Chapter 1: i.
despite everything his family and friends assured him, lee juhyuk was fairly certain that he’d hate living in jeju.
it wasn’t that he was a concrete jungle type of person — the hustle and bustle of seoul got to be a little too much for him as well. juhyuk liked a slower pace, though jeju might be a bit much, even for him.
plus, he hated the beach. though that wasn’t quite true either; he liked the serenity that came with the beach, the rolling of the tides, the gentle shine of a full moon over the sand, the feeling of his feet sinking in just a bit. juhyuk was far more used to busan, though, where such serene moments were hard to come by; the waves pierced by screams, everybody kicking sand in each other’s faces.
still, though, juhyuk still found himself on his grandparent’s doorstep. he rang the doorbell, pretending as if his hands weren’t shaking as they were. he hadn’t seen them in ages, and truthfully it’s not like he was visiting them on familial terms. juhyuk never liked the idea of being a fisherman, never quite found his sea legs, but it wasn’t like starting a band and being profitable with it happened in a day.
so, he swallowed his pride and grinned as the door opened. juhyuk bowed, his grandmother cooing at him as she pulled him into a hug.
“ah, don’t be like that! you haven’t seen us in years, and you’re already treating me like a stranger?” she said, affection dripping from her words, voice just weary with age. or maybe that was all the brine in the air here.
juhyuk just laughed, hugging her tightly and following her inside.
⬤ ⬤ ⬤
the next few days were expectedly dull. the first night, juhyuk focused on settling in — his new room a creaky excuse for a room, very nearly an attic. there was a bed, though, and some other furniture, and once his posters were hung and the dust cleaned away, juhyuk fell asleep watching the rolling of the waves.
the next day was spent learning the area. his grandfather walked him around their tiny village where everybody seemed to know one another, and juhyuk had to pretend he didn’t feel everybody’s eyes boring into his very soul as they tried to figure out what the hell could drag somebody so young here .
towards nightfall, though there was still some daylight left, he was taken to the docks. his docks now, juhyuk supposes, in some fashion at least. a quaint little fishing boat, the lucy , would be the one he’d be sailing on come next week.
after that, though, was a whole lot of nothing. his grandparents insisted on not working him too hard right out of the gate, which juhyuk appreciated, though there weren’t many alternatives for things to do.
most nights, he ended up idly strumming his guitar on their shore. part of him wanted to compose something properly, but nothing really stuck. most nights, he ended up playing an unfiltered elegy to the sea and stars above, nothing planned, nothing lasting, just a moment that went as soon as it came.
if he thought he saw something dark flutter just under the surface as he packed up to leave, juhyuk swore to himself that it was a trick of the light. nothing big enough to be dangerous swam in these waters, they couldn’t.
⬤ ⬤ ⬤
it had become routine for juhyuk. even after he began fishing with his grandfather and their crew aboard the lucy , he always made time to go sit by the sea. something about it had just felt so right, kept him anchored so he didn’t float adrift in the watery nothingness that had so quickly become his life.
it goes like this — juhyuk wakes up before the sun fully rises, though the sky was always a myriad of darkly vibrant colors as the sun began to peak its way through the night sky. by dawn, he and his grandfather leave for the docks. sometimes they’ll get breakfast, but always juhyuk makes his coffee. they work through the day; it had taken a while for juhyuk to stay that long without getting incredibly seasick, but by now he was just as comfortable as all of the other sailors.
once twilight begins to ring in, the moon greeting him along with the sun, the crew returned to port. juhyuk helped his grandfather take their haul home, and by then usually his grandma had dinner hot and ready for them. juhyuk couldn’t bear to tell her how damn tired he was of fish.
after that, juhyuk helped them clean, and went to shower himself. though it hardly mattered, he knows, because as soon as he was finished he’d always grab his guitar and return to his little corner of the beach.
