Genre: AU, fluff, angst, WAFF, romance
Disclaimer: I don't own anything apart from the story. I wish I had YunJae and if I had my way, they'd move to New Zealand so they can be civil-unionised here
Summary: Jaejoong just wants somewhere to call home again. Living by himself is really not as great as his sisters made it out to be and he yearns to be around people again. He misses the hustle and bustle and even the crying babies that make up his parents’ household but he’s too proud and stubborn to return. He is nineteen after all and fully capable of living his own life away from his ridiculously large family. Enter a tiny little girl who captures Jaejoong’s heart in an instant and he finds himself with a family…of sorts. And for a sheltered, very well-loved boy, complicated doesn’t even begin to describe his life from the moment the tearful baby crawls into his lap looking for comfort.
AN: This fic already has 75,000+ words o_____O I’ve decided that I might be halfway through though so… perhaps we will have around 20-25 chapters in total. I haven’t made a firm decision but it’s looking that way :3 Please anticipate.
The morning is a mad scramble for Jaejoong. It has been over two weeks since he moved in with the Jungs but mornings are still crazy for him, needing to get three people ready including himself. He watches Yunho across the dining table, rifling through his briefcase even as he sips his coffee. He doesn’t have the time to sit and stare though as he sees Jiyool out of the corner of his eye crawling towards his bag on the floor. He leaves her be, keeping an eye on her as he eats his fried ramyun till she starts pulling out the contents; his Kindle, two notebooks, his pocket diary, his toiletry bag, among other things.
“Jiyool…” Jaejoong’s voice holds a note of warning.
The baby girl turns holding his iPhone, sending him a gummy smile, before promptly stuffing the corner of the phone into her mouth.
“Jiyool…” Jaejoong tries again.
The second time her name is called, the baby doesn’t even bother looking up but her father does, and he watches the boy with a hint of amusement while finishing his coffee. Jaejoong is pouting in consternation, and as he opens his mouth, Yunho speaks instead.
“Jiyool.” His daughter looks up. Yunho lifts a finger, and ends with a word ringing in finality. “No.”
The little girl stares at her father, and then back at the phone, and then at her father again, and promptly tosses the phone aside before making crying sounds while crawling rapidly to Jaejoong who is a picture of bemused horror. Horrified that his precious phone got treated so abysmally, and bemused that the little girl thinks he is going to save her from her father. He bends over and hauls her up by fisting her top and pants together with one hand, and dumping her on the table in front of the man before looking up to meet Yunho’s shocked eyes.
“I’m pretty sure that’s not how you carry babies.”
“She’ll be fine. You should see my mother with babies. Look, she’s stopped crying.”
“You know she wasn’t really crying.”
“I know. Jiyool is a little brat. Watch your things there!”
“Good grief…” Yunho mumbles under his breath as he eyes his daughter who is now cheerfully trying to get into his open briefcase on the table.
“What was that?”
As usual, no answer is forthcoming. But Jaejoong isn’t going to push it. He is starting to think he has the patience of a saint. But all saints have their limit too, don’t they? Since their little tryst in the hot tub, Yunho has been avoiding him. Well, he’s not making it blatantly obvious, he just claims that the project on Jeju Island needs a great deal of supervision at this early stage, and so he’s usually there for breakfast, but rarely gets home before midnight, and even when he does, he stays in his study buried in paperwork. Jaejoong doesn’t disbelieve how busy he is, but he is also sure the man can delegate if he wanted to. Jaejoong has tried to stay up on several occasions but looking after a baby and juggling his classes and homework, plus visiting his family is all taking a toll on him.
They still maintain a level of intimacy since then of course, usually when Yunho comes to bed because Jaejoong, who misses the man more than he will admit for now, always falls asleep on his side of the bed. So more often than not, they sleep on the same side with Jiyool pushed over to the other half of the bed, just that little bit more. However, he isn’t content with a few sleepy kisses and caresses, he wants more. He knows Yunho wants more too because he can feel the man against him almost every night, but he doesn’t do anything.
Jaejoong is forward, but usually with what he knows. He will initiate kisses, but he is not going to initiate anything more than that, especially not with a sleeping baby in the same bed. A few times when Yunho has been home early, he’s tried enticing the man back into the hot tub, but the older man is usually a no show, staying in his study while Jaejoong grumbles to himself in the tub, pouting and making half-ass attempts to masturbate, but it never ends well and he just goes to bed in a bigger snit than he normally does at the blatant absence of his pseudo husband.
