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[personal profile] wild_terrain
Title: The Beacon; My Siren
Author: wild_terrain (iefi_chan)
Banner (Made beautifully by love_cassiopeia
):


  PART TWO
  


The mood was still wonderful when we woke up in the morning. It took us hours to even leave the bed. We were too busy just lying together and feeling each other’s warmth.

It started with me waking up in his arms. Nothing disturbed us until he felt a headache come on and left for a few minutes to pop some pills into his mouth. He insisted he was okay though and crawled back into bed as soon as he was done. He scooped me back up into his arms and left kisses on my neck.

A little later when I heard his soft breath, I realized he had fallen asleep again so I turned around and curled around him instead. I pressed my chest to his back and caressed the warm skin of his arms. They curled down onto the mattress in front of him and I stroked each little hair in long and gentle caresses from his elbow to his wrist. Then I brought my hand up and stroked the light brown strands of his hair. I had forgotten for a moment that his dark locks were gone when I first woke up. The honey tone was even lovelier bathed in the light of day.

Whoever had coloured his hair had done a nice job—I hadn’t realized last night but there was more than one shade of brown. Hazelnut coffee mixed into caramel and I leaned closer to see if it smelled as good. It just smelt like hair and Yunho but I smiled all the same. However he chose to present himself, I could never do anything but adore him.

I brushed the strands into place and then let my arm rest over his again. I found his hand and left soft circles over his skin. It made him laugh when he woke up later to find himself receiving such special treatment. It wasn’t often that he was the one wrapped up and cuddled whilst we slept.

Making breakfast together was a different kind of fun. We stood at the counter and tried to interfere with each other as much as possible. He’d try and block me from reaching my toast when it popped up so I’d find ways to get him back. When he reached for a spread, I’d wait for the perfect moment to pull it toward me and leave his knife hovering in thin air. Then he’d use his hip to bang into me and push me aside to steal the jar back. So I’d push him even further away with my hip until we’d both end up laughing.

Soon our knives lay abandoned and he held my hands hostage behind my back with his. I just couldn’t break free no matter how hard I writhed and cursed his going to the gym. I blamed the laughter—it was hard to apply strength and wrestle out of a tight hold when your body was simultaneously convulsing with giggles.

Our little handcuff dance took us all over the room in a flurry of twitching bodies and a haze of laughter until I was pushed onto the bed with a beaming smile from Yunho. I gave up and stayed lying under him, catching my breath. He was satisfied with my acquiescence and returned to the kitchen counter—which he could now claim all for himself. And so I watched him spread the jam over his toast with that smile that only grew wider. I rolled my eyes when I even got a victory dance sent towards me from his wriggling butt. He tossed a look over his should to make sure I was watching and then rolled his butt around some more. I shook my head in mock disgust then got up and smacked it all too gladly. He ignored me so I reached up to poke him just under his ribs where I knew he was ticklish. He gave a start in my arms. I moved away to my own toast, smug to the bones with the contentment of claiming the last laugh.

I took a bite into my peanut butter masterpiece and closed my eyes. It was impossible not to cherish the way it melted into the warm bread. I held it out for Yunho to try. He let me nibble on his strawberry creation as he bit into mine and I smiled at him as I chewed. It was a simple exchange but it made my heart soar. It was like someone had come last night and sprinkled a blessing over me and the café. Yunho showing up had been enough of a gift, but to then discover this much happier version of himself… It was all I could have ever wanted.

When we had packed away breakfast and washed up, Yunho suggested a hike and I could have started crying right then and there. As he sat down on the edge of the bed, tying his boot laces with such enthusiasm and excitement, my eyes did grow moist. I blinked the tears away so I could cherish the image in front of me. My life in the past few months had been a depressing blur but now I wanted to see the world with perfect vision and capture every moment of it.

The wind blew his light brown hair around as we walked outside. He looked beautiful. The sun made his cheeks glow a toastier brown and that spark was back in his eyes. It was a transformation I could scarce believe. I almost tripped over a few rocks when my eyes refused to leave his face.

We made our usual visit to our rock but this time Yunho held me close and kissed me. It wasn’t just one kiss but two or three. Birds tweeted their curiosity and called to one another across the trees. I was once like them but I didn’t need to yell across distances anymore—I had my soul mate safe and close by in my arms.

He pulled back to stare at me. His eyes raked mine and then he leaned in close to leave a soft kiss on my mouth. “It’s so nice up here,” he said. I couldn’t agree more. “I missed this,” he gestured around. “I couldn’t understand why that love for all this wasn’t there anymore whenever I woke up.” He sighed. “I felt so empty without this… Yet I felt empty doing it. I am so glad it’s back.”

I nodded and smiled.

“Thank you for trying to give it back to me. I know I wasn’t all that receptive… You kind of had to lug me up here too. It means a lot that you cared that much.”

