wild_terrain: (JaeHo Forever yours)
[personal profile] wild_terrain
Title: Across the Line
Author: wild_terrain
Across the Line - full banner 512x448

Chapter: [5 / ?]
Rating: M
Genre: AU (flangst, romance)
Summary: When you're a kid, no one tells you how hard it is to grow up; how easy it is to forget who you are. But if you don't know who you are anymore, how are you supposed to deal with all the lines?
Hate/Love    Real/Fake    Hero/Enemy    Lust/Madness    Lost/Found    Past/Future
It's a strange new world across the line, but two men are going to have to cross it if they ever hope to find their answers—and each other.



A/N: Jay has spoken and he wants to be the main man of this chapter, haha. Enjoy!




∞CHAPTER 5∞


“I’ve missed this noise!”

Seunghyun was sitting at Jay’s work table on his lunch break. Both Jay and Seunghyun were staring outside at all the workers huddled around the left-hand court. Yunho’s money had started to take affect and a team had been brought in to start the much needed renovation.

Jay had to admit he still felt uneasy about someone else’s money being the saviour for all of this. Wasn’t it cheating to get such large assistance on a project that you were supposed to be in charge of? Nothing was supposed to be that easy—any project worth doing wouldn’t be because the struggle was where you were supposed to grow, right? Finding a solution by yourself with your own hard work was when you were supposed to feel the most rewarded. Watching something so hard be so quickly fixed with someone else’s money (and not even in a loan) felt…wrong. It was great for the business but it was just… It just didn’t sit right with Jay. The business belonged in name to Seunghyun and himself, but technically almost a half of it now belonged to Jung Yunho.

The itchy feeling had only been a small discomfort in his mind before but now this was actually happening and he had to face it—half of their property was being fixed with Yunho’s money. And with that lovely thought, the itchy feeling multiplied. It was like invisible grains of sand were irritating his skin and he couldn’t wipe any of it away. Lots and lots of sand... In fact, he actually felt like the kid at the beach putting sweat and labour into building the perfect sandcastle using nothing but his own bare hands. It was a very tiring and inadequate method because most of the water held in his cupped hands dripped through his fingers before he had reached his castle but he hadn’t let anything discourage him—until the snotty-faced rich kid with his shiny bucket decided it looked fun and wanted to swoop in and take over the project. Oooh look at my shiny bucketttt, I can finish this thing in like five minutessss! Pah, to that!

Seunghyun was excited though. He was practically bouncing off the walls, which was quite rare. His reaction was the one nice thing about what was happening. Jay could never deprive him of that happiness… He just had to suck it up. Again.

It had already been a few days since the renovation had started. Jay had taken away the poles and old net before the workers had arrived and started setting the new surface. The whole operation was quite noisy, particularly with the workers shouting instructions to each other, but the noise had been welcomed by everyone at HQ. Particularly Yunho. He was giving Seunghyun a run for his money with the whole enthusiasm thing.

“I don’t know how he plays in all that racket!” Seunghyun’s exclamation might have had more of an impact if he hadn’t started laughing at the tennis pun he had unintentionally made.

“Laughing at dumb wordplay is a Yoochun thing, you know?” Jay couldn’t help pointing out.

“Oh god!” was Seunghyun’s response. And then, “You do it as well though.”

“I’m not that bad!” Jay immediately defended. “He gets joy out of dumb wordplay. I get joy watching him get joy from being so lame.”

Jay turned to look outside again at the construction and the man in dark maroon flinging tennis balls across the other court. “Yunho likes the noise,” Jay said, returning to their previous conversation. “That’s the whole point—he needs the noise.”

“Yeh,” Seunghyun agreed. “I just don’t get how he can do it. The noise would be driving me nuts. Lots of nuts. Bags and bags of nuts.”

Jay tried desperately not to laugh. He covered his mouth with his palm and chewed on his bottom lip. Seunghyun was so talkative when he was excited. Jay wondered if the other man even realised he had that little habit. When his amusement had safely dissipated, Jay let his hand drop back to the table. “It might seem annoying playing in so much noise but as a tennis player you have to. You have to be able to concentrate through anything, especially raucous crowds. He’d have to be used to it by now otherwise he’d be sunk.”

“Yeh…”

“The only exception I can think of it during the Australian Open. The day of my birthday is their national day of celebration so there are always fireworks right in the middle of the semis and final matches. The noise is like five, ten minutes of rapid gun fire; you can’t distinguish between it and the ball hitting the racket or the court. Players tend to chose suspending the match for the whole display.”

“Oh yeh,” Seunghyun nodded. I remember seeing that happen. Awesome fireworks for us but not the poor buggers on the court. When you’re right in the momentum of a good game, having to suddenly stop would be real game changer.”

“If he wants to be a champion at that grand slam, he’ll have to suck it up and either use that break to his advantage if he’s behind, or not let his opponent steal the control if he’s ahead.”

“Tough…” Seunghyun said. “But I’m sure he’d be able to do it. It looks like he’s good at playing through distraction,” he added with the jerk of his head in Yunho’s direction.

