wild_terrain: (JaeHo Forever yours)
[personal profile] wild_terrain
Title: The Beacon; My Siren
Author: wild_terrain (iefi_chan)
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PART TWO OF CHAPTER 37:

(Still Yunho's POV)


My eyes slipped shut in a numb sort of respect. In that darkness, the three little rectangular white blocks I had been staring at shone back at me. Like three rectangular frames against a dark wall. Like one of my many Dreams.

“Ohhh god.” I whispered again.

After a moment, I blinked sunlight back into my eyes and knelt less haphazardly down before the oldest grave.

I knew JaeJoong’s brother had passed away at a young age but he had always felt alive to me in some weird way. It’s how I had always known him. But to see this horrible block of sandstone that represented his death… It was chilling. This had been a person, a kid… He was someone who had meant a lot to the people who used to live on this island. He had once been here and now he wasn’t anywhere.

In my head he was so mysterious, so powerful; but standing in front of his grave just made him feel vulnerable and fragile. Had he been scared when he died? Had it been instant when he fell onto those rocks from the cliff edge he had slipped over? If I had been five and the first to leave my family on a journey only I could go on, I would have been scared despite all the explorer bravado.

I felt my eyes misting over.

How strange. It wasn’t like he was really gone. It wasn’t like standing in front of his grave meant it was the last I’d ever see of him (a finality that the mother and father and younger brother who once stood here in my place would have felt). Damien would probably always stalk my dreams until I helped his little brother live the life he was meant to. Still…graves had that sombre illusion of finality and it seemed I wasn’t spared the need to mourn for a life lost.

I slowly got back up onto my feet and drifted back to the middle of the field with unhurried steps. I stared at the overgrown garden with new eyes. I couldn’t possibly recognise it as it was now, but a long time ago two little boys had played hide and seek here. And that beautiful, old tree…

I craned my neck and looked up at all of its huge, thick branches. The last thing to swing from it hadn’t been that tyre. Desperate hands had found another purpose for the swing that had once given a family joy.

I drew an invisible line with my eyes until I was looking behind me at a window on the second floor of the Kim’s house. The perfect angle and the perfect view for the eyes of a child playing in his bedroom. That was what he had said…hadn’t he? That he’d been in his bedroom.

I ripped my eyes away and took a deep breath. My head was quiet for a while, separated from all thoughts and I was thankful because I needed there to be silence.

The horrid thing was I was here for work. It took a moment for me to even remember that. I had to examine these grounds and wake sleeping ghosts. This was a very sad place and it suddenly felt wrong to be here.

I left the field, walking a little more reverently through the unkempt grass. I passed the corner and stood face to face with the building that was no longer just a building. The front door was open where the boys had left it. What had they made of this house? It probably meant nothing to them. It should have meant nothing to me too but I knew too much. Even the air in the doorway felt heavy.

There was once an explorer who had jumped off a cliff, attached to just a cord; a man who knew what it was like to freefall from the sky. Nothing scared him. But now he couldn’t take one step into an old house…

I felt my fists clench. There was no turning back now.

My heart hammered against my chest as I stepped forward into the shadows. The floorboards beneath my feet were rotten in places and dirt rose between the cracks. Dirt seemed to cover most of the floor; there must have been a season of heavy rain which flooded part of the house. The water damage was evident and the strong, piercing smell of mould filled the whole room from the walls and ceiling.

The small entrance way opened up to a much bigger area. To my left there seemed to be a kitchen; to my right, a living room with sheets draped over furniture in the shape of a table and couches. In front of me though against the wall that lead to each room was a cabinet or bookshelf. Old books of all shapes and sizes were scattered on the shelves amongst old board games. Hanging next to it was an large frame mounted on the wall. It was impossible to see what it contained from where I stood, but whatever it was was important. Whatever was in there had been something of pride, a point the eyes were drawn to the second you stepped into this house.

