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29 November 2015 @ 04:04 pm
since he could not stammer, his hands shook. (part one)  
Title: Since he could not stammer, his hands shook.
Rating: PG-13
Side Pairing/s: Past Xiumin/Chen
Length: 19400 words
Warnings: Smoking. Emotional Abuse. Ableist Language.
Summary: Jongdae teaches Joonmyun that life is not measured by the words you say, but by the actions you take and the songs you write.




Notes: I understand that some of the sentences that Joonmyun makes using sign language may not be entire possible to do or to do very quickly, but for the sake of the story, let's pretend. Also, let's pretend that in this world, at that era, there was no period-typical homophobia

Here is the playlist that I listened to the entire time I wrote this. Its supposed to match the progression of the story.



Part One

The sun kissed island of Saint Carmen was located only a short boat ride away from the mainland and, while relatively small in size, would attract many tourists and new inhabitants every year thanks to its natural beauty and blessing from the patron saint of the ocean whome it got its name. Anyone with a boat can sail along the shore and find numerous caves that shine in the moonlight as well as untouched bays with water so clean and pure that it might as well be holy. The coastal town holds its fame for its wonderful seafood as well as its traditional festivals and its yearly ball that never fails to excite the commoners for the fact that they can all pretend to be rich and extravagant, at least for one night. A smell of ocean water can be felt around the entire island, even in its highest elevation, making legends about the sea popular among the children. Sand as black as night surround it's beaches from the volcanic ash of the now dormant volcano which transformed into a gorgeous mountain that holds the island's hunting animals as well as the famous Kim estate, better known as Moonard, that sits almost on the top of the mountain. In the coldest of winters, when snow falls over the roof of the mansion, Moonard invites its youngest citizens to enjoy the wonderful weather phenomenon themselves, at least once in their life.

The House of Kim had been the ones who not only led the citizens to nurturing its now beautiful and vast flower garden back life, but had also been the ones who made the fish market as popular and successful as it is now. The island's fishing market and textile factories owe their success to the wealthy family.

Despite the citizen's loyalty and respect for the family, rumors cannot help but slither their way into their heads. Saint Carmen was by no means an exciting and action filled place of living, you could only be entertained by small talk in tea time so much. Like many small towns, gossip was one of its preformed distractions. Once an idea is formed, people can be very stubborn to let it go and would much rather form the rumors into an intricate story and make matters much worse. This turned sunday mass into more of a gossip gathering than a time of faith, much to Father Yifan's dismay.

Kim Jongdae was no stranger to rumors.

First of all, his first name was indeed in relation to the Kim Family, but it was a very distant, almost irrelevant connection to the famous bloodline, but his reptile of a mother had been very keen on gaining the Kim name to the keep the last bit of her reputation intact. Jongdae's mother had been diligent in seducing a distant Kim Cousin into making her part of the family, but unfortunately, the amount of wealth the man had did not meet her expectations. Two years after she gave birth to her son she took a ferry one summer dawn to the mainland with a new lover. Mr. Kim, heartbroken and desperate, filled himself to the brim with whiskey and swam to the mainland in Saint Carmen's coldest winter nights. No one knew if he survived.

While the story did not affect the young boy as much as it should have, he didn't interact very much with his parents, his grandmother found herself forced to move away from the village and decided instead to live a few minutes walking distance from the town, closer to the quiet bay next to the forest where she could raise Jongdae in peace, far away from the villagers rude mouths and prying eyes.

The gossip surrounding his family died down a few months later, when the grand ball celebrating the tenth birthday of the Estate's eldest son, Kim Joonmyun, ended in chaos.

No one knows exactly what had happened that frightful night other than the fact that Lady Kim wailed so loudly that some said it could be heard from the village. All that is truly known is the simple fact that the Kim Joonmyun could not speak, he could not utter a simple word. Every time the he tried the poor boy would end up into a stuttering mess, tears staining his face, ashamed of himself.

After an examination, his vocal cords were found to be completely fine as well as his mental state, there was no medical explanation for the boy's trauma. His father decided that his son was just being a stubborn child, but no matter how much he would try and force the child to speak, Joonmyun could only let out scattered syllables and noises at the most extreme cases.

He caused the family a great deal of embarrassment.

Seeing as there was no firm reason for the young Kim's loss of voice, the villagers unanimously decided that it was not the work of the body but the sign of the devil. Some said that a witch cursed him and that she would curse the rest of the family as well. Rumors were created, ideas were planted into people's heads, until it became the only thing anyone in Saint Carmen would talk about.

Wu Yifan, the local preacher, took this opportunity to strike fear into the townspeople's hearts. "The devil has obviously taken hold of the young Kim," he said on a Sunday morning of the very week of the event.

"Will we allow this boy to lead us in the future when he can't even say what he will do for the city? No. What would happen if he finally chooses to speak? What treachery and sin will escape his mouth?" The preacher's powerful voice resonated amongst the walls of the church leaving the entire village set on a unanimous decision. The young Kim was marked by evil itself and he must be taken care off.

After the mass, the Kim family was informed of what the townspeople thought of their son. Lady Kim's wails grew louder while Lord Kim could not look at his son in the eye and instead asked the local doctor on how soon they could bear another child.

The boy who would have been heir to Moonard was now not only permanently unfit to govern island, but had brought shame to the family name at only the measly age of ten.

It was not long until people started noticing the construction of small castle next to Moonard that was being made for the young Kim to live, far from the rest of his family and in the hands of nannies and servants.

Surrounded by people who would agree with such a young boy being shunned by his own family, Jongdae felt as if he was the only one who pitied Kim Joonmyun when he looked up at the mountain to the dark, lonely castle. He would wonder if the young Kim pitied him too.

~*~

Years passed and everyone started to forget how the young Kim looked like, especially after the birth of the new heir, Kim Minseok. The image of a five year old boy turned into a beast as white as snow and eventually his appearance turned much more terrifying as the story spread on. Some said he had claws, others would argue that he had a hunch back and a face that not even a mother could love. Servants who had actually worked with the Voiceless Beast, as he was now called for everyone had forgotten his true name, were bound by law not to speak of him, which only made matters worse.

