(Part of the Princes Series)
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, especially since two of those sons had already stepped down from their titles and the forth in line, the King‘s nephew, had disappeared. So, it was no surprise to all when the youngest son, Prince Kyuhyun returned to Korea for the first time in seven years at the end of that June.
Sungmin sighed heavily as he leaned against the back counter in the café where he worked. He popped an ice cube in his mouth and let it cool him down. It had been one of the hottest summers that year and as August was drawing to a close, Sungmin was ready for Autumn to come in and sweep away the stifling heat.
“Sungmin! Two ice coffees!”
Lazily, Sungmin glanced towards the café door where two young men entered. He gave a slanted look to the one who called out the order, “Junsu,” Sungmin said in a warning tone as his younger step-brother came and sat at the bar instead of at a table, joined by his boyfriend, “Hi Yoochun-sshi - or should I call you Prince?”
“Hi Sungmin-sshi,” Yoochun gave a slight nod in greeting as he sat at the counter beside Junsu, “And please don’t call me Prince. Ever since I came out of hiding two months ago reporters have been hounding me to find out where I disappeared to.”
“Then Yoochun-sshi it is,” Sungmin grinned as he grabbed a coffee pot.
“Out of all your part-time jobs, you always kept this one,” Junsu noted as Sungmin started making their drinks,
“I like being a barista of sorts,” Sungmin shrugged, “So I always kept this one while I switched around with other jobs.”
Two years ago, Sungmin’s dad and step-mom had died in a car accident. At the time, Sungmin was in England going to high school there. When he heard of the accident he had hurried back to Ulsan to be with his step-brothers, the fraternal twins Eunhyuk and Junsu. After that, he remained with his brothers, taking on multiple jobs to support the three of them.
Junsu had been attending Y.G. University was accepted with a full scholarship to S.M. Medical University and Eunhyuk had dreams of become a famous choreographer. So, with his step-brothers’ dreams in his hands, Sungmin had picked up their family last February and moved them all to Seoul where Junsu’s school was located.
Sungmin handed over the drinks to Junsu and Yoochun and watched them as they took sips. Besides making the drinks, he had always enjoyed seeing the expressions on people’s faces from drinking his caffeinated creations.
“I haven’t had a coffee this good for… about three years,” Yoochun said as he licked his lips of the remnants of his sip, placing his glass back on the countertop, “Actually, that’s a lie, you’ve gotten so much better, Sungmin-sshi.”
Junsu blinked as he glanced between his boyfriend and his step-brother, “You… You knew each other three years ago?”
Sungmin opened his mouth to reply when the door to the café opened again. He turned to greet the couple who came in from the summer evening when he froze. He wasn’t sure if his heart had stopped or was beating so fast he no longer could feel it. All he knew was that he hadn’t seen that face in over two years.
A nineteen-year-old Sungmin was wiping down tables in the café he worked, slowly closing down the shop by himself for the first time since he got hired a few weeks ago. The little bell above the door rang as s the door opened.
“We’re closed up for the day,” Sungmin said with a sigh as he threw down his cloth on the table and turned to whoever entered.
“Please, just let me and my cousin stay here a few minutes,” A teenaged boy asked. He had another boy’s arm wrapped over his shoulder as he lead that boy over to the nearest table and helped him into a chair, “He just got into a fight and we needed to run away.”
Sungmin looked over both boys, the younger of the two had been begging him; the elder was slumped in the chair, a hand over his left eye. Reluctantly, Sungmin nodded as he picked up his cloth and headed over to the bar. He grabbed a clean cloth and ran it under cold water, then came back around the counter and walked over to the boys.
He pulled up a chair before the older boy and sat down, “Okay, let’s see the eye,” Sungmin sighed heavily. The boy slowly lowered his eye and Sungmin had to stop from gasping. His eye was already swollen and bruised, not to mention the cut above his eyelid that was still bleeding. “Here, just hold this against your eye, it should help with the swelling.”
The boy silently took the compress and pressed it firmly against his aching eye. His cousin stood behind him, his eyes still full of concern,
“So what are your names?” Sungmin asked casually as he stood up and offered his chair to the younger boy,
“I’m Kyuhyun,” The boy said before gesturing to his cousin, “And that’s Yoochun.”
“Well, Kyuhyun-sshi, Yoochun-sshi… I’m closing up for the day,” He glanced at his watch as he headed to the door and locked it, “So no one else will come in, but as I’m closing you two are free to hide out here as long as you need.”
“Thanks,” Yoochun muttered as he laid the right side of his face on the table and closing his eyes, his body aching.
Sungmin headed back to the bar and started doing the dishes there when Kyuhyun came over, “Can I be of some help?” Kyuhyun asked, “Since we’re imposing so much-”
“It’s fine,” Sungmin insisted, “It’s obvious your cousin’s in bad shape and I have two brothers back home, so I know how it is.”
“Please, at least, let me sweep,” Kyuhyun prompted,
Sungmin looked him up and down before nodding, “There’s a broom and dustpan behind the kitchen door.” Immediately Kyuhyun went and fetched it and started sweeping around the café. As Sungmin stood by the sink on the back counter of the bar, he kept glancing at the cousins. Finally he asked aloud, speaking in Korean rather than English, “Mwo jom kajyeoda dureorkkayeu, wangja?”
Immediately Yoochun sat up in his chair and Kyuhyun stopped sweeping, glancing over his shoulder at Sungmin,
“I thought you two looked familiar,” Sungmin continued in English, “Prince Kyuhyun and Prince Yoochun, right?”
“I left Korea when I was nine, how did you-”
“I have a good memory,” Sungmin said as he looked up and smiled at Yoochun. “And Kyuhyun-sshi, I’ve seen you around school.”
Kyuhyun paused again, this time turning to face Sungmin, leaning a chin at the tip of his broom handle as he did so, “School?” Kyuhyun tilted his head as he regarded Sungmin a moment, “You’re a senior, right?”
Sungmin nodded, “This is a little late, but I’m Sungmin.”
“This place has the best coffee,” A young woman said as she walked directly to one of the booths in the small café, “But not many people know, which is good since it’s convenient to those who do know!”
Her companion gave her a polite smile as he slid into the booth, opposite her, “I have to admit, I’ve never known a lady to turn down a restaurant for a small-time café.”
“This place is worth more than the most high-class restaurant in Seoul,” She insisted as she pulled out her menu.
Meanwhile by the bar, Junsu cleared his throat as he put down his ice coffee, “Sungmin… shouldn’t you go serve them? You’re the only one here.”
