Title: The Sky Between Us, And The World Ahead
Authors: dreaminginside and seeeno
Genre: Adventure, Romance, Drama
Characters: Henry, Ryeowook, Sungmin, Jongwoon
Pairings: YeWook, HenMin
Summary: Home is behind, the world ahead, there are many paths to tread, through shadow to the edge of night, 'till the stars are all alight.
Glossary | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4A | Chapter 4B | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6A | Chapter 6B | Chapter 7A | Chapter 7B | Interlude | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9A | Chapter 9B | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14| Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 | Chapter 20 | Epilogue
Ryeowook has barely begun to drift into an uneasy sleep when he hears sharp knocking on his door, mind racing at who it could be at this hour. He calls a weak come in and hates how his heart sinks when he sees Jinseon slip inside, door closing lightly behind her. He hates that some tiny part of him had hoped it would be Jongwoon, come to whisk him away to some mythical land where all of this could disappear, even if he knew their final night’s door had already closed on them.
“Yes?” He says tiredly, wanting to simply be alone and wondering what could have caused Jinseon to seek him out again, raising an eyebrow at how outright nervous she looks, clutching an envelope in her hands and not meeting Ryeowook’s eyes, seeming hesitant about even being there. “How can I help you, Miss Jinseon?”
Jinseon shifts uneasily on her feet, straightening out her sleeping gown before finally looking up to meet Ryeowook's gaze, holding out the envelope for him to take. "Jongwoon came to visit me," she says quietly, not missing how Ryeowook tenses at the name. "He asked me to deliver this to you."
Ryeowook feels a sense of dread washing over him as he opens the letter with shaky fingers, seeing his name printed across the top of the first page in neat handwriting. There are three pages in all, all in the same nice script of Jongwoon's. "Before I read this, I want to ask you if you know what it says."
Jinseon shakes her head. "No, I don't. He made it specifically clear that what is written on those pages is meant for your eyes only. Though I have some idea of what it might say..." she adds in a quiet murmur. Ryeowook looks are her inquiringly, but she doesn't say any more than that. "Should I... leave you to that, then?" she asks timidly, not sure what reaction he might have to the letter.
“No,” Ryeowook shakes his head, speaking slowly but firmly. He’s almost afraid of what the letter would say, and what might happen after he reads it, not quite trusting himself or his emotional state. He’s also sure he might have some questions, and if Jinseon had spoken to Jongwoon before he gave her this, there’s always the slim chance she could have some answers for him. “Stay, you came here to deliver this for him, right? Might as well see the whole thing through, hm?”
Jinseon nods slowly, and he feels his heart crack at the look of pity in her eyes, before looking down at the letter, ink neatly curling in a script he knows only to be Jongwoon’s, hardly a smudge on the paper. He takes a shaky breath and begins to read, hoping that he can manage to hold himself together.
First of all, I’m sorry I’m such a coward. I should be telling you all of this to your face, but I know if I were to try and tell you this, or even see you one more time, I’d never be able to go through with this.
It seems like such a long time ago that we first met, doesn't it? That day was the day my life changed completely, you know. I'm still convinced, even now, that you were an angel falling from the sky. Because if it weren't for you showing up in my life I would never have known the true beauty of the world. I would have been stuck in my secluded little world and never known what really was out there. Luzo, or God, or whoever is up there, he sent you to me that day. I truly believe that.
But here, our paths that have crossed must split again. You made your decision to marry Jinseon in order to protect us. Me, and Sungmin and Henry... I can understand that. I just hope that you understand, this is me making my decision to protect you this time. I know for a fact that if I stayed here, and your uncle believed for a second that we were still together that it would not end well, for anyone.
Please don't regret that things happened the way they did. It breaks my heart that we cannot be together, and I would trade anything if it meant that I could spend the rest of my life with you. But you were right, being selfish isn't an option now. What we had, the time that we did spend together, I'm grateful for it. I've never been happier, even though our time was so short. I think you taught me how to really live, how to appreciate every minute of happiness you come by. I will treasure those days for as long as I live.
I hope that you won’t hate me for this, but it’s something that I have to do. I still mean every word that I told you last night, Ryeowook. I love you with everything that I have, and I’ll never regret giving myself to you like that. Do you know how hard it was for me to leave that morning? It killed me inside to have to leave you there, to ignore your request. I wish we could have another day, another month, another year, but it seems that fate is conspiring against us.