But everyone could agree that the most terrifying part of crossing paths with the castle of the Voiceless Beast was that the sound of a beautiful melody could be heard at all times of the day. Rumors were that's how he would lure you in and feast on your corpse.

Jongdae, now seventeen years older with an insatiable thirst for adventure and his childish curiosity still intact, was desperate to see the castle himself.

"Why?!" Was the first thing that escaped his grandmother's mouth. Doctor Zhang had just left, but it seemed as the medicine he gave her did nothing to stop her endless coughing. Jongdae would be cooking tonight then, as he usually did these days.

His cat-like lips turned into a proud grin as he adjusted his circular spectacles, "Because no one wants else to apply to the castle, Grandmother. Do you know how much the Kim's are willing to pay for someone to take care of him?"

"Yes, but-" She let out a thunderous cough. "Jongdae, I don't want anything to happen to you. You know-" Another cough. "You know what they say about him."

Jongdae rolled his eyes but the action did not come off as ill-minded. "We both know those stories about him being some sort of loony or an animal are not true. Please, I can’t afford taking care of you while selling newspapers for spare change. Doing all sort of odd jobs. I barely got enough money to feed myself, yet you always complain about how I look like a sack of bones." He ran a hand over the frail, old woman's face and smiled; he had inherited her smile.

His grandmother looked around at their cottage that was now withered with age form the constant humidity of the sea just like she was. There was a saying amongst the townspeople that, eventually, the sea would take us all in the end. It seemed to be all too real. "Alright, I'm too tired to fight with you anyway."

The young man gave her a kiss to her cheek and grabbed started to pack his things with a promise that he would write to her every day. He let go of their linked fingers and tried not to dwell on her expression as he left too much. His friends, on the other hand, were not too keen on the idea.

"You're an idiot, Kim Jongdae," Said Jongin as he reloaded his rifle. "Why not become a guard in Moonard, like us?"

Zitao laughed into his drink. "I doubt he has the strength to stop a thief or an intruder. Maybe working as a servant in Moonard would suit him well after all."

As much as it angered him, Jongdae knew that the words they spoke of were not entirely wrong. Zitao and Jongin had fought in the war together, in the front with most of the young men in the island. They saw men lose themselves to bullets or madness while Jongdae was living in the comfort of Saint Carmen with his grandmother. They were right, he was a coward.

"You know that I don't like Lord Minseok. The sod always stares at me for far too long when he comes to visit the town. Thinks that I would be interested in his money like my mother. Rich bastard."

"You're telling me that you would rather clean about for the Voiceless Beast alone, because trust me when I say that barely anyone works there, rather than working for the heir of your island? The richest man in the archipelago?" Jongin teased, pointing a finger at him.

Jongdae scowled. After being called 'The whore's son' instead of his actual name for so many years, he found the other Kim's nickname personally offensive. "His name is Kim Joonmyun and his family will pay very well, especially if practically no one wants to work there. I will do what I want with my life as long as it means that I can keep my grandmother alive. I recommend you stop listening to Preacher Wu all the time and think for you own for once."

Jongin opened his mouth to speak for a moment then stayed quiet and kept cleaning his rifle. Zitao did not dare look him in the eye.

He left the pub without another word and without the guilt he would have thought he had for leaving his friends behind. Making his way past the town with his belongings, which weren’t much, he received stares and glances from those who already knew he was on his way to the unknown, all of them could only be described by expressions of fear or pity. But Jongdae felt no fear, just an underlying, burning sense of bravery which grew weaker with each passing step through the dark woods. It was a two and a half hour walk through a forest so thick that he needed to carry a lantern. As he started to walk faster through the leaf covered path, barely touched by anyone other than the past servants who came and went from the castle for provisions.

Paranoia started to get the best of him as Jongdae could not help but wonder if all the stories about the white as snow, gargoyle-like beast was really true. He wrapped his coat around himself.

Night was falling and he needed to reach the castle fast before the wolves and foxes that ruled the night would find him. Jongdae grimaced, he should have called for a car to the castle, but the Kim Family were the only ones in the island who owned automobiles, he doubted that they would lend one for him to see their exiled son. A few minutes passed and he could already close to the castle. While small in size, the Kim estate had spared no cost in making it maintain the family grandeur. It was made of gray cobblestone yet painted with a maroon finish. The garden that surrounded it could not be described with anything other than cozy, something that he wouldn't really expect from a horrible monster.

When he reached the gate, Jongdae swore that he could hear music.

~*~


The castle was nothing short of a stone-built contradiction.

While the exterior, save for the garden, was made to menacing and dark, the interior was anything but. Art hung on the cream and white colored walls and the floor was either built from intricate mosaic designs or from the softest rugs he'd ever felt. Then again, Jongdae wasn't used to being around the richer folk, but he could not help but wonder how Mr. Joonmyun managed to get the money. Thankfully, the high butler, Oh Sehun, walked him through it.

The tour of the house was reaching its end. Jongdae's designated room was much nicer than his old one. A new bed for himself, as well as a desk and a wardrobe was more than he could ever ask for. The free meals were an immense bonus, which would save his grandmother some money with the added sum he would send him every week from his own pay. He would miss her terribly, but it calmed his heart knowing that, with this new job, he was sure he could afford the medicine she needed for her illness. Years of working in that textile mill had withered her lungs to nothing.

Jongdae heard a cough from next to him; the man was trying to get his attention back. Before he could give a hasty apology, Sehun continued. "He spends most days playing music for hours on end, it might seem irritating at first but it becomes quite relaxing. When he is not playing, he is reading. I can assure you he is far easier to deal with than what most people believe." The butler said in a calculated manner, but he would stumble in his words, it seemed as if he did not get the chance to say it quite often. "All the art on the wall he orders from the mainland as well as the decor. Once the castle was quite dull, but as Sir grew older, he made it look more comfortable."

"Did you know him as a child?" Jongdae asked, still looking at the decor.

Sehun stopped in his walk, turning to face his new co-worker. He pursed his lips. "No. I have worked with him for five years only, he was raised by nannies until he turned sixteen, I believe. He was alone for quite a while until his family sent me to help."

Jongdae quickly changed the subject, feeling intrusive. "Are you the only butler around?"