Jay watched Yunho slam a ball over the net. Most of the fence was down for the construction work but that didn’t matter because it was the ‘Amazing Jung Yunho’—he’d never shoot a ball into the construction area mere metres away from him.

“He’s probably had a lot of practice dealing with noisy crowds,” Jay said out loud. “Being the bad guy and all.”

“Jay,” Seunghyun reprimanded.

“No, it’s true. I don’t mean it like that.” Whatever ‘that’ was, Jay couldn’t specify but his words were at least half true. “He is the bad guy. Korea may love him but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world does.”

“Jay!” Seunghyun’s reprimands were growing in volume, like a verbal slap to the wrist.

This time Jay was starting to feel really irritated. He wasn’t being allowed to even finish his point. He was definitely being misunderstood—and when he was actually trying to sort of stick up for him and everything. “He is!” Jay reiterated for the third time. “He’s not even in the top fifty ranked seeds! People don’t know him well enough overseas. They’re comfortable with the players they see all the time, particularly in the heavily broadcasted slams. When he’s up against another ‘unknown’ player, fine, but when he’s up against more well known players? Goodbye civility. The crowd are cheering for the person they already know and identify with more often than not, and you can tell who that person is as soon as they walk out onto the court.

“And if you have really bad luck with a really biased crowd, they are going to be cheering at every mistake you make. You do a double fault when you’re serving? The crowd’s delighted. You net the ball? The crowd is celebrating. People don’t know Yunho yet—he’s that guy. So he better be used to tuning out the crowd’s noises and reactions by now.”

“And how the hell would you know?”

Jay had been watching Yunho as he spoke but at that his face snapped to Seunghyun’s disgruntled one. Had Jay gone too far? Seunghyun was pissed and considering his excitement mere moments ago, that was not a good thing.

“It’s not like you’ve ever properly watched Yunho’s matches,” Seunghyun told him. “How the hell would you know how the crowd reacts to him?”

Jay straightened his back. “I have, you know. Not often but I have. And not just the matches he’s had against Ricky. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to observe and understand the crowd. And it’s not just Yunho, it happens to the best too. Tennis crowds are hardly like gladiator crowds, it’s not that bloodthirsty, but depending on the player it can get tough sometimes. People have emotional connections with players they’ve supported in the past. And,” he added with a wry smile, “people also have bets.”

After a sigh, Seunghyun remained quiet and Jay let out his own inward sigh. Seunghyun got his point then. It was a relief to know that his business partner and friend wasn’t about to fight him. Reality was what it was; it sucked, but Jay couldn’t be blamed for being the devil’s advocate. It’s not like he was glad that Yunho had to deal with being the underdog. It could just have easily have been him. Or in fact, Ricky before his winning streak.

Jay leant back in his chair a little as he continued to watch the workers and Yunho. Everyone’s movement was so different; Jay had to admit it was kind of addictive to watch. Yunho’s movements were so crisp and quick, whereas the workers were slow and constrained to the spot they were working on. The workers also moved in a team but Yunho was all alone with his battle. That was tennis for you, Jay thought with a sigh. One of the loneliest sports in existence.

‘In tennis you stand face-to-face with the enemy, trade blows with him, but never touch him or talk to him, or anyone else,’ Jay recited in his head like he had done many times before. ‘The rules forbid a tennis player from even talking to his coach while on the court. Of all the games men and women play, tennis is closest to solitary confinement…’*


When he was a boy, his favourite tennis player, Andre Agassi, had said that, but Jay had never really understood it until he grew up. Tennis held a lot of poetry and extra challenges, and perhaps that was what had drawn Jay to it past his grandmother’s influence. It was a challenge he’d wanted to win. If you were a tennis champion, your mind had to be a fortress and your body a machine. Who could touch you after that? It had been the ultimate ideal to Jay.

He’d stamped all over that sandcastle all by himself though.

A particularly loud hit from Yunho had one of the workers pausing to look over into the adjacent court. Whether he knew who Yunho was or not, he was certainly transfixed for a long moment as he watched Yunho arch up to slam his racket against the new ball he’d tossed into the sky in another ferocious serve.

Yunho practicing with a vengeance under the hot sun was his prerogative but Jay felt a little sorry for the workers. It had been really hot outside when Jay had arrived—and that had been a while ago. He hated to imagine how scorching it was right now out there with no shade on the courts.

In Australia when the sun got too much, the tradies had all taken their shirts off as they worked. Most of them had been buff and bronze because of it and Jay had never said no to a perve as he passed. That sadly didn’t happen very much with workers in Korea. Their workers today were very well behaved. It was appalling.

Jay felt his lips quirk up and he tried in vain to keep a serious face.

“I’d hate to see you live at a Ricky match.”

“Hm?” Jay’s head snapped to Seunghyun’s, not completely comprehending. He’d gone from hot tradesmen memories to Ricky’s name—an equally pleasant topic but still confusing at that moment.

“If it was Ricky versus anyone at all, you’d be all: ‘RIIIIIIICKYYYY,’” Seunhyun imitated in a faux-yell.

