Pairing: Jaemin (main)
Genre: AU, supernatural/fantasy/non-human, angst, romance
Warning: underage-went-wrong, WTFs, minor torture/violence, possible annoying!min, angst and sap
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: so...... the thing is..... I left LJ for too long. Let's say I'm one of those emotionally imbalanced fangirls when it comes to some decisions/news related to the boys, and those kind of things struck my brain blank.... and..... uhm..... okay I'm confuse of what to say T_T (not really confuse, but if I should explain what had happened it'd be some pages of personal diary)
The point is, uhm.... I know you guys will hate me for thaaattttt *run away in tears*
I've read some messages and comments I didn't read before.... and.... uh,,,,,, SORRY!!!???? *BOWS DOWN*
and while I'm writing this, I don't think you guys still remember this story anywayyyy sooooo....... hi!! *wave hand as introduction*
“So kids, don’t go too far from each other and listen to what your Hyung have to say, okay?”
Changmin’s ear twitched upon hearing a woman’s high-pitched voice followed by the trotting sounds of children’s sneakers. They barged in through the entrance door, uncontrollably, cackling and pulling off wide enthusiastic grin towards the huge blue aquariums and stone-walled touch ponds.
Elementary schools loved to pick Monday as the day to visit Marine World, an indoor ocean-themed park where Changmin worked at. Probably because they thought it would be less crowded, because their presence alone was crowding enough to literally explode the place.
Sprinkling another handful of dried fish food to the aquarium, Changmin watched how the clown fishes gaped as he made sure that the corals were in perfect condition, and tried to do it as fast as he could.
“I know what's with your face. Soon a senior will ask you, of all people, to guide and babysit the children.”
This wasn’t the first time he saw the transparent creature, jutting her head from within the corals. Her kind was the reason he sometimes avoided corals.
“Lyn, as usual, no talking.” Changmin answered, mumbling with jaws clenched together as he began wiping clump of algae from the inner side of aquarium glass.
“Whatever, you guys look the same, just don’t talk please.”
The Karr-named Pixy sighed, looking annoyed. “How cruel, just because talking to us makes you feel less human.”
“The last time I checked I’m human, nothing less.”
“Yeah right, like you can fool us with that watery smell.” She smacked her lips. “Anyway, you don’t have to worry, somebody else has been
appointed to guide the disastrous kiddies today.”
Changmin couldn’t hide his relief that he exhaled loudly, causing Karr to giggle.
“Mihihihi… I used to think that you’re a child-loving person.”
“I like children, just not today…”
Karr nodded in understanding. “Yeah, you look terrible. Why? Sleeping problem? Money? Sex deprived?”
Changmin glared at the last accusation.
“What?” Karr glared back. “I know human need sex like so bad.” With a wiggle, she got her lithe body out of the corals and approached Changmin’s hands. She watched the fingers as they carefully moved inside the water, adoring the slender shape. “So many Pixies would want you if only you weren’t that big, you know?”
“Too bad then.” Changmin replied half-heartedly.
“They said you chatted with Nat the other day. All happy and smiley. But with me you’re always so cold. Is it because I’m not fat? You like fat Pixy like Nat?”
“You should stop calling her fat, it hurts her feeling.” Changmin remembered Nat. the Pixy was depressed by her friends calling her fat that she attempted to do suicide by drinking water till she bloated and exploded, so that time he had no heart to just leave the depressed Pixy behind without listening to her groundless agony. Sometimes he wished that he were one of them, because seriously, their biggest problems in life were the case of fallen hair and fatness.
Nat was quiet and rather coherent, unlike the rest of them, so he could bear chatting with her.
Karr said something else but Changmin ignored her, this time for real.
“Hey. Hey.” Karr pouted. “What’s with the face. You’re being rude to Mr.Clown fishes. Give them a little smile at least, geez…”
Changmin smiled to the clown fishes before he got down from the ladder, heading for the rows of touch-ponds and their residents to feed.
Working in the place like Marine World; surrounded by water and blueness ten hours a day to take care of sea animals (and some fresh water fishes too) was a perfect job for Changmin, minus the occasionally nagging seniors and visitors and Pixies that, in fact, everywhere. He was freaked out at first, never thought that such ability would come to his human form. The Pixies were more than surprised knowing that Changmin could see and hear them, but worse than that, they fussed about his not-so-human smell a bit too often.
Though he hated to admit it but Karr was right about him feeling less human.
Trying to shake off the uncomfortable feeling, he grabbed a handful of squids from the bucket, meal for the group of turtles. He watched how they lazily competed with each other, though his mind wandering off to Jaejoong whom he left earlier that morning, hugging blanket on the sofa after sobbing all night.
Maybe I was too much, he thought. Maybe there was a way to avoid the intimacy without being too rude. Maybe a fake explanation over two cup of coffees would be better than leaving Jaejoong in the middle of his plea, like he had always done.
But then again, fighting with his self was the most difficult. When Jaejoong assaulted him with those begging kisses, how could Changmin stay and resist them? Leaving was the best thing he could do.
His fear wasn’t groundless. There had been a day where Xiah got too excited by Jaejoong’s taste on Changmin that he would have looked after the human guy for real–if only Changmin didn’t distract him by acting like a total masochistic, sex-obsessed whore. It was more than chaotic that time, and Changmin wasn’t sure if he could stop the fox if it happened again. He wouldn’t forget that desperate hunger on Xiah’s eyes.
Why Jaejoong should kept being with him, being in the constant danger only to be left alone in the end, while he had someone like
Hyunjoong promising love and easy life.
Hyunjoong… Kim. See, even their family name matches.
It would be a lie to say that his heart didn’t shrink whenever he mentioned the name. How could he forget how Kim Hyunjoong and Jaejoong fitted each other? Plus now within the troop of children yelling over starfishes and octopus he could still imagine the rich businessman and his flawless, glowing skin -and sweet but awkward smile, stuck between some overactive kids and tripped over stone decorations.