Yoochun glanced over his shoulder to his cousin before looking back at Sungmin, “I could put on an apron if you would prefer?”
Sungmin shook his head as he rubbed the back of his neck wearily, “When he came back to Korea two months ago, I knew I’d run into him eventually…” He sighed heavily as he walked around the counter and headed over to the booth, “Welcome to Coffee Express, my name’s Sungmin and I’ll be your server today,” he paused a moment, “And barista… and cook… and - well, Wednesdays are always slow, so there’s just me,” he laughed lightly.
“Sungmin-sshi…” Sungmin froze as he instinctively looked towards the young man sitting in the booth, “It’s been awhile, hmm?”
Sungmin nodded casually, “Yeah… just over two years, huh?”
The young woman looked between the server and the man sitting opposite her, “Kyuhyun-sshi, do you know him?”
The Prince nodded as his eyes swept over Sungmin’s face before locking with his eyes, “We went to the same high school in England,” Kyuhyun explained, “Two Koreans running into each other at a private school in England? Naturally we became friends.”
Sungmin nodded in silent agreement, feeling Kyuhyun’s last word slice through his chest like a blade.
“Miyoung, this is Sungmin; Sungmin, this is my fiancée, Miyoung,” Kyuhyun introduced,
“It’s so cool that you two run into each other here as well!” Miyoung smiled brightly as she shook hands with him, “Oh, I’ll have the white mocha frappuccino,” Miyoung said as she slid out of the booth and ran off towards the bathrooms.
“Do you suggest anything?” Kyuhyun asked coolly as he looked down at the menu,
“First item on the coffee list,” Sungmin replied.
Kyuhyun flipped back to the first page of the menu and glanced at the first item, “Coffee-Q… Barista Sungmin’s specialty,” He read aloud. He skimmed through the description of the drink before looking up at Sungmin, “This is…”
“The way you like your coffee,” Sungmin confirmed as he took the menus, and walked back to he bar before he could say anything.
Kyuhyun watched him walk away. He glanced around the café, it was empty save themselves and two people at the bar. He looked towards the bathrooms before he dashed over to the bar, “I think we need to talk!” Kyuhyun hissed, his hands grasping the counter edge,
“I think you should respect your elders and greet your cousin,” Sungmin countered as he put away the menus and started making the orders.
Kyuhyun blinked before the person sitting to his right nudged him. He turned his glare at them then his eyes grew wide, “Yoochun hyung!”
“Good seeing you,” Yoochun chuckled lightly as Kyuhyun hugged him tightly,
“I would’ve contacted you the moment I land but-”
“Your father had just called off his search party for me?” Yoochun offered with a smile, “It’s fine Kyuhyun, we both knew how things would be for us once we were both in Korea again; the King might have an apoplexy just knowing we’re at the same café.”
Kyuhyun sighed heavily, “Yeah… So, I see you and Sungmin met up again.”
Yoochun glanced at Sungmin who had his back to them still and nodded, “Yeah, this past winter.”
“Small world…” Kyuhyun muttered, looking over at Sungmin,
“Small world is that I’m dating Sungmin’s brother,” Yoochun said easily as he leaned back in his chair, pulling Junsu against him so Kyuhyun could see, “Kyuhyun, this is Junsu.”
“Ah, hi Junsu-sshi,” Kyuhyun immediately shook the hand Junsu held out to him.
“You should bow to him,” Yoochun told Junsu in a flat tone,
Junsu narrowed his eyes at him, “I don’t bow to you and your other cousins have never expected me to bow-”
“I was kidding,” Yoochun laughed as he pressed a kiss to his furrowed brow, he turned back to Kyuhyun, “Junsu’s used to be around royalty rejects… I’m sure your father’s told you about Donghae…”
“He didn’t, but I’ve heard,” Kyuhyun said quietly, “Do you know who Donghae’s… Who he’s with?”
“Yes, my other brother Eunhyuk,” Sungmin answered swiftly as he turned around and placed two mugs on the counter before Kyuhyun, “And here’s your order.”
“Sungmin - we NEED to talk,” Kyuhyun grounded out as he took the mugs, his hands closing over Sungmin’s, trapping them, “Please.”
Sungmin glanced towards the bathrooms where Miyoung stepped out. He slipped his hands away and picked up a cloth, seemingly cleaning the counter, “Fine… shop closes at ten, we can talk then.”
Kyuhyun nodded just as he picked up the mugs and joined Miyoung on the way back to their booth.
“Do you want us to stay?” Yoochun asked tentatively as he downed the rest of his ice coffee,
“No,” Sungmin sighed as he leaned against the back counter, crossing his arms loosely. He glanced past the pair to Kyuhyun before looking back at Yoochun and Junsu, “It’s a conversation I’ve been preparing myself for since I heard he was coming back in early April…”
“We’ll stay until then, hmm?” Yoochun offered and Sungmin nodded before he quietly excused himself and went through a door leading into the kitchen.
“There was a four year period when my brother went off to school in England… and I know England was one of the countries the King shipped you off to,” Junsu said slowly as he sipped at his coffee, “Am I right in assuming the friendship you two now have is more than just us being together?”
Yoochun nodded, “I went to school in England, but Kyuhyun and Sungmin went to the same school.”
Junsu looked over his shoulder to the booth where the Prince and Miyoung sat. He turned back again, “Was… was there something between my brother and… your cousin?”
In reply, Yoochun grabbed his hand and brought it up to his lips, “You’re smarter than you look.”
“Why didn’t you tell me any of this?” Junsu demanded, his palms slamming down on the table as he and Sungmin sat in a booth together.
“I didn’t tell anyone,” Sungmin corrected as he crossed his arms loosely about his torso, “It was a part of my life I didn’t think would ever collide with my life now…”
“You could’ve gone back,” Junsu argued then, sitting back down in his seat, “You didn’t have to-”
“You were accepted to Y.G. U and Eunhyuk was working. If I didn’t stay in Korea after Mom and Dad died, you wouldn’t have been able to stay in school,” Sungmin grounded out, “I did what I did to benefit everyone-”
“Except you,” Junsu interjected, “Every time we do something you say that, but it’s not true. You’re the only one who’s never benefited from anything we’ve done over the past two years.”
“That’s not completely true,” Sungmin insisted quietly, offering a small smile, “I was able to reconnect with my brothers after being away for so long… and we got closer, right?”
“You KNOW what I mean,” Junsu sighed as he ran his hands through his hair, “But your old life is back in your new life… what are you going to do?”
“Talk to him,” Sungmin said as he idly looked at his watch, it was closing in on ten o’clock, “And then go on with life as I have been.”
