Summary: Yunho's bride-to-be is beautiful, young and shy - everything she's meant to be and nothing that Yunho wants.
Spoilers and/or Warnings: None
Original story: What If We Went To Italy by mormorando.
Author's Notes: Thanks to ranalore and sleepish for betaing.
Yunho's bride-to-be is beautiful, young and shy - everything she's meant to be and nothing that Yunho wants. The rehearsal dinner is two weeks before the actual wedding, and Yunho sits by her side, playing the perfect son (husband, father-) right up until the moment he gets to his feet to rehearse his toast and realises he can't do this.
"I'm sorry," he says, afterwards, to his parents, to her parents, to the empty seat she'd fled. He repeats the words until they lose all meaning, until his mother asks him what he's going to do with his life now, as if there's nothing for him but what they'd planned. He opens his mouth, shuts it again, and says at last, "I don't know."
The next day, Yunho buys a ticket to Italy. He's not sure himself why he picked there, of all the possibilities. Maybe it's the images in his head of cypress trees, faded frescoes, old movies where dreams come true. Maybe it's just the Italian class that he took his first year in college, on a complete whim, but maybe it'll help him get by now.
He lands in Rome, the city bustling around him, the crowds and the traffic too much like Seoul for his comfort despite the fact that the people dress differently and speak a different language. He buys a train ticket to Florence instead, the first time in his life that he's travelled like this, without an itinerary or an agenda, just going where his feet lead him.
Florence holds him for almost a week, the incense-scented cool of the Duomo and the beauty of the squares soothing something inside him. But eventually Florence too turns out to be too crowded for him. When he asks about other places to visit, the tourist office tells him about a vineyard up in the hills that rents out rooms for tourists, just one or two at a time. "The perfect place to get away," the girl at the office tells him in accented Japanese, a middle-ground language for them both. "Just 45 minutes on the bus, and it's running tomorrow."
The bus is late, the bus-stop just a post by the roadside, the sun getting hotter by the second. Yunho asks himself why he's doing this, tipping his hat to a different angle in a futile attempt to persuade himself the shade helps. Just as he's about to give up and trudge back to the hotel he'd been staying at, the bus pulls up. "Thank God," Yunho mumbles to himself, and gets on, mime and mangled Italian convincing him that this is the right bus for the Casavecchia vineyard. The heat lulls him once he's settled in his seat, and he dozes off despite his decision to stay awake and watch the countryside pass by.
He sleeps deeply, jerking awake only when the bus bumps over a pothole. Blinking his eyes into focus, he glances down at his watch, ready to panic, and realises it's only been 40 minutes. It's got to be the next stop. The bus shudders to a halt a few more miles down the road. "Vineyard?" Yunho says to the driver, gets a nod, and scrambles off the bus to stand by yet another post next to the road. On the other side of the asphalt is a track that leads up through the vine fields to a house that looks like it's played home to a family for centuries. Yunho finds his mood lifting just at the sight of it, and shoulders his bag to set out up the hill.
Halfway to the house, Yunho catches sight of a person sitting in a chair on the porch, making out as he gets closer that it's a man sipping coffee, a man who looks as foreign as Yunho and nothing like the Italian family he'd been expecting. Maybe the man's another tourist, a guest Yunho'll have to share with, though his clothes, comfortably worn and maybe twenty years out of fashion, make Yunho wonder if he works here instead.
"Hello," Yunho calls out when he's within hearing distance. "Where are the owners?" stumbling over his words because he doesn't know what language the other man speaks.
"I am the owner," is his reply, in Korean. "And your Italian sucks."
Yunho's eyes widen, and he can feel his cheeks heating. "Oh, hi! You speak- I mean, I'm sorry. I think I got off at the wrong stop."
"Too late now," says the other man, smiling a wry smile that Yunho likes instinctively. "You'll have to stay a couple of days. The bus only runs twice a week." There's a quiet laugh, and he continues. "You'd be surprised how much this happens. I should start charging. Anyway, I'm Jaejoong."
Yunho blinks at the rush of information. "Hi," he says again.
