theme: o85. Ache.
He was a friend to both of them. He realized their feelings for one another even before they did and, if anything, even prompted them to be together. So, when he saw the end coming, he felt guilty.
Shindong could still remember the moment when he began to see the end. He was in the living room watching television with Sungmin when Donghae came home from his schedule.
“Min! Let’s go out and get something to eat,” Donghae suggested as he came in, sitting on the couch beside Sungmin.
Shindong noticed the subtle way Sungmin moved closer to him when Donghae sat down, but said nothing of it.
“There’s plenty of food here,” Sungmin answered, keeping his eyes towards the television.
“Then how about we go watch a movie, there’s this really cool ninja one that came out last week,” Donghae said as he got up and grabbed the newspaper to look for the movie listings,
“There’s so much to watch on the television, why bother spending money and going out?” Sungmin replied,
Donghae lowered the paper back down on the dining table as he looked at Sungmin confusedly, usually he was so up for dates but lately he hadn’t been so enthusiastic.
“A walk?” Donghae grounded out.
“Can’t; I should get going,” Sungmin said, standing up, “It’s my night to cook dinner at the dorm.” He walked towards the door, Donghae grabbing his hand on the way. He stopped and looked back at him, “Hae?”
Donghae searched his face for a minute before leaning down for a kiss. A moment before their lips touched, Sungmin subtly moved his head, giving his cheek.
“I’ll call you later,” Sungmin said as walked away, putting on his shoes and leaving.
“Donghae?” Shindong hesitantly called.
Donghae stood where he was, staring dumbfounded at the front door. He clenched his fists at his sides, as his eyes narrowed. He stormed off to his room, calling behind him before he slammed the door: “I’m not taking any calls tonight.”
A few days later, Shindong accompanied Donghae to the mall. They had circled the shopping centre once when he finally plopped down on a bench and sighed,
“I don’t know what to get him,” Donghae muttered,
Shindong sat down beside him, lacing his fingers behind his head as he leaned back, “What’s the occasion again?”
“In two days it’s our 100 day anniversary,” Donghae explained, “And usually I don’t pay attention to those days but… but I know it means something to Sungmin-sshi, and considering I leave for China that day, I want to make it up to him.”
“It’s already been ninety-eight days?” Shindong blinked, “Well… what do you think you could get him?”
Donghae leaned his head on the back of the bench and threw an arm across his eyes, “I don’t know - that’s why we’re here. I need… inspiration or something.”
“Well, how about we go to the dance studio, come up with some dances… that usually sparks your imagination,” Shindong offered, “Then after, we’ll come back here and you can get whatever it is you think up?”
Donghae moved his arm so he could look at Shindong, “Yeah. Let’s do that. Thanks hyung.”
On the way to the studio, they stopped at a red light. Donghae twisted in the passenger seat, crossing his arms on the window frame and leaning his head on his arms.
“Hey hyung…” Donghae muttered,
“Yes?” Shindong replied as he eyed the stop lights, waiting for it to turn green,
“Don’t you think Sungmin’s been acting weird lately?” Donghae asked,
“I don’t know about lately, but a few days ago at the dorm was pretty weird,” Shindong said as the light turned green and he put the car into motion. As he drove, he furtively glanced at Donghae who had his eyes closed as the wind blew past his open window. When they stopped at another light, he asked: “Have you talked to him about why he’s acting weird?”
“It could just be in my head,” Donghae replied quietly, “I don’t want to start an argument over nothing.”
“But I … isn’t that Sungmin?” Shindong asked suddenly.
Donghae immediately straightened in his seat, his eyes wide as he scanned the area for his hyung. Just one lane to their right, standing in a bus vestibule was Sungmin. Donghae opened his mouth to call to him when the car beside them inched a bit forward, revealing more of the bus stop. Sungmin was not alone. He stood in the vestibule, his lips locked with a girl. Shindong began driving again the moment Sungmin and the girl broke their kiss, but it was too late; Donghae was already broken.
They arrived at the dance studio, Shindong parking the car and sitting in silence. He stared helplessly at Donghae, not knowing what to do or say. He was about to start the car again to go back to the dorm when Donghae opened the door and left the car, entering the studio.
They went up the elevator in silence and walked down the hall to their usual practice room in tension. Before they got there, Donghae ran into the bathroom and Shindong cringed when he heard Donghae throwing up. Knowing how Donghae was, he continued on to the room. Upon entering it, Shindong was surprised to see Eunhyuk there dancing before the mirrored wall. Catching sight of him, Eunhyuk turned off the music. He turned to him smiling,
“What are you doing here too?” Eunhyuk asked as he wiped his forehead with his arm. The smile left his face when he saw the seriousness of Shindong’s, “What’s wrong?”
Shindong sighed as he shook his head, “We just saw Sungmin kissing a girl.”
“We? Please don’t tell me Donghae’s part of that ‘we’,” Eunhyuk said, only to feel his heart grow heavy when Shindong nodded an affirmative. He looked up just as the door opened and Donghae walked in, trance-like, while wiping his mouth with the cuff of his sleeve. “Donghae…”
“How are you doing?” Shindong asked tentatively.
Donghae said nothing, he didn’t have to. The heartache he was feeling was quiet evident in his face. Instead, he walked straight towards Shindong, wrapping his arms about his torso and burying his face in his shoulder. Startled, Shindong hugged him back and only held him tighter when he felt him begin to shake with silence cries.