He stepped away to survey the blue ocean below us. The waves were louder up here by the cliff. Despite our terrible record with them I couldn’t hate it—and the noise was almost peaceful. As Yunho looked down at the dark blue abyss, I looked at him. Even though he looked deep in thought, with a slight furrowing of his brow forming, he still looked more at peace than I had seen him in a long time. The magic was continuing.

“It’s such a nice day,” he spoke again after a few minutes. Then he closed his eyes and took a big whiff of the salty air. “I’ve still got to update you on the things that I’ve found out about myself but it would be so nice to have one day where I can forget all that and just enjoy everything here. And you.” He opened his eyes and with a smooth turn of his head, gave me a smile.

“That’s fine,” I shrugged. “We have plenty of time to talk.”

His eyes melted into happiness at my understanding and then he took my hand and we were off again, walking higher with the world beneath our feet.

The day ended as nice as it started. Yunho took me out to dinner. The restaurant was a fifteen minute walk from Café JaDe but was lit up beautifully. The lights hiding between leaves were small and a mixture of blue and white. They twinkled when the breeze brushed across the leaves and made them dance.

Tonight Yunho was prepared for everything. He may have been scatterbrained on occasion, but the real reality was that when it came to the outdoors he thought of everything. There was a moment when I felt my ankle itching. The second I bent to scratch it, Yunho reached into his jacket and pulled out mosquito spray. The smell was strong but was soon overpowered by our steaming plates when they were brought out. We washed our meal down with some wine and then took a long walk hand in hand back home.

The café was quiet when we wandered up. I let us in and then felt a calloused hand reach out for mine. My palm curled around his and I was lead upstairs. I reached out for the light but was stopped by a warm hand that tugged my shirt up, over my back. I closed my eyes and waited for the hands to touch my naked skin. My body shivered when I finally felt him and then our naked bodies were intertwining again and rocking the bed.

The warmth of my orgasm and his arms nudged me to sleep soon after and behind closed eyes blue and white lights twinkled…

I woke up a few hours later. Everything was dark and silent, save for the few bugs that were buzzing outside. There was a stillness to the room that didn’t feel right. My eyes widened when I couldn’t feel a body next to me.

Blinking away some of my sleepiness, I slowly turned around. There was a shadow on the mattress, a silhouette I could slightly make out of someone lying on the very edge. I flicked some hair away from my face and stared at the dark lump. I moved onto my elbow and stayed there for a long moment as the distance sank in.

Yunho had his back to me. He was curled up tight. I drew closer and found him asleep, but when I gently touched his cheek it was wet. I froze and for a long moment my chest felt heavy.

As gently as I could I brushed his hair back and then curled around him. He had wanted space but the blankets were no longer covering his naked body. I didn’t know what had happened; I didn’t know what was wrong…but I would be selfish and hold him close.

Suddenly I didn’t want to go to sleep anymore. Today had been perfect; a dream. But what if I woke up, just like now, and found it all gone? What if the smiles had been a one day deal only? I couldn’t bear it if he couldn’t get out of bed again…


I heard crackling and opened my eyes. Sun was washing yellow across the room and Yunho’s broad, honey-toned back bent forward in front of me over the bedside table. I could hear him drinking water. I reached out to touch his back and the glass made a small clank against the wood when he set it back down. His back slid under my palm as he moved to lie down again.

I saw the gleam of crinkled silver near the water he had abandoned. “Another headache?” I asked quietly and he turned to face me with a small smile.

“Kind of...”

I nodded in sympathy and reached out to stroke his cheek. His smiled wider and closed his eyes. “That feels nice.”

“Does it?”

“Mmhmm.”

I smiled and moved my hand up to stroke his hair too.

“That feels doubly nice.”

I laughed softly. “You mean extra nice?” Then I paused, “It doesn’t make your headache worse?”

“I don’t really have much of a headache anymore.”

I let him relax underneath my fingers. It was a nice feeling—that I could do this for him. But bit by bit I felt my smile fade when last night started coming back to me. He seemed at peace now—as normal as yesterday morning. It was like the last night had been a dream. Maybe it had been.

“At this rate I’m going to fall asleep again,” he murmured.

“Is that bad?”

“It could be… The day shouldn’t be wasted.”

“It wouldn’t be.”

He opened his eyes and looked up at me, then gave a small laugh. “That’s cute.” I hummed in agreement and he shook his head at me in amusement. Then with a groan he got up and stumbled into the bathroom.

I pulled the sheets off the bed as he showered. The edge of one floated through the air as I lifted it and knocked Yunho’s tablets off the bedside table. I bent to pick them up then stopped at what I felt beneath my fingers. The bumps of the packaging were tiny. Nothing like any aspirin I had ever used.

