It seemed liked forever had pasted and Yunho was becoming more and more panicked with each passing moment. He was pacing around the family room, unable to relax.
“Yunho,” Jaejoong called gently. “Come here and sit with me.” It pained Jaejoong to see Yunho so stressed and upset.
Yunho sat in the chair. He was shaking and his breathing came in short, labored pants.
“Sweetie, you need to calm down or you’re going to have a panic attack.” Jaejoong ran his hands up and down Yunho’s back. “Relax. Try to take deep breathes.”
Yunho leaned forward, trying to catch his breath. He focused on Jaejoong’s hands on his back and on his own breathing. His chest hurt.
“Jae, the Judge is ready for us,” Changmin stuck his head in the doorway. He leaned in close to Jaejoong. “I have a really bad feeling about this.”
Jaejoong turned to Changmin. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t think the Judge likes you. I think we are going to need a stronger case against Kyujin.”
They settled into their chairs. Kyujin and his lawyer sat smugly by the window. They all stood when the judge entered the room.
“Thank you for waiting. Mr. Kim, I’m sure you’ll understand. You need to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before I can give you custody. I also want you to attend a two moth long parenting course.”
“Your Honor,” Changmin began.
“However, I can’t release the minor to his stepfather. The list of accusations are too server. Until either party proves its case, I’m releasing the minor to foster care. Mr. Kim, I’ve made the proper arrangements and the parents will be at your house to pick up Yunho at 5:30. Please have him ready to go at that time.”
Jaejoong turned to Yunho. The child’s face had gone completely blank; no emotion, no thought could be seen.
“You’re all dismissed.”
Kyujin left first and had to be dragged out of the room by his lawyer. He didn’t say anything, but Jaejoong could see the fury in the man’s face. It scared Jaejoong. He just wanted to get Yunho out of there.
Jaejoong drove home; the tension and silence building in the car. Yunho had completely shut down. He didn’t speak, he barely acknowledged Jaejoong.
Once home Yunho climbed the stairs to his room. He crawled under the covers and buried his head under the pillow. He just wanted to disappear. His chest ached. He just couldn’t cry anymore.
“Yunho?” Jaejoong tapped on the door lightly. He pushed the door open slowly. “Yunho are you okay?”
Jaejoong hesitated for a moment. “Well, that was a stupid question. Of course you’re not okay.” Jaejoong sat on the edge of the bed. “It’s going to be okay. It’s only for two months and I’m sure your foster parents are going to be wonderful. They’ll take good care of you until you can come home.”
Yunho sat up quickly and flung his arms around Jaejoong’s neck. “I don’t want to go. Please don’t make me go. I want to stay here.”
“Yunho, Honey. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, but you have to go. It’s only a short time and you’ll be back before you even know it.” Jaejoong combed his hand through Yunho’s hair. “I promise you, it’ll be okay.”
Yunho buried his head into Jaejoong’s shoulder. He didn’t cry, but he didn’t let go. He dug his fingers into Jaejoong’s skin and Jaejoong hissed slightly in pain but he didn’t pull away. Jaejoong laid down on the bed, pulling Yunho with him. He kept his arms wrapped around the trembling boy. “Why don’t you try to get some rest. We’ll have an early dinner, okay.”
Yunho nodded and settled down on the bed and closed his eyes. “I don’t understand why I can’t stay here.”
“We have to listen to the judge and he wants to make sure I’ll be prepared to take care of you. He’s really worried about your best interest. Your safety is his biggest concern.”
Jaejoong stayed until he was sure Yunho was asleep. He tucked the blanket tightly around Yunho, hoping the boy would sleep well.
He was changing his shirt as he walked down stairs to Yoochun sitting in the living.
“Changmin called me and told me.”
Jaejoong looked at his friend; no emotion in his eyes.
“Jae, I’m so sorry. Is there…” He was cut off as Jaejoong flung himself into Yoochun’s arms. Yoochun staggered under Jaejoong’s weight for a moment then righted them. “What can I do for you?”
“I don’t know. They are taking him away from me. No one can take care of him the way I can. No one knows what he’s gone through.”
“I know, Jae. I know.”
“I was there with him. I sat in that hospital. I prayed. I… I was there. When no one else was. I was there. And now they’re taking him away.”
Yoochun smoothed Jaejoong’s hair down. He had never seen Jaejoong like this before. “I know Jae. It’s gonna be okay.”
Yoochun guided them to the sofa and sat down carefully. Jaejoong curled his body around Yoochun. Yoochun held his friend tightly, whispering comforting words into his hair.
“I don’t know why I’m so attached to this kid.”