I knew what it would be before I had even reached it. I crossed the room to it; it was all I saw, all I could focus on, and then I was inches from it. The glass was coated in dust but I could see the vague, blurry outline of the figures it hid. It felt like they had waited years to be unveiled, freed, seen.

Somewhere around the corner in another room there were muffled noises and occasional chatter like a fuzzy old radio had been left on. Through the fog of my mind I knew there weren’t actually any trapped sounds of the past, just the boys still examining other rooms. Whatever they were doing held no importance to me. I may as well have been the only one inside the house.

I let their noises fade away as I gazed at the frame and its secrets. I shifted my sleeve down over my curled palm and wiped away some of the muck stuck to the glass. I wiped from corner to corner in slow, careful strips, seeing the immerging image before me but unable to focus on what was there. When I was done, I rested my hand against the wall beside the frame and let my eyes truly open.

I gazed at the family portrait for a long, silent, private time. Then, when I was ready, I let my eyes slowly move across to take in the details of each face.

It was a sweet but typical family portrait—young parents and their kids. Bright eyes. Chubby cheeks. Tiny teeth. Dazzling blue and warm brown eyes. Smiles frozen in time and protected.

I felt a pang of emotion I didn’t even know how to start decoding. This family was real. That boy in my dreams was real. He was right in front of me in this photo. I knew him even though I had never met him in my life.

My eyes fell to the youngest member of the family. Little Jayden sat next to Damien in front of his adopted parents. He was inches smaller than his blue-eyed brother and held onto his hand with obvious affection.

My fingers touched cold glass where warm cheeks should have been. The tips of my fingers ran down his face. He was adorable. There were no words for it. I had thought it in my dream and I thought it now with the proof right in front of me. He looked so trusting of everything, so open to anything. His big, youthful eyes pulled me in and trapped me in a whole different way to his brother’s.

I could try and distance myself all I wanted by calling this kid Jayden but he was JaeJoong. They weren’t two separate people. The shy, reserved, socially-awkward café owner I had met all that time ago had a childhood and I was staring at it. Maybe I wished I didn’t feel anything…but I did. I felt so much. I wanted to protect this kid from bad things. I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to… I wanted to see JaeJoong. I wanted to hold him and feel his soft hair brushing my cheek. I wanted to gaze into those haunted brown eyes and kiss away all his bad memories. The months I hadn’t spoken to him suddenly felt like years. The cobwebs that hung from the walls over my head felt symbolic of too many things. And just like that the lump in my throat had returned.

My fingers slipped from the glass and fell to a rest by my side again.

JaeJoong had loving eyes even as a four year-old. They weren’t always visible as a twenty six year-old but he had let me see them bit by bit. He was a good person. He was such a good person. But he was broken…

Loud chuckling cut through the silence, an abrasive sound that my body jerked away from. “I should send a photo of that room to my kid and play spot the difference with him.” More sniggering followed and my colleagues rounded the corner.

“Oh hey, cool picture.” Dongyul stepped in front of me to see it better and I fell a few steps back. “Cute family.”

“Oh damn,” Jongmin murmured, putting an arm around Dongyul’s shoulders as he peered over his shoulder. “The old man bagged a westerner. Far out.”

“Oh what, really?” Sangyong bounced over and nudged the others aside to take a look for himself.

“That ‘old man’ was probably around my age there,” Dongyul scolded.

“Oooh, she’s pretty,” Sangyong said, ignoring them both. “Hah. Check it out: half breeds!”

“Half breeds?!” Dongyul laughed.

“Yeh, bro, I think you’ll find the politically correct term is ‘biracial,” Jongmin chimed in, bumping his shoulder against Sangyong’s.

I took another step back from them but kept the portrait in my sights. This family was so personal to me. I didn’t know how I felt having others intruding on them. It was stupid to get my hackles up and I fought against it but my body had tensed up regardless. I just wanted them to leave, to step away from that portrait and go look at something else.

“Do you reckon she’s American?”

“European?”

“English?”

“Sure, let’s just name every place.”

I didn’t laugh with them. Maybe I should have. I didn’t know what to do anymore.

