Chapter 1: Prince Changmin
He awoke when he sensed the longing…
The pain and the loneliness…the searing agony of love lost…
He laid in bed, not moving, not opening his eyes, just waiting as the minutes slowly passed and the pain diminished.
Changmin felt when his father took control and propelled himself forward out of the sadness. He felt Yunho set aside his grief to take on his great responsibilities. He listened quietly as a silent presence entered their quarters and helped the captain plan out his day.
Although, he felt terrible for his father’s loss…he did not feel the loss himself. He only felt anger for the parent that had lashed out at him…too much anger.
He did not like thinking of his Joong parent at all.
He had gone back and viewed footage of when he was child. He knew at one time Jaejoong had loved him greatly, but to Changmin that only made their last parting that much more bitter.
So, Changmin put Jaejoong out of his mind whenever possible, and focused on his life and his career. He loved being a scientist.
He was eager to start his day, expand his knowledge, and discover new things. He looked forward to all the challenges a new day would bring him.
He opened his eyes and stretched out his arms…and then he physically felt him. Changmin’s empathic abilities had grown to the point that he could sense everyone on the ship…except Lieutenant Sooyoung, Lieutenant Kim, and Jimin, who still wore the Custos Humanae Vitae necklace.
“Jimin!” Changmin growled under his breath as he became aware of the young Joong that was sleeping beside him. To his eternal dismay once Jimin had declined to return to his home world, Yunho had insisted that he and Changmin take responsibility for him. For the past month…Changmin had been continuously assaulted by the overly affectionate Joong that could not have been more different than Jaejoong. “What have I told you about respecting a person’s personal space?”
Jimin rolled over, wrapped his arms around the larger man, and clung to Changmin tightly. “That I should.”
“And why don’t you?” Changmin asked, not moving from the bed.
“Because you buzz…and I love the buzzing.”
“Your statement is so illogical my brain cannot even begin to compute it.”
Jimin giggled and buried his face into Changmin’s side and replied in a muffled voice, “But you give it a good try every day, anyways.”
Changmin abruptly sat up and attempted to pry the clingy Joong off his body. “You repeatedly have stated that you do not require sleep and yet you insist on invading my personal space, while I attempt to sleep.”
Jimin, who reluctantly let go of Changmin, gave the science officer a sad face and replied, “I don’t require sleep, but it is nice. I used to sleep all the time with my siblings at home. All seven of us would snuggle together in one big bed and sleep peacefully. Sleeping with you reminds me of being at home with my family.”
Changmin arched his left eyebrow and reminded the Joong, “You can go home anytime you wish and commence snuggling with your siblings.”
Jimin, who was wearing a white silk gown that could only be described as flimsy, sat up, pulled his knees tightly to his chest, and grinned at the lieutenant. “You would miss me.”
“No, I would not.”
“You might cry.”
“I assure you I would not.”
Jimin reached out and patted Changmin on the arm. “It’s okay I know your heart.”
Changmin glowered at the much smaller man. “You do not know my heart!”
“I read your mind.”
“I was in control of that mental swap of information!” Changmin hissed while scowling at the Joong. “You know what I let you know.”
“It’s funny that you think that.”
“You and your fantastical way of thinking deprives me of brain cells every moment I am in your presence,” Changmin complained as he got off the bed.
“Good thing you are self-healing and can restore those brain cells.”
“Yes, it is,” Changmin agreed as he entered the dressing chamber and quickly exited it. Now in his blue uniform he looked down at the Joong who was sprawled out on his bed.
“Changmin, don’t go to work! Stay here with me and cuddle,” Jimin whined. “I don’t know why everyone is always working on this ship.”
Changmin shook his head and called out, “Computer where is the current location of Ensign Jungkook?”
The computer promptly responded, “Ensign Jungkook is in the Mess Hall.”
“Kookie!!!” Jimin yelled out in delight as he jumped off the bed and hit the floor running. “Oh, I bet he misses me something terribly!”
Changmin smiled wickedly. “Yes, you should hurry to him!”
“Kookie, I’m coming!” Jimin called out as he raced through the bedroom and into the living area only to be stopped by an amused Yunho, who was standing by the door holding a cup of coffee.”
“Yes, Treasured Brother/Father Figure, Consort to the Prince Jaejoong, and Wonderful Captain!” Jimin said, greeting the man with a deep bow, while also plotting the best way to get around the older man, so he could get to his beloved Kookie.
“I am pleased by your attempts to shorten my morning greetings,” Yunho told him, while adding, “But, you shouldn’t go out wearing that gown.”
Jimin looked down at the beautiful gown. “But it’s so pretty.”
“It is,” Yunho agreed, while he took a sip from his coffee cup. “But I thought you wanted people to stop thinking of you as androgynous and you wanted to present yourself as a male member of the crew?”
“Oh,” Jimin gasped in understanding. “Does this gown allude too strongly to the fact that I have functioning genitalia of both males and females?”
Yunho thought carefully for the best answer when he just gave up and nodded his head, “Yes, Jimin…that’s exactly it.”
“I shall go to the magic closet immediately and change,” Jimin blurted out as he raced back into Changmin’s room to change clothes.
“For the billionth time it is a dressing chamber and not a magic closet!” Changmin, who had stepped out of his bedroom said, chastising Jimin as the Joong bolted past him. “Plus, you have your own room!”
Yunho just grinned and sipped his coffee.
Changmin looked at his father and questioned, “How long have you been listening?”
“Long enough to have fulfilled my laughing quota for the day.”
“I am so glad the wretchedness of my existence brings you joy.”
“Wretchedness of your existence?” Yunho questioned attempting to keep a straight face. “I think you are being a little bit overly dramatic.”
“You have no idea what it’s like to be pawed at by that creature day after day.”
“Yes, because I have never been pawed at by an overly affectionate Joong…”
“Unwillingly pawed at!”
Yunho just laughed.
“You are laughing at my misery!”
“Does that make me a bad dad?”
“No,” Jimin cried out as he exited Changmin’s bedroom wearing the standard gray civilian clothing the ship provided for non-crew members. “Treasured Brother/Father, Consort to the Prince Jaejoong, and Wonderful Captain, you could never be bad!”
Yunho sighed. “Captain…Captain…that’s all you need to call me.”
“Gah!” Changmin cried out as Jimin hugged him tightly from behind.
“Prince Changmin, do not miss me too much! I am off to win my Kookie’s love!”
“One hundred and thirty-two,” Changmin hissed through gritted teeth.
“What?” Jimin and Yunho both asked.
Changmin ignored their inquiry and told Jimin, “I won’t miss you, but I wish you lots of luck.”
Jimin beamed at Changmin and Yunho and headed toward the door. “Bye! Have a wonderful day Prince Changmin and Treasured Brother/Father, Consort to the Prince Jaejoong, and Wonderful Captain!”
“Yunho, if we just removed the necklace, he would bond with Ensign Jungkook and I believe he would be much calmer,” Changmin pleaded with Yunho. “Then the ship would have access to his telepathic powers.”
Yunho, who had heard this line of reasoning many times before, rolled his eyes. “No, we are not sacrificing Ensign Jungkook, so you would be less bothered by Jimin.”
Changmin frowned. “Ensign Jungkook would be agreeable after the bonding took place…and I would find peace. As my father you should want me to live a peaceful life.”
Yunho snorted and took another drink of coffee.
“You are indeed a bad—”
“Captain, the away team missed its scheduled check in,” Lieutenant’s Kim stated over the commlink. “And we are unable to reach them.”
Yunho frowned, tapped his combadge, and stated, “I’m on my way.”
Commander Yoochun sat down at the table in the mess hall where Dr. Jin and his younger brother Ensign Jungkook were sitting with Dr. Cho, Lieutenant Donghae, and Ensign Eunhyuk.
“Do I look tired?” Commander Yoochun asked as he sat down between Ensign Eunhyuk and Dr. Cho.
“No,” Dr. Cho replied after quickly assessing Commander Yoochun’s condition. “You look well rested.”
“Oh, well it must be my good genes, because I was up all night consoling the captain.”
“Consoling him?” Ryeowook asked as his eyes widened with concern, while Ensign Eunhyuk and Lieutenant Donghae, who were sitting across from each other, shared a look of skepticism.
The chief engineer nodded his head. “He has to be strong for the crew…but with me his best friend in the universe he can let down his guard and mourn the loss of Jaejoong.”
“That’s good!” Dr. Cho declared, looking relieved. The doctor had been trying to get the captain to open up about his feelings for a month now. “I have been so worried for him…because he acts like nothing happened. I mean he can adapt to almost anything, but how does one adapt to losing their one true love?”
“Well, losing Jaejoong is terribly hard for him, but he’s the captain. He can’t be undone by his sorrow and his own personal feelings,” Commander Yoochun explained. “He has to be strong for all of us…except for me and Kangin his oldest and dearest friends.”
Ensign Eunhyuk frowned. “I can’t think of a worst person to confide in than you.” Commander Yoochun turned around and glared at the navigator prompting Ensign Eunhyuk to quickly add, “But your friendship with the captain can’t be denied.”
Lieutenant Donghae frowned. “I am sure he’d be delighted to know that you are telling us.”
Yoochun cast a warning look at the transporter chief and snapped, “I am sure no one would spread what I’m saying…unless they want the environmental controls in their quarters to permanently be set at fifty degrees below zero.”
Ensign Jungkook, who had been listening, quickly blurted out, “I’d never spread it!”
“I’m not worried about you, kid,” Yoochun replied, while glaring at Lieutenant Donghae.
Ryeowook, who was relieved the captain was talking with someone…anyone, asked, “So is he talking to Kangin too?”
“Yes,” Commander Yoochun replied. “Kangin is probably honoring Yunho’s wishes by not telling anyone.”
Dr. Jin jibed. “Unlike you?”
“Well, I was afraid our Chief Medical Officer would relieve Yunho of duty for not crying enough. As Chief Engineer I must always look out for the ship’s best interest! I don’t think the ship could survive Commander Cho being in charge again.”
Dr. Cho swatted Yoochun’s arm. “I wasn’t going to relieve him of duty…I was going to suggest that he spend time with a holographic therapist, but luckily there seems to be no need for that.”
Yoochun grinned. “No need at all.”
“Although,” Ryeowook added, while side-eying Yoochun. “I will talk to Kangin to confirm your story.”
Yoochun kept grinning. “Of course.”
“The captain for all appearances seems to be handling his breakup with ease,” Dr. Jin stated. “He has not let it affect his duty in the least bit. I think if he wishes to handle his grief privately, then we need to respect that.”
“I agree,” Dr. Cho insisted. “It’s just that something doesn’t seem right about it…I can’t put my finger on it, but something seems off.”
“So, Dr. Jin, not long ago I heard a nasty rumor that you were practicing abstinence,” Yoochun stated abruptly, changing the topic quickly. “Tell me that isn’t true.”
Lieutenant Donghae, who was always on the lookout for good gossip…that he could spread, brightened. “Oh, is that true?”
Dr. Jin blushed, but quickly clarified, “For the time being I am indeed practicing abstinence, and I am NOT interested in stopping that practice any time soon.”
Ryeowook, who had been immediately distracted just as Yoochun had planned, asked, “Is it because you are separated from your lover? Are they back in our galaxy by any chance?”
Ensign Jungkook snorted. “Yes, Jin is it because you are separated from your lover?”
“I currently don’t have a lover and I am not in love,” Jin responded while frowning at his brother.
“You are not?” Yoochun asked intrigued. “Jaejoong said that you had only been in love with one person your entire life…and his exact words were, he didn’t see that changing anytime soon.”
“Did he really?” Ensign Jungkook gasped, looking delighted by the news.
“Why! What! When did he say such a thing?” An outraged Jin demanded.
“It was back before Yunho was taken,” Dr. Cho explained. “Commander Yoochun was…enquiring about you and Jaejoong put a stop to it. I thought it must be true. Jaejoong let you watch Changmin, so he must have read your mind.”
“Maybe he was just trying to spare the good doctor from Commander Yoochun’s unwanted advances,” Ensign Eunhyuk suggested.
“That could be it,” Lieutenant Donghae agreed. “I mean he let Dr. Jin hold Changmin, so he must have liked him. I bet he was looking out for him.”
“You two can bite my ass,” Commander Yoochun declared. “I am not that bad!”
Everyone at the table except for the brothers responded loudly, “Yes, you are!”
“Ryeowook, is this why you have been snooping into my personal life for the past month?” Dr. Jin asked, while ignoring the outraged look on Commander Yoochun’s face.
Dr. Cho shrugged. “I wouldn’t call it snooping.”
“Oh! Kookie, my sweet love! We are finally together again!” Jimin declared loudly as he swept gracefully into the mess hall. “Kookie, how I have missed you. A night without you is like a night of pure torture.”
“You don’t look tortured,” Dr. Cho stated as he watched the young Joong plop himself down in the mortified ensign’s lap.
Jimin kissed the blushing ensign on the cheek and then turned to face the doctor. “Well, not literally…literal torture is horrible. I never want to be tortured again, and I won’t be once my Kookie agrees to bond with me.”
“No…” Ensign Jungkook protested, while looking like he wanted to be anywhere but where he currently was. “Jimin, I am not bonding with you.”
Jimin just turned back to the ensign and smiled. “You say that now, but someday this necklace will come off and I will make you see the light.”
“That would be wrong, Jimin,” Dr. Jin stated firmly. “Very wrong!”
“Love is never wrong,” Jimin insisted as he wrapped an arm around Jungkook’s neck and nuzzled him. “Love is wonderful. Love is life.”
“But brainwashing someone into loving you is wrong,” Dr. Jin insisted. “We have discussed this…repeatedly.”
Jimin repositioned himself until he was facing Jin, reached out and patted his face. “Silly future brother-in-law…I am a Joong I know better than you. You are just a human.”
“Sometimes it is like Jaejoong never left the ship,” an amused Yoochun jested.
Jimin beamed at Yoochun and asked, “Greatest and most loyal friend to the Treasured Brother/Father, Consort to the Prince Jaejoong, and Wonderful Captain how are you this lovely morning?”
“I’m doing great,” Commander Yoochun replied with a grin. “It’s always nice to see you.”
Jimin giggled and professed, “And it is always nice to see you!”
“Wait till you take that necklace off,” Dr. Cho quipped. “Then let’s see if you still enjoy his company.”
“Why do you say that Doctor Cho?” Jimin asked, alarmed. “When I am bonded to my sweet Kookie, I will still like other people.”
“Well, most empaths find him—” Dr. Cho began before being interrupted by the ship’s computer.
“Yellow Alert! Yellow Alert! Yellow Alert!”
The captain’s voice suddenly emerged from Lieutenant Donghae, Dr. Cho, and Commander Yoochun’s combadges. “All senior officers meet me in the main conference room immediately.”
The mentioned three along with Ensign Eunhyuk and Ensign Jungkook immediately got up from the table, causing Jimin to grab Ensign Jungkook by the hand and plead, “Oh, Kookie must you go too?”
“Yes,” Ensign Jungkook responded while trying to free himself from the Joong’s grasp. “All the first team bridge crew have to be present during any kind of alert. “I am sure my brother will keep you entertained.”
Jin groaned as Jimin leaned over, placed his head on his shoulder and declared dreamily, “My Kookie is so young and so perfect.”
“Fuck!” Ensign Kangin cursed as he eyed his tormenters with pure venom in his eyes. Ensign Kangin along with Commander Cho, Doctor Nam, Lieutenant Sooyoung, two botanists and an anthropologist were members of the away team. They had been captured by a group of human bounty hunters while exploring the planet they referred to as MPFR56. They each were being held by wooden frameworks with holes that secured their head and hands. “This shit always happens to me!”
“This wouldn’t have happened if Captain Yunho had led the away team,” Woohyun groused as he eyed the bounty hunters that had pulled out their swords. MPFR56 was a planet where all the land masses were wild jungles concentrated around the planet’s equator. The only ingenious species on the planet were a race of nonverbal giant plant creatures. The away team had been busy studying the plant creatures when they had been seized. “No offense Commander Cho.”
Commander Cho, who had done his best to reason with the bounty hunters, just smiled bitterly. “Since we are about to be beheaded, I can’t find it in me to be offended…or to argue the fact.”
“I wish Changmin was with us,” Ensign Kangin said wistfully. “Changmin would have figured out how to operate that fucking contraption in no time.”
Lieutenant Sooyoung eyed the octangular metallic device in question that the bounty hunters had used to capture them. The box was of unknown origin and had disabled all the technology on the planet, just as some of the shields they had encountered on different planets had done previously. They had made changes to their equipment that had overcome the planet shields disabling powers, but those changes had no effect on the power the device emanated. Lieutenant Sooyoung had very little time to study the box before they were captured. “I am sorry if I have disappointed you, Ensign Kangin.”
“Not your fault, Lieutenant Sooyoung,” Ensign Kangin told her. “He’s just on a different level.”
“That he is,” she agreed. “When we miss our check in…the captain will no doubt beam down to the planet with Lieutenant Jung and he will swiftly disable the box.”
“And then the crew can kill all these fuckers,” Ensign Kangin said with big grin, while eyeing the bounty hunters.
“Yeah….and then they will feed their dead bodies to the cannibals on the crew,” Woohyun lied, licking his lips. “Commander Yoochun is always hungry for a good asshole!”
Even though he was facing death Kangin let out a snort and had to agree, “That he is!”
The leader of the bounty hunters rolled his eyes and scoffed, “Lies! You speak lies! Everybody knows your big ship is controlled by a peace-loving weakling!”
Woohyun, who has been on several away teams with the captain in the last month, sputtered in outrage, “Captain Yunho is magnificent! He could kick your ass from one end of this planet to the other…and he wouldn’t even break a sweat doing it.”
“And he is going to be pissed when he finds out one of his oldest friends got murdered by the likes of you,” Ensign Kangin added.
The bounty hunter just smiled and told Ensign Kangin, “He can be pissed all he wants to be. When I provide the alliance with your heads, I will be rich! Richer than even I can imagine.”