“Because you’re a good person with a huge heart.”
“I should be doing something right now.”
“What can you be doing?” Yoochun massaged Jaejoong’s back a little. “Jae, don’t start blaming yourself.”
“I know. I just feel like I’m failing him. I promised…”
“You did your best. And it’s not like you aren’t going to get him back. You’re gonna ace that parenting class and he’ll be back before you know it.”
“Jaejoong?” Yunho called from the bottom of the stairs. “I couldn’t sleep.”
“That’s okay.” Jaejoong was beside Yunho in a flash, pulling the small boy into a comforting hug. “Are you hungry?”
“Yeah. Can we have soup?”
“Of course. You gonna help me cook?”
Yunho smiled sadly and nodded. He took hold of Jaejoong’s hand as they walked into the kitchen. Yunho took his place at the island and waited for Jaejoong to hand him what ever vegetables needed to be chopped. They worked together in a comfortable silence.
By five o’clock, Jaejoong and Yoochun were standing at the sink together washing the dishes. Yunho was seated at the table playing with a glass of water. The hush that descended on the trio was tangible.
Less than fifteen minutes passed before the doorbell rang. Yunho shrunk in his chair as Jaejoong went to the door.
“Hello, you must be Kim Jaejoong,” an older woman said, a bright smile on her face. She was near 50 years old, streaks of grey running through her soft black hair.
“Yes. Mrs. Han, right?”
“Yes. And you can call me Soonja, dear.”
“Please come in. Yunho’s in the kitchen. I’ll get his things together for you.”
Jaejoong lead Mrs. Han to the kitchen where Yunho and Yoochun were sitting. Mrs. Han sat next to Yunho and smiled kindly.
It didn’t take long for Jaejoong to gather Yunho’s meager belongings. He placed all of Yunho’s meds, along with the instructions into a large Ziploc bag. He fought back tears as he watched Yunho speak with Mrs. Han.
She seemed very kind and that put Jaejoong at ease. Yunho seemed comfortable with her at least. He even smiled occasionally at her.
“I think this is everything. If you need anything, call.”
“Alright.” Mrs. Han took the small duffle bag from Jaejoong. “I wish I could stay longer, but my husband will be home soon.”
“Okay. Let me walk you out.”
They stood at the door for a long time, no one really knowing what to do. Yunho moved first, slipping his arms around Jaejoong’s waist. Jaejoong hugged the young boy back.
“Yunho. Be good, okay. You have my number and if you need anything, anything at all you call me. I don’t care what time it is, just call me.”
Yunho nodded. Jaejoong felt the tears through his t-shirt. He ran his hands over Yunho’s back and shoulders.
“Don’t cry. It’s only for a short time and then you’ll be back home. Be strong, Honey. Don’t cry.”
“Promise?” Yunho spoke into Jaejoong’s chest.
“I promise. I love you and I won’t stop until you’re home. Just be strong for me.”
“Okay. I’ll try. I can call you every night?”
Jaejoong watched as Mrs. Han drove down the driveway and down the street. He stood in the doorway until they were out of sight.
“Jae…” Yoochun called.
“I just need…”
“I know. Come here, I know.” Yoochun hugged Jaejoong tightly, almost afraid to let go.
Three days passed relatively calmly. Yunho called Jaejoong every night before bed and sometimes in the middle of the day. On the fourth day, however, Jaejoong was woken up at 3 am by a phone call from a hysterically crying Yunho. It took a full 45 minutes to calm Yunho down enough to talk and another 30 to piece together what upset the poor child.
Yunho’s nightmares were getting progressively worse. Jaejoong wasn’t surprised; he just wished there was more he could do. He sang Yunho to sleep that night, a lullaby from his childhood.
Jaejoong tried to go about his days like he did pre-Yunho, but always found himself looking for the child. Asking questions to the thin air, forgetting that Yunho wasn’t there to answer him.
It was raining on the fifth day as Jaejoong drove home from the parenting class. It was a perfectly horrible ending to a perfectly horrible day. The court ordered psychologist made Jaejoong want to punch a wall. The doctor couldn’t seem to grasp the concept that Jaejoong had a perfectly happy childhood despite the death of his parents.
Then at the class, he just about walked out after the instructor gave a speech about the hazards of single fathers and gay parents. He bit his tongue and took notes. Anything was worth it to have Yunho back in his home.
Jaejoong didn’t even bother with dinner, instead he went to straight to bed. He was exhausted and the chill in the stormy night air drove him deep under his covers.
Jaejoong was jarred from his sleep by someone pounding on his door. “Who the fuck?” he muttered to himself as he searched for his slippers in the dark. “If Yoochun forgot his keys I swear to Christ, I’ll kill him.”
