theme: o72. Muscles.
(Sequel to My Love)
Six months had never passed slower for Kangin. The end of winter brought with it his break up with Eeteuk. The beginning of spring was accompanied with Eeteuk meeting LiYa. Summer, Eeteuk spent more time with LiYa and when autumn arrived, Eeteuk made the decision to get down on one knee before her, a ring in his hand. It was a late September evening when Eeteuk came back to the dorm, calling a member meeting to announce his engagement. It was also during this September evening that Eeteuk asked Kangin to be his best man.
“I refuse to stand by your side as you marry someone else!” Kangin exclaimed. He grabbed the balcony door, threw it open and stormed back into the dorm, past the members and out the front door.
Kangin left the apartment building and crossed the street to the park across. He began walking down the main path when he heard his name being called. He didn’t bother stopping, but he slowed down when Kibum came up beside him and walked with him,
“I’m sorry Kibum, but I’m really not in the mood to talk,” Kangin said gruffly as he stuffed his fists into his jeans’ pockets,
“That’s fine because I just want to tell you that… well, frankly, I respect you for doing what you did,” Kibum said nonchalantly as they fell back into a comfortable pace. It was late enough in the night that few people frequented the park, so Kibum felt this the perfect place to talk to Kangin about what had just happened between him and Eeteuk on the balcony after the announcement.
“For saying no?” Kangin replied, “That’s hardly enough to get respect for; anyone with a heart would’ve said no to that request.”
“Not that - for not hitting him,” Kibum explained simply, “Had that been me, I don’t think I would’ve been able to control myself.” He furtively glanced at Kangin to gauge his emotions, “Hyung’s heartless for asking you to be his best man.”
Kangin shook his head ruefully, “It’s because I’m still his best friend… and he wanted me with him beside him on his wedding day.”
Kibum turned his eyes back to the path before him, he could read Kangin like a book. Despite his anger, Kangin still defended Eeteuk with his last breath. “But it’s not the place you thought you’d be standing on his wedding day, hmm?” Kibum asked knowingly,
For a moment, Kangin was silent. Finally, with a steadying breath, he answered, “Despite what anyone may think, I do want him to be happy…”
“Even if he’s happy without you?” Kibum inquired.
Kangin clenched his fists in his pockets to stop his body from trembling. “I’m not that selfless,” he confessed quietly, almost in a dark tone,
“Well then, I suppose you’re going to have to live up to your name,” Kibum said simply as he crossed over to the other side of the path and sat down on a bench.
“What?” Kangin asked, reluctantly taking a seat beside his dongsaeng, “What does my name have to do with anything that’s happened tonight?”
“Well, what is the name you yourself chose?” Kibum questioned,
Kangin blinked at him before hesitantly replying, “Kangin…”
“And what does your name basically mean?” Kibum asked,
“Strong,” Kangin answered, still not sure where Kibum was going with this odd set of questions,
“Exactly,” Kibum said confidently.
Kangin blinked before confessing, “Okay, I have NO idea what you’re talking about and honestly, I’m in no mood for puzzles, Kibum-sshi.”
“Strength doesn’t always have to deal with a person’s muscles. There’s emotional strength, mental strength, spiritual strength,” Kibum listed as he leaned back against the bench and leaned his head back, looking up at the autumn night sky, “The strength you possess, hyung is a hybrid of all of these - that’s why we all look to you for support oft the times.”
“I still don’t understand what you’re going on about, Kibum-sshi,” Kangin sighed exasperatedly,
“You have to decide how to use your inner strength,” Kibum stated quietly, steadily, “Are you going to have the strength to stand by the one you love as the promise to spend their life with someone else? Or…” he turned his head so he could look at Kangin, “are you going to have the strength to walk away and destroy what’s left of what you have with the one you love?”
“You can’t put it like that - that’s not fair!” Kangin exclaimed jumping to his feet, glaring down at Kibum angrily,
Kibum sat up straight, crossing his arms loosely about his torso. He stared straight before him rather than at Kangin; “This isn’t about what is fair Kangin - it’s not even about what’s right. At this point, fair and right no longer mean what they once did,” he turned his gaze onto his hyung, “At this point, fair and right are what you make of them.”