“Gee, how old would those little fellas be now?”

“Mm. I wonder what happened to them.”

One of them died and the other broke… I folded my arms against my chest and stared down at the dirty floor.

The boys eventually grew tired of the photo and moved on to the kitchen. I stood guard by the portrait for a moment but then a staircase caught my eye. The second floor… His bedroom…

My boots echoed on the stairs as sole hit wood. I took each step one at a time, not wanting to rush even though another part of me was dying to get to the top. I followed my nose to find the right room. It wasn’t too far from the staircase; a little room at the end. Pushing the door the rest of the way open I stepped inside and scanned the room. There were two beds. One with its head touching the wall where the window sat; the other, a little further back against the opposite wall. There were no sheets, no blankets, just miserable-looking mattresses over a wooden frame. Had whoever taken the sheets away known how long it would before anyone else occupied the house?

I turned and spied a chest of drawers against another wall. I pulled the middle drawer open and was surprised to see a few items of clothing still in there. The smell wasn’t so great but there they were. Pairs of shorts, it looked like. I closed it and opened the top drawer. Socks…underwear… I guess they shared clothing.

I closed that drawer too and moved over to the little bookcase tucked away near the foot of the window bed. I crouched down and looked at the titles. There were a few comics but a collection of figurines monopolised most of the space. I recognised some from American comics but others were unfamiliar to me.

I stood back up and wandered back over to the window. I pulled the old curtains to the side to let more light in and peered out. There really was a nice view of the garden from here, and beyond it the forest of trees surrounding the property. If this was the view the kids had, I could only imagine the view the adults had snagged for themselves.

I took a slow step back and was about to turn completely away to leave the room when something attached to the wall above the window bed caught my eye. I hadn’t noticed it before but it was a little sign nailed onto the wall. A small piece of rectangular wood that had been painted on. I bent down to read it and felt my chest constrict. In big, awkward strokes the name JAEJOONG was written—clearly the handiwork of a child. Underneath it in smaller, neater letters was the name JAYDEN. It had been written in pencil and traced over in wobbly crayon. I felt the edges of my lips curve. I could picture his mother sitting with him at a table, teaching him how to write his own name. The Korean characters he had to try by himself, learning the hard way; but the English he’d be allowed help with. His mother would watch him experiment first on a piece of paper before he made his final masterpiece on the piece of wood. His brother would be away in preschool, leaving mother and son alone to play with their arts and crafts.

I let out a puff of air that was probably a laugh but felt more like sob. I shook my head and straightened back up. There was no point getting myself emotional in my own imagination. It was nice to see though—that little piece of wood that showed so much. If only mother and son had been allowed to grow older together. At least their time together seemed to have been cherished.

Before I left the room for real, I took a quick peek above the second bed. There was nothing nailed to the wall. Too cool for school, huh? I shook my head and chuckled, walking out.

I never got a chance to look closely at the rest of the house. Dongyul, Jongmin and Sangyong had seen all they needed to and I was ushered onwards to a new location: a little clearing away from the bushland—a good 200 metres from the house. We examined the cliff side, drew a rough scale up on our makeshift map and tested some of the rock strength. It was fun and challenging all at once. I even managed to forget about where I actually was and just enjoyed the exploration.

Then, a few hours into our work, I couldn’t help but listen to the thoughts humming in the back of my head. This was JaeJoong’s infamous island. How many times had I promised that I would never follow through with any of my urges to check it out? And now fate had nudged me right onto its lands. The coincidence was quite unnerving.

Truthfully, I had shredded all of my curiosity and interest in this island a long time ago. I hadn’t even entertained the idea of ever seeing it for myself since the first few months of knowing JaeJoong. I hated to admit it but I was kind of excited. This was forbidden land. Land, also, that JaeJoong had insisted for as long as I had known him that was dangerous. That combination was like the Holy Grail for me. If my company bought this land, I’d not only have the rights but also the time to explore every part of it that I wanted. There was so much possibility here; a source untapped and barely trodden on in over twenty years!