I held the packet up close and read the little black text displayed all over the broken silver foil. They were strange words—long and scientific, completely foreign. They were the strangest tablets I had ever seen. And judging from all the empty spaces, Yunho had almost had all of them.

I put the packet back next to the glass of water and gathered up the sheets. By then it was my turn for the shower. When I came back out our bed was made. I turned to Yunho and smiled. “A little fairy’s been busy.”

“Mm. Must have been the same fairy who stripped the sheets off.”

I laughed and ran a brush through my wet hair.

“Are you up for a bike ride today?” he asked.

I raised my eyebrow. “I suppose so.”

“I haven’t ridden in ages--not counting the spin bikes at the gym. I suppose the last proper time was when you…” his voice faltered a little, “when you were at the hospital. Not brilliant memories... But the guy I’ve been seeing told me it’s important to do things I’m uncomfortable with to make room for happier associations so…riding might be good. Maybe we can stop and get an ice cream or something on the way.”

I could only nod. “Sure. That sounds fine.”

“Awesome.” He shot me a big smile and for a moment I was almost blinded by it. Then an odd feeling filled me. He was smiling so brightly again and last night he had been crying. In fact, before this visit he had been crying far more than he used to. It was strange. I had resigned myself to never seeing that sunny smile again, and for months I hadn’t. How could it suddenly be back?

I listened to Yunho hum as he opened up the fridge and reached for the water jug. The last time he had been here, he had barely made it out of bed by himself and now he was humming and dragging me out on bike rides?

My stomach started to feel that heavy feeling again. I hated not understanding what was going on, I hated never being able to keep up with him. Far be it from me to question the return of this glorious, happy Yunho but it just did not feel natural. Or possible.

I closed my eyes and gripped my head. What was going on? I just didn’t understand!

I tried to breathe deep but it was seeming impossible. Then something pinged in my mind and I saw it—the tablets.

I glanced at Yunho. He was still busy with the water jug, refiling his drink bottle up. Good. I made my way over to the bedside table and found it cleared of everything. With a slight frown I slowly and quietly opened up the draw beneath and found what I was looking for. I slipped the tablets into my bag and zipped it up.

We went cycling as planned and when Yunho stopped to go buy us some ice cream I dug around my bag to further examine the crumpled foil littering my bag. It hadn’t been my imagination; the capsules looked thin and flat. I had seen Yunho taking these every day. Every morning to be exact—maybe more times that I hadn’t witnessed as well. That meant at most this was a 24-hour drug.

I saw a figure walking back over to me carrying two big waffle cones and I quickly dropped the packet back into my bag. “This is so good, Joongie!” Yunho called, his shadow reaching the bench. “Though I…er…kinda sampled both of them. Sorry.” He seemed more amused than sheepish though, if his laugh told me anything.

“You just couldn’t help yourself, could you?”

“Nope,” he grinned. “I like ice cream.”

“And cookies.”

“And cookies,” he agreed, forfeiting the strawberry cone in his right hand. I hadn’t heard him verbalise his love of cookies in a while either. Those drugs must be powerful. “You know,” he continued, “I could really do with a few cookies later. Not now of course,” he laughed, licking a bit of cookies and cream ice cream from his mouth.

“Is that so?”

“Yep.” He turned mock-suspicious eyes on me. “What are you looking at me like that for?”

“Nothing,” I shrugged.

“You say ‘nothing’ but your eyes are saying something else.”

“Like what?”

“Fat pig.”

I let out a long laugh. He did have me there.

“I can’t help it,” he whined. I tried not to find it absolutely adorable that he’d managed to get more ice cream on his chin that stuck like a creamy goatee as he spoke. “You know, I’ve had a really big appetite lately.”

I know, your cheeks are puffing out again, I almost said but didn’t. I didn’t want to offend the guy. He might not have viewed that as a good thing. “Your appetite is good. Means you’ll grow up nice and strong.” I glanced at him from the side of my eyes, “Well, stronger than you already are.”

He let out a proud chuckle. “Yeah. I could lift you with my pinky.”

“Not that strong,” I said with the roll of my eyes.

He crunched down on his waffle cone with shining eyes and for a long moment I found myself mesmerised all over again. I forced myself to remember the tablets in my bag. This wasn’t real. This was fake. I couldn’t let myself be fooled.

Back home I took my brush and fixed up the tangles in my hair. The helmet had not been kind today… When I came out of the bathroom, I found Yunho bent over the bedside table. He had a phone charger in his hand but had grown distracted from his mission over something—and I knew exactly what that something was. I thought I’d have more time to examine the drugs that Yunho had been putting into his body but Yunho had discovered their absence quicker than I had anticipated.

I had a moment of guilt but took some deep breaths and willed the nerves away. “What ‘you looking for?”

“My tablets. I swear they were here.” He didn’t even pause in his search to glance behind at me.

