(Part of the Princes Series.)
(Author's Note: While plotting out this RQ, I liked the background story so much I decided to make three more spinoffs to create the Princes Series. The stories following this one are stand-alones.)
In modern day South Korea, the monarchy ruled along side the government. With the King already reaching his fifties, the rulers of the country were feeling pressed for time for one of their sons to produce an heir. So, it was no wonder that winter morning, Prince Donghae - the eldest recognized prince of the royal family - was called into the family room of the Royal House.
“You summoned?” Donghae said dryly as he entered, finding it exasperating that he had to bow to his parents every time he approached them.
“We want you to get married,” The King said simply from his position by one of the ceiling-to-floor windows, “It’s high time you get married, you’re already twenty-two.”
Donghae glanced at his mother, “Mother-”
“I agree with your father on this, Donghae. The country waits to see who will become next in line. Especially since five years ago you became the next in line for the throne, people are beginning to wonder if the monarchy will remain intact,” the Queen interjected, but her eyes held a sympathetic sorrow for her son, “And sooner rather than later would be preferable-”
“One month,” the King held up his index finger, “We’re giving you one month to get married.”
“Or else?” Donghae challenged, boldly crossing his arms defiantly before them, “What? You’ll skip me and give the crown to Kyuhyun? Or perhaps our cousin, Yoochun? Let me guess, you’ll go find Kangin-”
“That’s enough from you!” The King exclaimed, his face growing red, his fists clenched in fury,
The Queen, who sat in a chair by the King, placed a hand on one of his shaking fists. She turned her eyes on her second son, “Donghae, it’s crucial that you get married, the royal family is on hinges as it is, even the extended family is beginning to worry that the main branch will crumble.”
“So why can’t we worry about me getting married AFTER I’ve become king?” Donghae questioned, his tone considerably more softer towards his mother,
“Ever since that incidence with Ka… your brother, the family and the country will feel more at east once a generation is established after your own,” the Queen explained calmly, “Donghae, please try.”
“I’m not promising any miracles - a month is a short time,” Donghae muttered resentfully as he tore his eyes away from his mother to some obscure design in the carpet at his feet,
“If you fail to produce a fiancée by one month’s time, a ball will be held at that time and WE will choose one for you,” the King said sternly, his voice challenging as if daring his son to disagree.
Donghae dragged his eyes towards his father before turning them to his mother. She immediately dropped her gaze to her lap under her son’s scrutiny. Donghae sighed heavily before silently bowing to the pair of them and departing before more of his future could be planned for him.
“We’ve got to Seoul just yesterday - how the hell did you already find a club you can go dance in Eunhyuk?” A young man demanded as he placed food down on the dining table.
“The same way you managed to secure yourself three part-time jobs in one day, Sungmin,” Eunhyuk explained as he came down the stairs, pulling a shirt over his bare torso,
Two years ago, Sungmin’s father and stepmother died in a car crash. Hearing that his father and now another mother had died (for his mother died while he was being born) immediately Sungmin had returned from overseas where his parents had sent him to attend high school. He returned to his hometown in Ulsan. For the two years that followed his parents death, Sungmin took it upon himself to take care of his step- brothers, the fraternal twins Eunhyuk and Junsu.
Had he been on his own, Sungmin would have been fine just remaining in Ulsan, however Eunhyuk had dreams of grandeur of becoming a famous choreographer and Junsu had received a scholarship to one of the most prestigious private schools in the country, which happened to be located in Seoul. So, taking the money he had saved up during those two years, the other day, Sungmin picked up their family and they all moved to Seoul, securing them all a loft apartment together.
“Well, I hope you’re aware that the rules don’t change now that we’re in Seoul instead of Ulsan,” Sungmin said warningly as he placed bowls and cutlery on the table for two, knowing Eunhyuk would grab something to eat on t he way to the club,
“I never drink while I’m out anyways,” Eunhyuk reminded, “It’ll screw around with my thoughts and coordination - and what kind of choreographer would I be if I let that happen?”
Sungmin rolled his eyes as he sat down at the table, “Please, we both know you could be completely gone into drunk oblivion and you’d still be a better dancer than half the saps out in those clubs that try to show off.”
Eunhyuk grinned, “Glad to know if I fail at this at least my older brother will still think I’m good.”
Sungmin rolled his eyes again before calling out loudly, “JUNSU! DINNER’S READY!”
Almost immediately, another young man came padding down the stairs from the upper level of the loft, his glasses resting on the top of his head as he rubbed his eyes wearily. He plopped down in a chair while stifling a yawn, “Smells good, hyung,” Junsu murmured as he stretched his arms above him.
Sungmin glanced up to where the upper level - which was only half the size of the main level - could be seen, surrounded by a double railing around the edge. He could see the bedside table that was placed beside the king-sized mattress that served as all of their beds, and saw that it was still lit, “You’ve been studying all day. When I woke up to find my third job you were already awake and studying up until now.”
“Class begins the second of March - that’s this coming Monday,” Junsu explained before taking a mouthful of food, “If I want to keep my scholarship, I need to stay ahead of the game.”
“You’re smart without needing to study,” Eunhyuk replied as he padded into the kitchen for a glass of water before he left,
“What’s this? A compliment from my dear twin brother?” Junsu mocked lightly,
“Older twin brother - and consider it a Christmas present,” Eunhyuk said as he downed his glass,
“Older by eight minutes - and you didn’t even get me a present this past Christmas,” Junsu reminded,
“Eight minutes is still eight minutes - and I never said the present was on time!” Eunhyuk grinned before grabbing a sweater and running out the door.