"Yes. I'm in charge of managing all the servants as well as accompanying Sir and helping him in his daily tasks, some might say I more like a majordomo but it's too light of a staff to have the title." Sehun grabbed a book from a stool and handed it to Jongdae. "But now the last task will go on to you."

"What do you mean?" Jongdae widened his eyes. "You mean, I'm going to be his valet? Sorry, Mister Sehun, I don't think I'm properly trained to do so. I thought I was only going to clean and such. Maybe help in the kitchen."

"Baekhyun is already in charge of cleaning. And our chef, Kyungsoo, much prefers to work by himself. There is one Lord and four workers, not exactly a difficult job. It is not as if there are people lining up to work for Sir, and we need a valet. I can't run the household and take care of all his needs at the same time, all you need to do as a valet is keep him properly dressed and keep his clothes properly pressed. Also, to keep him company. I can give to a proper lesson later on."

It's not like he has much of a choice. The pay would be much better than the kind he would make from simply sweeping the floors. "Of... course." Just then, he remembered he was holding a book and had not noticed what it was even about. It was small, not even leather bounded, and seemed worn with age. The cover read 'Sign Language for beginners'.

"As you may know, this is the only way Sir can communicate. Much like braille for the blind, this is for the deaf and mute." Sehun gestured at the book. "You will read this and practice with yourself and the other servants in your free time, you may consult me as well if you must. For now, Master Kim can simply write things down for you."

A loud bang came from upstairs that sounded like someone crashing their hands against piano keys repeatedly, not creating music at all but a chaos which died down a few second later. The frenzied notes became a calming melody once again, something he had never heard before.

"What in the world was that?" He asked, looking up.

Sehun seemed unfazed. "That would be Master Kim. Now, go and introduce yourself. See to his needs." He waved a hand at the staircase that led into a room Jongdae had not yet been introduced to. The castle was two stories high, only named a castle because of its architectural shape. Unlike Moonard, which was four stories high and held about forty different rooms, the castle only held ten. This included a small ballroom, the kitchen, the servant's quarters, the dining room, the library, Master Kim's room and... whatever this was.

All Jongdae was sure of was that the music grew louder with every step he took. He cleaned his glasses, trying to look as decent as possible.

Sehun has been kind enough to give him formal evening wear that had been ordered for him in advance when he applied for the job. The dress coats and trousers were a better choice than his battered coat and brown slacks, it would had been dreadfully embarrassing. Despite the fact that he was properly dressed, he couldn't help but ignore the fear pooling in his gut as he grew closer to the unknown melody. Jongdae knew Master Kim was behind the door, but all those years of rumors and gossip finally managed to get to his head.

No matter, he decided. If the man looked like a beast that everyone feared, he would not care. A sacrifice would have to be made if he wanted to care for his grandmother. With one last deep breath, Jongdae turned the doorknob and went inside what seemed to be a sitting room.

The music stopped playing the instant he entered but the man in the piano did not move away, instead he seemed to be writing something down in his note sheet. Even from the door, Jongdae noticed that the man was relatively short, possibly his own height, and had gentle brown hair that had been cut short at the back of his head. It could be no one else, this must be Master Kim. Before Jongdae could speak up, the man raised a shaking hand and gestured him to stand close to him.

As he walked, Jongdae gave his new boss a bow, but as he rose his head he freezed, looking directly at the Master Kim who had turned his head to face him with a smile.

Oh, how wrong had the townspeople been. Never in a hundred years would he had thought that he would find someone so beautiful.

No hunchback, no claws, no fangs. He was nothing like the stories he had heard but in fact the complete opposite. Everything about Joonmyun could be described as nothing other than elegant, from the way his wood colored hair fell into his face, just an inch from covering the man's eyes, to the manner in which he held himself, his back perfectly upright even when playing piano. His eyes were warm and inviting; he had the sort of smile that reminded him of the sunset.

Jongdae was not a poetic, eloquent man but he doubts that any poem he reads from now on will remind him of anything other than Master Kim. His boss. Oh dear.

The pale man kept looking at him with a questioning look on his face. Jongdae realized how long he had been staring.

"Good evening, Sir. I was the man who applied for a job two fortnights ago, Mister Sehun entrusted me as your new valet," Jongdae bowed again. "My name is Kim Jongdae."

Joonmyun's eyebrows rose up in surprise at his name, then turned into a seething frown. The man stood up and stomped to the other side of the room, leaving his new valet confused and not knowing whether he should follow the annoyed master. He noticed Joonmyun was writing hastily on a miniature notebook he pulled from his coat. Before he could blink, the paper was ripped from the notebook and pressed to his chest. Joonmyun pressed his face to his own hands and struggled to breathe.

'I already told my brother that I would not allow any of my relatives in this home. Tell him he cannot spy on me anymore,' It read — once again had Jongdae's surname caused a problem.

"Sir, I can promise you I was not sent by Lord Kim to spy on you. Our relation is so stretched that I doubt your family knows of me." The valet nervously staggers in his place before reminding himself that he should stay calm, devoid of all emotion, he was a servant after all. "My mother brought scandal to their name, they would never ask me personally to work with you, no offense. I came here to work on my own accord and I intend on proving my best for you, Master Kim."

For a few pregnant moments, Jongdae did not know whether or not Joonmyun was going to look at him, but with a shaky breath the man managed to compose himself. Jongdae did not want to pry on personal affairs, but he did wonder whether or not Master Kim would have a rocky relationship with his parents, this only seemed to confirm it. Joonmyun moved his hands in the sign language that Jongdae still had not managed to learn.

"I'm sorry, Sir, I still haven't read my book." Jongdae said apologetically.

Joonmyun took a deep breath and exhaled a kind smile. Seconds later, he was handed a notebook with a new message on it. 'Alright. I believe you.'

The notebook was taken from his hands before he responded, Joonmyun wrote yet another message this time, longer than the last. He supposed it could be tiring, waiting for sir to write down all his thoughts and comments during the first few weeks service, but Jongdae did not show it and instead waited quietly for Joonmyun to finish writing. Somehow his script stayed impeccable despite it being written in a haste.


