?

Log in

 
 
29 November 2015 @ 04:05 pm
since he could not stammer, his hands shook (part two)  




Part Two



Out of all the events that happened the past night, the strangest thing that Jongdae noticed was that sleeping next to Joonmyun felt natural. He had never had a better night's rest in that dreadful, lumpy bed before. When they awoke, they were curled up together in a manner that would give the Preacher Yifan a heart attack. Despite this, Joonmyun did not want to part his face from the curve of Jongdae's neck. He'd never felt safer anywhere else.

Jongdae, on the other hand, needed to get away from the noble's bad case of morning breath.

"Sir, have you bathed in the past two days?" He asked, carefully detaching himself from the other man's grip.

Joonmyun shook his head, laughing.

He gave him a fond smile in return. "I'll go run a bath, then. Kyungsoo said he was preparing fruit crepés for breakfast," Speaking of the staff... "You might want to get out of the room carefully, sir."

The paler man nodded and watched Jongdae dress himself, both of their cheeks turning into a rosy color. Joonmyun looked away, but he couldn't help but notice how handsome Jongdae looked in his morning suit, something he was so used to seeing. As the valet left to prepare the bath, Joonmyun made sure to run to his room without letting anyone see him.

They did not speak of the kiss nor did they mention the letter the next day. They didn't need to.

In all the romance novels Joonmyun had read, he thought romantic revelations began with a bang—a desperate press of lips, a heart-breaking confession, an overwhelming desire to simply graze your hand against someone else's. He'd never expected himself to fall in love with Jongdae so quietly and subtly that neither of them noticed.

Or maybe they did, because that day, Joonmyun did not complain when Jongdae played his favorite jazz station in the radio. He even allowed himself the pleasure of a cigarette as he played his piano along to the melody. Joonmyun didn't smoke, but Jongdae enjoyed how he looked with one caught between his lips. It did make him feel more masculine and confident, just like the ads in the newspaper said.

'Lets take a walk.' The noble suggested later one night. It was freezing cold, and they were tired. Yet Jongdae would not have rather do anything else. "Of course, Sir. I'll get the jackets and scarves."

This time they walked farther than usual. Every time they had their walks, Jongdae could see Joonmyun always took a step further than the last walk. A few feet, an inch, he was sure that the noble would run down as far away from the castle as possible in a heartbeat, if he was allowed. The castle were like a pair of shackles that isolated him from everything, including himself.

Whenever Joonmyun walked away from the castle he would take the route to the town or to the ocean, never the one to Moonard.

At the sight of his boss's red and sniffling nose, Jongdae adjusted the man's red scarf to cover half of his face. It allowed him to stare at his eyes, always bright with wonder. He smiled fondly, "You must be freezing, sir."

'Yes but its worth it. I can see the ocean.' Joonmyun signed.

Jongdae laughed. "You're not looking at the ocean, sir." He laced his hands with Joonmyun's and they fitted together perfectly.

Perhaps it was due to the fact that Joonmyun had never felt like this before, every time he looked at Jongdae his chest ached with something he couldn't quite describe. It was more than the happiness he had felt earlier. It was like standing too close to a ledge. Like singing during a storm. Like sleeping under the stars. It was terrifying and safe and peaceful and exciting. It was nothing like what he thought love would feel.

Jongdae had only fallen in love once before. He had been a fool to find Minseok beautiful once, but then he fucked the Island over and, by the effect of his ridiculous laws and orders, caused his grandmother to be in her current state. He could not find such a irritating and hateful person beautiful anymore. If Joonmyun ever found out of his past affairs, he would never hear the end of it, it would break the man's already fragile heart.

Feeling oddly guilty about his past actions, Jongdae trapped Joonmyun’s hand with his own and guided it to his mouth, pressing a soft kiss to the man’s pale knuckles. Joonmyun freed Jongdae’s hand and petted his hair, eagerly awaiting whatever his valet would do next. Jongdae stepped closer and counterbalanced Joonmyun’s chin between a curled index finger and thumb, which rested on the noble’s pink bottom lip, before—at last!—pressing Joonmyun’s lips to his own.

Joonmyun closed his eyes and gasped, the warmth of Jongdae’s tongue teasing his bottom lip, until the two were forced to detach themselves from each other. His cheeks were burning, he felt as if the snow beneath him would melt because of it. They did not let go of each other’s hands.

With one more quick kiss (Jongdae wouldn't dare do anything further than a kiss before marriage, which would never be possible. Then again, he was contempt with doing nothing more than kissing Joonmyun for the rest of his life.) and a promise of hot cocoa next to the open fire, they returned to the castle. To their home.

~*~
Jongdae knew his blissful days with Joonmyun were numbered, but he'd never expected them to end so quickly.

It all started a week after they admitted their love for eachother. Joonmyun had been playing the piano while Jongdae vocalized quietly next to him, picking up his master's last meal. He was eating normally again, thankfully. Everything seemed tranquil and perfect. That is until Sehun bolted into the room, doors swinging forcefully against the wall, with a sentence that Joonmyun thought he would never hear.