Sometimes Changmin wondered if Hyunjoong was born from the lotus leaves because he was so out of this planet.
Shaking his head, he also wondered why he didn’t imagine Jaejoong’s face instead to replace the hungry turtles below him.
He was about to randomly touch a fat turtle when the said imagination approached and greeted him happily.
“Changmin-ah! I thought we wouldn’t meet here!”
Turned out it wasn’t that imaginary.
Stuck froze, Changmin wasn’t sure how to react. “You….”
“Hyunjoong. You don’t remember me…?”
Changmin noticed how stupid his gawk must have been, “Oh… well of course I remember you, Hyung… just… I didn’t expect to see someone like you here on Monday…hahaha..” he reasoned, and quickly gave a bestest smile.
“I escaped from the office.”
There was a silence, followed by another crooked laugh before Changmin quickly got up from his squatted position so they could talk in proper height. “You come alone?” he asked.
“Yeah, Jaejoong left his cell phone in my car, and it was off. I couldn’t find him in his apartment and he didn’t go to the restaurant either…”
“His friends said he didn’t come. So I’m thinking of handing this cell to you…”. Hyunjoong paused and darted his gaze all over Changmin: a bucket of dead squids, two hands wrapped in thick, wet gloves and soiled, blue uniform with dirty cloth tucked in its middle pocket. Getting the situation he quickly continued, “Go on with your work, I’ll keep this till lunch time."
"Oh, you don't have to, Iet me get rid of this first…"
"It's okay, I'll wait. There's something I'd like to talk to you. I hope you don't mind?"
Changmin wondered how the guy knew his workplace, but he assumed it was probably from Jaejoong.
“No, not at all.” He shook his head and took a glimpse at the big clock there. “Give me ten minutes?”
A wide smile replaced the worried look on Hyunjoong's face. He gave a thumb as a reply. However, as he waved and walked away,
Changmin knew he should prepare his heart for some stings.
And it’s only Monday…
Jaejoong kicked another stone getting on his way and sighed. Skipping his work and staying in the apartment didn’t do him any good, so he decided to try walking to get rid of the hangover and sore body. He should've watched the kind of liquor he drank, really. Cheap drinks never help. To make it worse, his cell phone was missing somewhere and he couldn’t even remember since when.
He only remembered Changmin's hand stroking his cheek, and a gentle voice telling him that he was the reason he existed.
Shame on me... I must have been so desperate to have a dream like that...
He laughed bitterly, before kicking more stones.
After spending hours to stroll along second-handed cell phone stores, he ended up not buying and just headed home, fighting with dizziness along the way.
Turned out that someone was standing in front of his apartment door, busy studying a small note.
The guy was taller than Jaejoong, long legs wrapped in fitted jeans, lean torso dressed in a grey suit over a white T's. When he turned around Jaejoong didn’t instantly recognize those sharp eyes and smooth-sculpted jaw.
"Jae...?" The guy broke the silence with a voice that Jaejoong knew very well. "Kim Jaejoong, right?"
Rubbing his eyes in disbelief, Jaejoong nodded hesitantly and stepped closer to see the object. “Oh crap.", was his only reaction.
He traced every inch of that guy’s skin with his eyes, trying to remember the lost features; slightly chubby cheeks had turned into firm shapes, soft hair that used to fell around his face was now cut short. The skin had lost a bit of the suppleness a teen should have, and the lips weren’t as red as Jaejoong thought they should be. Nonetheless the guy still emitted a familiar charm.
Surprise was an understatement; finding a leopard there would be less surprising then finding the said guy.
“You’re so tall.” The guy smiled awkwardly and rubbed the back of his head.
The name flew from Jaejoong’s mouth almost involuntarily. With eyes still planted on the guy he unlocked the apartment door.
Yunho chuckled, though a bit forced. He couldn't cope with Jaejoong's unreadable reaction. "Where have you been?" He asked, not knowing what else to say.
"Isn't that supposed to be my question?"
An uneasy laugh. “Ah… I guess so.”
Probably due to hangover, Jaejoong couldn't pinpoint exactly how he felt. One thing for sure, he was too shock (and dizzy) to react.
"Come in." Jaejoong said and opened the door. He silently proceeded to the kitchen to boil a kettle of water, leaving his guest confused like a lost kitten.
Not protesting, Yunho quickly took a seat on a nearby sofa. His eyes were drawn to a framed photograph on top of the drawer. “Is that the guy you’re living here with?” He commented on a picture of Jaejoong and Changmin together.
“Yup… “ There was a bit of hesitation before Jaejoong continued, “…my cousin. Anyway, I thought you’re still in America.”
“I returned two years ago. Within the past three months I've been looking for you. I've heard everything... I’m so sorry that it happened."
“It’s all in the past. You’re living in Seoul?”
“Not yet. Soon, though.”
Jaejoong waited for the other guy to explain more, but they ended up in silence until the kettle whistled. With a cup of tea in his hand Jaejoong took a seat across his guest. “Here you are.” He placed the cup in front of the older guy, who quickly took it as an object to place his gaze.
“You look good.” Yunho commented and smiled.
“…yeah…” another smile.
When Yunho began to talk about the weather Jaejoong cut him off impatiently. “Is there something you need to tell me? You can’t be going for all the trouble just to say hi, can you?”
“I did, actually. Can't I?"
“Hmm… like, hi Jaejoong, do you still suck cock?”
Yunho chocked on his tea.
"Not lately, neither do I get sucked, but that's not really the problem." Jaejoong added the info.