Just last night, in a fit of pique, Jaejoong had stormed into the study, complaining loudly about turning into a wrinkly old prune who will die a virgin while waiting for Yunho, only to find the man on a teleconference call to New York. It’s a good thing they don’t understand Korean, because Jaejoong was about to die from mortification. Yunho’s face was a blank mask, and Jaejoong had left quickly, heading straight to bed because there is no way he wants to deal with Yunho after that. He’d woken up in the middle of the night, trapped under a heavy arm and leg as usual, and he knows he’s forgiven, but he finds it hard to fall back to sleep because there is so much left unsaid. They need to talk, but the older man doesn’t seem to want to.
Despite all this, he falls for the man a little more every day. Absence clearly makes Jaejoong’s heart grow fonder, and regardless of the (sexual) frustration he feels at constantly being thwarted by Yunho’s work or his daughter, or sheer exhaustion, he lives for the man’s gentle kisses, and protective embrace in bed. The rare times they have shared dinner, Jaejoong feels like an equal to the inscrutable businessman, who willingly shares his day and worries with him. However it is always about work, never about anything personal or substantial. He feels like he is on eggshells sometimes, wanting to put himself out there, really out there again, but at the same time, Yunho’s reticence especially in the light of day is confusing him. The board on the fridge is in frequent use, but it usually only contains a message from Jaejoong to Yunho about dinner. Many a time he’s wanted to add more, but he always stops himself.
He is broken from his reverie by Jiyool squawking loudly, as Yunho removes her from his briefcase, the contents of which Jaejoong can see are now messed up. He watches as he sits her down on the edge of the table, her legs dangling, and stares at her. It is quite interesting how father and daughter communicate. They don’t actually say much, the baby girl seemingly able to read what her father is saying just by looking at him. Jaejoong really wants to learn this skill. It might make his life easier since words don’t seem to be forthcoming from the reticent man.
Scolded or not, the word always elicits a response from the baby girl as she gurgles and throws herself forward onto her father, practically launching herself off the table and onto Yunho who hugs her to him, smiling over the top of her head at Jaejoong. He returns the smile, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes and he knows it. He also knows that Yunho notices because the man’s smile falters and then it is replaced by a frown. Jaejoong’s eyes move down to the hand on Jiyool’s back, and the ring he’d placed on the man almost two weeks ago is still there. They are both still wearing their wedding bands but neither are talking about it. Jaejoong knows Yunho doesn’t remove it even to shower, because the man takes off every accessory before getting into the bathroom, but he never takes off the ring.
He feels like he is in limbo. Not quite getting to heaven, but not quite on earth anymore either. He is hovering in between, and it is starting to frustrate him. It is Friday, and Jaejoong has plans for the weekend, plans that include Yunho, whether he likes it or not. So far they’ve managed to skip going to the Kim mansion for lunch, Jaejoong going by himself with Jiyool last week to meet the family. Yunho had begged off, saying he has work to do and Jaejoong didn’t push him. His theory about female voices scaring Jiyool though is confirmed that afternoon. He knows not a single family member of his, including his paranoid sister, would ever do anything to harm Jiyool, yet the baby girl cries upon hearing a raised female voice. At first he thinks maybe it’s because they are all strangers, because the first time she cries is when his mother was holding her, and she was happy enough till Chaerin came into the kitchen howling loudly about the TVXQ! comeback.
Cue the screaming.
The second time it happened, he was holding Jiyool, sitting in his treehouse that is miraculously still standing, and telling the little girl the story of how he met her father. In the middle of the retelling, with a certain omission by Jaejoong, his father had scared his mother by the barbeque, and she had raised her voice after the laughing man as he ducks a flying shrimp dumpling. The little girl had frozen in his arms, almond eyes wide and unblinking, and then burst into tears.
It is a complete contrast to her laughter when his oldest noona’s husband Taeyang, hollers after his daughter who had accidentally spilled her fruit juice all down his back. And her happy gurgle too when his father attempts to sing one of the newer pop songs his grandchildren are insisting that he try, completely off key. Her time at the creche has been limited, all the staff instructed not to raise their voices around her, but it usually cannot be helped and especially in a creche with children, sometimes a voice has to be raised to be heard over the din and that’s when Jaejoong has to come running back to pick up his precious baby girl. The longest she’s managed to stay there since the new instructions is three hours, which is pretty good if Jaejoong thinks about it.