Yoochun approached them, leaning a hip against the side of Junsu’s seat as he tossed down an apron on the table, “Everything’s cleaned up,”
Sungmin looked up at him gratefully, smiling weakly, “Thanks Yoochun.”
Yoochun shook his head, “Think nothing of it, Junsu wanted to know what I knew but I didn’t have the right to tell him. Besides, I do the same thing at home since Kangin and Eeteuk let me stay with them rent-free.”
“You could stay with us rent-free,” Sungmin said sincerely,
“I know, but your place is crowded enough with just the four of you living there,” Yoochun said, “I wouldn’t want to impose.”
Just then, the door opened as the minute hand on Sungmin’s watch reached the twelve and the hour hand landed on ten. Kyuhyun came in and looked around, his eyes locking in on the three by the booths. He approached tentatively just as Yoochun grabbed Junsu’s hand and yanked him out of the booth.
“We have to get going,” Yoochun interrupted his cousin, “Kyuhyun, next time your dad’s not looking, give me a call.”
“Ah, yeah, definitely,” Kyuhyun nodded, “Where… where are you staying?”
“With Kangin,” Yoochun replied, “Um… just ask your mom, she knows where it is.”
Kyuhyun nodded again as Yoochun and Junsu said their goodbyes to Sungmin and promptly left the café. As the door closed behind them, Kyuhyun dropped into Junsu’s vacated seat and clasped his hands atop the table, his eyes staring at Sungmin,
“Talk,” the single word was said quietly, but echoed in the empty, dim café.
“You already know what I left.. My parents-”
“Died two years ago and you never came back,” Kyuhyun interrupted, his dark eyes narrowed and voice cold,
“I had to stay and support my step-brothers,” Sungmin said, tightening his arms around himself, “We were the only family each other had… I had to stay and make sure they’d be alright.”
“I didn’t hear anything from you, Min,” Kyuhyun said, the familiar pain running through his chest then before he shook his head to wave it off; “For two years I didn’t hear a single word from you - it was the least you could’ve done.”
“And what then?” Sungmin questioned, “I was back in the country where you are in line for the throne. I knew the moment you stepped back on Korean soil we could be nothing more than friends - so I made it easier for the both of us.”
Kyuhyun said nothing, knowing what he said was the truth. “You still could’ve contacted me…” He grounded out stubbornly, “I would’ve be fine being… just friends.”
“Really? Because I wouldn’t have been fine,” Sungmin admitted quietly, feeling his cheeks pink. He began playing with the apron Yoochun had deposited on the table, “I needed those two years so that when I did see you again, I would be okay.”
“And are you?” Kyuhyun asked seriously, his voice barely above a whisper as he placed a hand over one of Sungmin’s.
Sungmin released the apron and moved his hand so his fingers were intertwined with Kyuhyun’s. He looked directly into Kyuhyun’s eyes and answered honestly, quietly, firmly, “Far from it.”
“Hyung I passed my test!” Kyuhyun cried as he burst into the café as Sungmin was closing the shop down.
Sungmin straightened from behind the bar where he was cleaning dishes and smiled as the newly seventeen-year-old came around the counter and hugged him tightly, his arms wrapped around his neck.
“For the first time, I finally understood Physics!” Kyuhyun grinned as he released Sungmin, “It was like I could see the equations in my mind and… it’s all thanks to you!”
Sungmin laughed lightly as he put the last dish on the drying rack and leaned against the back counter, wrapping his arms around himself, “I’m glad my help wasn’t in vain,”
“Oh it wasn’t! I had the highest mark for that test - even my teacher was surprised!” Kyuhyun said as he unbuttoned the blazer of his school uniform. He laughed, “So surprised he wanted to talk to me after class.”
“You’ve been at school until now?” Sungmin gaped at him as he began preparing a cup of coffee for Kyuhyun,
“No, after I found out I passed I went out with some friends to celebrate at an arcade,” Kyuhyun gave him a lop-sided grin,
Sungmin chuckled at the sound of Kyuhyun’s love of games while his heart clenched at the thought of him being with other people, “Well, I’m glad you enjoyed yourself, you should celebrate a victory like that.”
“I… I wanted to celebrate with you the most,” Kyuhyun admitted quietly as he accepted the mug Sungmin handed to him. He took a long sip and smiled down at the liquid, “Just how I love it.”
“Why did you want to celebrate with me?” Sungmin asked hesitantly, “You should celebrate with people your age, not an old geezer like me.”
“You’re a high school student like me,” Kyuhyun rolled his eyes before drinking the rest, “besides… it’s because of you that I’m able to celebrate something.”
“Is… that the only reason?” Sungmin inquired, his heart pounding and his eyes staring at the drop of froth on Kyuhyun’s lower lip.
Kyuhyun stared down at his empty cup before placing it down, “Yeah… what else… what else is there?” He asked quietly.
Before a sliver of doubt could cross his mind, Sungmin closed the distance between them and pulled Kyuhyun’s lips to his own, melting the froth and tasting the sweet coffee in the kiss. When he let go of him, Sungmin took a small step back to give him space.
Kyuhyun reached his hand up to his own mouth, his finger tips grazing over where Sungmin’s lips were just moments ago. He glanced up and caught Sungmin’s eyes and a small smile tugged at the Prince’s lips, “Yeah… There’s that too…”
Against all better judgement, Sungmin entered a relationship with Kyuhyun, despite the fact that Kyuhyun was planning his wedding to Miyoung that would take place at the end of December, four months away. They would hang out, seemingly just as friends, but when no one was around, there were stolen kisses, brushes of hands and hot stares.
One September evening, Sungmin and Kyuhyun were spending the evening at the loft apartment Sungmin shared with his brothers and Eunhyuk’s boyfriend - Kyuhyun’s older brother - the former prince, Donghae. Sitting in the ‘living room‘ area of the lower level of the loft, Kyuhyun had one arm draped over the back of the couch behind Sungmin. Sungmin was snuggled into Kyuhyun’s side, his feet propped up against the edge of the coffee table.
As the movie progressed, Kyuhyun tugged at Sungmin’s legs, pulling them to lie across his lap, turning Sungmin to face him. As he did so, Sungmin reached up and pulled Kyuhyun’s lips down to his. Like all of their kisses, it was slow and seductive. Kyuhyun would always try to hasten it, hurry the passion, but Sungmin wouldn’t allow it. He wanted to savour each kiss, each touch and each stare, only because he knew eventually it would all stop and all he’d have were the memories.