At first Jay almost grew red, thinking he might have confessed out loud about the shirtless tradies perving—which was the perfect ammo for Yoochun and Seunghyun to transfer to their favourite topic of teasing Jay with: Ricky Lee-Poynter and his godliness. But no. Thank fuck that wasn’t the case. Jay saw what had really happened here; he’d gone off to silent pervy land whilst Seunghyun had remained mulling over tournament crowds. That didn’t reflect too well on himself… Oops.

Jay agreed with Seunghyun’s impression of him, and told him so, adding, “I wouldn’t cheer for someone’s mistakes though. That’s not fair.” He was deadly serious. “The crowd gets worked up in the moment and that’s probably pretty natural, but celebrating someone’s mistakes is really demeaning. I hope in that situation, if I was tested, at a Ricky match or any match, that I’d never be that person.”

Seunghyun’s face was very serious as well and he nodded in acknowledgement of Jay’s declaration. “Me too,” he said.

“Luckily most of the time you get some pretty decent crowds who just love the thrill of the game regardless. And sometimes they love both players almost equally so…problem solved,” Jay chuckled.

“I hope one day he gets there,” Seunghyun said, gazing back at Yunho.

Jay shrugged. “Sure.” He couldn’t help the wry smile from forming on his face when he added, “But I’ll always be with Ricky.”


Seunghyun stayed at the table with Jay long after he had finished his lunch. They had reached a long, mutual, comfortable silence, until Seunghyun started thinking out loud again. “We should do an event to celebrate!”

“Huh?” Jay’s head had been resting on his palm and he slowly turned his head as much as he could without actually having to move his arm.

“When this is all finished,” Seunghyun’s gaze wasn’t on Jay but lost somewhere outside, “we should celebrate the grand official opening of both courts. Let people know what a great facility we have. We could have some real fun with it.”

Oh boy, Jay thought. Another of Seunghyun’s ideas… Sometimes Seunghyun’s ideal world didn’t quite match the real world. Jay let Seunghyun carry on though.

“We could make it a full day event. We could provide drinks thanks to my father’s company and we could get everyone playing tennis for fun and for free and hand out prizes and things.”

“You’re a winner, laddie!” Jay imitated, and then extended his free hand out, “Here, have a free tennis ball.”

“No-no,” Seunhyun laughed, finally looking back at Jay. “Obviously something better than that.”

“Well, that’s all well and good, but we don’t have much money.”

“We could make it work,” he replied but Jay could see him starting to deflate. Jay was about to say something comforting when Seunghyun’s eyes suddenly lit up again. “We can make it work. We don’t have money but we have someone.”

Ohhh boy. Jay laughed softly, “What? Rent-a-pro-player?”

“No!” Seunghyun scolded, swiping Jay’s words away in the air. “Of course not.”

“Then what?” Jay laughed again. “Yunho’s not a prize. He’s a silent sponsor.”

“Not a prize!” Seunghyun insisted. “But someone people would want to see. Someone actually promoting the sport legitimately. That’s why he wanted to help fix this place up, wasn’t it? To give children a chance to play tennis? I’m sure he’d love to help.” Before Jay could jump in on that, Seunghyun clicked his fingers and added, “He could play an exhibition game with Yoochun, show why he’s Korea’s hope.”

“Korea’s Hope playing against Korea’s Hopeless?”

“Stop it,” Seunghyun laughed, swatting at Jay’s shoulder.

Okay, sure, Jay was fine playing around with Seunghyun’s little hypothetical brain fart, but only up to a point. He could see the other man was really starting to take it too seriously.

“Seunghyun,” he sighed, looking his friend right in the eyes. “Are we promoting the club or are we promoting Yunho?” He tried to say the next part as delicately as possible. “I know these things start to blur together…but there’s a murky line between that and accidentally using someone. Has Yunho ever even given any indication that he would want to be publically involved in anything here? I mean, he signed up as a silent sponsor, not a free advertising figure. And it’s not like we could pay him to endorse it. That would be so weird and counterproductive…”

Jay hated how crestfallen Seunghyun looked. Sometimes he wished all of Seunghyun’s ideas could just work out magically. He reminded Jay in these moments of an excited child making things explode in a science beaker.

“I’m sure he wouldn’t mind anyway?” Seunghyun tried, albeit a little more hesitantly this time. “I mean, imagine if he did get involved. It could be incredible. And it could go beyond just him and Yoochun having an exhibition match. We could all play—”

Jay’s head jerked up. “Now hang on!”

Seunghyun seemed to ignore the finger Jay had pointed at him or just plain not noticed it in his eager rambling. “It would be like those funny charity matches the big slams hold with popular tennis players to help out areas affected by natural disasters—”

“This is a natural disaster,” Jay murmured under his breath.

“—And it can have funny commentary. By the end, we can get as many people joining in as possible and having a really awesome time. We can play with the kids and the teenagers and the parents and be refreshed by my father’s hopefully free drinks. Yunho could even sign things for people if he wanted.”

WOW. Jay tried not to straight up laugh at his out-of-control business partner. Normally the pinnacle of manners, Seunghyun turned into a funny little monster when it came to bolstering business. He always meant well, but… Well…

“Aren’t you putting the cart before the horse just a little bit?” Jay asked him.

“It’s a hypothetical,” Seunghyun defended. “It doesn’t cost to dream.”