He still hasn’t managed to talk to Yunho about this problem though, and it is bugging him, keeping the knowledge from the man. He wonders if he even knows or suspects, and if he does, will he be able to explain why she cries at a raised female voice? Jaejoong almost doesn’t want to know. He almost doesn’t want to tell the man, because he knows he will not like the answer. Deep down in his gut, he knows he will hate the answer. He just knows. And because of this, he is alright with leaving the matter unsaid for now. He’s managing with Jiyool in his classes, his professors all used to her presence by now. He is just thankful that they are all male because he is certain there is no way she will keep silent in a class taught by a female.
“I’m going to try and make her sleep in her cot tonight.”
Yunho looks over at the boy who is calmly finishing his breakfast as he stares at the back of Jiyool’s head. His mind is working, wondering about the implications of that. It is telling that his first knee jerk reaction is to panic at the loss of the only reason he thinks of as to why Jaejoong is still sleeping in his bed. He knows he’s been avoiding the teenager in the last two odd weeks or so, and the reason for that is partly because he doesn’t want to be distracted from work, and the other part is because he is falling too hard too fast, just like with Sun Ye. While he knows the two are diametrically opposite each other, the familiar feeling of being overwhelmed and drowning is causing him to retreat. He was bitten once, bitten hard and the poison from that bite is still flowing through him, and so this time he is moving with caution. Perhaps far too much caution, it seems. Has he lost the boy already without even getting him in the first place? He is surprised when Jiyool is suddenly plucked from his arms, and a warm mouth presses briefly against his. The kiss is quick, too quick, and before he can react, Jaejoong is gone, retrieving his belongings on the floor and hiking his bag over his shoulder. The teenager turns to him, and Yunho is unable to read those stunning doe eyes that are currently trained on him. Jaejoong is calm, almost too calm. Gone is the excitable teenager, always bouncing around and full of life. Gone is the mortified teenager from yesterday. Yunho can still remember his words.
Are you planning on leaving me in the hot tub to turn into a wrinkly old prune and die a virgin?
He almost smiles at the memory, but catches himself. He had intended on joining the boy, but the phone call had come through a day earlier than expected and since it had, he figured he might as well take it and get it over with. But that irate teenager is gone, and in his place is someone he has never seen before. Calm, quiet, cold. His darkness has finally touched the young man after all.
“What are your plans for today?”
“I’ll be in the office.”
“You’re not flying to Jeju?”
“No, not anymore. It should be able to run on its own now. I’ll have to visit once a week probably, but no more than that.”
Yunho watches the standing teenager carefully, and he thinks he sees a flicker of emotion play across his features, but the moment is gone and Jaejoong returns to the eerie calm he is projecting. It is unnatural, and Yunho is bereft. His heart clenches painfully, and he wonders why this keeps happening to him. Admittedly, it’s only happened twice, but surely it is twice too many. He also wonders at the kiss. Why did Jaejoong kiss him? He usually never does, not on the mouth anyway. He kisses him on the cheek most mornings, and once on the nose because Yunho turns just as he plants one on him, and they both had a good chuckle over it. But that feels like a lifetime ago.
“What about this weekend? Do you have plans?”
“No, I was planning on staying home…”
“Ok…well, I’ll be home around five. Chaerin has her ballet recital today, and I need to pick up the monsters from the creche because everyone seems to have lunch meetings today. Let me know if you finish early and want Jiyool because I should be able to drop her off anytime before three. After that, you’ll have to wait because she’ll be with me at Chaerin’s recital.”
“How are you going to fit nine children in the car?”
“We have a twelve seater van. It’ll be alright. I’ve done it before.”
“Alright, I’ll see you later then.”
Jaejoong hitches Jiyool up higher on his hip, the bouncing motion making the baby girl laugh, as he walks back towards Yunho. His mind is whirling gleefully at Yunho’s words, incredibly happy that the man is finally going to be home. He hides his excitement though, because he doesn’t want to have to explain himself just yet. He has plans you see, and he needs to orchestrate it with his family. He is thankful for having the Friday off school, and the excuse to spend most of the afternoon with his mother and all her non-school age grandchildren. This is definitely something he can use her help for. He stares at the blank dry erase board on the fridge door, while maneuvering Jiyool so her father can kiss her goodbye, and fervently hopes that after this weekend, there’ll be notes on it the way there are always notes on the board in the Kim mansion.
Yunho kisses the baby girl Jaejoong offers to him, giving her an extra squeeze, borrowing her happiness even though he knows it won’t last long. He wants to tug Jaejoong down into his lap and kiss him senseless, with Jiyool squashed between them because he really misses the beautiful teenager, but he doesn’t, because Jaejoong’s face is closed to him. The boy is almost expressionless, looking anywhere but at Yunho, and the crack in his heart deepens. And even as that happens, the ice that has mostly thawed in the last couple of weeks starts to reform, as Yunho once again shuts down, and closes himself off.
