The morning call

Signature scars

“I’m sorry sir, but we only have a double room, ocean view available.”

The receptionist informs them after checking on her computer with compassion in her eyes. In this bad weather condition, most hotels on this island will be overbook and many tourists might have to crash the airport’s longue, waiting for a reschedule.

“It has a king-sized bed so if you two don’t mind sharing, this is actually not a bad option.”

She continues suggesting and clearly has a point. With all the rain and winds howling outside, there’s a good chance they can’t find another place to rest for the night.

Sehun and Luhan turn aside to see each other as soon as they hear the news. They received emails from the agency updating on their flights and apparently both of them would not have a shot to leave Jeju island before noon tomorrow. That’s why after enjoying the high quality dinner together (which Sehun insisted on paying by playing the “boss card” against Luhan’s “hyung card”, and obviously he won), they headed to the ground’s lobby, hoping to find a place to stay.  

The older one doesn’t need to say a word and Sehun already knows there’s no way they can share a bed tonight. If they take the offer, Luhan will persist in sleeping on the couch instead, or even the floor if he has to.

“Just give us a minute.”

The Korean man smiles back at the receptionist before pulling his employee away to have a small discussion.

“We should take it.”

Luhan proposes right after they’re far enough to have some private. There’s a light hesitation in his voice but he doesn’t want his boss running around the city just to find a twin room for them.

“I won’t let you sleep on the sofa, you know that right?”

The younger one gives a determined command, his eyebrows wrinkle as if they’re reading Luhan’s mind. Just spending two hours over dinner and Sehun already does know him better.

“Don’t worry, I know a place.” the Korean man fishes out his phone after studying his face expression, sliding on the contact list to find a particular number “Actually a person who might help us. Wait here.”

He doesn’t give the Chinese male a second to respond, patting his shoulder and leaves their spot to make a phone call. Luhan looks at his broad shoulder blankly for a slit of second then scans the lobby around to find somewhere to sit. He flops down a chair nearby, recalling what happened two hours ago. Besides his embarrassing drunk incident, for the first time, they had a sincere talk on art subject and it seemed like they had a lot common interests in this field. Needless to say, he was impressed by Sehun’s knowledge of wide range of fine art, especially European style. His boss also shared about his ambitious plan of doing a cooperation with one of his former museums in France to carry out an exhibition there. Luhan never saw Sehun this much open and it naturally affected him as well.

“Okay, I got the address.” the art director’s voice snaps him back “Let’s go.”

Luhan quickly grabs his bag on the floor and follows the younger one to the front door.

“Where are we going?”

His question is overwhelmed by the freezing howling wind and splashing rain outside but he doesn’t bother to ask again because he just realizes wherever Sehun takes him to, he’ll fine by it, as long as they’re together.

 

*****

 

The owner of the house welcomes them by a tight hug to Sehun and a hospitable smile to Luhan as well. The younger one has to use both of his hand to break the embrace as if it’s suffocating him to death. The other man seems to be hurt by the cold-hearted action, his lips pout a little bit when their bodies are separated.

“Sehun ahh..” he whines, trying to sound as much cute as he can.

“Hyung, this is Luhan. He works with me at the museum.” Sehun ignores the annoying aegyo, steps aside to avoid the elbow touching and introduces them to each other “Luhan, this is my cousin, Kim Joonmyun.”

“Nice to meet you Luhan.”

“You too.” the Chinese male politely bows down “And thank you for letting me stay.”

 “Oh, you’re welcome.” Joonmyun grins brightly, nudging his younger brother in the ribs “Besides, I can’t say no to this one.”

Even though his lovely gesture gets a poker face in response, Luhan can tell the closeness between them. After having a tour around the house, he silently sits down on the chair near the fireplace, leaving the two brothers private time to catch up. This house is exactly what he ever wants his home would be, a warm, quiet and cozy nest. The furniture around is basic, not too much so that the space seems bigger than its acreage. Looking at the decoration, he guesses the owner has an amazing taste choosing accessory and might be an artist as well.

“I cannot believe it.”

He hears Sehun’s footstep from behind and in the next second, the Korean man flops into the chair in front of him. He exchanges a curious glint with the other one but Sehun has the appearance of continuing the conservation to his hyung.

“You gave up the penthouse in Seoul for this?”

“What’s wrong with this?” Joonmyun argues with a shrug. This time, the younger one turns to Luhan for a backup.

“Can you believe it? He just has one bedroom for the whole area.”

Luhan doesn’t expect to be dragged into this battle and his stiff movement says it all. Noticing his guest is getting involved into a nonsense complain from his dongsaeng, the owner of the house jumps in to save him.

“This way, my parents won’t come visit often. But you can always share a bed with me though.”