“Master Kim, Lord Kim is at the door.” He said, looking composed yet nervous, and clenching his fists at his side.

The noble stood up, then sat down again. Minseok was here. He covered his mouth with his hands. Minseok was here.

Jongdae hated the man with every bone in his body, but did not say a word and instead carefully eyed his master, making sure he wouldn’t faint of shock. After moments that seemed like hours, Joonmyun nodded in response, making Sehun rush to the door and leaving Jongdae and his master alone. (His lover? His partner? His companion? Jongdae didn’t know what to call it.)

He pressed a comforting hand to Joonmyun’s shaking one and, even if it was only for a brief second, it seemed to calm the man down. They two kept their distance once more as they heard footsteps getting closer.

Like most men of wealth, Lord Kim was confident and alluring, as well as elegant to the extreme. Yet he still retained a childish charm to his manners, making people either fall in love with him or jealous of his ridiculously pampered life. With a friendly grin, he took off his top hat and handed his cane to Jongdae, winking at him subtlety, before opening his arms to Joonmyun.

“Dear brother, its been ages since I’ve seen you in the flesh,” he began, his permanent smile stuck to his face in the way that made others swoon and made Jongdae gag, “Letters are really not the same, don’t you think? How are you?”

Joonmyun did not accept his embrace, but he did stand up. ‘Why are you here? You haven’t come to the castle in ages.’

The Lord groaned dramatically, “Oh, brother, you know I don’t understand that hand gibberish.”

Now that the aura had become uncomfortable, Jongdae intervened, “I can translate for him. He asked what brings you to the castle.”

Minseok gasped, as if he was just now remembering why he arrived in the first place, and laughed. “Oh yes, of course. Well, as you and the entire island already know, the yearly ball is growing near. I’ve spent ages getting it ready and coordinated. The theme is the ‘The wonders of the snow’ and there will be dancers from the north and chefs from the south. You wouldn’t believe how hard it was to get a Jazz ensemble to come to the island, but-”

Joonmyun cleared his throat, obviously bored with Minseok’s stories. Jongdae couldn’t help but smirk.

“Pardon me, I got carried away. Well, I was wondering if you, dear brother, would do me the honor of leading the Ball’s orchestra? Please, it would mean the world to me?”

Joonmyun stayed still, not quite sure if he was breathing, or if this was just a cruel dream. He had never traveled that far from the castle, he has not stepped foot in Moonard for over eleven years. This is not the reality he was expecting for himself. Instead, he finds himself in a room with the man he loves and a man that he is only connected to by blood and guilt. The only thing that felt real was the faint hum of the radio, playing music from somewhere in the south of America, where despite the war and the economy, the people managed to make beautiful and lively music. Joonmyun wished he were the same.

He signed something in response. “He says that he doesn’t know how to lead an orchestra, sir.” Jongdae translated, completely unaware of what Joonmyun was thinking and instead focusing on not glaring at the other noble.

“He can learn by reading, you must have some book about it in your gorgeous library. Not as big as the one back home, of course, but still gorgeous nonetheless. It can’t be that hard, it’s just waving a stick to and fro.” He checked his watch and frowned. “Will you do it? If mummy were here, she would want you to.”

Allowing himself to be guilted into agreeing, Joonmyun nodded again, staring into Minseok’s eyes for the first time in... well, this may as well be the first time he ever looked at his brother properly. Minseok returned back to his usual smile and took his hat and cane once more. Both of them know that Minseok could stay instead of traveling back to Moonard this late at night, but it remains unspoken, and it is clear that staying this close to each other for longer would lead to a mistake.

“Of course, your translator is invited to the ball as well,” he started to make his way out of the room, Sehun stood behind him to lead him out. “Or he can come as your date. It is up to you. See you soon, dear brother. Goodbye, Jongdae.”

Minseok’s voice had not changed, not entirely, but it was completely different. He still sounded kind and gentle, but beneath it there was something new. Something rather like steel.

~*~

“You shouldn’t go.”

Jongdae’s voice is like the eye of the storm during a hurricane. It is still raining, but not hard enough to feel as if he is drowning. Joonmyun looked away and pretended he didn’t listen, returning to his own thoughts. If he did not show up it would result in him disappointing the family name once more, and if he did, he had no idea how Minseok will act. Would he embarrass him? Or would he be genuinely kind and accepting? Joonmyun only knew his brother through stories and letters, he cannot know for sure.

He will not let his brother win so easily.

‘I must,’ The noble sighed and picked up his orchestrating manual, pretending he didn’t notice Jongdae’s worried expression as he walked away.

They barely interacted for days after that.

While Joonmyun kept himself busy by composing day and night, practically glued to his piano, his violin, and every other instrument that Jongdae wasn't familiar with, Jongdae was in charge of, well, everything else.

His first duty was making sure their tailor, whom Minseok had appointed from the mainland especially for this moment, prepared their suits on time. Luhan was extremely tedious, measuring every curve that they both held. Jongdae didn't blame him, Luhan was the one in charge of making Lord Kim's clothing, and he was notoriously known for always needs the latest fashion, which placed the poor tailor in a stressful position.

