theme: oo9. Coffee
It was mid-August. The heat outside was unbearable - sticky, humid and not a hint of wind anywhere. In one of the Super Junior dorms, the members who lived there were slowly waking up for the day. Not relying on their leader, it had always been Donghae to wake the others up, but with him away at Mokpo still after his father’s funeral, Yesung had taken it upon himself to wake the others up. Starting with those in his room, he woke up Eeteuk - which proved to be harder than he previously assumed. When he finally had him awake, the two made their way to the other bedrooms, only to freeze once they stepped out of their bedroom.
There sitting at the kitchen table was Donghae. Pale morning light streamed into the room, casting a thin yellow curtain as he sat ram-rod straight in the chair. He had one hand on the table cupped over his cell phone, the other hand loosely at his side, the strap of his bag slipping from his limp fingers.
“Dong-” Eeteuk promptly covered Yesung’s mouth,
“Go wake up the others so they can start getting ready for today, I’ll talk to Donghae,” Eeteuk instructed in a whisper, immediately taking up his role as leader. Yesung nodded in agreement and disappeared into another bedroom as Eeteuk made his way hesitantly towards Donghae. “Is it okay if I sit?”
Not wanting to stand their awkwardly, Eeteuk slipped into a seat across from Donghae. Finally able to see a clear view of his face, Eeteuk felt his heart become heavy. Donghae stared blankly at the hand with his cell phone, his usually lively eyes hollow somehow. The lips that were usually stretched into a smile, now formed a thin line - cracked and pale. He had bags and dark circles around his eyes suggesting lack of sleep.
“We thought you weren’t coming back for another week,” Eeteuk said finally, breaking the silence, “You didn’t have to rush back. Sure, you were gone and Heechul’s in the hospital - but there’s still eleven more of us.”
“We’re going to visit Heechul today at the hospital. Kibum’s stayed with him all this time, but we had to do the schedules… we couldn’t visit him until today,” Eeteuk explained, “Will you come with us?”
By that moment the other members had collected from their rooms, standing silently in their doorways, watching with worry.
“Of course, if you just got back from Mokpo, you would want to rest, right?” Eeteuk suggested.
Eeteuk sighed and looked past Donghae to the other members helplessly. Eunhyuk stepped forward, “You guys go and visit Heechul-hyung,” Eunhyuk insisted, “I’ll stay with Donghae.”
He placed his hand on Donghae’s shoulder comfortingly. Donghae’s eyes glanced towards the pressure suddenly on his shoulder before returning to his dormant cell phone. It was the slightest of reactions, but Eeteuk had seen it. He nodded at Eunhyuk as he stood from his chair and gestured for the others to get ready.
Within an hour the others were dressed and heading out the door to go to the hospital, each and every one of them looking back at Donghae before disappearing beyond the threshold.
Eunhyuk, dressed for the day, came out of his bedroom and headed over to the kitchen, walking past the silent dongsaeng. Slowly, the sounds and smells of coffee brewing filled the room and within minutes, Eunhyuk presented a mug of fresh, hot coffee to Donghae before situating himself in the seat Eeteuk had occupied just an hour ago. He sat there quietly, patiently, sipping his own mug of coffee.
Suddenly, Donghae reached out for the mug Eunhyuk had placed before him. Abandoning his phone and bag, he brought the mug into the circle of his slender fingers, drawing the warmth closer to him. He gripped the porcelain so tightly, he thought it might shatter from sheer force. He stared down at the black liquid - that’s how his father took his coffee - black and bitter, perfect for awakening one's self, he would say. He then saw there in the surface of the coffee, the reflection of Eunhyuk’s face. He looked up then at his hyung.
Eunhyuk continued to drink in silence, only watching Donghae. Donghae looked back down at his coffee before, finally, bringing the warmth to his lips and allowing it to fill the shell his body had become the past few days. Gradually, sip by sip, the coffee disappeared from his mug until finally, it was finished. He let out a slow, steady breath, his body finally relaxing into the chair, abandoning the prim-perfect posture he had earlier taken.
“Say something,” Donghae’s voice came out quietly before he even realized it.
“If you wanted someone to talk to you, you would’ve responded to Eeteuk,” Eunhyuk replied as he finished his cup of coffee.
Donghae stood up, picking up Eunhyuk’s empty mug with his own, “No, he just wasn’t the someone I wanted to talk to.” He headed over to the sink and began to clean and rinse the mugs.
“Okay, then why are you back a week early?” Eunhyuk inquired,
“I couldn’t stay at home. I had no one to talk to,” Donghae said, his back to Eunhyuk as he washed the mugs with more care and precision than needed.
“You have your mom and brother still,” he pointed out,
“I needed someone who wasn’t family,” Donghae replied steadily, forcing his voice not to break, forcing the words out before the choked him - suffocated him until he couldn’t fight it anymore. “I needed someone who wouldn’t cry every time I talked to them, someone that I could talk to without feeling the missing presence of my dad. I needed you.”
“Well, I’m here now, so talk,” Eunhyuk prompted quietly. He knew if he waited, Donghae would break his silence; he knew Donghae better than anyone.
“I think something’s wrong with me. I can’t… I haven’t… I haven’t cried since the day mom called me,” Donghae confessed in a low voice, as if he didn’t want to hear his own words. He kept his eyes focused on the mug held between his bubble-covered hands, as if it were the last thing holding his resolve together. “I thought I would at the funeral, and yet… and yet I didn’t. I didn’t because I couldn’t. Mom and my brother were crying enough for the three of us, so I couldn’t cry because I had to be there for them, I had to keep us together while everything else was falling apart. I had to stay strong because that’s what Dad would’ve done.”
The mug slipped from his soapy fingers, smashing into pieces in the sink as the last of the wall he had built up around him crumbled and went down the drain with the water and suds.
“That‘s what Dad would‘ve done,” he whipped around to face Eunhyuk, his back pressed back against the sink.
Eunhyuk stood up just as Donghae sank to the kitchen floor, tears falling from his eyes. “How… how can I take up his responsibilities? I’m not him, I’m not strong enough for this; I’m not ready. I’m not.”
Eunhyuk walked to Donghae’s side and knelt down, “No one’s asking you to take your dad’s place now that he’s gone.”
“Don’t you see? I have to!” He exclaimed through the tears, “I have to because if I don’t, no one will. I have to because if I don’t, I’ll forget everything he use to be.”
With that, Donghae lost all control as a sob escaped his lips. Promptly, Eunhyuk wrapped his arms protectively around Donghae, holding him close. His hold only tightened when Donghae’s small frame shook violently, racked from the cries he had held in for so long. He had never seen his dongsaeng in such a state, even on the day when Donghae’s mother had called just two weeks ago.
Donghae turned in his arms so he could bury his face into Eunhyuk’s shoulder. He held tightly onto his hyung as if letting go would be the end of him. He couldn’t stop crying and wouldn’t allow himself to stop crying. He let the sobs overtake his body; giving him a strange reprieve. He knew he could allow himself to let go because Eunhyuk would be there to not let go of him - just as his dad use to do.
As the flood of emotions continued to course through him, Donghae felt at last, his heart break from its heaviness and be reborn again. As he felt it beat for the first time after two weeks, he cried harder into his friend’s shoulder,