Jaejoong had no clue why he suddenly flared his frustration to the innocent guy. He grabbed a remote and turned the TV on, only to find that the antenna was being a bitch again, so he cursed and turned the TV off, while Yunho fidgeted in his seat trying to get a clue on how to react. Palms on knees like a bad kid in teacher’s office.
"Okay, then this is the part where you're going to tell me that you’ve got married and a cute baby is on the way." Jaejoong guessed more while kept fixing his gaze to the pitch black TV.
"That's an important part of every love novel."
Yunho sighed. "You still can't forgive me, can you.”
Of course that's not the case. The memory with Yunho wasn't all enjoyable to be remembered, but Jaejoong had long stopped making such a big deal about that night. He had fully understood who the bitch was back then.
Yunho just showed up in a wrong day.
Realizing that he was being sarcastic for no reason, Jaejoong sighed and got up from his seat. Then he abruptly dropped himself on Yunho and squeezed him tight, causing the other guy to squeak in surprise.
"Fuck, that sounded almost like a girl." Jaejoong squeezed tighter.
“Uhm... I expect some yelling and hits on the face?”
“A bit too late for that. You’ve been away for too long. Now shut up and more squeeze.”
Yunho laughed loudly and did as he told. It felt strange, because the last time he did Jaejoong was so small and frail that he might be lost inside his chest whenever they hugged too tight, and now the same guy was all over him, strangling him and made him difficult to breathe.
“What’s wrong with these arms!?” Yunho gawked as soon as he noticed the well-built muscles under the jacket’s sleeves.
“They can snap you into two parts now." Jaejoong said proudly. He didn't care whether their position might make the supposedly straight Yunho felt uncomfortable, since the said guy didn't look mind anyway.
"I'm so sorry Jae... I wish I was there when you went through all that trouble. You were too young, how did you even manage to deal with it?”
“I was with him, I wasn’t alone.” Jaejoong pointed to the framed photograph.
“I don’t know you have a cousin.”
“He’s quite distant, like my cousin’s cousin. His family was too poor to take care of him.”
No hesitation in making up such story, since Jaejoong had used it so many times in the past just to avoid adults and the other kids asking too much about Changmin’s background.
He didn't know why they hadn't dropped the lie. They no longer needed it, and Jaejoong even disturbed by it sometimes. Changmin didn't seem to care though; the guy still introduced himself as a cousin and never complained.
I never even addressed him as my boyfriend…
"But seriously, you've changed a lot Jae..." Yunho commented, finally able to drop the tension.
Jaejoong shook the thought of Changmin away and tried to focus on this childhood friend he had missed so much. “What, are you expecting me to be a hobit forever?”
Yunho smiled. “Now that you mention it now, that nanny of yours often called you a hobit back then… to make you drink milk…”
They spent some moments to cling onto each other like sloths, and only stopped when Jaejoong realized that Yunho's fingers started playing with the tip of his hair.
"Let's just get out of this moldy place? You're acting like a gay, Hyung. Seriously."
Yunho only chuckled.
By the next half an hour they had already made their way to the shopping center on the city. Jaejoong scoffed when Yunho took him to an Italian restaurant which happened to be not so wallet-friendly, but after the latter guaranteed that all expenses would be on him, the younger guy finally agreed, though half heartedly.
“You used to jump and squeal when I brought you to a fancy restaurant.” Yunho commented after the waiter finished taking their order.
“There’s this thing called man pride that I hadn’t had, plus I considered McDonalds ‘fancy’ that time. "
“And how the little boy got that man pride?”
Jaejoong paused, and then smirked. “Believe me you don’t want to hear that part.”
Getting the lewd smirk, Yunho coughed and quickly changed his mind. “….right. Maybe some other time when we’re not eat…wait." He narrowed his eyes and counting numbers with his fingers. "How old are you!?”
Jaejoong rolled his eyes. “Old enough. Anyway. What happened to you and what are you doing now?”
“…Well, just like most people, office work nine hours a day, six days a week.”
“Your car doesn’t reflect most people’s car at all.”
"It’s the company’s, not mine." Yunho lazily named a position in a certain big company and Jaejoong whistled. He ended up interrogating that childhood friend of his – his current live, his family, his hobby- and obtained some interesting facts.
Yunho collected shoes (Jaejoong smirked, can’t you be gayer than that?). The guy was happy with his current life-despite the fact that he just failed a relationship- he had worked and lived in Busan for few months, but now that he was promoted, he had to move to Seoul. His new office building was somewhere near Marine World, however he had never had a chance to visit that place.
“Visit that place sometimes.” Jaejoong suggested. “When you see a tall guy with bleak face talking to a Barracuda or some random jellyfish, make sure he’s my cousin.”
Yunho laughed, “How do I recognize people from such description?”
Soon their meals came; they ate while commenting about the food, and by the time they finished Yunho realized that he hadn’t heard much about his dongsaeng.
“Tell me about yourself. I guess you’re going to college now?” He asked.
"No. I work in a restaurant."
Yunho pursed his lips. "What a waste, you’re smart. I can’t believe no one offered a help. if you don’t mind, I’ll be happy to.”
“Don’t worry Hyung… I’m saving money for culinary school, hopefully in one or two years from now.”
“Go sooner, I’ll handle everything.”
“I can handle it by myself.”
“Jae…” Yunho reached out to grab Jaejoong’s hand and stroked the back of it lightly with his palm. The latter smiled, as his fingers were entwined with Yunho’s slender ones. Jaejoong always had a thing for beautiful fingers.
However his smile faltered soon as he realized something.
“Have I told you that you act so gay, Hyung?”
Yunho bit his lips and pulled his hand slowly, eyes still fixed on Jaejoong’s.
There was a five seconds moment of silence before the younger guy exploded in laughter.
“Right, go on, laugh all you want.” Yunho said sulkily.
“Fuck, I should’ve sucked longer that time…”
The said guy couldn't stop laughing, after all who could forget how young Yunho insisted and apologized?
