Pairing: Jaemin (main)
Genre: AU, supernatural/fantasy/non-human, angst, romance
Warning: underage-went-wrong, WTFs, minor torture/violence, possible annoying!min
Until some springs ago he still enjoyed being enveloped by the current or leaping from one rock to another without asking things, until a special kind of creature came to distract his joyous lifetime
A/N: the chapter is kinda short, only like a bridge to the next chapter
“You smell like waterfall, you know? Or rain… or wet ground.”
Standing behind Changmin, Jaejoong sniffed the boy’s back before pouring some liquid soap onto a sponge and brushed it over the smaller boy’s skin. Rush of warm water fell from above them and soaked their sleepy faces.
Changmin sniffed his own arm and lathered it according to the example he was seeing, “Is that a bad thing?” His eyes were intense, eyebrows crinkled at how the white foam got thicker in every brush.
Whoa… this looks delicious…
“No, it’s just strange that you don’t turn smelly after skipping shower for two days. Maybe because you’re still a baby. Wait till you grow up a little more and have some changes.” Jaejoong turned the boy around to face him, “See? You lack hair down there.”
Frowning, Changmin compared his amount of pubic hair with Jaejoong’s; both of theirs were very few, almost bald and not that much differed, showing how unreasonable the accusation was. But then he believed that Jaejoong was right and asked, “What should I do to grow up a little more?”
“… Eat nutritious food.”
“Exactly. And also broccoli, spinach, green beans, anything with green—hey! Don’t eat the bubbles!” Jaejoong swatted Changmin’s hand away from his mouth.
The boy grimaced at the bitterness and wiggled his tongue between his lips, “It tastes strange…”
“Well of course. Have you never seen soap? What did you usually use to shower?”
“Hmm… I used different kind of soap, it didn’t make bubbles like this…”
The reason was off but the respond wasn’t even better, “Ooh… must be a really cheap, low-quality one. It’s bad for your skin… always use soap with bubbles.”
“Okay…” Changmin took a red bottle from the wall, the red one with cute cartoon characters.
Isn’t this strawberry?
“What’s the difference between this and the one we use?” Like a bad reflex, he poured a bit to his fingertip and licked it.
Jaejoong swatted the hand again and splashed water to Changmin’s mouth, “Geez I’ve told you not to eat it. It’s shampoo, not food…”
“But it smells like that strawberry drink from Dahae Nuna…”
“Smells the same isn’t always tastes the same, wash your tongue.”
The rest of the shower time was quiet as Jaejoong concentrated on cleaning two bodies while Changmin was practically useless, too busy to admire Jaejoong’s skin and bubbles at the same time. He realized that soon enough and immediately replied the courtesy by washing Jaejoong’s back.
It didn’t take a long time for them to finish and got dried. With towels wrapped around their bodies, Jaejoong halted by the sink, tore the wrapping of a new toothbrush and spread a tip of banana flavored toothpaste on it.
“This tastes sweet but don’t swallow it, okay?” Jaejoong handed the toothbrush and prepared one for himself. “Now follow me.” He brushes his teeth slowly, giving Changmin chance to follow his movement.
They only got hurried when Dahae Nuna knocked the door impatiently, “Boys! Hurry up! You’ll be late!!”
Finished rinsing his mouth, Jaejoong yelled back, “In a minute, Nuna!!”
“… can I go with you?” Changmin asked warily, knowing that the taller boy would soon left for school.
“You didn’t apply to my school… and you can’t even read at this age… we should wait for a phone call from my parents first, maybe they can come up with some solutions.”
“But… it’s scary when I’m alone here…”
Jaejoong raised his eyebrows and clasped his hands, looking apologetic at the puppy-eyed boy. “Oh baby…” He stroked the wet hair. “You can go with us, but you stay with Nuna, okay? If you get bored you can ask her to bring you home.”
The respond he got was a cheerful yell and a hug.