I took another deep breath. “The ones you used for your headache?”

“Mm.” He stood up straight, his hands resting on his hips.

“Does it matter that much?”

I heard him sigh. “Yes. It does actually.”

“You have another headache?”

Something in my tone, perhaps the accusatory part, made him turn around and look at me. “No. Not at the moment. Just wondering where they are.”

“That’s good.”

He didn’t say anything back, just stared at me. His gaze left my cheeks red. Well that blew everything.

“Did you…?”

I opened my mouth but I paused too long and he cut me off. “Did you have a headache? Did you take any? Because—”

I quickly cut in to end his concern. “No, I didn’t use them for anything.”

He looked relieved. “Then…why?”

I shrugged.

He frowned for a long moment. “So you figured it out, huh?” I held his gaze but swallowed anyway. No point denying it. “Okay…” he nodded. “Please give them back though.”

“Why?”

“Because they are important.”

“Because they help you stay in this form? Coz eventually they start to wear off and you start reverting back to your actual state?”

He was silent.

“Why are you trying to fool me with them? What is the purpose?”

“Fool you? I wasn’t fooling you. I was waiting for… Well, I guess now is as good a time as any to explain everything. But first can you please give them back?”

He was so determined… So obsessed. And the more determined he got, the closer I felt myself reaching my breaking point. “What for? You can’t just try and pretend that you’re my old Yunho. I already figured you out.”

His face looked ashen. “I’m not pretending.”

“Really? At night your magic pill wears off and your cursed body comes back—”

“Cursed is a little harsh—”

“Is it? I know you’re cursed, Yunho. I’ve known for a long time. I knew the last bit of you would trickle away when you went back home. And sure enough, you barely spoke to me there. I have no idea who the hell you are now but you can’t come back pretending to be him, thinking that some magic pill will restore the old Yunho long enough for me not to notice. So what is this? What the hell do you want? I don’t know what you’re trying to achieve but—”

“What the hell are you talking about?” His voice held a quiet anger that I hadn’t heard in a long time.

I ignored him. “Are you going to kill me using him since everything else failed? Or just flaunt your possession and his demise?”

“JaeJoong, you are really starting to scare me. What the hell are you talking about? I am standing right here! So knock it off with that freaky third person talk!”

“I said stop it!” I yelled. “Stop teasing me with this false hope that everything will be okay again. You have no idea how much I wished it was. No, you do. Of course you do. That’s why you’re doing this to me.”

“What exactly am I doing to you?”

“Trying to take away every form of happiness I have!” I yelled so hard little tears pricked the side of my eyes. And then I couldn’t look at him anymore. My body swung and I was faced with empty air. “What did I ever do to you… You…evil, horrid thing! I was just a kid. You already took everything away from me! You made everyone disappear. You left me to be alone. And then when the impossible happened and this amazing man noticed me and made me happy again, you squeezed all the joy out of him and I couldn’t do a thing to stop you. I had to watch him start to break. His tears still haunt me. Thanks to me he was punished.”

It was getting harder to let any words out but I could no longer keep them locked away. It was beyond my strength now. “I’m sorry!” I yelled into the air. “Whatever I did as a kid to make you so mad, I am sorry!” I took a shuddering breath and tried to stop myself from shaking. The boundaries between five and twenty-five were slipping away. I felt so small, so lost. But most of all I felt so…

“I’m beyond scared. Isn’t that enough?” I closed my eyes and felt the dampness spreading over my cheeks. “I’m scared so far down I don’t know how I keep breathing.”

I felt my body sink onto the floor and my legs bend until I was seated. The rug felt soft under my hands, but more than anything it was just nice to feel something stable beneath me. The world was suffocating at the best of times. I knew I had hit my limit the second my body had hit the floor. I just didn’t think I could get back up.

With my next breaths I felt the last bit of fight finally slipping from my muscles and deserting me. I fell forward into a slump and didn’t move for a long time.

And then came the whisper, “Am I to live a truly miserable life alone with no one warm to hold on to? Is all that I have the fading faces of all the people you took away from me?” My voice didn’t sound like mine anymore. “Can’t I see them again?”

There was the faintest of breaths and then I felt someone near me. Someone warm and loving. Someone familiar. “Sweetie…” the voice whispered against my forehead. “It’s alright. Just calm down. Just cry and it will all be better.”

So I did. I let myself be held in that loving embrace; let my skin and hair be stroked. It was so comfortable and safe. I knew I could even fall asleep if I wanted to.

“I love you. You’re okay. You’re okay, hmm?”

I nodded.

“Good.” An intake of breath. “Where had your mind been at for so long, hmm?”

I just let this lovely voice keep talking. I was too exhausted to move.