“You make me wanna pee. You owe me a story, okay? A long one.”
Running from Yunho’s murderous glare, Jaejoong excused himself with a smug, mocking smile on his face.
Still giggling, Jaejoong proceeded to the washroom. He fixed his gaze to the marble floor while moving fast, and didn’t see a guy who was walking slowly from the opposite direction. They would’ve bumped if only the guy didn’t grab his shoulder to stop him.
“Sorry.” Jaejoong quickly apologized.
There was a glimpse of joy and relief in the stranger’s sharp black eyes. “Finally… it’s been a long time, isn’t it?” He said, almost like a whisper.
Jaejoong frowned, trying to remember the face in front of him, but he couldn’t. “Have we met before?” He asked.
“We haven’t? I’ve mistaken you for a friend then.” Smiling wider, the guy sniffed and bit his lips. “You smell so nice.”He commented.
“Kind of make me hungry.”
“Oh, I work in a Chinese restaurant, maybe it’s the spices…”
Jaejoong realized that the guy’s hands were still resting on his shoulder. His perfectly-shaped long nails caught his attention.
It was almost awkward, luckily Yunho caught up after him.
The stranger let go of his shoulder and nodded as an apology before he smiled to Yunho. “Well then, I hope we’ll meet again.” He said and walked away.
They looked at the stranger as he walked nonchalantly with both hands on his pocket.
“What a gentleman. Someone you know?” Yunho asked.
“No.” Jaejoong shrugged, “But he acted so friendly… he even said I smell nice.”
Yunho leaned forward to inhale Jaejoong’s hair. “The shampoo?”
“Maybe. He smells weird, though. Like cedar wood. So old fashioned.”
“How cedar smells?”
“Like that guy just now, you didn’t notice it?”
“I didn’t smell anything.”
Jaejoong grinned, “Sticky liquid clogs your nose?”, and continued walking with a little hip sway.
“He never talked about himself. It’s always about me, the food or something on the TV. He knows how to stir the conversation so I ended up wasting time to talk about myself and heard almost nothing about him.”
The rice bowl tasted sour as Changmin had no choice but to shovel it while listening to Hyunjoong talking passionately about his ‘cousin’. He mostly failed to answer, especially the main question, “What kind of guy was Jaejoong’s ex?”
“He’s really introvert.” Hyunjoong stated.
Actually Changmin wasn’t sure about that. With him it had been Jaejoong who always talked more. Jaejoong that he knew was neither introvert nor quiet.
“I don’t know why I insist, Changmin-ah… he said it clear that he could just easily use me and dump me. Yet still I’m here…” Hyunjoong planted his forehead on the table. His coffee remained forgotten. “I have this image of him having so many ex-boyfriends. You really don’t know, even one of them?”
“Uhm… Jaejoong never shared me any story about his love lives…” Changmin answered carefully.
“I see…I really need to know what kind of guy suits him. I want to fix what’s lacking in me.”
“Why…? The fact that the guy became an ex, was because he didn’t suit Jaejoong, right?” This guy’s really head over heels, isn’t he.
“Ah, you’re right…” Hyunjoong nodded. “Then… had he ever been rejected?”
“…I have no idea.”
“I want to know what it takes to get his heart… “
Face flat, Changmin thought for an answer while mixing the rice and propping his chin on his palm. When he looked up he realized that Hyunjoong was looking at him, chuckling quietly.
“How it had been in your apartment?” The guy suddenly asked, still smiling.
After three seconds frowning Changmin asked back, “What do you mean?”
“Well… you and Jaejoong are pretty much alike. Doesn’t talk much, seemingly disinterested, spacing out, but never said anything about wanting to stop the conversation or leaving.”
“Oh! I didn’t mean to...“
“I know, I know, that’s not what I mean.” Hyunjoong waved his hand. “Jaejoong is like that too. Well, you talk even less than him, though.”
“I’m so sorry…”
Hyunjoong laughed and grabbed one of Changmin’s hands between his. “I don’t mind Changmin-ah, I still enjoy talking to you. If you think you're wasting your time, and want to leave you can just tell me, I’m perfectly fine with it.”
“No, I enjoy talking to you too, Hyung…” Brace yourself Changmin, he’s sweet, he’s a perfect match for Jaejoong.
Hyunjoong laughed again. “With both of you being mute to each other I bet your apartment is a great place for meditation.”
Changmin knew it wasn’t on purpose so he tried laughing.
The talk must end when one of the seniors reminded Changmin that lunch break was over. Looking satisfied for having his pent up emotion released, Hyunjoong walked Changmin back to the entrance door with an arm around his shoulder. He stopped by an ice cream stall on the way and picked a pack of Chapsalduk for Changmin.
“Jaejoong said you like this.” He said, handing the mochi ice cream.
Changmin smiled. “You said he never told you any story.”
“Not about him. But he told me once that you were a needy crybaby who could easily be bribed with Chapsalduk and Pikachu print outs. You’re a vegetarian and pyrophobic. See, I think I know more about you than I know him.”
“So now you’re bribing me?”
Hyunjoong blushed. “Oh, not like that—“
Hyunjoong pressed his lips tight, trying not to laugh when Changmin expressionlessly finished the ice cream in less than a minute. It looked like he didn’t even chew them.
“Jaejoong likes fairy tales and mythical stuffs.”Changmin said suddenly. “He’s adventurous, sometimes reckless and short-tempered. He’s passionate and impulsive, doesn’t think much about consequence or something like that.”
The older guy chuckled and blushed like a little girl. “That’s the side I haven’t witnessed. If that so, I guess his type is more like a wild, free person….”
Changmin shook his head. “On the contrary... I think you're pretty much his type."
"You just need time. I think he'll eventually come to you."
