it, but because Junsu has seen enough of the death of good people.
"Let's head back," he tells him quietly. "We need to find a place intact that we can stay the night in."
"Why? What is it--" The other man frowns, not taking easily to Yunho's sudden change of mood. Eyes dart over his shoulder, searching the rubble in the half light like it bears the answer. And it does.
Yunho cups his cheek with a warm hand. "They're dead, Su-ah. We should go." Leave them in peace is what he means.
Junsu closes his eyes, the struggle in him obvious and Yunho closes his eyes, presses their foreheads together briefly.
"They deserve a proper burial, don't they? They deserve..."
Yunho clutches his shoulder. "They're beyond our help now," he tells him when instead he means they've had enough help from the hands of traitors. That's what they are, after all.
Hardened by the years, by everything he's seen, Junsu fixes him with a cautious glare. "You have to tell Changmin."
Yunho's features shutter, hand falling from Junsu's shoulder, moving past him. "I'm sure he knows by now. The Emperor has access to a wealth of information." It's cold, and unfeeling, and part of him hates himself for it. The other half just puts its head down and soldiers on.
"Bullshit," Junsu snorts. "If you won't, I will." And it's Changmin's words, shot back, twisted, but vehement and without artifice. It's Junsu saying them and believing every syllable. He shoves past him, angry and determined like Yunho has never known him before and he remembers an eternity ago when they thought Changmin was dead. When without Junsu he wouldn't have known what to do.
Legs heavy like lead, he falls into step beside him, not really knowing where they go. Just that it's not back to Attica.
To where they belong.