Commander Cho watched as the group of four bounty hunters walked up closer with their swords drawn and called out, “Wait! If you want money, then the ship can reproduce all the money you want!”
“That’s true!” Dr. Nam called out. “They have a technology capable of duplicating anything. Gems, gold, silver…anything! They can make it. Wealth means nothing to them.”
The leader shook his head. “I get the feeling that your pansy captain won’t be that eager to provide me with wealth. Men ready your swords. Let’s get this over with before their mother ship figures out what is going on.”
“Now wait a minute!” Ensign Kangin yelled out as the bounty hunters raised their swords.
Dr. Nam closed his eyes as the bounty hunters start to lower their swords and a thousand regrets raced through his mind. He sincerely hoped that death wasn’t his end and like the Joong he would find himself experiencing another life…hopefully one where Sunggyu wasn’t so averse to having sex.
Commander Cho closed his eyes and thought of Ryeowook and was so thankful for getting the chance to love and be loved by the other man.
They all waited but death never came…
One of the bounty hunters cried out, “What the hell!?”
Another screamed, “What is going on?”
The away team opened their eyes to find that the swords were gone. The bounty hunters were looked confused as they scrambled about looking for their missing swords.
“Oh, you are about to meet your better,” Woohyun taunted, realizing quickly what was going on.
The bounty hunters froze and gawked in stunned disbelief as Captain Yunho materialized with Lieutenant Jung and Lieutenant Yuri flanking him, while six members of security stood behind them. The captain stared at the bounty hunters quickly sizing them up, motioned for security to act, and then introduced himself, “Hello…I’m the pansy captain otherwise known as Captain Yunho of the U.S.S Galaxy-Class Starship Expectations.”
“Shit!” The leader of the bounty hunters cried out as two members of security easily apprehended him.
“It is unfortunate for you, but one should NEVER mess with my crew,” Yunho stated as the rest of the bounty hunters were quickly taken into custody.
Lieutenant Jung immediately went to the device and quickly started examining it.
Yunho walked over to Kangin and shook his head. “It’s always you.”
“I know,” Kangin said bitterly. “I need to stop getting caught by assholes.”
“You really do,” Yunho agreed as he turned to the security team and ordered, “Get them out of the stocks.”
Lieutenant Jung looked up from the device and toward the captain. “They are not stocks, Captain. The wooden structures that the away team finds themselves entrapped in are called pillories.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant Jung, for your endless supply of knowledge,” Yunho told his son as he helped free Kangin from the pillory his old friend was trapped in.
“You are most welcome, Sir,” Lieutenant Jung replied as he refocused his attention on the device. “I am always happy to correct you.”
“How did you overcome the interference from the device?” Commander Cho asked once he was freed.
“I had one of those moments were my simplistic approach to things was very helpful. I thought we should disrupt the field by using the ship and the shuttles and then Lieutenant Jung and Commander Yoochun made it happen,” Captain Yunho explained.
“Thank you, Sir! You are the best!” Dr. Nam proclaimed loudly once freed from his pillory. “I never doubted you would rescue us!”
The two botanist and anthropologist nodded their heads eagerly while looking at Yunho as if he was the greatest hero that had ever lived.
Kangin side-eyed the doctor. “Never?”
“Just for a second when the sword was about to lope off my head,” WooHyun conceded while smiling admirably at the captain. “Captain, is there anyway…I could just go on away missions with you or Lieutenant Sunggyu?”
The captain eyed the doctor cautiously. “We will see.”
“Lieutenant Sooyoung, I must insist that you present yourself better while on away missions,” Lieutenant Jung scolded as he walked up to stand beside the captain. “The device in question was easily disabled. You are the second in command of the science department I expect better from you.”
“I’m sorry, Lieutenant Jung,” a reddened Lieutenant Sooyoung quickly replied, looking extremely embarrassed.
“Lieutenant Jung….” The captain warned. “Would it be easily disabled by anybody other than you?”
“Awe…” Lieutenant Jung conceded. “No, I am extraordinarily brilliant.”
The captain shook his head and hit his combadge. “Lieutenant Donghae, beam us aboard.”
“I’m fine,” Woohyun insisted as Ryeowook ran a medical scanner over him. “Go hover over your husband like I know you want to.”
“Why don’t you let me be the judge of whether you are fine or not,” the Chief Medical Officer told the other doctor. “I am trying to be more professional! Dr. Jin is taking wonderful care of Kyuhyun…plus I already read over his scans. I know he is fine.”
“So, am I!”
“You know there are protocols I have to follow. You almost lost your head.”
“Almost being the key word,” Woohyun replied, while cringing and gently resting a hand against the back of neck. “I will admit it was too close for comfort, but luckily Captain Hotness arrived and saved the day.”
Ryeowook chuckled. “Is he aware of his name change?”
Woohyun eyed the captain that was over on the other side of sickbay talking to Commander Cho, while Dr. Jin examined the second in command. “No, but how can a man like that not know how hot he is? He is probably amazing in bed.”
Dr. Cho looked troubled. “Are you…surely you are not interested in him romantically…Jaejoong just left him.”
“What?” Woohyun sputtered. “No! The only man I am interested in is Sunggyu, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the captain’s many…numerous…limitless…great attributes.”
“Thank God,” Ryeowook replied. “Jaejoong would probably return and melt your brains.”
Woohyun winced. “Yeah, he will probably be back because what man could leave the captain?”
“Jaejoong isn’t a man…he’s a Joong,” Lieutenant Sunggyu stated as he walked up to stand beside the Dr. Cho. “He’s much more complex than a regular man.”
Woohyun face lit up with the lieutenant’s arrival. “Did you come to check on me?”
Sunggyu let out a heavy sign and reluctantly admitted, “I did, only to find you singing the praises of another man.”
“Were you jealous?” Woohyun asked, happily surprised. Ryeowook, who was excited for his friend, reached out and squeezed Woohyun’s hand.
“No,” Sunggyu answered honestly, but quickly added, “Captain Yunho is an amazing man and worthy of everyone’s admiration, but don’t forget if it wasn’t for you...he would have been dead a long time ago.”
“That’s right,” Dr. Cho exclaimed. “I forgot you saved his life.”
Woohyun tried to appear humble but failed as he pointed out, “I just prolonged his life long enough for the crew to figure out how to get him to Jaejoong.”
Lieutenant Sunggyu shook his head. “You stuck tubes in him…you saved his life, and you didn’t even know him. Not to mention you risked your own life by helping us.”
“I’m a doctor,” Woohyun stated. “It’s my job and my calling to save people. It’s what I do.”
Ryeowook, who was looking at the two would-be lovers with barely concealed glee, asked, “So, are you two ever going to start officially dating?”
Woohyun maintained his gaze with Sunggyu and stated, “That is up to him, but I plan on waiting for him…even if it takes years.”
“It is obvious you two care deeply for each other,” Ryeowook prompted. “Why wait?”
Sunggyu blushed and stumbled over his words, “Wh…whaaaat? Nooooo, I was…just worried…for a fellow crew member. I don’t…” Sunggyu paused and really looked at Woohyun. Woohyun had hurt him in the past, but he’d never made Woohyun any promises. The truth was he did care for Woohyun…maybe he should take the risk. “Okay, we can start dating…but only once a week and it can’t interfere with my work or my sleep.”
“Heaven forbid,” Woohyun declared, trying to reign in his excitement. “I remember the rules don’t you worry.”
“Good,” Lieutenant Sunggyu told him and then cast a gaze at Lieutenant Sooyoung. “I am going to go check on her and Ensign Kangin.”
Woohyun nodded his head and watched Lieutenant Sunggyu walk away, then he reached out, grabbed Ryeowook by the arm, dragged him closer, and whispered, “You are the best boss, ever!”
Ryeowook grinned triumphantly. “Don’t you forget it.”
Captain Yunho did not look happy.
Yunho was sitting at the head of the main conference room’s table with his senior officers surrounding him. They were having the follow-up briefing regarding the incident on MPFR56.
Lieutenant Yuri, the head of security, looked solemn as she explained to the senior officers, “The alliance that was funding the bounty hunters on MPFR56 are a group of humans and nonhumans who were bidding on Jimin at the auction on Orden. They formed this alliance after we rescued Jimin. They consider Joongs to be highly valuable commodity and they feel as if we have robbed them of a great deal of currency. This is their act of retaliation.”
“They want our heads…” Commander Cho stated, while looking disturbed.
“Yes,” Lieutenant Yuri confirmed. “There is a high price placed on the head of any member of the Expectation’s crew.”
Commander Yoochun, who was sitting to Yunho’s right, demanded, “How did those simpletons know where we were?”
“It would be unwise to assume that none of the ships in the alliance have the ability to track us,” Lieutenant Jung pointed out. “In the month since we offended them, we have been traveling slowly and exploring many worlds. The AgustD was capable of warp drive. It is highly likely that other ships in this quadrant of space are also capable of reaching warp drive.”
“Being able to reach warp one is far different than being able to sustain high warps for days,” Commander Cho stated. “Perhaps, it would be best if we pick a direction and travel at high warp for a few days and get out of this area of space completely.”
Lieutenant Kim, who had remained quiet, looked at Commander Cho and questioned, “So, are you suggesting we run away?”
“We are explorers,” Commander Cho replied firmly. “It is better to remove ourselves from a potentially dangerous situation and continue our explorations.”
“There is another option,” Lieutenant Jung offered. “We could simply hand Jimin over to them.”
“Lieutenant Jung!” Captain Yunho reprimanded loudly, while the other senior officers gawked at the science officer as if he had grown two heads.
Changmin looked unruffled as he insisted, “I am sure after a few hours in his presence they would return him to us and remove the bounties on our heads.”
“Seriously!” Ryeowook scolded. “I can’t believe you of all people would suggest such a thing!”
“I was just offering another option…I did not say we should do it,” Changmin maintained, while folding his arms in front of his chest, managing to look aloof. “Also, I know the captain would never agree to such a thing.”
“No, I wouldn’t,” Yunho declared. “Although, I find no pleasure in giving this order, but I do think the best option is to put distance between us and this alliance. I want to review the star maps and find the best path. We have just begun to properly explore this galaxy and we can’t be slowed down by the likes of the alliance.”
Chapter 2: Bleeding
Thanks Tanya for the Beta! Thanks to Amy for all her wonderful advice and great suggestions!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“So, I have a serious question for you,” Commander Yoochun asked Changmin as he watched the science officer eat mouthful after mouthful of Bibimbap. They were in Ten Forward waiting for Kangin and Yunho to join them for dinner.
“Hmmffff,” Changmin replied incoherently still shoving in the food.
“The Guardian of Time seems to like you,” Yoochun stated. “I mean even without your Momma….” Yoochun paused as Changmin looked up from his bowl of Bibimbap to scowl at him.
“The only mother figure I acknowledge is Minny Jung from Earth,” Changmin snapped. “She has shown me nothing but love and tenderness for the entirety of our acquaintance.”
Yoochun winced, having a rare moment of empathy for the science officer. “Sorry, I was just saying that the Guardians of Time have done whatever you have asked of them so far.”
Changmin, who had stopped eating at the mention of Jaejoong, nodded his head. “Yes, but I am sure the half of my lineage that I am not partial to plays an important role in the cooperation they have shown me.”
“Of course, but I was curious if you thought it would take you back in time?”
“My very existence is proof that it will take me back in time,” Changmin stated, while giving Yoochun a look that seemed to be questioning the engineer’s level of intelligence.
Yoochun gave a panicky chuckle and then just blurted out what he really wanted to know, “When I thought Yunho was about to die, we used the soul switching stones and I got sent to Junsu’s ship so he could switch places with me and save the day. I may have left him a message…that I deeply regret leaving now.”
“I haven’t told you what I want.”
“You want to go back in time and stop yourself from leaving the message, and no I won’t do it.”
“The timeline has already been affected too much,” Changmin explained. “I have two conflicting memories of that time, and even I cannot hypothesize what might happen if we attempted to go back in time again.”
“What is the worst thing that could happen?” Yoochun asked as he took a sip of his wine.
“The universe could cease to exist.”
Yoochun shrugged and sat his wine glass down on the table. “I think it is a risk worth taking.”
Changmin just glared at Yoochun contemptuously.
“Why is our favorite robot looking so riled?” Kangin asked as he sat down at the table. “It’s like that time we teased him by saying the food replicators were no longer serving double portions.”
“He’s marveling at my priorities in life,” Yoochun stated as the other man joined them. “What took you so long and where is Yunho?”
“Yunho is still discussing security protocols with Lieutenant Yuri and his yeoman…oops, I mean Lieutenant Kim. Fuck you, Yoochun for getting that word stuck in my head. If I ever slip up and call him that I will probably be discretely dealt with,” Ensign Kangin gruffly told Commander Yoochun.
“He’s harmless,” Yoochun assured his friend.
Kangin shook his head. “That is what he wants you to think. He’s probably as smart as Changmin—” Kangin paused as Changmin started choking on food that had gone down the wrong pipe after hearing Ensign Kangin’s declaration. Kangin looked at Yoochun and asked, “Should we call for help?”
“Nah, he is self-healing.”
They waited and once the science officer had recovered Kangin continued, “We will never know how smart he really is…because he is too smart to let us know,” Kangin finished. “I still think he was in Section 31.”
“You are being paranoid,” Yoochun said, dismissing Ensign Kangin as he rolled his eyes. “So why are they discussing security protocols?”
“They are far too worried about the alliance that has bounties on our head. I say it is all an overreaction considering we are half a sector away from that area of space and we haven’t heard anything out of the alliance in a month,” Kangin explained.
“You mean the alliance that hired the bounty hunters that almost chopped off your head?” Commander Yoochun asked. “Doesn’t sound like they are too worried to me.”
“No, they are not being overly worried,” Changmin agreed. “Not while there is advanced technology in this galaxy that is capable of neutralizing ours.”
“You easily dismantled the device on MPFR56,” Kangin pointed out.
“I did, but what happens when I am not there?” Changmin asked. “Or what if I require equipment to deactivate a device that is not easily available to me?”
“But that is a risk we take every time we beam down to an unexplored planet,” Kangin reasoned. “Starfleet is all about risks.”
“Starfleet is about taking smart risks,” Changmin replied, while Yoochun nodded his head. “I am working on enhancing the sensors so they will be able to alert us if there is a part of the planet that our scans cannot penetrate.”
“That sounds like an intriguing endeavor,” Yoochun stated. “But right now, let’s discuss Yunho before he shows up.”
Kangin sighed loudly. “I lied to Ryeowook…just like you kept nagging me to do.”
Yoochun brightened. “And the lie you told him was?”
“I told him Yunho has been talking to us about his feelings….”
“And?” Yoochun prompted.
“I told him he cried,” Kangin hissed. “Why exactly was it so important that I lie about him crying? I felt like a dirty dog.”
“Because Ryeowook is the prissy type and he cries at the drop of a hat, so he expects others to blubber on endlessly too when they are sad.” Yoochun explained. “Yunho doesn’t need Dr. Cho snooping around and getting involved in his grief…or lack of grief.”
“You still think Jaejoong mind zapped him?” Kangin asked, looking at Changmin.
Changmin, whose expression got icier at every mention of Jaejoong, stated, “I do. In the mornings when he awakens Yunho still feels the loss…but the mental conditioning that was placed…by Jaejoong…quickly takes effect and Yunho’s sadness fades away. Yunho’s emotions have become much less intense…he is barely waking me up in the mornings now.”
“That’s great!” Yoochun declared. “At least...you know who…had the decency to make it easier on Yunho before he skipped out on him.”
Changmin snorted showing his aversion. “He did it so Yunho would not follow after him, not out of any sense of love or decency. He was incapable of such emotions at that point.”
Kangin winced and pointed out softly, “He was messed up…we all agree he was messed up, but dude he had reason to be messed up. He might not have been very loving when he left…because he was….”
“Broken,” Yunho stated as he sat down at the table with them. “Jaejoong was broken when he left. He told Ryeowook it would end badly, and it did. He left for Joong to spare us. I think it was his last act of love.”
The other three men at the table shared uneasy looks wondering just how much the captain had overheard of their conversation, before Kangin spoke up, “That’s right he was broken. I don’t blame Changmin for being angry with him, but before he was broken there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t have done for his kid. Changmin, he loved you unconditionally.”
“I believe you need to refamiliarize yourself with the word unconditionally,” Changmin stated coldly as he abruptly got up from the table. “I am going to go work on adapting the sensors since I finished eating my dinner. I will take my leave of you now.”
“Bye,” Yunho told him as the science officer stalked away with barely suppressed rage.
Kangin looked worried as he asked Yunho, “Shouldn’t you go after him?”
Yunho shook his head. “He’s fine.”
“Are you sure?” Yoochun questioned. “He only ate one serving.”
Kangin pointed out, “He’s got a lot of anger.”
“He does,” Yunho agreed. “He has a lot of anger to work through, but he has to do it on his own. I can’t influence him. I don’t want him acting like he is fine with the way things ended with Jaejoong just to please me. He isn’t fine and he has to learn to deal with it on his own. I am here if he needs me, and he knows that.”
“Is that because you are also not okay with the way things ended?” Yoochun asked carefully. “I mean I was no fan of Jaejoong, but you loved him.”
“Love…I still love Jaejoong,” Yunho said, correcting his friend. “I don’t really see that ever changing, so no I am not happy with how things ended…how could I be? I am not happy, but I have to accept it. He is his own person…and in the end it was his choice to leave. Just because I am not crying over him every hour of the day doesn’t mean I don’t miss him or that I no longer love him.”
Kangin gave Yunho a small smile. “Of course, it doesn’t mean that…people grieve in their own ways and in their own time.”
“Exactly,” Yunho replied and then grinned at both of his friends. “But thanks for spreading rumors that I am a big cry baby it has kept me out of Dr. Cho’s well-intentioned clutches.”
“It was all my idea,” Kangin said with a smirk.
An outraged Yoochun exclaimed, “Liar!”
“Please stop staring at me like that,” Jungkook begged from the other side of the table where he was playing cards with a very distracted Jimin. Jungkook had reluctantly agreed to play cards with the Joong, who had been openly pursuing him since arriving on the ship two months ago.