They parted in front of the building's back entrance. Changmin went straight to the employee's locker room to get change into his blue overall uniform. He wore his ID tags, gloves and everything needed for the next job.
There was a feeding show when Changmin entered the hall. Kids gathered around the display of the biggest aquarium (the one with a glass-walled cave piercing it). Two men wearing diving suits and oxygen tank were inside, surrounded by stingrays, giant fishes and turtles that were after the meals they brought.
Changmin wanted to be there. He wanted that job, but he had no diving license to be allowed to do it.
"That Hyunjoong guy is so cute.”
A familiar voice yelled from one of the touch ponds, and Changmin rolled his eyes. Without planning to answer he squatted next to the touch pond, watching the feeding show. But then the next thing he heard stole his attention.
"They'll come for Momo."
He felt his heart stopped. "What do you mean?"
"You know, Momo. It’s decided. Tonight." The transparent wing flapped – a water Pixy emerged from the surface and flew to Changmin’s knee.
"You don't know something like that."
"We wish we didn't, but sometimes we just know."
Changmin sighed. "That doesn’t make sense. He's getting better, he'll be released from the quarantine tomorrow and back for the show next week…"
"No, he won't. It'll be a farewell tonight."
"He's not even that old."
"But that's the furthest he can get."
Realizing that he looked like a schizophrenic dude by talking to nothing, Changmin checked around to assure that no one was listening to him. Fortunately all the attentions were drawn to the feeding show and the MC who was loudly explaining everything.
"Why are you telling me this? I’m not supposed to know something like this.” This time he talked more quietly.
“You always think he’s special. I think it’s just fair if you say goodbye properly.”
Changmin sighed again, eyebrows furrowed.
“You hate things like that, right? You prefer to run and act as if nothing happen.” The Pixy (Changmin forgot her name) spoke nonchalantly as if she had known the guy for a long time. Before Changmin managed to retort, she continued, “That won’t make you survive the pain. That’s not how human world works. Say goodbye to Momo, okay?”
The Pixy left his knee and dived back into the water. Changmin wondered why a water Pixy could leave the water so easily.
For the next hours he continued his work. The fishy smell of salty water blended into his body (sometimes Changmin remembered the soft, fresh scent he inhaled around Hyunjoong and felt grateful that Jaejoong wasn't there to witness the difference) as he worked himself more than necessary -his seniors asked why the hell he wiped the explanation board one by one- all to distract himself from the news he just heard.
At 6 pm the place was closed, and by 8 pm Changmin was the last person left there aside from the security. And he hadn't done what the Pixy had told him too.
"Changmin-ah. Hurry up, pack your things and get out of here, I'm gonna lock all the doors soon.". A fat ahjussi peeked into the locker room where Changmin was spacing out to the ceiling, still with his blue uniform.
"Ahjussi..." Changmin got up. "May I borrow the key to the quarantine building? I have to go there."
The fat man groaned. "It's late. Can't it wait until tomorrow? Gotta go drinking with some friends… oh, and you better be quiet about that.”
Changmin didn’t fuss. He knew very well how the man acted. If the manager didn’t even care about it, he had no reason to. “Then leave the keys to me.” He suggested. “I’ll come early tomorrow.”
“Nah, can’t risk that.”
The man scratched his head and checked his wrist watch. "Unless you wait here until I return. Around midnight.”
Changmin wasn’t sure whether it’d give him enough time, but he guessed it was the best option. “Okay then.” He agreed.
Mumbling ‘ambitious ass’, the man threw a ring of keys to Changmin’s direction and walked away.
After wasting more time to space out (he liked to do that lately), Changmin checked the content of his locker before he got out of the room and switched on all of the lights inside the already dark hall. The aquariums lit up in blueness once more, revealing the ocean creatures, some of them had already rested serenely on the base of aquariums.
He walked around the hall and checked outside, making sure that he was the only one left there. After twenty minutes or so he walked up the stair in the corner that’d lead him to the second level, a place for the exposed part of the biggest aquarium where the feeding show had been held earlier that day. His (and everyone’s) favorite aquarium. Ten meters tall, twenty meters long, twenty meters wide. Seven thousand and five hundred fishes, ten giant turtles, fifteen stingrays, one hundred sea snakes of various races, one thousand and two hundred clams and scallops and lots and lots of corals. Most of the visitors were satisfied enough to observe the other world from the underwater glass-walled cave that pierced through it, but Changmin wasn’t.
The first time he stepped on Marine World was three years ago, and it was Jaejoong who brought him. Ever since then he had always wanted to work there, and this certain aquarium was one of the reasons why.
Screw diving license.
Changmin stepped forward, closer to the side of the giant pool. Right underneath him was the curls of water, transparent, revealing the animals and their fake freedom. Trapped inside a glass wall is never a freedom nor remedy, but weirdly, the sight, the chill and the salty smell screamed the words to him.
He undressed himself from the uniform and dived into the water with nothing attached to his body but a boxer.
He didn’t hold his breath. He breathed just like normally. The water went in and out his lungs just like the air did. The salty water didn’t sting his eyes. He didn’t know how he managed to swim either. Back when they were kids Jaejoong had always asked how the hell Changmin never looked half as tired as him, whenever they had a chance to visit swimming pool (which was rare). Back then he was pretty sure that he was normal. It wasn’t until few months ago Changmin realized that something had changed, that his lungs didn’t treat water like they should. He had no clue why, he had no clue whether it was good or bad either.
The cold water caressed his skin as he dived deeper, spreading his arms and kicking his legs, passing crowds of fishes. They didn’t dismiss, only looked at him a bit curiously- at least the Puffers, the Triggers and some Groupers. The Napoleon Wrasses looked disinterested though, either that or that’s just how they always looked, with their sleepy eyes and swollen blue lips.