Kyuhyun pulled back enough to see Sungmin directly, “What is it?” Sungmin asked quietly, his hands still cradling Kyuhyun’s face,
“I love you, Sungmin,” the Prince whispered, his voice hoarse as he felt his heart beat against his chest rapidly.
Sungmin’s eyes swept over his before he slowly extracted himself from Kyuhyun, stood up and turned on the lights, “It’s getting late, you should go,” Sungmin said quietly as he turned off the television.
“Why?” Kyuhyun demanded, getting to his feet,
“Because there’s no room for endearments, Kyu,” Sungmin explained, loosely wrapping his arms around himself,
“What!? Why not?” Kyuhyun questioned, closing the distance between them, his hands clamping down on Sungmin’s shoulders,
“You know why,” Sungmin stressed, “It’ll only make saying goodbye harder… There’s already only three and a half months left.”
Kyuhyun turned away from him, the words cutting through him like cold steel. Before any more words could be said, the front door opened and Sungmin’s step-brother, Eunhyuk entered with Kyuhyun’s older brother, Donghae. The pair dropped their bags by the dining table and froze in their steps,
“Sorry, are we interrupting?” Eunhyuk asked hesitantly, his eyes going back and forth between his brother and the Prince. Junsu had told him about their brother’s time in England, but Sungmin had told no one that they had gotten together after that night in the café.
“No, you’re not,” Sungmin insisted from where he stood. He tightened his arms around himself, still feeling the heat and pressure of Kyuhyun’s hands on his shoulders. “How was it today at the dance studio? Did the backup dancers learn your-”
“It’s your fucking fault,” Kyuhyun’s voice cut through the air towards his brother.
Donghae blinked. Since Kyuhyun returned to Korea, he had no contact with his brother and despite knowing how Kyuhyun would feel and preparing himself for it, Donghae still felt caught off guard. Eunhyuk physically stepped forward to defend him, but Donghae held out an arm across, blocking him across his chest to stop him. Instead, Donghae stood forward, ready for what was about to happen.
“You and Kangin,” Kyuhyun continued, closing the distance between them. He pointed at him, pressing his finger against his chest, “Because the two of you couldn’t do your duty by the crown, I’m the one who can’t be happy now.”
Donghae remained silent, his eyes locked with his brothers. He bit down on his lower lip to keep his silence and fought the hot tears that stung his eyes. His fists were clenched at his sides to stop the rest of his body from trembling, but Sungmin noticed it, even from his distance. Both Eunhyuk and Sungmin jerked forward when Kyuhyun suddenly grabbed Donghae’s collar, but Donghae waved them back, accepting it as just.
The Prince gripped his brother‘s collar firmly as he continued, “Both of you selfish bastards got what you wanted, but what am I supposed to do!? WHAT CAN I DO!? Yeah - sure, you both get to be with the ones you love and I’m left on a limb! I’m the only one who can’t be with the one I love!”
Sungmin’s hand came down on Kyuhyun’s arm and slowly, Kyuhyun let go of his collar and lowered his arms under Sungmin’s silent command. Kyuhyun spun away and stalked back to the couch.
Eunhyuk placed a hand on Donghae’s shoulder, but he only threw it off. He snatched up his bag and left the apartment immediately. Eunhyuk glared towards where Kyuhyun stood but Sungmin stepped in his line of vision,
“Donghae needs you more,” Sungmin said quietly, “I’ll deal with him.”
Eunhyuk glanced at the Prince one more time before running after Donghae. As the door closed behind his brother, Sungmin took a deep, steadying breath before he walked back towards Kyuhyun.
As he approached, Kyuhyun plopped down onto the couch, his elbows propped on his knees and his hands threaded in his hair, “It’s not fair, Min… It’s not fucking fair that I can’t be with you like how my brothers - even Yoochun - can be with their lovers.”
“I know it’s not fair… but we always knew how it would be,” Sungmin said quietly as he sat down on the couch beside him, placing a tentative hand at the back of his neck, “Even if Kangin or even Donghae did as the King wanted… we still wouldn’t have been able to be together.”
“Why not!?” Kyuhyun demanded, raising his head to look at him,
Sungmin held his neck firmly, his finger tips stroking his black hair, “Because you still would be a prince.”
“I could have stepped down like my -”
“Even if you could have, I wouldn’t have let you,” Sungmin stated firmly. At Kyuhyun’s betrayed look, he continued on, finding a strength he thought no longer existed, “Being a prince gives you everything you could ever want… It gives you security for your life and for your future.”
“I could find all that away from the throne,” Kyuhyun grounded out,
“I’m not selfish enough to force you through that,” Sungmin said.
Kyuhyun opened his mouth to argue, but Sungmin silenced him effectively with his lips. It was slow and sweet like all those kisses before. However, this time, Sungmin would allow their kisses to run their course. He slipped onto Kyuhyun’s lap, straddling his hips. Sungmin allowed Kyuhyun to deepen the kiss and felt a fire sweep through him as Kyuhyun’s tongue explored his mouth. Kyuhyun leaned back into the couch as his hands came down on Sungmin’s waist, while Sungmin wrapped his arms around Kyuhyun’s neck, pulling them flush together. As the heat flowed between them, their kisses reached a depth they hadn’t attained in over two years.
The phone slipped form Sungmin’s hand just as the hot tears that had been stinging his eyes for the past hour, finally sprung from his dark eyes. An hour ago, the eldest of his twin brothers had called, informing him in a weak voice that their parents’ died in a car accident. The conversation had ended fifty minutes ago, but Sungmin had frozen up. The dial tone had beeped at him for fifty minutes before his finger stiffly pressed the ‘end’ button and the console dropped from his limp hand, thudding on his dorm room floor.
In a veil of tears and as if in a trance, Sungmin walked over to the shelves above his desk and pulled out a book amongst his textbooks. As he dropped into his desk chair, he opened the book, revealing a cut-out compartment in the book. He pulled out the rolled up sock that had been stuffed into the make-shift box in the book and reached into the sock, pulling out bills and bills.
For the next ten minutes he began counting out his money, putting them into equal piles, bundling them up with elastics. His left hand constantly swiped away at the infernal tears that plagued him while his other hand idly typed at his laptop, scheduling himself the first flight possible out of England.
It was just past midnight when Sungmin knocked on the door of another dorm room. A ten-count followed before the door opened and Kyuhyun appeared in the doorway, “Sungmin? It’s past midnight, what-” He paused then opened the door more, the moonlight that shone through his window spreading and just brushing over Sungmin, “What happened?” He questioned as he pulled Sungmin into his room, the door closing firmly behind him,
“My brother called… my… parents… my parents…” Sungmin took shallow, rapid breaths but wasn’t able to steady his shaking body, nor the tears that seemed endless.