Jimin, who had no interest in the cards he was holding…only for the boy sitting across from him, asked, “Why?”
“It makes me uncomfortable.”
Nurse O’Grady, a gruff woman in her late forties, who had entered the sickbay conference room, declared, “Plus, it’s creepy as shit.”
Jungkook nodded his head in agreement. “It’s very creepy.”
“No, it is not,” Jimin denied as he glared at the woman, while ignoring the fact that Jungkook had agreed with her. “It’s love! I am gazing at him with love.”
The nurse shuddered and left the conference room as if the thought of love repulsed her.
“I do not like her,” Jimin told Jungkook. “My wonderful abilities might be blocked by this necklace…but I do not like her.”
“Well, she doesn’t like you either, so it is only fair,” Jungkook responded, while looking back down at his cards.
Jimin’s mouth gaped open and he sputtered, “But why not? I am very likable! Everybody likes me!”
Jungkook rolled his eyes. “You just said you didn’t like her.”
“That doesn’t mean she has permission not to like me!”
“Jin says she doesn’t like anybody,” Jungkook explained. “So, don’t feel special.”
“I am special though,” Jimin insisted. “I am very special and once we are bonded you will see just how special I am.”
Jungkook looked up from his cards, grinned, and stated, “Strike 2.”
“No! No! No! I didn’t ask you to! I was just saying when we are…not strike 2! That isn’t fair! I was just talking about our future!”
Jungkook grinned. “One more and you are out of here. I agreed to hang out with you, but only if you stopped talking about bonding with me. You only had three chances and you have already blown two.”
Jimin folded his arms across his chest and pouted. “I don’t think the last one should count.”
“You said the word.”
“But I didn’t ask you…I said when we are….”
“Still counts, because we are never going to be bonded!”
“You say that now.”
“I will always say that.”
Jimin smiled at Jungkook dreamily. “You will change your mind.”
“When we were on Orden and you were reading my mind did you not pick up on my heterosexuality?” A perplexed Jungkook asked. “I am not attracted to males. I am attracted to women.”
“I am not a male,” Jimin declared. “And even if I was one, I am not so certain of your heterosexuality.”
“Well, I am certain of it and you look like a male!”
“I assure you I am not. I have all the girl parts you claim to be so interested in.”
Jungkook pointed to Jimin’s chest. “You don’t have breasts and I am very interested in breasts!”
“Unbonded Joongs do not have breasts. The Joong race has evolved past the need to breast feed their children. The bond maintains Joong children. Joongs do not have to nourish our children like a common mammal.”
“Too bad, because I like breasts…I like them a lot!” Jungkook told Jimin with smarmy smile. “I especially like big ones!”
Jimin was not deterred as he explained, “If a Joong bonds with a more primitive species, that likes their mates to have visible mammary glands on their chest, then Joong can develop them to please their mate.”
Jungkook frowned. “You are still not a girl.”
“I assure you I have the other girl parts! The important girl parts! Would you like to see?” Jimin asked as he got up and started to pull his pants down.
“NO!” Jungkook cried out, causing Jimin to stop. “Jin, he’s offering to show me body parts!”
Dr. Jin, who was doing his shift in sickbay, entered the conference room and scolded his brother, “Seriously, Jungkook you are a bridge officer and you are yelling out like Jimin gave you the cooties. When I let you hang out in here you promised to behave.”
Jimin, who suddenly looked distracted, apologized, “I am very sorry wonderful, future brother-in-law, perhaps Kookie should take me back to your quarters…to his room so we will not disturb you.”
“No!” Jungkook practically shouted. “Not without Jin there to protect me!”
Jin shook his head. “Jimin, I told you to stop that line of thought. Play games together like normal people…work on becoming friends.”
Jimin, who looked even more distracted, abruptly headed toward the door. “I will do my best to follow your sage advice wonderful, future brother-in-law, but I have to go now.”
The two brothers shared a concerned look after Jimin left the room.
“That was weird,” Jin declared, “Usually we have to pry him away from you.”
Jungkook, who had taken the cards and started shuffling them, agreed, “Very weird…it’s like he sensed something. You think his telepathy is working?”
“No, because you are still not bonded with him.”
“Yeah,” Jungkook agreed. “That is a good point.”
He sat on a white sandy beach and looked out at the beautiful blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. It was only an illusion but a comforting one that reminded him of the beaches that he and his father had played on during their shared childhood.
He closed his eyes and tried to find his center.
His heart was filled with hurt and anger.
He struggled to suppress the ugliness of the anger that threatened to consume him, but he failed. Hateful words replayed in his mind and he couldn’t free himself from the damage they had inflicted. His wounds were fresh, and any mention of his birth parent ripped them open again and again…preventing him from healing.
Changmin felt like he was always bleeding…like Jaejoong had left him bleeding.
“What are you doing?”
Changmin looked up to find he was no longer alone on the beach. “Jimin, how did you get in here? I had this holodeck simulation locked.” A surprised Changmin demanded, not answering the Joong’s question.
Jimin walked closer to him. “Yunho made the doors open for me.”
“Yunho…did he send you after me?”
“Who told you where I was?”
Jimin walked closer, brushed a knee gently against Changmin’s shoulder, and admitted, “I could feel you…I knew you were troubled.”
Changmin’s eyes narrowed. “The buzzing?”
Jimin nodded his head.
“The buzzing allows you to sense my location?” Changmin questioned, feeling unusually alarmed when Jimin nodded his head again. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”
Jimin nudged Changmin again with his knee. “I thought it would make you grumpier.”
Changmin looked away from Jimin and toward the ocean as he remembered Ryeowook’s words when Jimin had first been brought to the ship. “I should never have melded with you…this is not acceptable. I acted hastily and did not consider the repercussions when we rescued you.”
“We aren’t bonded,” Jimin stated as he sat down beside Changmin. “You are just powerful. I felt your power when we melded…your mind is not like other minds.”
“Human minds are much different than Joong minds.”
“True, but your mind is much more complex than a human mind,” Jimin explained. “Earthlings are more…more evolved than the humans in this galaxy, but you are on a whole other level. I think this is why I can feel you.”
“What you say is completely illogical,” Changmin countered. “I wore the necklace…around him all the time and he never felt me.”
Jimin frowned and looked confused. “Well, he is much more powerful than I am, so it seems like he would have been able to feel you.”
“Maybe he did,” Changmin hissed hatefully. “He probably just didn’t tell me. He would have taken enjoyment in me thinking…that I was blocked to him, when I wasn’t. He was a great liar.”
Jimin leaned into Changmin and whispered, “Or maybe I am just wrong, but I know for certain we are not bonded, so do not fear that. I am going to bond with my sweet Kookie, and you and I are going to be great friends, my prince.”
“Yes, but maybe I can feel you for other reasons…you are a hybrid.”
“True, but I purposely did not place the necklace on you for that reason…but I was holding you when it was placed on you,” Changmin reasoned. “Perhaps, that is what caused the connection, but more likely…Jaejoong was once again proving to be a liar and he felt me all along.”
Jimin was quiet for a moment, not knowing what to say. He looked out at the ocean and tried not to defend Prince Jaejoong knowing it would only cause Changmin great distress. Finally, he stated gently, “There is so much I don’t know…not long ago your people arrived on Orden trying to find a Guardian of Time…so they could save a child—you. And now you are grown and older than me…it’s all rather confusing.”
“You are aware that I am product of time travel.”
“Yes,” Jimin replied. “But I don’t understand your relationship…with Prince Jaejoong. I just know he is your birth-parent and he sent you back in time to save your life.”
Changmin fought to remain calm. “He did, because he and Yunho thought they were going to die…but they didn’t. They lived…but I had already been sent back in time. When I returned, I had already lived out my life with Yunho, not knowing I was a Joong.”
“From our meld I know of your life with your father and your wonderful grandparents…but you took control before I learned much more. I only know Prince Jaejoong left…and you two don’t share the parent-child bond. I don’t understand how that is poss—"
“Stop!” Changmin ordered as he swiftly stood. “I don’t want to talk about him.”
Jimin sighed, remained sitting, looked up at Changmin and asked, “Why did you come here?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“It does…I could help you.”
Changmin turned around and peered down at the Joong. “Can you read my mind also?”
“No,” Jimin stated as he gracefully got up. “But I know you are troubled…and I know the power of water. I am a Joong after all.”
“I know this,” Changmin conceded. “I am not good…good at calming myself, and I don’t want to ever hurt anyone again…once I almost killed three people. Dr. Nam thought he tested me fully, but he didn’t know…” Changmin paused not wanting to say more, but he knew he needed help.
“He didn’t know what?”
Changmin admitted bitterly, “The parts of me that hurt the most.”
Jimin walked up, took the taller man by the hand, and led him out toward the ocean. “This place isn’t real. This is an illusion created by your ship…the water here may not have the same healing properties as water created in the sky that fell down to the earth or water that melted from snow and traveled down mountains.”
Changmin followed after Jimin as he led him further out into the ocean. “The water here is replicated matter…it is as real as the food we eat. It is real, but it does lack…”
“The journey…the journey the water in an ocean or even a small puddle takes.”
“For me…I only knew of my Joong heritage for a short time before I was lost to time,” Changmin shared tentatively. “The holodecks always seemed realistic before, but now I can feel…how unreal they really are. It isn’t logical.”
“How is it bad to know when something isn’t real?” Jimin asked as he led them farther out into the false ocean. “A Joong mind is not easily fooled.”
“I did not say it was bad. I said it was not logical.”
“But to you being illogical is bad. I should know I am accused of being illogical daily.”
“You are very illogical,” Changmin stated as Jimin stopped walking. The water was now up past Jimin’s waist.
“Thank you,” Jimin said as he smiled up at the taller man.
“It wasn’t a compliment.”
“It was to me.”
“If it is your plan to help me calm myself by distracting me with your foolish behavior you might succeed.”
“I am foolish and illogical.” Jimin beamed up at the other man. “You are so complimentary today.”
“You are foolish,” Changmin maintained but added, “but you are not a fool…and you are not bad.”
“No,” Jimin replied as he stood in front of Changmin and took both of his hands in his. “I want you to close your eyes and think of when you were a boy living with your father and your grandparents.”
Changmin closed his eyes and asked, “Why that time?”
“Because you were happy then.”
“Yes,” Changmin agreed. “I was never good at showing it, but I was happy then…or as happy as I can be.”
“You were safe.”
“I was…they would not hurt me, not like…”
Jimin studied Changmin closely and asked, “Are you going to tell me why you are so angry?”
“No,” Changmin opened his eyes and answered too quickly. “I just wish…I wish I could wear the necklace.”
“Oh, I will gladly give it to you,” Jimin told him with a devious wink. “Feel free to take it at any time, you will be safe from hurting anyone and I will have my sweet Kookie’s love.”
“You were doing so good at acting mature.”
Jimin slouched and admitted, “It was really hard though, because I am not mature. I’m still rather young for a Joong.”
“And you want to bond with someone?”
“Why wait when you have already found the perfect boy?” Jimin said with sincere smile. “My Kookie is such a sweetheart and he’s a little bit broken too.”
“Do you enjoy fixing broken things?”
Jimin grinned. “Maybe, but there was once a time…not long ago when I was so close to breaking, and you saved me. You know the despair I felt.”
“You are calmer…even if you do not know it.”
Changmin shook his head. “Only till he is mentioned again.”
“What did he do that was so terrible?” Jimin asked. “I want to help you, but I can’t help if you keep your pain hidden away.”
Changmin took a deep break and slowly exhaled. “He loved me with conditions.”
“While the parent-child bond is amazing and the bond I have with my parents is a great source of strength for me it is not as powerful as the bond one has with their bond mate. The bond I will someday have with my Kookie will eclipse all my other bonds. The power of a parent-child bond fades…it has to so a child can grow and experience other kinds of love.”
“I know this…I do,” Changmin insisted. “But as a child he loved me…but the moment the bond was broken he hated me. When Kangin said he loved me unconditionally it stabbed at me. It was a lie…it was never unconditional…it only lasted as long as our bond lasted.”
“Hated you?” Jimin repeated, finding the words shocking for he had never known of a Joong hating their child.
“No, you don’t get to ask that,” Changmin said shuddering as he remembered Jaejoong’s empathic wave that had pelted him…he could still feel it…the overpowering hatred the parent, who had once loved him had unleashed on him. “I can’t talk about that…and I won’t…sometimes I wish I really was a robot.”
Jimin reached out and grabbed Changmin’s hands again. “Okay, I won’t ask anything else, but I will teach you how to meditate. I am sorry for asking about Prince Jaejoong…I won’t ask about him again.”
Changmin looked up at the sky and confessed, “I don’t know if I can…learn. Meditation is so closely tied to my memories of him.”
“We won’t know unless we try.”
Changmin looked fondly down at the foolish Joong. “Yes, you are correct.”
“Captain,” Ryeowook greeted as he entered the hallway leading to the holodeck suites. “Is everything alright?”
“I am not sure,” Yunho admitted as he leaned against the wall. “And I need to be absolutely sure.”
“Understood,” Ryeowook stated as he activated a device he was holding. He studied it for a moment and then informed the captain, “The levels are higher than normal but nothing life threatening…to an Earthling.”
“Where is Dr. Nam?” Yunho asked. “Shouldn’t he be the one running the test?”
“Yes,” Ryeowook admitted. “I have him run all the empathic tests on Changmin usually…but it his date night, so I have asked Shindong to meet us here instead.”
Yunho walked over and looked down at the device Ryeowook was holding and asked, “It is slightly alarming how the levels are almost to the 40% mark.”
“Yes,” Ryeowook agreed. “He is obviously upset, but the levels would have to reach 70% for me to feel any discomfort, 80% I would have an excruciating headache, and at 90% I would develop brain damage, and of course at 100% I’d be dead.”
“May I?” Yunho asked as he held out his hand for the device.
“Of course,” Ryeowook responded as he handed it to the captain. The levels that had been reading 40% for Ryeowook dropped to less than 5% for Yunho. “Your shields are very impressive most likely due to genetics, long exposure to him, and from being bonded to Jaejoong.”
“What would it read if Lieutenant Kim or Lieutenant Sooyoung held this device?”
“They are constantly at a state of zero reaction…their shields are on a whole other level. Not counting Changmin’s, your shielding is the third strongest on the ship, and then Ensign Minho. His shields are more adapt than the normal humans. Stronger shields seem to be hereditary, this would explain why all the Chois have stronger mental shielding. Dr. Nam, Siwon, and Shindong…who are not of Earth origin have the weakest mental shields of anyone on the crew.”
Yunho handed the device back to Ryeowook and admitted, “I wasn’t worried at first. I knew Changmin was upset, but he often gets upset and handles it on his own…but then Jimin contacted me and told me the buzzing had changed. Jimin sounded so anxious to get to him.”
“Jimin knew he was upset?”
“Yes, and at the time Jimin was in sickbay with Ensign Jungkook, so he should not have known. The necklace is allowing Jimin to pick up on Changmin’s moods. Jimin located him on his own…he sensed him. If not for needing me to override the holodeck controls…I wouldn’t even have known.”
“I don’t understand the buzzing,” Ryeowook confessed. “When you wore the necklace, it blocked you from Jaejoong making him crazy—and you two had an established bond at the time. I don’t want to speculate that Changmin has bonded with Jimin…but it is a possibility.”
“You also speculated that he had bonded with Sulli.”
“I know,” Ryeowook told the captain. “But you have to admit how Sulli reacted to Changmin was very strange and intense…she was in a coma for months.”
“Most of what we know about the Joong is what Jaejoong has told us,” Yunho stated. “Let’s be honest…who knows if any of it was true.”
“Captain, surely you don’t believe that.”
Yunho looked away. “I do believe that when I wore the necklace it blocked Jaejoong, but the rest…he admitted to being secretive and I know Jaejoong would lie if he thought it best served him or the ones he loved. Jimin is also very tight-lipped about Joong. He is less guarded than Jaejoong, but still he is vague on details.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“I am wondering if the necklace ever worked on Changmin,” Yunho confided. “When Changmin first wore the necklace, he was very emotional and found comfort in the fact that his mind was blocked from Jaejoong……and I do not put it past Jaejoong to allow Changmin to believe it worked when it didn’t.”
Ryeowook winced. “Especially if it meant that Jaejoong could still sense him…protect him if necessary.”
“Exactly,” Yunho acknowledged. “Jaejoong was used to feeling…sensing everything. I can totally see him remaining quiet about it if Changmin’s hybrid status affected how the necklace worked. He would not have told me because I would have told—”
“Alright what do you people want?” Shindong asked as he approached them. “Ten Forward is full of people and as the host I should be there.”
“And how did you become the host of Ten Forward?” Yunho asked, while wrinkling his brow.
Shindong grinned at the captain and stated, “Because you allowed it, Sir. Let me rephrase my greeting…How can I help you?”
“Hold this,” Dr. Cho told him, while handing Shindong the device.
“Sure,” Shindong agreed as he took the device from the doctor. “What is it?”
“It measures empathic/telepathic energy and how it is effecting the human brain,” Dr. Cho answered honestly, while smiling with relief. “It shows only 30%.”
“That is less than it showed with you,” Yunho stated with surprise.
“No,” Ryeowook objected. “It had already dropped to 5% for me.”
“Wonderful,” Yunho declared, letting out a sigh of relief. “Shindong you are free to go, and I thank you for your assistance.”
Shindong looked unnerved and cleared his throat, “I am not even going to ask…because I am living a really good life.”
Yunho smiled as Shindong hurried and left.
“So, he did manage to calm himself down,” Dr. Cho stated in relief.
“Or Jimin distracted the bad mood out of him,” Yunho answered. “Changmin complains about Jimin constantly, but the kid manages him effortlessly.”’
“That is good,” Dr. Cho agreed. “And what about you, Captain?”
“How do you manage so effortlessly? Does something seem off to you?”
Yunho’s eyes narrowed. “Do I seem off?”
“No,” Ryeowook answered. “But shouldn’t you? You had a bond with Jaejoong that no regular human could comprehend…and you lost it. Do you not find it strange how easily you have adapted?”