Those faces looked more amusing that they were now right in front of his nose. He almost laughed when some giant turtles started to nudge his waist, like a dog asking for snacks. They were always the friendliest.
Stingrays, Sea snakes and Jellyfishes are dangerous fellows, but they were too busy with themselves to care about Changmin’s presence.
Unlike some certain talkative, transparent little fellows whose accent he knew very well.
“Crazy dude. He’ll be in trouble.”
“See? I just knew it from his smell.”
“Oh, you don’t know? This isn’t the first time he’s here.”
Fortunately Changmin was too busy chanting to himself to care about the Pixies’ chats.
It’s just a circle. Life, death. It’s part of the circle. Accept it. Let it go.
He almost reached the base of the aquarium when he decided to stop moving. He spread his limbs wide, eyes closed, letting his body fell deeper. Everything, everything around him, everything caressing him, the scenery looming before his eyes, they healed him to the point where he could almost forget all that had happened or would happen, and stayed there for eternity.
Perhaps he could, if it wasn’t for the pale, horrid face that was glaring at him from the other side of the glass wall.
The water raised several degrees colder as he saw a not-supposed-to-be-there Kim Jaejoong mouthing his name. Well, he was probably screaming, but of course Changmin couldn’t hear it.
‘What the fuck’ were the only words Changmin could read from Jaejoong’s lips, the rest were pronounced too fast. But surely the tanned guy couldn’t stay there much longer, and it wasn't just because Jaejoong immediately rushed to find him.
Jaejoong had a difficulty to find a way up; he didn’t really know the place. He arrived right when Changmin just got out of the water. Ignoring the younger’s wet and almost naked body, he attacked him with a bone-crushing hug. Both of their breaths ran rampant for different reasons –Changmin from swimming too fast, and Jaejoong from freaking out.
“Are you crazy!?” Jaejoong shouted at Changmin’s face, his chest paced up and down, fingers clawing Changmin’s bare shoulders. “What the hell were you doing inside!? No oxygen tank, no suit, no—“
“I-I can hold my—“
“It’s dangerous!! You haven’t even learned how to dive!”
Changmin flinched slightly and somehow his knees went weak . “But I can—“
“Shut up, will you!? It’s cold, it’s late, no one is here, no one will help you if something happen, if you want to play crazy at least ask someone to watch you !! The goddamn security isn’t even here!”
“Jae, this is not the f—“
“If this is not the first time then I’ll be more furious, that shit is ten meters deep! Say if you choked or something, you’d be dead before you could get out of the water! And it’s fucking cold, you’re naked like this, you could catch a cold, and damn those are all slimy fishes down there!!” Jaejoong scrunched his nose. “You’re so gross!!” He took Changmin’s uniform that was neglected near their feet and used it to wipe Changmin’s body.
“Y-you're wet.” Changmin commented, crimson slowly crept up his cheeks. When was the last time Jaejoong scolded him this way?
“Shut up. Where’s the shower?”
“…I-Inside the locker room.”
Jaejoong took of his jacket and wrapped it around Changmin before he pushed his back harshly. “Go wash yourself. Hot water.”
The older guy followed Changmin to the locker room with one hand attached to his shoulder. Inside the locker room Changmin silently proceeded to the shower while Jaejoong flopped onto one of the seats with arms crossed over his chest.
Changmin finished in few minutes. Jaejoong was blowing the wet spots on his shirt and jacket with a neglected hairdryer when the tanned guy stepped out of the shower. a piece of towel was wrapped around his waist.
Jaejoong huffed and turned his back against Changmin, giving the later a privacy to get dressed. After a while Changmin felt the hot air of hair dryer and gentle fingers running over his hair.
“I know you can hold your breath longer than most people, but please don’t do that again.” Jaejoong said. His voice was softer this time.
“I’m sorry, it’s just…” Changmin paused. He turned to his left to meet a pair of worried eyes.
Jaejoong heart sunk. The younger had never wanted something that bad. He could feel tingle on his fingertips as they brushed against Changmin’s half wet hair. “If you like it so much, I’ll get you into a course. You can also get a license. How’s that?”
Changmin chuckled softly at the over-generous offer. He shook his head, “It’s expensive, Jae.”
“I’ll pay for it.”
“Don’t waste your money on something like that.
“Then… “ A hesitation. “We should… like… some other time, go to the sea or something. You know, like snorkeling... I know some cheap places.”
“That sounds good.”
Jaejoong swore he was no longer seeing black hair and hair dryer, but butterflies, rainbows and flowers.
Fighting back a sheepish smile, he asked, “It’s late. What are you doing here?”
“This is Momo.”
Wide, excited smile sparked Jaejoong's face when a dolphin emerged from the water surface as soon as Changmin whistled a certain melody. The dolphin stuck his body on the pool side, right in front of them, and Jaejoong watched in awe as Changmin squatted and patted the dolphin's jaw.
"...He knows you...?" Jaejoong tried touching Momo's slick skin; however he noticed immediately that the dolphin wasn't feeling to well. It was a quarantine pond, after all. "He's cute..." Jaejoong commented, toning down his excitement upon seeing Momo's dazed eyes.
“He is. Of all the dolphins here, he’s the friendliest one towards me.”
“I never knew you take care of the dolphins. That's cool…”
Changmin shook his head. “I have no experience so I’m not supposed to do that. But Gongwook Hyung, the trainer, taught me few things about training and feeding them. Then sometimes he asked me to replace him when he slacked off. I was happy when he did that, honestly.”
It had been a decade since such long sentences came out from Changmin's mouth, and Jaejoong couldn't help but jumping inside, wondering whether a miracle was on his side.
“I see… And this fella is the friendliest one?”
“Gongwook Hyung said he obeys me more than him… I think he likes me.”
Jaejoong chuckled and stroked Momo's jaw. “Thanks for liking my Changmin.” Without checking at Changmin's reaction, he asked, “He’s for show, right? What tricks he’s able to do?”
