theme: o55. Shatter.
(Sequel to My Love and Remains.)
It had been two years since Super Junior did anything. Their subgroup, Super Junior-M continued their promotions in order to help boost Zhoumi and Henry’s popularity, but the other members no longer participated in any performances; at best, Kibum and Heechul continued their acting roles and some of the others continued on with their radio shows and occasional variety show appearances. When Kangin had dropped into the background to enter the army for the mandatory two years, the rest of Super Junior decided to put all group activities on hold until he returned.
It was early January when whispers began to be spread. Suddenly, one or two photos were being published in entertainment newspapers and magazines - capturing a blurred face or an elbow; all claiming to be of Kangin back from the army. What no one knew was that Kangin had returned in mid-December, and S.M. Entertainment had decided on a comeback concert in the Seoul Olympic Stadium.
For the first time in two years, the thirteen members of Super Junior were once again reunited in a board room in S.M. Entertainment’s main building. Before the meeting with their managers began, Kangin greeted the members one by one, each more joyous than the last to see him again; all but one. Kangin glanced through the crowd of members to see Eeteuk already sitting in a seat at the large desk in the middle of the room.
When the managers entered, greeting Kangin for his return, the meeting began to be set into motion, planning their comeback performance.
“You never wrote back to any of the letters, hyung,” Kibum muttered quietly as he sat on one side of Kangin.
As their managers began to talk about the plan for the performance, Kangin looked down at the notes before him, pretending to pay attention as he replied, “I apologize, but that’s because I never collected them.”
“What?” Kibum asked, glancing up at the managers to make sure they hadn’t noticed that they were talking,
Kangin glanced across and down the table where Eeteuk sat between Shindong and Kyuhyun, “I was afraid Eeteuk would write to me,” He explained just as Eeteuk looked up at him. Their gazes locked, Kangin forced himself to look away; “If that happened, then I would’ve left the army immediately just to see him again… talk to him again.”
“So… so you never got any of my letters?” Kibum asked tentatively,
“No, but I can always go back to where I was stationed; I’m pretty sure they’re still there,” Kangin smirked as he paused to listen to the managers. After a moment, he picked up his pen and began to idly draw squiggles on the notes the managers had provided them all with, “Not getting any mail helped, but I appreciate you writing to me.”
“We all wrote to you hyung,” Sungmin interjected, turning in his seat to subtly face him for just a moment. He turned back to face the managers as he spoke out of the corner of his mouth, “After Eeteuk-sshi’s wedding you disappear and we learn you’re in the army? We. All. Wrote.”
“What do you mean not getting mail helped you?” Kibum inquired when Kangin trailed off,
“I was able to concentrate on my training - I was in the army after all…” Kangin gave a subtle shrug as he explained, “I was able to distance myself from thoughts of here.”
“You mean thoughts of Eeteuk?” Kibum drawled quietly.
When Kangin remained silent, Sungmin prompted in a whisper, “Does that mean you’re not over hyung?”
“Not in the least,” Kangin confessed, a grin on his lips. He paused a moment as one of the managers eyed the three suspiciously. When the manager looked away, Kangin added, “But I can cope with my emotions better now.”
As the meeting droned on, Sungmin and Kibum leaned forward slightly onto the table so they could look at one another across Kangin. Once their silent conversation was over, they sat back in their chairs.
“I think you should talk to Eeteuk, hyung. He was the most hurt about your sudden departure,” Kibum said simply,
“I’m sure he didn’t dwell on it too long; he left for his honeymoon a few days later,” Kangin replied bitter sweetly,
“But hyung-” Sungmin began,
“Don’t worry,” Kangin interrupted as he looked back up at the managers who were still talking. Under his breath, he replied, “I’ll talk to him.”
When the meeting was over and the managers all left, the members turned in their chairs to talk to Kangin again, but he was staring at Eeteuk. He tried to say with his eyes that he needed to speak with him, but Eeteuk excused himself and slipped out of the board room before Kangin could even leave his chair. Hiding his disappointment, Kangin put on a smile and began talking with the other members.
