We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at stars.

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Penance: Chapter One
Title: Penance
Pairing: YunJae
Rating: G
Length: Chaptered
Genre: Angst, drama
Summary: Yunho once chose kinship over love, and is now willing to do anything as penance for his act of betrayal.


Autumn, 1997

It was early autumn the day they first met. He was twelve, and lived with his aunt Ae Kyung in the quarters of the orphanage she ran. It was slightly chilly, but nonetheless lovely for a quiet read under the old willow tree he had learnt to appreciate. The other children avoided the weeping willow because it looked ominous from their windows at night, its elongated leaves swaying lifelessly with the night breeze.

What the other children feared, he had loved. He had developed a nightly routine of gazing at the willow tree under the night sky from his room, the drooping branches hypnotizing him as they swayed with the gentle breeze. The grass patch beneath the giant willow was a place of fond memories, memories he sought to relive every night. He was afraid that he’d forget her. He could never forget her. Those same beautiful, intelligent eyes stared back at him in the mirror every morning.

Jaejoong shivered slightly as the autumn wind hit his chest that was only protected by a flimsy tee. He was at his favourite hangout – in the shade created by the cascading falls of the weeping willow. The plunging V style of his cardigan was flattering and fashion-forward, but it did little in protecting him from the elements. He was struggling to get through the first chapter of the Life of Pi, a novel he had grabbed from the repository of brand new books the Jung matriarch had donated to their library. He had been overjoyed when he opened the large boxes which had arrived that fine morning, and zealously arranged the books onto the shelf designated for new additions.

The books might as well have been his, since the other children were rowdy and much preferred playing games and surfing the net. He scoffed. He had fought so hard to challenge the stereotype of kids who grew up in orphanages, that they lacked discipline in their academics and were either bullies over-compensating for their inferiority complex, or weaklings in a self-perpetuated cycle who focused their energies toward attracting attention and sympathy rather than self-improvement. He flashed his bright social smile frequently, worked incredibly hard to excel at whatever he endeavoured in school, and had many friends. Alas, judging from Ae Kyung’s frequent summons to the schools, he was the only one here fighting against that stereotype.

Whenever I feel afraid

I hold my head erect

And whistle a happy tune

So no one will suspect

I’m afraid

A familiar tune disrupted his quiet, private time. He cussed internally. Somebody was about to vie with him for his spot. He remained still, willing that somebody to go elsewhere. He had after all escape to his secret haven to avoid all the small talk that came with the Jungs’ visit. He could easily fill in the lyrics to the musical number that was whistled with much flare. However, whatever reminiscence triggered by the uplifting song was relegated to the back of his mind for now. He grew increasingly annoyed at the inconsiderate intruder whistling so carefreely and loudly, ruining his pensive moment.

The result of this deception

Is very strange to tell

For when I fool the people

I fear I fool myself as well

I whistle a happy tune

And ev’ry single time

The happiness in the tune

Convinces me that I’m not afraid

Refusing to let himself get carried away singing the lyrics in his head, he cleared his throat the loudest he could, and the whistling stopped mid-line. Success! He continued leaning against the trunk and was about to get back to his book when the other parted the curtain of leaves and joined him under the shade.

He gave the intruder a once-over. The boy was tall, and looked a couple of years older than him. His almond eyes, thin nose and small pout were common-looking on their own but put together with that chiseled jaw and elegant cheekbones, they composed a strikingly handsome face.

He noted the expensive looking pieces of the stranger’s get-up – a dark red cashmere pullover framing his broad shoulders nicely, a pair of well-cut moss green corduroy pants, and suede leather oxfords in a nice autumn tan shade.  What on earth? This awkwardly handsome teenager was a walking fashion disaster!

“Traffic light.” He murmured under his breath, annoyed that a person who could afford such beautiful pieces of clothing made more than one fashion faux pas. He could definitely match those individual pieces effortlessly.


“You should be.” He mumbled quietly and saw the puzzled expression on the stranger’s face.

“Huh?” Jaejoong sighed. He was tempted to use the clueless, unobservant boy as punching bag, but he reined in on his bad mood before it got the better of him.