Jaejoong is oblivious though, as he props Jiyool back up over his shoulder, squeezing Yunho’s shoulder in farewell before hurrying out the kitchen, eager to get to the supermarket to buy the ingredients for Yunho’s favourite meal.
Yunho stares after the boy and his baby, his fists clenched. He stays in that position for several minutes before picking up his cellphone to call his secretary, informing her that he is working from home that day and to hold all non-urgent calls. Though he does add that if Jaejoong calls, to patch it through immediately. The teenager used to ring him almost every lunchtime, to update him about his and Jiyool’s day so far, but in the last couple of days he has stopped. Yunho did wonder why, but now he doesn’t want to know. He gets up from the chair, clearing away the breakfast dishes, moving as if on automaton. He doesn’t want to feel anymore, and so he doesn’t.
He spends most of the rest of the morning working, grimly determined to get enough done so he’ll be able to call it a day by lunchtime. Every time Jaejoong pops into his mind, which happens almost every other minute, he pushes the boy out forcefully. He replays the morning, and each time, nothing new surfaces. Jaejoong is cold and closed off to him and he doesn’t know why. Or maybe he does, and he feels a little hurt that the teenager hasn’t given him just that little bit more time. But really, can he ask him for more when he’s already taken so much from the boy? He knows the last couple of weeks have been hard on Jaejoong, but he is unable, and to a certain extent unwilling, to ease his workload because he wants Jaejoong attached to Jiyool. He doesn’t believe for one second that he alone is enough to sustain Jaejoong’s presence and affection in their lives, and clearly, judging from this morning, he is right. The kiss in the kitchen weighs heavily on his mind, and after dwelling on it for so long, he decides that it must be a goodbye kiss.
Yunho has been hurt by everyone close to him. He was played for a fool by Sun Ye, and then betrayed and abandoned by his parents when he went to them for help. The people who were supposed to care for and protect him, left him. He remembers the disgust and disdain heaped on him by his parents that fateful night, almost literally tossing him out into the cold, at the mercy of Sun Ye and her greedy parents. They couldn’t disown or disinherit him of course, being their only son, and already showing so much business acuity at such a young age. But they wanted nothing to do with him. Not after what he allowed Sun Ye to do to him.
You are a dishonour to this family.
How dare you show your face here? What if someone saw you?
You are such a liar. The Chois are our long time friends and Sun Ye would never do that to anyone.
I don’t know what sort of depravity you are into, but you are not to come back here again.
He drags himself out of the sinkhole of his memories, checking the time and frowning when he sees that it is almost 2pm. Jaejoong has missed his lunchtime phone call yet again. Three days in a row after over a week of a cheerful phone call during lunch, regaling him with his daughter’s exploits and their plans for the rest of the day. What is he meant to think? He can call Jaejoong instead of course, but his pride won’t let him. This is what happens when he lets down his guard and trusts someone, it backfires on him. It always does. Not that he has much to go on, his experience with his peers is extremely limited thanks to the very tight leash that Sun Ye had him on. If it hadn’t been for that drunken night…
He stands up, shaking his head, freeing himself from those memories. He hasn’t had anymore nightmares since sleeping with Jaejoong, the blonde boy banishing the darkness of his mind from him, but that is all about to end. But he can live with it. He’s lived with those nightmares for so long, it will be nothing to him for them to come back. Nothing at all. And with that grim thought, Yunho sends a quick email to his secretary, telling her not to bother him with anything till Monday, before striding out of his study and into the master bedroom.
The room smells of Jaejoong. That honeyed musk scent that the boy favours wafts around the room faintly, mingled with Yunho’s own scent, and the two are somehow in accord. He stares at the unmade bed, Jiyool’s pillow fortress on one side and a pillow with a double indent on the other side. He remembers coming to bed last night, about an hour after Jaejoong’s rather unfortunately timed tantrum, only to find the teenager sound asleep. He had deliberated whether to wake the teen, to kiss him and reassure him that everything is ok. That he had intended to join him in the hot tub that night, to explain about the phone call that the teenager knows about because they’d talked about it over dinner earlier in the evening. But he doesn’t. He ignored his gut instinct, and chose to let the boy slumber on, content to hug him, smiling when Jaejoong turned within his arms to nuzzle his cheek. He’d fallen asleep breathing in Jaejoong.
But no more.