The bubbles of excitement slowly went flat by the time we had all gathered back into our motorboat. Yes, this place was incredible, but it was still JaeJoong’s home first and foremost.

I took my seat and listened to the engine revving up. My head tilted to look back at the sand and rocks that covered the edge of the island.

There was no doubt in my mind that JaeJoong thought about this place at least once a week (once a month maybe, in a good period). He was a bizarre kind of guard dog that barked warnings to strangers to back off even when he was miles from his territory. As long as he breathed, this place would be off limits to anyone if he could help it.

Now though I had information I knew he’d want to hear. I didn’t have to tell him a thing though. We weren’t dating anymore; we hadn’t been in touch for months, and quite frankly I hated his obsession and wanted nothing to do with it. I didn’t want to encourage it and I certainly didn’t want to churn up old dirt. But it was his home. He had a right to know…didn’t he? It would feel so wrong not to tell him, cruel even.

The little boat churned and bobbed below me as we finally set off. It danced with the waves, leaving its white, foamy trail behind. The movement was oddly calming for thoughts so conflicted. I tried to focus instead on the sights around me—the beautiful blue water, the swirling foam, the ducks floating a little further away—but still my mind churned with indecision. My thoughts were as loud and grating as the whirring engine behind me.

The right thing to do was to tell him. But was that really the best thing? Let sleeping demons lie. Bringing that island back and in such a real way would be like unleashing the horrors of JaeJoong’s Pandora’s box after trying so hard to reseal it for him.

Besides, that kind of conversation would take time and energy—both of which I was severely lacking right now.

And dammit, I was just so sick of all the unnecessary drama. I had tried so hard to get him to let go of that past but my limit had been crossed and there were no leeway zones. Of course I missed him but it was still too soon. I liked not having drama in my life.

But his house! His belongings!

I stared dully out at the ocean and let the sea spray splatter across my sunglasses and face. It was so cool against my skin under the sun and I wished I could have enjoyed it more. It had been too long since I had been cruising on a boat like this. If we got that island up and running, I’d definitely get them to consider a jet ski area. Maybe a parasailing area too for the days when the wind conditions were ideal. This project had so many possibilities and to be part of the team that could make that happen was freaking awesome.

Finally I let that grin come out and dropped my head back so the wind could whip through my hair better. This whole experience was freeing. I was on a mother freakin’ boat, yo!

But his family!

My posture straightened and my grin receded to something like a bitter smile. I was free but someone I knew was trapped. Information could free him if he used it in the right way. The danger was that if it was used wrong, it would just trap him all over again.

On such a nice day, on such an adventure, it sucked that a burden tagged along. Time was running out for me to decide. If I was going to tell him, it had to be in person. And with such a big project I was working on right now, that window of opportunity to find time to actually talk to him was very narrow. Right now he was a town away; I could get dropped off there and catch the afternoon train back. Or I could do nothing and sleep on it…

Goddammit.

“Thanks a lot, guys! I’ll see you later,” I called back over my shoulder as I jumped out of Dongyul’s car.

Such a sucker. Ergh.

I groaned at myself and hoisted my backpack up. The boys had dropped me off at the main junction of Greenpatch Bay. Everything was nice and close from there. Making my way back down to Café JaDe could be done with my eyes closed. I wouldn’t try to test that theory given the time restraints but it would have been fun to try…

It was only as I got closer to the side streets that the butterflies started to unfurl in my stomach. We hadn’t exactly parted on nice terms. I had kind of stormed out of his room, never to return. But by far the more worrying thought was how I would feel when I saw him again. The way I had been missing him had been kept under control; the last thing I needed was to become lovesick again (though a very naughty side of me was begging to be swept up again. Unbelievable).

The rhythm I had built up walking faltered a little as the little blue café came into view finally. Don’t think, Jung, just do.