Which is why I have to go. You know there isn’t much that I wouldn’t do for you, Ryeowook, but I’m afraid that I cannot stay here. How I wish I could have protested during your wedding, and I’m so sorry to have made you cry more tears for me. I think we’ve cried for each other enough in this past week to last a lifetime, haven’t we? It’s funny, even now as I think of all our time together, it’s hard not to taste the salt on my lips. What a pair we are.
As I’m sure you know by now, I’m writing this letter to tell you I’m leaving. And that I love you, so much, everything about you. There are so many other things that I cannot even put into words that I want to tell you, Luzo knows, if only I had more time. And please, don’t stop smiling, okay, Ryeowook? You’re really beautiful when you smile, not enough people get to see it.
Ryeowook can't stop the tears that start to stream down his face as he sees the already dried tear splotches on the second page, blurring the ink and making it barely legible in places. Jinseon watches silently as his eyes scan back and forth, heart tugging for the poor man as he reaches his breaking point, turning to the last page with a violently trembling hand.
I have already asked Jinseon to take care of you, and I hope that you will be kind to her. Don't take out your anger at your uncle on her -- she may be among the few allies you have left. Whether or not you love her, she's a good woman for you. Also, take good care of Henry and Sungmin. I know already that you care for Henry like a brother, and I hope that you can do the same for him. But I'm not worried about that, I know I'm leaving my best friend in capable hands.
I guess this is the part where I say goodbye. I know I'm hurting you now, but I only pray that the hurt will gradually heal over time. Lean on the ones still close to you, Ryeowook. You don't have to shoulder the world on your own. And know that no matter where I am, how far away I go, you are and always will be the only one who holds my heart.
Oh, and Ryeowook, please spare us both the pain of having to go through this twice. Don't look for me.
Ryeowook can’t stop the sob that tears from his throat when he finishes, eyes running over the words over and over again, unable to even believe it because they mean that Jongwoon is gone and he isn’t going to come back. He thought he would be able to go through with this, but he thought he would at least be able to see Jongwoon, as delusional a hope as it may seem. The last line feels like a punch to the gut, and he simply sobs harder, because how can Jongwoon just expect to leave like that and not have him follow?
“But I want more than your heart,” He whispers to himself, feeling that even if any part of his heart had remained intact, it had just been stomped on. And even if Jongwoon were to ever stop hurting, he knows that he never will. “I want you.”
“Ryeowook?” Jinseon ventures hesitantly, seeing Ryeowook’s white knuckled grip on the paper and wincing at the emptiness in the man’s eyes when his head snaps up to look at her, tears streaming down his face, looking for all the part completely broken. She had hoped Jongwoon would be wrong in his prediction, but it seems to have been tragically accurate.
“Did you know that he was going to do this?” Ryeowook whispers, swallowing hard past the lump in his throat, clutching the letter to his chest and looking Jinseon in the eye, needing to know. “That he was going to leave?”
Jinseon bites her lower lip hesitantly, seeing the frenzied, heartbroken glint in his eyes, before sighing. "I had no idea until he came to see me tonight, about an hour and a half, two hours ago. I would have come to you sooner," she adds quickly, sure to be protests dying in Ryeowook's throat. "But I was writing a letter of my own to send out to the Palace. Your uncle is a despicable man, and I'm trying to go to a higher authority than him and do something about this."
Ryeowook feels his throat close up on the spot. Clearly Jinseon knows something he doesn't. "What has he done?" he breathes. "What aren't you telling me, Jinseon?" Normally Ryeowook would at least keep his formalities about him but he's too panicked right now to care.
"He plans on going through with the lueuror mining," Jinseon replies, trying to keep Ryeowook calm. "And I know how much you were against it, there's obviously more to it than you just worrying about the conditions of mining. I promised Jongwoon that I would do my best to take care of you, and I'm trying my best. I wrote a letter to Siwon, and with any luck he'll be able to bring the law of the King's men down upon Lord Kim."
“He what,” Ryeowook hisses eyes widening in disbelief. He knew there was a chance his uncle could go back on his word, but after all he’s gone through to try and prevent this, doing everything possible to appease the man, it seems impossible that he could even think of breaking their deal. “How dare--, how can he go against our deal like this, I’ve given up everything so that none of this would happen. I let him take everything from me so that they would all be safe, how can he do this?”