“I hope coming to Seoul benefits Hyuk too,” Junsu admitted as the door closed behind his brother, “I know we came predominantly because of my scholarship and because it didn’t cover for me to live on campus.”
“He’ll find more success for his dreams in Seoul, more so than in Ulsan,” Sungmin insisted. Silently, however, in his mind, he hoped for the same thing for Eunhyuk.
The moment Eunhyuk stepped out of the cold and into the heat of the club, Eunhyuk pushed back the hood of his sweater and pushed up his sleeves to above his elbows. He ignored the curious stares of the club’s regulars and headed straight to the bar. The club had an upper level that opened up in the centre to show the dance floor below. It was dim and hot, with hip hop music blaring, the bass turned up to reverberate through the dancers within.
Ordering a simple bottle of water, he leaned his back against the counter and glanced his eyes over the dancers out on the floor. Eunhyuk’s eyes suddenly landed on a hooded dancer who was garnering attention from the other dancers as they parted, forming a circle around him as he danced. As Eunhyuk took the bottle from the bartender, he asked casually,
“The one out there, does he have a name?”
The bartender glanced to where Eunhyuk was looking, “He comes here every Friday, for the past five years actually,” he explained, “The closest thing to a name I’ve heard of him these few years is Bada.” He looked Eunhyuk up and down, “Why? Thinking of challenging him? I warn you - anyone who’s gone up against Bada loses.”
“And what happens when they lose?” Eunhyuk asked before downing half of his bottle,
“Two thinks, I’ve seen,” he replied, “Either they never come back or they beg him to teach them.”
Eunhyuk drank the rest, placed the empty bottle on the counter and disappeared into the crowd, heading towards the dancer known as Bada.
Before he could hesitate, Eunhyuk stepped into the cleared dance space for Bada. Bada stopped immediately and from beneath his hood, stared at Eunhyuk.
Suddenly, those in the crowd stopped dancing to watch and started cheering on a battle. Eunhyuk began to dance then after a few seconds, stopped and stared at Bada. The hooded dancer replied with a difficult series of popping and locking that got the crowd cheering on the club favourite.
Eunhyuk dropped to the ground doing a flare- his hands alternately supporting him as his legs swung around him. Before he was done, he pushed up with his left hand, kicking his legs into the air. He froze and ended his turn in a pike, his right arm supporting him as his legs were vertical in the air. He let his legs swing to the side, landing on his feet and stood up smoothly as he watched Bada.
Bada took two steps towards Eunhyuk when suddenly he flipped backwards, his feet inches from Eunhyuk as he did so. He landed on his feet and immediately began the sequences of popping his limbs like a broken robot. He paused immediately when he realized everyone was quiet. Self-consciously, his hands went to his hood, it had fallen during his flip.
Immediately, squeals and yells overcame the club’s music as the crowd began to swarm towards Prince Donghae. Immediately seeing the panic pass over “Bada’s” eyes, Eunhyuk grabbed his hand and ran through the crowd with Donghae stumbling after him.
When Eunhyuk and Donghae stopped running, they found themselves in an empty playground in a more suburban area of Seoul. The night sky was dotted with stars and the ground was covered in snow as the two walked over to the monkey bars and climbed up on top.
“You’re good - real good,” Donghae said as he glanced over at his companion. He crossed his arms tightly about his torso, the winter cold seeping through his sweater,
“I could say the same to you,” Eunhyuk admitted as he laid across the handles, careful to balance his weight amongst the spaced pieces of metal, “For a prince at least.”
“Ha. Ha. Ha,” Donghae replied dryly as he looked down at him, “Thanks for getting me out of there.”
“Well it was either that or let you get mobbed by those crazed dancers,” Eunhyuk grinned, “But I got to admit, no one would’ve expected a prince to be at a dance club.”
Donghae shrugged as he turned his eyes up towards the velvety darkness as the sky opened up and it began to lightly snow, “I like to dance and seven days, six nights out of the week I’m a prince. So one night a week I go out incognito and go to the club just like everyone else.”
“Makes sense, too bad you can’t just go out as yourself though,” Eunhyuk sympathized,
Donghae nodded, “What about you? With your moves I’m surprised you’re only dancing at a local club.”
“Well I just moved here the other day with my brothers. I was only out to look for some inspiration, but I am hoping to become a choreographer - one of the best in Korea and eventually, all of Asia!” Eunhyuk explained as a private smile touched his lips.
Why he was suddenly spilling forth his aspirations to a stranger was beyond him, but somehow he felt comfortable doing so. He had only ever divulged his life-long dreams to his brothers and even that took him up until a few months ago to admit.
To see such passion, such drive in a person was inspiring for the young prince, and seeing him being able to live it sent a pang of jealousy through Donghae. He watched and listened to Eunhyuk talk animatedly about his dreams with a small smile of his own.
Eunhyuk blushed beneath his gaze and looked to the sky instead of him, “It’s a farfetched dream, but I’ve had it for so long that I can’t quite let go of it.”
“It’s not that farfetched,” Donghae said quietly before leaning down and pressing his lips against Eunhyuk’s, their mouths anti-parallel to one another. He raised his head, breaking the kiss, enough to see his eyes clearly, “I hope you get to live your dreams.”