His cheeks, as they always would, had turned pink when he had helped Joonmyun change into his gorgeous new coat, adorned with golden embroidered details on his sleeves, and a sewn in lapel of a yellow poppy, the Kim family flower. Jongdae's own suit was simpler, it did not hold the flower in its lapel and the golden details were sown into the coat tails. Despite this, it was made obvious that their suits were supposed to the worn as a pair. Anyone who would look at them would know they were two sides of the same coin.

His other duty was contacting the orchestra that would play the song Joonmyun had composed. Jongdae had to travel to Moonard in order to use their telephone, not only did Joonmyun not feel ready to come back but he also refused to use the new contraption.

'It's impossible. There is no way that you could hear someone that far away.' The noble had signed.

Jongdae had tried to explain the mechanics of it to him, which he had read in the newspaper, but Joonmyun only huffed and picked up his violin again. His valet laughed at his stubbornness and decided to leave it at that, putting on his hat to make his way to Moonard.

It was almost an hour horse rise to make a short call, but Moonard had one of the only three telephones in the island. When he arrived, he was greeted by Lord Kim instead of the butler of the house, which he found unusual, but spared the pleasantries that the Lord had offered and went straight to the telephone. The call had not lasted more than twenty minutes, but it felt like eternities as Minseok watched him intently the entire time, touching his lips now and then as Jongdae spoke, possibly trying to seem seductive, but the valet paid him no attention.

When he finished, Minseok stopped him again, "Would you like some tea before you leave? It is an hour ride back to the castle. I'd like to catch up."

As much as Jongdae would have rathered decline the man's offer, his stomach begged to differ. "Yes, please. Thank you, sir."

The lord grinned and clapped his hand for a maid, asking her to bring tea and sandwiches for the two of them. They made their way to the sitting area, which was surrounded by that Jongdae was sure Minseok never read nor touched. He sat in the chair opposite to his host, thanking the maid for his tea.

"It’s imported from India, you know. One of the best in the world. My coffee is imported from Puerto Rico, I find Colombian beans too overhyped." Minseok began, draping his body over his chair, strong legs spread apart. Jongdae simply hummed into his tea.

The Lord licked his lips, "Remember how I would go into town just to see you in the pub you worked in? Then you started working in the barber, and I would insist on getting dreadful haircuts just to look at you. Ah, memories."

"Yes, I do remember," Jongdae placed his cup on his saucer. "You were a constant presence in my life for a long time."

'You would flirt with me because I was also of Kim blood, thus is was technically allowed, and we would do unspeakable, sinful things in the farthest corners of the woods, then would leave me only a few minutes after, claiming that I would never be a true Kim. And I allowed it, I allowed you to say those horrid things." He gritted his teeth, aching to let those words fall from his mouth, to see shock and embarrassment in the Lord's smug face, but he bit his tongue. This was not about him.

Minseok smirked, "I must say, I was surprised when you took your position in my brother's staff. I thought you would work for me, and we would be inseparable."

"I prefer working for your brother." It was the most polite way of saying that Jongdae would rather die than working for him.

Lord Kim was not only a noble man but a diplomat and a politician. After many years of training from his beloved father, he knew how to get under people's skin, how to get what he wanted. "A little birdy tells me that you and my brother are quite close. You're his first friend. Or maybe you're something... more intimate."

Jongdae gulped, trying to think of ways that he could get himself out of this situation, but there was no use. Minseok knew. The jealous bastard knew.

"I have to follow the law of confidentiality that comes with the job, my Lord.” The valet responded hesitantly, wishing he had a cup of tea in his hands to distract him from the man in front of him, but Minseok’s stare burned into his entire being, leaving him breathless and terrified of the man. He swallowed, trying to look away.

With a quirk to his lips, Minseok took a long sip of his tea. “The law doesn’t apply to the family, Jongdae. But I will only ask one thing, and I beg you to stay truthful.”

Jongdae took a deep breath then nodded, falling right into the man’s trap.

“Do you love him? Do you love my brother?” He asked calmly, as silence filled the room, forcing Jongdae to speak.

“Yes...” Jongdae admitted, both to Minseok and to himself. “Yes, I do. I love your brother, my Lord. God help me.”

Minseok stayed still for a few eternal seconds, then nodded in agreement. He stood up, and like the gentleman he was taught to be, helped Jongdae to his horse. “It was lovely to see you again, Jongdae. Make sure my brother gets here on time.” He hummed, and took Jongdae’s hand without waiting for it to be offered to him. The noble pressed a kiss to Jongdae’s knuckles, which was longer and sloppier than it should have been. Jongdae could probably live his entire life without being able to forget the sensation of the uncomfortable contact. He pulled his hand away, and after giving the Lord one last nod, rid the horse back to the castle, desperate to see Joonmyun again.

~*~
"Calm down, you don't need to be nervous." The valet mumbled, adjusting his master's suit for the third time as they rode in their assigned royal carriage to Moonard.