it was nice, juhyuk had to admit. there was a little rock ledge he always sat on, worn by the rising tide enough to be soft at the edges but usually dry enough to sit on without ruining his guitar. and so juhyuk settled, just like every other night, and it wasn’t until his eyes adjusted to the light of the full moon that he noticed something towards the bottom of his little ledge — at a lower layer, jutting out from the formation was another dark rock and what looked like a fancy jacket or maybe even a pelt of some kind folded nicely atop it.
juhyuk carefully set his guitar and the little pad of paper and pen he brought with him in the sand, far enough away that water shouldn’t touch it. as he climbed down the slippery surface, he heard his mother every time he had tried something similar back home chastising him. he shrugged the feeling off, just as his hand slipped and he fell into the water.
he was unharmed, thank god, but the icy water was a shock to his senses; juhyuk gasped for air as he surfaced — he could have sworn he felt something helping him up, but it all happened too quickly for him to process. juhyuk got his wits about him, treading water for a moment as he tried to get the salty brine out of his eyes before he began to look for the pelt jacket shirt thing.
juhyuk almost couldn’t believe it was still there, slowly unfolding it, moving to sit on the narrow ledge to keep himself steady. true to his belief, it was some sort of pelt — maybe a seal by his best guess? but who would leave a perfectly fine seal pelt behind, folded nicely by the ocean and on his damn property to top it off?
juhyuk sighed, folding it again. not as nicely, he admits, but he was just lightly tossing it up to the shore anyway. juhyuk whipped around, certain he heard a gasp as the pelt plunked against the ground, but all he saw were ripples and waves lapping against the ledge, against himself. juhyuk squinted into the darkness, as if that would be a warning to any sharks lurking out there whatsoever, and ambled his way home to ask his family about his discovery.
or maybe he shouldn’t. this was totally thievery. even if whoever left it was a trespasser who probably killed some innocent creature, the truth was that juhyuk had stolen this pelt. most of him wanted to think it was happenstance, but the pelt was in too nice condition and folded way too properly for him to believe it, even if he sorely wanted to. juhyuk shook his head, trying to not go mad with the thought as he stuffed the pelt into the very edges of his dresser. he’d deal with the smell later, for now he needed to shower. again.
Chapter 2: ii.
a couple weeks went by, normal as they could. if juhyuk ignored his lingering questions and problems all was perfectly well. work was fine, though juhyuk stopped going to his little cove at night, just in case. he instead played alone in his room, even if every note sounded a little flat, a little lifeless.
one morning, though, he and his grandfather arrived at the lucy and instead of the normal commotion of loading the ship and preparing the bait and nets and all those other things juhyuk didn’t quite know how to navigate as well as his other crewmen, they all seemed to be staring at a boy around his age, that same inquisitive but guarded squint juhyuk knew all too well from his first few weeks in the town.
“what’s goin’ on here?” his grandpa asked, gruff, before juhyuk could even pinpoint why the other seemed so familiar. maybe he was from seoul too? he doubted it, though, with the way his clothes hardly fit his body, kind of looking like a castaway rather than a proper sailor.
not that juhyuk really knew what made a proper sailor, anyway.
the boy smiled, though, and juhyuk ignored the swell in his chest at it. there’s no way the young man was looking at him, juhyuk had hardly said a word, and yet—
“i’m hyungwoo!” the man, hyungwoo, declared. his voice was shockingly clear for the mess of his appearance, though he faltered a little before he bowed deeply. maybe he was from somewhere else? he didn’t seem to know the traditions too well, and something about his korean was a little off, almost dated.
“well, hyungwoo , what the hell are you doing here?”
a lot of shock, a little hurt seemed to pass through hyungwoo’s emotive eyes, though he managed to maintain a blinding smile, even if it was more a grimace for a moment. juhyuk looked down at the ground — really, he felt as though he could swim in his gaze. “my...my auntie said if i worked on these docks i could reside with her, if only for a little bit, and this crew seemed the smallest, so?”
if juhyuk were looking up, maybe he’d see the nervous glance hyungwoo had shot him, the anger flare up in his grandfather’s eye.