“Nothing.” He got up and gathered his thermos and book, planning to head back in for dinner and let the boy have his spot. He was probably a guest with the Jungs’ entourage, and he could not risk offending anyone associated with the biggest sponsor of the orphanage.

He walked as fast as his legs could carry him, but the tall boy walked alongside him, trying to strike a conversation on their way to dinner. This person was chirpy, as evidenced in his long, sprightly strides and overall cheerful disposition. Jaejoong envied his bright mood. He obviously had little troubles and led a privileged life. Jaejoong determinedly avoided being too close to such people. It never paid off to ingratiate with people out of his league; he ought to safeguard his emotional health and stop comparing himself with those who could boast of enviable backgrounds.

“You're Jaejoong right?” He was jolted from his thoughts and whipped around, taken aback that the stranger he had been judging critically for the past few minutes knew his name. Ae Kyung had apparently sent him out to call him back for the feast the Jungs had prepared for everyone.

“And you are?”

“I’m Yunho, Jung Yunho.” The boy had a friendly smile. Friendly because it exposed his imperfection, those crooked front teeth, and Jaejoong had fancied the small mole he glimpsed above his upper lip. He paused. Jung? Ah, one of the precious Jung sons the generous lady had been so proud of. This is definitely not the one who is a popular teenage actor. Probably the sixteen-year-old who served as prized winger and top scorer for their school’s rugby team then.

Jaejoong had remained indifferent throughout dinner. He could tell that Yunho was a kind-hearted boy trying his best to find a common topic of interest to engage Jaejoong but what use was there, forming an attachment to a boy he would only encounter once? He was dying for the night to end, for the Jungs to leave so he wouldn’t feel like a charity case they felt obliged to interact with to gain the approval of the general public. He was tired of putting up a happy front for the roving photographers eager to capture little grateful faces surrounding the kind lady who wore a natural, benevolent smile. Her son had obviously inherited her friendly smile and aura. These were people who exuded a dignified, elegant air; it was impossible not to notice them even if they weren’t drawing attention to themselves. No, Jaejoong. He caught himself before he got carried away. He had to stop being curious about the Jungs, lest he fell prey to their charm and got too attached. Attachment to others easily turned into expectations of them, and he was all too familiar with the trap people unwittingly fell into once they let their guard down.

She had burnt him when she left him in Ae Kyung’s care to try for better prospects. She had promised to return when she had made good of herself, but at that time he was already ten, and wise enough to recognize that promise as a false hope she had planted in him for him to live on bravely. He wasn't counting on her to return for him. He shouldn't. She hadn't returned for a single visit, or called Ae Kyung to speak to him since she left.

The Jungs were lining the front porch waiting for their chauffeured ride. He felt eyes trained on his back, but he stubbornly resisted the urge to turn around and say goodbye. He was still training his will and before he had successfully mastered the art of detachment internally as well, he could not give in. He will not open himself to the risk of hurt. Never.

And so, he pretended that he hadn’t heard that it was Yunho who had suggested those additions to their library, and pretended that he hadn’t heard Yunho tell Ae Kyung that he had seen Jaejoong pouring through the books in the school library, deliberating which titles were worthy of his check-out quota.

Note 1: And so Jaejoong and Yunho meet for the first time. Take heart, Jaejoong won't always remain the way he is in this chapter. I'm planning to alternate chapters between lengthy flashbacks and the present. For those who are curious, Jaejoong is granted early release from prison when he is 27 years old. This is unbeta'd so please alert me to any mistakes. Also, do let me know your thoughts, and please feel free to critique. (:

Note 2: Song Credit: "I Whistle a Happy Tune" from the musical "The King and I".

wow, it's a lovely first chapter :)

so there's a 4 year age difference between yunjae, and we work up to when jae was incarcerated when he is 19? 5 years of yunnie chasing jae?? :)


Wow you read fast!

They first met when Jaejoong was 12 so your sums are just about right without making Yunho a disturbing character. haha

Waahhh so that's the start :D

yeppers, and there's a long way to go so stay with me (:

It's a miracle that Jaejoong didn't turn up a cynical with this childhood of his.

Whatever Yunho did must have really rip apart Jaejoong's heart when he was in prison.