'Why would I be nervous?' Joonmyun signed—nervously. Jongdae frowned at him, and decided that it was impossible to calm the other man down. Instead, he tried to distract him.

He quirked his lips, "You look so beautiful in this, Luhan made it perfect for you. You look like snow and fallen ash, and I can't wait to show you off."

Despite blushing deeply, Joonmyun raised an eyebrow. 'Snow and ash?'

"You're skin is pale and your suit is pitch black... Never mind, poetry isn’t my forté anyway." He responded, making Joonmyun smile back at him, his body felt less tense.

He looked out the window, wondering how he could come up with a reasonable excuse to miss the ball. The only one Joonmyun could think of was if the carriage fell of the cliff they were so close to.

It seemed at mother nature made a special agreement with Lord Minseok, because just like the Yearly Ball's theme, snow as pure and clean at the clouds of heaven seemed to adorn the mountains of Saint Carmen. Unlike the harsh waves that battered the town during winter, the mountain was quiet and ethereal, as if God had given the island a special place to escape from where the townspeople wouldn't have to suffer the sea's rage, but instead a family stole the natural beauty for themselves.

They arrived at Monard not long after that. The manor was immaculate despite the harsh cold, a part of the staff was in charge of keeping the snow from the entry of the castle during these events. Jongdae stepped out first, making sure that Joonmyun wouldn't step on anything that could ruin his appearance, and held out his hand for the noble to steady himself. When Joonmyun did take his hand, Jongdae did not let go even after he had managed to get out of the carriage. He pressed a quick kiss to Joonmyun knuckles in reassurance, causing the other man to let out a breathy sigh that formed a cloud onto the winter cold.

Once he was sure that Joonmyun was visibly calm, he grabbed his master's sheet music in one hand and laced his arms with Joonmyun's with the other. There were dozens of other guests entering at the same time as them, they were barely noticeable amongst the mass of people. It was comforting, but Jongdae knew it wouldn't be long before someone recognized-

"At long last, brother! Its been ages. Tell me, has it changed much since you were a child? I was born after your... unfortunate departure, I wouldn't know." Lord Minseok yelled out not only to Joonmyun but for all to hear. All attention turned to them, low murmurs started to fill the room as they waited for the man's answer. Jongdae pressed a reassuring hand to his Master's shoulder.

After Joonmyun gave his answer, leaving some guests confused about what he was doing with his hands, Jongdae raised his voice, "He says that it looks exactly the same."

The nobleman glanced up and down at the pair, grinning as he found something amusing. “You two match very well, don’t you?”

Before either of them could respond, Minseok was taken away by the hands of a very regal looking woman, possibly by the mainland, who begged for him to entertain her, leaving his brother and the valet alone. “Well, they have food. Let’s grab something to eat.” Jongdae mused, taking his master’s arm and dragging him across the hall to the food tables. Joonmyun seemed to be in a state of shock, staring at his surroundings curiously like a child. He had lied, the Manor had changed drastically since he left. For once in his life, he felt it was comforting.

It was obvious that Minseok had spared no expense, Jongdae thought, as he devoured some of the finest shrimp he’d ever tasted, while Joonmyun calmly drank a cup of french champagne. The walls were decorated with fake snow that shined like diamonds while the twelve pine trees that stood like giants in the room were adorned from head to toe with christmas decorations. Dozens of people danced to the jazz band that played loudly, especially the younger guests.

Joonmyun excused himself, desperate to go somewhere quieter, where he could make some last minute arrangements with the orchestra. It was still another three hours until they performed, but Joonmyun needed to make sure that it would be perfect, it was his last chance to do something right. He walked up the stairs, remembering the layout of the house without any trouble and trying not to attract attention. He looked back and noticed that Jongdae was still immersed in the shrimp and laughing along with a large, older man next to him. He would be fine, the last thing Jongdae needed was to stand another minute of his sulking.

Joonmyun strode past his old room and to the library, where he agreed to meet with the orchestra to practice. While confused about his muteness, the rehearsal went well, and it was obvious that they were optimistic about the song he had written. The more he was praised, the redder his face became, forcing his to shake his head and smile in humble refusal. After about an hour of last minute changes and directions, Joonmyun did not have any more excuses to stop the musicians from enjoying the ball as well. They stood up, all bowing in respect as they went out the door, and left the noble alone in the middle of the library he enjoyed so much as a child.

All the books were exactly as untouched and forgotten as he remembered. He supposed that Minseok wasn't as big as a fan of reading as himself. Then again, they were not alike in anyway. He was stronger, charismatic, attractive and the epitome of elegance and masculinity.

He was also leaning against the doorframe, staring at his brother with an expression he couldn't read, but made him feel like a baby animal caught in a storm.

"What are you doing here, dear brother?" He strode to the middle of the room, looking at his sibling as if he was a lost child. "I've barely seen you at the party. It’s a pity, I was looking forward to introduce you to everyone. Jongdae seems to be having fun without you, though."

Joonmyun shrugged and began to sign, but caught himself once he remembered Minseok wouldn't understand him. His brother, however, laughed.