“why, you—who the hell is your auntie anyway—“ he had begun, raising a hand, but thankfully another one of the crewmen intervened.
“hey, hey, sir, maybe that isn’t the best solution.” a raspy, but warm and comforting voice had spoken up, juhyuk finally looking again to see chansol’s hands in the air as if a surrender. “since when is free help a bad thing?” chansol said, grinning his crooked teeth grin. “he said he’s only working for board, and he looks like he needs it. plus,” chansol spoke confidently, crossing his arms as he glanced at juhyuk. “would it kill you to give your boy a friend?”
juhyuk hazarded a reluctant glance at his grandfather. he had to admit the island was getting a little lonely, and hyungwoo seemed nice, even if more than a bit strange. his grandfather didn’t seem too sold, still glaring at hyungwoo who honestly looked like he feared for his life. sure, grandpappy lee was a scary one, but he wasn’t murderous .
“i can work well at sea — promise!” hyungwoo stuttered, and juhyuk still couldn’t come close to placing that accent. “i come from the same kind of place, back home — fishin’ and sailin’. really, i’ll be a huge help!” hyungwoo said frantically, bowing as he finished.
finally, juhyuk raised his voice. he didn’t want to watch hyungwoo make a mess of himself any longer.
“breathe, hyungwoo.” juhyuk said, trying to ease hyungwoo’s panicked state. almost immediately, juhyuk watched the other untense, slowly looking up and meeting eyes with juhyuk again. “even if grandpa won’t let you work here, i’ll help you find somewhere else.”
juhyuk could only swallow, praying the pink dusting his cheeks was from the sun and any shaking of his voice was unnoticeable. he was going to see if hyungwoo had anything to eat, but his grandfather gruffed beside him.
letting out yet another heavy sigh, juhyuk’s grandfather settled down just a tad. “fine. but one wrong move and you’re out of here, boy.” grandfather lee sized hyungwoo up for just one more moment, just to punctuate his words, before he barked at the crew.
“the hell are all of you looking at! back to work, we’re losing daylight!”
juhyuk didn’t get another word from hyungwoo before the other scampered off to help chansol.
⬤ ⬤ ⬤
once again, juhyuk found himself having to readjust to the new normal. not much changed, juhyuk supposed, other than that he found himself smiling a lot more, found himself with a purpose — swimming with the tide instead of letting it carry him into the abyss. instead of playing guitar alone in his room, he’d go and meet hyungwoo. for whatever reason, the boy refused to tell him where he lived, though juhyuk assumed he had his reasons. instead they met at the tree at the edge of juhyuk’s property.
some nights they just went out to eat. juhyuk always found himself paying for hyungwoo’s meal, even if the boy always insisted on having expensive beef rather than seafood. juhyuk sometimes wants to complain, sure, but the smile that graces hyungwoo’s face when juhyuk agrees knocks any such thought out of his head.
other nights, they just went where the wind took them. one of the first of their outings was spent at the local market. hyungwoo assured juhyuk that he was fine, but juhyuk wanted to make sure that hyungwoo had proper clothing. besides, a little smile and a song gave the aunties selling clothes a good reason to give juhyuk a discount. or maybe it was the rags that hardly counted for clothes hyungwoo was wearing.
juhyuk liked to think his voice was enough to warrant a discount, and by the way the sunlight gleamed on hyungwoo’s eyes when he sung, he’d choose to think it was enough.
eventually, slowly, juhyuk brought him to the little rock ledge on his beach. he hadn’t been there in ages, himself, grimacing slightly as he remembered the incident with the pelt from last time. the last few months spent with hyungwoo had made him forget, admittedly, and he hesitated before sitting next to hyungwoo on the overhang he used to come to nightly.
there was a wistful look in hyungwoo’s eyes as they got settled, eyes focused on the ocean crashing against the ledge beneath him. it shocked juhyuk, some. around juhyuk, hyungwoo was all glistening smiles and mirthful eyes, but then he also knew whatever brought hyungwoo here probably wasn’t the easiest.
hyungwoo always got cagey when juhyuk pressed it, so juhyuk just let go. he idly plucked at his guitar, wanting something to fill the silence, maybe knock hyungwoo out of whatever reverie he was in.