“Ryeowook, I-” Jinseon says quickly, seeing the slightly wild look in Ryeowook’s eyes, tears still streaming down his cheeks and obviously broken completely, trying to calm him down before he gets himself worked up any more. The words are hardly out of her mouth, though, before Ryeowook is rushing past her, letter dropped on the floor and slamming the door behind him, only a small whisper of I can’t let this happen following him, leaving her alone in the room.
She sighs and walks to sit heavily on Ryeowook’s bed, hoping that the man isn’t off to do anything too drastic and realizing that this is something he needs to do, something she shouldn’t interfere with.
“Sorry, Jongwoon,” She murmurs, looking out the window and seeing the stars dotting the sky, still glowing brightly and unawares of anything that is happening around those they are shining on. “I don’t think I can take care of him as well as you can.”
“He still needs you.”
Ryeowook finds himself outside his uncle's bedroom before he even realizes he left his room in the first place. It's almost as if, the moment the words left Jinseon's mouth, his mind shut down and his body acted of its own volition, adrenaline pumping through his veins as he slams the door open.
Half of him expected the man to still be drinking downstairs in the ballroom, celebrating his seemingly total victory over his nephew, so it's almost surprising to see the man actually in his room, still dressed to the nines in his finest attire. Still, Ryeowook gets some satisfaction over the completely surprised look that crosses over the Lord's face, before it turns into a smirk.
“Ah, nephew,” He says snidely, grinning at Ryeowook in a way that makes his blood boil, fists shaking at his side and barely restrained anger showing through on his face, something that only seems to spur his uncle on. “What brings you here to my chambers? Shouldn’t you be tending to the needs of your wife?”
“You bastard,” Ryeowook whispers, ignoring the Lord’s words and working to keep his hands at his sides, trying not to let the rage burning inside him take over completely, having the sense to at least try and confirm Jinseon’s words first. “How dare you go back on our deal, I thought you gave me your word! Are you really such a snake that you would disregard a promise so easily? You have taken everything from me, my family, my love, and now you will not even honor one simple thing, all for your endless greed? Is it true that you are going to mine anyway?”
"So you heard," the Lord replies as though there was nothing to be concerned about. "I'm surprised you even believed that deal to begin with. The land in that dowry is useless unless it is to be mined. You didn't honestly think I would marry you off if there wasn't something in it for me. You know, besides the fact that I'll get more heirs out of this." Ryeowook's face contorts to one of disgust and the Lord laughs. "And you can't do a thing about it. Don't think that I don't know why you don't want to mine there."
Ryeowook's eyes widen as the Lord continues, smirk only growing on the man's face. "I'm sure you've heard about the legend of the exiles from our country's past. Their hair was dyed black as night so that if they ever set foot in our lands again they would be immediately recognizable. After a while they stopped trying to come back, and legend has it they started their own community somewhere to the south. Mining there would ruin their lives, wouldn't it?"
Ryeowook is in motion before he can even think about it, fist smashing into the Lord’s face with all his might, the man looking beyond surprised as he falls to the ground, blood coming from his nose as Ryeowook holds him down, unrestrained fury shining in his eyes, lip curled back in disbelief.
“You son of a bitch,” He hisses, one hand curled around the Lord’s neck and the other brought back behind him, ready to slam it back down if necessary. The rational side of his mind has completely shut down and he’s relying on instinct, thoughts racing through his mind at an undecipherable pace. “How could you knowingly sentence so many people to death, have you no humanity? Even their exile was a great farce, their religion is their business, not your place to stick your oar in! You would do all of this knowingly, simply for more coin?”
The Lord struggles beneath Ryeowook but size gives him no advantage here, as Ryeowook has a motivation greater than greed on his side. He tightens his grip around his uncle's throat, the man's eyes bulging as his face takes a pale hue. "You're nothing more than swine," Ryeowook snarls. "You're not even worth the effort it would take to kill you." With one last squeeze, Ryeowook releases his grip and the Lord takes a gasping breath.
"Thanks to you, Jongwoon is gone," Ryeowook continues, standing and making for the door, realizing that the more time he wastes here, the further Jongwoon gets away from here and the harder it will be to find him. He can hear his uncle struggling to his feet behind him, and he laughs dryly. "You live off the misery of others as long as it brings you a pretty penny."