“If Yoochun was here, he’d have broken out into a Les Mis song and I’d officially be in an insane asylum,” Jay muttered under his breath.

“Oh my god, perfect!” Seunghyun suddenly sat higher in his chair.

“What, Yoochun singing Les Mis?” Jay’s face screwed up at the very thought. Or maybe Seunghyun meant turning the club into an asylum?

“When the court’s done, it would be near our 100 Day anniversary!”

Jay’s eyes almost bulged out. “What?” he screeched, nearly hitting a high pitch. “What are you talking about? Our 100 Days was ages ago!”

“Not since we officially started lessons with Yoochun.”

“That would only give us ten days or something.”

“And that would work out to be just before Yunho has to leave. I told you, it’s perfect!”

“Oh boy!” Jay said out loud. God, Seunghyun was a runaway train! If only Jay could film it to show him later. “You want to organise this grand event in ten days?”

“The courts are closed all this week; we have lots of time to arrange everything. We can keep paying Yoochun but as a brain this week, not a tennis coach.”

“Oh boy!” Jay said louder.

“If we all put our heads together, it can work. And you’re great at creative stuff, right? Your posters last time were fantastic. This time they can be even better. You’ll have plenty of time to design them this week and Yoochun can be our errand assistant.”

“This cart is so ahead of the horse, the horse can’t even see it without binoculars.”

“Horses don’t use binoculars,” Seunghyun pointed out for god knows what reason.

Jay threw his hands up. “Fine then! Special horse binoculars. Whatever!”

“Let’s not argue over analogies, we’re wasting time horsing around.”

“Really?” Jay demanded. His elbow slid forward over the table until his torso had almost collapsed over it. “Two puns in the one morning? Did you swallow Yoochun over the weekend?”

“No, of course not. Don’t be silly. Though…” Seunghyun grimaced, “The saddest part is those puns weren’t even intentional…”

Jay just shook his head—and then realised what he had just done. “Woah, we’ve swapped bodies.” He shook his head again to clear it. “Look, this 100 Day idea is interesting. It would be a great chance to have fun with the community, encourage new members, and create great memories associated to tennis. But you,” he said, pointing firmly at Seunghyun, “are the one who has to ask Yunho and Yoochun if they want to even be involved. And me for that matter,” he added.

“JJ, will you be involved in our 100 Day event?” Seunghyun asked.

“No.”

Seunghyun reached over to swat at Jay again, and Jay started laughing. “Okay, I will,” he said. “But I am not designing anything until you have floated the idea past your amazing silent sponsor.”

“Deal.”

“Okay, good,” Jay said with a pert nod. And then muttered quietly, “I don’t want anything to do with that awkward conversation.”

Seunghyun still heard him though. “It’s not that awkward. If he says no, he says no. No harm done.”

“Yeah, but you’ve got to get to him first. There’s no guarantee he will come up here after he’s done training. Are you going to chase him half way to his car?”

“I am more dignified than that, thank you.”

Jay turned his head away to grin. “Just checking.”

He and Seunghyun must have been talking for a long time because when Jay looked back at Yunho, it looked like he was finishing up. He was rolling his shoulders and walking over to his bag where it sat in the corner furthest away from the construction. He bent down for his bottle and straightened back up for a long drink. When he was done, he lightly tossed it back into his open bag and then—

Wow, okay!

Off came his shirt.

Well, at least someone had gotten the right idea in this sun! Men with bodies like that didn’t need to hide.

Even through the criss-crossed fence (or what was left of it), Jay had seen how much Yunho’s shirt had been sticking to his back. Now free from it, his torso was shining in sweat. His whole torso. Front and back. Every inch of tan skin. Every molecule. Jay checked.

Yunho had apparently come prepared though and pulled out a sports towel to dry himself down. It was only a half-hearted scrub down though; Yunho’s mind seemed to be far away, even from the discomfort of sweat. That was okay though—Jay could watch it for him. Make sure he didn’t miss a spot…

And the moment he’d thought it, Jay felt some embarrassment creep in. Just because he hadn’t been laid since he’d come back to Korea, didn’t mean he had to turn things into a porn film. He was almost grateful (but still embarrassingly disappointed) when Yunho wrapped the soiled shirt in his towel and then pulled on a clean one over his head. Yunho then zipped his bag up, threw the strap over his shoulder and started walking—

Hey! Was he just going to leave all the balls he’d been using scattered around the court as a tripping hazard? Be a gentleman, Jay demanded with vigour, and take your shirt back off and pick them up!

Either Yunho was accustomed to others picking his used balls up after him or he had simply forgotten all about them, as lost in his head as Seunghyun had been moments ago. Speaking of Seunghyun… Yunho had left the court completely behind him so Jay quickly reached an elbow out to nudge his business partner. “Well, go on then. Go get ‘em, tiger.”

Seunghyun looked briefly startled at the thought, suddenly shy, and moved to scramble out of his seat, but he didn’t need to rush—Yunho was making his way up the steps to HQ to politely say goodbye to them after all.