Donghae straightened and they fell into a comfortable silence as they remained in the park as the snow swirled about them. Eunhyuk, however could no longer feel the cold. All he could feel, was the warm impression of Donghae’s lips on his own.
It was already three weeks until the impending ball to secure Donghae a fiancée when Eunhyuk came to call on him at the Royal House. The butler answered the door and ushered him into one of the sitting rooms where Donghae stood before his seated parents, discussing said ball.
“The papers say you were spotted at a club last week. Can you believe my surprise at learning ANOTHER one of my sons was off gallivanting in clubs. I can only thank the heavens that you didn’t go back this past Friday, ” the King stated, his words flat but his expression irritated, “Perhaps it was a mistake to send for your cousin to return.”
Before Donghae could reply, the butler interrupted, introducing Eunhyuk. Stiffly and tentatively, Eunhyuk bowed to the monarch as he came and stood beside Donghae.
The Queen glanced at the newspaper that lay on the coffee table before her and her husband, “Ah - you’re the one who got Donghae out of the club when he was discovered! I thank you with all my heart for acting so quickly.”
“He wouldn’t have had to act quickly if our son acted like the prince he is!” The King commented, his eyes glaring at his son, “You should be considering your future, not making a mockery of this family at the night clubs!”
The Queen placed a hand on her husband’s arm as per usual to calm him, “Hunyuk, you agree right? That Donghae should settle down as his duty as a prince? He should take the upcoming ball seriously,” she asked imploringly, trying to find a middle ground between her husband and her son and also trying to get support from her son’s friend.
“His name is Eunhyuk and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t drag him into this,” Donghae grounded out before grabbing Eunhyuk’s arm and dragging him out of there, completely disregarding all courtesies towards the monarchs.
Once out into the corridor, Donghae begged Eunhyuk for them to get out of the house - anywhere so long as it was away from his parents. Eunhyuk suggested his place and Donghae agreed wholeheartedly.
As Eunhyuk and Donghae stepped out of the elevator, Sungmin was leaving the apartment,
“Don’t lock it, I’m right here,” Eunhyuk stated as the doors slid close behind him.
Sungmin turned to look at him, not noticing him until he spoke, “Ah, okay - I’m on my way to work. Dinner’s in the fridge, just heat it up and…” The rest of his words trailed off as his eyes obviously slid from his brother to the famous stranger beside him. Sungmin moved to bow when Donghae stopped him,
“Please don’t! I… I’m not a prince when I’m here,” Donghae insisted as Sungmin hesitantly straightened, “I’m just a friend of Eunhyuk’s.”
Sungmin nodded silently as his eyes looked the prince up and down. Eunhyuk had mentioned a few nights ago, making a friend at the club. What his step-brother had forgotten to inform him was that the friend was also Korean royalty.
“We’re just going to hang out here for a bit,” Eunhyuk explained as he headed towards the door, “Away from the public and stuff.”
“Of… of course,” Sungmin replied, his tone flat.
As Eunhyuk gestured for Donghae to enter ahead of him, he paused and glanced at his brother, “Hyung?”
Sungmin glanced at the prince whose gaze wandered around the loft before he looked back at his brother, “Nothing… I’ll be home in the morning.” And with that, Sungmin walked towards the elevator and Eunhyuk entered the apartment.
Junsu was climbing down the stairs as Eunhyuk closed the front door, “Ah, Donghae, this is my twin brother - Junsu. Junsu, this is Donghae.”
Junsu paused a moment, regarding Donghae with unveiled curiosity before smiling, “Hi Donghae,” he held out his hand and Donghae shook it, startled, “I would bow, but I learned yesterday that some princes hate that.”
“You…you did?” Donghae blinked, even more startled,
“Yeah, your… cousin I think? He’s in one of my classes,” Junsu explained as he picked up his backpack and slung his arm through the strap. He glanced at the clock, “Ah, I’m going to be late for my night class!” With that Junsu said a quick bye and pushed past Eunhyuk and left.
“You two look nothing alike,” Donghae commented as they sat down on the couch and Eunhyuk turned on the small television set,
“Ah, yeah, we’re fraternal twins,” Eunhyuk explained,
“And Sungmin, he looks like he’s our age,” Donghae stated,
“He is,” Eunhyuk answered easily, “Sungmin’s my step-brother. His dad and my mom married when we were five. And then when our parents died two years ago, he took the responsibility for Junsu and I.”
“What about his mom? Or your dad?” Donghae asked hesitantly,
“Sungmin’s mom died giving birth to him and our dad… well, he left when mom got pregnant,” Eunhyuk stated quietly, his eyes focused on the television.
Donghae suddenly felt a guilt overcome him for his impertinent questions. They had been friends just over a week and to ask such personal questions was nosy and rude. A silence fell upon them soon afterwards and Donghae felt the need to cross the chiasm that had suddenly grown between them.
As if feeling his gaze, Eunhyuk turned to look at Donghae and for a five count, they just stared at one another. Questions roamed around in his head for what seemed like the longest five seconds of his life when Donghae suddenly started leaning towards him. Immediately, his hand came between them, resting against Donghae’s chest and stopping him,
“You heard your parents, Donghae,” Eunhyuk said quietly, his hand firm against Donghae’s chest,
“What?” Donghae questioned,
“You have to… find yourself a wife and do your duty and produce heirs,” Eunhyuk explained, feeling the strong, wild beating of Donghae’s heart beneath his palm,
“Don’t listen to them, Eunhyuk,” Donghae insisted, grabbing the hand that was pressed against hi chest, “They’re just talking about-”
“Reality?” Eunhyuk tried to pry his hand from Donghae’s grasp with no avail. He sighed heavily before stating simply, “You know they’re right. You need to find someone and I can’t be that someone.”