"You'll pay for this," Lord Kim splutters, holding his nose in an attempt to staunch the bleeding. "You mark my words, you'll regret messing with me you stupid little brat." Ryeowook takes in the sight, the man's face purple with rage and blood dripping between his fingers, and laughs again.
"I don't know how you can even consider yourself a man. How pitiful," he growls, turning to leave. He hears his uncle storming up behind him to get in the last swing, and turns with a cocked fist, delivering a fierce punch directly to the side of the Lord's head. The Lord crumples to the floor in a dead faint, completely knocked out by Ryeowook's punch. Ryeowook winces at his split knuckles, but grins in a macabre sense of satisfaction to finally get the upper hand on his uncle. He spits on the man before leaving the room, locking the man inside.
He’s about to take off running, uncaring of where, just anywhere, hoping that Jongwoon hasn’t gotten too far yet. He leans back against the door for a moment to collect his thoughts, adrenaline fading slightly but smile still playing on his lips, an odd sense of something like freedom singing in his chest.
He hears quick footsteps and his eyes snap open, wondering if perhaps a stray guard had heard his scuffle with the Lord and is ready to bolt when he sees Jinseon turn the corner, out of breath as she stops right next to Ryeowook, grabbing his hand to keep him from running and startled when she sees the blood on it.
“Dear God, Ryeowook,” She breathes, wondering if the man has lost his sanity completely, bare hint of a smile still on his face and blood still trickling over his knuckles, but the determination in his eyes still shines through, enough to assure her that he’s still in there somewhere. “What have you done?”
“I didn’t kill him, as much as he may deserve it, he’ll only be out for a few hours, is my best guess.” Ryeowook says, quickly, looking at the scuffs on his knuckles with no small amount of pride, ability to finally have been able to stand up for himself overriding any sense of consequence he might have had. “But I need to find Jongwoon, quickly, so please let go of me, Jinseon.”
“Do you even know where he’s gone?” Jinseon asks incredulously, relieved that Ryeowook hadn’t killed the man, knowing justice will come to him soon, but shocked that Ryeowook would be so willing to rush out without even knowing where Jongwoon had gone. The sheepish shake of his head confirms it, and Jinseon simply sighs, knowing she shouldn’t have expected much more from a broken and love blinded man. “He said something about going back to a house that was under your ownership, I assume you know where that is?"
The memories of the oceanside cabin flood Ryeowook and he nods, grateful that he was at least going back to somewhere he knows and not venturing into the unknown. "I do, it's a house I bought from a friend in the Port Town," he replies, mind furiously mapping out the route he thinks Jongwoon might have taken, if Jongwoon even knows where he's going.
Jinseon sighs again, patting Ryeowook on the shoulder. "Go after him, then. He's got almost three hours of a headstart. And I've got my letter marked for postage, I plan on having it delivered first thing in the morning. Your uncle will have free reign no more, I assure you." Jinseon smiles as the humanity trickles back into Ryeowook's relieved gaze. "Siwon will bring a warrant for his arrest, and we'll have the time then to find something to lock him up for a long time."
“And God willing, we might both be able to find happiness again,” She murmurs, and Ryeowook nods, wishing it with every fiber of his being, not even daring to dream that all of this will work out for them, too used to everything falling apart around him to believe in it just yet. He only hopes he’ll be able to catch Jongwoon before he’s too far gone.
He mutters a quick thanks to Jinseon before turning and running down the halls, Jongwoon’s most likely route mapped out in his head as he makes his way easily out of the manor, guards thankfully all either asleep in their chambers or still at the reception, milking the free liquor and night off for all it’s worth. There’s a light dusting of snow covering the ground, and the flakes fall from the sky at a steady pace.
Ryeowook hopes it won’t turn into a blizzard, shivering as he makes his way quickly down the path, knowing he’ll need to go fast if he has any hope of keeping up with Jongwoon. He knows the other man probably isn’t dressed for the chill either, and swears that he’ll never be able to forgive himself if Jongwoon dies of hypothermia before he can track him down.
He almost wishes he had thought to grab a spare cloak when he left, barely remembering to get his own on his way out, and only because it was on the rack next to the door. Jongwoon has never experienced snow before, and if he's traveling without knowing what to expect of it, Ryeowook knows that the cruel hand of Father Winter is unforgiving.