His steps are heavy as he heads to the bed. Jaejoong wants Jiyool back in her cot, so there is no longer a need for the pillow fortress. If there is no Jiyool in the bed, there is no reason for Jaejoong to stay, and so Yunho makes the bed. By the time he is done, there is no trace of the blonde teenager nor his baby girl. The pillow fortress is gone, and his own pillow fluffed back up, regaining it’s previous shape. The two heads that once lay on it, simply a memory.
Done with the bed, Yunho moves to the bathroom, the double vanity that used to be clear of product apart from his toothbrush, toothpaste and aftershave, each have their own counterpart, though in place of aftershave, Jaejoong uses moisturiser. His side of the vanity is covered by an assortment of potions and lotions, and Yunho remembers him teasing Jaejoong about it once, only to get a sassy reply about wanting to look like a teenager for as long as possible. Yunho didn’t bother pointing out that he is still a teenager, because he’d been distracted by the smirk on his beautiful face. That was three mornings after their hot tub interlude.
He steels himself, as he gathers up all of Jaejoong’s various pots and tubes and containers. He starts of trying to put them in his arms, but clearly that isn’t going to work. He unbuttons his shirt, deciding to use it as a makeshift carrier instead and too soon, the vanity too is wiped clean of Jaejoong’s existence. He makes the trip to Jaejoong’s room, heart clenching at the smaller bathroom as he carefully deposits the teenager’s makeshift apothecary. He stands and stares at his reflection in the mirror, noting how haunted his eyes look. He hasn’t seen that look in weeks. Not since Jaejoong entered his life, but now…now he’s pushing him out.
His mind wonders, and he stares at himself, unable to formulate a genuine response because there is no reason apart from the fact that Yunho doesn’t want to hurt anymore. Is he a coward? The lines on his face are grim, his expression stark as he fights with himself.
And for the umpteenth time, Yunho ignores his gut feeling, choosing to go with his head instead as he rationalises how best to protect himself, regardless of his heart screaming at him for being a fool. Listening to his heart has only gotten him hurt so far, apart from the brief ray of hope that Jaejoong’s light brings, but that is also clearly at an end.
He returns to the master bathroom, collecting Jaejoong’s shower items; soap, shower gel, shower scrub, shower cream, shampoo, conditioner. The boy has more bath products than both him and Jiyool combined. He makes the second trip to the other bathroom, this walk no more easier than the first, as he arranges the items on the shelf in the shower. His heart constricts as he has to wipe away at cobwebs around one of the trays on the shelf. His heart is screaming, but Yunho is no longer listening.
Moving Jaejoong’s clothes back into his own closet takes a lot longer, because after multiple laundry runs, their clothes are now intermingled. Yunho spends a good hour unfolding and refolding clothes, trying to figure out what belongs to him and what belongs to Jaejoong. At least the underwear is a little easier to discern, the boy’s rather strange obsession with Hello Kitty boxers and briefs makes the separation quick. Each trip to the other room is not made any easier, the made bed, untouched since the day Jaejoong moved in, is covered in a very thin layer of dust, and Yunho brushes it down. He almost wants to leave it, hoping Jaejoong has allergies or something so he won’t want to sleep in that room. He does toy with the idea a lot longer than the rest of the pauses he’s had since he started moving Jaejoong’s things, but like all the previous times, he finally discards it.
After over two hours, there is no trace of Jaejoong in his room. He grabs his car keys, stopping by the kitchen to write a note for the boy. He is running, because he doesn’t want to face him. This is the only show of outward cowardice he will allow because he is afraid. He is afraid to hurt more, and so he leaves.
I won’t be home for dinner. I hope Jiyool sleeps fine in the cot. Don’t wait up.
“I really don’t want to know about my baby boy having sex.”
“What? Are you telling me that’s not the reason why you want to leave Jiyool with us for a few hours after lunch on Sunday? Isn’t she sleeping through the night now? Why do you even need her out of the apartment?”
“She sleeps like the dead now, a solid ten hours plus an afternoon nap, but she sleeps with us…”
“Huh? Still? Joongie, I know you liked to sleep with us, and it drove your appa crazy but come on. There’s a very good reason why we didn’t have anymore children after you.”
“It’s the truth. I’m sure you know exactly what I mean. Looks like karma is coming round to bite you in the ass again. I think I love Jiyool a little more all over again.”
The two Kims both turn to the little girl in question, who is currently playing quite happily with her new cousins, Sooyoung and Minzy, the youngest of the Kim children. They are on a thick blanket on the back lawn of the Kim mansion, getting some sun and playing with giant alphabet blocks. Both Jaejoong and his mother were astonished when Jiyool started piling the blocks together according to colour, amused when she gets annoyed with Sooyoung who keeps trying to play with the blocks in a haphazard manner. After a few initial squabbles, the two toddlers are now sitting quietly, trading blocks while babbling to each other in some foreign baby language. Minzy, still too young to really participate, is having tummy time while watching the two older girls play, quite content with that as she chews on her teething ring.