'My schedule of the day changes every so often but in time I have no doubt you will get used to it. This is my music room, as you can see from the assorted instruments around the area. I know, playing instruments is a womanly activity but I do love music.' —

Jongdae stopped reading to laugh. "Why, that is not a womanly thing to do! Music is enjoyable for any sex, I used to dabble in singing."

Joonmyun couldn't help but give a faint blush; he looked down at his feet, slightly embarrassed.

'—I am always here on my spare time. To be honest, I am not that interesting, it will be a simple job.'

Jongdae shook his head. "Sir, this is by far the most interesting thing I have done in my twenty-two years of age. If it was not for you, I would be nothing more than a fisherman or still working at the mill."

'Also, in order not to avoid confusion, I think I will address you as Jongdae instead of Kim.'

Like the witty man he is, Jongdae could not help but joke at this. "Alright, Joonmyun." He teased. “Sorry, I’m new of this. That’s perfectly reasonable, Master Kim.”

Joonmyun could not help but raise his eyebrows once more, not of the sudden bluntness, but at the fact that it's been ages since he's heard his first name. He did not want to correct him.

Instead, the urged his new valet to accompany him to the dining room to plan the night's meal. Joonmyun could not help but release all the tension he held in his shoulders when he noticed the excited jump in Jongdae's heels when he walked.

~*~

Joonmyun could turn normalcy into a poem.

Days with Master Kim seemed to pass by slowly, but they seemed to blend in with each other until so easily that Jongdae started to forget what it was like having a job that he detested, like the odd jobs he would be forced to do along with working in the mill with his grandmother. One thing that Jongdae did not expect from the man was the fact that Joonmyun did not have a set schedule, as most noblemen would. Some days were dedicated to the castle expenses, Joonmyun would write on his diary and organize things that Jongdae could not understand no matter how much his boss tried to explain. Joonmyun gestured at the books that surround them in the library and he can see an entire section of books that taught economics, mathematics and every other subject Jongdae never had the chance to learn about in his handful of school years.

‘Tell me, Jongdae, are you educated?’ Joonmyun asked one day as he calculated how he was going to spend the monthly sum he received from his family.

“Well, I can read and write, but I haven’t read many books. Been told I’m pretty good at basic math, though nowhere as near as you. You barely had to use your abacus!” The valet responded as he refilled the noble’s teacup.

If he had to be honest, it all seemed quite boring, but Joonmyun enjoyed spending his days writing or solving some sort of mathematical equation off the top of his head. Jongdae would often clap in amusement when Joonmyun showed off his intelligence, never failing the make the man blush in pride.

Other days were dedicated to music and nothing else. Thanks to all the years he spent alone, Joonmyun refused to let his mind rot as the outer walls of the castle did, so he poured himself into learning all orchestral instruments along with his regulars studies. His hands grew calloused and strained from hours spent with his instruments, Joonmyun likes to wear gloves even when it's not cold to avoid from forming blisters. He is particularly talented in the piano, so much so that Jongdae has seen him make up songs on the spot that will get stuck in his head for the rest of the day. Jongdae had once heard that as a young boy, Joonmyun had a lovely voice. He can’t help but assume that he makes up for the fact that he cannot speak with the power of a melody, a universal language.

Joonmyun reaction to music were unlike those of any man he'd ever known. He treated all of instruments like a lover, each song like a gentle touch.

When there was nothing more to be done for the day, Joonmyun liked to invite the staff to the living room to watch him play the violin and, for at least thirty minutes or an hours, they can all forget the miserable weather and their own possibly miserable life. Everything that Joonmyun cannot say to reassure his employees it's transmitted through a soothing melody that even made Chef Kyungsoo crack a smile against his glass of whiskey.

Jongdae sat against the window, quite enjoying the sound of rain and thunder unlike his fellow staff. As a child, he loved storms, the adrenaline and rush would fill his body until he found himself playing outside and stomping puddles, waiting for his grandmother to eventually yell at him to come back inside.

The smell of his cigarette as well as the sound of laughter and conversation fill the room. These are the times when he can see Joonmyun truly smiling. When the rest of the staff gathered their things and returned to work or left the castle for their own personal matters, he didn’t have the heart to pry away Joonmyun from the living room, where he often sat against the window to stare down the mountain and to the far village. In times like those, Jongdae brought his afternoon meal to him. Joonmyun, not entirely bothered about maintaining the common rules about class and properness, enjoyed having Jongdae to eat beside him.

"Do you also like listening to the rain?" Jongdae said, attempting to break the silence. Not that it had been an awkward silence, but he enjoyed talking to his boss. "I find that there's no better way to fall asleep than to listening to raindrops."

'I don't remember what it feels like to stand under the rain.' The noble signed after many moments of silence. Jongdae had been a quick learner and after a month of working he barely needed to consult his book anymore. 'But I suppose I enjoy it as much as I enjoy any sort of weather.'

Jongdae stared at his teacup. "Would you like to remember?"

The other man did not respond, but Jongdae could see that he was clearly smiling. He continued to tap the glass to the scattered rhythm of rain, eventually starting to find a melody. Without a word, he moved to sit in front of his piano and played an entirely different song, possibly one he came up with at the spot. The notes resembled raindrops, it was so soothing that Jongdae struggled to keep his eyes open.

Before he fell asleep, Jongdae couldn't help but think that the song was being played just for him.

~*~

Two months had passed since Jongdae started working for the young Kim. Fall was drawing close, he had been rushed with the job of ordering winter clothes and managing the expenses of the castle with Sehun's help as well as the money that he would sent to his grandmother. The valet sat in the window seat, next to his boss, as the radio played softly in the background. Joonmyun had been adverse to buying the new contraption, new technology made him nervous, but now he quite enjoyed being able to listen to the music and the news as he wrote.

One thing Joonmyun hated, however, was the jazz music that started to play so often on the local station.

'That isn't real music,' Joonmyun signed at his valet. 'Absolutely no structure. Americans have no idea on how to make music.'

Jongdae couldn't help but laugh. "You're like an old man. You should be more open minded, sir. I rather enjoy it."

'I of all people don't want to be caught enjoying what people call The Devil's Music. My reputation is ruined enough.'