“I think I’m starting to get these neurotic flashes better,” the soothing voice continued. “You were so young when your parents died. You lost your family. You’ve been through a lot and it made you grow up really fast. You had to deal with a lot of things by yourself. And a way to protect yourself was to always be on guard in case something bad happened to you too. The slightest stir of air has you whipping around with your hands up. But it’s false trigger after false trigger and you turn yourself into an elastic band with all the tension. But there is no one after you. You are not cursed. And for godsake, neither am I.”

I was too tired to agree or disagree; I just lay against him and let him talk. It was a slow and patient voice. It was entirely calming.

“There is an island where you lived a living nightmare and it has become your obsession. But you do not live there anymore. You are safe here. You need to live your life here. The problem is most of you is living your life over there. You’re trapped in between. You look over your shoulder and walk backwards. But it doesn’t have to be like that. You don’t have to live in fear; you can turn your back to that old island and just live in your beautiful café.

“I underestimated that fear when we first met. I feel awful about it. I hadn’t acknowledged my own fears so I thought any fear was stupid and something that could be easily chased away. I had no idea how hard it is to escape once it has its claws in deep.

“I used to think you were carrying on a bit… You know, a little melodramatic… I understand it now though and I understand how irrational it can be. Okay? I do understand. I promise you that I am not cursed though. I promise you with my life.”

I could feel him stroking my hair. Long and slow movements.

“You’ve made me into some bad guy… It’s like in the movies: I’m an evil person taking over someone else’s body with some secret potion that hides my inner evil from everyone so I can carry out my evil plan—tormenting you or trying to harm you. Thanks for that, by the way,” he gave a wry laugh. “It’s creative, I’ll give you that. Completely characteristic of you. Not sure I quite like the role though…”

He was silent for a little bit and then continued. “I’m not evil, JaeJoong. I’m just me. I may not be the man you met at first, but I’m still me. And I can prove it to you if you tell me where you’ve put those tablets.”

He waited for something but I still wasn’t ready to speak. He seemed to understand and his hand slowly stroked my cheek, waking me a little from my daze. “Where did you put my tablets, Joongie? I need to show you something.”

My head turned slowly and I pointed to the bag lying against my computer desk. His arms gently unwound from me and he walked over to pick it up. After rummaging through, he found the pills. They crinkled as he held them up and dropped the bag back onto the floor. He came over and sat cross-legged in front of me. His eyes held my gaze and kept me in place. “This,” he held up the underside of the packet so I could see through the plastic, “is a drug called an antidepressant. It’s a drug that helps your head, like the ones you take for headaches, but it has a different effect. It helps calm your brain and give you space to breath so you can feel happier. It’s a drug that I am using to treat Depression. Do you know what that is?”

I shook my head.

“Well, Depression is a hell of a lot more complicated than just feeling sad. It’s a condition that intensifies the feeling of hopelessness, sadness, emptiness. It can make you feel really, really low for long periods of time. Sometimes months… When you feel low and irritable all the time it can really affect everything—your appetite, your energy, your sleeping habits, your hobbies. Everyone has moments when you feel really sad, but imagine being stuck in that mood every day. There comes a point when you don’t even feel like getting out of bed. It’s tough.

“I’ve had it since I was a teenager. I just didn’t recognise the signs. Hell, I didn’t even know what it was. Depression can arise if you have an imbalance of certain chemicals in your brain. But sometimes, and most times, people can fall into Depression if they are tackling a lot of stress and anxiety in their life. It’s a natural fall. And that’s what happened to me. At the end of high school, there were moments when I felt trapped in my own body and didn’t really want to be in it anymore. I felt like I was useless and worthless and my parents didn’t exactly help. I’m not blaming them but it’s just something that happened.”

He sighed. “You know all that. You managed to get it out of me last time I was here. But back when I was a kid it really got me down even more so. I skipped meals and all of that. I shut myself away from everyone. But then those horrible feelings started to go away naturally when my life picked up a bit. I found the right friends and the right job to distract myself.

“And then I met this great guy…” He smiled and slipped a piece of my hair behind my ear. “When I met him I recognized a lot of sadness in him that was in me. I tried to help him as if that could help me too. And it seemed to work for a bit. But then, one day, he was involved in a near fatal accident and I thought I had lost him. So I entered a world of sadness and shock. Whatever had been dormant in me opened up its jaws again then and pulled me under.

“Only, I didn’t really recognize what was happening. I forgot I had fallen down this way before when I was a teenager. Maybe I was in denial, thinking I could handle anything because the alternative would be horrible. But that was bad… I became so used to that sadness that it began to feel normal. I didn’t see anything was wrong anymore. It was so hard to get out of bed but that was normal to me. All the things that I used to love doing I no longer had the energy for, and then no passion, no care… And that all felt normal too—a normal progression, like any phase of life.