"Oh, did you really expect me not to know sign language? Of course I do, I just wanted to see your valet speak." He rested a hand on his brother's shoulder and led him out the library, not caring if Joonmyun wasn't particularly pleased with the idea. "Continue your thoughts, dear brother."

As much as Minseok's strange fascination with Jongdae made him uneasy, he decided not to dwell on it, 'I wanted to make some last minute changes to the orchestra. And I'm not too keen on dancing.'

"This is a ball, dear brother. I'm sure your valet would enjoy a dance, unless he's not too keen on dancing with you."

Joonmyun gritted his teeth. Of course Jongdae would enjoy dancing with him, wouldn't he? As the walked down the stairs along with his brother, Joonmyun looked down to find his valet happily dancing along to the jazz ensemble with a woman in those new flapper outfits. She seemed beautiful and Jongdae seemed completely distracted by her.

Minseok chuckled, “Well, that’s a pity.”

Whatever else his brother was about to say was cut off by Jongdae, who had just noticed him, “Sir, I was looking for you. Come on, dance with me. Y’know you like this song.” Jongdae’s cheeks were flushed, possibly from dancing and the wine that was being served, and as gleeful as always. Joonmyun shot a smile back to his brother and accompanied his valet to the dance floor. Both the woman Jongdae had left alone and Lord Minseok glared at him.

Jongdae did most of the moving around while Joonmyun allowed himself to be swept about the ballroom, glancing down at his partner’s feet and thankfully not stepping him this time. The sounds of brass instruments and uptempo beats of the finest jazz bands straight from the deep south of the United States filled the room, along with the smell of cigarettes imported from the Caribbean and delicious food directly from France. Everyone else was oblivious to the two of them, while Joonmyun was oblivious to all of his surroundings except for Jongdae, who danced away while holding his hands and back with such tenderness. “See? Not too shabby, sir.”

Joonmyun blushed, secretly wishing there was a slower song they could dance to.

Time seemed to go by too quickly. Jongdae’s presence seemed to change both time and logic, it had felt like he danced for hours as well as it felt like he only danced for seconds. It wasn’t until Minseok had to step in to tell them that it was almost time for the orchestra to play that he remembered where he was, and what he was here for. He was not here to fall in love with Jongdae all over again, which he couldn’t help but do, Joonmyun was here to prove a point. To show the Saint Carmen that he can be worthy of holding the Kim name, but not defined by it.

Jongdae squeezed his hand and balanced his world, then let him go, watching as the other man hid behind the stage.

~*~

The lights dimmed as the crescendo of the orchestra started to rise above all the guests's murmurs and whispers. Minseok, making the biggest effort to show off his wealth, had made faux snow fall from the ceiling as Joonmyun walked to the stage, earning him a round of applause from the guests. They were all aware of who he was, he was sure of it, as the applause sounded distant or cautious. The guests were more interested to see if he would embarrass his family again, along with the scattered few who still wondered if he really had the mark of the devil.

The noble bowed, his hands shaking beside him, as he gestured for his interpreter to come by the stage. There was less applause for Jongdae, most people were obviously unaware of who he was. Ignoring this, Jongdae glanced at his boss's hands as the man signed and started to speak in his place to the audience with a smile.

"Ladies and gentleman, thank you for coming. The ball has wondered me to no end, as I am sure that my brother has once again wowed you with his talent for organizing such events as he has, from what I’ve heard, shined through for the pasts years as the Lord of Saint Carmen. This is a very special night for me, it is the first time I step foot in this house in years. As so, I have poured my heart and soul into writing this piece for all of you."

"I call it 'The promise of snowfall’, since that is what we are celebrating this night. And my, God has given us a lovely snowfall today," Jongdae stopped as he gave Joonmyun a moment to glance out the window the smiled down at his audience, both adrenaline and nervousness filling him with joy.

Jongdae continued, "Music has given me the voice I never had the courage to show. I hope you all enjoy it." The leaves the stage, leaving Joonmyun and his orchestra alone to commence the show.

Gentle notes drift from the pianist and are then accompanied from the harp and the xylophone, creating the illusion of snowflakes falling onto the earth, until an eruption of wind instruments and the strings turn the snowfall into a blizzard. Minutes passed by, the audience was completely ruptured by the performance, as the instruments die down and only leave the harp and the piano, who complement each other like lovers dancing, forgetting the avalanche and creating a gentle snowfall that left the room breathless.

Everyone, including Minseok, forgot about the blizzard of their lives and focused only on the music that eventually stopped completely. Joonmyun felt as if he had forgotten how to breathe entirely as he turned around and bowed to the explosion of applause that seemed more beautiful for Joonmyun ears than any other song he had heard.

He left the stage, bowing over and over again to anyone who congratulated and thanked him for his piece, and rushed to a empty corner where he found Jongdae, who's eyes were stained with tears.

"I loved it," He said simply, wiping his red eyes in embarrassment. "It was beautiful. I couldn't be more proud of you, sir."