Kangin let out a slow, steadying breath to stop himself from shaking from the emotions he kept inside; “How… how am I supposed to decide what to do then?” He asked quietly, slowly sitting back down beside Kibum,
“Decide which is the lesser of two evils,” Kibum stated simply, “Your heart or Eeteuk’s heart.”
“I can’t decide that!” Kangin gasped,
Kibum glanced at him from the corner of his eye, “Can’t you? I thought you weren’t that selfless.”
Plans for the wedding suddenly began to be made. It was decided on a winter wedding, taking place at the end of that coming December. Pretty soon, Eeteuk began spending every free minute with LiYa. To Kangin, in the beginning it felt it was for the best that they spend time apart, however, as the wedding day drew closer, he wanted to talk to Eeteuk more and more.
It was the night before Eeteuk’s wedding when Kangin disappeared from his house. He told his parents he was going out with the others to drink, but really, he was drinking alone that night. However, after a few beers, he couldn’t stand being alone. He stumbled out of the bar and walked the streets. He walked passed a restaurant in drunk stupor where he was noticed by someone.
It wasn’t until he stopped and sat down at a bench by a bus stop when that someone caught up to him.
“Ah! Kibum-sshi!” He grinned as he leaned against the pole of the bus stop’s sign; “What are you doing out here?”
“I was having dinner with my family when I saw you walking passed. I called after you but you didn’t wait,” Kibum explained as he sat next to Kangin on the bench,
“Oh? I didn’t hear you,” Kangin insisted as he leaned his head against the metal pole, it felt cool against his burning skin.
Kibum gave him a slanted look before leaning in and sniffing the air around him, “You’re drunk.”
“Not as drunk as I would like to be,” Kangin sighed as he turned in his seat so that his back was against the pole and he was facing Kibum, “Tomorrow’s the day, Kibum…”
“Have you decided on what you’re going to do?” Kibum asked as he stuffed his hands into his pockets to protect them from the winter’s cold;
“I thought I did,” he said quietly, “But as I sat at the bar drinking alone… I didn’t know anymore. You know, people always think that when faced with something like this the decision’s always clear but… there are just too many gray areas where Eeteuk’s concerned.”
“That’s because despite what happens, you love him. Whether as a boyfriend, or just a friend - you love Eeteuk-sshi,” Kibum explained matter-of-factly,
“I’m not that pathetic,” Kangin snapped,
“Then why are you crying,” Kibum asked, glancing at him from the corner of his eye.
Kangin blinked as he reached up with his bare hand and was startled when they met wetness on his cheeks, “I… I didn’t even realize.” Kangin sighed heavily, “Maybe it’s for the best I not go tomorrow.” He looked at Kibum imploringly, “What do you think?”
“I think there’d be a degree less of pain and awkwardness if you didn’t go,” Kibum answered honestly, “It would be painful for you to be there and it’d be awkward for Eeteuk-sshi and LiYa if you went.”
“It wouldn’t be awkward at all,” Kangin muttered as he leaned his head against the pole at his back,
“How wouldn’t it be awkward? With your past with hyung… if I were LiYa or even Eeteuk-sshi I’d certainly feel at least a twinge of tension…” Kibum turned in his seat until he straddled the bench, gaping at Kangin, “LiYa doesn’t know!”
“Indeed she does not,” Kangin answered easily,
“How… why… Eeteuk never told her?” Kibum questioned,
Kangin shook his head, “No. He always said it was none of her business and for the sake of our friendship, he’d never tell her.”
“But… they’re getting married - does he expect to keep your past relationship with him a secret forever?” Kibum asked,
Kangin shrugged as he pushed away from the pole and sat straight just as a bus pulled over to the curb. The doors swung open but Kibum waved them off. Scowling, the driver closed the doors and the bus drove off. Once they were alone again, Kibum prompted Kangin, “Well?”
“He said that so long as he was loyal to me, he’d never let LiYa know,” Kangin said quietly, his voice wavering slightly, “At least in this, he shows some loyalty to me… for once.” Kangin sighed as he straightened his posture and looked up towards the winter sky, “He’s asking for a lot, Kibum… but a part of me wants to go tomorrow.”