I pushed the door open and slipped inside. It was maybe half filled with people gobbling up some coffee and dessert. The half filled room made it easier to manoeuvre around the scattered tables. I slipped past the final table in my way and climbed up the familiar staircase two at a time. I knocked on his door but there was nothing but silence behind it. I let myself in after a small moment of hesitation and took a look around. Everything was impeccably neat as always but he wasn’t there.

I leant against the door frame and sighed loudly. The one time I really needed to see him under a tight schedule and he wasn’t in the usual place…

I closed the door and walked back down the stairs into the loud café. It had been months since I had been anywhere near here and I didn’t intend to stick around and succumb to any lingering nostalgia. I definitely couldn’t stick around in his room, waiting for him to come back.

“Excuse me,” I called out, walking up to the younger waiter on duty. “Do you know where I’d be able to find the man who owns this café? Kim JaeJoong.” The younger man looked a little startled at the question. “I’m his friend,” I quickly assured him. “He’s not answering his phone and I’m in a rush. He’s out somewhere?”

“Er, yeh… I think he’s with Park-sunbae. Doing their swimming thing.”

“Swimming thing?”

“Yeah, at the beach.”

“The beach.” I tried to keep the surprise off my face as I thanked the kid for his help. What the hell was going on? Could today get any weirder?

I jogged over to the place I hadn’t returned to since the afternoon JaeJoong nearly drowned and couldn’t help but wonder if that kid had been pulling my leg. This was the very last place I’d ever consider looking for JaeJoong. In fact, this very moment of searching for the missing café owner upon a surprise visit whispered nasty déjà vus that I had to keep batting away as I walked. The last thing I needed right now was unnecessary tension weakening my grip on what should have been a simple mission.

The afternoon was still hot and I could feel my back started to get slick with sweat. If I hadn’t been wearing normal clothing, and if I hadn’t been on a strict schedule, and if this hadn’t been a beach that had betrayed me and my ex-lover once upon a time, it would have been a nice moment to go for a swim to cool off.

I started walking down the nearest ramp that led down to the sand and stood at the bottom. I cupped my hand above my eyes to block some of the sun out. Even through my sunglasses everything was too bright. It didn’t help that there were a decent amount of people hanging around the beach; looking for a pasty café owner amongst the crowd was a total needle in the haystack situation.

I bent down to slip my sneakers and socks off, all the while pushing the déjà vu away. The sand was hot under my feet so I made my way down to the shoreline and into the edges of the water. As the water ran over my feet, I scanned the sand for the man I wanted.

Kids ran around, parents chatted, teenage girls sunbathed and I recognised no one. This was ridiculous; I didn’t have time to search every face on the beach. I was running out of time to even explain everything if I did manage to even find him.

Wind picked up and scattered blondey-brown hair over my face, but with it a voice was carried back to me—one erupting with laughter. My head snapped to the water a little further in front of me. Yoochun’s head was cackling above a blanket of white foam that slowly receded to reveal his neck and shoulders. “Rematch!” he yelled up at his companion with his usual endearing grin. “I was the wind barrier! Your win was completely false!”

“Better hurry up,” the man dripping head to toe next to him said, eyeing the moving curve of water in front of them. Yoochun glanced at the new wave about to break near his face—“Shit!”—and scrambled up onto his feet with the help of his friend’s hand.

I could not tear my eyes away. I couldn’t see JaeJoong’s face but I didn’t need to to recognise my petite ex-lover. The man was wearing a pair of blue board shorts I had never seen before and they only made his skin seem paler in the blue of the sea. His wet hair just touched his nape and left his whole neck exposed for the sun to kiss. It was a relief to finally see him after all of my running around, but the relief was nudged aside by my growing confusion and curiosity.

“Ready, set, go go go!” Yoochun yelled, and both men stuck their feet out, letting their feet slowly become buried in the sand with each new wave. Yoochun giggled more as their feet sunk down and glanced over at JaeJoong’s to compare the progress. Then, without warning, his arm shot out and pushed JaeJoong’s shoulder. JaeJoong fell forward, his butt sticking out awkwardly as his buried feet trapped all lower movement. In seconds, his body toppled over head first in perfect time to be smacked in the face by a breaking wave.