The snow is unrelenting, falling ever thicker as Ryeowook trudges along and he sends prayers up to God or Luzo or whoever that Jongwoon stops for the night and builds a fire. There's no way he's going to be able to make it to the next town in this weather, absolutely no way, and the fear nearly keeps him from going further himself, not able to bear it if he finds Jongwoon's frozen corpse along the road.
"Stop it," Ryeowook curses himself. "Don't think that way. Just keep on going, you'll find him." He forces the thought from his mind and focuses on putting one foot in front of the other. He has to find Jongwoon. He just has to.
It’s an agonizing half hour at least that he goes as fast as he dares through the slowly thickening snow, and he’s about ready to give up hope and fall to his knees when he see’s the small flicker of a fire through the steady fall, the shadow of something larger than any snow bank sticking out of the ground. His breath catches in his throat, and it takes all he has not to break out into a full out run, stumbling over his feet and praying that it’s Jongwoon, that he’s still alive.
Jongwoon evidently hears him crunching through the snow and turns his head when he gets an armful of Ryeowook, the other man crashing against him, shivering as the warm material of Ryeowook’s cloak meets his chilled skin, surprise lighting his eyes along with some resignation in his chest, he’d told Ryeowook not to look for him for a reason, even if that meant him dying in the cold.
“Ryeowook, what are you doing here?” He whispers quickly, trying to pry the younger man away from his chest, feeling his gasping breaths there and feeling a twinge of guilt in his chest that Ryeowook had gone so far for him, more than likely having ran the whole way.
"You idiot," Ryeowook breathes, tears freezing on his eyelashes as he beats Jongwoon's chest, not missing how the man is dressed in clothes that they bought for him months ago -- clothes meant for summer work, and not at all protecting him from the winter storm. "Were you trying to give me a heart attack? Because you very nearly did. God Jongwoon, you are freezing, get over here..." Ryeowook ignores Jongwoon's incredulous look and strips himself of his cloak, wrapping it around Jongwoon's shoulders.
"I told you not to follow me," Jongwoon says lowly as Ryeowook frets over him. "You know what I wrote in that letter is true. I only want to protect you, Ryeowook, since you're busy protecting everyone else. Won't you even let me do that?"
"Did you really think I was just going to let you leave?" Ryeowook sniffles quietly in reply. "You've never traveled in such extreme conditions, Jongwoon. You can't underestimate the force of mother nature, you probably would have frozen to death if I hadn't found you."
“Do you think that matters?” Jongwoon mutters, repressing another shiver from the contrast of his freezing skin and the suddenly warm cloak around him, trying to pry Ryeowook way from him so that he can look him in the eye, wishing the other man would just listen to him for once. “Ryeowook, you know that I can’t stay with you, I might as well die anyway, your uncle-”
“Don’t you dare say that,” Ryeowook hisses, rubbing his hands up and down Jongwoon’s arms, trying to warm him back up as quickly as he can, even if he wants to hit him more, disbelieving that Jongwoon would even suggest his death, wondering how broken he is. “Don’t ever say that, Jongwoon. And I don’t give a damn about what he thinks, he’s gone back on every promise he’s made to me about this whole affair, I don’t care what he threatens anymore. Besides, I gave him a good piece of my mind before I left, I don’t think he’ll be bothering us for a few hours yet. Stay with me, Jongwoon, this time listen to me, please.”
"Your uncle holds so much power," Jongwoon murmurs bitterly, trying to pull away from Ryeowook. "You're only putting yourself in so much more danger, being here now. This is exactly what I was trying to avoid by leaving, Ryeowook. Just let me go and live. What happens to me now doesn't matter--"
Ryeowook cuts him off with a sharp slap to the face, stinging more than it should because of the cold, and because of who it's coming from. Jongwoon's face immediately turns a bright shade of red, and he bites his cheek to keep from saying anything, not turning to look at Ryeowook. "Shut up, shut up, shut up," Ryeowook says, voice breaking from new tears. "We're going to deal with him. You said it yourself, I have an ally in Jinseon, and we're going to bring down that man, and we're going to do it together. The most foolish thing I have ever done was to believe that he would keep his word, and look where it's left me. Left us."