Silence filled the room in the most awkward of ways, they were sure that they could have cut the thick uncomfortableness surrounding them with a knife. Jongdae set his cigarette in the ashtray and stood up, bowing gently, "I apologize, I shouldn't had acted so friendly with you, Sir."

Joonmyun shook his head. 'Please, sit down again.'

With a perplexed expression, Jongdae followed the man's orders. He was even more confused when it was Joonmyun who was looking apologetic. The nobleman fumbled with his hands, for a moment Jongdae though he was going to attempt to speak, but it wasn't long before he gave up and chose to sign again. He sought it best not to comment on it.

'I should be the one who's sorry. My family treated me like a nuisance. My nannies treated me as if I was a deviant. My staff treats me like a thing that should be feared. Jongdae, you treat me like a person.' Joonmyun admitted, nervously fumbling with his hands once more after signing.

Jongdae had been a fool not to notice the rest of the staff's willingness to do everything Master Kim said, but their unwillingness to spend actual time with him. He wondered if they actually enjoyed listening to Joonmyun's music in the dining room, or were they pretending to enjoy it? Jongdae ran his fingers through his hair, desperate for another cigarette.

When Jongdae didn't answer immediately, Joonmyun's cheeks grew a more noticeable shade of pink. The nobleman covered his face, dreadfully embarrassed, and moved to the piano. Keys were played randomly, as if Joonmyun was trying to look for the correct notes to prepare for a song. Jongdae still did not speak, but he watched his boss intently, wondering what he was about to do.

The song he began to play a soothing yet playful atonal that could be described as nothing more than, well, jazz. The sound of the piano was loud enough to hear all around the small castle, and it was a refreshing change from the slow music that Sir usually played. Jongdae laughed, harder that he ever had done with the nobleman before. Now, especially at this moment, he could not understand how people could mistake this gentle and shy man with a beast.

"You ridiculous man, I knew you actually liked the music!" Jongdae laughed again and joined his boss in his piano seat. The valet did not press any keys thought, Jongdae was horrible at playing.

'I do not, but I know that you really enjoy it. I have caught you dancing alone more than once to the radio when you fold my shirts.' Joonmyun stopped to sign, huffing in annoyance. He didn’t continue playing and instead moved his hands gently, almost signing a word but not quite letter it out. Jongdae did not rush him.

When the right words refused to escape Joonmyun’s hands, the noble threw his musical sheets to the floor. It was one thing not being able to speak, but not being able to communicate at all crossed the limit of his patience. Tears threatened to rush down his pale cheeks, but Joonmyun only gritted his teeth and hide his face from his valet, feeling weak and shameful.

“Come, sir. I have an idea.” Jongdae said in a soothing voice. He grabbed a coat, an umbrella and set his hand on his master’s shoulder, helping him walk out the door. It took a couple of minutes for Joonmyun to realize where they were going.

He pushed himself away from Jongdae’s grasp, ‘I cannot leave the castle.’ He signed furiously. ‘I haven’t left the castle in years.’

The castle was the only place where he was truly safe and far from his own family. It could have been seen as the only act of goodwill from them. Joonmyun has not wandered farther than a few feet away from his own fence. The world that surrounds the stone walls of his home was completely unknown to him, all the business work he did was by letters and telegrams, how could Jongdae possibly expect him to leave.

"This castle is eating you from the inside. I really do think you need to go outside and look at Saint Carmen in all of its grandeur! Feel its strong wings, smell the ocean air." Jongdae rested a comforting hand on the noble's shoulders. "I am not forcing you to do this, but I am recommending it not as your valet, but as your friend."

Joonmyun had read about friendship in stories, he'd never imagined he'd hear the word being directed at him. He took a deep breath before signing, closing his eyes as he did. 'I've spent my life hidden between the pages of books and piano keys, I don't think I'm ready to go outside alone.'

"You're not alone, Master Kim. I'll be with you every step of the way."

Joonmyun choked back a shaky breath and allowed his valet to put on his coat and scarf for him then followed the man out the door.

~*~

He had forgotten how cold outside was in the mountains, Joonmyun had always been so used to the comforting heat of the fireplace. He adjusted his red scarf until it covered half his face and wrapped his coat around himself even more. Jongdae, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy the wind as they walked down the leaf covered path.

"Seems like there's too much wind for a picnic, but it's still enjoyable." Jongdae mused, but Joonmyun did not respond. He was far too busy looking around in case someone saw him.

Joonmyun pouted. 'Its too cold,' He signed, but showed no signs of wanting to return to the warm comfort of his home and would rather feel his hands against the leaves and his face against the wind. Jongdae wondered how long it has been since he's felt nature.

Just then, a rabbit crossed their paths, possibly looking for its burrow.

A twinkle appeared in Joonmyun's eyes, Jongdae was sure of it. He mused on how much his boss looked like a rabbit sometimes, curious and quiet and sometimes quite messy (no one would expect it from a noble, but Joonmyun is terrible at picking up after himself. If it wasn't for his maid and his valet, his library would be filled with uneaten sandwiches and tea cups that are two days old).

'I can see the village from here.' The paler man signed, staring down from atop a rock, a little too close to the edge. Jongdae couldn't help but grab on to his arm anxiously, Joonmyun only chuckled at this. His eyes were still twinkling, but with nostalgia and something that Jongdae couldn't quite read. Joonmyun continued to stare down at the village then at the ledge beneath his feet with a rush of adrenaline in his heart. No matter how much the noble tried to hide it, Jongdae could see a man that was desperate for excitement.

Apart from the obvious details that made Kim Joonmyun so interesting, reading the man seemed to be more and more difficult. Joonmyun is a master of camouflage. Not speaking gave him the advantage of not allowing anyone to know what he was thinking, not even Jongdae, who seemed to be the only person who tried to. Underneath all the layers and walls that Joonmyun built to defend himself from nannies and scathing words, he could be a little bit devious, and cheeky, and incredibly adventurous. If only he would have let his wall crumble now and then...

'What is the village like?' Joonmyun asked after much nudging to his valet's arm to get his attention.

Jongdae stopped staring at his boss and darted his eyes to the way the sunset turned into an orange hue -- both were equally beautiful.

