Title: All Fall Down
Word Count: 1531
Summary:A long, long time ago, the world was ordered very differently. People chose their own paths in life, for better or worse, and no one ever thought anything of it. Now, it’s different, but it takes someone close to him being chosen for Changmin to realize that he couldn’t want anything less.
A/N: Written for hc_bingo. Masterpost with my game card is here.
The day Junsu fell into his Seeing, months early and completely unexpected, Changmin was Second in the boy’s lodge, which meant it was his job to run for the Seer. One minute, they’d been joking around, ordering the younger boys to do chores and tasks, just being the proverbial big fish in a small pond. The next, Changmin was running like his life depended on it. Quite likely, Junsu’s did.
The Seers’ temple wasn’t close to the lodge. It wasn’t close to anything. By the time he’d run all that way, even as fit as he was at seventeen summers, he was out of breath and all but ready to cry. What if he’d taken too long? What if Junsu had already fallen Beyond?
Luckily for him, the very first person he ran into once he was in the door was one he knew. Jaejoong caught him before his legs could collapse under him, eyebrows already creasing in concern. The kohl cat-eyes painted around his own, meant to make his eyes look even larger than they were, served to make his face ten times more exotic and intimidating than Changmin remembered. Only two years ago, Jaejoong had still been in the boy’s lodge. He’d help them.
Changmin had barely managed to gasp out Junsu’s name when Jaejoong’s eyes sharpened. “Already?” When Changmin nodded, Jaejoong released a breath like he’d been hoping otherwise. “All right. Can you stand?” Changmin nodded again and Jaejoong released him slowly. “When you’ve caught your breath, fetch the Al-Seer. Let him know Junsu has fallen early and that I’ve ridden ahead to do what I can. Do you understand?”
Another nod. Changmin thought his head might fall off if he did it much more. He braced his hands on his knees as Jaejoong rushed out through a door at the back of the entrance hall. Seers were allowed to ride, so he’d make it there much faster than a boy with no Marks.
The rest of the afternoon was a blur of activity and the low, dull panic that had settled in when Changmin realized he was just too exhausted to be properly worried. The Al-Seer took nearly an hour to get everything he would need together and finally take Changmin with him to the stable. Changmin had seen horses and carts before, obviously, but this was the first time he’d ever been allowed to ride in one. He couldn’t help being a little sad that he couldn’t really enjoy it.
Once back at the boy’s lodge, he was locked out of Junsu’s room and dozed off leaning against the wall, listening to the sounds of soft chanting and singing coming from inside.
By the time he woke up, the lodge was completely silent. The window at the end of the hallway showed the deep blue-black that said dawn was perhaps an hour away, or a little more. Next to him, the door stood open just a crack. Changmin took that as an invitation.
He stood carefully, nudging the door open just enough to slip through. Junsu lay still on the bed, hair slicked to his forehead, skin a deathly grey. He looked like death, and only the slow rise and fall of his chest made Changmin believe anything that might not be the case. The Al-Seer was gone, but most of the supplies Changmin had helped carry in were still spread about the room. Jaejoong was still there, too, looking not much better than Junsu did. He smiled a bit, though, and gestured for Changmin to join him on the edge of the bed.
He did so, gingerly, not quite sure it wouldn’t break some sort of spell that was keeping Junsu alive. This close, Junsu looked even worse. His face was already Marked with kohl, the dark lines contrasting sharply with his pale skin. “Is he...?”
Jaejoong nodded, voice equally quiet when he spoke. “He’ll survive. It was a difficult time for all of us, because it was so sudden, but you did well bringing help.”
They fell into a sort of strained silence, long years as companions overshadowed by the distance of recent events and new social standing. Jaejoong watched Changmin, but it was obvious his attention was still on Junsu, stroking his hair or his cheek, checking on his breathing and heartbeat. Changmin’s attention was on Junsu, too. At least part of it. “Hyung- I mean, Jaejoong-sshi...”
The quiet laugh startled him, as out of place as it seemed. “I think we can skip the formalities, since it’s just the two of us, Changmin-ah. I haven’t been gone that long, have I?”