He puts his hands on either side of Jongwoon's face, cool fingers soothing the sting on Jongwoon's cheek slightly as he turns the man to face him. "I'm so sorry, Jongwoon," Ryeowook all but whispers, lip trembling from the struggle it takes not to sob. "I'm so sorry. I should have fought against this more, should have fought back sooner. I was just so afraid that I would lose you the way I lost Kyuhyun, but, God, this is worse, and I'm so, so sorry."
“Don’t apologize,” Jongwoon whispers, reluctantly moving his eyes to meet Ryeowook’s when he feels hands framing the side of his face, already hating the tears he can hear in Ryeowook’s voice. He knows he was the one who said they should fight in the first place, but is reluctant to change his mind again after being so set to let Ryeowook go, to let him live. It feels like a false sense of hope being offered to him, but when he meets Ryeowook’s eyes he sees nothing but hope and love shining in them, some of the brokenness seeming to repair itself. “We’re all just trying to protect each other, there’s nothing to be faulted in that.”
“Please, Jongwoon, you once said we could fight this,” Ryeowook pleads, continuing to stroke his thumbs over Jongwoon’s cheeks, letting a shaky smile pull at his lips as he leans his forehead against the other man’s, hoping that he’s right and Jongwoon will stop fighting with him on this. He regrets having ever had to put Jongwoon through any of this, to have made him doubt him so much in the first place, but only hopes he isn’t too late, that he can still fix him. “It’s never too late to try, right?”
Jongwoon doesn't know what happened to change Ryeowook's mind -- mere hours ago, the younger man was convinced that this was the end of the line for them. But something in the way Ryeowook is talking, the way he's acting, that gives Jongwoon hope where he had given up, faith where he had none. He swallows thickly, not wanting to build up everything and be broken again, but something tells him that this time, things would be okay.
So Jongwoon nods reluctantly, and he feels his heart already on the mend just at the smile that breaks out on Ryeowook's face and the younger leans in to kiss him fiercely, not only to warm him up but to express his love and his determination.
This will work, the kiss says. Nothing will stop us now.
It’s still the middle of the night when Sungmin feels Henry begin to thrash against him, the younger man’s whimpers slowly drawing him out of sleep, inky blackness filtering through the curtains still. The first thing he notices is that Jongwoon still isn’t back yet, but all thoughts flee from his mind as Henry becomes increasingly frenzied against him.
“Henry, wake up,” He murmurs gently, shaking Henry by his shoulder and wincing at the way Henry’s eyes crease in terror, mouth working silently and pushing Sungmin away from himself. Sungmin shakes him harder, Henry’s eyes snapping open as he pulls him up, breaths gasping and hands reaching to fist in the older man’s shirt. “It’s just a dream, you’re okay.”
"Sungmin, something's wrong," Henry gasps, kicking and trying to untangle himself from the blanket. "Ryeowook, we need to... need to go see him now..." He keeps struggling, even as Sungmin pushes him back down gently but firmly by the shoulders.
"It was only a dream, Henry," Sungmin reassures, trying to get Henry to calm down and assuage some of the panic. "A bad one, but a dream nonetheless. You need to rest some more, you have to get your strength back. We'll go and see Ryeowook in the morning, like we said, okay? Go back to sleep."
"No, you don't understand," Henry says, pushing Sungmin's hands away and leaning up on his elbows, looking over Sungmin's shoulder to see Jongwoon's empty bed. "Sungmin, if we don't go to him now, I don't know that Jongwoon will make it back. That was no dream, it was too real and I--"
“It was just a dream,” Sungmin soothes, brushing the bangs out of Henry’s face and trying to make the wild look in his eyes fade, almost becoming a bit shaken himself at how terrified Henry seems of this dream of his, sitting up as well to pull Henry back against him, trying to comfort him. “Jongwoon will make it, it’ll be okay, Henry. Have more faith in him than that, okay? You’ll never make it to Ryeowook’s now anyway, please at least get some more rest first.”
“No,” Henry shakes his head furiously and pulls back from Sungmin, trying to explain to him why they need to go, now. It was the most realistic dream he’s had in ages, he could see Jongwoon dying in front of him, alone and cold and with no one there to help him. He shivers again at the thought, and Sungmin’s hand moves to rub circles on his back. “We need to go see him now, Sungmin. I don’t care if I can’t walk, I’ll crawl if I have to. Something isn’t right, I know it isn’t. You didn’t see what I saw, it was too real, you don’t know what it’s like.”