"It could be doing better, sir. It's beautiful and the people are generally happy and fed and all but... In the mainland there are laws that don't allow children to work for many hours at a certain age. There are rules that make sure that dust don't enter your lungs and that you aren't suffocating. My grandmother worked for years in that horrible mill trying to keep me alive, now I'm here talking away like a fool and trying to do the same for her..." His throat felt too tight as he spoke, Joonmyun only had to give him one look before he was handed a cigarette. Jongdae took a desperate drag and let himself calm down with shallow breathes and rapid blinking. He took his glasses and cleaned them with his scarf, trying calm down. It wasn’t always that he could admit this to someone.

Just moments ago he was wondering when Joonmyun would open up his walls to him and now the opposite is happening -- Jongdae is completely laid bare like an open book. "We don't got... We don't have that luxury in Saint Carmen. And yet your family throws grand balls every year."

The noble didn't respond, only stared back at his valet. With every waking second, Jongdae felt more and more guilty about his words until he realized how inappropriate they were. "Oh god, sir. I am so sorry, I did not mean to offend your family in that way. That was completely uncalled for."

Joonmyun shook his head. 'It’s all right, that's just the first time I ever hear someone insult my family.'

They stared at each other until a burst of mirthful laughter seemed to escape their mouths, until their chests feel heavy and the tears in Jongdae's eyes weren't formed by resentful memories. Laughing is the only time where Jongdae can hear what Joonmyun's voice may sound like, he promised himself to somehow make him laugh like this every day. God knows they both could use some laughter.

When their laughter became only escaped giggles, Jongdae noticed that Joonmyun was signing. 'To be perfectly honest, I don't get offended when you insult my family. We do not really like each other. They just keep me alive because they can't legally kill me.'

The words were completely horrifying to Jongdae's ears, but Joonmyun only shrugged, still smiling. He's had years and years to accept his current situation; the fact that his family hates him didn't seem to affect him. The feeling was mutual.

'I like your accent.' Joonmyun added in order to lighten the mood. His valet couldn't help but feel heat rising up to his cheeks. 'You should not have to change your voice for me. You know I don't care for most manners and pleasantries. As long as you are kind to me, I'm fine.'

Jongdae held his boss's arm and helped him back to the castle; it was not a good idea to be up in the mountains at dark. Wolves and wild dogs were known to rule the night, especially during fall and winter.

'I was a fool for not listening to you. You're right, I do need to get out of the castle more often.' Joonmyun signed, making the pair burst into a fit a giggles once more. When they arrived at the castle the first thing Jongdae did was hand Joonmyun his violin. He drew his chair up and listened to the comforting melody that the noble went along with as he played, for the only problem they still needed to solve that day was how to while away their bleak autumnal night.

~*~

"My grandmother send me a package this time." Jongdae said one quiet afternoon, excitedly ripping apart the box. Joonmyun stared at him with a curious smile.

Usually, the valet only received letters that he would enthusiastically read to his boss. Joonmyun liked the man's grandmother, she had a fierceness to her words that he could respect. Single mothers were already frowned upon, he can't imagine what sort of strength the elder woman had to form being a widowed grandmother and caring for her grandchild with no help at all.

She knew that the two of them had formed an unusual bond that a staff member and a noble would not normally have, thus making her quite fond of Joonmyun.

"She sent the recipe for her jam cookies! I'll be sure to tell Kyungsoo to make them today. And even more recipes, all of them, really. I cannot wait for you to try them." Jongdae chuckled, muttering to himself as he read her letter, making sure that it was alright for him to read aloud.

"...Jongdae, when you speak of that man you describe him as if he is an angel. In your last letter you said that he was 'perfect'. Tell me, darling, are you in love?"

He kept the letter to himself that time.

~*~

Working as a valet meant being at the beck and call of every single of your employer's needs, whether they really needed help or not.

Jongdae became a constant in Joonmyun's life to the point where his presence not only was something the noble had become used to but also to the point where it felt strange not having him next to him.

Living with someone who couldn't speak also meant that Jongdae learned to understand Joonmyun without need for speaking, simple quirks and habits became signals for him. Whenever Joonmyun scratched his thigh it meant he was hungry. A small, fake cough meant he was thirsty. When he saw Joonmyun scratching his neck nervously he would tell him it was time to put on some music until the lull of the gramophone helped the noble focus on his work again. He stopped protesting against playing jazz records in the background, Jongdae didn't know if it meant that he didn't care or if he finally admitted to himself that he enjoyed the music. Jongdae was considering buying him more records soon.

Excessive stretching and restlessness meant it was time for a walk, where he was free to calm his mind and his nerves. It became a ritual between them. With every walk, Joonmyun had started to wonder about the island that surrounding him, leaving Jongdae in charge of mapping and describing the island for his boss by words, at least for now. They never strayed from a few feet from the castle grounds; the harsh winter winds starting to cut into their skin no matter how much layers of clothing they wore. Thus they both decided to leave their evening walks on hiatus until spring, leaving Joonmyun as restless as ever.

Despite this, Joonmyun continued to write his his entries. Apart from writing music, the noble had been blessed with the talent of writing amazing stories, most of them were fantastical tales of dragons and beasts. Joonmyun claimed it helped him distract himself. Today, however, was clearly not a writing day. Without the option of walking, and Joonmyun had stated earlier that he was not in the mood to play any instrument, Jongdae was starting to feel his boss's restlessness bouncing to his own body.

He had an idea.

"Sir, would you care to dance?" Jongdae asked, his eyes twinkling. Joonmyun only gave him a confused stare, until he remembered that he owned a small ballroom that was collecting dust.

Every grand home should have a ballroom, no matter how little guests they received. Whether they used it to woo future companions or to just have a good time, every noble should be taught how to dance, it was just a matter of common etiquette. Jongdae was taught how to waltz by his grandmother many years ago, but his swing was far better than his step.

"Come on, I'm sure it'll quiet that head of yours, Master Kim." Jongdae held out his hand this time. Hesitant, Joonmyun took it, though Jongdae could feel sweat on the noble's palm.