Donghae’s fingers tightened painfully around Eunhyuk’s hand, his eyes narrowed, “But you’re what I WANT.”
“That doesn’t matter-”
Immediately Donghae’s hand fell away from Eunhyuk as he got to his feet. He glared down at Eunhyuk, “Why? Why is it that what I want doesn’t matter? Doesn’t EVER matter?” Donghae demanded as he looked away, running his hands through his hair with frustration; “I’ve been told all my life ‘this is what you need to do’… or ‘this is what’s needed of you’… I’m twenty-two years old and NOT ONCE has anyone ever asked me what I wanted!”
Eunhyuk looked up at Donghae, fighting the urge to apologize for their conversation, for the obvious stress and pain he was causing his new friend, “Then what do you want?”
Donghae let his arms drop to his side as his face softened, “You,” he said simply.
Eunhyuk swallowed hard and forced himself to look away from the prince’s dark eyes, “Something else, Donghae. It has to be something different than that.”
Donghae felt his heart constrict painfully until he felt the sting of tears threaten his eyes. “I thought you were different,” he managed before briskly leaving.
As the door slammed behind him, Eunhyuk stood up and dragged his fingers through his hair. He felt a coldness slice through him and walked towards the closest window that overlooked the front of the building. He braced his hands on the sill as a few moments later, he saw Prince Donghae stepping out onto the sidewalk and calling for a taxi. He gripped the sill until his knuckles whitened; he knew if he eased up even just a fraction, nothing would stop him from running after Donghae.
There were two weeks left until the ball when Eunhyuk returned to the club where he first met Donghae. He was feeling restless after not finding a job for the past two weeks since being in Seoul. Junsu was always busy with school to spend time with him and Sungmin would always encourage him as he came home or left for one of his jobs.
Eunhyuk approached the bar again, ordering a bottle of water,
“Hey, it’s you again!” The bartender commented as he immediately brought over the water, “The one who was battling against Bada - er, Prince Donghae.”
Eunhyuk shrugged casually as he took the bottle and sipped quietly.
“Pretty impressive, I have to admit I was worried when I saw you head towards him that night, but you held your own,” the bartender replied as another person gave him an order and he reluctantly left Eunhyuk to fill it. When he returned, he asked, “Back for another battle?”
“No, I just need the noise, the distraction to think,” Eunhyuk explained,
“Are you some kind of choreographer?” The bartender ventured,
Eunhyuk nodded, “Trying to be, anyway.”
“Well, you got the moves, kid, that’s for sure,” He commented,
“Thank you,” Eunhyuk replied, “Just waiting for -” The rest of his words went unsaid as his eyes fell upon a pair who had entered the club. Slowly, they made their way through the crowd onto the dance floor and began dancing.
The bartender looked up from the glasses he began to clean at Eunhyuk’s silence. He followed his gaze to the centre of the dance floor, “Eh, the prince is back? And not in disguise like before.”
“And he’s not alone,” Eunhyuk grounded out as he immediately downed the rest of his water bottle.
“That he’s not. Pretty girl he’s got with him too,” he admired as he continued cleaning the glasses, his eyes still on the prince and his companion.
Eunhyuk tightened his hold on his empty water bottle, crushing the clear plastic beneath his fingers. He felt an insistent pounding against his ribcage and could feel his blood running hot through his veins. His eyes followed Donghae’s hands as they rested on the young woman’s waist before sliding to her hips as they danced in unison with one another, their bodies flush with one another. Unable to take the heat anymore, Eunhyuk slammed the crushed bottle on the counter and made his way onto the dance floor, determined.
Once he reached Donghae, Eunhyuk tapped him on the shoulder. As Donghae turned his head to see who it was, Eunhyuk’s fist came in powerful contact with his jaw. Donghae stumbled backwards but regained his balance soon enough. Realizing who the assailant was, he narrowed his eyes and charged at Eunhyuk, knocking both of them to the ground. The dancers began parting, forming a circle yet again around the pair.
Eunhyuk hit Donghae again, followed by Donghae reciprocating with his own punch. Around them, everyone was wondering what was going on. Donghae raised his arm to hit Eunhyuk again when a powerful hand clamped down on his and pulled him off of Eunhyuk. Before either of them realized it, they were thrown out a side door of the club that led to an alleyway adjacent to the building.
“Next time, fight outside and THEN come into the club!” The bouncer barked before slamming the door closed.
Donghae turned to face Eunhyuk, “What the hell was that!?”
“I saw you with that girl and I got jealous, alright!?” Eunhyuk spat as he wiped the blood he could taste on his lips, turning away from Donghae and walking away.
Before he got too far, Donghae grabbed his shoulder and swung Eunhyuk back to face him, “Isn’t that what you wanted!? You wanted me to go and get what I needed, right? Just like my parents said so - fulfil my duty!?” Donghae practically spat the words, feeling the bile rise within him at what he was complying with already.
“Is she a royal too?” Eunhyuk asked as he shook Donghae’s grip from his shoulder and began walking back to the front of the building again,
“No, she doesn’t have to be,” Donghae replied as he followed,
“I see…” Eunhyuk muttered as they reached the front again,
“I thought this is what you wanted,” Donghae said quietly, stopping Eunhyuk’s progress with a hand on his arm,
Eunhyuk stared at Donghae’s hand on his arm before raising his eyes to Donghae’s, “It…is… It is,” Eunhyuk forced a strength into his words he didn’t feel nor did he want to feel.