“So why did none of us know that you were leaving until we saw it in the news the next day?” Heechul demanded,
“It was best the way I left,” Kangin replied, “Less tears.”
“We were mad, not sad,” Yesung accused, crossing his arms,
“Less tears from me,” Kangin corrected before offering, “If I had told you guys, you would’ve tried to stop me.”
“Well that’s obvious,” Hankyung stated,
Kangin smiled at his hyung, “And I appreciate it, really but… I was wavering about leaving to begin with. I had to leave though, I couldn’t stay.”
“A goodbye would’ve been nice,” Ryeowook interjected, “Just a small one.”
“One that isn’t just a post-it note on the fridge,” Eunhyuk added,
“I’m sorry about leaving, but I don’t regret it,” Kangin admitted to the others, “It was good for me to get away.” He looked at the other’s sceptical expressions, “You ALL know that I had to get away.”
“He has a point…” Shiwon commented hesitantly, crossing his arms over his chest,
“I think he should’ve just stopped the wedding,” Donghae said lightly.
Suddenly, their interrogation of Kangin turned into what he should’ve done instead of running off to join the army. Kangin couldn’t help but grin as the other members bickered around him. He gazed at each of them, wondering where he had ever found the strength to leave them two years ago. Suddenly, he caught sight of the empty seat between Kyuhyun and Shindong and his smile receded for a moment. He pushed the thought of the Super Junior leader from his mind as the discussion around him grew louder. He kept his mind on those that were present and relished in the noise of the other eleven people with him.
It was good to be back.
Late that evening, Kangin sat in the living room of his parent’s house. His parents asleep, the house quiet, the room without lights. The nearby glass doors that led to the backyard allowed moonlight to pour into the dark room.
Kangin sat on the edge of the couch, his elbows leaning on his knees as his hands were clasped before him. On the coffee table before him sat a beer bottle, opened but untouched. Beside the bottle was a folded up newspaper, the top half of the front page staring back at him.
Super Junior’s Eeteuk - Married.
That’s what the headline wrote. From what was showing of the front page, a picture of Eeteuk and LiYa leaving the church was shown. Both happy. Both smiling.
The newspaper was two years old, its creases still crisp from never being unfolded. It had arrived with the morning mail with other newspapers. Kangin saw Eeteuk’s face immediately and snatched up the newspaper before anyone else had a chance. He had kept the newspaper as a reminder: of why he was in the army; of why he was in pain; of why he could never forget the face on the front page.
He spent hours just sitting there, staring down at the photo of Eeteuk and LiYa. The only time he broke out of his reverie was when moonlight was replaced by sunlight. He glanced outside, slightly startled to find the sun in the sky. As if on cue, he began hearing the sounds from the floor above of his parents getting ready for the day.
When Kangin heard his parents begin to head down the stairs, he stood from the couch and walked over to the porch glass doors, leaning a shoulder against the frame.
“Youngwoon, you’re up so early!” His mother exclaimed as she opened the door enough to stand in the doorway,
“I didn’t sleep,” He replied simply,
“That’s not healthy,” she began in a scold. She glanced at the coffee table where the newspaper and beer bottle were. She crossed the room and picked up the newspaper, “Am I right to assume you still haven’t made up with Jungsu?”
Kangin remained silent.
His mother sighed as she put the paper back down on the table and walked over to Kangin. She stood beside him, leaning her cheek against his arm, “My son has grown so much without me.”
“It was only two years,” Kangin argued,
“To a mother, two years is two eternities,” His mother countered, “But it feels like those two years were a waste.”
Kangin looked down at his mother who’s height came just to his shoulder, “Why would you say that?”