“So are you going to bring Yunho with you this time?”
“I’m going to try…”
“Try harder, please? I have faith in your powers of persuasion especially since he’s already told you he plans to be home all weekend. He really sounds like your appa. He works like a dog for weeks, and then he thinks a weekend will make up for all that neglect.”
“Yunho isn’t like that…”
“Oh yes, he is like that. I’ve been married over forty years. I definitely know the type. Don’t let him get away with it though, otherwise he will keep doing it. I almost divorced your father early on in the marriage, because looking after four children under the age of five is no joke, and because I didn’t say anything, he didn’t know or understand how much stress I was under. Don’t let it get to that.”
“We’re not even married…” Jaejoong mumbles under his breath as he stares off into the distance.
“Oh?” Mrs Kim picks up Jaejoong’s left hand, tugging rather pointedly at the heavy band on his ring finger.
Jaejoong sighs and pulls his hand away, looking down to look at the shiny silver band glinting in the sunlight.
“You know this isn’t real.”
“Isn’t it? Can you tell me you don’t feel like it’s real. A piece of paper doesn’t make a marriage real, Joongie. You know this. Look at your noona.”
“Well, it’s not a very fun marriage so far. I haven’t gotten anything since that night in the hot tub. If you were hoping for grandchildren out of me, you best be ready to wait for a loooooooooong time.”
“Stop being so melodramatic. He’s been busy, and I’m actually a little glad he hasn’t just used you during the night and left you during the day. It gives me a little more faith in his character.”
“What if I want to be used?” Jaejoong huffs and pouts at his mother, crossing his arms across his chest as he leans back against the giant beanbag he’s dragged out from one of the recreation rooms in the house.
“I’m going to pretend I didn’t just hear you ask that. So much for my innocent baby boy. I’m starting to feel a little sorry for Jung Yunho. He sure has his hands full with you.”
“Whose mother are you anyway?”
“Well, since you’re married, I guess I’m both your mothers. And I know what a brat you can be, so I’m favouring Yunho in this.”
“God…first you’re ready to marry me off to the first willing man, and now you want to cast your only son aside. What have I ever done to deserve this? Did you ever want me?”
“Joongie, you are my dearest baby. You will always be my baby. But you cannot just pout and hope the world falls at your feet, even though that seems to happen an awful lot. You need to work for it. If you want Yunho, you have to meet him halfway, you can’t expect him to make all the moves. And with his history, I’m more than a little surprised you’ve even gotten this much out of him.”
“What do you mean?”
“Yunho has been closed of for years. His marriage changed him. The young man I remembered who graciously accepted your rather bossy marriage proposal, and even left you a ring worth over five million won, completely disappeared. I tried approaching him once a few years later, to return the ring to him, but he acted like he didn’t even know me. So for him to give you this much, is saying a lot. The word cold was always used to describe him, usually accompanied by a shudder from whomever uttered it. But you managed to break through. Don’t underestimate that, Joongie, but don’t be surprised if he fights you too. So many years of being cut off from people, only to be confronted by the likes of you, is going to be very disconcerting for him.”
Jaejoong leans forward, hugging his knees to his chest as he props his chin on them, cocking his head at his mother, taking in her words, and hurting for Yunho because of them. What happened? He wants to know and yet again, like with Jiyool and her aversion to loud female voices, he doesn’t. Maybe it is best left unsaid, and he can just work on fixing him.
“Why is love so hard?”
“If something were easy, you wouldn’t value it. Fight for him, Joongie. Fight for the three of you. I know it will be worth it. Despite his absence, I have never seen you more alive. ”
Jaejoong moves from the beanbag, crawling the short distance to his mother, and stretching out on the blanket, his head in her lap. Jiyool, seeing the movement, immediately loses interest in playing, crawling rapidly towards Jaejoong, clambering up over his belly and laying flat on top of him, her ear pressed to his beating heart.
Mrs Kim cards her hand through her son’s blonde hair, watching the newest addition to her already large family. The little girl captured all their hearts the day they met her, despite her random screaming for seemingly no reason. She hopes, for her only son’s sake, that her father is just as attached to the teenager as she seems to be.