"So?" Jaejoong prompts. "What's your name? I can't just call you 'hey, you!' the whole time."
Yunho flails a little, embarrassed. "Yunho," he says, watching the unconscious flicker of Jaejoong's tongue against his upper lip. "My name's Yunho."
"Hi, Yunho," Jaejoong says, hiding another smile behind his hand. "Would you like a coffee?"
With dinner, Jaejoong serves a bottle of wine, saying it's from the first year he'd bottled his own. It's a deep, rich almost-purple in the glass, the setting sun striking red highlights from it. Yunho sips, cautious, testing it on his tongue.
"Don't like wine?" Jaejoong asks, the way he's watching making Yunho want to fidget in his chair.
"Never tried enough to know," Yunho replies, and takes another sip. "I like this one," he says afterwards, smiling across the table at Jaejoong.
"A man of taste," says Jaejoong, smiling back, and he reaches over to tap his glass against Yunho's, the glasses ringing together over the sound of the cicadas in the fields behind the house. "Cheers."
Later, when they're nursing a second glass of wine with their dessert, Yunho asks, "Why are you letting me stay?"
"Couldn't turn away a countryman in distress," Jaejoong says lightly, but there's something Yunho can't read hidden in the corners of his smile. "I'll give you a bill later, if it makes you feel better."
Yunho protests, laughing, and tells himself that he's just imagining things.
Yunho sleeps well, stomach full of Jaejoong's wine and excellent cooking. He wakes up still feeling relaxed and warm like the wine from dinner hasn't quite faded yet. He follows Jaejoong's voice to the kitchen, where Jaejoong's mangling the words of a Korean pop song twenty years old as he stands in front of the coffee machine. It's domestic and sweet, a private moment that Yunho doesn't want to interrupt, so he watches, smiling to himself, and only intervenes when Jaejoong almost knocks the fruit bowl off the table on his way to the fridge.
"Good morning," Yunho says as he steps in to rescue it, then apologises as Jaejoong shrieks and jumps. "Sorry! Didn't mean to startle you." He hadn't even spared a thought to what it must have looked like, him just waiting around the corner like that, like someone who belongs to the house.
"You nearly gave me a heart attack," Jaejoong complains, hand pressed to his chest, but he's smiling as he gestures at the coffee with his other arm, not accusing Yunho of being a stalker yet. "Help yourself."
"Sorry," Yunho says again, smiling back as he reaches to pick up the coffee mugs. "I'll do the washing up?" he offers by way of compensation, the response instinctive, and wonders in a corner of his mind how he came to feel so comfortable in this house with this stranger, in a way he never did at home with his own family.
The second night, they both drink a lot more than two glasses of wine. Yunho can feel the flush rising in his cheeks halfway through his third glass, stops counting after four. It doesn't matter. What matters is the rich sweetness of the wine on his tongue, the way Jaejoong's hands move as he talks and the way Yunho can't stop watching his mouth and the flicker of his tongue when he licks his lips.
"You have a really pretty smile," Jaejoong says suddenly, after the plates are cleared away and they're still lingering over the last few drops from the bottle. Yunho feels the heat in his cheeks deepen, but he takes his courage firmly in both hands and doesn't look away from the soft, unfocused look in Jaejoong's eyes. Jaejoong laughs, and the sound runs an expectant shiver down Yunho's spine. "Tell me, Yunho-yah, do you believe in luck?"
Yunho smiles back at Jaejoong, thinking about how this is so far from anything his family could ever have seen for him. "I believe in fate," he replies quietly.
Jaejoong's eyes shutter closed, and Yunho just has time to regret the loss before Jaejoong speaks. "No such thing. Only coincidence."
Yunho wants to see Jaejoong's face open again. "There's no luck either. Just courage," he says, and leans over the table to brush his lips to Jaejoong's. He catches the confused flutter of Jaejoong's hands out of the corner of his eye before Jaejoong's fingers curl against the nape of his neck to pull him closer, making the kiss into something real.