“Doctor, might I remind you that it was you who warned against comparing me to other men,” Yunho told the doctor. “Not to sound too much like Changmin, but might I remind you only 1 in 5,000,000 people get to be captains of Galaxy Class Star Ships.”
Ryeowook slightly winced and reiterated, “You are correct, but even less than that get to experience timeless love and to be bonded to a Joong…it just seems your recovery might have been expedited.”
“Is this conversation going anywhere?” Yunho asked. “Can your suspicions be substantiated? Is it a matter that requires Star Fleet being notified?”
“No!” Dr. Cho replied hastily. “I am just saying…as friend…something seems off.”
“I thank you for your friendship,” Yunho told Ryeowook abruptly before turning and leaving without another word.
Ryeowook muttered under his breath, “Like hell you do.”
Kudos are like great food!
Chapter 3: The King
“Go do your duty,” Dr. Cho ordered.
Commander Cho, who had walked his husband to sickbay, leaned against the door to his husband’s office and complained, “Why do I have to do it? You know how he feels about shore leaves. You are the Chief Medical Officer you should do it.”
“You know he’s been avoiding me! I think he is afraid I am going to make him get counseling. It’s up to you because Changmin won’t do it, because he is perfectly happy spending every second of the day in the science labs. Yoochun won’t do it…because…. because…does he look like he’s into winter sports to you?”
“No, and neither are we,” Kyuhyun countered. “Neither one of us enjoy them.”
Dr. Cho sat down at his desk and gave his husband a withering look. “It isn’t about us! It’s about the crew of almost a thousand people. The crew needs to get off this ship. Shore leave is good for the soul! Holodecks are great but they are not the same as actually being outside.”
“Plus, it sounds like fun to me,” Dr. Nam declared as he entered the office with Dr. Jin. “I have never done this skiing down a mountain thing before, and I want to give it a try. I can make Sunggyu go and we can have our tenth date!”
Dr. Jin nodded his head. “You should definitely do it. Skiing is a lot of fun. You can also go ice skating, sledding, and there are a hundred of other things to do. You would enjoy it, along with the crew that desperately needs to go on shore leave.”
“Then as the ship’s doctors you should pressure the captain into ordering shore leave,” Kyuhyun told the three physicians. “The crew’s wellness is your responsibility.”
“Says the second in command,” Woohyun replied as he sat down on the desk and gave Commander Cho a smarmy grin. “Or is Lieutenant Kim second in command?”
Kyuhyun glared Woohyun, who only grinned back at him.
Ryeowook pushed Woohyun off his desk and declared, “No, Kyuhyun is still second in command, but I guess we will just have to bring our concerns to Lieutenant Kim. I am sure he will act on them.”
Kyuhyun raised his left hand, lifted his middle finger and directed it at his husband. “Fine! I’ll do it!”
Woohyun watched as the commander stomped out of the office. He then turned to look at his boss, who was now smiling triumphantly, and asked, “Exactly, what does that imply?”
Jin snickered. “Nothing nice.”
“So, do you guys want to hear about how I am still not getting laid?” Woohyun asked as he jumped back on Ryeowook’s desk.
“No!” Ryeowook and Jin both replied loudly.
Commander Cho entered the captain’s quarters to find Jimin curled up on the sofa studying. “Hello, Jimin.”
Jimin looked up, eyed the commander cautiously, and greeted him in a flat tone, “Hello Commander Cho…who left me to a fate worse than death.”
Kyuhyun winced. “Jimin, I have repeatedly apologized, and I will keep apologizing because I am truly sorry. It wasn’t personal. Someday, hopefully you will know how sorry I am.”
“If you take my necklace off, I will know right now,” Jimin offered. “If you truly feel remorse.”
“Jimin, stop trying to guilt Commander Cho into taking off your necklace,” Yunho ordered as he entered the living room. “You are supposed to be studying.”
Jimin grunted and looked back down at the tablet he had been studying. “As you wish, Treasured Brother/Father, Consort to the Prince Jaejoong, and Wonderful Captain.”
“Studying, so I guess you have already mastered the language,” Commander Cho stated impressed. “That must have been hard…I know Ryeowook said your body rejected the universal translator.”
Jimin looked up from his tablet and said quite haughtily, “Of course I have mastered the language, my brain is quite advanced compared to a human brain. I am empathic and telepathic and even though…I am not allowed to do it I can even kill with the power of my mind.”
Yunho’s eyes narrowed. “Changmin does love to teach…and if your human teacher is not challenging enough for your advanced brain…”
“I wasn’t saying that, Treasured Brother/Father, Consort to the Prince Jaejoong, and Wonderful Captain!” Jimin objected quickly. “While I only prefer my beloved Kookie’s presence over that of Prince Changmin’s…having had Prince Changmin preside over one of my classes was sufficient.”
Commander Cho sat down in a chair and chuckled. “I totally understand, at the academy I took a math class with him….by the second week the professor quit and handed the class over to Changmin.”
Jimin smiled and stated in a much kinder tone, “I sometimes forget you are a great friend to my prince.”
“I try to be,” Commander Cho replied and then looked at the captain. “Captain, I have been looking for you…you’ve been busy this morning.”
“He’s been hiding,” Jimin offered helpfully.
“I have not been hiding,” Yunho protested as he sat down on the other end of the sofa. “I do not hide. Captains do not hide”
“That is what Prince Changmin said you were doing,” Jimin pointed out.
“Changmin isn’t always right…” Yunho told Jimin, who was smiling brightly back at him. “Err…but he is this time.”
“Sir, all three of the sickbay doctors are nagging me,” Commander Cho explained. “They insist the crew needs to get off the ship and enjoy shore leave.”
The ship had been orbiting a planet they had named Ice World for the past four days. The M class world was devoid of all life having undergone a Glacial Period ten million years ago that had wiped out all intelligent life on the planet. The science department was studying the ramifications the planet had suffered due its extinct people having ignored the warning signs of global warming. Unfortunately for Yunho, Lieutenant Sooyoung had repeatedly proposed that the warmer temperatures at certain areas on the planet would allow for shore leave.
Yunho grumbled and complained, “Something always happens on shore leave. Always!”
“So, we are just going to forgo it forever….” Kyuhyun prompted with a twinkle in his eye.
“There isn’t much you can do down there,” Yunho insisted. “There is just a lot of snow and ice.”
“Well, I have been repeatedly told that you can go skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowmobiling, snow boating, ice gliding, and ice skating,” Kyuhyun told the captain.
Yunho sighed loudly and nodded his head. “Okay, I know when I am defeated…your nagging doctors win. Plus, I really love ice skating.”
Jimin sat his tablet down and looked excited, “Treasured Brother/Father, Consort to the Prince Jaejoong, and Wonderful Captain, will you teach me how to ice skate?”
“I’d like that,” Yunho told Jimin and then tapped his combadge and ordered, “Lieutenant Kim will you please arrange for shore leave? We will be spending the next two weeks here.”
“Yes, Sir,” came Lieutenant Kim’s quick reply.
Commander Cho frowned. “Captain, I could have done that for you.”
Yunho, who suddenly looked enthusiastic, got up, and stretched. “It wasn’t necessary, he probably already had the schedule made.”
“I thought we were going skiing,” Dr. Jin complained as he walked toward the frozen lake with Dr. Nam, Lieutenant Donghae, Ensign Eunhyuk and Lieutenant Sunggyu.
“We are,” Dr. Nam assured him. “But first I got to see the captain skate.”
“He’s amazing at it,” Lieutenant Donghae claimed. “He used to do it as a kid. He flies on the ice. He could have won galaxy medals if he had stayed in ice skating.”
Lieutenant Sunggyu beamed and stated proudly, “That is our captain. I am excited to see him skate also…as long as I don’t have to attempt it.”
“But you are going to ski, right?” Dr. Nam asked anxiously as he linked his arm with Lieutenant Sunggyu. “You said you would teach me how to ski.”
“Yeah, I will,” Sunggyu agreed. “I have gone skiing before and I managed to survive.”
“You don’t have to worry about getting hurt because you are with me,” Woohyun promised as they neared the frozen lake to find a crowd of bystanders just standing around the banks of the lake watching something attentively.
Lieutenant Donghae and Ensign Eunhyuk lead the way as they pushed through the crowd to see what had their attention, and what they saw stunned them.
Their jaws dropped as they watched Yunho and Jimin ice skating like they had been born on the ice. They skated side by side with the elegance of a pair of swans as they glided across the icy lake effortlessly. At times they would do matching spins and at other times Yunho would lift Jimin and toss him up in the air. The all watched in amazement as the Joong landed with ease and unnatural grace.
“So, beautiful…” Woohyun stated in awe. “It is incredible!”
“That it is,” Lieutenant Kim agreed as he walked up to them with Ensign Jungkook. “Not two hours ago Jimin had never skated before.”
Lieutenant Sunggyu just shook his head in admiration. “The captain is one hell of a teacher.”
“That he is,” Ensign Jungkook concurred as he stepped out onto the frozen lake eager to go skating. Yunho caught sight of the young ensign, smiled at him, and then motioned for Jimin to look in Jungkook’s direction.
The Joong was immediately enthralled by the young ensign’s presence…the captain suddenly forgotten as Jimin sped toward Jungkook. “Kookie! Kookie! Kookie!” Jimin called out. “Do you want to skate with me?”
“Yes,” Ensign Jungkook yelled back at him as he reached down and touched his shoes causing blades to appear on the bottom of them. He then immediately skated toward the happy Joong. “Let’s race. I love to race.”
Jimin laughed and challenged, “Okay, but you have to catch me first.”
“No problem,” Jungkook proclaimed as he took off after the Joong who had turned on a dime and took off in the opposite direction.
Dr. Jin was shocked at his brother’s behavior. “I wouldn’t have believed it…”
“I would,” Lieutenant Kim, who had come to stand next to Dr. Jin, stated, “Jungkook loves sports and being active. Until now Jimin has just chased him around declaring his love…but now, Jungkook sees that he might have found someone able to best him. Jungkook loves a challenge.”
Yunho, who had skated up to them, informed them, “I wish Jungkook luck keeping up with him. Jimin doesn’t get tired. I have never ever met anyone that has his natural agility. He has an innate sense of balance…it’s remarkable.”
“You are not too shabby yourself,” Lieutenant Donghae told his old friend. “You were keeping up with him just fine.”
“Thanks,” Yunho said with a grin. “I do my best, but it seems I’ve lost my ice-skating partner now.”
“Well, we aren’t Joongs, but we will do our best to keep up with you,” Ensign Eunhyuk told the captain as he and Lieutenant Donghae met the captain on the ice.
“Good!” Yunho said as he grabbed each of them by the hand and pulled them farther out onto the frozen lake. “I love skating and I intend to skate till I fall down from exhaustion.”
Lieutenant Kim watched the captain skate away with his old friends and asked, “What about you, Jin?”
Jin, who had been watching Jimin and Jungkook skate, turned to look at the executive officer. “What about me?”
“Would you like to skate?” Lieutenant Kim asked, while holding out his hand for the doctor.
“No!” Jin replied too quickly, and too awkwardly, instantly catching Dr. Nam’s attention. “I am going skiing…I have no interest in ice skating.”
Namjoon shrugged and looked over to the crowd to the left of him and asked, “Seulgi, would you like to skate?”
“I’d love to,” the young woman replied and headed toward the executive officer.
Dr. Jin's expression darkened as he watched Namjoon skate off with the young woman. “Who is that?”
“She’s an ensign, who works in the docking bay,” Lieutenant Sunggyu answered.
Woohyun, who had the look of a cat about to pounce on a mouse, asked, “Does it bother you that he is skating with her?”
“No, no, no,” Jin explained. “I am not bothered. I just didn’t know who she was.”
Woohyun did not look convinced. “You look bothered.”
“I’m not!” Jin insisted.
Lieutenant Sunggyu, who had figured out the day that he had babysat for Changmin with Jin that there was more to the doctor and Lieutenant Kim’s relationship than they wanted to admit, sensed upcoming drama. Lieutenant Sunggyu quickly pointed out, “Dongwoo and L are waiting for us. If we are not going to go skiing, I am going back to the ship to sleep.”
“No!” Woohyun cried out and pulled Sunggyu away from the lake. “No, you are going skiing with me. You promised to show me how! I will torture the hidden truth out of Dr. Jin another day.”
“There is no hidden truth!” Jin protested as he followed behind the couple. “I was just wondering who she was!”
Woohyun chuckled. “Just be glad I am being distracted by my sweetheart.”
The ship was still in orbit around the planet the crew had dubbed Ice World. They had one week of shore leave left and the crew were relaxed and enjoying their break.
The Chos had reserved the galley for the day and Ryeowook had spent most of his time away from sickbay preparing dinner. He was cooking an old-fashioned chicken fried steak dinner just like his grandmother was famous for…except with some replicated ingredients.
The food replicators did an amazing job, but it wasn’t the same as cooking. They had visited a planet not long ago that had many similar food sources as Earth. He had happily purchased a lot of flour, potatoes, green beans, butter, eggs, maple syrup, pecans, corn, and many other items. He placed all the food in stasis, so he could use them whenever he wanted without them spoiling.
Ryeowook had refrained from buying any meat. He had grown up on the Earth colony of Baylor where they had consumed meat, but the other members of the crew tended to look at him with revulsion if he even suggested they eat real meat. He had sneakily purchased the eggs hoping no one gave them too much thought.
He was holding a dinner party and he didn’t want it to be ruined by anything.
“How is it going?” Woohyun asked as he entered the galley.
“No problems here.”
Woohyun walked back behind the counter to watch Ryeowook. “It smells amazing.”
“Thank you,” Ryeowook told him with a grin. “How is sickbay?”
“Boring,” Woohyun answered honestly.
“Boring is good.”
“Not to me. I’d much rather be on the planet having fun. Last time we were down there I even got Sunggyu to ice skate…” Woohyun paused and grinned. “I loved skating, it’s so romantic.”
“I’m happy for you,” Ryeowook told him sincerely.
Woohyun, who had jumped up on the counter to sit, said with a heavy sigh, “I am happy, but I can’t help but want more. I hope your wonderful cooking puts Sunggyu in an amorous mood.”
“Honestly, it will probably do just the opposite,” Ryeowook admitted. “It always makes me sleepy.”
Woohyun frowned. “I just don’t get it. We have so much fun together…and it is obvious he cares for me, but he won’t let us move forward.”
“He’s very cautious,” Ryeowook pointed out as he started cutting up potatoes to add to a boiling pot of water. “Remember it wasn’t that long ago since you slept with Jackson.”
“That was months ago! Sometimes I think Sunggyu isn’t even attracted to me,” Woohyun admitted. “I want to rip his clothes off, but he’s happy with a goodnight kiss on the cheek!”
“But you two have kissed…like really kissed…you said you kissed.”
“Yeah, but sometimes I think our best kiss was our first one…when I was covered in pustules and he was desperate to save the captain,” Woohyun confided in the other man. “I am trying to be patient, but as you know it isn’t my strongest point.”
“It isn’t, but he is worth it.”
“Yes, he is,” Woohyun agreed, and looked torn before he blurted out, “I think I know who Jin’s ex is.”
“What! Who?” Ryeowook exclaimed. He was so excited he almost cut his finger with the knife he was cutting up potatoes with. “Tell me everything you know.”
Woohyun grinned and explained, “Well, I have given Jin a week to tell me, but he keeps insisting that I am crazy, but I am not. I have excellent instincts and I’m on to him.”
“You do have great instincts!” Ryeowook agreed. “Go on!”
“I think it is Lieutenant Kim.”
“No way!” Ryeowook cried out in shock as he sat the knife down. “Why would you think that?”
“First off, Lieutenant Kim is merciless when we are getting our evaluations…but he never ever says anything critical to Jin. Ever!”
Ryeowook didn’t look convinced. “Jin is actually very efficient at what he does. You and I are more…I am more like an old country doctor and you are more like a cowboy doctor…whereas Jin is definitely a Starfleet doctor.”
“I’d make a good cowboy,” Woohyun stated with a toothy grin. “Dongwoo invited me to a holodeck adventure that he called a Western. It was great. We got to be cowboys. Sunggyu bitched the entire time, but I had so much fun!”
“But Lieutenant Kim is immaculate, and he is too uptight to truly appreciate our special talents, whereas Jin, who actually follows all of Starfleet’s guidelines is not someone he would criticize. I don’t see his lack of criticism directed at Jin as a sign of anything.”
Woohyun shook his head. “No, but there is more to my suspicions than that.”
“Jin’s kid brother...he’s with Lieutenant Kim a lot! During the last week I have been very watchful, and the kid is with Lieutenant Kim almost as much as he is with Jin…well, that is when Jimin doesn’t have him cornered.”
Ryeowook leaned his head to the side as the truth dawned on him. “That is true…they do seem close.”
“I thought maybe JK and Namjoon might have a thing, but it isn’t a romantic relationship or Jimin would know and have a fit.”
“But Jimin is wearing the necklace.”
“Jimin would know from the time he spent with Jungkook on Orden…you know he read Jungkook’s mind in detail while on the planet, and Jimin doesn’t mind Lieutenant Kim in the least.”
“Oh, that is true!”
“Also, on the first day of shore leave Lieutenant Kim asked Jin to skate with him…and Jin was shaken by the request,” Woohyun explained, and then added with a cheeky grin. “Like a shy, little girl!”
Ryeowook rubbed his hands together. “Go on! Go on!”
“And the best part was when Jin refused to skate with him.”
“Then Lieutenant Kim asked Ensign Seulgi to skate with him instead and of course she promptly agreed, and then they skated off together. Jin was pissed!”
“Oh, he was!”
“He denied it, but he was upset,” WooHyun stated confidently. “I could tell it bothered him for the rest of the day. Sunggyu was totally in leader mode and wouldn’t let me torture the truth out of Jin, but I know when a man is jealous.”
“I’ve got to get them together, so I can observe them,” a delighted Ryeowook proclaimed. “I want to see it for myself.”