Jaejoong is humming a merry song as he enters the apartment. He is a little later than expected, but he doesn’t think it is a big deal because they don’t normally eat dinner till late anyway, with the hours Yunho has kept lately. His hands are laden with grocery bags, eager to start on the kimchi jiggae. Jiyool is dead asleep in the front pack, not moving in the last hour, completely exhausted from her rather exciting day with her cousins. It probably doesn’t help that she missed her afternoon nap too. His mother’s words resound in his head, and Jaejoong drops off the groceries on the kitchen counter before heading to the nursery. He misses the note on the fridge door in his haste.
Jiyool doesn’t move even after being deposited into her cot, and Jaejoong reckons she is down for the count. He goes over to the master bedroom to grab her baby monitor, testing to make sure it is working, before leaving it on her dresser. He stares for a long moment at the tiny baby girl fast asleep in her cot. He is loathe to leave her, feeling it exceedingly odd that she won’t be in bed with them anymore, yet at the same time he can’t help the lurch in his belly at the very thought that he will have Yunho all to himself that night. Maybe he won’t need his family’s help on Sunday after all…
His cheeks flush at the thought, and he exits the nursery quietly, pulling the door shut, but not completely closed, leaving a door stopper to keep it ajar. He starts singing under his breath, as he makes his way back to the kitchen to unpack his purchases. It is only when he goes to open the fridge door to put away the perishable groceries that he sees the note.
I won’t be home for dinner. I hope Jiyool sleeps fine in the cot. Don’t wait up.
He frowns, looking closely at the board, trying to discern if there are any hidden messages with the note, but he finds none. He tries to recall their conversation at breakfast, wondering if Yunho mentions not being home for dinner, and he doesn’t think he did. He digs into his pocket for his cellphone, dialing Yunho’s office number, and he is immediately put through, but he gets his cellphone answer machine, which means Yunho isn’t in the office. He tries ringing the man’s cellphone directly, and again it rings but it goes to answer machine. Jaejoong is starting to feel odd about the whole thing, an unsettling feeling is coming over him and he texts Yunho.
I’m home, where are you?
He waits. He unpacks the rest of his groceries, putting them away, and still no response. He gets started on the dishes, putting them away and placing the drying rack back under the sink, and still no response. He puts the kettle on, eyes roaming the kitchen to find something else to tidy, the restlessness as he waits is starting to crawl at his skin, the feeling of unease is growing.
And still no response.
Jaejoong picks up his phone to try again.
I was going to make kimchi jiggae but if you’re not going to be home for dinner, I’ll make it tomorrow. Please let me know you’re ok.
His phone beeps less than a minute later, and he almost knocks it off the counter in his haste to get to it.
I’m ok. Don’t wait up for me.
He frowns down at the message, before immediately pressing the call button to ring the man, and is thoroughly unsurprised when it again goes to answer machine. Yunho is avoiding him for some reason. Jaejoong is not sure whether to push it or not, finally deciding to leave it for now. He can confront the man when he gets home.
Ignoring the kettle, he heads back to the master bedroom, feeling like a long hot shower. He strips on the way to the bathroom, leaving a trail of clothes in the bedroom, not too worried about it since Yunho clearly doesn’t intend to be home before ten and it is only just past seven. But notwithstanding that, he doesn’t worry about it either because hey, his mother says he should make moves too instead of waiting for Yunho to do so, and if the man returns home early to a naked Jaejoong in the bedroom, no one is going to be complaining. His mind is full of Yunho, wondering what is going on, and so he doesn’t notice the absence of his toiletries from the double vanity. By the time he does notice his things are missing, he is already thoroughly wet and it is too late.
The confusion he feels as he soaps his body with Yunho’s shower gel is making his tummy hurt in a rather bad way. A quick jump out of the shower to look at the vanity confirms his worst fears. There is no trace of him in the bathroom. His heart has started a loud pounding beat in his ears, as the anticipation of what he might (or might not) find in the bedroom is making the somersaults in his belly intensify. At least his bathrobe is still here, maybe all is not lost, maybe Yunho is just tidying. But why only his things? He surveys the bathroom as he dries himself, and true enough, nothing of his remains. Not even his toothbrush.
He walks out into the bedroom, each step filled with trepidation as he looks at the large canopy bed. They’ve still yet to redecorate the room properly, those heavy red blinds still draped over the bed, but that’s not his concern. What takes his attention is the bed. They rarely make the bed because it’s too much hassle especially with Jiyool’s pillow fortress, Jaejoong simply changing the sheets every three days instead. He’d only changed the sheets yesterday, which means they’re not due another one yet, and despite that, the bed is made. He’s never seen the bed made like this. It’s as if no one has ever slept there. He moves around, sitting on Yunho’s side of the bed, bending over to bury his nose in the pillow, and he smells fabric softener. He doesn’t smell him, and he doesn’t smell Yunho. The man even changed the pillow case.