He ends the explanation with a joke as the mention of his parents’ issue sends enough implied message to Sehun. And just like his prediction, the other one stops whatever he’s about to say and finally gives in with a sigh.

“So where are we going to sleep tonight?” he hastily changes the subject, points Luhan and himself to identify the “we”.

His brother shifts his eyes to the Chinese one, smiling apologetically

“You guys can stay here or my studio. But for me, the fireplace is the best choice.”

 “Here is fine.”

Luhan replies almost immediately, doesn’t forget to smile back at the owner while Sehun just simply stands up, heading upstairs to grab their pillows and blankets. Joonmyun takes that as a cue to go refill some logs into the fire. The flames curl and sway, flicking this way and that, crackling as they burn the dry wood. Although the air isn't smokey, Luhan can smell as it burns, just a faint fragrance to reassure his sense that there will be comfort in the long bitter windy night.

 

*****

 

Sehun stirs repeatedly under his blanket. The flickering light from the fireplace plus the pattering sound outside the porch keeps him awake.

“Are you alright?”

The person lying an arm length away concerns and he startles at the sudden whisper. Despite the backlit, he can imagine the sincere glint in that guy’s eyes.

“I’m fine.” he half lies, turning aside to stay on his side to face the other one “I didn’t wake you did I?”

“No you didn’t.” Luhan assures, waving his hand despite the fact that noone can see it “I’m not asleep though.”

They sink into the peaceful silent which makes the rain sounds even more standout. There are many things piling up inside Sehun’s mind but he doesn’t know where to begin. Actually half of them can’t be asked directly because if they are, it will imply that the Chinese male has been hiding the truth from him the whole time. He has come this far to make both of them comfortable around each other, he can’t risk to push the other one away by satisfying his curiosity.

“So what does Joonmyun hyung do for living?”

Luhan is the first to speak up, breaking the quietness between them. He doesn’t have any sign of falling asleep soon so he assumes having a little chitchat might save them from awkward dead air.

“He’s a musician.”

The Korean man answers briefly and receives a mumble I knew it in victory tone.

“His parents were against his career and he tried really hard to prove his point.”

Sehun continues sharing the story about his beloved cousin. To some level, Joonmyun is like a real older brother to him as they’re both only child in their families. He still remembers how sad his hyung was when he went to Paris and up till now he also feels guilty for not standing by his side for the toughest time in Joonmyun’s life.

“They still are in spite of his big achievements. I guess he got tired of all of those dramas so he ran to Jeju.”

Luhan listens without saying a word. The owner of the house’s story is an alive proof for the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Joonmyun’s bright appearance is a perfect mask for the insecurity inside him and somehow Luhan finds himself feeling sympathy for that man.

“What’s about you Luhan?”

Sehun chooses a great timing to cut off his flow of thoughts, earning a few blinks from the older one.

“Huh?”

“Do you have any brother or sister?”

There is a long pause corresponding to his question, so long that Sehun believes he already fell asleep.

“Luhan?”

A hesitant throat clearing informs that he has brought the most sensitive subject ever but he can’t turn it back. Slowly, a soft voice is said

“I had one younger sister.”

The use of past tense clearly clarifies the reason why it took Luhan a hard time to answer a simple query.

“She passed away long time ago.”

I’m sorry is all the younger male can whisper. He can totally picture an emotional face lying in front of him and there’s an obvious urge inside his chest to push him come closer and pull the Chinese one into his embrace. But by the time his heart has a chance to win against his brain, Luhan already gathers himself together and changes the topic

“Ah, it will be colder in the early morning. Don’t you want to change place?”

“Don’t worry. Joonmyun hyung gave me his thickest blanket. I think he’s the one who get cold tonight.”

Just like that, Sehun finally hears a joyful giggle from the older one along with a yawn hinting that someone must be really sleepy. The fireplace behind Luhan’s back is like tiny sun for the evening, casting long shadows over the rug. He whispers a goodnight, barely audible over the crackle of lively flames before drifting away to his dreamland.

 

*****

 

The bird chirping and morning sunray beaming at his face wakes Luhan up. His eyes immediately transform from sleepy ones to stunning ones in its maximum size because of the scene in front. He has seen this kind of stuffs over many Korean dramas yet he never thought it would happen to him someday. Cliché was what he would comment every time the TV screen showing the astonishing expression on the actress’s face but it’s definitely not what’s on his mind at this moment.

Sehun is lying just a few inches away from him, sleeping soundly. They are so close that Luhan can actually count the number of his eyelashes and smell mint scent on his hair. He becomes blank for a split of second before ultimately composes himself to close his eyes again, being afraid of waking up his boss just by his breathing and loud heart beating. He can’t deal with this emotional attack right now.  