“Why not invite them to dinner?” Woohyun suggested. “You have enough food here to feed half the crew.”
“No, no, no,” Ryeowook answered quickly while shaking his head. “Kyuhyun couldn’t handle it if both of the golden lieutenants were here, plus Changmin will be here, so extra food won’t be a problem.”
Woohyun jumped off the counter and asked, “So, what are we going to do?”
“I will think of something,” Ryeowook vowed. “I would hope that Dr. Jin would have better taste, but you can’t account for who you fall in love with.”
“What are you two plotting?” Kyuhyun asked as he entered the galley.
Ryeowook turned around, smiled at his husband, and replied, “We think Dr. Jin and Lieutenant Kim might have once been an item.”
“You didn’t know that?”
Woohyun and Ryeowook gawked at Kyuhyun in dismay.
“How did you know?” Ryeowook demanded.
Kyuhyun, who quickly remembered that most of his knowledge came from reading sealed records, kept the details to what he had personally observed. “When Jaejoong had Jin watch Changmin…it had Lieutenant Kim rattled. I’ve never seen him rattled before, but he was that day. He offered Jin his personal quarters and he called Jin by his first name…and that was the first time I had ever heard Lieutenant Kim do that with anyone since arriving on the ship. He then acted like a pompous jerk and addressed everyone on the ship by their full name…but I knew he was bothered.”
“But they must have broken up…” Ryeowook reasoned aloud. “Usually, I am all for romance, but maybe it is best to let this go. I mean Jin deserves better.”
Woohyun rolled his eyes. “Lieutenant Kim is not that bad.”
Ryeowook stared at Woohyun, taken aback. “You used to criticize him the most!”
“Yeah, but I was wrong,” Woohyun stated as he headed for the door. “He is right to criticize us both and expect better from us. He was also right about saving Jimin.”
“I admit he was right about saving Jimin,” Ryeowook called out to the retreating doctor. “But he’s still a jerk.”
“No, he isn’t,” Woohyun said as the doors swooshed open. “The captain wouldn’t be so dependent on him if he was a jerk.”
Commander Cho looked uncomfortable as he admitted, “Dr. Nam is right.”
“No, he isn’t,” Ryeowook insisted. “The captain isn’t dependent on him.”
Kyuhyun sat down in a chair and stated, “The captain isn’t dependent on anyone, but he delegates more to Lieutenant Kim than he ever delegated to me…he trusts him. You would be shocked if you knew how much Lieutenant Kim does for the captain…stuff I could help out with…stuff I should have been helping out with years ago.”
Ryeowook sat down at the table beside his husband and reached for his hand. “You had a lot on your mind. You thought you lost me. Then when I did come back…I didn’t handle it well.”
Commander Cho shook his head. “Stop it. I don’t need to hear your excuses for me. Yunho lost his timeless love…and he didn’t even falter in the slightest.”
“Something isn’t right about that,” Ryeowook insisted. “I don’t care how many times Kangin and Yoochun insist Yunho is crying on their shoulders…something is not right about how easily Yunho is handling it.”
“He’s strong!” Commander Cho snapped. “He’s strong and he doesn’t let his emotional baggage affect his duty. He isn’t like me. That is why he never trusted me with much more than bridge duty.”
“You are strong,” Ryeowook told the other man. “Maybe not as strong as Yunho…but who is?”
“Nobody,” Kyuhyun conceded. “But I fear Lieutenant Sunggyu and Lieutenant Kim are already stronger than I am…and Yunho knows it.”
Ryeowook winced and asked softly, “Should I not have invited Lieutenant Sunggyu to dinner tonight?”
“Of course you should have,” Kyuhyun maintained. “I am not that insecure, please expect a little more of me.”
“I do,” Ryeowook claimed. “I just don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”
“I like Lieutenant Sunggyu,” Kyuhyun told his husband. “I like him a lot. I will enjoy having him as company, but I seriously question why you invited Lieutenant Sooyoung.”
Dr. Cho immediately looked offended. “She’s amazing. Why would you have a problem with her?”
“Because you are trying to set her up with Changmin.”
“I am not.”
“Just because she has feelings for Changmin doesn’t mean he returns them.”
“I promise you he doesn’t return them,” Kyuhyun told his husband. “This is going to be so awkward for her.”
“And not Changmin?”
“Changmin is never awkward when there is food to be eaten,” Kyuhyun stated knowingly. “I mean…I can’t believe she agreed to come.”
“It took a little persuading,” Ryeowook admitted. “But I think Changmin has changed a lot, since developing his Joong abilities…he might surprise you.”
“You are so wrong about this.”
“It could happen! He’s a man! Plus, he is the son of Jaejoong and Yunho…he’s going to feel sexual attraction someday!”
“He’s never even kissed anybody.”
“He liked Sulli.”
“Liked her,” Kyuhyun clarified. “Like he likes you and me…I am not sensing any romantic longing on his part where Sulli is concerned. Believe me I have already tested him on the subject. He has told me when he goes back to Earth his first stop is going to be at his grandma’s house to eat. If he feels like this toward Sulli—who he skipped down the corridor with…Lieutenant Sooyoung doesn’t have a chance.”
Ryeowook slumped back in the chair and conceded, “Well…they can just be two colleagues eating dinner with a married couple and dating couple.”
Kyuhyun let out a loud sigh. “It’s going to be so awkward.”
“Why did we agree to play these kids?” Yoochun asked between gasps for air. He and Yunho were in the gym playing tennis against Ensign Jungkook and Jimin.
Yunho, who was having a much easier time of it than his friend, replied, “Because it is good for you and because Jimin can’t be trusted to be alone with Jungkook.”
Jimin immediately protested, “Treasured Brother/Father, Consort to the Prince Jaejoong, and Wonderful Captain I can be trusted!”
“No, you can’t be,” Ensign Jungkook stated as he smiled triumphantly after scoring another point.
“I haven’t said the word in days,” Jimin declared. “I have been really good.”
“You have been better,” Jungkook admitted.
“I need to take a break,” Yoochun declared as he went and leaned against the wall. “I am too old for this kind of stuff.”
“You are unfit is what you are,” Yunho told him. “Seriously, are you skipping your physical exams?”
“No, I am not,” Yoochun snapped at his best friend. “We have been playing for over an hour…and those two kids are monsters. It’s normal to be tired! How are you not tired?”
“I usually play racket ball with either Siwon or Sooyoung at least four times a week,” Yunho conceded. “I got to stay in shape. I don’t have a magical fix-me-up anymore.”
Yoochun slid down the wall to sit on the floor. “True, but we aren’t as young as we used to be. Hell, we have ten years on Jungkook.”
“More than that actually,” Yunho said correcting the engineer as he smiled at Jungkook. “He’s fresh out of the academy. Gosh, how I remember those days. To be so young.”
“And I got the best first assignment ever,” Jungkook proclaimed with a big grin. “It is an honor to serve on your ship, sir.”
“I am glad to have you.”
“Yunho, do you realize if the entity hit the ship now…we wouldn’t make it,” Yoochun pointed out with grimace. “We would die because we are over thirty.”
“Why are you being so gloomy?” Yunho demanded as he walked over and looked down at his friend. “You are still young! You are as young as you feel!”
“I feel my age,” Yoochun insisted. “We are like the old people on the ship! When did that happen?”
“No, we are not,” Yunho told his friend as he looked past him to find Ensign Minho, who was watching them. He immediately waved Ensign Minho over. “Ensign Minho, would you like to team up with me against the youngsters? The Chief Engineer is too old to play against these two.”
“To be fair,” Commander Yoochun told Ensign Minho as the younger man approached, “Jungkook is only twenty-one and a ball of muscles, and Jimin…well, he’s a self-healing ball of energy. I don’t think they get tired.”
Minho laughed. “I’ll take the risk, I enjoy a challenge.”
Jimin walked over and sat down by Yoochun. “Greatest and most loyal friend to the Treasured Brother/Father, Consort to the Prince Jaejoong, and Wonderful Captain, are you sure you can’t finish the game?”
Yoochun snickered always amused by the young Joong. “I could finish…but I don’t want to.”
“Will you stay and watch us play?” Jimin asked the engineer.
Yoochun nodded his head. “Yes, because I am all about not moving right now.”
“Captain, have you heard from Changmin?” Ensign Minho asked, sounding concerned. “He didn’t cancel on them, did he?”
Yunho looked perplexed by the question. “They are feeding him, so he would never cancel on them. He’s probably in food heaven.”
“He’s not,” Jimin replied. “His buzzing is off…like he is annoyed.”
Yunho looked down at Jimin and asked, “How annoyed?”
“Not bad like when someone mentions Prince Jaejoong.”
“How long has he been annoyed?” Yunho questioned.
“Just for the last couple of minutes,” Jimin told him. “Nothing bad.”
“I wonder why he is annoyed?” Yunho asked at a loss. “He loves to eat, and he loves Ryeowook’s cooking.”
“Ryeowook also invited my sister to dinner…I fear he is trying to set them up,” Minho explained. “She tried to get out of it, but the good doctor was rather insistent.”
Yunho’s eyes widened. “Ryeowook set Changmin and SooYoung up on a date?”
“Yeah,” Minho responded looking amused. “I guess Changmin didn’t realize it till they ran out of food.”
Yoochun started cackling in laughter. “This is great! I hope they get together! I really do!”
“That is very doubtful,” Yunho told his friend, still stunned by the news.
“Don’t be so negative,” a delighted Yoochun told Yunho. “Changmin is much more emotive now that he is in touch with his Joong side. Can you imagine Jaejoong’s face if he returns someday to find out Sooyoung is the mother of his grandchildren?”
“Stop it,” Yunho told Yoochun, but even he was starting to smile.
“Can you hear him screeching about that woman?” A very amused Yoochun asked.
“Did he not like Lieutenant Sooyoung?” Ensign Jungkook asked.
“He hated her,” Ensign Minho told the other ensign. “He can’t read my sister’s mind at all…and it drove him crazy.”
Jimin, who looked very serious, declared, “If Prince Jaejoong did not like her he must have his reasons. If Prince Jaejoong doesn’t like her than neither do I.”
“Jaejoong was very jealous of all females,” Yunho warned Jimin. “Lieutenant Sooyoung is completely loyal and worthy of nothing but your deepest respect. Might I remind you she also saved your life along with Changmin and Namjoon on Orden.”
“You need not remind me, Treasured Brother/Father, Consort to the Prince Jaejoong, and Wonderful Captain,” Jimin stated as he stood up. “But my first loyalty is always to the royal family and my Prince Changmin is annoyed, so I will go save him from this awful woman!”
“You are leaving?” Ensign Jungkook asked surprised.
Jimin walked over to Jungkook and took his hands and pleaded, “My darling Kookie, please forgive me! I know it is difficult for Earth humans to understand what is like to follow a monarchy, but Joongs are very devoted to our royal family. The Royal House of Joong is the most ancient, honored, and powerful house on Joong…and Prince Changmin has only begun to unearth his true gifts. I will return to you once I have saved the prince!”
Jungkook nodded his head. “Okay…”
“Then I am off,” Jimin declared loudly as he rushed out of the room.
Minho shook his head and declared, “Joongs are so strange.”
“That they are,” Yunho agreed, while contemplating Jimin’s words.
He existed in nothing.
His essence was a void of emptiness.
A great depression enveloped him, controlled him, and erased him.
He continued breathing…but for what reason he had long forgotten.
It did not matter, nothing mattered.
Life and death blended together and there was only emptiness.
And in the emptiness, there was no pain.
He had blocked all the world out.
The bond that ensured the life of another was safely locked away beyond his awareness.
Seconds turned into minutes, minutes turned into hours, hours turned into days, days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months.
His body maintained his life…for it did not require his cooperation. He simple existed without sadness and without happiness. He just was.
Until a powerful light reached inside his mind and cast out the darkness enveloping it.
The pain accompanied by memory soared through his mind reminding him of all he had loved….all he had lost…all he had discarded. His eyes shot open to find that he was standing on his forgotten legs and the most powerful of all Joongs stood before him.
The King of Joong had two fingers pressed to Jaejoong’s forehead as the familial bond threaded its way into Jaejoong’s mind freeing him from the depression that had corrupted him.
Once free of the depression Jaejoong’s mind cried out for Yunho, but he quickly stopped himself…nothing had changed…he could never face Yunho again. With that thought he felt the King’s scorn and looked up to meet ice-cold, crystal blue eyes glaring back at him.
The King was much older than Jaejoong, but his beauty was timeless and unspoiled by age. His long flaxen hair reached down to his waist and he wore the white royal robes of the Joong that were trimmed in gold.
“Did I birth such a coward?”
Jaejoong stepped back…taken off-guard by his birth-parent’s overpowering dissatisfaction. “I…I could not help it.”
“Do not presume to lie to me. You have lived with humans for far too long if you lie so easily. You chose this retched existence…for it was the easier path. You could have healed your mind at any time, but you chose to dwell in the darkness. Your fate is now in your hands once again and you can choose to live, or you can choose to only exist. I will not intervene again.”
Jaejoong watched as the King turned and walked away from him without looking back.
Jaejoong noticed his surroundings for the first time…he was no longer in the dark room he had been living in…hiding away in. He was outside in one of the palace’s many gardens…his favorite as a child. The garden was full of exotic flowers and small ancient trees that allowed the sunlight to always shine through.
He was standing in the middle of the small, rippling stream that ran through the garden…the stream he had played in as a child. The power of water was deeply tied to the Joong and he felt the faint beginnings of hope stir.
He slowly sat down, the water only reaching his waist, and he wondered if he was strong enough to live again.
Chapter 4: A Story Best Not Told
Changmin, the half Joong continues to have difficulty coping with his anger. Yunho, the beloved captain of the Starship Expectations has an unexpected encounter that reminds him that his bond with Jaejoong is forever evolving but sometimes even the greatest of loves do not withstand the tests of fate…and some stories are best not told.
Thanks to Tanya for the Beta and Amy for her wonderful guidance!
Also, I am so sorry for not replying to all the comments! Time got away from me, and if I don't update now I might not get to.....for five more days. Thanks for all your support!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sleep started to slip away.
He stretched out his arm to the other side of the bed to pull his lover closer to him and found only emptiness.
His eyes opened wide as he was jolted awake by the reality of his waking days.
Jaejoong was gone….
The bond was all but gone….
Yunho inhaled a deep breath and slowly exhaled as he was consumed with the loss of his great love. His heart felt like it was being squeezed by invisible hands…hands that had once loved him, but now had abandoned him.
Minutes passed, and the sorrow faded away into something manageable.
He sat up in bed, gathered his wits, and realized the pain had been less this morning…like every morning without Jaejoong, the pain seemed to be a little bit less each proceeding day.
He got off the bed and walked to the large bathroom that was connected to his bedroom. He stopped to stare at the large bathtub that Jaejoong had loved. He had debated having it removed, but Jimin and Changmin had both requested to use it. Joongs loved water.
Yunho also enjoyed water, but never did he intend to get in that tub again. Although he wouldn’t mind a real shower…perhaps he could have it modified and hopefully then the memories wouldn’t be so haunting of the times he had spent with Jaejoong in the tub.
His bed had been the first thing he had gotten rid of it. He had taken a phaser and evaporated the bed he had shared with Jaejoong…the bed where Changmin had been conceived. Nobody knew that except for Lieutenant Kim, who had replaced the bed with a new one free of memories of Jaejoong.
Yunho quickly readied himself for his day, and walked out of the bedroom and over to the room that had once been a nursery. One of the first things he had done after Jaejoong left was insist that Changmin stay with him. The room had been redone to Changmin’s standards. He had also had the ship re-modeler design another guest bedroom for Jimin. Yunho had no intention of living with the another Joong until he had observed Jimin with Changmin. Jimin was loud, affectionate, overly protective of his prince, and very distracting…just what Changmin needed.
Yunho let out a soft chuckle as he observed Changmin sleeping soundly with Jimin sprawled out beside him. The Joong had stated repeatedly he did not require sleep…but he rarely let Changmin sleep alone. Changmin would huff and puff to Yunho and complain loudly regarding the Joong, but Yunho was always very careful never to mention how Changmin never locked his bedroom door.
The doors to his quarters chimed and Yunho noted the perfect timing.
“Enter,” Yunho called out as he walked over and sat down at the kitchen table. He watched as the impeccable Lieutenant Kim entered his quarters.
“Good morning, Captain Yunho,” Lieutenant Kim greeted as he handed Yunho a warm cup of coffee. “Fresh from the Botany Labs.”
Yunho smelled the fresh brew and smiled. “Thank you.”
“You are most welcome, Sir,” the lieutenant told the captain as he sat a tablet on the table. “Ensigns Bellows and Jiko wished for me to convey once again their eternal thanks to you for literally saving their necks.”
“They need not thank me…they are my crew and it is my job to protect them.”
“Of course, sir,” Lieutenant Kim acknowledged. “It was a quiet night aboard the ship with only two minor incidents.”
“And those two incidents are?” Yunho asked before taking a sip of his coffee.
“Ensign Lopez had a minor skiing accident. He is completely recovered.”
“Lieutenant Fischer filed a report on Ensign Yang after witnessing the ensign streaking down the corridor on level fourteen.”
“Why was he streaking?”
“It seems Nurse O’Grady had threatened to perform a surgical extraction of certain body parts if the ensign did not immediately leave her quarters.”
Yunho winced. “I can’t blame him for running.”
“No, Sir,” Lieutenant Kim agreed. “Nurse O’Grady is quite formidable.”
“How packed is my schedule today?”
“A 0800 you have a meeting with the Astrophysics Department and then at 0900 you also have a meeting with Quantum Physics Department, and then I have arranged for free time so you can continue to enjoy shore leave.”
Yunho frowned. “Why exactly do I have meetings with those two departments?”
“While Lieutenant Sooyoung is an exceptional officer and excellent all-round scientist her main fields of study are the biological sciences….so, while she was in charge of the entire Science Department, she allowed the physical science departments a certain autonomy.”
“Oh, whereas Changmin would not….”