Donghae felt the sting of his words immediately, retracting his hand as if he had been burned. At that moment, he saw his date run out of the club, looking around for him, “Then … stay the hell out of my life,” Donghae grounded out before turning on his heel and returning to his date.
Eunhyuk watched as Donghae reached the girl; watched as the girl reached up and tenderly caressed Donghae’s already purpling jaw; watched as Donghae smiled down at her. Fists clenched, body shaking and heart breaking, Eunhyuk forced himself to turn away and walked off muttering resentfully, “You make it sound like it’s easy.”
It was snowing heavily a week before the ball. Forecasters warned travellers to avoid going out into that night’s storm if possible, but Donghae didn’t heed their warnings. He couldn’t, not if he could ever live with himself again. He left the Royal House that evening and made his way through Seoul in the family limousine to the apartment Eunhyuk shared with his brothers. When he knocked on the door and Eunhyuk answered, the surprise - and suspicion - was evident on his face.
“What are you-”
“I’m not the oldest of my parents’ children,” Donghae blurted out,
“Everyone knows you’re not, but what does that have to do with anything?” Eunhyuk asked, suddenly confused,
“The first born - the heir, was my older brother, Kangin. When he stepped down from his title as prince, it was all over the news all over the world and my parents hated it,” Donghae continued, his fists clenched at his sides in an attempt to stop the rest of his body from shaking, “And…and I hated it too - I hated him too because he left me alone… Kyuhyun was already in England by then for school…”
“Donghae what does your brother leaving have anything to do with us?” Eunhyuk asked, suddenly exasperated. He crossed his arms and leaned a shoulder against the doorframe,
“He stepped down because of love,” Donghae answered, he eyes dropping to the floor as he confided, “I… I overheard my parents earlier and they were talking about Kangin. He left because he followed his heart instead of his duty… He… he had a male lover.” Suddenly he raised his gaze to lock with Eunhyuk’s, “If Kangin can do it, then I certainly can,” he grabbed one of Eunhyuk’s hands and took it between his own, “For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated what being a prince entailed, I’ve hated how duty ran my life and… and I won’t let it any-”
“I got my big break,” Eunhyuk interrupted,
“That’s nice,” Donghae said sincerely before adding, “Haven’t you been listening? I-”
“I’m leaving for America,” Eunhyuk interrupted again.
Immediately, Donghae dropped his hand, “W…W…What!?”
“I’m the lead choreographer for a Korean artist who’s breaking into the American scene,” Eunhyuk explained as he awkwardly crossed his arms again, loosely around his torso. He clenched his hands, still feeling the warmth of Donghae’s hands.
Donghae suddenly found it hard to breath, “You can’t be… serious,” He managed hoarsely,
“What they’re offering me will help with any expenses around here. Junsu has a scholarship, but extra money can help him with uniform and books… and it’ll make things easier on Sungmin so hyung doesn’t have to work so much,” Eunhyuk replied matter-of-factly, forcing the emotion out of his words while he ignored the painful battering of his heart against his ribcage.
“Eunhyuk…” Donghae began, practically suffocating on his words,
“It’s better this way,” Eunhyuk interjected, feeling a lump in his throat, painful and choking, “I’ll be able to fulfil my duty as a good brother… and… you’ll be able to fulfil your duty as a prince.”
Donghae felt the hot sting of tears and fought against it. His chest felt heavy and constricted as he heard the determined tone in Eunhyuk’s voice, “When… When do you leave?”
“In a week,” Eunhyuk replied simply, fighting all reaction to the evident tears brimming Donghae’s dark eyes,
“The day of my parents’ ball?’ Donghae managed,
“Yeah. Hey, good luck with that. I’m sorry, you sort of caught me at a bad time,” Eunhyuk said, turning slowly back towards the apartment, “I still have paperwork and-”
“Oh… okay,” Donghae nodded as he turned to leave, heading towards the elevator. As he pressed the button, he paused, realizing he never heard the door close behind Eunhyuk yet, “Eunhyuk?”
“Mhmm?” Eunhyuk’s voice was quiet as it managed to drift across the small distance between them,
“If… If I wasn’t a prince… would… would you still be leaving for America?” Donghae asked hesitantly.
A silence stretched between them for what seemed an eternity before Eunhyuk’s reply came quiet but firm, “Yes.”
The elevator doors opened before Donghae and he forced himself to step inside, not daring to look back at Eunhyuk. When he got outside into the night, Donghae wasn’t even fazed by the fact that the sheets of snow were now accompanied by cold rain, drenching him to the bone. If anything, he was glad for the rain for they’d help hide his tears as he slid into the family limousine.
Eunhyuk closed the door behind him after he watched Donghae disappear into the elevator. He leaned his back against the door and took deep steadying breaths, trying to calm his heart and stop the tears that threatened to fall. A noise made him look up and Sungmin came out of the kitchen, putting a pot of food on the dining table,
“So I guess you heard everything,” Eunhyuk muttered. Sungmin said nothing but merely nodded, “Well, you’re probably happy right? You weren’t exactly ecstatic when I brought Donghae home the one day… and when I came home after the club last week you could barely hold in your satisfaction when I told you about the fight!”