Immediately, Kyuhyun pulled him into his arms, his lips pressed against his temple as he tried to still Sungmin’s trembling body. “You don’t have to keep talking, I understand,” Kyuhyun said quietly, his arms tightening around him as Sungmin buried his face into his shoulder, his cries promptly stifled.
It was half an hour later when Kyuhyun had calmed Sungmin. He was sitting on his bed and Sungmin was cradled in his lap as his arms wrapped around the older boy,
“Are you okay?” Kyuhyun asked quietly as he turned his head to look at Sungmin who had his head against his shoulder,
“Yes… is… can I just sleep here tonight?” Sungmin asked quietly as he moved to straddle his lap, “I don’t… I don’t want to be alone.”
Kyuhyun nodded quietly as he accepted Sungmin’s kiss. As their lips met, it didn’t take long before the kiss deepened and their tongues were sliding against one another, caressing each other. A fire swept through them as the kiss grew deeper and more insistent and the need to feel more grew too much.
Kyuhyun broke the kiss, looking back at Sungmin, his hands firmly on his waist. His eyes searched Sungmin’s questioningly. Sungmin bit on his bottom lip before nodding, his hands reaching out to cradle his face. Kyuhyun moved his hands, wrapping his arms around Sungmin’s waist, pulling him flush against him. In turn, Sungmin pulled his mouth to his, continuing what they had already started.
The next morning, Kyuhyun woke up to a cold space beside him on the bed. He had scrambled to pull on his clothes that were strewn about his dorm room floor and bolted through the residence dorms to Sungmin’s. When he reached the other dorm room Kyuhyun was shaking when he found the door unlocked. He opened the door and dropped to his knees when he found the room deserted.
The next morning, Sungmin woke up early to head for one of the part-time jobs he had. He extracted himself from the couch and affectionately stared down at Kyuhyun, clad in the clothes he wore the other day. Their kisses the other night were insistent, but didn’t surpass anything they had done before then. Instead, they had fallen asleep together on the couch and in one anther’s arms. Reluctantly, Sungmin left and got ready.
After getting ready for work, Sungmin began preparing breakfast for the others, as he always did, before heading off for work. He was sitting down to his own breakfast when Donghae padded down the stairs from the loft’s upper level. Usually, the brothers and Donghae shared a king-sized mattress that served as a place holder for the bedroom. With little money they had from Ulsan, Sungmin and his brothers couldn’t afford more than a single mattress for themselves when they had moved to Seoul.
Sungmin gestured for Donghae to grab one of the plates he had laid out and to join him. However, Donghae came to stand beside him and bowed at the waist, “Donghae?”
“I’m sorry Sungmin,” Donghae replied solemnly, “Kyuhyun’s right… if Kangin… if Kangin and I only did our duties-”
“Then neither one of you would be happy,” Sungmin interjected,
Donghae straightened immediately, “But… now you can’t be with Kyuhyun for real.”
Sungmin smiled bitterly as he turned his eyes to the eggs and bacon on his plate, “What little time I have had with him is real enough for me.”
“He deserves happiness,” Donghae stated firmly as his eyes went to the couch where he knew Kyuhyun still lay. His eyes snapped back to Sungmin, narrowed determinedly, “Both of you do. Damn it, especially you, Sungmin! You make it possible for Eunhyuk and Junsu to live a good life - heck, you even took me in when I left the throne.”
“You make it sound like you would’ve been homeless otherwise,” Sungmin waved it off as he idly began playing with his eggs, “If I didn’t, your brother easily would have.”
“But you still offered despite knowing I could’ve lived with my brother,” Donghae stated, his fists clenched at his sides, “You took me in so Kangin and Eeteuk wouldn’t be burned by another mouth to feed since Eeteuk only started working this year at the university… but you… At the time you worked three jobs still AND took me in!”
“We all have hardships in our lives, Donghae,” Sungmin said quietly, forcing a strength into his words to keep them from wavering, “This… this just happens to be Kyuhyun’s.”
“And you?” Donghae questioned stubbornly, “Isn’t this a hardship for you, too!?”
“I do,” Sungmin admitted, raising his gaze to Donghae’s, his eyes glistening with unshed tears, “But I’ve come to terms with it the moment I heard he was coming back… Kyuhyun still has to, however.”
“That isn’t fair,” Donghae grounded out, feeling a weight in his chest that was beginning to suffocate him, “To him… to anyone.”
“Life isn’t meant to be fair… it’s meant…” Sungmin took a deep steadying breath, “It’s meant to be hard and trying so that… so that those things that make us happy are truly special.”
Donghae felt a coldness clutch his heart as he saw the tears win over Sungmin’s resolve, “But happiness-”
“He’ll find happiness with Miyoung if he lets himself,” Sungmin said firmly, wiping away his traitorous tears, “If he resents her and the situation, he won’t find happiness… But if he opens himself up to being happy…” He paused again to collect himself before firmly stating, “To being happy with Miyoung and… not me, then he’ll have a happy marriage.”
“He loves you,” Donghae insisted as he glanced towards the couch where he had heard a noise,
“And I love him,” Sungmin replied, his words making him feel free before everything else chained him up again; “But he’ll make a good king and Miyoung will be a gracious queen… And if South Korea will benefit from them ruling, then I’m complacent from loving him from afar.”
“Kyuhyun’s eavesdropping,” Donghae revealed, his words barely silence,
“I know,” Sungmin lamented as he dropped his fork and grabbed his glass of orange juice, “He needs to hear this,” he stated with finality before taking a long, deep sip of his drink.
By the time Kyuhyun finally moved from the couch, Sungmin was already washing his own dishes and Donghae and Eunhyuk were eating breakfast. Silently, Kyuhyun walked past the pair and went straight to Sungmin just as Junsu descended the stairs.
Sungmin wiped his hands on a kitchen towel and faced Kyuhyun, his eyes knowing. Sungmin remained quiet as Kyuhyun cradled his face in his hands with a gentleness that nearly broke his heart. Sungmin closed his eyes as he accepted Kyuhyun’s kiss and fought the tears when Kyuhyun pulled back and pressed his lips against his forehead,
“I need time to be okay… but when I am, can we still be friends?” Kyuhyun asked quietly, as he gazed into Sungmin’s tear-filled eyes, knowing his own were the same, “Please…” He begged when he couldn’t stand the pain coursing through him.
Sungmin, unable to answer, unable to lie to him, just nodded his head silently and turned to face the sink, his hands gripping the counter edge until his knuckles whitened. Kyuhyun left swiftly, knowing if he didn’t leave then and if he didn’t leave fast, he never would.