Jaejoong loved those myths about the Otherworld, it was something Changmin had just known. In fact, half of his book collections were all about spirits and fairies, or fantasy novels that were related to them-not that Changmin would know, aside from the illustrations, if Jaejoong didn't drag him by his side to share the hobby enthusiastically.
Luckily French-kissing the smaller boy only happened once, so it couldn't be considered as a hobby. Yet.
(Speaking of which, that night ended with Changmin slept inside Jaejoong's arms -mouth tired, breath short and very comfy -the next morning Jaejoong woke up with hullabaloo as usual)
Back to Jaejoong's fondness in reading spirit related story, there was a book he loved very much; it was the reason why he began to teach Changmin alphabets.
One night on the bed, he couldn't help but to give a review.
"The title was 'A Happy Dog'." He pointed at the colorful cover of with the picture of a cute dog as the shorter boy sat by his side, peering over with chin on his shoulder.
"Is that why you want a dog?"
“I guess. You don’t like dog?”
“I like dog.” Changmin’s eyes sparkled.
"And you act like one. Anyway…” Jaejoong flipped the book open. "There's a boy and a girl. They loved and took care of each other very much, but one day the boy got into an accident and died."
Changmin gasped. "Why!?"
"Just listen. Anyway, since the girl wasn't too healthy and didn’t have many friends, the boy's spirit became very worry that he refused to leave this world. God saw this, and after some negotiation, finally He gave him another chance. They boy would reborn as a dog and the dog would be the girl's pet."
"Oh, that’s why it’s ‘a Happy Dog’..."
"But it didn’t stop there. The girl grew up into a beautiful woman and started to have a normal adult life; got a boyfriend and all. The boy witnessed how the girl grew up and stayed by her side whenever she was happy or sad, but he couldn't say anything, couldn't tell the girl that he loved her because he was just a dog who couldn't speak. Eventually the woman got married and had children and since a dog didn't have long age, he died for real."
Finished with the spoiler, Jaejoong looked at the boy beside him who had turned somewhat teary.
"What's so happy about that!?" Chagmin protested, biting the pillow sheet.
"The dog was happy, that in the end he died after witnessing how his beloved led a happy life. He was happy that he had spent his short chance of life by her side. He died ha..ppily…” Jaejoong’s voice wavered and his eyes watered. “See?? Whenever I’m talking about the story I become so sad!” He bawled dramatically.
“Why do you like something that makes you sad!?”
“Because it’s beautifully sad!! You’re a kid so you don’t understand!”
Changmin frowned and thought, but little did he realize that Jaejoong had no right to term him a kid since he had confirmed that they were of the same age. He only took the book from Jaejoong’s hand and flipped the pages, examining the illustrations.
“Do you believe something like that can happen for real?” Jaejoong asked.
“Hmm… I’m not sure. How about you?”
“I believe it. It’s the circle of life. Body can decay, but soul is eternal. I’m not sure where it will go, heaven or earth, but a soul doesn’t disappear.”
“How do you know that?”
“Hmm… lots of real life stories. You know, one of them was in India… there was a little girl who remembered her previous life, at first people around her thought she was crazy but anything she said turned out to be true when they found the girl’s previous husband.”
Changmin gawked in amazement and nodded, though he didn’t know what India was, he just nodded.
Seeing the positive respond Jaejoong paused for a while, biting his lips and thinking before he shifted closer.
“Listen. Don’t tell Dahae Nuna, okay? She will think I’m crazy. You’re the first person who knows this.” He lowered his volume, as if going to spill a big secret. “There’s a stream, in the middle of forest, twenty minutes from here by feet.”
Is he talking about my stream?
Changmin’s heart thumped faster. He listened to the boy carefully.
“I saw a human soul there.” Jaejoong whispered, pulling his eyes wider to make the story more dramatic.
“….What was it like?”
“It’s bright, as small as this…” The boy made a fist with his small hand. “Glossy, like blue pearl. I saw it under the water.”
Changmin frowned, wondering why he had never seen such thing before. He didn’t realize that Jaejoong was talking about himself. “How did you know it was human soul?” He asked.