Luhan quietly lifts the blanket to get up and tries his best to make his way to the kitchen without noise. A glass of cold water might clear his mind and get him back on track. He tiptoes pass Sehun to the front door but still can’t help stealing a quick glance on the other one. When they came here yesterday, due to the bloody hell rain he could not see the view around the house. That why it’s a big surprise for him to see a big yard in front, white tiled walkways with decorative lights along the sides. Luhan can see why Joonmyun hyung chose Jeju island to settle down and absolutely pictures himself living in a place like this. He takes a long deep inhale, enjoys the slow-paced and idyllic scenery until he hears the door behind him opens.

“Morning.”

He turns his head back to see a sleepy Sehun poking his head out of the door while the rest of his body seems too lazy to move.

“Ah, you’re up.”

He replies brightly and pulls the chair nearby, signaling the younger one to come and join him in such a beautiful morning. It’s easy for Sehun to tell that he’s in a good mood and somehow seeing Luhan smiling erases everything he has in mind for a second.

“Do you see Joonmyun hyung?” he asks as soon as sitting down, using his hand to cover a big yawn “He’s not upstairs”

“Oh, he’s out for business. He left us a note in the kitchen.”

That earns a disappointed great mumble from the other one but he can’t let the mood go down when the weather is this much enjoyable. They are supposed to be in Jeonju for team building trip today so if they can’t make to that trip, maybe it’s a good idea to have their own journey here in Jeju. He nudges his boss in the shoulder with excitement in his voice.

“I’m starving. Let’s find something to eat and explore this island.”

It’s both their first time to Jeju so they have no choice but relying on the online information. Lucky for them, the guy at the rental car place is very kind. After overhearing their concern about what to do in the next 4 hours before their flight, he suggests them taking a drive to O’Sulloc tea plantation which also has a tea museum, then they can stop by the sea for sightseeing. Being a fan of all kind of tea, needless to say Luhan is 100% up for the proposal and Sehun just simply goes along with whatever the older male wants to do.

The tea plants look less straight cut than what they expected. Some are with just little leaves, but the view on the surrounding mountains is so stunning that they just stand still for a good minute to contemplate the scenery. Luhan starts going into the field, caressing his hand on the plants, letting the water droplets on the leaves wet his palm. Standing in an enormous farm with clear sky above his head, he can feel refreshing energy flowing through his body. The urge of capturing this moment makes him fish out his phone and scan around. He catches Sehun walking indifferently along the sidewalk, hands inside his coat pockets. His broad shoulder and long waist are so remarkable that sometimes Luhan thinks to himself that the art director should be a model instead. He doesn’t realize he is too immersed in his watching till the Korean man turns around to face him. Like a natural reflex, he hastily averts his view to another direction, mentally slaps himself for acting weird.

Their next stop is the café shop where they are advised to have tea ice cream and Hallasan cake which is inspired by the shape of Hallasan volcano, the symbol of Jeju island.

“Ahh…it’s too beautiful to eat.”

Luhan cries out as he sees the cake being brought to the table yet as soon as the first bite gets into his hungry mouth, he doesn’t have any time to complain except digging more and more until he notices his boss is looking at him in hard-to-guess expression.

“What?” he arches his eyebrows with another spoon of ice cream

“Nothing.” Sehun chuckles, slightly shakes his head “You look so happy.”

“Well, I am.” Luhan emphasizes, leaning on his chair after finish his own foods contentedly “I can’t remember the last time I felt relaxed this much.”

“Really?”

“Uhm, really.”

He hums back in reply, tilts his head a bit to recall what happened to him in the last five years that kept him away from resting. To think about it, it’s not that he didn’t have time to enjoy life. It just he pushed himself too hard on working and more important, he wasn’t brave enough to find a good company. He has friends, obviously, some of them are playing a considerable role in his daily routine but he prefers to be alone on holiday or occasions like this one. He’s afraid to let someone too close to him because he doesn’t want to get hurt again.

“Thank you, Sehun.”

Luhan suddenly smiles after a long silence, earning a surprised response from the called man.

“Huh? For what?”

“For being here in this memory.”

“You’re welcome.”

They don’t say much to each other for the rest of the drive to the sea, respect their own ways to watch the silver waves chasing one another to the shore. The water has turned into a charming sapphire color, matching perfectly with the bright blue of the sky above. Luhan playfully sings along with the music broadcasting on the radio while Sehun occasionally glances over his side, can’t hide his pleased smile. When he took this job, he thought it would be the best challenge he could ever get but he was wrong. The toughest one is what’s happening at this very moment,  fighting over the craving to stop the car and choke the blond guy sitting next to him with passionate kisses.

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