When the door closed behind the prince, Eunhyuk and Junsu immediately went to their step-brother in the kitchen. Even when their parents had died, Sungmin had been the strong one for them, so this time, they offered what strength they could provide. Eunhyuk clasped his shoulder and squeezed it comfortingly while Junsu leaned his head on Sungmin’s shoulder. Sungmin fought against everything until the pain and the sudden coldness became excruciating. He released his hold on the counter and turned towards his brothers, accepting their embrace as he allowed himself to be weak for the first time in two years.
Sungmin stood in the front doorway of the house as he watched the man get into his car and leave. He ran a hand through his hair. It had been just a week since his parents’ funeral and he didn’t feel like talking to the man, but he knew he had to speak to his parents’ lawyers sooner or later and knew it would be best if it was sooner. He re-entered the quiet house, firmly closing the front door behind him as he headed over into the family room.
He walked over to the fireplace where, above the mantle, were several frames of the family’s pictures together. His eyes landed on his parents’ wedding picture and immediately moved on. As his eyes skimmed over the smiling faces, they landed on the last frame and he felt his heart grow heavy. He reached out and picked up the frame; it contained a photo of him and his step-brothers the last time they had a family trip together - over four years ago before he left for England.
In the photograph, Sungmin was already fourteen but his brothers were still thirteen. He was in the middle, flanked on either side by one of the twins and all three had a big smile on their face. He remembered the trip well, they had flown off to Japan and spent a week at a hot springs resort.
He sighed heavily as he placed the frame back on the mantle and walked away, rubbing the back of his neck wearily. Their parents had saved their money, but with bills to pay for, the money would run out sooner rather than later. The money Eunhyuk gained from his own job would add something for the family, but not enough. Junsu could get a job too, but Sungmin knew that his brother would start university in the beginning of the next month.
Slowly, Sungmin made his way through the house and up the stairs to the second level. He passed by the quiet rooms of his brothers; they had holed themselves up in their own rooms since the funeral except for meals. He continued on to his own room and closed the door gently behind him as he glanced around his room. It was clean, cleaner than when he left it and knew his step-mother had cleaned up after him. His luggage still laid, packed, by his desk.
He had been taking clothes out of his luggage to wear or from his closet, but he never unpacked them thinking he would always return to England. He took a slow, steadying breath as he knelt down before the biggest of his luggage and began unpacking.
It had taken him just over an hour to finishing transferring his clothes to his closet, his books to his bookcase and his toiletries to the bathroom he shared with his brothers across the hall. He stored the empty luggage bags in the guest room closet then returned to his room, reluctantly eyeing the carry-on bag he had that lay atop his desk.
He approached it and with shaking hands, unzipped the closure. He sat down as he leaned his nose towards the began and inhaled deeply, it smelled of England to him. Slowly, as best he could with trembling fingers, Sungmin began to remove his belongings from the small bag. His passport, his ticket, the cellular phone he used, a book he brought for the flight, a can of pop he had asked for but forgot to drink…
Soon the bag was empty until his fingers brushed the final item in his bag. He pulled out a photograph, one that had been taped over his desk in his dorm room back in England. One day at the café, Yoochun was playing with Sungmin’s phone and had taken a discreet photo of Sungmin and Kyuhyun as they were talking. Sungmin had been working and Kyuhyun was sitting at the bar, but Yoochun had caught them while they were laughing. The next day, Sungmin had found the photo in his phone and immediately went to get it printed out.
Now, Sungmin stood up from his desk, holding the photo in his hand as he found it painful to look down at it. Tears came to him and he didn’t fight them, allowing them to flow down his paled face. He swallowed whatever cries tried to escape but it only suffocated him along with the pain. His heart was beating painfully, heavily in his chest as he walked over to the trashcan. His hands were shaking violently now as he brought the photo to his lips, pressing a kiss to the image of Kyuhyun. Then, his fingers released their hold and the photo floated down into the trashcan.
Sungmin stared down into the trashcan, his vision blurred by a million tears. “Mianhae…” he choked before running from his room before the last of his resolve crumbled from the image of that beautiful Prince’s smile.
“Since no cameras or reporters are allowed in the church, we’re here reporting from the streets, the wedding of Prince Kyuhyun to Lee Miyoung, daughter of…”
Sungmin turned away from the railing that surrounded the upper level of the loft apartment and towards the dresser that held his clothes.
“Kangin and Donghae are making a statement by standing beside their mother instead of the King,” Junsu said as he leaned against the railing, watching the television below in the ‘living room’ area of the loft.
“You saw the King’s face when they entered the church behind him,” A man said as he came up the stairs and joined the brothers in the ‘bedroom’; He had been a chauffeur to Kangin while he was still a prince and his best friend since childhood. Just over five years ago, Kangin had stepped down from his title to be with him; “He nearly died at that moment.”
“We were able to catch a glance of Prince Kyuhyun’s older brothers, Kangin and Donghae who stepped down from their titles - five years ago and nine months ago respectively,” The reporter continued, “You could see the identical looks on the former prince’s faces. Perhaps the older brothers are starting to regret not marrying like their younger brother who will undoubtedly be king when the time calls for it.”
“If anything it’s guilt,” Eunhyuk scoffed as he folded clothes from the dresser where Sungmin also was sorting through the clothes, “Donghae gets very silent when Kyuhyun’s engagement was ever mentioned. How about Kangin, Eeteuk?” He glanced to the man who had come up the stairs,
“Kangin too,” Eeteuk agreed as he joined Junsu by the railing, watching the television below. “For a long time he would always walk away from the television whenever Donghae was mentioned in the news, but he’d never let me turn it off.”
“Yoochun wished he didn’t have to go,” Junsu said as the camera focused on Yoochun who walked into the church in front of government officials.
“It’s understandable,” Eeteuk replied as he rubbed his eyes beneath his black-wired frames. “There will be a lot of questions and whispers about the royal cousin who left Korea at such a young age. Then, when he does come back to Korea after thirteen years, he disappears for two months.”
Junsu nodded knowingly. He sighed heavily as he glanced over his shoulder at his oldest brother who began moving clothes from the dresser to two open suitcases on the king-size bed they shared; “I wish you would tell him.”
“It’s better this way,” Sungmin answered quietly, knowing who Junsu was talking to.