“The usual stuffs. Jumping, standing on the water…” Changmin made gestures with both of his palms, “…like this. Oh, and making sounds. The trainer has this trick where he’d say something stupid and the dolphins would laugh at him mockingly.”
Jaejoong listened tentatively, forming an ‘O’ with his mouth. “I want to know how a dolphin laughs. But I guess he can’t laugh right now….”
“Can you, Momo? Can you laugh for me?” Changmin put a finger in front of his mouth and waved it right and left like a fan.
The dolphin answered with a weak, high-pitched voice. His eyes closed when he did that. Jaejoong laughed amusedly seeing the response, palm covering his mouth.
“He really laughed…”
“Dolphin is smart.” Changmin said.
“I know. I heard dolphins are ones of the few animals that could recognize their reflection on the mirror.”
“Yeah. And they’ll show an interest, like twirling around to check whether their reflections would do the same.”
“Momo can twirl very fast.” Changmin added quickly. "And jump very high. Right, Momo?"
Maybe it's just an imagination, but Jaejoong could see the dolphin smiled.
“They also said that dolphins are loyal.” Jaejoong continued.
“Ah, some of them. Some of them are monogamists, especially those who live in small community.”
“Still, that’s amazing for animals. One partner for a lifetime, even human find it difficult.” Jaejoong intended nothing with his statement, but soon he regretted it and quickly changed the topic. “This is a quarantine pond, right? What’s his illness?”
“He’s… they said…” He couldn’t survive tonight.
“Changmin….” Noticing the weak voice, Jaejoong massaged the guy’s shoulder, implying support.
“The veterinarians have done everything. Momo has shown some improvements… even Gongwook Hyung has dropped the worry.”
“Isn’t that good?”
“Then… he’ll be okay, right?”
“…. He will.”
Jaejoong pinched Changmin’s chin gently. “You worry too much, baby.”
Changmin didn’t answer.
Momo passed away at a bit past midnight. Both of the guys’ hands lingered around his face, bidding a painful farewell as he exhaled his last breath.
They told no one about the dolphin, soon he'd be found anyway. Not even the security ahjussi who had returned half-drunk from his drinking party. The fat man growled as he snatched the keys from Changmin and told him to leave quickly.
It was almost 1 am when they left the gate. The area around Marine World was well-decorated with stone sidewalk, diamond shaped trees and European-styled street lamps, but no taxi or bus would pass after work hour, and so they had to walk through quite a distance to reach the nearest bus station.
Still bothered by the recent incident, their steps were slow and lifeless despite the unfriendly weather. The cold night wind passed through them endlessly, soft yet freezing.
Jaejoong knew Changmin was mourning deeply even when the tanned guy had tried to pull his face stoic.
When did he start becoming such a guy? Jaejoong thought. He had never once asked Changmin to suppress or hide his emotion. Anyone could tell from the silence that he was close to tears. Still, Jaejoong was closer to tears than him.
“Oh, here.” Changmin took out a cell phone from his pocket and slipped it into Jaejoong’s.
Jaejoong sighed loudly seeing the thing. “I’m looking for this. How did you get it?”
“Hyunjoong came this afternoon, he gave me that.”
Jaejoong frowned. He only said one time about Changmin working in Marine World, and didn’t expect Hyunjoong to remember it. “He came only to return my cells?”
“We also had a lunch.”
“What did you guys talk about?”
“You.” Changmin answered shortly.
“…What about me?”
Your type, your love experience, your personality. “He said you didn’t go to work.”
“Hmm… wasn’t feeling too well.”
“Yet you came here at this hour...”
“I was just worried, okay?” Jaejoong suddenly remembered how Changmin was so close to danger inside the giant aquarium. At least it seemed like that to him. “And you made it worse.” He narrowed his eyes, accusing.
“The diving? I won’t do it again…” Changmin’s voice hung in the air, as if it wasn’t uttered that seriously.
“You better not. Before you take a course, I mean.”
Jaejoong switched his attention to a big advertisement board of the dolphins show. It was the picture of trainers and the dolphins themselves. Some lines promoted how amazing the show would be.
“Can you recognize a dolphin from one another?” He asked.
“Of course. Their faces are different, no?”
“No way…” Jaejoong narrowed his eyes, observing the photo on the advertisement board. “All dolphins look the same. Now they all look like Mo….”
The sentence was lost before it finished. He took a deep breath and blew it harshly, fighting back the surge of emotion.
Changmin chuckled and slapped Jaejoong’s back lightly. “I shouldn’t have let you see something like that.”
“Sorry. I supposed to be the one who consoles you right now, not the other way around.”
“You already did. Thanks.”
Jaejoong muttered, “I didn’t do anything.” But then he shifted closer to Changmin’s side, until their shoulders almost met. The tanned guy let him instead of keeping distance. It was rare.
“Where will they go?” He asked, eyes glancing at the cloudy sky. Changmin looked like he didn’t get the question, so Jaejoong continued. “After someone died, what will happen?”
“Why do you ask me? You used to know things like that in details… heaven, hell, afterlife.”
“I didn’t know, I just pretended to know.” Jaejoong admitted. “How could I know? I’m still alive.”
Smile curled on the corner of Changmin’s lips as he also looked up to the sky, searching for the same spot Jaejoong had been staring at. “Well… I heard… there’s this place where the souls would wait for a long time, close to eternity.” He answered, without knowing where the answer came from.
“It's part of a circle. Hopefully one day they would be granted a chance for another life. Momo would too.”
“As a dolphin?”
“To be reborn as human would be great, though.”
“I don’t know.” Jaejoong shrugged. “I just think we’re the prettiest living being. If I were another creature I would want to become human, even if only for a short lifespan.”