“But you opened me up and I began to see how much hurt I was hiding. You know…about my parents thinking I was dumb and being disappointed in me. If they had no faith in me then why should I? But I was the last to see how hurt I was and how sad I was. I was the last to know. You saw it. My family saw it.” He laughed bitterly, “My boss even saw it. I’m lucky that he cared enough to talk to me about it. He asked me to see a doctor and then I was led from there to a psychologist. That man, the psychologist, specialises in anxiety and Depression disorders. And he told me what was going on. And…oh, JaeJoong, such a weight was lifted off—knowing what was wrong, knowing it wasn’t my fault. For once I could allow myself an excuse to not be perfect…

“Better yet, I knew I could get better if I just had the tools and the right mindset. I had something to work towards. And these tablets, these anti-depressants,” he held them up again, “are fundamental in my recovery. They allow space for my brain to calm down and lighten up. So you see, Sweetie, I’m not cursed. Nor am I cursed on behalf of you… My insecurities that I tried to ignore for half my life just built up and exploded in my face before I could know how to handle them properly. I’m not completely cured of it but I definitely feel a lot better than I have in a long time.”

His arms squeezed me tighter and I couldn’t help the smile that slowly rose as I felt his affection. “Joongie, gorgeous creature and love of my life, I feel fairly confident in sensing that you are not cursed either. You’ve just been through lot, as I said before. You’re paranoid about loss. It makes sense. It’s an issue but we can deal with it.”

He let out a sigh and his voice lowered again. “You may not believe all of this but please try. You’d be so much happier. Please…just think about it. I know this is all a lot to take in but it’s important.” I felt him move away for a second to slip the tablets into his pocket and then his body head returned to me. “The only way you could call me cursed is in the sense that I had the bad luck of developing a completely common condition where life events bring me down too easily. And it’s curable. When you see me happy, that isn’t a lie. That is me. Yes the drugs help me loosen up enough to reach that stage, but it’s still all me. I want to hike and eat your cookies and run around like an idiot,” he laughed.

“No I repeat: no curse has possessed me.” He stopped to tilt his chin up in mock-arrogance. “As if one could ever touch me. I’ve jumped out of airplanes, I’ve jumped off bridges, I’ve climbed down cliffs. I’m Jung, motherfucking, Yunho!” He laughed again and then shook his head at himself. “Really though, it’s okay. You don’t have to worry about me.”

When my eyes drifted downward I felt a soft digit slip underneath my chin and lift my face up again. “Promise me you’ll really think about all of this and try to feel better.” I looked into his warm and gentle eyes and then nodded. I couldn’t say no to those eyes. They were filled with such concern and hope.

“Good!” A smile spread across his face. “I just want you to be happy. I’m not perfect at the moment as you know, but what I have learnt is that fear has to go. It’ll chew you up and spit you out. And before you know it, you’ll struggle to even leave the house because everything outside is too overwhelming. And I don’t want that for you anymore. You were falling into that trap when we first met but we’ve both come so far.” He leaned over and kissed my forehead. “All I ask if that you think about it, mmkay?”

I nodded again because that was all I could do.

He started chuckling softly, “I think I need a nap. Emotions are tiring little buggers. I think I’ve reached my quota for today. And truth be told…those anti-depressants have side effects. I kind of get sleepy more easily now…” He started settling down on the bed on top of the covers. He lay on his back and wriggled his toes around a bit to get comfortable. I was drawn to those bright red socks he was wearing. It was possibly the brightest colour in the room.

Soon heavy breaths filled the spaces between us. He had fallen asleep with his mouth open and the air getting sucked in and out was loud. I watched his face that was deep in slumber for a while. His sleeping habits were familiar. If there was a curse in him, It did a fine job of mimicking all of the little idiosyncrasies that made up him. No pill could hold that much power… So maybe it did do what he said. Maybe I had got that part wrong.

As for the other things… I had promised him that I would think about them all and so I would. I just had to wait for my head to stop spinning.

I stood up from my spot on the floor and wiped away the remaining dampness on my face. Yunho was right: emotions were exhausting. I felt better though. The tears and the talking chased away some of the heaviness I had been lugging around. Yunho had felt that heaviness leave his body too when he had talked to that man about his feelings. Everything was as he said. That had to mean something, right? It left some room for error in my judgement about his curse. It was still too soon to smile but I did allow some relief to seep in.

And that’s when it started.

“Jayden…”

I spun around but Yunho was still lying fast asleep. I stared at him for a long moment to check but nothing else was uttered.

My heart slowly began to calm down. Paranoia. That’s what he said I had. He said I was always on my guard. I suppose I was…

I sighed and ran my fingers through my hair. This new way of thinking was hard to get used to when my gut instinct was screaming the opposite at me but I could try Yunho’s way…

I decided upon a distraction. If I gave my hands something to do, maybe Yunho’s story would sink in better. So whilst he napped, I took a sponge and wet it under the tap. There was a circle of juice staining the kitchen counter and I wiped it up.