Jay winced when he took in his expression. Yunho didn’t look very happy. It well and truly was like he was on a manners autopilot and that was the only reason he’d dragged himself up to their office. His face was stern as anything and his steps seemed heavy. He didn’t even knock before he slid the glass door straight open and stepped inside. He lingered there briefly, only long enough to gauge where they were and then he gave a nod and a brief thanks and farewell.

The door had closed behind him before Seunghyun had even finished standing up. Jay and Seunghyun exchanged a look. Well, that had gone well.

“The universe says no to that plan,” Jay drawled.

“No,” Seunghyun disagreed, slowly sitting back down and clearly still a little perplexed. “He was just not in a good mood.”

“Korea’s National Treasure is a grumpy bum,” Jay agreed

“He did just finish a rigorous practice session for several hours in the sun. He was sweating buckets.”

“Yes, I saw.”

“He’s probably hungry.”

Jay couldn’t resist laughing at that one. “Yeh, maybe,” he chuckled. “I’d hate to be his coach. He probably has to have massive pockets for all the energy bars he has to store to prevent his client from pulverising the neighbourhood with his laser eyes, stompy feet, and general sweatiness.”

“Yunzilla?”

Jay laughed again but Seunghyun just shook his shoulders and head in an odd spasm to physically reprimand himself. “Teasing someone I’m trying to get a favour from is going to give me so much karma,” he said.

“You’re going to be the first person Yunzilla squishes,” Jay solemnly agreed and then moved out of the way of Seunghyun’s airborne hand.


By the time evening fell, everyone had left and Jay had eaten his dinner alone at HQ. He might have tried watching some TV after that if even one of his numerous satellite channels actually had something of even mild interest on. None did. Which wasn’t a shock. It was too early for him to go home though and it wasn’t a Saturday (the time he always spent with his grandmother), so he made his way outside to examine the progress of the renovation.

Outside the air was still fairly warm on his skin even though the sun had already gone down. That wasn’t unusual for this time of year, he figured as he approached the embryonic court and then—

An electric buzz ran through his body.

He stopped in his tracks, his breathing shallow.

Oh no. No no no. Not this feeling!

Every part of him was itching to train. His body remembered the lingering warmth of these evenings too well. Any second and he was going to bounce on the soles of his feet and dart across the line.

It wasn’t possible. He would never, ever do that. He refused to even hold a racket because god damn, nothing was supposed to trigger this shit! He had been so careful! But the damn balmy air and that path to the court! His mind thought he was fucking thirteen again.

With clenched fists, he took a long breath of the night air and willed it all away—all of the electricity and the impulses and the traps.

Bland bland bland bland bland bland bland—

Kim Jay Kim Jay Kim Jay Kim Jay Kim Jay—

For god measure his hand whipped across his cheek. Right, okay, yep, that was better.

He took a step to the edge of the court and knelt down and examined the newly layered synthetic court surface. It was still early stages but it looked good. Though…

Jay rocked back on his haunches.

It did look good but it also felt odd seeing the court so bare and stripped. Before this it at least had had a clear history—even an unpleasant one with so many cracks and weeds. Like this though, so flat and bare with nothing on it, it had no identity at all.

It just wasn’t a court yet—not without the carefully measured lines and poles and net that shaped and marked it. It was just flat ground. That was okay though. It would be beautiful when it was completed. Jay felt that as certain as he felt the warm air pressing against his skin.

And okay—he had to admit that looking at the court now, the thought of being able to watch it slowly come back to life did trigger some excitement below the trepidation. It was Yunho’s money funding it but who the hell cared? The ends justified the means.

Satisfied enough with the court, Jay rose to his feet again and idly wandered over to its twin. Or was it an older brother now?

It was the perfect weather for meditation but Jay hadn’t tried to do it again on this court since his horrible interruption the previous week. A penny for your thoughts? No, a ball to the head for your thoughts!

He shook his head at the very memory. Yunho had already had his practice that morning though, so all would technically be clear if Jay fancied a moment to himself to think through everything. Which he kind of did…

Jay found his spot behind the net and lay down on the hard surface. It only took a moment for him to wriggle and adjust into comfort, and then he was looking up at the sky.

God, it was beautiful tonight. In Australia, he’d been so focused on his own misery and rebellion that he’d too busy—and, er, drunk—to properly take the time to appreciate the sky. And not just the sky but everything he should have been thankful for. Maybe that wasn’t fair though; maybe he was being too hard on himself… This whole thing was a journey and back then he hadn’t been ready to pick the pieces up yet. Not in any healthy way at least…

And what he had here now… Maybe it wasn’t his original dream but it was a new dream and that was what was important. Compared to a few years ago, he was actually a little proud of himself for how far he had come. He didn’t feel that pride often but tonight he would let himself feel it. Tonight he’d—

“Hello?”

Oh fuck no.

Jay bolted upright—and swallowed down a very rude response to the crazy person who was worse than a motherfreaking bad smell! He could just make out the silhouette hovering by the net—yes, hovering. Like a creep. With nothing better to do than… Than… Than be a freaking weirdo!

“Practicing in the dark is your thing?” he scoffed out before he could help himself.

“No,” Yunho replied. His silhouette was leaning against the pole the held one end of the net. “I just didn’t want to scare the living daylights out of you with a sudden onslaught of light if you were out here again.”