“Eunhyuk-” Sungmin began, looking up from his work,
“You know,” Eunhyuk pushed off from the door and wiped at his eyes with the back of his sleeve, “When mom and dad died, people asked me what kind of parent you could possibly be to me and Junsu… We’re basically the same age and you were in England for years. I defended you Sungmin. I defended you with every breath because I thought you’d be the best guardian ever. I thought since you were my older brother, you would understand me way better than mom and dad ever did,” Eunhyuk pinned him with a hard glare, “I was wrong.”
“Eunhyuk, you don’t understand!” Sungmin insisted, closing the distance between them.
However, Eunhyuk would have none of it. He pushed past Sungmin and bolted up the stairs to the upper level. Sungmin heard Eunhyuk slam the bathroom door behind him. He sighed heavily and dropped into one of the chairs that the dining table.
Sungmin was startled when a pair of arms wrapped around him, “He didn’t mean any of it,” Junsu insisted as he came and sat across from Sungmin at the table. He had remained on the bed studying when he heard his brothers fight, but after he heard Eunhyuk barricade himself in the bathroom, Junsu felt it best he come comfort his older brother instead.
“If… No, when I was being hostile to Donghae, I had my reasons,” Sungmin insisted,
Junsu tilted his head as he regarded him a moment. He offered a small smile, “Then you need to explain that to Eunhyuk.”
“How? When?” Sungmin countered,
“When he’s cooled off,” Junsu offered with a slight shrug of his shoulders, “When the time’s right, I suppose.”
Sungmin looked at his brother’s hopeful smile and sighed heavily, nodding in silent agreement. When the time was right, he’d do what Eunhyuk was unable to do and explain his feelings.
“Thank you for driving me,” Eunhyuk said quietly as he slipped into the passenger seat of the car while Sungmin sat in the driver’s seat, ready to drive to Gimpo Airport.
“What did you think? I’d let you bus or walk to the airport?” Sungmin scoffed, “Junsu would be here too if he didn’t have a test tonight.” Sungmin gave him side-long glance, “You have everything? Passport, ticket, itinerary?”
Eunhyuk nodded, “Yeah, we take a plane to Tokyo and then from Tokyo to Los Angeles,”
“Tonight’s the big ball, isn’t it?” Sungmin asked hesitantly, “It’s all over the news,” he glanced at the clock, “Apparently it’ll start in an hour or so.” Eunhyuk remained silent as Sungmin prompted, “Are you sure-”
“Min, please,” Eunhyuk muttered as he turned his head to look out his window,
“All I ever wanted was what is best for you and Junsu. The only reason I was never supportive of you and Donghae is because I knew what he was and what that demanded of him,” Sungmin explained quietly, steadily, as one hand gripped the steering wheel and the other gripped the head of the gear shift stick.
“Min, I’m leaving him behind, isn’t that enough?” Eunhyuk questioned, “Can’t you just get off my case already?”
“Just listen,” Sungmin scowled before taking a steadying breath and calming himself, “I thought if you got involved with him the only thing that would come out of it is a whole lot of hurt… for you. But when he came that night and spoke of his older brother I realized… well, I was wrong.”
“What are you talking about?” Eunhyuk asked hesitantly, turning to look at his brother,
“If you love Donghae, you should tell me to turn this car around and drive you to the royal house,” Sungmin said simply as they came to a stop at a red light.
“But Min - this is my break and… the money-”
Sungmin took this opportunity to look at his brother, “You’re extremely talent Eunhyuk - this will not be your only break, there WILL be more.” He took another steadying breath as he looked forward to see the light green and began driving again, “And on the matter of money, let me be the big brother and take care of it like I always have.”
“Let me worry about the money,” Sungmin repeated, “You can worry about convincing another prince to walk away from being king.”
The ballroom was crowded with officials, royals, non-royals and yet, Donghae felt nothing but loneliness. He heard the crowd begin to hush as his father stepped ahead of the line made by him, Donghae and the Queen. As the voices began to hush and the King began to greet the guests, Donghae felt that suffocating feeling again; the one made by his title, his duty, his life - everything except for when he was with Eunhyuk. His eyes suddenly began to wander around the ballroom, trying to find a place to escape as his father droned on and on. Suddenly, his eyes fell upon the main entrance to the ballroom. There was some sort of altercation occurring between the footmen who guarded the door and some guest trying to enter.
Donghae couldn’t see who it was that was arguing with the guards and yet, he knew who it was; he could feel who it was. Without a word, barely with a thought, he stepped down from the dais where he stood with his parents and walked the crowd. People parted and stepped out of his way as he walked towards the door as if possessed. In a sense, Donghae felt he was possessed - by his heart. He made it to the door and told the guards to stand down and told them to close the doors. Within seconds, he and Eunhyuk were alone in the corridor.
“I thought you were leaving today,” Donghae said, sounding out of breath. In truth, he could barely breath at just the thought that Eunhyuk was before him again.
“I couldn’t let you go through with this ball,” Eunhyuk admitted hesitantly, shoving his fists into his jeans’ pockets,
At his words, Donghae felt a weight lift itself from his chest and yet, he felt wary, felt shielded. The last time he had opened himself up to the man before him, he had gotten hurt. Instead of elated as he should feel, he suddenly felt the weight return, ten-fold,
“I try to go against my duty and you get upset. I try to fulfil my duty as a prince and you get upset,” he narrowed his eyes, “What the hell do I have to do to make you happy!?
“Be with me,” Eunhyuk replied simply, locking eyes with Donghae.