Joonmyun grabbed his lover's hand and dragged him to a empty room that only had a single candle to illuminate it. It was a storage room for the butler and footmen, if Joonmyun remembered correctly. He rested his hands on either sides of Jongdae's cheeks and kissed him, far deeper than he had before, almost sinfully, pressing his lips to places in Jongdae neck where he'd never had before. The other man stifled his laughter behind breathless gasps.

He needed to stop before he did something unspeakable in a home that wasn't even his. It was the adrenaline's doing, Joonmyun was well aware of this, so he parted away and pressed his head to Jongdae's own, both of them laughed like schoolboys who got away with breaking a rule.


"Thank you," Joonmyun said barely above a whisper, his voice harsh and unused. "For everything."

It certainly wasn’t the first time Jongdae had heard his master speak. Slowly but surely was the man regaining the strength to show his wonderful voice again. So far, Jongdae had been the only one to hear it. His words sounded like a winter breeze, Jongdae mused, as he felt chills trail down his spine as he replayed Joonmyun gratitude in his mind over and over again.

A knock on the door broke them apart, but there was not much subtlety they could pretend to have when being caught in a closet together in the dark.

Minseok's calm expression made Jongdae look away from the door, he remembered that face as it had disappointed him so many times before. "Sorry to interrupt. I must speak to my brother alone."

Joonmyun was certain that it was not to congratulate him.

~*~

"Dear brother, you must end this. He is taking you as a fool."

Joonmyun slumped on his old chair, a glass of whiskey in his hand, as his brother's scathing words filled the room of the library. There were still hours left until the ball ended, and knowing his brother's habit of rambling on, he was sure that he would never stop. This time, however, Minseok's words were calculated and planned, he kept silent when waiting for a response from his brother. Joonmyun couldn't look at him, let alone move.

He shook his head, closing his eyes and wishing that the ground would swallow him whole. All the excitement he had gained from his performance had been exchanged for pure, misery. The kind that Joonmyun was already accustomed to.

Minseok scoffed, "You seemed so keen on speaking back when you were alone with him, and now you won't utter a word! Hypocrite."

Even if Joonmyun wanted to lift his hands to sign something, he was interrupted by Minseok's voice, "I tried to give you another chance to enter this family. But now I see why father really locked you in that prison. You are an idiot. So naive. Once again, another Kim has fallen for Kim Jongdae's deceit."

Joonmyun raised his head at this. He placed his drink on the table and sat up, face paler than usual. 'What deceit?'

The Lord chuckled, "Did he not tell you? He pretended to be in love with me once. Why, I was smitten. He is far too easy to fall in love with, especially with his smile and his kindness. But it was all a ruse. He used to take me into the forest when I went to the village and we would sin. Oh, if the preacher knew of the things we done..." He reached for his handkerchief to dab at his eyes, though Joonmyun was not sure of he saw tears escape from them.

'Jongdae would never do something like that. He hates you.'

"Of course he hates me! I refused to marry him and ensure him a spot in my inheritence." Minseok look at his brother with a face of pity. "His goal is to marry you and leave you penniless. It was all fake."

'No one could fake what we have. Minseok, stop. For once, I am happy. Allow me to savour it.' He begged, clutching at the sleeves on his brother's suit.

The Lord's expression became darker. "Then the rumours are true. You are the one who manipulated him, like the demon you are." He snarled.

Joonmyun shook his head desperately. It was happening again. Minseok did share a striking image with his father, who he couldn’t help but imagine that was standing right in front of him instead of his brother. He wanted to scream until his throat felt raw.

"I won't allow Moonard to be polluted by the likes of a sinful, vanished son. You have cause this family enough embarrassment..." Minseok pulled his arms away. "To think that somehow you have manipulated the man to have feelings for you is unbearable."

'I never manipulated him. Just because you don't know of love doesn't mean I can't.'

"Of course, to be able to manipulate someone you must be able to speak!" Minseok stopped to laugh at his own joke before he continued, finding the whole ordeal amusing unlike his brother, who is terrified. "But am I to believe that you made him fall in love with you by the power of your music? With your non-existent charm? Dear me, brother mine, this is not one of the stories you hold so dear."

'He loves me, I am quite certain of it.’ Joonmyun dearly wished he wasn’t alone right now. ‘Minseok, I believe I love him too. Do not let jealousy blind you when we were just starting to make amends.'

"Quite certain? Quite certain? How can love speak and bloom if you can't even find the words to express it? Are you deaf and blind as well? Can you not see that the only reason that he loves you is for your connections and heritage? An exact copy of his mother, it had always been painfully obvious."

Joonmyun shook his head, trying to drown out the words.

Minseok refused to stop. "If you are to be wedded first, you would inherit the estate as you are the eldest brother, that's how the law goes. Stop being such an idiot, you of all men should know how to be accustomed to feigned love, especially after dealing with mum and dad."

What happened next still remains nothing but a blur in Joonmyun’s memory, but he remembered how the blood leaked out of Minseok’s nostrils and how ridiculous the man looked like with a broken nose. He had never in his life harmed another human being, yet he was more surprised in himself that he didn’t do it sooner.