The question is beating in his head as he stands up, his feet almost dragging as he forces himself to go to the walk-in closet. The doors are shut, and they are never shut, and his heart sinks even more than it already has, the butterflies in his stomach turning into angry bees, buzzing around. He feels sick.
He opens the door, flicking on the light switch, and his worst fears are coming true. A quick glance around shows that not a single article of his clothing remains. The discarded hoodie and jeans from just that morning that he remembers draping over the flat leather seat in the middle of the closet are gone. As are his shirts and jackets that used to hang next to Yunho’s, not to mention the pile of clean underwear he’d only just put in there last night. Everything is gone.
Jaejoong is hurt. There is no reason for this, no explanation whatsoever. And the man, instead of facing him, is staying away like a coward. He feels a tear threatening to spill out of one eye, and he rubs away at it viciously. He is not going to cry. He is going to fight. His mother’s words come back to him.
Fight for him, Joongie. Fight for the three of you. I know it will be worth it.
He knows the man cares for him. He knows it like he knows his own heart. And he knows this is possibly yet another one of those episodes Yunho seems to have that has something to do with his past. There is no explanation, so Jaejoong has nothing and no one to blame except the man’s past. He doesn’t think he is too far wrong in this one either. But he is getting frustrated too. Just this afternoon, he wasn’t sure if he wants to know about Yunho’s marriage, but now, after this, he finds that he does. Regardless of how awful it might be, he needs to know. Because Yunho cannot keep doing this to him. To them.
He walks to his room, his mind recoiling at the possessive pronoun, still not wanting to claim the room. His place is with Yunho, and today is a hiccup. He will fix this somehow, and get to the bottom of it. He is not going to let Yunho get away that easily. His steps become more determined, as he opens the closet door, to find his clothes stacked neatly. Yunho is by no means a neat and tidy man, leaning closer towards messy, but he’s left the closet as tidy as he found it. Jaejoong pulls on a pair of boxers, figuring he might as well be comfortable because he doesn’t intend on keeping his clothes on that night. It’s not that he thinks a seduction is going to solve their problems, but a little distraction surely cannot hurt. A quick glance at the bedside table reveals that it is barely 8pm. He walks out to the kitchen to retrieve the baby monitor, before heading back to the guest room. It is not his room, and he will not call refer to it as such anymore.
The late pre-dinner snack he had with his family sits comfortably enough in his belly that he doesn’t feel the need to make himself something, and so Jaejoong gets into bed, physically tired from the long day and emotionally exhausted from the last hour. He turns the light off, the lights from the city illuminating enough, casting shadows on the walls from the extra furniture in the room. He stares out into the darkness, his mind working, processing, wondering what to do. He is hurt, but he is also not taking it personally because he really doesn’t believe it is anything he does, but rather, some strange conclusion that Yunho has apparently come to. He remembers the man holding him so protectively last night, and how his arms tighten around him when Jaejoong tries to move. He doesn’t want to let go of him in sleep, so why is he letting him go now?
The young man scowls into the darkness, as the image of a beautiful woman crosses his mind. In the last three weeks, he’s looked into Yunho’s previous marriage, and the chill he feels at every photograph of the woman cannot be ignored. She is undeniably stunning, but there is something underneath that beauty, something Jaejoong wants nothing to do with. Her smile never ever reaches her eyes in every photograph he sees, and more often than not, he gets the feeling that she isn’t really smiling, but rather, mocking. As if she’s laughing at the world because she knows something no one else does. Jaejoong doesn’t want to know her secrets, but if she is the cause of Yunho’s crippled emotional existence and Jiyool’s fear, then he will dig up every last heinous detail of her so he can fix the wrongs she has done. He has no doubt she is the reason for most of the issues in the Jung household, the knowledge reinforced by those in his family who knew him before he was married.
A slow lassitude comes over him, and he dozes off, his mind filled with thoughts of Yunho and his precious baby girl.
AN1: Long doesn’t even begin to describe this chapter. I actually wanted to end it right here, but then decided that I won’t be mean and cockblock ;-) Especially when most of y’all have been so kind about my inability to respond to comments in a timely manner. But do know that I read all your comments, and it makes me want to write whenever I read all your lovely words so keep ‘em coming :P
AN2: Turns out LJ wants to cockblock you... I've been trying to upload part 2 but LJ is being a rotten fucking goat as usual. I will keep trying but I have work for the next 4 hours before I have a break so it won't be till after that.