"Even if their life is full of misery?"
"Experiencing misery is a way to treasure happiness.”
“Only human think like that.”
“That’s why we’re the prettiest living being.”
Changmin nodded slowly. Then he realized that Jaejoong started to inhale and exhale again, fighting tears from falling. Witnessing a lovely creature passed away seemed a bit hard for him.
“Don’t be sad, let's just think that Momo will get another life as human…” He tried to console, though didn’t feel too assuring.
“It’s still sad. What about his friends, his lover? You said there’s this place where he would wait for a long time, close to eternity. After an eternity, where would he be, what would happen to his friends and lover? It’s impossible for them to be together again in the next life, right? So it’s still sad to me.” Jaejoong mumbled.
He let the wind beat his forlorn sigh, eyes drifted to nowhere. His mind was so blank that by the next second he needed time to realize that he had stopped walking, and had Changmin’s lips on his.
He gasped and stiffened, registering what was happening. A pair of chapped, trembling lips suckled on his softer ones, not much desire, not much passion, but tons of desperation and insecurity.
Jaejoong read those in a blink of eyes, and couldn’t help but wondering the reason. The kiss was obviously long-awaited and he should’ve replied hungrily, but he didn’t. Instead, he kissed Changmin like he did seven years ago. Slowly, serving and leading, a bit controlling, but not enough to dominate.
Everything about Changmin was cold, just like they were on their first kiss, even his smell; the mysterious scent of rain and waterfall and a mix of men’s cologne. The tip of his tongue hesitated, almost unmoving. Jaejoong felt Changmin’s fingers groggily searched for his, and only brave enough to clutch the tip of his thumb. Blatant fear radiated from the skin.
Jaejoong didn't understand but he tried not to ask. He knew Changmin wouldn’t want to answer. He only gripped the guy’s hand tighter, thumb drawing circles on the back of it, promising comfort. Without blinking even once, he watched how Changmin shut his eyelids tight, almost like guarding something from leaking out.
Changmin knew he should've stopped, but he couldn't. He didn't know how and didn’t want to, especially after Jaejoong’s arm circled around his waist and pulled him closer, until their heartbeats almost collided against each other.
They parted with a soft sound, slowly, eyes averting each other’s gaze, only to tighten their hug. It was wordless until Changmin whispered with husky voice, “If only… time stops now.”
Jaejoong tilted his head down, hiding his face in Changmin’s shoulder. “We don’t really need tomorrow, do we?” He whispered back.
“No. We don’t.”
None of them had a clue of what was happening. Or what cheap nonsense they were saying. They believed the bad weather was messing with their brains.
Yunho made another turn on the sofa, slid his arms behind his head and huffed.
This is stupid. I can’t be this shallow.
He supposed to check the accounting report a staff had given to him, either that or surfing through webs and newspaper for an apartment rent in Seoul. But none of those could he do properly now, thanks to a certain face he couldn’t picture out from his head.
Crap. I’m not a teenager anymore.
The face bothered him so much that he couldn’t help but tossed and turned in anxiety, and so he literally jumped from his seat when the door creaked open.
“Hyung? You should sleep. Don’t you have to get up early tomorrow?”
Jaejoong popped up from door, hugging himself and shivered from the cold. Behind him was the face that bothered Yunho's mind. The real one did it even worse than the photograph, now that he was staring at him with such beautiful, beautiful eyes.
Firm, black eyebrows, perfect jaw line and a pair of thin lips with visibly gritty surface. Messy hair that longed to be ruffled, and (again) those beautiful, beautiful eyes.
Those weren’t the only reason why that face bothered him, though.
“Oh, Changmin, this is Yunho Hyung. He’s moving to Seoul, but hasn’t found an apartment. I asked him to stay with us, better than wasting money for hotel, right.” Jaejoong introduced him.
It might be rude, but Yunho couldn't stop staring at the guy before him. "Jung Yunho." He reached out a hand.
Yunho only managed to see the younger guy's eyes for some nanoseconds before he looked away. He assumed this Changmin guy was the less sociable type.
But hell, still Yunho couldn't stop staring.
“Have we met before…?” He asked. No, it wasn't a pickup line.
“N-no… I don’t think so.”
Yunho could feel the guy’s hand shook before he quickly reatreated it. “It's cold outside, isn't it?” He asked in concern.
Changmin nodded. “Yeah…”
“Hyung, you should just..." Jaejoong interrupted their talk, bringing a deflated air matress in his arm. "... use my room. I'll sleep here."
"What? What kind of guest do you think am I?" Yunho protested.
Jaejoong rolled his eyes, "What kind of dongsaeng do you think am I?"
"Jae, your bed is too big for me... You two should just sleep there like usual, I'll take the sofa..."
Despite the complain, Jaejoong inflated the matress and shoved it next to sofa while Changmin stayed silent. The later couldn't tell directly to Yunho that the king-sized bed had always been for one person lately, and that both him and Jaejoong had been competing for the sofa instead of the bed.
"W-we both move so much in our sleep, we couldn't sleep in one bed." Jaejoong explained stammeringly when Yunho mentioned about him sleeping with Changmin one more time.
However it seemed like wherever Yunho chose to sleep, Changmin would end up side by side with Jaejoong throughout the night, whether it's bedroom or living room. It wasn't good.
"W-why don't you just sleep with Jaejoong on the bed, Hyung?" Changmin suggested quickly.
Yunho blushed. "Well..."
"Oh, let's solve it with Jan-Ken-Pon, shall we?" Jaejoong decided and beckoned Changmin to join the game. Changmin didn't know what else to do so he just followed, while Yunho still couldn't get it why the 'cousins' didn't just use the bed.
In the end Jaejoong got the bed, Changmin got the sofa and Yunho got the air mattress.
None of them felt at ease with the result, for different reasons.
[to be continued]