“Have you tried talking to him since he got engaged?” Kibum asked
“No. If anything, he keeps trying to talk to me and I keep avoiding him like a curse,” Kangin let out a heavy sigh as his gaze dropped to the ground at his feet; “I understand that he wants his best friend to be his best man but - AISH it’s just so frustrating! I’ve never gone for so long without talking to him and… knowing that so much anger is between us right now makes me even more mad!”
“Have you ever thought of breaking up the wedding? Speaking out when the time calls for it during the ceremony?” Kibum inquired,
“He’s getting married tomorrow - how can you ask me that!?” Kangin demanded hotly,
“You said it yourself: your not that selfless,” Kibum gave a small shrug, “If during that ceremony tomorrow, you had a chance to stop the wedding, wouldn’t you take it?” He smiled bitter sweetly, “If I were in your place and the one I loved were marrying someone else, I’d take every chance I could get to stop the wedding.”
“But… but Eeteuk-sshi is happy and wants to marry LiYa,” Kangin stammered,
Kibum turned to look at Kangin giving him a small, sad smile, “Which is the lesser of two evils: your heart or hyung’s?”
The next morning, Kangin got up before the sun. He was dressed in a black suit by the time his parents woke up and came down for breakfast, startled to find him sitting at the kitchen table with a mug of coffee. All they knew was that it was Eeteuk’s wedding that day and Kangin and him had a falling out. They knew nothing of their son’s relationship with Eeteuk nor of the turmoil Kangin had been going through since the break up and - more so - since the engagement was announced.
As the morning progressed, Kangin silently left his parent’s house and headed out into the wintry day. At the street, he caught a taxi and told the driver of the church’s address. As he stepped out, he prayed that he wasn’t too late. The wind blew around him, causing snow to swirl about him as he ran up the church steps. He burst into the church lobby, the other Super Junior members there as he brushed off the snow that had fell upon him from his trek from the taxi.
Kangin looked up just to find Eeteuk facing him, standing before the doors that opened up to the aisle heading down to the altar. Kangin took a deep, steadying breath as he walked up to Eeteuk, a surprised expression on his hyung’s face.
“Youngwoon…” Eeteuk stammered,
Kangin offered a small smile, “You can’t get married without your best man.”
Eeteuk grinned as he took Kangin’s offered hand and shook it firmly. With one last look back at Kangin, Eeteuk headed out into the church, up the aisle to stand and wait for his bride at the altar. Kangin moved to follow him as the other members went to take their seats when Kibum put a hand on his arm, stalling him. They followed slowly behind the others up the aisle,
“I guess you’re more selfless than you proclaim,” Kibum muttered quietly as they entered the church’s main gallery,
“You knew I’d come, didn’t you?” Kangin replied quietly,
Kibum shrugged slightly, “Whether to play best man or just sit beside the rest of us, maybe I knew you were more selfless than you knew yourself to be.”
“Don’t make a saint out of a sinner, Kibum,” Kangin said gravely as they neared the end of the aisle,
“What do you mean?” Kibum asked, suddenly alert, eyeing Kangin cautiously,
“I’m only here today because I don’t have to see them together tomorrow,“ Kangin looked at him, a sad smile on his face, “I’ve enlisted this morning. I’m leaving for the army after the wedding.”
Shocked, Kibum watched silently as Kangin hurried over to Eeteuk’s side. A tug on his sleeve by Kyuhyun broke him from his spell and Kibum slipped into the pew beside his other group mates. The music began to signal the bride and everyone stood up, turning to look back as LiYa made her way slowly down the aisle.
Kibum stared as Kangin smiled at Eeteuk and even leaned over to whisper words of what he could only assume was encouragement. For a brief moment, Kangin glanced over at Kibum, their gazes locking. Kibum watched him, his head slowly shaking. A light crossed Kangin’s eyes, telling Kibum that Kangin knew what he was thinking about. Before Kibum could send him anymore silent messages, Kangin turned his eyes upon the nearing bride, a serene smile plastered on his face.
As all eyes were on the bride, Kibum kept his eyes on the groom and the man beside him; “I don’t care what you say hyung… you are selfless. Only you would be able to stand up there and smile like that while you’re dying inside.”
(For the sequel: With You )