Since it was barely used, the ballroom was not only filled with dust but also as dark as the night, despite it being the afternoon. There was only one window, Jongdae had brought a candle as well for safe measure. He doubted that they could ever install light bulbs in the castle, no one in Saint Carmen used those electric contraptions, as far as he knew, not even Moonard. Joonmyun stepped into the dim room cautiously, as if he was not familiar with a part of his own home, and had not noticed that he was still holding Jongdae’s hand. If it was darkness they would have to deal with, then let it be as extravagant and enjoyable as possible.

‘I’m afraid I’m not very good at dancing.’ The noble shrugged, getting into a standard waltz position. It surprised Jongdae that he was not put off by dancing with another man, maybe he was accustomed to dancing with men... Jongdae put that thought aside, it did not matter to him. Joonmyun, on the other hand, was praying that his servant couldn’t see his rosy cheeks or his beating heart in the dim light of the ballroom. He doesn’t remember the last time his hand was held.

The valet rested his free hand on Joonmyun’s waist, taking on the leading position. It was only then that he realized they had no music to dance to in the first place. There was no possible way he could carry the gramophone to the ballroom without looking like an utter fool -- and without having to let go of Joonmyun's hand. Thus, this left Jongdae with no other choice but to hum a song off the top of his head.

As much as he tried to keep a straight face as he listened to his valet sing with each step, it only took Joonmyun a few minutes before he burst out in a fit of giggles. 'This is ridiculous. This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever done.'

"Clearly, you haven't done a lot of ridiculous things." Jongdae snaps back, his ears burning. "Fine, I won't sing. We can just dance in silence or not do so at all."

Joonmyun shook his head. 'No, your voice is enjoyable. It’s just all a bit queer, that's all. Please, keep singing.'

A peculiar kind of warmth spread through Joonmyun's chest. For a moment, he panicked, thinking it's a heart attack or some other sort of illness. Then Jongdae smiled down at him, a worried look on his face, and the noble realized he's happy. Joonmyun rests his head on his valet's chest and tried to grasp how happiness was possible with his current state. Joonmyun had forgotten how it felt like to have a glowing, burning reason to smile.

Jongdae ignored the burning in his ears and continued humming, stopping now and then to hiss whenever Joonmyun would step on his shoes. It was apparent that the noble had not been exaggerating when he said he was a terrible dancer. Jongdae was not annoyed by the man's clumsiness but he could see the growing irritation in Joonmyun’s face with each mistake. His face turned more grim by the step.

Eventually, Joonmyun let go again, batting his valet's hand away hastily in order to use his own. If the noble could speak he would be stumbling in his words, stammering. Since he could not stammer, his hands shook.

(Jongdae lost count of the times he’d try to imagine the man’s voice. He once heard that, as a child, Joonmyun had a beautiful singing voice. He imagined his voice would leave a flavor of tea and rain in the air.)

'Minseok had always been a better dancer.’ He signed, it's the first time he’d ever seen him mention his sibling. ‘Better at everything. He is the perfect heir, I was nothing but a disappointment.’ Tears threatened to stain the man’s cheeks and Jongdae swore he heard a whimper. It broke his heart knowing that the only sounds that escaped Joonmyun throat were in his most emotional moments. ‘The perfect heir. No wonder my parents left me to rot in this castle without a second thought. They were the ones who led me to this condition in the first place.’

'I can't even dance without breaking into tears. Will I ever be allowed to be happy? What is the matter with me? I belong in an asylum.' He signed, holding back sobs.

His valet took a step forward, not knowing the proper way to console a crying noble. Could he hold him? Could he hold his hand? Would a pat in the back do the trick?

“What do you mean they led you to your condition?” He asked instead, wavering a hand over Joonmyun’s shoulders.

The man’s hands stopped signing completely and instead balled up to fists. He was still holding back his tears (he had gotten quite good at it) and staring blankly into space. It took Joonmyun many deep breaths to calm down. He left the ballroom without a word and locked himself in his room. Jongdae sighed and reminded himself to tell Kyungsoo that he would not need to prepare dinner for the master of the house that night.

He cursed himself for not consoling his boss in another way.

~*~

For someone who can't even speak, the castle feels quieter without Master Kim's presence. He had not noticed so accustomed he became to listening to music every hour of the day. If Joonmyun was not playing music, he was listening to it. Jongdae hummed to himself, trying to fill the room with his voice instead, but it was no use. Turning on the radio seemed like an insult. The other servants did not seem put off by their Master's absence in the slightest; they did not deserve to listen to the music that their boss enjoyed so much. And, to be honest, neither did his valet.

He only entered the man's room to bring him food and tea and to pick up the one he left before. The food was always untouched, the tea grew cold, but Jongdae did not dare speak a word to his boss about it. He left the noble in his slumber, thought Jongdae was sure he was only pretending to be asleep.

(If Joonmyun was already beautiful while awake, then he was positively breathless when he was sleeping. He would always curl up and hold his pillow close to his chest, like a child. It was possible that Joonmyun had never had the privilege of sleeping next to someone else. Jongdae could not say he had a lot of experience either.)

Two days had passed and it wasn't until the dead of night, when all the staff should have been sleeping, that Joonmyun left his room and wandered off to servants quarters (after tending to his aching stomach and bathing, of course) without anyone noticing. Or anyone caring, for that matter, he's sure that Kyungsoo had noticed him walk by. Nevertheless, he is their boss, they cannot send him away. With quiet steps he reached his valet's room, the one at the end of the hall. Truth be told, there were many more empty servant bedrooms free for Jongdae to take, but he chose the one that was farthest from the rest of the staff.

When he opened the door, leaving it ajar in case of a quick retreat, Joonmyun was surprised to see that Jongdae's room was a lot more different than what he had envisioned. The walls were empty save for a portrait of an elderly woman who shared the same cat-like grin as Jongdae, his grandmother most likely. The desk was cluttered with letters. Joonmyun looked away, already feeling too intrusive.

Originally, Joonmyun would have preferred leaving his own letter under Jongdae's pillow and leaving without having to confront his servant, but the man was a light sleeper. One must be a light sleeper when they're a servant, you can never know when something might happen in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, he mistook Joonmyun's slender hands for the ones of a thief, leaving Joonmyun with a hand around his throat and his back against the floor in the blink of an eye.