“I didn’t know, I just felt that it was. I only saw it once, though."
“But how come it was in the stream? Human doesn’t live in the stream.”
“Oh, I read it somewhere…” Jaejoong massaged the bridge of his nose, concentrating. “I forget the book’s title. It said that if you died and refused to accept it, your soul will stay in the place where you die. So maybe the guy died there.”
Changmin formed an “O” with his mouth, deciding to just believe the doubtful information since the taller boy was his new God and his words were general truth.
He loved Jaejoong, and the feeling only got deeper every each day; when he saw the boy mumbled incoherent words and making face in his sleep, when Changmin got his tickles in the morning or a painful pinch in the cheek for gawking too much (what could he do? Jaejoong was too adorable). He loved Jaejoong when he whined about not wanting milk, when he was absorbed in either his homework or some TV shows.
He loved Jaejoong when he ran towards him from the school gate, waving with a wide smile on the way and threw his self on Changmin to squeeze him inside a hug. It made him feel like a happiest being on earth, whenever Jaejoong watched him with both palms on the cheek, and immediately laughed behind his hand when Changmin noticed him and shot a baffled looks.
“Jaejoong, I love you.” He said that one night, right when Jaejoong lay by his side. It was followed by a soft kiss on Jaejoong’s cheek.
“Oh my… “ Jaejoong giggled and replied the kiss. “…I love you too, my baby.”
Changmin was too innocent, to think that he could just step into a human child’s life and had an easy time with it.
In fact human had rules and customs to complicate things, Changmin only realized that after Jaejoong’s parents came to the house one by one to visit their only son. They didn’t get along very well and rarely come together, Jaejoong said. First, it was Mrs. Kim. The woman was a bit cold and unfriendly - she examined Changmin from head to toe with eyes full of suspicion, causing the small boy to feel somewhat nervous.
She tore her gaze away rudely and spoke to Jaejoong, “I need to talk to you.” The son quickly took Changmin to their bedroom, telling him to hide under the blanket and not eavesdropping. Changmin obeyed it without question, but he noticed that Jaejoong’s turned really silent and a bit irritated afterward.
The next visit was from Jaejoong’s father, few days after. Changmin had decided to know what was actually going on, and so he didn’t close the door properly, instead letting an inch space from the wall.
“Jaejoong-ah, listen to me….” Mr.Kim was trying to sound persuasive towards the sulking boy who was standing in front of him with arms crossed over his chest.
“I won’t listen to you! You don’t live here, now you want to take my only friend away from me!” Jaejoong shouted, totally burned with anger.
“I didn’t mean to take him from you, but we haven’t found his family… we should trust him to the social service…”
“Social service? He doesn’t need that, I can take care of him!”
“This is not as simple as you think, Jaejoong-ah. He needs proper education and therapy… God, he practically doesn’t have an identity, not even a family name, can’t you see?”
“He has! He’s… he’s… Shim, okay?” The name was slipped out just to help the pathetic argument, to show the father that Changmin’s condition wasn’t that bad. “And I can teach him anything I learn from school!”
“My son, you know it’s not that simple.”
“You can adopt him if you want!”
“We can’t afford another child… mine and your Umma’s lawsuit has cost a lot already.”
Jaejoong scoffed and stomped his fist onto the table, “Liar! You have money, you just bought your secret lover a diamond, didn’t you!?”
“Jaejoong!! Listen to what I say!” The man began to lose his patience. “We don’t know the kid! He might be dangerous for you! We don’t know if he—“
“SHUT UP!! YOU’RE THE ONE WHO DON’T KNOW ANYTHING!!”
The boy escaped the living room, not wanting to hear anymore word his father said. It’s not fair, he thought, since his parents practically weren’t there to know how lonely he was, especially after Yunho left.
A pair of worried eyes greeted him right when he reached his room and slammed the door closed, still panting with anger.
They looked at each other, silence occupied for a while before Changmin asked, “I should go?” He couldn’t hide worry from his barely audible voice.