The prince took a sudden step backwards, startled by his words and by the look in Eunhyuk’s eyes - hopeful and sincere. Donghae felt his heart being to beat wildly and yet he still couldn’t allow himself to hope, “What?”
“I lied before when I said what I wanted was for you to honour your duties… Well - I do want that for you but… but only if YOU want that for you and-”
Donghae raised his hand to stop Eunhyuk’s words, “I don‘t understand what you’re talking about.”
“I’m in love with you,” Eunhyuk explained. His voice suddenly quiet but firm, “Prince or not, I just want to be with you.”
Donghae could feel his body tremble and a lump form in his throat. He swallowed hard, his voice barely above a whisper, “But… What about America and your big break? It’s… it’s your dream.”
“There’ll be other breaks for me, surely… so I think I can forgive myself for walking away from this one,” Eunhyuk shrugged helplessly before stepping forward and taking one of Donghae’s hand into his own, “But if I walk away from this dream… I know I would never be able to forgive myself.”
Donghae opened his mouth to reply but just then, the doors to the ballroom opened and closed, his parents suddenly there with them.
“What’s going on!?” His mother demanded, clearly harried after he spontaneously departed from the ballroom before all the guests during the King’s address.
“Can’t you see? He’s going down the same path as his brother,” the King commented angrily, his face going red with fury,
“Donghae-” the Queen began in a pleading tone as she eyed overtly eyed their joined hands,
“You talk of Kangin as if he’s some sort of disgrace,” Donghae exclaimed angrily as he face his parents, slightly stepping in front of Eunhyuk in a gesture of protection.
“He is the FIRST BORN! Destiny makes him heir to the thrown! What did he do instead!?” the King demanded, “HE THREW IT AWAY FOR SOME… Some…” His cold eyes briefly brushed over Eunhyuk, “Some man.”
“He wasn’t just a man to Kangin - hyung loved him!” Donghae argued, his hand tightening around Eunhyuk’s,
“That’s all well and good Donghae, but he has duties to his birthright, first and foremost,” his father countered bitterly,
“And what of his duty to himself?” Donghae challenged, “Or to his heart? Who’s to say the crown takes precedence over matters of the heart!?”
“There’s no reasoning with them Donghae - trust me, I’ve tried.” Suddenly all attention turned towards down the hallway as a young man dressed in a black suit with silver pinstripes walked towards them, heading from the front hall of the Royal House.
“What are you doing here, Kangin? You were banned from there the moment you gave up your title,” the King demanded angrily as the Queen placed a hand on his arm, trying to calm her husband,
“And I haven’t been back since,” the former Prince Kangin mocking bowed to his parents, “But seeing as you were going to throw Donghae to the wolves,” he casually gestured to the ballroom doors behind his parents, “I wasn’t going to just idly watch in the background.”
“Oh? And where’s that lover of yours?” His father spat mockingly,
“Far from here AND you,” Kangin replied easily, unperturbed by his father’s anger. He casually crossed his arms,
“Don’t come around here trying to manipulate your brother to your way of thinking,” his father warned, taking a step towards the eldest son, but the Queen kept her hold steady on the King,
“My way of thinking!? Ha! I’m not manipulating Donghae into anything ! I’m protecting him from the likes of you,” Kangin countered, eyes narrowed dangerously, “If you didn’t ship Kyuhyun off to school in England and Yoochun even - if you didn’t ship him all around the world I’d sure as hell be protecting them too!”
“You KNOW your cousin is a threat to you and your brothers inheriting the crown,” the King spat, “And don’t you dark speak of your brother! Kyuhyun is the only one NOT to disgrace this family!”
“THAT IS ENOUGH!” The Queen exclaimed. Her voice echoed in the hallway, shocking those present at her suddenly volume and command,
“But-” the King began,
“Because of YOUR pride and irrational sense of hierarchy, MY firstborn was forced out of his home and away from his family! I’ll not let you alienate ANOTHER of MY sons!” the Queen shrieked, her cheeks flushing from her exertions, her small frame trembling with anger.
“You are fully aware of the fact that if none of our sons produce an heir - our family cannot continue the monarchy! It’ll go to some obscure relation!” The King reminded coolly, his eyes still burning with furious flames,
“So we’ll let them give up their hearts just to wear a piece of metal on their heads!? The least we can do… the least we can give them is the chance to have something we never did,” The Queen said with finality, her voice suddenly calm. She took a few steadying breaths before sending a look full of ice towards her husband, “if you’ll excuse me, the guests are waiting.”
She crossed the distance to Donghae and brushed her lips against his cheek then went over to her eldest. She raised her hand and cupped the side of his face as she looked up at Kangin, smiling happily. She pressed an affectionate kiss to his cheek before disappearing into the ballroom.
“I hope you’re happy,” the King snarled at his eldest son,
“This isn’t about me, Father. But since you’re so keen on keeping up appearances, I suggest you go back into that ballroom and act like nothing’s wrong.” Kangin said matter-of-factly,
The King, still shaking with anger, turned to leave but stopped when he was called to by his son,
“I’m sorry, Father,” Donghae said quietly, steadily, “I cannot accept the crown if it means not being with the one I love.”
The King said nothing and disappeared into the ballroom after his wife.
Once the doors closed behind the king, Donghae let out an evident sigh of relief.
“So, you gave up the crown like your hyung,” Kangin said with a shake of his head as Donghae and Eunhyuk turned to face him,
“You don’t sound too impressed,” Donghae eyed his brother warily, “Not the greeting I’d expect after five years.”