Jay’s mouth opened and closed a few times in a mess of incredulity until he eventually settled on saying after a few attempts, “But I haven’t been here for days!”

“I know.”

“You know?”

“I call out just in case,” he replied with what appeared to be a shrug. It was hard to tell in the dark.

Was he seriously suggesting he called out every night just ‘in case?’ Was that gentleman overload or pure and utter madness? Jay couldn’t decide which and made an odd noise, to which Yunho added with perhaps some amusement, “Plus your office light is on.”

Ah. Jay shook his head and dismissed him with the return of his gaze to the sky.

“Isn’t it uncomfortable lying like that?” Yunho suddenly asked.

“My back is special. It can handle anything.” Which was true… But Jay didn’t know why he was bothering to explain that to the other man. It puzzled him even more when Yunho continued to just stand there uselessly, holding his racket limply at his side. Jay’s eyes had adjusted properly and he could make out the smaller details of him much better in the moonlight. He wasn’t looking at the sky, nor was he even really looking at Jay. He was just in some weird daze.

“Are you joining…or…?” Jay let that trail off. If the tennis player wanted to kick him off his own court, he could find the balls to request it by himself without any help.

The question did seem to jolt Yunho out of wherever his mind had been and he stammered out a, “N-No. It’s fine, I’ll leave you be.”

And yet he was still just standing there like an idiot. Leaving require walking or at least movement of some kind, however minimal. Jay laughed before he could help it. “Your mind is the sky tonight,” he declared.

Jolted back to reality again, Jay saw Yunho crane his neck back to look up at it. “There’s not much to see…”

“There’s everything to see.”

Taking a second look, Yunho finally seemed to get it. “Woah, is that fog?”

“No. Just really thin cloud moving fast.”

“It must be pretty windy up there…”

“Mmhmm.”

Silhouette Yunho shifted onto his other foot and craned his neck back further. “It’s like looking at a spotlight through a bunch of dry ice haze.”

“The light is so powerful it burns through the cloud,” Jay told him.

“It’s gorgeous.”

“I know.” It took every ounce of Jay’s self control not to say that sarcastically. I mean, really… Why else would I say to look up?

Jay heard footsteps and saw Yunho’s silhouette move around the net and then sit down a couple of metres from Jay. His racket clattered softly onto the ground as he discarded it in favour of moving back onto his elbows and looking up.

“You’re going to hurt your neck…” Jay scolded quietly but Yunho seemed to hear him all the same and joined Jay’s example, lying down properly onto his back.

“It’s strange,” Yunho said, “how it’s so windy up there but so placid down here.”

“Nature,” was all Jay could supply.

He thought that would be the end of it but the other man had more pearls of wisdom to share out loud. “I wish you could actually float on a cloud,” Yunho said slowly. “Or something. See the moon so much closer then… And bigger…”

“Lie here long enough and you will be numb enough to think you are.”

Jay heard Yunho let out a short laugh at that. “I can see why you like this. It’s like a free lava lamp.”

“Not every night.”

“No.”

“But every night is different. Full on cloud is obviously dreary as piss but every other type is…stunning.”

“You like stargazing, huh. Did you ever study astrology?”

“Hm?” Jay tried not to crack a smile. “No, I didn’t.” And because he couldn’t help himself, he added, “I confess, I don’t particularly care what Saturn coming into orbit means for my finances, love life, and lunch choice.”

“Oh.”

A bigger smile spread across Jay’s face as he waited for Yunho’s probable embarrassment to fade. Jay hadn’t been completely sure whether Yunho had gotten his terminology wrong but now he was. It was pretty cute—even Jay had to admit it. “I didn’t study astronomy either,” he offered up. “Maybe I should have though. The life cycle of stars is fascinating. As is the concept of the light-year and the delay we see star light. I mean, are all these stars we think we’re seeing at this particular moment actually gone already? How many bazillion years ago were these stars shining tonight’s light, which we’re only seeing now?”

“My head hurts.”

Jay almost laughed out loud. He hadn’t expected such an honest and concise answer. “My head always hurts,” Jay told his companion. “That’s why I look up. I may not get answers to astronomical questions but I at least get answers to my problems.”

Out of the corner of his eyes, Jay saw Yunho tilt his head to look at him. Out of habit, Jay tilted his head too. The moonlight was strong but he could only partially make out Yunho’s face. “If there is something on your mind, try it,” Jay suggested before turning his head back to the sky to finish mulling over what he had started before he had, again, been interrupted.

He wasn’t completely comfortable reflecting on his life and problems with someone else lying near him—even just two metres away—but at least it was quiet again. And, well, no tennis balls flying at his head was a great improvement. One had to be positive.

“Wow, yeah…” Yunho murmured out loud again, and Jay felt his face scrunch up. Could he have even one minute of silence? “You’re right,” the other man concluded, “My mind is like the sky.”

Jay turned his head with a silent sigh. “Too many thoughts to process at once before more are blown in? Thin layers of thought but combined they are foggy?”

“All of the above.”

Jay let out a puff of bitter laughter. “You’re not special there.”