Minseok whined in pain and pressed a handkerchief to his face. He had never been showed disrespect, never had anyone treated him with anything other than blind worship. He threw his head back, “You imbecile, I can’t go out there like this! I’ll be ruined!”

The eldest brother took his time to clear his throat, “N-Not as ruined as I’ll ever be.” It did not come out as strongly as he wished it had, but he did not blame himself, his vocal cords were not accustomed to it quite yet. His voice sounded hoarse and shaken.

Minseok stared at him and gritted his teeth. He remembered how their mother used to look out the window to the barely visible castle, and would often tell him how beautiful his brother’s voice was. He would always brush it off, believing her to be too sentimental and ridiculous. She had not been wrong, his brother’s voice was indeed beautiful. Minseok couldn’t help but feel guilty.

“I could vanish you from Saint Carmen. I have the power to do so. No one would miss you.” Said the Lord. Joonmyun did not seem affected by the threat in the slightest. Only hours ago had he ached for becoming part of his brother's linage once more, he had ached for it. Once again, Joonmyun could not bare to look at Moonard anymore. His nannyy once told him that he must always forgive, that resentment was a sin. He cleaned Minseok's blood from his knuckles in distain, realizing that he would most likely resent his brother for the rest of his life and he was perfectly fine with it.

“Then so be it. I found my family with Jongdae. Neither of us want to be known as Kim's ever again.” After having a taste of the extravagance and the strength and selfishness that came with it, he did not want to end up being the power hungry man that his brother had become. In another life, they could become friends. This life, however, he can’t look at his brother without feeling anything other than distain.

For once in his life, Minseok stayed silent.

Overwhelmed with how much he had spoken for the day, Joonmyun went back to his old habits, and decided to sign for the rest of the night. Possibly the rest of the week. ‘I only ask that you answer one thing,’ He began, making sure Minseok was looking at him. ‘Did Jongdae really ever love you?’

Minseok’s face was unreadable save for the brief hint of a smile that escaped his lips. “Yes, he did. But what I said about him being like his mother... that was a lie. He’s just as naive and lovesick as you are.”

Without another word, Joonmyun left the room, leaving his brother inside with a broken nose without a second thought, and decided that he would enjoy his last nights in Saint Carmen as far away from the castle as possible. The guests has been blissfully unaware of the whole ordeal, most of them barely noticed that their host was away. Jongdae, however, appeared to have been incredibly anxious as he locked eyes with his lover. He relaxed instantly and took his hankerchief from his coat pocket, wiping away the blood from his knuckles.

Before Jongdae could ask what had just happened, Joonmyun pressed finger to his lips to silence him and smiled. ‘I want to go. Could you arrange the carriage for us, please?’

The valet raised an eyebrow and nodded. He had originally expected them to stay for a few nights before leaving for the castle, but he did as his boss wished. They head out to the carriage in the now dark and snow filled night, listening to the waves hit the shore as they looked down the mountain, before Joonmyun was stopped by the old, large man that Jongdae had been talking to before.

“Mister Kim, what a delight to meet you. I couldn’t let you leave without saying how much I enjoyed your piece.” He said as he took a large drag from his cigar. “Your partner here was a delight at well. You two were the best part of the whole ball, if I’m going to be completely honest.”

Joonmyun bowed in gratitude and signed ‘thank you’, which Jongdae translated for the man.

“I wanted to give you an offer, Mister Kim. Not many people know who I am, but I work for the Royal Symphony Orchestra back in the capital. I was wondering if you’d like to come over and show us a few more of your pieces. You could even get a permanent position, if you’d like. From what I’ve heard, all you do in that castle is write music, now you can do that and get some money from it.”

“I could play for Her Majesty's orchestra?” Joonmyun said in disbelief, breaking his promise not to speak.

The old man laughed, “Ha! I knew you could talk. Now I won five quid.” He shook his head, “Yes, that very one. What do you think? I could find you a good place to stay in the city. Mind you, it's quite different from his Saint Carmen, nowhere nearly as quiet.”

Jongdae stared at his lover, awaiting as response, but Joonmyun seemed to be frozen in place. He could leave Saint Carmen, leave his legacy and reputation as a burden and have completely new life in a place. Joonmyun opened his mouth and closed it again. He didn’t mother singing, all he had to do was give Jongdae a fond smile and valet knew exactly what he meant with it.

“Master Kim says he’ll take it. And he’ll need a valet, of course, so make sure you make space for one more.”

‘Two more,’ Joonmyun stated as Jongdae translated, ‘And she’ll need her own room, if its possible. Jongdae’s mother is ill but recovering, but she must not be left alone here.’

Jongdae’s hand slipped against Joonmyun’s and held it tightly.

The old man threw his cigar to the snow and nodded, “Of course, that could be arranged. I’ll send you all the details tomorrow. Goodnight, Mister Kim.”

After exchanging their good-byes, all of the shock and adrenaline he had experienced during the day seemed to finally reach him as two of the sat in the back of the carriage. Joonmyun yawned and rested his head on his valet’s s chest, deciding he’ll use the two hours of travel to the castle to rest. But first..