“Jayden.”

The sponge froze in its path and then lay abandoned as I turned around to stare at the man in my bed. It had definitely been his voice.

I crept closer and saw his lips moving ever so slightly—but his words remained a secret. My chest constricted and I fought to stay standing. This… This was not good.

My fingers gripped my hair and a whimper slipped out. I hated this. I hated this so much. Yunho had just started to convince me that maybe I had been overreacting to It because I had spent so long by myself with no one to tell me otherwise. But it felt like the curse was playing with me as it always had. Like Yunho muttering my old name was Its way of saying: hah, you wish I didn’t exist, fool. To use my boyfriend to deliver a message against his will when he was in an unconscious, vulnerable state was just—evil.

“Am I a mouse?” I heard myself saying. “Am I your mouse? Is it fun to play around with me before you make your final pounce?”

But there was no answer. Yunho remained sleeping and I remained standing with a heart that was erratic. This truly was never going to end, was it? I was the mouse and I could do nothing about it.

My eyes shifted to the table beside my bed. My legs moved without me and I was opening the draw centimetres from Yunho’s head. Those hideous pills stared back at me and I reached in and pulled them out. Maybe they did as Yunho said. But could I take that risk? If there was even the slightest chance of It being able to speak on behalf of Yunho more easily because of the medication he took then they had to go. At least they would be easy to dispose of. But what if those pills actually helped Yunho stay strong against It? He did seem happier and more like the Yunho I first met…

I stood in hesitation for a long moment. Yunho would be mad at me if I went ahead with this. But to dispose of them would mean at least one delay in Its cruel games…

I bit my lip. There’d be no going back from this…

My eyes settled down onto Yunho’s handsome sleeping face and I knew I would do anything to help him. Even if he might not understand it.

My fist curled and I felt the foil and plastic crinkle inside my palm. And then I was off. I rushed into the bathroom and lifted up the toilet lid. Foil crackled and burst and one by one the small white tablets fell into the toilet bowl. I watched them sink slowly and then disappear in the tidal wave of water. That was one side of the packet down. Now for the other.

My fingers moved quickly—as quickly as the footsteps that appeared behind me. My heart leapt within my chest and my mind screamed both stop! and hurry up! at me.

“What the hell are you doing?” Yunho yelled from behind me.

I turned around but remained silent. It wasn’t a question that needed answering. It was quite clear what I was doing—I still held the empty packet in my hand.

“What the hell are you doing?” he repeated, even louder, as he finished those last steps and then stared into the toilet bowl at the remains of the pills slowly dissolving in the water.

“All of them?” he asked. His voice wavered in confusion as he stared at the white disfigured lumps I hadn’t managed to flush away. It matched the disbelief flittering across his eyes. And then his head snapped up to look at me and I felt my body recoiling from the gaze that pierced through me. There was a storm behind those eyes. Fear and confusion, but anger. Fury. Never before had he looked at me like he wanted to harm me. Somehow I had overstepped a boundary. I wanted to dispose of those pills, yes, and I knew he’d be mad…but I hadn’t meant this.

With one last look at what was left of his pills, and then one more at me, he turned and walked away.

I stood in a trance for a little while and then followed him out of the bathroom. I found him shoving clothes into his bag.

“Yunho!”

He didn’t answer, didn’t even look up at me.

“Yunho, I’m sorry but I—” No, I couldn’t finish that sentence. I didn’t know its ending. “Why are you—” I tried instead but that too fell short. Every word I spoke felt like the sound of audacity. But had I really done something that wrong? That fierce gaze on his clothing that was supposed to be directed at me made me feel so small. He couldn’t even talk to me. It was a most unpleasant feeling. And then when he took a break from his bags to finally do so, I felt even smaller.

“How could you do that, JaeJoong? How could you do that to me?” There was hurt in those eyes, blending in with that ever-brewing fury.

I stood in silence. That felt the safest.

He looked at me with eyes that were beseeching. But then he looked away—like I had failed a test—and shook his head at some unspoken thought I was no longer privy to.

“This is ridiculous,” he spoke. “I shouldn’t have come back. Not to this.”

I lowered my eyes.

“I need to help myself. I need to rebuild myself. But I can’t do that here. Here is not a nice place.”

That dug deep.

“I mean, I honestly…”

No, it seemed I wouldn’t be privy to that thought either. The next one I was. “I came here hoping to feel better,” he spoke, “to feel more in control again… And then you steal my medication and flush it down the toilet. I try to help myself and you flush it all down the toilet! The thing keeping me sane, the thing helping me get better! Do you even realise how hard you’ve slapped me in the face?”

I could only stare.