Yoochun howled, pulling his feet out of the sandy tomb and jumping up and down in a roguish victory dance while JaeJoong spluttered on all fours. His dark hair was plastered all over his forehead and nose. With a big fat grin, Yoochun crouched down and wiped the hair off JaeJoong’s face for him with a gentleness that made my hands twitch.

“Tough luck, hyung,” he grinned.

“That was unnecessary.”

“Sorry,” he laughed and JaeJoong leant back to sit on his bottom. Yoochun stared down at him with a nervous grimace, “Don’t do that, hyung, you’ll be pummelled and I’ll have to feel guilty.”

“That’s fine with me.”

Yoochun took a quick glance at the decent-sized wave that had started rolling its way towards them, shrieked, and ran in front of JaeJoong. “No, no, no! GO AWAY!” he commanded and flung his arms out dramatically by his sides like he could form a wall that the oncoming wave wouldn’t be able to penetrate. As science predicted, the water crashed onto him and sent him flying backwards, barely missing JaeJoong in the process. He flew up the sand with his legs in the air beneath a layer of white foam and JaeJoong couldn’t stop laughing.

The edge of the wave had smacked into me too and I could feel part of my thighs nice and wet through my shorts. I could also feel the smile on my face and that’s when time started to escape me. Yoochun was a prime idiot (why did I let him near my sister?) and I had not seen JaeJoong smiling that unguardedly for god knows how long. It was a marvel he was even in the water at all with not a panic attack in sight. I thought I was going to have to deliver news to a no-nonsense, sour-faced café owner, not a lively man whose smile mirrored the one he’d worn as a child.

“Aren’t you getting up?” JaeJoong asked as he made his way over to the shipwrecked Yoochun.

“Nup. I really can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I’m indisposed.”

“What?”

I laughed and stepped forward through the tide to reach them. Wisps of water slapped against my ankles with each step and splashed everywhere. “That would be code for: sand’s gone up my crack. Right?” I smirked at Yoochun.

“Far out, where did you come from?” he gasped, spluttered, then grinned.

“Don’t change the subject,” I grinned back, my eyebrow flicking up in a challenge.

“Yes, mounds of sand are lodged in places I can’t reach. You happy?”

“I’m overjoyed,” I laughed and bent to help him up. “That is the unfortunate punishment of taking on the ocean like someone fifteen years your junior.” I turned to smile at JaeJoong in greeting and found his smile had vanished at the sight of me. He now stood away from us, unmoving.

“Excuse me for a moment, gents,” Yoochun called out, zipping past both of us to crouch further out to sea.

I looked back at JaeJoong, ignoring Yoochun’s emergency cleaning session, and tried to keep the smile on the face. “You’re a hard man to find.”

He didn’t respond, apparently waiting for me to get to the point. That worked fine for me with my time constraints. And yet I couldn’t help feeling a little sad. “I need to talk to you about something,”—and in case he thought I was here to grovel for our relationship back, I added, “Your island.”

If it was possible for his face to fall further, it did. His eyes darkened despite the sun and he said, “You want to go there.”

I froze for a moment. It seemed like a crime to admit that I already had (as accidental as it was). But JaeJoong wasn’t a mind-reader so I was let off the hook. Even so, I took a small breath before my cheeks could heat up. It was nice of him though to automatically assume the worst of me. I may have thought his curse was an illusion but that didn’t mean I’d go running off to the island he had fought so hard to keep me away from now that I was no longer in a relationship with him. I was an explorer but I did respect people. I certainly wouldn’t have rubbed it in his face and insulted him by asking for tips.

“Why?”

I frowned for a second before I realised I had been silent for too long. “No, I don’t want to go there,” I corrected. “But someone else does.” JaeJoong waited and I sighed. “My company.” JaeJoong looked thoroughly confused and I couldn’t blame him. “Here isn’t the time to talk about this.” Not when I knew JaeJoong was likely to blow his top. “But I’m kind of in a rush to make the next train.” His eyes darkened another notch. “Can we go for a walk in the park?” His piercing gaze held me still for moment and I marvelled at its strength.