“Jongdae,” He began, enjoying how the name rolled off his tongue. He felt the other man’s heartbeat quicken and laughed. “I forgot to tell you, you’re fired as of today.”

The poor valet seemed to be lost for words.

“I-I... did not finish. You’re fired as my valet and you’re free to be my... partner, officially. We’ll live as equals now, I don’t want people mistaking you for my valet. No more of that ‘Master Kim’ nonsense. Call me by my name, and I’ll call you by your own.”

If he wasn’t so entranced by Joonmyun’s voice and still in a state of shock, Jongdae swore he could have fainted by sheer happiness. It wasn’t long before his boss—no, his partner—fell asleep on his chest for the duration of the ride back to the castle. As much as Jongdae needed to plan their upcoming move to the city, the fact that he needed to prepare letters of recommendation for the rest of the staff, and how they were going to organize all of Joonmyun’s instruments and books into what he assumed would be a much smaller home, he couldn’t focus on anything other than the way his name slipped out of Joonmyun's mouth as he slept.





Epilogue

Once the maid had been dismissed for the evening, Joonmyun picked his violin and played in the middle of the room, a random composition forming in his head which he could eventually use for a piece. He didn't like the maid work for too many hours on end, not only was she young, but he didn't enjoy being reminded of the days he would wallow away with only the company of his staff to keep him company. Jongdae wrote wonderful letters of recommendation, he hoped they were working in a happier place. The castle was nothing but a memory now, last he heard the man he had sold it to was thinking of making it into a hospital. If he had kept all of the money that he gained from selling the property he could have afforded a much more grandeur home than his current flat, but he could live in the bottom of a bridge if it meant he could spend the rest of his life with Jongdae. The townspeople of Saint Carmen needed the money, anyway.

He glanced at the clock, only less than an hour until his partner returned from work. Jongdae had gained a minor position as a secretary for General Choi Minho, a good dear friend of Joonmyun that he had met after a concert. As glad as he was that Jongdae had found a respectable job, he wished that time would go faster. As Jongdae had eloquently put it, he had the tendency to be 'needy for attention, like a house cat'.

He has no idea how long he spent playing, he would occasionally stop to jot down a note on the paper next to him, until the minutes turned into hours and his brow started to frown in worry as Jongdae was nowhere to be found.

A bell ringed as the door to Jongdae's Grandmother's flat was opened below them, a breath of relief escaped his lips. No one entered Miss Kim's flat except the two of them. Joonmyun hid the worry off his face and pretended not to notice as Jongdae entered their home.

"Dear me, what a day," The man began, scrambling to take of his jacket and serve himself a glass of brandy. "General Choi has me working up the wall, I've had to write so many letters. Working for you seemed so simple compared to this." He adjusted his spectacles and realized that Joonmyun had already served him a glass of brandy for him, as he always did.

"Grandmother keep trying to stand up for longer than she's allowed to. No matter how much I tell her to lay down, she stubbornly refuses." Jongdae shook his head fondly and pressed a kiss to his lover's cheek. Joonmyun's cheeks turned pink even after all this time.

"I'm so tired, come to bed with me." Jongdae whispered, letting out a yawn.

Joonmyun nodded and offered and quiet "Yes, please." Over time, Joonmyun had grown accustomed to speaking, slowly gaining the strength to do so normally. Yet, with Jongdae, he became embarrassed and nervous when he spoke, as he remembered all the time Jongdae called his voice beautiful in all kinds of situations. He was still the only person who had heard him sing in years.

They changed into their nightshirts and crept into the bed, Jongdae took off his glasses then held his lover tightly to his chest. It was Joonmyun’s favorite place in the world. "Let me hear you say it again, please." He said, his face buried into Joonmyun's brown hair.

"You've... already heard it so many times, love." The former noble responded, a chuckle escaping his mouth.

"Not enough. I want you to make up for all the time I knew you and you weren't able to speak, and all the time before that."

The light from the room seemed to dim as the sun set from the window, leaving Joonmyun with only the power from the candle light (Jongdae had not installed light bulbs in their room yet, claiming that the candles were more romantic). He pressed a finger against Jongdae's defined jaw, stroking his lover's cheek fondly. "Even when I didn't know you existed?"

The other man tilted his head against the pillow. "Please, Joonmyun?"

"Alright," Joonmyun shook his head and closed his eyes, resting his head on his lover's chest once more. "Jongdae, I love you."

Jongdae let out a breathy laugh, "Hm, not enough. One more."

"I love you, Kim Jongdae."

The gentle, quiet hum from the radio in their room played as they held each other. It was always on in their favorite station, the one that played jazz at all hours of the day. Jongdae swore by his dying breath that he'd never get tired of moments like these. "Once more, Kim Joonmyun."

“I love you.” He said, pressing a kiss to Jongdae’s temple.

“I love you.” Another one, this time against Jongdae’s cheek.

“I love you." One more against Jongdae’s lips, before parting away. Joonmyun's face split into a brilliant grin, and Jongdae marveled at how anyone had ever composed poetry or music or any sort of beautiful thing without witnessing this.