“I know. I’m not sure my mind has ever had a cloudless sky. I just wish a…a fucking hurricane would just blow all the shit away for good.”

“No, you don’t want that extreme either. That’s too messy. With a sudden hurricane, you’ll get cows floating around.”

“What?”

“Never mind.”

Yunho let out a puff of his own laughter. Jay guessed he got it. “You know,” Yunho started, “knowing my luck, I probably do have some cows lurking around in the fog.”

“And their release of methane is why your head’s full of shit.” Yunho looked over at him at that, possibly scandalised, but Jay just smiled. “You’re a professional tennis player—your mind would be full of a lot of shit and a lot of foul gas you can’t burp out either.”

“You have a very poetic way to your analogies.”

Jay’s smile widened at that and he almost laughed again. “I’m right though.”

“Yes, you’re right.”

“Mm. Lots of shit. Like… You can’t concentrate when you’re playing and every move you make that isn’t perfect makes you angry. And when you fall down that slope, there’s no stopping because you’ve already given up.” Jay was surprised he couldn’t hear any bones cracking Yunho’s head whipped in his direction so fast. “Still right?” Jay knew he really ought to control his smirk better or at least hide it better. No one liked a cocky dickhead. Jay couldn’t help it though; he’d always been good at those mental battles—both navigating it and recognizing it in others.


“How?”

How did he know? “Anyone who watches you practice can see it,” he answered Yunho. Okay, that wasn’t strictly true; Seunghyun hadn’t seemed to cotton on. But Seungyun wasn’t a tennis player.

In any case, his declaration had Yunho pushing himself onto his elbows in either shock or horror. It was funny how you could never really deal with those emotions lying down on your back. What was it about strong emotions that made people want to sit up? Blood flow to the brain? Adrenaline? Jay made a mental note to add that to his googling list and then turned all of his attention back onto the man freaking out beside him. He was probably waiting for answers, so Jay gave them to him: “You practice serving endlessly but you’re never satisfied. Then you get frustrated. Then you get angry. You can’t break the spell though so you get stuck in that anger and each serve from then on can never satisfy you no matter what you do. You call it crap before the ball even lands.”

Yunho was silent but it was a heavy silence. Jay let him be. As the great tennis metaphor dictated, the ball was in his court. It did take a while but Yunho eventually responded to Jay, though not in the way Jay had expected. “I get angry?” was all he asked. Surely there were better questions than that, but okay, Jay could work with that.

“Yes,” he said. He didn’t know what Yunho wanted to hear but Jay was never really one to sugar-coat anything. If Yunho wanted Jay’s opinion, he’d have it. “You are a perfectionist and you need to stop it.”

“Is it… Is it perfectionism?”

Okay, Yunho was still in the absorbing phase. “You tell me,” was all Jay said. Maybe he was wrong but he doubted it. He’d seen people like Yunho before.

The confession that came next though actually made Jay look up.

“I don’t know.”

Yunho’s admission was so soft, so endearing that Jay felt a flicker of sympathy. “Do you like to look your best with every move?” he asked more softly this time. “Does every move have to be powerful? Impressive? To both yourself and the crowd?”

“Doesn’t everyone want that?”

“Some more than others. Some have a burning need,” Jay told him. “For some people, proving yourself can only be done with physical frill—if the crowd says ‘wow!’ after every shot then that is validation. The problem is it is a lot of unnecessary effort. Tennis isn’t a sport like gymnastics or synchronised diving; you aren’t judged on your form. Form helps but it isn’t needed to get points. Getting the ball across the right line and out of your opponent’s reach is all you need. It doesn’t matter how ugly it looks; if it doesn’t hit the net or go out then it’s a success. You just need to be solid and consistent. That is all you need,” he stressed. “You don’t need to look like a prodigy or a god to intimidate your opponent; you just need to get one point higher every time. It’s actually pretty simple.”

“It isn’t,” was Yunho’s curt response.

“It is,” Jay said. “Think about it.”

In the minutes that passed after that, Yunho eventually slid from his elbows back onto his back. Yunho could agree or he could disagree, it didn’t matter to Jay. What did matter to Jay was how much of the delicate layers of cloud racing over the perfect white circle of the moon he had missed with all that talking. He intended to let himself be hypnotised by it again—and properly this time.

Thankfully Yunho kept the rest of his thoughts to himself so they could lie in peace and actually meditate. Jay was surprised how well he could slip back into his thoughts, even knowing that someone who triggered many of them was so close by. He guessed that was what being an adult meant. He also knew he was being unfair to him... Perhaps admitting that was also being an adult...

“Are you okay?”

Jay’s eyes widened for a second and he waited for the sudden jolt in his chest to ease back into calm before he let himself look over at his companion. “What?” he stupidly asked.

“Are you okay?” Yunho repeated. “I got so caught up in my own head, I forgot to ask you that.”

“I’m fine,” Jay told him. He was itching to just turn his head away again but he remained still, looking at Yunho as if to make sure he believed him and dropped it…or something…

“Okay,” Yunho said. “But anyone who watches you can see it—that you’re not really okay.”

This time Jay did turn his head back to the sky—and with narrowed eyes. Was making fun of him supposed to be funny? Was this a battle of touché?