“Do you even realise what you have done? I can’t skip that treatment. I can, if I screw up once and then pick up the cycle again, but after that I am harming myself. They aren’t mints, JaeJoong, they are medication! They are drugs. They affect my brain function. If you starve me of that, you hurt my head! You hurt my body. But I doubt you’d even care about that because whatever I tell you means nothing! You have already cast me away as someone cursed. Even though I told you how important those tablets are for me, it doesn’t matter to you. Right? So what if you flush my medication? It can’t help me anyway, right?”

He was standing close now. And I couldn’t move away.

“WRONG!” he yelled. “It does help. It is important to me. Geez, JaeJoong!” He took a step back and whirled around until the fury was out of sight. He ran his fingers through his hair. He took a few deep breaths and I could see his chest heave even though his back was to me. “You didn’t even discuss it with me. You didn’t even ask. You just took them. Again. You violated my privacy and my trust…” His voice was soft and somehow that was worse. “I just can’t believe you did that…”

Was I still breathing? It didn’t feel like it. My everything felt so numb.

There was movement from across the room but I kept my eyes downcast on the rug below my feet. “JaeJoong…” His tone drew my eyes up and I found myself once more a victim of his stare. There was less fury now and more of something else. I couldn’t pick it, but that something else set my heart racing.

“Isn’t it time to stop kidding ourselves?” he asked quietly. “What is the point of my even being here?”

I stared back at him. I swallowed but no words came out.

“Will you ever stop seeing me as the bad guy?”

Our eyes remained locked.

“Even after everything I told you today and everything you’ve seen me do for as long as you’ve known me…am I still the bad guy? Will I always be cursed to you?”

My mouth moved. “I don’t know…” It was hard to swallow. “I’m so confused.”

“So that’s a yes then, huh.” Our gaze broke and I blinked the moisture away as he laughed without humour. “God. I should be looking after my own pathetic state of life but I keep coming back for more punishment. And when I am here I get distracted and worry about you instead. I don’t think there is even any solution to that worry. In your mind I’m cursed and fucked up. In your mind I am going to leave you one way or another because that is what your curse does. You’re just waiting for the day when it finally happens. I will never properly be part of your life because you already closed the door.”

He let out another of those wry laughs, turning to shake his head again. And then those eyes flashed again and caught me in their gaze. “Don’t you get it? You will never really love me if you don’t believe in me. You’ve set me up to fail from the very beginning. That’s the reality we’ve been fighting. Call it the curse if you want—I know you will anyway.” His gaze was sharp. “Well, I’m tired of fighting. You have fun with that curse. Clearly you believe in it more than you believe in me.”

“I’m just trying to survive…” I choked out through my blocked throat.

“Okay. You survive then, Hermit.”

I felt my body recoil back and then everything happened so fast. He was off the bed and throwing his bag over his shoulder. He was stalking past me without a second glance.

I should have been telling him not to go but I didn’t. My mouth wouldn’t open. And then I realised that I didn’t want it to because I was angry. So very angry.

That name… That vicious, awful name he had called me. I never thought he could have called me that after everything.

So I sat on my bed with unseeing eyes and waited for the sound of his boots thunking against the stairs to end. He was leaving and these doors would never be opened up for him again. He had forfeited that privilege.

The afternoon ended in an angry haze. When I finally started to wake up I found myself on the floor surrounded by paper. The jagged pieces were everywhere—over my lap and thighs, over my rug. It was like winter had returned and blanketed a corner of my room in snow. But it wasn’t snow. It was the remains of every single picture I had ever drawn of Yunho. None looked salvageable now. The dark lines were smudged and torn. Broken.

I lay back into the enchanted winter and let the pieces scatter away. I was too exhausted to care anymore. There was no meaning left in them anyway.

I closed my eyes and felt the snow begin to numb me. It started in my chest—the feeling of something heavy pressing down that made it hard to breath. And then it spread.

In that enchanted winter I let my heart freeze for good.

///TBC///


A/N: Oh boy... Sensitive Yunho and stressed Jae do not make a good mix. We've reached Yunjae melting point, danger danger. Don't you dare shut down, Mr Kim. ><

Truthfully, this fic has grown so long (mostly thanks to an arc that was never supposed to be there but a character kept demanding it and I was damned if I did, damned if I didn't and errgh let's not get into that lol). In my head it is split into three main sections - the first would be YunJae getting to know each other, the 2nd would be all the dreams and drowning shizz that went on. This chapter marks the end of that 2nd part. We have now reached the 3rd and final section of this fic. YunJae mean business now. Shizz is definitely going down if you couldn't already sense ^_~. Yunho has a realllllly important role for the 3rd arc (and I cannot wait to unleash his awesome, omggg you have no idea *_*). Let's enjoy the angst/flangst of the last arc, shall we? =D

Lemme know your thoughts. And thanks for your patiencccce! <3




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