“But I told Donghae when I was leaving,” Eunhyuk pointed out,
“And at least Yoochun told me when he was leaving,” Junsu added,
Sungmin let out a slow breath as he glanced back and forth between his step brothers before going back to the dresser for more clothes, “That was different - I don’t want to tell him. It’s better this way… Besides, what’s he going to do? Stop me?” Sungmin scoffed as he added, “He can’t stop me if he’s getting married today.” He closed the first suitcase once it was full, “Besides… I’m just going back to our hometown… could be worse, I could go back to England.”
“But if you’re leaving because you can’t stand being so near to him and seeing him all the time - you’ll still see him in the news in Ulsan,” Eunhyuk argued as he reluctantly brought more clothes to the second suitcase.
“Yes, but less…” Sungmin pointed out as they cleared out a second drawer of his, “and there’s less chance I’ll run into him.”
“If it hurts so much, why don’t you return to England?” Junsu questioned bitterly as he turned fully to face his brother. He crossed his arms over his chest, “You weren’t that excited to come back home when mom and dad died.”
“From Ulsan, if something happens I can return to you guys quicker,” Sungmin explained simply as he walked to the bathroom on that floor and a few minutes later came back with his toiletries, “And I can still send money from Ulsan.” He packed them then stopped, turning a glare to both his brothers, “But if anyone tells Kyuhyun where I am - I will board the first plane out of here and you won’t hear from me again!”
Both brothers reluctantly shook their heads in agreement. They didn’t agree with their brother in his plans, but they would still do anything so long as their brother had a semblance of happiness again.
“How long?” Eunhyuk asked quietly as he placed the last of Sungmin’s clothes in the last suitcase.
“Until it stops hurting…” Sungmin replied, his eyes ignoring his brothers’ probing stares. He took a deep, steadying breath to strengthen what little resolve he had. He looked up to the former royal chauffeur, “Eeteuk… I’m ready.”
Eeteuk turned away from the railing and nodded silently, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a set of keys. He said goodbye to Junsu and Eunhyuk and headed out ahead of Sungmin, grabbing one of the suitcases.
Sungmin turned towards his brothers, both had gotten quiet. “I’m just going to Ulsan,” Sungmin repeated simply as he looked back and forth between his brothers. Eunhyuk was sitting on the edge of the mattress as Junsu still stood by the railing.
Eunhyuk stood up and pulled his brother into an embrace, reluctantly letting him go after a moment, “If… if you ever need anything, just call… me and Donghae are well on our way to fame, so…”
Sungmin offered him a small smile, “Hey, isn’t that my line? Supporting you?”
Eunhyuk gave him a grin, stuffing his fists into his pockets to stop himself from grabbing his brother and stopping him, “I don’t need you as a guardian anymore… I just need a brother.”
“And you’ll have to settle for Junsu until I come back,” Sungmin laughed lightly as he closed the distance between himself and his youngest step-brother, “Don’t study too hard, alright?” Junsu immediately wrapped his arms around him and hugged him tightly, “And… and you tell your friends - Jaejoong and Shiwon that they better take care of you at school or… or else,” Sungmin forced a strength into his words to stop them from cracking like his determination. He practically had to pry his brother off of him.
Sungmin walked over to the bed, slipping the strap of a backpack over his shoulder that would serve as his carry-on. He picked up his suit case and headed down to the front door. He paused at the elevator outside the apartment, waiting for the compartment to arrive. He turned around to see his brothers standing in the doorway of the loft.
“You two take care of each other, alright?” Sungmin commanded, “I may be far, but I’m not so far that I can’t come back and give either of you a good smack.” That garnered a small laugh from the twins, “Sa… Saranghae,” Sungmin stated as the elevator doors opened.
He stepped into the elevator when his brothers jerked forward from the door way, “Hyung!” Eunhyuk called as his placed his hand in the way of the door sensors, stopping them from closing,
He stared at his brothers, wide-eyed, “Yes?”
Eunhyuk glanced at his twin and Junsu nodded, “What if… what if it never stops hurting?” Junsu asked tentatively.
Sungmin gave them a sad smile as he reached out and pulled Eunhyuk’s hand away from the door sensors. He stood back, his dark eyes filling with hot tears, “Then you’ll have to visit me in Ulsan…”
With that, Eunhyuk and Junsu watched as their brother disappeared behind the elevator doors. Once the doors closed, they bolted back into the apartment, running to the balcony that overlooked the front of the building. They waited with bated breaths until finally they saw Sungmin far down below walking to a car parked at the curb. He placed his suitcase in the open trunk then closed it. They watched with stifled cries as Sungmin looked up knowingly towards them and waved. Then he slipped into the car and it drove away.
The reception of the Prince’s wedding was held at the Royal House. After the dinner, the ballroom was filled with laughter and chatter and people began dancing after the newlyweds had their first dance. Well into the evening, Kyuhyun was speaking with his parents and Miyoung when Yoochun approached them.
“My felicitations, Prince Kyuhyun, Princess Miyoung” Yoochun as he bowed to them, mustering what little formalities he could remember. He hadn’t even seen his aunt and uncle since he first left Korea thirteen years ago. He straightened, seeing the suspicious eyes of his uncle, “Uncle, Auntie.”
“Yoochun-sshi, it’s been so long!” The Queen greeted, stepping up to him, placing a kiss on his cheek as she held him at arm’s length to admire him, motherly,
“Thirteen years,” Yoochun replied easily, glancing at his uncle before turning to face his cousin, “Your brothers wanted to speak with you… congratulate you as only brothers can.”
“Why don’t they come here?” the King questioned,
Yoochun gave a side-long glance to his uncle, “I didn’t know you wanted to see them, I can go call them,” Yoochun turned to leave,
“It’s fine,” the King said gruffly, “Kyuhyun, go see your brothers.”
Kyuhyun nodded, giving his excuses to his parents, placing a chaste kiss on Miyoung’s forehead then walked off with Yoochun. He led his cousin out of the ballroom and down the hall to the dining hall where the Royal family had their meals. Upon entering, they spotted Kangin and Donghae sitting at one end of the table, each holding a glass of wine,
“Too weak,” Kangin sighed just before he downed the red liquid and placed the wine glass on the table, standing up as his brother approached.
“What do you both want?” Kyuhyun demanded immediately as they reach his brothers, crossing his arms defiantly. He still held some resentment towards the two, but having them both there on his wedding day, along with his cousin, had softened his resolve somewhat; “It’s definitely not to congratulate me.”
“We should’ve been less selfish,” Kangin admitted immediately,
Kyuhyun held up a hand to silence him, “Apologies won’t turn back time, so just say what you want to say.”
“Are you happy?” Donghae asked as he looked up at his brother from his seat,
“As much as I can be considering the circumstances,” Kyuhyun answered honestly, “I’m fond of Miyoung and she’s very kind and funny and beautiful. If I resent Miyoung and the situation, I won’t find happiness… but if I open myself up to being happy with her, then I’ll have a happy marriage.”