“Because when you left you had that expression… and when you came back and now, a month later, that expression is still on your face,” She replied as she kept her eyes out towards the backyard,
“What… what expression?” Kangin asked tentatively,
“Of being lost,” She said simply, patting his arm and looking up at her son, “But perhaps I’m wrong and it’s just the look of losing one’s best friend?”
Kangin opened his mouth, the truth about his relationship with Eeteuk on the tip of his tongue. However, he found himself unable to say the words as he stared into his mother’s eyes. He wasn’t ready yet to tell her, and he wasn’t sure she was ready yet to hear it. So, he closed his mouth and nodded in silent reply.
She let out a soft sigh, as if slightly disappointed before offering him a smile, “Everything will work out for the best.” She squeezed Kangin’s arm affectionately before heading for the door to the hallway,
“How do you know?” Kangin asked suddenly, turning towards her retreating back,
She paused at the open door, glancing back at him. She scrunched up her face in thought before shrugging, “I don’t. All I know is that my son’s back to stay after two years and I can’t feel anything but happiness.” When Kangin said nothing in reply, she added gently, “Talk to Jungsu- perhaps you’ll find that there was no need to leave in the first place.”
“What?” Kangin stammered,
She tilted her head, a small smile on her face, “A mother knows more of her child than she ever lets on.” Before Kangin could say or do anything in response, his mother left, closing the door softly behind her.
It was just after breakfast when Kangin couldn’t stand just staying in the empty house. Pulling on jogging pants and a sweater, he left the house and headed for a run in the park. It was the middle of the week and Kangin knew not many people would frequent the park, so he didn’t have to worry too much about photos being taken or being stopped to be talked to.
After jogging for twenty-six minutes, a ball suddenly rolled onto the path before him. He stopped, staring at the bright red ball atop the flattened snow on the path. He moved to pick it up when suddenly a toddler, bundled in winter clothes, came up to the ball, pausing when she saw Kangin.
He stared into the wide eyes of the little girl and knelt down, picking up the ball and holding it out for her. She stared at her ball in the stranger’s hands before taking the ball and smiling brightly at him. He didn’t know why, but for a moment, his heart felt lighter just seeing the girl smile.
“JaeIn! JaeIn! Goodness, when did you learn to run so fast!” A voice said.
Kangin looked up, startled as Eeteuk came running up. He slumped forward, hands on his knees as he caught his breath, “Thanks for stopping her. She just learned to walk a month ago and already she’s running and chasing balls…” Eeteuk looked up from the ground, shocked to find himself face-to-face with Kangin. He straightened immediately, gasping, “Youngwoon…”
Kangin stared at Eeteuk for a moment, before glancing at the girl - JaeIn, he assumed. Suddenly, Kangin smiled, realization dawning upon him, “Your daughter is beautiful,” he said as he got to his feet,
Eeteuk looked down suddenly, as if for just a moment nothing else existed but him and Kangin, “Yeah she is…”
Kangin pulled up the hood of his sweater a cold wind blew past them. He patted JaeIn’s small head, “I’ll see you later, hyung.”
“Wait!” Eeteuk called after him, but he continued on.
Kangin ran off with a strength he no longer felt, with a motivation he had suddenly lost. He had felt warmth when he saw Eeteuk running up to him and when he heard Eeteuk speak. However, it was for a minute only before a cold shattered the last vestiges of any warmth in Kangin. So, as he heard Eeteuk call his name after him, he kept running because that’s all he knew how to do. Because he had nothing left behind him.
“Wait…” Eeteuk muttered, his lips trembling from more than just the cold wintry day. He watched Kangin’s retreating back. Suddenly, he felt a small bit of warmth clasp about his hand, tugging on him. Pulled from his reverie, he gazed down at the little toddler at his side. In one smooth swoop, he picked her up in his arms as he looked back to where Kangin was, continuing on down the path.
Holding JaeIn in his arms, he watched as Kangin run off. It was the second time Kangin left him and he did nothing to stop him.
(For the sequel: Until the End)