Kangin shrugged, “Becoming king would’ve given you everything you could ever have wanted.”
Donghae glanced over his shoulder at Eunhyuk, then shook his head as he looked back at his brother, “Not everything.”
As if satisfied with his answer, Kangin smiled and turned to leave,
“Where will you go?” Donghae asked,
Kangin looked over his shoulder at them, “Home.”
“You can’t stay longer? It’s been years.” Donghae said imploringly,
“Now that you’ve left the throne, I’m sure we’ll see each other more often. For tonight, however, I have to go,” Kangin insisted, “My driver’s waiting for me.”
-Kangin smiles and makes his leave,
A light of realization entered Donghae’s eyes as he smiled knowingly, “Say hi to Eeteuk for me.”
With that, Kangin nodded his goodbye to the pair of them and left. Once his brother was out of sight, Donghae visibly sighed and turned around to face Eunhyuk, leaning his forehead against his shoulder. Startled, Eunhyuk immediately wrapped his arms around him,
“Exhausted?” He laughed lightly,
“You have no idea,” Donghae straightened then and peered at Eunhyuk confusedly, “You’re freezing!”
“Sungmin couldn’t drive through the front gates, so I walked here,” Eunhyuk explained with a lop-sided smile,
Donghae took Eunhyuk’s hands in his, feeling the cold beneath his warm palms, “Winter nights are the coldest,” he scolded lightly,
Eunhyuk closed what little distance there was between them, leaning his forehead against Donghae’s, “Then it’s up to you to warm me up. But I’ve heard that cold nights are the loneliest too.”
Donghae looked into Eunhyuk’s eyes, “Not anymore they won‘t be,” he murmured his promise as he leaned his face closer, their lips meeting in a sweet reunion.
“IF YOU DON’T GET UP RIGHT NOW, YOU’LL BE LATE!” Sungmin declared as he tore away the several blankets from Eunhyuk’s curled up body.
Eunhyuk’s eyes widened at the sudden lack of heat from the numerous blankets that covered the king-sized bed in the apartment, “MIN!”
“No arguing Eunhyuk,” Sungmin said sternly, “I gave up one of my jobs and let Donghae move in - so no arguing!”
Eunhyuk scowled as he climbed off the bed, noticing he was the only one left there, “Where IS Donghae? If I’m late, we’ll both be late for work,”
“Unlike you, Donghae’s been up for hours eating breakfast,” Sungmin replied as he tossed the blankets back onto the mattress and turned to head to the bathroom, “But if you want to get this choreographing deal, you both should be there together AND on time!”
A few moments later, Eunhyuk sat down at the dining table just as Donghae finished his. Briefly kissing Eunhyuk on the way to the kitchen, Donghae placed his things in the sink before returning.
“If you both don’t hurry and leave, you’ll be late,” Sungmin warned as he came down the stairs, speaking over the television that was on in the area of the loft that was considered the living room. He walked past them to the kitchen and began washing the dishes,
“Donghae, your dad’s on the television,” Eunhyuk commented,
Donghae, who had begun to read the newspaper on the table looked up just in time to see the newscaster on the screen, his father standing at a podium far behind the newscaster,
“We’re here at the press conference the King has held at city hall. According to his speech, Prince Kyuhyun, who has been gone from Korea for seven years will be returning at the end of June - only two months’ time!” The reporter said excitedly, “Prince Kyuhyun who has been going to school in England…”
As the news caster continued, a photo of Prince Kyuhyun appeared on the screen. As Donghae grew quiet beside Eunhyuk, a loud crash was heard. Eunhyuk glanced towards the archway that separated the kitchen from the rest of the loft. There stood Sungmin, a dishrag in his hand and the remnant of what was once a plate at his feet.
“Min?” Eunhyuk looked at him in askance.
Jerking, as if startled, Sungmin tore his gaze away from Eunhyuk and shook his head, moving to get a broom and dustpan, “Go already - you’ll be late!”
Once in the elevator, it was evident to Eunhyuk that Donghae was still in his silence from before. Eunhyuk nudged Donghae and when he looked at him, Eunhyuk merely tilted his head in a silent question.
“When Kangin gave up the crown, the pressure was doubled on me as a prince… now that I’ve stepped down too, all this pressure is going to be on Kyu- more so than it ever was on Kangin or myself,” Donghae explained quietly, “He probably hates me…”
“Are you happy?” Eunhyuk asked tentatively,
Donghae blinked, “What?”
“Are you happy? With how your life is? With the choice you made? With being with me?” Eunhyuk prompted simply,
“Of course! I have never been happier than I am now!” Donghae insisted, moving to stand before Eunhyuk, his hands on Eunhyuk’s hips,
“Then your brother will forgive you, like you forgave Kangin,” Eunhyuk insisted. Donghae let out a small sigh and nodded in silent compliance. Eunhyuk sensed the remaining doubt in Donghae and leaned forward, pressing his lips against Donghae’s.
When the kiss was broken, Donghae stared blankly at him a moment before offering a small smile before he moved to stand beside him again.
“It’s been three weeks, how do you like the life of a pauper?” Eunhyuk asked lightly, a grin on his lips,
Donghae chuckled softly as he took one of Eunhyuk’s hands in his own and brought it up to his lips, placing a kiss on the back of his hand. He gazed at Eunhyuk sincerely as he declared, “I’ve never felt richer.”