“No, sir,” Lieutenant Kim agreed. “Lieutenant Jung holds doctoral degrees in all the sciences and he quickly determined that these departments…had been abusing their autonomy by focusing on their individual experiments and in my opinion properly disciplined them.”
“So, I am going to have two meetings today with a bunch of whiny geniuses?”
“Could you not attend those meetings on my behalf?”
“They are quite insistent that they meet with you,” Lieutenant Kim replied. “I believe these meetings require your exemplary leadership skills.”
“What about Commander Cho?”
“As I said they require your exemplary leadership skills.”
“Your flattery is not really working this morning.”
“You shall handle them with ease,” Lieutenant Kim insisted as he handed Yunho another tablet. “This is a listing of exactly who will be present in the meetings. I have provided you with a brief summary of each person’s history and personal preferences.”
Yunho looked down at the tablet and then up at Lieutenant Kim. He was reminded of Kangin’s speculations regarding the efficient lieutenant. “Namjoon, were you perhaps assigned to Section 31 before joining my crew?”
Lieutenant Kim smiled down at the captain. “Sir, I would be forbidden from answering such a question honestly…if I had been.”
Yunho took another sip of his coffee and asked, “And what other news is there?”
“News I fear you will find most distressing,” Lieutenant Kim conceded. “Lieutenant Yuri has put in her transfer papers. She wishes to return to Earth.”
“Tell me she misses home and Ensign Kangin is not giving her more difficulty,” Yunho said with a heavy sigh.
“She lists homesickness as her main reason for requesting the transfer. Also, I was closely observing the Security Department at your bequest and Ensign Kangin’s behavior made a drastic change for the better after you reprimanded him for his unprofessional conduct. He has been treating her respectfully.”
“Good,” Yunho stated, relieved. “But it is going to be difficult to find someone who can lead that department while he is there. He has the respect of all the younger ensigns. They look up to him. He is the unofficial leader of security.”
“It is unfortunate that he has had so many issues with his behavior…promoting him to lieutenant would solve so many problems.”
“Issues that cannot be ignored,” Yunho stated firmly. “I will not reward such behavior even if he is one my dearest friends. Although at times…it might seem that I ignore Commander Yoochun’s behavior.”
“Commander Yoochun is an exceptional engineer and while erratic at times…it never interferes with the running of engineering. While being a very strict and demanding commander he is mostly fair and when he is not fair you and Lieutenant Sunggyu are excellent at managing him.”
“Since we have not located another Guardian of Time and Lieutenant Yuri’s transfer is not immediate, I will ponder over what is best for the security department before making a decision.”
“Understood, I would also like to—”
“Good Morning Treasured Brother/Father, Consort to the Prince Jaejoong, and Wonderful Captain and Lieutenant Namjoonie!” Jimin cheerfully greeted them, while interrupting Lieutenant Kim as he approached the table. “I am going to make breakfast!”
“Good morning,” an amused Lieutenant Kim replied.
“Captain…just Captain, Jimin,” Yunho replied while shaking his head. “Jimin, need I remind you that you don’t eat.”
Jimin just smiled back at the captain, while heading for the kitchen. “No, but my Prince Changmin and his glorious father do, and I wish to make them happy. Plus, this way my prince will not have to suffer the company of that insufferable woman ever again.”
Yunho looked fearfully in the direction of the kitchen and asked weakly, “Have you ever cooked before?”
“Nope, it is going to be an adventure,” Jimin declared with obvious excitement, while looking for supplies. “I get to have my own adventure today!”
“Sir,” Lieutenant Kim whispered, “I will have the cleaning crews drop by later…in case housekeeping bots are not up to the task.”
“Thanks,” Yunho groaned.
Namjoon handed Yunho one more tablet and explained, “Sir, you will find there are three planets in the nearby vicinity that may interest you. I have provided a brief synopsis of the planets with the little knowledge we have acquired. The first is a Class K planet that has been colonized by a race of—"
Yunho suddenly looked extremely excited as he read the tablet and asked with barely controlled enthusiasm, “This Class M planet…it has people that stretch?”
“Yes, Sir,” Lieutenant Kim answered. “Their bodies are made up of an elastic…rubbery substance. While it appears that they can maintain human form they are also capable of stretching any part of their body.”
“I want to go there first!”
“Of course, Sir,” Lieutenant Kim replied, intrigued by the gleam in the captain’s eye. “I will make the necessary arrangements.”
“The planet isn’t ruled by King Luffy by any chance is it?” Changmin asked as he approached, pulled out a chair, and sat down at the table.
“No, from the little information we have gathered it seems the system of government the planet follows is a Meritocracy political philosophy,” Lieutenant Kim responded looking confused. “The closest translation to what the people call their home world is One Peace.”
Yunho gaped at the lieutenant in astonishment.
Changmin’s eyes narrowed and clarified, “Peace…as in quiet and tranquil?”
Namjoon nodded his head. “Yes, exactly.”
“Still it is an amazing coincidence,” Yunho declared rubbing his hands together in excitement. “Lieutenant Kim, once shore leave is completed, we will go directly to One Peace. I will be leading the away teams.”
“Yes, Captain,” Lieutenant Kim replied and added, “I will take my leave, so I can start working on preparations.”
“Thank you,” Yunho told the departing lieutenant, while looking absolutely gleeful. “I knew if I explored long enough this day would come!”
Changmin arched his left eyebrow. “One would almost assume you planned your career based on an archaic story you read as a child?”
Yunho snarled. “Archaic? One of the grandest adventures ever is not archaic! It is ageless! You used to love the story too!”
“Then I turned four.”
“Whatever, I remember the tears you shed when—”
Yunho stopped as a loud banging sound emerged from the kitchen.
Changmin turned and stared off at the kitchen in bewilderment. “What exactly is he doing?”
“He does not eat.”
“I pointed this out…but his Prince Changmin loves to eat,” Yunho stated with a wicked grin as he stood up to get a better look at what was going on in the kitchen. “If you had taken him with you to eat dinner with the Chos this could have all been avoided.”
Changmin glared at his father. “He does not eat! He also did not eat when he barged in, and demanded I leave.”
Yunho chuckled imagining the scene. “Like you didn’t want to leave.”
“I did not say I wanted to stay.”
“You should have taken him with you.”
“He does not eat, why would I take him with me? Plus, he was busy stalking Ensign Jungkook at the time how was I to know he would find out where I was? I am sure that young ensign betrayed my location.”
“Well it would only be fair if it was Ensign Jungkook, since you tell Jimin his location every time you want to get rid of him.”
“That is not true….”
“I always want to get rid of Jimin, but when Ensign Jungkook is on the bridge I spare him.”
“I banned Jimin from the bridge.”
“That is a moot point,” Changmin snootily informed his father.
“Also, it was your buzzing that gave away your location,” Yunho pointed out. “He was happy playing tennis and drooling over Ensign Jungkook until you got emotional.”
“I was not emotional!”
Yunho looked skeptical.
Changmin added, “I might have been slightly perturbed at Ryeowook.”
“For setting you up with Lieutenant Sooyoung?”
“No,” Changmin stated, while shaking his head. “There was never any chance of that happening, I was annoyed that he had only made one pecan pie…and he expected me to share it with the others.”
Yunho laughed at Changmin’s blunt honesty. “I should have known.”
“I told Jimin this, but he insists on thinking Lieutenant Sooyoung is some fallen woman trying to sully my royal blood.”
“It is so strange how the Joongs don’t like her.”
Changmin nodded his head. “It is odd.”
“Well, Yoochun did admit that Jaejoong hated her…so that probably influenced Jimin.”
Changmin’s gaze hardened. “One should never be influenced by the likes of Jaejoong.”
Yunho looked worried as he noticed how cold Changmin suddenly seemed. “We are not going to talk about him, because Jimin is almost ready to serve us fried eggs…that are still in the shell. I can only imagine what he might do if he felt his Prince Changmin buzzing grumpily.”
“How is it even possible to fry eggs in their shell?” Changmin questioned trying to push all thoughts of his birth parent out of his head.
“We are about to find out.”
“Have you recovered?” Ensign Minho asked as he sat down beside his sister. Lieutenant Sooyoung was having lunch with her friend Lieutenant Sunggyu in Ten Forward, while waiting for Dr. Nam, who was running late.
Lieutenant Sooyoung gave her brother a long-suffering look. “There was nothing to recover from. It really wasn’t that awful.”
“It wasn’t,” Lieutenant Sunggyu reassured the ensign, while eyeing Lieutenant Kim and Ensign Jungkook who were sitting at another table in Ten Forward.
“But Changmin left with Jimin,” Ensign Minho pointed out. “I know this because Jimin dragged him back to play tennis with us.”
“Changmin went and played tennis?” Lieutenant Sooyoung asked, slightly startled by the news. She had imagined the chief scientist had gone back to one of the science labs.
“Yeah, he came and played,” Minho told her. “I believe his coordination skills are much improved since the last time I played him.”
Lieutenant Sooyoung’s eyes widened. “He beat you?”
“No, Changmin and Ensign Jungkook tied with me and the captain,” Ensign Minho replied. “While Jimin sat with Commander Yoochun and ranted about…”
“Yeah, Jimin complained about you, but Commander Yoochun just laughed at him and the captain scolded him,” her brother responded, looking uncomfortable. “I think it is a Joong royalty thing.”
“It is,” Lieutenant Sooyoung assured her brother. “I am not worthy of a Prince of Joong apparently. I must interject that I don’t recall ever asking to be worthy of one.”
“Lieutenant Jung did not care in the slightest about you being there, Sooyoung,” Lieutenant Sunggyu told his friend. “He was upset about the pie, not about Dr. Cho’s poor attempts at matchmaking.”
“You are so insensitive sometimes,” Dr. Nam chastised as he sat down next to Lieutenant Sunggyu. “Nobody wants to hear that their crush is oblivious to them.”
“He isn’t my crush,” Lieutenant Sooyoung stated sharply, while her cheeks burned red.
“Whatever, Honey,” Woohyun stated as he reached across the table and patted Sooyoung on the hand. “There is nothing to be embarrassed about. Just because Lieutenant Jung is rude…emotionally stunted…and pompous does not distract from the fact that he is a beautiful man. I have seen him shirtless and you have really good taste.”
Lieutenant Sunggyu gave the doctor a despairing look. “Should you be talking about your patients like that?”
“Only when they have abs like his,” Woohyun declared with a hoot, but then nudged Sunggyu with his shoulder. “Don’t you worry though…perfect muscular structure isn’t everything.”
“That is great to know,” Lieutenant Sunggyu told the doctor as he stood up. “I have some business with Lieutenant Kim I need to address, so you stay here being as inappropriate as you please.”
“What business do you have with him?” Dr. Nam asked, looking hurt by the other man’s departure.
“It’s a secret,” Lieutenant Sunggyu told Woohyun as he headed toward the table where Ensign Jungkook had just departed so he could return to the bridge.
“I wonder what that is about?” Ensign Minho asked, intrigued as he watched Lieutenant Sunggyu take a seat at Lieutenant Kim’s table.
Woohyun, who was watching closely, stated confidently, “They are plotting something. I can always tell when someone is plotting.”
“The two golden lieutenants plotting together,” Lieutenant Sooyoung mused. “I wonder what it is about?”
“Not a clue,” Woohyun told her. “But if the Captain Yunho’s right-hand man and Commander Yoochun’s right-hand man are in cahoots about something…it has to be big.”
“Welcome back aboard, Captain,” Lieutenant Donghae greeted from the transporter controls as the captain and the away team returned from the planet One Peace.
Yunho, who looked unusually glum, replied, “Thank you, Lieutenant Donghae.”
“Captain, did everything go as expected?” Lieutenant Kim, who had been in the transporter room awaiting the captain’s return, asked after noticing the look of disappointment on the captain’s face.
“They had penis face,” Woohyun declared as he stepped off the transporter pad with the Captain, Ensign Kangin, and Lieutenant Jung. “Like they literally had a penis on their face…it served as a reproductive organ, a nose, and….” Dr. Nam paused to shudder. “It also served as another appendage.”
“It stretched,” Ensign Kangin added, looking ill. “It like really stretched.”
Lieutenant Jung stated in his most patronizing tone of voice, “Most penises stretch, Ensign Kangin.”
“I am sure you only read about them stretching, because I doubt yours has ever moved!” Kangin informed the science officer, hotly.
Changmin didn’t look insulted in the least. “I maintain it is not a rarity in nature for them to stretch.”
“Lieutenant Jung, they normally don’t stretch out six feet to shake your hand! I usually like to know someone a little better than that before I give them a hand job!” Dr. Nam exclaimed at the science officer.
“Also, they looked at me like I was rude for wanting to wash my hands,” Kangin proclaimed.
“I’ve got to give Ambassador Siwon and his team props because they handled the situation better than me,” Woohyun declared.
“Or me,” Captain Yunho admitted, looking downcast.
“Only because you were hoping to relive your ridiculous childhood fantasies,” Lieutenant Jung informed the captain.
“Instead you got the twisted adult fantasy…of a pervert,” Ensign Kangin replied, looking ill. “We should send Yoochun down there. He’d love it.”
“Speaking of Commander Yoochun,” Lieutenant Kim stated. “He is requesting to talk to you captain.”
“Why?” Yunho asked not bothering to hide his dread.
“He would not tell me,” Lieutenant Kim explained. “He wishes for you to meet him in his office.”
“Well, as captain I have lots to do,” Yunho stated. “We need to have a briefing at the top of the hour, and I also need time to mourn the loss of my childhood dreams.”
“Captain Yunho, it is such a pleasure to have you here,” a man in his late fifties told the captain.
Yunho, who was busy visiting all the lesser frequented departments of the ship in order to avoid Commander Yoochun, insisted, “As the captain it is important that all the crew feels my presence and availability.”
“But it has been my experience over my decades in Starfleet that most commanders don’t show much of an interest in molecular biology,” the man told him.
Lieutenant Kim, who was standing beside the captain, assured, “Lieutenant Aude, you will find that Captain Yunho is far from the typical captain.”
“Indeed, Lieutenant Kim,” Lieutenant Aude agreed full heartedly. “I have only been on the ship a short time, but I have found it to be an exhilarating experience.”
“Captain,” Commander Cho’s voice broke out over his combadge. “We have detected a Guardian of Time…or perhaps I should say it has detected us.”
“Excuse us, Lieutenant Aude but we must be leaving,” Yunho stated as he departed the department with Lieutenant Kim. “Explain Commander Cho.”
“The Guardian of Time is emitting it’s signature wave from a planet in a nearby solar system.”
“How far away?” Yunho asked.
“Eight hours away at warp five,” Commander Cho explained.
Yunho paled and stated, “It made sure we detected it.”
“It would seem so, Sir,” Commander Cho stated. “Nothing is known of the planet from where the Guardian of Time is located.”
“Understood,” Yunho stated. “Recall Ambassador Siwon’s party from One Peace and have the ambassador’s team start making arrangements for a potential first contact meeting. The planet where the Guardian of Time is located in could be populated. If the Guardian of Time wants our attention it will make sure it gets it…the planet and it’s inhabits will be of little consequence to it. I am putting Lieutenant Kim in charge of making all the necessary arrangements.”
“Captain, that is not necessary,” Commander Cho stated cautiously. “I will be happy to assume this responsibility.”
“My decision has been made, Captain out,” Captain Yunho stated as he ended his conversation with Commander Cho and turned to Lieutenant Kim. “The conversation I have postponed with Commander Yoochun can not be avoided any longer.”
“No, Sir,” Lieutenant Kim concurred as Yunho headed off in the opposite direction. “Good Luck.”
Yunho swallowed his dread and headed toward engineering. He was not looking forward to the conversation, but he could no longer dodge it. If a Guardian of Time was going out of its way to get their attention there was a high likelihood it would do as he asked and allow for a transfer of people from this galaxy to theirs. Yunho didn’t often admit this but he felt the Guardians of Time were lonely. They seemed so desperate at times for a Joong’s attention and he currently had Changmin and Jimin aboard the ship. Changmin was only a half Joong, but the Guardians so far had proved very willing to do as his son wished.
He entered engineering to find Lieutenant Sunggyu suspiciously waiting outside of Commander Yoochun’s office almost as if he was expecting the captain. “How is my old friend today, Lieutenant Sunggyu?”
“As irritable as ever,” the lieutenant, who was leaning against the wall, stated.
“Lucky me,” Yunho grumbled as he entered the office to find his best friend sitting at his desk looking gloomy and ill-mannered.
Yoochun looked up and smirked. “So, I see you have decided to man up and stop acting like a coward.”
“I am a lot of things,” Yunho told his friend as he sat down in the chair across from the desk. “Bitter, failing at fatherhood, sexually frustrated, and separated from my one true love…but I’m no coward.”
Yoochun looked startled by Yunho’s response. “I would never describe you as bitter.”
“I feel bitter.”
“You are not,” Yoochun told him and then asked, “How are you failing at fatherhood?”
“Changmin is like photon torpedo ready to explode,” Yunho told Yoochun. “I casually mentioned Jaejoong this morning in a conversation and the room temperature dropped ten degrees. For a moment I thought I was empathic again.”
“Well…surely you noticed that months ago. I mean it isn’t like he is hiding it.”
“I know, but I hoped he could work through it on his own…without having to deal with my issues,” Yunho explained. “Let’s be honest Jaejoong is a subject neither one of us wants to talk about. I mean he left us both…in the worst way possible.”
“You are just handling it way better than Changmin,” Yoochun stated as he stared at a spot on the wall above Yunho’s head avoiding eye contact with the captain. Unbeknownst to the captain the Chief Engineer, Ensign Kangin, and Changmin all believed that Jaejoong had a great deal to do with how easily the captain was coping. “You are doing that adapting thing you do.”
“What are you looking at?” Yunho asked curiously, turning his head around to stare at the wall.
“So, you are sexually frustrated, huh?” Yoochun questioned in an attempt to distract the observant captain. “I’d feel sorry for you if you hadn’t spent the last few years having sex with a telepath that lived to pleasure you.”
“Well, Jaejoong has been gone for months and even before that…Changmin would never let us have a moment alone.”