The words are like a slap to the face and Sungmin is reminded that Henry is right, he doesn't know what it's like to be so painfully alone. The world must feel a lot colder without the warmth of a single person at your side and Sungmin falters, Henry's eyes boring into him, as if daring him to argue. "All right," he sighs, "we'll go to Ryeowook now. But I'm not letting you within a foot of that door on your own, I'm going to carry you. And we have to make sure you bundle up. I just got you back from the brink of starvation, I'm not going to lose you to pneumonia."
Henry relaxes just a little, and nods slightly, conceding to Sungmin's conditions. He isn't exactly sure he has the strength to stand anyway, what little rest he's gotten not doing much to help him regain the stamina he once had. Still, the general uneasiness from his premonition (he refuses to call it a dream) has him on edge as he pulls himself upright, Sungmin sliding off the bed on the other side and rummaging around for warm clothes.
Henry moves himself towards the edge of the bed as Sungmin gathers warm clothes for him and opens the door to make carrying him easier, Henry still on edge as he pulls the cloak around himself, Sungmin determined to make him as warm as he can. Sungmin notices his uneasiness and kisses him gently on the forehead, holding him close when he picks him up.
“Everything will be okay, alright, Henry?” He says softly, trying to at least mend some of the younger man’s obviously still frazzled nerves, holding him tighter and wishing he could still give him more rest, dark circles prominent under his eyes. “Don’t worry, Ryeowook will know what to do and Jongwoon will be fine, this dream of yours won’t come true.”
Henry can't find his voice to reply, so he merely nods nervously, hoping Sungmin's words are true but fearing that they are not. Sungmin smiles gently at him, before turning and kneeling before him, Henry sliding onto his back and clasping his fingers together around Sungmin's front. Sungmin hitches Henry higher on his back, so that he can slip his arms more securely under Henry's thighs and support him from the back.
"All set?" Sungmin asks, making sure Henry is warm and comfortable. Henry nods again and Sungmin quickly makes for the door, concern quickly coming to the forefront of his mind as it registers just how feather light Henry is. So many things are going wrong all at once, Sungmin thinks, and he prays that this time it will go their way, for the sake of Jongwoon, and Ryeowook, and everyone in his hometown.
“Everything will be all right,” He murmurs, more to himself than to Henry, but he feels arms tighten around his neck anyway, a face burying itself in his shoulder. He picks up his pace a little bit, but doesn’t want to jostle Henry too much just yet, fearing for himself. Ryeowook’s room is still an entire wing away, and he knows it will be a bit of a hike to get there. “And why don’t you close your eyes for a little bit longer at least, Henry? You need all the rest you can get, we’re still a bit from Ryeowook’s room.”
Henry nods slowly, even though he knows Sungmin can’t see it, already feeling a bit lulled back to sleep by the layers of warmth around him, knowing that Sungmin is right about conserving his strength at least, hating how weak he is and wishing that there was something more that he could do to help.
Sungmin can't help the small smile when he feels Henry's head drop down onto his shoulder, the younger boy drifting off into a light slumber and glad that the boy is able to get at least a little bit more rest. Still, the walk to Ryeowook's room has never seemed so long and he lets out a relieved sigh when his door finally comes into sight.
To his surprise, the lock is already undone, and it is with a bit of hesitance and a lot of caution that Sungmin knocks on the door. "Ryeowook...? I'm sorry to bother you, I know you've had a rough day but it's important." He doesn't get an answer and a frown works its way across his face and he slowly pushes the door open.
"He's not in there," a soft voice calls, and Sungmin nearly jumps out of his skin, pulling back from the doorway before he can even look inside the room. Jinseon shows herself from the doorway next to Ryeowook's, arms crossed uncertainly over her chest and she's frowning nervously.
“Miss Jinseon?” He says softly, Henry’s head still lolling onto his shoulder. He prays that Ryeowook being gone means that he’s already gone to do something about Jongwoon, that he knows already. “Do you know where he’s gone? This is urgent.”
“Quite honestly, I don’t,” Jinseon says tiredly, leaning heavily against her door and sighing deeply, having to hold herself back from rubbing her temples, all this in one day simply too much to have to deal with. “So much has happened in the past few hours. But I do know he went tearing out of here the moment after he finished beating the tar out of Lord Kim, to go out looking for Jongwoon.”
