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feels like i'm drowning (won't you save me?)

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despite everything his family and friends assured him, lee juhyuk was fairly certain that he’d hate living in jeju.

it wasn’t that he was a concrete jungle type of person — the hustle and bustle of seoul got to be a little too much for him as well. juhyuk liked a slower pace, though jeju might be a bit much, even for him.

plus, he hated the beach. though that wasn’t quite true either; he liked the serenity that came with the beach, the rolling of the tides, the gentle shine of a full moon over the sand, the feeling of his feet sinking in just a bit. juhyuk was far more used to busan, though, where such serene moments were hard to come by; the waves pierced by screams, everybody kicking sand in each other’s faces. 

still, though, juhyuk still found himself on his grandparent’s doorstep. he rang the doorbell, pretending as if his hands weren’t shaking as they were. he hadn’t seen them in ages, and truthfully it’s not like he was visiting them on familial terms. juhyuk never liked the idea of being a fisherman, never quite found his sea legs, but it wasn’t like starting a band and being profitable with it happened in a day.

so, he swallowed his pride and grinned as the door opened. juhyuk bowed, his grandmother cooing at him as she pulled him into a hug.

“ah, don’t be like that! you haven’t seen us in years, and you’re already treating me like a stranger?” she said, affection dripping from her words, voice just weary with age. or maybe that was all the brine in the air here.

juhyuk just laughed, hugging her tightly and following her inside.

⬤ ⬤ ⬤

the next few days were expectedly dull. the first night, juhyuk focused on settling in — his new room a creaky excuse for a room, very nearly an attic. there was a bed, though, and some other furniture, and once his posters were hung and the dust cleaned away, juhyuk fell asleep watching the rolling of the waves.

the next day was spent learning the area. his grandfather walked him around their tiny village where everybody seemed to know one another, and juhyuk had to pretend he didn’t feel everybody’s eyes boring into his very soul as they tried to figure out what the hell could drag somebody so young here .

towards nightfall, though there was still some daylight left, he was taken to the docks. his docks now, juhyuk supposes, in some fashion at least. a quaint little fishing boat, the lucy , would be the one he’d be sailing on come next week.

after that, though, was a whole lot of nothing. his grandparents insisted on not working him too hard right out of the gate, which juhyuk appreciated, though there weren’t many alternatives for things to do.

most nights, he ended up idly strumming his guitar on their shore. part of him wanted to compose something properly, but nothing really stuck. most nights, he ended up playing an unfiltered elegy to the sea and stars above, nothing planned, nothing lasting, just a moment that went as soon as it came.

if he thought he saw something dark flutter just under the surface as he packed up to leave, juhyuk swore to himself that it was a trick of the light. nothing big enough to be dangerous swam in these waters, they couldn’t.

⬤ ⬤ ⬤

it had become routine for juhyuk. even after he began fishing with his grandfather and their crew aboard the lucy , he always made time to go sit by the sea. something about it had just felt so right, kept him anchored so he didn’t float adrift in the watery nothingness that had so quickly become his life.

it goes like this — juhyuk wakes up before the sun fully rises, though the sky was always a myriad of darkly vibrant colors as the sun began to peak its way through the night sky. by dawn, he and his grandfather leave for the docks. sometimes they’ll get breakfast, but always juhyuk makes his coffee. they work through the day; it had taken a while for juhyuk to stay that long without getting incredibly seasick, but by now he was just as comfortable as all of the other sailors.

once twilight begins to ring in, the moon greeting him along with the sun, the crew returned to port. juhyuk helped his grandfather take their haul home, and by then usually his grandma had dinner hot and ready for them. juhyuk couldn’t bear to tell her how damn tired he was of fish.

after that, juhyuk helped them clean, and went to shower himself. though it hardly mattered, he knows, because as soon as he was finished he’d always grab his guitar and return to his little corner of the beach.

it was nice, juhyuk had to admit. there was a little rock ledge he always sat on, worn by the rising tide enough to be soft at the edges but usually dry enough to sit on without ruining his guitar. and so juhyuk settled, just like every other night, and it wasn’t until his eyes adjusted to the light of the full moon that he noticed something towards the bottom of his little ledge — at a lower layer, jutting out from the formation was another dark rock and what looked like a fancy jacket or maybe even a pelt of some kind folded nicely atop it.

juhyuk carefully set his guitar and the little pad of paper and pen he brought with him in the sand, far enough away that water shouldn’t touch it. as he climbed down the slippery surface, he heard his mother every time he had tried something similar back home chastising him. he shrugged the feeling off, just as his hand slipped and he fell into the water.

he was unharmed, thank god, but the icy water was a shock to his senses; juhyuk gasped for air as he surfaced — he could have sworn he felt something helping him up, but it all happened too quickly for him to process. juhyuk got his wits about him, treading water for a moment as he tried to get the salty brine out of his eyes before he began to look for the pelt jacket shirt thing.

juhyuk almost couldn’t believe it was still there, slowly unfolding it, moving to sit on the narrow ledge to keep himself steady. true to his belief, it was some sort of pelt — maybe a seal by his best guess? but who would leave a perfectly fine seal pelt behind, folded nicely by the ocean and on his damn property to top it off?

juhyuk sighed, folding it again. not as nicely, he admits, but he was just lightly tossing it up to the shore anyway. juhyuk whipped around, certain he heard a gasp as the pelt plunked against the ground, but all he saw were ripples and waves lapping against the ledge, against himself. juhyuk squinted into the darkness, as if that would be a warning to any sharks lurking out there whatsoever, and ambled his way home to ask his family about his discovery.

or maybe he shouldn’t. this was totally thievery. even if whoever left it was a trespasser who probably killed some innocent creature, the truth was that juhyuk had stolen this pelt. most of him wanted to think it was happenstance, but the pelt was in too nice condition and folded way too properly for him to believe it, even if he sorely wanted to. juhyuk shook his head, trying to not go mad with the thought as he stuffed the pelt into the very edges of his dresser. he’d deal with the smell later, for now he needed to shower. again.