He had, but Changmin didn’t think that was the right answer for now. “I guess. Hyung, you’ve finished all your theology or whatever studies, haven’t you?”
That laugh, again. It was so unlike Jaejoong’s old, loud, full one that Changmin wished he’d stop. “I’ve barely even scratched the surface. It takes more than two years to educate a seer, but yes, I’m well into most of my studies. Why?”
He shrugged, eyes on Junsu. “Is it... Hyung, is it blasphemy if someone doesn’t want their Marks?”
He didn’t need to see the way Jaejoong went stiff to know it was happening. “Gaining your Marks, as a Seer or anything else, is an honor and a right of passage into adulthood. Why wouldn’t you want to be Marked?”
Did Jaejoong even realize how much he sounded like a parrot or a child repeating what he’d been told? “That’s what your teachers said. It’s what all the adults say. But Yunho doesn’t have any Marks, and he’s happy.”
Jaejoong fell quiet. “I guess that’s true. But, Changmin, you can’t really want that sort of life. Yunho is special in his own way, but not everyone will see that when he’s unMarked. I’m sure you’ve noticed.”
Of course he had. They all had. Anyone with eyes saw the way people watched anyone over the age of twenty who didn’t have Marks yet. Yunho didn’t even have the benefit of looking younger than he was to slow people down. “I just don’t like not having any choice in what my life is going to be. I don’t want... this. Junsu could have died!”
“But he didn’t.” Jaejoong’s eyes found Junsu’s face. “He didn’t. It’s just the way of things. Our ability is difficult at the best of times. This is how it shows the ones it chooses are worthy.”
Parroting again. “That’s bullshit, hyung. I’m sorry.”
The words earned him a sharp glance. “Not every piece of wisdom needs to be rediscovered. It doesn’t make the words any less true to learn them from when we’re young.” He sat up straighter and his face and voice softened as he finally moved enough to pull Changmin into a warm hug. “What is meant to happen will happen. If that means you become a Seer, then you’ll be a Seer. If you come into a secondary Mark like Yoochunnie or no Marks at all like Yunho, then so be it.”
Changmin nodded, willing to let Jaejoong win for now. He closed his eyes when Jaejoong sat back, brushing Changmin’s hair behind his ears much like he’d done for Junsu. “You still didn’t answer my question.”
He heard Jaejoong sigh and felt the bed shift as Jaejoong settled himself back in his previous spot. “No, I don’t think it’s blasphemy. I think you’re confused and scared, and I can’t believe the Granter would hold that against you. Or against any of us.”
Junsu whimpered softly in his sleep, calming when Jaejoong laid a hand against his forehead. Changmin opened his eyes, watching them in concern. How selfish was he, to worry about himself when Junsu... “Is he okay?”
“Dreaming. Only dreaming now, I think.” Jaejoong’s frown spoke volumes, if only Changmin knew how to read them. “I wonder what he Saw.”
“You don’t know?”
“He hasn’t wakened long enough to ask him.” A minute, then two passed in silence before Jaejoong looked up at him again. “I’m sorry, Changmin. I wish I had more answers for you.”
He knew a dismissal when he heard one. He nodded slowly, climbing to his feet and adding a half-hearted bow as an afterthought. He doubted Jaejoong was going to start standing on ceremony now, though. Not after some of the things Changmin had said.
He all but fled the room, closing the door as quietly as possible behind him. He couldn’t get the image of Junsu in his head, full of smiles and laughter, to reconcile with either the one he’d just left behind in the room or the one from earlier, the one crying and yelling in the middle of dreams he couldn’t escape.
Maybe it was fate. Maybe it was inevitable, but that didn’t mean he had to like it. He made his way to his own room to collapse onto his bed rather than the floor this time, even if he knew sleep would be impossible. Tomorrow, he’d be the First in the boy’s lodge with all the duties and obligations that entailed, but tonight, he was still just Changmin, and he had a lot to think about.
This entry was originally posted at http://envious-muses.dreamwidth.org/18286.html.