Sungmin's eyes grow impossibly wide, though he's not sure what startles him more, the fact that Ryeowook beat his uncle to a pulp, or the fact that he went out looking for Jongwoon. Which implied that Jongwoon had left with no intention of returning. "Oh heavens, what... Where did Jongwoon go?" Guilt eats away at him from the inside, and he can't help but wonder, Did I really drive him to the breaking point? Did I really drive him away?
"I don't know that either," Jinseon replies softly. "I'm sorry. He mentioned something about the house he stayed at before but I haven't a clue where that is. All I know is that Lord Kim reneged on his end of this whole marriage deal, Ryeowook isn't happy about it, and Jongwoon left me to give Ryeowook his goodbyes in a letter."
Sungmin winces as he imagines what Ryeowook and Jongwoon must both feel right now, and figures it was the letter that would have driven Ryeowook over the edge, knowing how he would have felt if Henry had left him with only a letter of parting, even if it was for his own good. His arms tighten around the younger man’s thighs at the thought, reluctant to lose and iota of contact with the man.
“I see,” He says slowly after a bit of time, still feeling immeasurably guilty about what might have been his part in Jongwoon’s sudden disappearance, only praying to Luzo that Ryeowook will be able to find Jongwoon and save him from whatever Henry’s dreams had supplied to him, feeling the other man’s stir against his back as if reading his thoughts.
"Are we here?" Henry mumbles sleepily, and Sungmin shushes him quietly. It doesn't take much to get Henry to settle back down into his shoulder, seeing as how exhausted the poor boy is, and Jinseon gives them a pitiful glance.
"I know Jongwoon was upset when he heard about Lord Kim's plans," she murmurs. "I don't know if he told you but--"
"He did," Sungmin interrupts. "We... spoke briefly, before he took off. I had no clue he was planning on leaving for good, I just thought... well, we didn't exactly have a civil conversation. I figured he took off and needed some time to blow off steam. But if what you heard was true, then I have to get there before the miners do. Too much is riding on us to let them mine there."
“I’ve figured as much,” Jinseon says tiredly, knowing how tired they all are, from the man over Sungmin’s shoulders to Sungmin himself, dark circles lining all their eyes, lines seeming to make them look beyond their years. “But I have a letter that’s ready to be sent to the palace, hopefully they’ll be able to do something about this entire mess, there must be something they can prove the Lord of being guilty of.”
“Luzo willing,” Sungmin mutters, closing his eyes for a moment and taking a deep breath, hoping whatever plan Jinseon might have will be able to pull through for them, to be able to drive them out of this well they seem to have fallen so deeply into. “That we might be able to escape all of this, I would give nearly anything. We need to leave too, though. If his Lordship does awaken to find Henry out of the dungeons, things won’t go very well, to say the least.”
Jinseon quirks an eyebrow, wondering who Luzo is, but nods in agreement that Henry cannot stay there. "If you stop by the banquet hall, right next to the ballroom, you should be able to scrounge some food," she suggests. "Everyone should have cleared out by now, and those who haven't are probably either passed out or so drunk they won't remember seeing you."
Sungmin nods gratefully, painfully aware of how much Henry needs any food he can find, all sharp angles now and his protruding hipbones digging into his back. "Thank you, Miss Jinseon, for all of your help. We wouldn't have been able to hold it together without you. I hope, once all of this is said and done, that you're able to find your own happiness. It seems we're all in pursuit of it."
She smiles lightly at Sungmin and waves him along, knowing they won’t have this window of opportunity for much longer and trying to give them as much time as she can to gather supplies, cringing at the thought of such a long journey with the state that Henry is in.
“Hopefully we can all find our happiness again.”
Jongwoon’s Letter: Xibalba- The Fountain
Fight Back and Take Your Freedom: Meeting- Tales of the Abyss
Henry’s Nightmare: New Moon- Gundam 00
Ryeowook’s Search: Snow Of My Home- 07 GHOST
Jongwoon's Farewell: Where We End Up - Eternal Sonata
Finally Fighting Back: A Time of Confrontation - Clock Tower 3
Nightmare: Night Without Stars - Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Looking For Him Anyway: Hope - The Darkness
Here were are~~~ Chapter 13! Stay tuned for the OSTs, we're both kind of dying and just want to get this posted. Hope you enjoyed!
EDIT: OSTs are posted! Enjoy~