Donghae was unperturbed when his cellular phone rang, and continued holding on Shindong. Eunhyuk slipped the phone from his pocket and answered it, walking away a few steps,
“Hello? … Ah, Sungmin-sshi,” he glanced over at Shindong and Donghae, “… I’ll… I’ll tell him. Bye.” He closed the phone and just put it back in Donghae’s pocket, “He wants to meet you in an hour…”
“You don’t have to go,” Shindong insisted, “We can give your excuses to him and you don’t have to see him.”
Donghae shook his head as he pulled away from Shindong’s comforting embrace. He swiped away at his tears, “I’ll…go. Now.”
“You have an hour,” Shindong reminded, “You can stay with us here until then - don’t rush yourself.”
Donghae shook his head again, “If I don’t go now, I’ll never go.” He stood before them, his gaze glued to the wooden floor,
“Do… do you want us to go with you?” Eunhyuk offered tentatively.
“No… I’ll be okay,” Donghae replied, “But… Shindong-sshi… can you drive me there?”
Shindong glanced at Eunhyuk who nodded at him, “Yes, sure. Whatever you want.”
“Thank…. You…” Donghae turned on his heel and promptly left the studio.
Shindong and Eunhyuk watched him silently. After a moment, Shindong nodded at Eunhyuk and followed after his dongsaeng. For some reason, he felt as if he were sending his friend to the gallows.
That night, Shindong stayed with Donghae in the room he shared with their leader; Eeteuk, upon hearing what had happened, easily relinquished his bed for Shindong’s use. Donghae lay on his bed, facing the wall and refusing to talk. He hadn’t said a word since he went to meet Sungmin earlier that day. Shindong didn’t know what to say. He couldn’t deny what they saw and he also didn’t want to say words that would give Donghae false hopes. So, he sat on the floor, his back against Donghae’s bed and just kept vigil as Donghae continued to silence the screams he wanted to let out.
The next day, Shindong and Eunhyuk were riding the elevator up to the dorm. Everyone was getting together for a dinner before those who were a part of SJ-M left to go to China for three weeks. The doors opened on their floor and they were startled when they found Donghae and Sungmin in the hallway.
“It’s over,” Donghae said quietly, his eyes staring at the ground.
“What? But… but why?” Sungmin demanded, grabbing Donghae’s face to make him look at him, “Why?”
“Because it is,” Donghae replied grabbing Sungmin’s hands and ripping them from his face,
“But… I love you,” Sungmin stammered, “I told you yesterday that I love you and… today you break up with me? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!?”
Donghae stared directly at Sungmin a moment, his eyes stinging with hot, unshed tears. “Right… it’s because of me. Everything is because of me, huh?”
“What do you mean!?” Sungmin demanded, grabbing Donghae’s shoulders and lightly shaking him, “Why are you doing this!?”
Donghae shoved Sungmin away from him, hard to the point where Sungmin fell against the wall. He staggered to regain his balance as he looked at Donghae, hurt and horrified.
“Goodbye,” Donghae said with finality. He turned to walk to the elevator and stopped when he saw Eunhyuk and Shindong standing there awkwardly. He gave them a curt nod before slipping past them into the elevator.
Not wanting to leave either of them alone, Eunhyuk gestured to Donghae and Shindong nodded, getting into the elevator beside Donghae. The doors closed and Eunhyuk went to pick up the pieces of Sungmin.
The next day, the SJ-M members were leaving for China. The remaining members went with them, waiting by the gate with them. They had been separated before, but it didn’t make it easier, after being together for years.
Donghae sat in a row of chairs with Shindong beside him. Sungmin sat in a row across from him and kept glancing at him, but he didn’t returning the stares. Donghae had his iPod in his hand, earphones in and his hat pulled low above his eyes.
When boarding time came, all the members stood up to say their goodbyes. As those part of SJ-M began to board the plane, Donghae was the last. Sungmin stood nearby watching him with pleading eyes, but Donghae took one look at him and turned the other way. Before he left however, Donghae turned to Shindong and accepted his hyung’s offered hug.
“Take care, okay?” Shindong said as he let go of him, “And don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call me whenever.”
Donghae nodded, playing with the strings of his earphones, “I’ll be fine. Three weeks to get away is just what I need.” He looked up at Shindong and for the first time in three days, smiled. It was small, and it was brief, but all that mattered was that he was able to smile again, “Thanks hyung, for everything.”
“I didn’t do anything. We never even talked,” Shindong blinked,
“I know, but you were there,” Donghae shrugged, “You were just there and… that’s what I needed the most, not cliché words promising that things will be okay. You were there and you stayed there. So thank you.”
Shindong clapped a hand to his shoulder, “That’s an unneeded thank-you. Go, you’ll miss your plane… and, while you’re gone, learn to smile more again.”
Donghae nodded as he placed a hand over Shindong’s which was on his shoulder. He gave it an affectionate squeeze before he turned to leave. As Shindong watched Donghae disappear beyond the gate, he was startled to find a piece of paper scrunched in his hand. He hadn’t even noticed when Donghae had put it there and once Donghae completely disappeared from view, he looked down at the paper and opened it up. He had been worried about Donghae and feared of how he’d handle his emotions while in China, but after reading his scribbled note, he felt his heart lighten for the first time in three days:
Whatever is broken, can always be mended.
(For the sequel: Flawed Perfection)