It's so cute watching Yunho trying to get Jaejoong's attention.

hee, i love reading about Yunho trying to get Jae's attention so i just had to include it! Thanks for reading, really. (:

Ooh I really like this~ ^^ And your writing is very thorough and descriptive, which I love.
I'm really interested to see how YJ grows together and how it all falls apart...and I especially look forward to Yunho trying redeem himself :33

Can't wait for the next chap!

Their relationship will be a tumultuous one, and i had wanted to focus on yunho's redemption and Jae's healing but there's so much groundwork to lay first.

Just checking, I hope you haven't missed the prologue. This chapter partially explains Jae's character in the prologue. (:

(Deleted comment)
I'm trying to portray Jae as an avoidant/ambivalent type (something i learned in psychology recently). He's crying for attention, but somewhere along the way he gives up and withdraws as a survival mechanism. Yunho is definitely going to have a tough time, that's for sure.

Edited at 2013-01-31 01:49 pm (UTC)

Jae stayed 8 years in prison and if he got out when he is 27 years old, then it means he was 19 when he was jailed. My heart really goes out to him....being betrayed and raped in jail..this is terrible. The number of torture years and the deep hurt...it won't go away so easily. I really hope Yunho suffered for what he caused to Jae. Too bad Yunho won't be raped just like Jae...you know an eye for an eye.

You're right, the hurt from betrayal won't go away easily. Yunho will sweat/bleed/beg for it i promise. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on this newbie writer's attempt. I really appreciate it (:

this is rather cute~ (also i feel stupid for not realizing this was up yet oops lol)
i like both jae and yun's characters in this, they seem real and understandable especially given their circumstances in life.
please update soon (:

There were quite a few comments on how dark and angsty the prologue was, and i was slightly taken aback when i re-read it again because i just went with the flow as i wrote. So here's some cuteness (: there will probably be more of such moments interspersed here and there too.

Thanks for reading (:

Edited at 2013-01-31 01:56 pm (UTC)

Pls continue... Totally intrigued...

I did, and the next part is now up. Thanks for reading (:


The first part of the next chapter is up ~

Thanks for reading (:

So,jae is from an orphanage. I just wanna say that this is a very good first chap. U described everything so well n I found it cute how they first met. I definitely am intrigued by this story n can't wait for more^^

Btw,I dun really think u need a beta coZ ur English is good. I dun find anything wrong with d grammar n I love the different vocabulary that u use in ur writing.

I hope there will be enough cute moments peppered here and there to sustain you all through the angst.

And about the beta, i thought that it's a custom since everyone seems to have one. I figured it would be better if i disclosed there isn't one in case there are glaring mistakes.

Thanks for the feedback (:

hmm...the 1st chapter makes me even more curious as to how Jae ended up opening his heart to YH and how YH (who seems to be from a good, generous, kind family) would ever end up hurting/betraying him....still worried because of what will happen in the future...I dont' know if I'll be able to forgive YH for what he's done...I hope there was some sort of misunderstanding.

Many things will be difficult to explain without revealing spoilers. You will find your answers in subsequent chapters. Hmmm, I'm also not sure that I will be able to forgive Yunho if I were Jae, but we can always hope (:

Thanks for taking a chance on this new writer, and for leaving a comment to let me know your thoughts (:

I like jaejoong's characterization. so wise for his age n thats sad. i am hoping to see yunho bringing happiness to his li'l world but then I kno he's the one who will bring pain to jae. looking forward to wat happen next

Jaejoong is so cold and he was still a young boy. But he had his reasons to be the way he was. Yunho is all too cute and innocent and naive. But unlike Jae, he lives with his parents and not in a orphanage (?), his mother didn't abandon him and he lives well. I won't judge Jae. Off to the second chapter.


Sorry. Haven't felt the need to do that for ages.

"He was afraid that he’d forget her. He could never forget her. Those same beautiful, intelligent eyes stared back at him in the mirror every morning."

LOVE your command of English.

Suppose I ought to go back and continue reading the chapter...

Yunho is so cute and sweet and happy, aww. Jae is too funny critiquing Yunho's fashion sense... "traffic light" LOL and he ignores him. Yunho's probably not used to that. It'll be interesting watching Yunho earn Jae's trust. Unfortunately it seems he will eventually break that trust, and that is something extremely difficult to get back.


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