“Yunho!” Jaejoong opened the door to find Yunho standing there, completely soaked and crying. “Oh god, get in here. What happened? What’s wrong?”
Yunho stood in the foyer, water dripping off every inch of him. He couldn’t speak, couldn’t move. Jaejoong ran to his bathroom and grabbed a robe.
“Come on, let’s get you out of those wet clothes.” Jaejoong helped Yunho out of the sopping wet jeans and sweatshirt. Yunho was still crying as he belted the robe.
Jaejoong wrapped his arms around Yunho and moved them to the sofa. Yunho immediately crawled on to Jaejoong’s lap.
“What happened? Did someone hurt you?”
“No,” Yunho squeaked. “I couldn’t sleep. Every time I closed my eyes I would have nightmares.”
“Why didn’t you call me? I would have come over.”
“I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking.”
The phone in the kitchen began to ring. “Let me up. That’s probably Mrs. Han.”
“Is Yunho with you?” Mrs. Han was in a panic.
“Yes. He’s on the sofa right now. I need to wash his clothes, but I can bring him home after that.”
“No, that’s okay. It might be good for him to spend the night. It’s so late already and he must be so tired. I’ll drop off his book bag at the school. You can bring him to school in the morning, right?”
“Of course. I’m so sorry Mrs. Han. I’ll try to talk to him.”
“Don’t worry too much about it Dear. I read Yunho’s file. Several times actually. I just couldn’t believe what he went through. We do care about him. He’s a very fine young man; helpful, polite, kind. He hasn’t caused any trouble. I certainly hope these two months pass quickly for him. Not because we don’t want him, but because you and he need each other.”
“What do you mean by that?” Jaejoong was puzzled by Mrs. Han’s speech.
“You two are kindreds. You seem to be the only one who can break passed Yunho’s shell. He loves you very much.”
“I know.” Jaejoong contemplated her words and the worry began to set in. He had doubts about his ability to be a parent.
“Don’t think about it too much. Why don’t we talk tomorrow over lunch?”
“That sounds good. I’ll call you in the morning and we can set something up.”
“Prefect. Goodnight, Dear.”
Jaejoong returned to the living room to find Yunho fast asleep. He pick Yunho up and carried him to the bedroom. “Yunho. Wake up. Here put on some pjs.”
“Can I sleep with you tonight?” Yunho said, his voice heavy with sleep.
Yunho pulled on the pajamas and crawled into Jaejoong’s bed. He felt happy being there.
Jaejoong made sure his alarm was set and laid down on the bed. The room was still but Jaejoong found it hard to sleep. He felt uneasy, an odd feeling of dread deep in the pit of his stomach. He look over to Yunho who was fast asleep. Jaejoong smile and curled around Yunho, hugging him tightly.
Yunho slept through the night and Jaejoong had a hard time waking him the next morning.
“Call me if you need anything.”
“I will. Thanks. I’m sorry I worried Mrs. Han.”
“Don’t tell me. Tell her this afternoon after school. You’re always welcome to come over. You just need to tell people where you are going to be.”
“I will.” Yunho leaned over the center console and gave Jaejoong a quick hug. “I’ll see ya later.”
“Bye. Have a good day.”
The rest of the morning passed quickly. Jaejoong was happily looking forward to lunch with Mrs. Han. He cleared a full hour block from his schedule just to sit and speak with her.
His clients were surprisingly on their best behavior that morning and Jaejoong was able to leave a little early for lunch.
“Am I late?” Mrs. Han asked as she sat down.
“No. I’m just really early. Yunho’s very sorry for worrying you. He was just very upset last night.” The waiter set their food on the table. “Thank you.”
“I understand. He’s been through so much and he really does view you as his savior, of sorts.”
“That’s a lot of pressure to put on me,” Jaejoong laughed nervously. He shifted in his seat.
“You’ll get used to it. He’s a very bright young man. My husband and I were worried about his entrance exams. But he aced them. He’s very articulate as well.”
“I noticed. I have high hopes for him.”
“That’s good.” Mrs. Han smiled and took a sip of water. “He’s going to be just fine. And so are you.”
“Thank you,” Jaejoong blushed.
Mrs. Han phone rang. “Excuse me, it’s Yunho’s school. Yes? What do you mean he didn’t come back from lunch?”
Jaejoong looked up from his plate. Mrs. Han reached for Jaejoong’s hand; he took it, trying not to panic himself.
“Yes, I know the students are allowed off campus during lunch. I just don’t understand how you can lose a child in half an hour. You called the police, right? I’m with Kim Jaejoong now, we’ll go to his place and check. Then we’ll meet you at the station.”