“say, hyungwoo.” juhyuk said after another few moments of nothing, still playing a slightly familiar tune. “what kind of music do you like?”
“yours.” hyungwoo said, smile finally returning to his face. juhyuk had no choice but to smile as well, hyungwoo’s happiness tethered to his own in a way.
juhyuk was drowning. absolutely, positively drowning. he was the strongest swimmer he knew — well, except maybe hyungwoo. the time juhyuk fell out of the boat and hyungwoo was leaping in alongside him was fresh in his mind, the love and fear in hyungwoo’s eyes as they crashed into the waves.
it felt familiar, but it still took the air out of his lungs every time he looked at the other. hyungwoo and juhyuk were a delicate balancing act, tied together by circumstance and what, if juhyuk were more of a romantic, one might call destiny.
juhyuk was a wonderful swimmer, barely able to keep his head above water as he laughed at hyungwoo’s answer. “no, silly. like, actual artists who make music.” juhyuk nudged hyungwoo playfully as he said it, but the genuine honesty in hyungwoo’s eyes, the plain as day sincerity, had juhyuk magnetized, terrified, adoring, shaking, still.
and hyungwoo just laughed his familiar laugh, and juhyuk was free once more, though his vision swam with the sudden influx of life.
“no, juhyuk, really. what makes you different from them?”
“money, exposure, finished songs—“
hyungwoo’s hand on his thigh quieted juhyuk, hoping hyungwoo couldn’t see the whites of his knuckles as he clung to his guitar.
“like those aren’t fake limitations on art?” hyungwoo said, and it was so easy for him juhyuk was a little infuriated. he had been working so hard his whole life, and — “what you were doing just minutes ago,” hyungwoo interrupted juhyuk’s train of thought. “that was music. that was more real than anything i’ve ever heard.”
oh, god. oh, fuck. water filled juhyuk’s lungs. except it wasn’t water, not really. it felt like it, juhyuk unable to do anything but stare at hyungwoo. he may have been able to fight the tides this whole time, but it was inevitable that he got swept away, hyungwoo the moon to the tides pulling juhyuk under, violent, sweetly, softly, harshly.
juhyuk wanted to kiss hyungwoo, maybe then he could have air if the other granted it to him, maybe, maybe, maybe, his hands were shaking around his guitar, his livelihood, his entire life that he knew. juhyuk was scared, so very scared.
and so he kissed him.
it wasn’t pretty, no, in fact juhyuk heard hyungwoo wince as their lips collided, noses just shy of hitting one another. juhyuk was about to pull away at the little sound but the moment he began to hyungwoo’s fingers dug into his shirt as though he was just as afraid juhyuk would leave him stranded, as if juhyuk would ever dream of it.
messy as it was — juhyuk was certain hyungwoo had never kissed someone else before — nothing had ever felt more perfect. and then hyungwoo’s lips slotted just perfectly in between juhyuk’s and fuck, nevermind, that absolutely felt more perfect.
they finally pulled apart, just a tad. juhyuk felt hyungwoo’s eyes on him, intense as ever, juhyuk’s gaze rising to meet him. if it wasn’t for the puffs of hyungwoo’s gentle, insistent breath on his lips juhyuk might have thought this was nothing but a dream, a trick of his mind’s eye.
as if two halves of a whole, they started in unison. hyungwoo laughed at the coincidence, slowly backing out of juhyuk’s space. oh, how he yearned to have hyungwoo back already.
“you first.” juhyuk acquiesced, placing his guitar gently in a safe space next to him.
he couldn’t bear to look at hyungwoo again, face far too red even as he stared at the waves beneath them.