“What are you going to do?” Yoochun asked curiously. “You are still married to Jaejoong and you still have a timeless love with him…those words alone make me want to barf, but they mean something to you.”
“When I return to Earth, I am going to get a divorce,” Yunho told his friend. “I can’t do anything about the bond, but I can dissolve the marriage.”
Yoochun gawked at him.
“What!” Yunho exclaimed defensively. “I enjoy sex! I intend to enjoy it again before I die of old age. Now, that Jaejoong is gone I find myself only attracted to women once again.”
“Anyone I know?”
“It would be inappropriate for me to say, and as captain I will not be having casual affairs with members of my crew, but I do intend to enjoy my time on Earth.”
“Wow…you are handling this well.”
“He left me,” Yunho insisted. “I wanted to work things out…but he was the one that cut and run. Am I supposed to feel guilty that I miss him a little bit less every day?”
Yoochun shook his head. “Nope.”
“I still have a lot of issues with him…wanting me dead and all, and the fact that he hurt Changmin…he hurt Changmin in ways…” Yunho paused his face turning red with anger. “Let’s not talk about him any longer.”
“Okay,” Yoochun agreed, folded his arms across his chest and got down to the point. “You can’t have Lieutenant Sunggyu.”
“Lieutenant Sunggyu ran the security department and assisted in engineering for months on end with ease,” Yunho told the crusty commander. “He is the best choice by far to head up security.”
“Lieutenant Yuri is the best choice, but you let Kangin run her off.”
“I did not,” Yunho stated defensively. “I reprimanded him when necessary. I have had security closely observed and his behavior has been exemplary.”
“You had it closely observed by your pet yeoman—”
“He is a highly decorated lieutenant not a yeoman,” Yunho stated interrupting his friend.
“Your pet, who is a highly decorated lieutenant, can handle security and Kangin with ease,” Yoochun informed the captain.
“I don’t have pets,” Yunho stated sternly, folding his arms across his chest to match Commander Yoochun’s look.
“Bullshit,” Yoochun snapped at Yunho. “I had to give up Lieutenant Sunggyu it’s your turn. It’s only fair.”
Yunho narrowed his gaze. “I am the captain of this ship and Lieutenant Kim is my executive officer and he performs many duties for the ship...while Lieutenant Sunggyu’s main job is babysitting you. I would think Lieutenant Sunggyu would enjoy the break.”
Yoochun gaped at Yunho, startled by his harshness. “Damn, you are sexually frustrated…because you are being a bitch.”
“NO, I am being the captain,” Yunho stated as he stood up. “I am doing what is best for the ship. I don’t require your permis—”
“Sir, I am sorry to interrupt you two, but I might have a suggestion,” Lieutenant Sunggyu stated as he entered the room.
Yunho turned to face Lieutenant Sunggyu. “What kind of suggestion?”
“On who should run security until an adequate replacement can be found,” Lieutenant Sunggyu offered. “I had dinner with the Chos recently and I could not help but notice that Commander Cho seems…bored…eager to take on more challenges.”
“Thanks for the suggestion,” Yunho told Lieutenant Sunggyu, his gaze narrowing. “You are dismissed.”
Yoochun snorted loudly as Lieutenant Sunggyu exited the office. “As if that lazy ass would want more work.”
Yunho sat back down in the chair, his irritation from earlier gone. “No, it is true. He has been asking for more to do…but most of the time he is volunteering to do work I have assigned to Lieutenant Kim.”
Yoochun’s eyes widened. “Perhaps, he is insecure?”
“Could he handle the Security Department?” Yoochun asked. “I mean we both know the golden lieutenants could handle it…but could the second in command?”
Yunho rubbed his jaw as he pondered the question. “I don’t know, but I want to find out.”
“You just don’t want to give up Lieutenant Kim.”
“And you don’t want to give up Lieutenant Sunggyu,” Yunho told the engineer. “He is too good to be kept locked away down here. He needs more bridge time.”
Yoochun held up his hands and relented. “We might be able to make a deal…if your yeoman brings me some coffee in the morning.”
“That’s my coffee,” A stingy Yunho told Yoochun. “And he’s not a yeoman!”
They had discovered that the Guardian of Time was located on a class M planet called Dajakju. It was inhabited by a race of humans that were still in the middle of their bronze age. They worshipped the Guardian of Time as a god like many similar primitive races did.
The people of Dajakju had insisted the crew take a treacherous, rocky, and steep path that led to the Guardian of Time that was located near the top of a mountain.
Dr. Nam looked at the people of Dajakju, who were leading them toward the Guardian of Time, and asked, “I wonder if they will make the others climb this awful path once they see the Guardian of Time respond to you?”
“Probably,” Captain Yunho, who was leading their small group consisting of Changmin, Jimin, Ensign Dongwoo, and Dr. Nam, conceded, “Jimin is obviously a Joong and they are still making him take this path.”
“Only because you won’t let me take the necklace off,” Jimin complained, unusually bad tempered.
Changmin, who was walking beside Jimin, looked down at the smaller man and questioned, “And what would you do if we took the necklace off of you?”
Jimin’s grumpiness vanished and a huge dreamy smile appeared on his face, “I’d have you beam me back to the ship, so I could bond with my Kookie!”
Yunho let out a sigh. “And that is why you are wearing the necklace and we are climbing up a mountain.”
“Seriously, Jimin?” Woohyun groaned as he trudged up the rocky path. “I am a huge fan of true love and perseverance, but you are beginning to get on my nerves.”
“How can he get on your nerves, Doctor Nam?” Changmin asked. “How can a person actually be on your nerves? This statement has always confused me. Jimin is exhausting, tedious, narrow-minded and extremely aggravating, but I don’t know how he can actually be on your nerves.”
Ensign Dongwoo snorted.
“You know what Lieutenant Jung?” Dr. Nam asked. “You are the one on my freaking nerves now!”
“My Prince!” Jimin cried out as he grabbed one of Changmin’s arms and clung to it. “It is never my wish to aggravate you.”
“And yet you are so skilled at it,” Changmin replied irritably, not even bothering to break free of the clingy Joong’s hold on him. “Your obstinate refusal to respect my personal space would be something to marvel at if I was not the victim of your persistence.”
“But I love to touch you,” Jimin insisted. “I know you like it when I touch you. Do you want to carry me up the mountain?”
The rest of the away team members laughed, but Changmin didn’t laugh as he looked over the mountain’s steep ledge longingly.
“You can’t push him off the mountain,” Dr. Nam told the science officer.
Changmin looked critically at the doctor and reminded him, “He wouldn’t die…he is self-healing.”
Dr. Nam shook his head. “No.”
Jimin leaned into Changmin and smiled. “He’s just teasing he’d never hurt me.”
Changmin glared. “And how do you know this?”
“Because I know your heart,” Jimin told him smiling even wider.
Changmin looked green as he hissed, “You do not know my heart! I controlled that meld!”
Jimin just kept smiling.
Yunho, who was walking ahead of the others, chuckled, and was about to tease Changmin when he was hit by a powerful surge of feeling.
The captain came to an abrupt stop as he was overwhelmed with a feeling he had felt once before with Jaejoong while on a similar walk up a rocky path. Jaejoong had called it Dèjá Vu…a previous life slipping through to their current life.
The feeling was hundreds of times stronger than before. His vision blurred and then it cleared…but he quickly realized he was no longer on the planet Dajakju. He found himself in a canyon…that he found eerily familiar and more shockingly in front of him he saw a younger version of himself and Jaejoong.
He froze as he listened to the conversation the younger version of himself was having with the younger version of his bond mate.
“Do you think I’m having so much trouble because of my old leg injury?” The younger version of Jaejoong asked. Yunho had never known Jaejoong at this age…he seemed so soft.
“No, I think it has more to do with the fact that you consider exercise an evil to be avoided at all cost. You really enjoy being inactive,” a young, muscular version of himself told the other Jaejoong.
“True, I like cooking, though.”
“You also like to clean.”
The young version of Jaejoong winked at his Yunho. “I also like having sex.”
“Yeah, you like laying there while I do all the work.”
The other Jaejoong frowned. “I’ve never heard you complain before!”
The younger Yunho reached down, took his Jaejoong by the arm and pulled him up. “And I am not complaining now.”
The younger Jaejoong tried to sit back down but the other man wouldn’t let go of him. “Yunho,” he whined. “I can’t, my legs hurt.”
“Do you want me to carry you?”
The softer…more fragile Jaejoong looked up at his Yunho with bright hopeful eyes. “Yes.”
The younger Yunho shook his head, turned around and kneeled in front of Jaejoong, so the other man could climb on to his back. “You are so spoiled.”
Yunho’s heart ached as the younger…softer Jaejoong wrapped his arms around his Yunho’s neck and smiled. “I love you.”
“I really do.”
Yunho watched as the younger boys faded away.
He felt shattered inside as he truly felt the weight of Jaejoong’s departure from his life for the first time.
He had missed Jaejoong before…but nothing like this. While he had never completely lost his love for Jaejoong…he had also felt anger, frustration, and disappointment. Anger that Jaejoong could have abandoned their love so easily…that Jaejoong could have hurt Changmin so cruelly.
In the mornings he missed Jaejoong the most, but nothing that hindered him. He had gone on with his life…he had thought he was strong, but now he knew there was no strength strong enough to withstand losing Jaejoong. His strength had been a lie.
Memories of Jaejoong breaking into his mind and diminishing their love until it was only a pale shadow of what it had once been…came back to him. He felt terribly betrayed, but mostly he just felt sad. Terrible sadness.
Yunho’s body shuddered and tears filled his eyes as the loss of his timeless love filled every part of him.
Ryeowook had been right all along…timeless love did not just slip away so easily…its departure ripped away at your soul. The months since Jaejoong’s departure had all been a lie…he had not been healing or adapting. He had been living a lie. A lie Jaejoong had forced him to believe.
The scenery shifted and Yunho found himself sitting on a bench in a beautiful rose garden. The smell of roses filled his senses and the feeling of Dèjá Vu returned with a vengeance. Beyond the rose garden stood an empty foundation where he knew for certain a house had once stood. Images of fire and rain flashed in his mind’s eye.
“Ignorance truly is bliss sometimes.”
Yunho, who had been startled by the voice that sounded like his own, turned to look at an older version of himself. On the bench beside him, sat a man who looked to be in his fifties with a head full of gray hair and wrinkles that lined a face that had once been handsome.
The older man frowned. “I had not yet turned forty when I died.”
Yunho blinked in surprise. “Sorry…you just look older.”
“This is what fifteen years without him looks like,” the older version of Yunho informed him. “Of course, you have all kinds of fancy medicine in your time and your son could probably heal you to a point…but there is no cure for what’s on the inside…no cure for your soul. The heaviness that you now feel…imagine years of carrying that heaviness with you.”
“This is a hallucination but…it’s not…it’s more…”
“Correct,” the older man told him. “It’s very complicated and only a few souls grow old enough to reach this level of awareness. I shared your soul long before you became the great and beloved Captain Yunho. I was the you when your soul learned many of the important lessons that come so easily to you now. You are still prideful, but you never allow it to control you…to defeat you.”
“Did it defeat you?”
“Yes, many times…many times…my Jaejoong was a victim of my pride so many times.”
Yunho looked at the older man, who looked old and broken, and asked, “Fifteen years without him…did he leave you also?”
“No, in my time I sent him away,” the older Yunho explained. “My pride demanded that I be a martyr to the dead…instead of a man alive and in love. I sent him away many times, but the final time…he flourished.”
“I didn’t send Jaejoong away though…he left me.”
“It’s not the same.”
“The pain of losing your timeless love is the same.”
Yunho stood up and walked over to a climbing rose bush and plucked a red rose from the vine. “It wasn’t…the pain wasn’t the same till now…I had forgotten.”
“Yes, he tried to spare you.”
“I felt so angry…even though I knew he was broken…he didn’t leave me because he didn’t love me. He left because he didn’t want to hurt us anymore.”
“He thought anger was the kinder choice.”
“It was,” Yunho agreed as he stared at the rose that symbolized true love. “Anger is something I can easily handle. I can feel anger, but I never let it control me. This sadness…I fear it might consume me.”
“Like it consumed me?”
“I can’t allow that to happen.”
“You are stronger than I ever was.”
Yunho sat back down on the bench and asked, “You said he flourished without you?”
“He found a good man that loved him and always put him first…something I never managed to do…something you also fail at,” the older Yunho stated, while looking at the rose the other man held. “He had two beautiful daughters and died at the age of ninety-two, surrounded by a family that loved him.”
Yunho looked genuinely startled. “He didn’t love you in return?”
The older man reached for the rose and took it from the captain. “He loved me till his dying day…his last thought was of me.”
“He was stronger than you?”
“Yes, in the end he was so much stronger than I had ever been,” the other Yunho explained. “His childhood was miserable, and when I first met him…he was so fragile. He experienced more loss in his youth than most experience in their entire lives. By the time I played martyr for the last time…he had grown strong enough to survive our separation.”
“But you were not?”
“No, I had lived a golden youth, but as a young man fate had dealt me a cruel hand. My soul was already damaged when I pushed him away…and I never managed to heal my wounds…not without him. If I had stayed with him…if my pride had allowed me to be selfish…I could have been healed. I could have lived.”
Yunho watched as blood dripped from the other man’s hand where he had cut himself unknowingly with a thorn from the rose. “You died very young.”
“I did. I had always been known for being fit…I took a jog that morning, and then I came back home to sit on this bench. I was surrounded by Bessie’s roses and my heart just gave out,” the older version explained. “You see I had finished raising the last of my parent’s children and…my heart just stopped. There was a sharp pain…and I thought of Jaejoong and then I was gone.”
Yunho shuddered and shook his head as if trying to ward off the memories. “I don’t want to remember this life…this life you lived.”
“No,” the other Yunho, who was still bleeding, agreed. “It had beautiful moments, but in the end the pain…the pain of it was just too much. The ending is a story best not told.”
“Yunho, it’s time to go.”
A tearful Yunho looked up to stare at Jimin. “I don’t know how to leave…I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to remember his life.”
Jimin looked at the older version of Yunho with sadness and explained, “It’s the Guardian of Time…its presence on a planet increases the feelings of Déjà vu, but only the strongest Joong ever experience anything like this.”
The older Yunho turned to smile at his younger version. “The soul we share is a very old one.”
Yunho reached up and wiped away his tears. “I miss Jaejoong so much…he altered my mind, Jimin. He diminished our love before he left…and now…and now I feel the loss of our love…I really feel it…and I am lost without him.”
Jimin walked over to the captain, laid his hand on his shoulder, and looked down at him. “Of course, he diminished your love. A Joong’s love is forever…and it is not something one loses without feeling the damage of such a loss.”
“Ryeowook tried to tell me…why didn’t you?”
“Because he wanted to protect you,” Jimin explained. “He is my prince and he wanted to protect you, so I had to respect his wishes. He will always love you, no matter how much pain he suffers, because once bonded…you love each other forever.”
Yunho nodded his head. He had known all this before…but Jaejoong had made him forget. Part of him wished he had not remembered, but the braver part of him…the part of him that made him…him, knew knowing was for the best. “You are in my head?”
“They took the necklace off of you?”
“The Guardian of Time is preventing us from returning you to the ship,” Jimin explained as he knelt in front of the captain. “Prince Changmin could not reach you, so he removed my necklace, in hopes that I could.”
“I am very glad Ensign Jungkook did not join us on this away mission.”
Jimin grinned. “You would have been my first priority. I promised Prince Changmin I’d allow them to put the necklace back on me once you were free of here.”
Yunho looked skeptical as the roses began to fade away. “Don’t make him regret trusting you…it’s hard for Changmin to trust…it isn’t just me that Jaejoong hurt when he left.”
“I know this,” Jimin told him kindly. “Are you ready to go?”
Yunho shuddered. “Yes, please take me away from here.”
#Set Fire to the Rain
Chapter 5: The Only Answer
Jaejoong struggles to overcome the shame of what he has done, while battling against the desire to return to Yunho.
Always a huge thanks to Tanya and Amy!!!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The lost world of Yunho’s old soul faded away and he promptly found himself being shaken by a panicked Changmin. “Yunho! Yunho! Yunho!”
“I’m fine!” Yunho declared, as he quickly reoriented himself to his surroundings. Changmin was on his left and Jimin was on his right. “Just the Guardian of Time doing its usual bang up job of messing with me.”
“He’s completely unharmed,” Jimin told them, while adding telepathically to Yunho. “It is up to you if you want to tell them…what Prince Jaejoong did to your mind, but Changmin will sense your emotions.”
“I think I will be the judge of whether he is unharmed or not,” Dr. Nam gruffly stated as he gently pushed Jimin aside and started scanning the captain with his medical tricorder.
Changmin, who still looked worried, questioned, “What exactly happened?”
“Déjà vu happened,” Jimin answered. “It’s always more heightened when a Guardian of Time is near…it must have wanted Captain Yunho to know…something.”
Changmin’s eyes narrowed. “Know something?”
“Nothing important for the time being,” Yunho told his son as he attempted to get up but was thwarted by Dr. Nam. “Right now, the Guardian of Time has to be our focus?”
Jimin nodded his head. “Yes, I totally agree, Captain Yunho.”
Changmin’s observant gaze left the captain to focus on Jimin. “And why is he just Captain Yunho now?”
Jimin grinned at Changmin and informed him, “He doesn’t like all the honorifics.”
“He’s told you multiple times he doesn’t like them,” Changmin reminded the Joong as he focused back on Yunho, who had managed to free himself from the clutches of the overly concerned doctor.
“Hearing it…and feeling it are two entirely different things,” Jimin explained, while secretly giving the doctor a mental nudge to leave the captain alone. “Sometimes people only say what they feel they should say…instead of what they really feel.”
“You are fine,” Woohyun replied, feeling confidant the captain was alright. “I mean you are always fine…but health wise you were unaffected by the little trip down memory lane…or should I say Déjà vu lane. The Guardian of Time did you no harm.”
Yunho brushed off the dirt from his pants. “I knew it didn’t, but I understand you have to make sure. Have we reestablished contact with the ship?”