“The principal thinks he may have gone to your place so let’s check there first.”
Jaejoong pulled out his phone and dialed Yoochun, alerting him to the situation. Yoochun agreed to head to the police station first and get a head start on the search. Jaejoong was doubtful that Yunho was at his place. Not after their conversation that morning.
Jaejoong paid little attention to the speed limit as he raced home. Mrs. Han didn’t seem to care in the least. He knew Yunho wouldn’t be at his house. Jaejoong just kept dialing Yunho’s phone. It kept going straight to voice mail.
Yoochun was waiting for them at the police station.
“Any sign of him?” Yoochun asked, guiding Jaejoong and Mrs. Han through the doors.
“No. He’s not answering his phone either. I don’t know if he even has it on him.”
“Okay. We’ll find him, Jae. Junsu and Changmin are out combing the streets as we speak.”
They gave statements to the officer on duty. “You should return home. Both of you,” the officer said calmly. “Someone should always be there in case Yunho goes home.”
At home Jaejoong paced. And baked more cookies. And called his aunt. His cousin. And every hospital in the city, giving each one Yunho’s description.
He hoped Yunho was uninjured, but he had to make sure.
He called Mrs. Han every hour on the hour; like he promised her before they left the station.
At midnight, Changmin and Junsu found their way to Jaejoong’s house, exhausted and mentally drained.
“Nothing?” Jaejoong asked as he put the tea kettle on the stove.
“Not a damn trace.” Changmin practically collapsed on the sofa.
“I’m sorry, Jaejoong. Every cop in the city has Yunho’s photo and were told to be extra vigilant tonight. We’re gonna find. And he’s going to be just fine.” Junsu tried to comfort Jaejoong.
“I hope so. I keep calling every place I can think of: hospitals, saunas, hostels. I’ve even called hotels and hourly places. Half of them can’t tell me anything.”
“We’ll go out again in the morning. Someone has got to have seen him. We’ll find him.” Junsu rubbed Jaejoong’s back as he spoke. “Is there anything else we can do for you?”
“Spend the night. I just really don’t want to be alone. And there is another storm on its way. I would feel better if you guys stayed.”
“Of course,” Changmin said as he grabbed a handful of cookies off the plate.
“Thanks. I think you both have a change or two of clothes in the hall closet. You know were the sweatpants and tee shirts are if you want them. I think I’m going to go lay down for a while.”
“I’ll come with you,” Junsu said as he followed Jaejoong up the stairs. Jaejoong fell sleep the moment his head hit the pillow. It was easy with Junsu curled around him, keeping him warm and whispering softly in his ear.
Jaejoong had always been a very tactile person. Since he was a child the easiest way to calm him down was to touch him. His friends just got used to it and allowed him to cuddle with them whenever he needed to.
Jaejoong woke up once again to the sound of someone ringing his doorbell. He ran down the stairs praying it was Yunho.
He opened the door to find a very young, very small boy with a dirty face standing there looking somewhat bewildered.
“Are you Kim Jaejoong?” the little boy asked.
“Yes. Who are you?”
“My name is Jiyong. I was told you know Yunho. That you took him to the hospital and that you are taking care of him now. Is that true?”
“You better come inside. Are you hungry? Do you want something to drink?”
Jiyong didn’t answer, but he let Jaejoong lead him to the kitchen. Jaejoong set a plate of cookies and a tall glass of milk on the table for Jiyong.
Changmin entered the kitchen, looking at Jaejoong for answers.
“Have you seen Yunho? He went missing this morning and a bunch of people are looking for him,” Jaejoong said as he sat down.
“I haven’t seen him since the night he went to the hospital. We’re all really worried and scared with out him.”
“Why is that?”
“Yunho protected us. When he didn’t come home, we thought he was dead. Then I heard that someone picked him up and was asking for info about his clients.”
“Jiyong, do you know where Yunho might be? We really need to find him.”
“I don’t. I’m sorry. I need to find him too. That’s why I came looking for you. I need to apologize the him.”
Changmin stared at Jaejoong confused. “Why do you need to apologize?” Changmin asked sitting down next to Jiyong.
Jiyong looked up at him, tears welling in his eyes. “I almost killed my best friend,” he said, hanging his head in shame.
I was going to post this sooner, but I had to clean my room. And when I say clean my room, I mean I purged it and nearly cleansed it with fire. My roommate is a slob. My friend had to climb under her bed and we threw out a kitchen trash bag full of garbage, from her side of the room only. There was rotten, moldy food on her side. It was disgusting.