"J-J-J..." He choked, which woke up Jongdae instantly. With a horrified expression, he was let go of. Joonmyun stroked his neck and was just thankful that he did not need to continue speaking.

Jongdae could not even find the words to expressed how ashamed of himself he was. "Master Kim..." He stammered, pressing his hands to either side of his boss's face, making sure he was breathing correctly. Joonmyun's cheeks burned under his servant's hands. "I-I don't know how to say how sorry I am, sir. I thought you were a burglar. I did not expect you to wake up. You quite all right?"


Joonmyun coughed one more time and nodded, reaching inside his coat pocket to actually do what he had meant to do when he entered the room. Jongdae lowered his hands, embarrassed at the touch, and instead rested a hand on the noble's thigh. It didn't take long before he realized that he was only wearing his undergarments in front of a nobleman. Really, was there any end to his shame?

'I could have you fired for doing that,' Joonmyun laughed, shaking his head. His hands were still rubbing at his neck. Thankfully, Jongdae had not pressed too hard against his skin. A letter was thrusted into his chest by a pair of shaking, slender hands. Jongdae could recognize his boss's handwriting instantly as he noticed that it had 'Please read me' written elegantly in the front.

Joonmyun's cheeks went pink, 'I had meant to give it to you while you were asleep. You asked earlier what had led me to my condition, I hope this covers it.'

He stared at the letter then back at the noble. "Are you sure I can read this? I won't tell a soul, I promise."

'I know you won't, I trust you.'

Jongdae still couldn't believe that his boss was finally opening up. Christ, he needed a cigarette. It seemed that Joonmyun took a hint and place one in his mouth the instant he noticed his servant fretting. As Joonmyun looked for a match in his desk, Jongdae put on his spectacles and began to read:

Dear Jongdae,


I write this with weary, shaking hands, but it must be done. I have kept this secret for far too long. Then again, no one had ever bothered to find out, it was not that difficult of a secret to keep. I trust you. God help me, but I trust you more than I've ever trusted anyone else.

I hope that I am not mistaken in trusting you.

As you may know, the story states that one day I was suddenly found by my mother who called for me but I did not answer back. At first, she thought it was just that I was acting like a child, but after she kept on bickering, I would not answer. I went from having a wonderful singing voice to not making a sound in the span of a day. Clearly, I was marked by the devil, thus making my family send me away to this castle alone to avoid more scandal. This story is just a ridiculous fallacy. I was never marked by the devil. Nevertheless, I do not doubt that I knew him very intimately.

My father, Lord Kim, was a traditional man. He believed that children were to be seen, not heard. He also believed children of the Kim line had to be upheld to the highest manners possible starting on the day they learn how to walk. That was how my grandfather taught him, how my great-grandfather taught his son, and so on.

Instead of learning how to jump rope, I was taught how to set a table. Instead of meeting other children, I had to meet Dukes and Lords. Instead of learning about the world around me, I learned about trading routes and maintaining the estate. The only friends I had were in my books. Terribly cliché, I know, but it was the truth.

I figure my mother was against this sort of treatment, but she could not speak against it. In another world, she could have been a suffragette or even a leader, but we were both stuck with my father. I grew to resent him from a very early age. Since my mother didn't say anything, I grew to resent her too.

Since I had no one on my side, I decided to take matters into my own small hands. It started with simple things like pretending I forgot to attend my classes, refusing to wear certain clothes, and other ridiculous childhood stubbornness. This continued for months, my parents grew increasingly tired with my actions, but I did not listen to my mother's pleads or to my father's yelling.

Truth be told, I had never been an very talkative child, but my permanent silence did not start until I one day, during a very important ball where dozens of business owners and their wives were attending, I made a terrible mistake.

I believed that if I showed my father that I was not interested in upholding his ridiculous ideals that he would change his mind and try to lower his ideals and expectations. The more I think about it now, the more I realize it was a idiotic train of thought. Due to the fact that I have tried to repress the memory for so long, the events of what I tried to are slightly blurry, but I will try to retell them as best as I can, not only for your knowledge, but for my own peace.

As you may well know, my passion for music has always had a sacred place in my heart. Back then, my voice was my instrument, and my father had agreed to let me sing for the guests. I don't remember exactly what I had sang, but it was something extremely vulgar, possibly a song of pirates or drunk men. Everyone was in such shock that they did not stop me; I remember a sense of dread that filled my head with every continuing second that I sang. How could I have been so stupid?

My father was not a violent person, he would never hit a woman or a child, but when he dragged me out of the stage by my hand, his words hurt more than any beating could. I had embarrassed my family, lost him hundreds of pounds in the deals he could have made, and made him ashamed of calling me his son.

They needed to get rid of me. The next day, when I wouldn't and couldn't speak, they had found a reason why.

I theorize that my mother was the one who planted the idea of the devil taking away my voice to the pastor, she was always a religious woman.

The castle has always been part of the Kim family, I read that it used to be where my great-great-grandfather was born. They renovated it during the entire scandal. I'm sure you can put to together the pieces. Part of me wonders what would have happened if I never sang that night. Would I be able to speak freely? Would I still be the heir to estate? Or would my parents still had found a way to get rid of me?

Nevertheless, I know for a fact that I would have never met you. At least something good came from this mess.
Thank you,
Kim Joonmyun.

The first thing Jongdae noticed when he had finished reading was the fact that the noble had fallen asleep in his bed. He had lost track of time, he had never been a quick reader. As tired as he is from the emotional toll of the letter, there is no way that he can fall asleep along with his boss.

He felt a hand close around his fist. Joonmyun stared up at him with drowsy eyes, pulling him down to the bed beside him, gently. There was nothing to be said. The last thing Joonmyun needed was to be pitied because of his past life. His hands moved until he could run his thumb over Joonmyun's slender, soft hands. To think that all his life no one had bothered to caress him this was was unthinkable. His family did not deserve such an intelligent and brilliant man, he wanted to say, but what came out instead was, "You're so beautiful."

Joonmyun blinked once, twice, not being able to believe the words. People like him weren't beautiful, they were a nuisance. He closed his eyes. Even then, the words refused to come out.

'Please don't leave me.''

Jongdae leaned in and kissed the other man's temple. "Never," He promised, and blew out the candle.