My mind raced back to trace the last time I had been hit with that glare. I had been a whole year younger. Being in a relationship with him had come with many perks—one of them being spared from this horrible stare he gave people he didn’t know or trust. The first time we had met it had made me sit up and take notice of him, but now it was just scary—but in a different way to before. Before he could have opened up a path to hell with it but I had been a stranger then so that was kind of alright. We had been through so much since then though; we had been intimately involved, I had shared his secrets. The return of this stare like I was nobody left me with a jarring emptiness and a churning stomach.

I couldn’t go back there—there was too much damage and I had finally accepted that—but I did still love him. It felt awful to be left with nothing. I hadn’t cheated on him. I hadn’t used him for his money or anything nasty like that. I had just told him the truth: that he wasn’t able to properly love anyone as long as his paranoia kept his heart barricaded up—not even me. But still he acted like I had betrayed him and was no longer worthy of his time. If this look was all he could give me after everything, then maybe it really had been best that we had decided (however messily and unspoken) to go our separate ways.

Yoochun waded back over to us (having dumped as much sand from his shorts as he could) and glanced over at JaeJoong. At that moment JaeJoong turned to look at him too. Whatever face he made away from my view had Yoochun flaring up in concern. His eyes shifted to mine when JaeJoong remained standing with his back to me and he hesitantly asked, “So why are you here, Yunho? What’s up?”

“I’m up here for work actually.”

Yoochun exchanged another look with JaeJoong and I felt myself growing impatient. “But something’s happened with the company I work for that is going to affect JaeJoong. I thought he should know.”

“What sort of something?”

“A business plan.”

“Go on.”

“I need to talk to JaeJoong in private.”

“Alright then… I guess we’re going,” Yoochun said as he led the way out of the water.

I waited for JaeJoong to pass by and then took up the rear. I followed their winding path to the spot half way up the beach where they’d dumped their towels. As they dried down I bent to put my shoes back on but saw the mounds of sand stuck over my soaked skin. Never mind the shoes then…

I glanced over at Yoochun who had his towel draped around his neck and his flipflops balanced on the tip of his toes as he shook away the warm sand that had collected there in the wind. JaeJoong stood nearby with his head buried beneath his towel. Was he drying his hair? I stared at him in disbelief and then glanced at my watch. “Maybe we could just talk here after all.” Or maybe not; while we were here it was too tempting to ask him about his and Yoochun’s ‘swimming thing.’

“I’ll be stealing your shower if you need me,” Yoochun told his friend and the towel nodded its consent. With that, Yoochun waved goodbye to me and then walked away. He wasn’t really an elegant or delicate walker and bits of sand sprayed up from the ends of his flipflops as he lumbered off.

JaeJoong rubbed at his hair a little longer and then his hands slid down to wipe his face. Finally the towel came down and a flustered head popped out beneath an explosion of damp hair. I almost moved to brush it away for him but stopped myself. I moved to sit down on the sand instead and waited for him to join me. He pulled a t-shirt on and then slowly laid his towel out beside me to sit on.

Time was cracking on so I cut to the chase, “JaeJoong, as I said earlier, something came up with work that I think you should know about.” I paused for a moment, then: ‘People have been on your island.” I knew that alone was enough to freak him out so I waited and studied his face. He was gazing out to sea, his jaw firm and his eyes unreadable.

“I didn’t realise until today but…” I paused, already tensing at the thought of what I was about to drop, “but your island’s for sale, JaeJoong.” There was a slight widening of the eyes this time and I quickly ripped the rest of the band-aid off for him. “I had always assumed you owned it through your parents’ will…but you don’t. I don’t know if your parents had only been renting it…or if they hadn’t finished paying it off…but it’s someone else’s property now. And…people are interested in buying that land. My boss, for example… That’s why I’m here; I was on a team inspecting it for a potential retreat location. I promise you I had no idea what it was until I got there.”