“Yes,” Changmin answered.
“Dr. Nam, you are such a delightful person,” Jimin proclaimed suddenly and grabbed the doctor by each of his hands. “I always knew I liked you, but now I really like you after spending so much time with you! I just wish Lieutenant Sunggyu was here so I could make him want to mate with you!”
“That is sweet of you, but I value the progress I have made with Sunggyu,” Woohyun told the Joong. “I wouldn’t want to jeopardize it for anything. I think it is time for you to put the necklace back on.”
“Yes,” Yunho agreed. “It is time to put the necklace back on.”
Jimin pouted. “But can’t I be free just a little longer?”
Changmin looked troubled as he reiterated, “Jimin we are not holding you against your will. If you wish to leave the ship you are free to at any time. I am sure the Guardian of Time on this planet would take you anywhere you pleased.”
Jimin gaped at Changmin. “But you don’t want me to leave!”
Changmin frowned and then clarified, “If you stay or leave is up to you.”
“But I don’t want to leave the ship! I love the ship! I don’t want to leave Kookie, or you…or anybody. I love the ship! I just want to feel you all a little bit longer. You all feel so wonderful. You are such good people…I love you all!”
“Thanks, Jimin,” Yunho said warmly. “We are very fond of you too, but the necklace has to go back on if you wish to return to the ship…you promised.”
“I did,” Jimin agreed reluctantly, then walked over to Changmin and stood behind him causing the others to look at him strangely. Then to everyone’s surprise he leaped up, wrapped his arms around Changmin’s neck and wrapped his legs around Changmin’s waist.
“What are you doing?” An outraged Changmin demanded.
Jimin sighed sadly and rested his chin on Changmin’s shoulder and explained, “The first time the necklace was put on me you were holding me. I want to make sure we do everything the same as before, so you will still buzz.”
“Jimin…” Changmin warned.
“Please Prince Changmin,” Jimin pleaded. “I did as I promised! I only took it off to help Captain Yunho! If I can’t feel you…I might go crazy.”
“You are already crazy,” Changmin grumbled but motioned for Ensign Dongwoo, who was holding the necklace, to move over to them.
Dr. Nam and Yunho shared a knowing look as the Joong easily handled the scientist.
Ensign Dongwoo, who was not a tall man, looked up at Jimin, who was perched on the very tall Changmin and let out a laugh. “Umm…I don’t think I’m going to be able to reach his neck, unless you squat.”
“Here I will take it, Ensign Dongwoo,” Yunho stated as he took the necklace and reached up and placed it on Jimin’s neck. “Jimin, does he still buzz?”
“Yes,” Jimin sighed in relief and nuzzled Changmin’s neck. “Yes, he does. Changmin carry me all day, so I won’t be sad.”
“Absolutely not!” Changmin hissed. “I insist that you get off me this very minute. I find it ludicrous that you choose to respect the Captain’s wishes regarding what you call him, but you still insist on violating my personal space at every opportunity! Get off!”
“No,” was Jimin’s simple response and then he pointed toward Siwon and the leader of the Dajakju party, who were walking toward them. “I bet you will like what they have to say.”
Yunho cast a quick look of disapproval at Jimin before walking up to meet the two approaching men. “Emissary Tenazid and Ambassador Siwon I am sorry for the delay. We will immediately resume our—”
“None of that, Captain,” Emissary Tenazid insisted. “My people are deeply sorry for making your people take such a treacherous path up the mountain. We have come to realize that you are the true people of the Time Keeper, and we will not restrict your access to it. Please feel free to come and go as you wish using your amazing technology.”
Yunho looked back to the people, who were standing behind Siwon and Emissary Tenazid, they were all bowing to him and looked awed. “You came to realize…”
“Yes, we are deeply sorry for any inconvenience we have placed on you. You have a Joong among your group. Even a people such as our own know of the Joong, and we should never dictate to such a powerful being. We are deeply ashamed of our behavior.”
“There is nothing to be sorry for,” Yunho insisted. “It is our custom to respect the beliefs of others.”
“But we wish for you to use your technology to reach the Time Keeper,” Emissary Tenazid insisted. “We want your people to travel in the way they are accustomed to.”
“Thank you,” Yunho told the man sincerely. “My crew thanks you.”
“They should thank me,” Jimin whispered to Changmin.
Woohyun, who overheard Jimin, chuckled softly and declared, “Changmin, he totally deserves to be carried now.”
Changmin, who was studying Yunho carefully, arched his eyebrows, and conceded, “Perhaps, five minutes longer.”
Yunho walked back the others and shook his head. “Not cool, Jimin.”
Jimin buried his head in Changmin’s neck and mumbled, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Liar,” Yunho told the Joong. “Okay, since it is already done, I will have the ship beam us directly there.”
“You should return to the ship,” Changmin informed the captain. “Your mind has been altered by a powerful alien entity. You need to be examined thoroughly per Starfleet regulations.”
“I just examined him,” Dr. Nam pointed out.
Changmin reached up, gently patted Jimin on the top of the head and explained “I believe a certain telepath influenced your diagnosis of “You are fine”.”
“Changmin!” Jimin whined.
“I am fine,” Yunho insisted.
“No, you are not,” Changmin told his father forcefully. “You reek of sadness…and longing, now. You will return to the ship per Starfleet regulation 295 on your own…or I will report you. You need to be examined by a medical professional, who has not been influenced by Jimin. The rest of us will go on to the Guardian of Time and secure the transfer of the crew.”
Yunho wanted to object but something in Changmin’s eyes kept him from pursuing the issue further. Yunho hit his badge and ordered, “Beam me up.”
He stood in a glorious valley at the edge of a spectacular reflective lake that occupied a basin that had been carved out by ice-age glaciers billions of years ago.
The lake’s reflection showed two great snow-capped mountain peaks that stood majestically behind him, each towering over 14,000 feet in height.
Golden-hued forests surrounded him in the distance. Brilliantly colored wild flowers sprang up from the fertile lands around the lake.
He closed his eyes to the beauty around him and searched for the peace that still eluded him. His pursuit for his lost tranquility was broken when the oldest of all the Guardians of Times in the universe sprang to life. He kept his eyes closed as he waited for a silent voice.
Moments passed but the silent voice did not engage him.
Jaejoong’s eyes opened and he gazed upon his non-birth parent. “Changlee.”
The Joong that had settled on femininity once the last of her royal offspring had been born stood in the timeless valley admiring all of its loveliness with awe filled eyes. “How can you close your eyes to such beauty, Jaejoong? I have been here countless times and still I am always moved by the splendor.”
“I was searching…for peace.”
A body that was untouched by the effects of age knelt gracefully at the edge of the lake. Her golden hair fell past her shoulders, her eyes of blue gazed upon the lake as she reached out and glided a hand gently over the surface of the water. “Surely, you know this beautiful…this most beautiful of all places cannot bring you the peace you seek…only your mate can.”
Jaejoong let out an anguished cry and turned his back on his non-birth parent to stare at the mountain peaks in the distance. “I can never face him again…I am so ashamed.”
“Love can overcome the deepest of shame.”
Jaejoong shook his head. “What I did to Changmin…what I did to my own son. They are better off without me.”
She stood up and turned to face her son, who was staring off at the distant peaks. “Are you better off without them?”
“No!” Jaejoong cried out telepathically. “But I must think of them…I have been selfish enough for one lifetime…and cruel, I’ve been so cruel. You don’t know how cruel I was.”
“You have always been selfish and tad bit cruel,” she told him gently. “You are the only birth-child of King TaeJoong and in all likelihood the next king of Joong. You were born with an air of confidence and superiority your siblings lacked.”
“I don’t deserve to be the king! I deserve nothing!”
“But all great rulers have a touch of cruelty inside of them. For sometimes the right thing can only be accomplished with a touch of cruelty…and that is why it is so important that those great rulers surround themselves…allow themselves to be influenced by those that do not know cruelty, so that their cruelty never grows.”
Jaejoong fell to his knees and admitted, “Yunho isn’t cruel…he’s never cruel. I know I need him…but he doesn’t need me.”
She looked up at the snow-capped mountains and marveled at their magnificence. “You are right.”
“Yes, he doesn’t need you…not like you need him.”
“I know…I know this…I have always known this.”
“Then accept it and stop being angered by it.”
Jaejoong frowned. “It is an impossible thing to accept.”
She gave him a stern look.
He swallowed nervously. “Changlee…not all of us…none of us are as great and giving as you.”
“That is true,” she told him, while smiling. “I do not think I could ever let vanity, shame, or pride keep me from a child of mine.”
Jaejoong quivered. “I hurt him. I unleashed so much hate on Changmin.”
“You did hurt him greatly…he is so wounded,” Changlee replied sadly. “For decades he has felt a pain…a longing for something he could not remember…he carried the hidden wounds left by your broken bond. You just feel the loss of your bond with him now, but poor Changmin has been feeling it for the entirety of his life. He tries so desperately to be strong…it breaks my heart.”
“What?” Jaejoong cried out as he felt her sadness, knowing for certain that she spoke the truth. “You act as if…how do you know Changmin? Have you seen him?”
She turned to look at her son. “The Guardians of Time allow your parents a great many things…we have looked in on your abandoned family. TaeJoong wanted to see his only birth-grandchild.”
Jaejoong looked up and gaped at her. “You saw him…did you see both of them…did you see Yunho?”
“I did although neither of them were aware of it,” Changlee explained. “I think when TaeJoong healed you…he saw just enough of them to be intrigued. Your Yunho…awe, you chose so wisely my child.”
“It was a timeless love.”
“Yes, but perhaps a cursed love too…for you don’t always get your happy endings, do you?”
“No,” Jaejoong replied as he wiped tears from his eyes. “But Yunho…he can help Changmin. Changmin will be okay if he has Yunho.”
“Yunho’s love cannot heal Changmin.”
“You are wrong!”
“If Yunho’s love could heal Changmin…your son would have been a smiling, happy, and well-adjusted boy all of his life…just like he was before you broke him. Yunho’s love can save Changmin…but it cannot heal the wounds you inflicted.”
“I had to break the bond…I thought we had no other chance. I was trying to save him!”
“I am not speaking of that…I am speaking of your cruelty.”
Jaejoong groaned, wrapped his arms around his body, and squeezed himself. “I wish I could make him forget…but his mind is not easily tampered with.”
“The lack of memories does not erase cruelty, Jaejoong,” Changlee admonished. “Love is the answer…the only answer.”
“I want to love him…I want….” Jaejoong paled and his entire body shook. “I am so weak…I don’t know how to love without a bond…I just don’t know how.”
Changlee walked over and placed her hand on her trembling son’s shoulder. “Perhaps, no Joong does…we have always had the comfort of our bonds, but shouldn’t you try? For your son shouldn’t you try to love him?”
Jaejoong leaned his head against his birth-parent’s leg and confessed, “I am too scared. I am too scared to try.”
“You will return someday. You should do it now before the desperation is too strong.”
“No, I can’t return to them. I will fight against it with all of my being. I won’t. I am too ashamed, and I am too scared. I can’t face them after what I have done.”
“Then they will go on living without you,” she told her son as she gazed at the mountains in the distance. “Yunho will dissolve your marriage and—”
“What?” Jaejoong demanded aloud, his eyes suddenly sharp as he looked up at his mother who continued to stare off at the mountains. “He always put too much stock in that primitive marriage ceremony. It means nothing in comparison to our bond.”
“The bond he did not choose, but he did vow to honor your marriage vows…so he does not feel right taking up with another lover until your marriage is dissolved,” Changlee explained. “When next he returns to his time, he is going to get…what did he call it? Oh, yes he called it a divorce and then he will be free to take up with another lover.”
Jaejoong was suddenly on his feet. “Another lover!”
“He is a very physical man…he has needs,” Changlee explained. “Joongs live their lives with only one mate, but humans are much different on that account. Yunho is a wonderful father and it is not his destiny to only sire one child. He will find another mate and have more children.”
“The hell he will!” Jaejoong roared in outrage as a feeling more powerful than his shame took control of him. Jaejoong stomped over to the Guardian of Time and ordered, “Take me to my family now!”
Changlee kept her face carefully neutral as the Guardian of Time came to life and answered Jaejoong’s command.
She watched with deep fondness as her son departed through the Guardian of Time. “Jaejoong, my beloved son, you can be selfish, and sometimes you can be cruel…but now you must be stronger than you have ever been before…you have great challenges ahead of you.”
Changmin, Jimin, Dr. Nam and Ensign Dongwoo materialized in front of the Guardian of Time on the planet Dajakju.
“Get down,” Changmin ordered through gritted teeth.
“You said five minutes,” Jimin protested.
“It has been five minutes and forty-six seconds!” Changmin exclaimed, debating the merits of falling backwards and squashing the clingy Joong.
“Okay, okay,” Jimin grumbled as he jumped off the taller man. “You are so testy and mean to your wonderful father!”
“I was not mean to him,” Changmin stated, controlling his tone. “I was following Star Fleet policy.”
“Only where the captain was concerned,” Dr. Nam told Changmin, while looking at Jimin with irritation. “Jimin, did you really mind dazzle me?”
“No,” Jimin lied, and promptly changed the subject. “I should have dressed better. Gray civilian clothing is not flattering in the slightest. I am beautiful beyond measure, no matter what I wear…all Joongs are, but I would like to wear something shiny. I like shiny things.”
Ensign Dongwoo let out a laugh and told the young Joong, “Your necklace is very shiny.”
Jimin’s look immediately soured. “Yes, it is shiny…but it is evil!”
“Can one of you with Joong blood greet the Guardian of Time already!” Dr. Nam asked in exasperation. “We do have a mission to accomplish.”
“I will!” Changmin and Jimin both replied at the same time.
Jimin bowed to Changmin and insisted, “Of course I spoke out of turn My Prince…as the one of royal blood you should greet it.”
Changmin bit back what he thought of his royal blood and approached the Guardian of Time. “Guardian of Time, we ask that you allow for a transfer of our people.”
The waters of the Guardian of Time immediately started swirling, but the Guardian of Time remained silent.
“Not exactly talkative is it?” Ensign Dongwoo observed. “I thought it usually talked to us?”
“It usually does,” Woohyun replied.
Jimin reached over and patted the ensign from security on the arm and whispered, “Someone is very cranky…someone who is royal…and his greeting wasn’t very friendly. He should have flattered the Guardian of Time, but I guess when you are royalty you are free to be a jerk.”
“Two hundred and forty-two,” Changmin muttered.
“What?” Dr. Nam asked after overhearing Changmin.
“The ways I can dispose of him without leaving any evidence behind,” Changmin mumbled under his breath.
“What?” Dr. Nam repeated, thinking surely, he had misheard the science officer.
“Nothing,” Changmin stated, avoiding eye contact with the doctor.
“Someone is coming!” Jimin exclaimed in excitement as he suddenly appeared at Changmin’s side, grabbed him by the hand, and pointed to the Guardian of Time.
“Let’s step back,” Changmin ordered and motioned for the other three to move away from the Guardian of Time. “Let’s give them room to arrive. There should be at the very least two groups arriving of no less than twenty people per group.”
Changmin was right as twenty-five Starfleet personnel of Earth origin slowly emerged from the Guardian of Time, some familiar and others new to the crew.
Jimin beamed at the arriving crew members and greeted them loudly, “Welcome Earthlings to the Joong Galaxy!”
“We refer to this galaxy as the YJC 753 actually,” Changmin corrected, while maintaining a straight face. “On behalf of the Starship Expectations we welcome you.”
“Max!” A voice from the back hollered out. The person, who hollered, quickly made his way to the front of the crowd. “Max, you are all grown up again!”
Changmin did a doubletake as he recognized the young man that had called out for him. “Hobi?”
“Who is this human?” Jimin asked as he clung to Changmin protectively. “And why is he calling you Max? Your name is not Max. Your name is Prince Changmin.”
Changmin smiled warmly at the man he had called Hobi. “This is my cousin Hoseok Jung. The family calls him Hobi…and Max is a nickname he and his sister gave me.”
“Oh! That is wonderful!” Jimin declared loudly as he let go of Changmin, walked over to Hobi, and hugged him to everyone’s surprise. “Any family of My Prince Changmin is my family.”
Hobi hugged Jimin back awkwardly and looked over his shoulder to Changmin in amazement. “You got your own Joong, Max! Good for you! He seems really nice!”
“No!” Changmin protested immediately.
Woohyun smirked. “Yes, most definitely.”
Changmin turned and glared at Dr. Nam, who just kept smirking.
A flabbergasted Jimin quickly pulled away and corrected Hobi by announcing, “Noble Cousin to Prince Changmin you are mistaken. I am going to bond with my sweet Kookie! Prince Changmin is much too cranky…and he’s not much fun. Kookie is so much fun! Plus, Kookie is young, handsome, and energetic…and he’s nice.”
“I think we should probably start beaming back to the ship,” Ensign Dongwoo suggested. “We need to update the ship…or get an actual command officer down here to run things.”
“You are accurate in your assessment, Ensign Dongwoo,” Lieutenant Changmin agreed and tapped his combadge, “Commander Cho, the Guardian of Time has proved to be…”
Changmin paused as the Guardian of Time activated again.
“Lieutenant Jung?” Commander Cho asked over the commlink. “Is everything alright?”
“Yes,” Changmin answered, as his eyes locked on the ancient time portal. “It seems that the Guardian of Time is preparing to send more personal over. I request that a command officer be sent down, so we can expedite the—”
Changmin stopped suddenly as Jaejoong emerged from the Guardian of Time.
A startled Jimin immediately dropped to his knees, bowed, and decreed, “Prince Jaejoong of the Royal House of Joong.”
Jaejoong let out a gasp as his eyes latched on to his son. “Changmin…” Jaejoong whispered aloud, unprepared to face his son after their last disastrous encounter.
“Birth Parent,” Changmin spat. Saying the words that Jaejoong had once longed to hear with such loathing that all the humans surrounding him felt a cold chill run up their spine, except for Dr. Nam, who let out a cry and grabbed for his head that had begun to throb with pain.
Kudos inspire me to write faster. lol