It is both sweet and terrifying, kissing this stranger he somehow knows under the night sky of a foreign country. "Courage," Jaejoong breathes against his mouth, and Yunho kisses him again to take the word for his own.
"I don't know who you are," Jaejoong whispers afterwards.
Yunho smiles, tentative, heart pounding. "Neither do I. Let's learn?"
Somewhere between the porch and Jaejoong's bedroom, Jaejoong murmurs, "You taste good," against Yunho's mouth between kisses.
"I taste like you," isn't what Yunho means to say, but the words earn him a harder kiss, then Jaejoong's hands pulling his shirt off and tossing it carelessly on the floor. After that, Yunho finds it hard to think of words at all. Everything but Jaejoong's name's been burned out of him by the heat of Jaejoong's skin and the touch of his hands, things he didn't realise he wanted until he had them there in front of him.
Yunho wakes up once during the night, tangled up with Jaejoong so closely that there'd be no getting out of bed even if he wanted to. Despite himself he finds his thoughts turning to the bus that he needs to catch in two days, the return flight that's booked to take him home in another couple of weeks. He wonders what he's doing here, in bed with someone he knows he'll have to leave soon.
He's so caught up in his thoughts, he doesn't notice Jaejoong's eyes slit open until Jaejoong speaks, voice roughened with sleep, the sound of it running down Yunho's spine like the touch of raw silk. "You think too loud," Jaejoong says, and wraps himself tighter around Yunho. "Go back to sleep."
Yunho smiles into Jaejoong's hair and lets himself say the first thing that comes into his head, because it's as unlike him as being here at all. "I don't want to sleep," he says, and tilts Jaejoong's head up for a kiss.
In the morning, Jaejoong makes coffee for them both, but they get distracted before they can drink it. Yunho thinks the taste of Jaejoong's collarbones is a better motivation to wake up anyway, the sight of Jaejoong on his knees more than enough to keep Yunho's eyes open and fixed on him.
Later, Jaejoong bites his lip as he arches into Yunho, an echo of that look from the first day in his eyes. Yunho wants to ask what he's not saying, but he's too far gone in the feeling of Jaejoong around him; by the time they're catching their breaths again, he's forgotten what it is that he wanted to say. Instead he fills his eyes with Jaejoong, the rumpled mess of his hair and the warm flush of his skin, the way his eyelashes feather against his cheeks as he smiles and murmurs, "You're going to wear me out, at this rate."
This time, Yunho tries not to think about leaving tomorrow. Then he thinks, maybe he doesn't have to.
Yunho falls asleep in the afternoon, the first one to be worn out after all. When he wakes up, Jaejoong's dozing in the seat opposite him, hand lax around a stick of charcoal, a half-finished drawing in his lap. It's of him, Yunho realises, every line and hair in place. The amount of care takes his breath a little, the realisation of just how closely Jaejoong's been looking. Yunho's fingers find their way to the aching spot on his shoulder where Jaejoong bit down last night. He's been marked in more ways than one.
In the end, maybe it's not a choice at all, just an acknowledgement of the way things have to be.
He wants Jaejoong to have the chance to finish his drawing.
"Your bus comes today," Jaejoong says at breakfast the next morning, smile soft and sad around the edges.
Yunho shakes his head and picks up his mug. He has to say it now. "Can't there be luck in coincidences and fate in courage?"
Jaejoong blinks at him, teeth setting into his lip again for a second. "I don't think so, Yunho-yah," he says, gentle. "We've all got a place we're supposed to be."
"I got married yesterday, you know," Yunho replies, reaching across the table to put his free hand over Jaejoong's and uncurl his clenched fist. "If I hadn't come here. Maybe here's where I'm supposed to be?"
"Maybe," Jaejoong echoes, something like hope dawning in his eyes.
The heat lulls Yunho to sleep again that afternoon as he sprawls in a lounge chair on the porch, waiting to watch the bus go by while Jaejoong does arcane things with wine barrels in the cellar.
He wakes up in the middle of a dried-out vine field, the ruins of an abandoned house all around him, to the sound of wheels approaching.