His eyes lowered from the sea. I waited for him to speak but he just sat there, staring at nothing. Was it just shock? His eyebrows were furrowed and his adam’s apple bobbed a few times in his throat but still there was no explosion.

“I just…er...thought you’d like to know,” I eventually said.

It looked like JaeJoong was going to say something but whatever it was never made it out. After a long pause, I just got a nod. Apparently I wasn’t worth words these days.

“Well…take care then,” I mumbled, standing up to dust myself off. He followed suit after a long moment of hesitation. I had thought for a moment that he was just going to sit there for the rest of the day like his butt had been glued to the sand…

I gathered up my shoes and then looked over at him to see if he was ready to actually say something. There wasn’t even a nod from him this time, just that strong gaze of his directed straight at my face that possibly conveyed things beyond my means of understanding. And then the incredulous happened—he turned and walked away. Well, that was fine too. No drawn out goodbyes was good. It wouldn’t prolong my schedule. I wouldn’t have to run like an idiot to make my train. His lack of response was very much fine by me.

And yet I found myself watching him as he walked away with his towel bundled up in his arms. I could only shake my head. He always had pulled these socially-unacceptable stunts in the early days of our acquaintance. His social skills had been appalling but understandable considering his circumstances—the town ‘hermit’ who only really spoke to his waiter slash guard dog-wingman, Yoochun. What was his excuse now? It was like getting to know him and all the steps that had taken had been a dream. Ha… The child beaming back at me with a missing tooth was long gone…

I started to walk backwards, keeping him in my sights a little longer as I mulled it all over. He looked down as he walked in typical JaeJoong style. He would have had my sympathy if he hadn’t been such a jackass moments earlier.

I sighed. No, he wasn’t a jackass. I at least liked to think I knew him better than that. He was just perpetually odd. He had seemed more normal than normal when I had first discovered him playing around with Yoochun, but now he had reverted so badly back to Anti-Social JaeJoong. Maybe it was me. Maybe I broke him. That was a cheery thought.

I let out a breath I didn’t know I had been holding and then turned back around to walk in the opposite direction.

This vessel delivered your message, Damien. And as you see, I broke him. May I relinquish my duties now? I clearly cannot penetrate him. Maybe someone else can fall in love with him and do it.

That was even less of a cheery thought.

I kicked the gravel in front of me and tried to walk off my bad mood in time for the train home.


///TBC///


A/N: Butthurt Yunho is butthurt. He’s had a long day, poor guy. ^^;;

And what is going through JaeJoong’s mind? If the hints were too subtle here, you’ll just have to wait for next chapter. Hehe.

As I said before, having such a big gap between updates doesn’t work in my favour for this type of fic BUT it actually turned out kind of perfect for demonstrating the almost real-time break Yunho and JaeJoong went on. I haven’t updated in, what, 6-7 months? And YunJae hadn’t spoken for 5ish months? Ahahh! Lol…

Anyways so, err, it may not feel like the story has moved much with this chapter but it really has. I promise! And I’ve already written a chunk of the next chapter so there will be no more ridiculous wait between updates. It’s time to get this fic finished! =D

I want to say more but I don’t want to risk spoiling bits or accidentally spoonfeeding you when all of you have marvellous brains already. ^^

If you are still here reading this message (I don’t mean yayyy congrats for not going TL;DR on me, but wowww you remember this fic), I honestly love you! (Ah, an Olivia Newton-John song. Don’t watch her new Christmas music video with John Travolta, by the way. Let your good memories of Grease prevail LOL!) Really, thank you for remembering this fic and wanting to know its ending. I really have meant it when I said I would never let it go unfinished; I just apologise on behalf of my temperamental brain that it sometimes takes longer than I’d hoped.

Love to you all! <3



(Again LJ's new system hates me, so here is the actual URL for this PART TWO entry: http://wild-terrain.livejournal.com/46931.html)
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