“I’ve told you not to eavesdrop.”
A long sigh escaped Jaejoong’s lips. Then he rested both hands on the smaller boy’s shoulders and looked at him in the eyes, “Unless you want to go, I won’t let it.”
“…I want to stay with you.”
“I know. I know. Don’t worry.”
They hugged so tight, sensing insecurity from the heartbeats that accelerated against each other’s chest. Jaejoong felt his breast bone cracked when a hand tugged the fabric on his back, “Jaejoong… I’m not dangerous for you…”
The tone sounded like a plea.
“God, I know, baby! He was talking nonsense, don’t listen to him.” Jaejoong hugged him tighter and gave three pats on the back.
“What is social service?”
“You don’t need to think about that.”
Jaejoong was determined to keep the identity-less boy with any way possible, anything his eleven years old mind could think about.
Days passed without any news from the Kim’s couple. Jaejoong was alerted at first, but after one week he began to think that maybe his parents had changed their mind. They were almost happy, and began to continue their days with ease.
Then in a sudden, the seemingly fortunate situation turned into a devastating one.
Changmin indeed felt insecure towards Jaejoong’s parents, since they were the ones who might separate him from his beloved. However he didn’t hate them. He never hated anyone, not even the foxes. He might be afraid of the foxes, but that didn’t mean that he’d be happy if something bad happened to them. He never wanted bad luck happen to anyone.
“They got into accident, Min… when they were together… on the way here…”
Not to mention to the person he loved the most.
Blood drained out from his head when he saw Jaejoong collapsed onto the bed and wailed loudly. Dahae Nuna stayed outside the room, after her attempt to console the boy seemed to be futile. She ruffled Changmin’s hair, and with only an eye movement, signaling Changmin to help Jaejoong with his sorrow.
Something he absolutely wanted to, if only he knew how.
He felt somewhat helpless seeing Jaejoong planted his face deep onto the pillow, shoulders jerking, crying like a five years old boy. In the end he only sat by his side until the loud wail subsided into quiet sobs.
The cry almost stopped, but then Jaejoong turned around and accidentally let Changmin saw his pitiful, swollen eyelids, causing the latter’s face to stretch gradually as he couldn’t prevent his tears from flooding. Like an infectious disease with ping-pong phenomenon, in the end they could only hug and cried together. The only thing Changmin could say was a powerless “Jaejoong… don’t cry…”, muffled by the other boy’s wet T-shirt.
It happened so fast, how different adults came to their house to deliver news. Apparently, due to financial problems, none of Mr or Mrs.Kim’s relatives was willing to accept the boys in their house. They said they could help occasionally, but to hold full responsibility was a different matter, especially since there were two boys.
As predicted, orphanage was the only choice left for them. The day where a government employee from Seoul would come to pick them up had already been appointed, and it filled their last days in that country side town with anxiety.
At the last night, Jaejoong packed some clothes into his bags, after politely rejected Dahae’s offer to help. Changmin helped him to gather some important things.
“They said orphanage is a scary place… there will be evil Ahjuma and naughty Hyung who likes to shout at us and beat us.” Tearing the silence between them, Jaejoong got up from the floor and sat on the bed’s edge. “But who knows, we might get new friends and you can get proper education.”
Changmin felt as if the boy wanted to offer him comforting words but failed, since he was obviously shaking.
“But we will stay together, right?” Jaejoong continued. “As long as we’re together, everything’s gonna be alright.”
“Jaejoong…” Changmin followed him and sat by his side. “I-I will protect you.… I will never let anything bad happened to you.”
“Promise me? I will protect you too. We’ll protect each other. No matter what happen, promise me you won’t leave.”
He looked at the tear that threatened to fall from the corner of those eyes; never once Changmin thought that the bright boy could be that vulnerable and needed him that much.
He gripped the cold hands tightly. “I promise. Jaejoong… you’re… you’re the reason I’m here, I won’t leave you…”
That time, only that cliché assurance could keep them strong. They meant it deeper than words.
[to be continued]