“Whatever it is,” Jay heard Yunho continue, “I hope it gets better.”

Oh! Of all the fucking ironies he’d experienced, that one made Jay want to laugh out loud the loudest. It was like a buy-one-get-one-free irony. A double scoop of irony ice cream wrapped up in one crunchy waffle cone.

Getting better? Some things couldn’t be fixed no matter how many people wished it for you. And sometimes the people who wished it for you were actually the problem. Not for the first time that month, Jay found himself thinking the universe and its enigmatic Force had a truly wicked sense of humour.

But irony or not, Yunho had said it; there was no escaping that. And his wish had sounded sincere.

And Jay… He was trying to be an adult, right? And as an adult, he knew with no uncertain terms that the tender feeling in his stomach was because of Yunho. Was because Jay had been touched by Yunho. By both his observation and his words. Was that the cherry on top of the irony ice cream he’d served up to the Force? That someone who had caused him pain to even look at was actually the person comforting him?

It was a lot to think about and a lot to feel. Yunho had a problem with perfectionism but Jay had never suffered from that same ailment. He wasn’t perfect and he’d never seen himself as such. He was far from perfect. He was the most imperfect person he knew. He was the type of person to place dislike on someone because it was easier than admitting that the person he actually disliked was himself. That was the imperfect him. And would he ever change?

Jay found himself gazing at Yunho while the other man’s eyes roamed the shapes of the moving clouds above them. Perhaps Yunho had his own irony to him, dealt out by the enigmatic Force. He struggled to be perfect but from this angle, he seemed pretty well put together. He had manners, he was a gentleman, he was mature, he didn’t seem to throw his money around for selfish purposes. He was also incredibly attractive. Jay didn’t know him all that well but he doubted that if Yunho were to loosen the restraints a little, he’d change all that much. He seemed pretty fine the way he was. He was just chasing an ideal that didn’t exist.

‘You can take my brain,’ Jay wanted to say to him. ‘Take it and see through all the bullshit. But can I take your body? Just for one day.’

What would his answer be? Jay had no clue. Yunho had been an open book when he’d been training earlier, but now his face was impossible to read. Stoic, with a firmly set jaw. Of course, Jay hadn’t actually asked the question so what exactly was he supposed to be reading…

How much difference would that make to us though? Jay wondered as his eyes traced Yunho’s profile in the dark. If he could play without restriction…and I could play without restriction?

Though Yunho would get there eventually, Jay knew. All players had to overcome the traps in their mind—and sometimes more than once. The answer was always somewhere there though.

Well, there was no point being a dickhead; Jay actually hoped a little right then that Yunho would find his solution soon. Then that man in the moonlight with the decent profile could have what Jay never could. One of them may as well get what they wanted.

Jay’s chest tightened and then jolted when the other man’s eyes came to meet his all of a sudden. Jay wasn’t ready for eye contact, not when he was feeling like this. Especially not from fierce eyes. No, maybe fierce was the wrong word. Intense. Yunho had a very intense gaze no matter what emotion he was conveying. Even just casually dropping his eyes down to look at Jay. Jay couldn’t actually remember the last person who had managed to make him feel flustered. He let laughter hide his embarrassment. Yunho only looked more perplexed at that though. “What?” he asked.

“Nothing,” Jay said. “It’s just pretty funny. This,” he waved his hand ambiguously in front of him. “In general.”

Jay could see that his explanation had done nothing to appease Yunho’s bemusement.

“You know,” he tried again. “Two guys in their twenties on a Monday night, lying on a tennis court, stargazing...”

“Romantic…?” Yunho asked, still clearly dubious about the whole joke.

“No,” Jay corrected. “Pathetic.”

“Oh.” And then Yunho laughed too. “Pathetic,” he agreed.

“If the media were here, they’d have a field day,” Jay added.

Yunho nodded at that. “BREAKING NEWS: Jung Yunho caught courting a court.”

Laughter burst from Jay and then he was rolling onto his side and laughing into the ground.

What the hell, Yunho! It was so genius and so quickly delivered! Jay couldn’t fault it, nor could he stop his laughter even if he tried. He was surprised by his own volume but Yunho had started laughing with him and Jay could finally take a breather.

Maybe they were pathetic right now, but at least he was feeling better. Who would have thought?

[TBC]


*JJ was quoting in this chapter a passage from Andre Agassi’s incredibly poetic autobiography: ‘Open.’


A/N:
Oh me oh my, an actual YunJae breakthrough has begun. What is this! Lol

I confess that Jay’s frankness cracks me up. He certainly doesn’t discriminate who he perves on, haha. And if a training Yunho can make JJ subconsciously horny, can you imagine later on! We’ll need a hose people. Get on it. (Just kidding of course. XD)
But damn son, Jay is one terrifying observer. He read Yunho like a book and all while Seunghyun was yapping in his ear about crazy ideas. Watch out people, Jay will read ya ta filth!

Now, I wonder if Seunghyun will manage to convince Yunho about his crazy 100 Days idea… Could be cray cray. Heh.

Thank you for reading! I hope the events of this chapter have been as interesting for you as they have been for me! See you in the comments. <3
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