Donghae couldn’t help smiling sadly at the familiar words. It was just three and a half months ago he had heard those same words coming out of a different mouth. Donghae ducked his head as he pulled out his cellular phone, reading a message from Eunhyuk, “And… are you now okay being just friends with Sungmin?”
Kyuhyun’s eyes widened immediately at the sound of his name. He felt a pain become born in his chest but took a deep breath, ignoring it, pushing the hurt from his mind. With a strength he no longer felt, he managed a choked, “Yes…”
Kangin, Donghae and Yoochun exchanged a furtive glance between themselves; they knew he wasn’t as honest as he had been. They heard it in his voice, the way his body sagged slightly, and the way his eyes shone of a deep, abiding hurt until his facial expression became shuttered.
Glancing at the two oldest of his cousins, Yoochun nodded at their gazes and stepped forward to Kyuhyun, placing a hand on his shoulder, “Kyuhyun… he’s gone.”
Immediately, his arms uncrossed and dropped to his sides. He stepped away from his cousin and glanced back and forth between his cousin and brothers, “What? What do you mean?”
“Earlier today he packed up his things and boarded a plane at Gimpo Airport,” Kangin answered tentatively as he read out a text message he had gotten earlier from Eeteuk.
“Gimpo? So it’s most likely a domestic flight- right? He…. He didn’t leave Korea, right!?” Kyuhyun demanded as he closed the distance between himself and his eldest brother, his hands clamped down on Kangin’s upper arms and shaking him.
“No, he didn’t leave Korea,” Donghae confirmed as he stood and placed a hand on one of Kyuhyun’s wrist, guiding him to release his grip on Kangin.
“Where? Where did he go?” Kyuhyun demanded as he stepped away from the three, wrapping his arms around his torso.
“We don’t know,” Donghae answered reluctantly,
“And those that do know are,” Kangin took a deep steadying breath before continuing, “Are sworn to secrecy… Wherever Sungmin went, he didn’t want to be found-”
“By me,” Kyuhyun interjected, his voice quiet and weak.
Suddenly, he felt a wave of cold pass over him. All the previous warmth and what little happiness he could find that day were washed away as he felt ice begin to crystallize around his heart. He tightened his arms around himself when he felt himself close to shaking. The little courage he had that day to walk down the aisle and marry a woman he was only fond of was brought only to him by the knowledge that the man he was in love with would still be in his life. Now hearing that it would be otherwise, he felt a loneliness carve through his body, despite the fact that three of the people he trusted most in the world were right beside him. However, it didn’t matter - the one person that did matter, was somewhere in Korea.
He clenched his fists and moved towards the door, but a hand clamped down on his shoulder, stopping him,
“You said you were happy,” Kangin reminded steadily, “And that you were open to being happy without him.”
“No - I said I was happy, not that I was open to being happy without him,” Kyuhyun disagreed, swinging to face his brother, “I thought he would still be there… I thought he… I would still see… I…”
Kangin immediately pulled Kyuhyun into his arms as the last of his brother’s resolve crumble away. His embrace tightened protectively as he heard a cry escape his youngest brother’s lips for the first time since before Kyuhyun had left for England. Kangin glanced towards his other brother and cousin, seeing his thoughts mirrored in their eyes. He closed his eyes and held his brother more securely, whispering the words the others wanted to say, but couldn’t find the strength to say them:
“It’s my fault… and I’m sorry.”
Sungmin slipped his sunglasses down over his eyes as he stepped out of the taxi. He slowly made his way across a university campus to the school’s sports field where a platform was placed below one of the football goalposts. He slowly made his way towards the crowd of chairs, the ceremony that was taking place already nearing its end. He glanced a few empty seats amongst the crowd of guests and made his way to a specific one. Slipping into it, he eyed the stage,
“Talk about cutting it close, hyung,” Eunhyuk scolded lightly from Sungmin’s left.
“Do you know how hard it is to get a taxi at the airport at this time of year?” Sungmin scoffed,
“It’s April, how hard could it have been?” Donghae stated from Eunhyuk’s other side,
“At least you made it,” Yoochun offered from Sungmin’s other side, “If you were any more late, I wouldn’t have been able to lie to Junsu and he would’ve been very hurt.”
Sungmin pushed his sunglasses to his forehead just as Junsu’s name was called and he approached the stage to receive his degree. Immediately Sungmin and his three companions jumped to their feet and cheered loudly, outdoing the other graduates’ families. Junsu glanced over to the noise and happily waved at them as he accepted his degree. When they finally quieted and sat back down, Sungmin felt an elation he hadn’t felt for years. It was good to be back in Seoul.
“This is a nice house,” Sungmin appreciated from the patio where a small after party was being held for Junsu, “You two did good,” He smiled at Eunhyuk and Donghae who were hosting the party,
“Well, when you’re recognized as amazing choreographers as we now are… you can’t live in a loft apartment forever,” Eunhyuk chuckled softly,
“I bet once Junsu finishes his residence at the hospital, he and Yoochun will move out of the apartment,” Donghae added,
Sungmin laughed as he sipped the lemonade in his hand, “I certainly hope so. When we first came to Seoul four winters ago, I definitely didn’t think the first apartment I found would have so much use.”
“You did so much for us,” Junsu stated as he approached them, throwing an arm around his brother’s shoulders, still wearing his graduation gown and cap, “We couldn’t let it go to waste!”
Junsu looked over his shoulder just as Jaejoong and Shiwon accompanied by Yoochun, appear from around the corner of the house. He had thought they’d go to their own celebrations and was elated to see his friends come to his. He immediately dashed away from his brothers and Donghae and headed over to his friends and boyfriend.
“Shouldn’t Kangin be working?” Sungmin asked as he glanced over to a table on the patio where Kangin and Eeteuk were setting up a small buffet,
“He closed his bookstore for this,” Donghae explained, “He and Eeteuk got the food, that’s why they weren’t at the ceremony.”
“They’ve really welcomed my brothers into their family… thank you, especially while I’ve been gone,” Sungmin said sincerely,
Donghae grinned at him, “I think Junsu’s been really good for Yoochun, I’ve never seen my cousin smile so much in his life.” He then wrapped an arm around Eunhyuk’s waist and pulled him against his side, “But I think Eunhyuk’s been a bad example for me.”
Sungmin laughed in a way he hadn’t for years, “I’m not surprised, sometimes-”
Sungmin blinked and grew silent as a young boy came running from inside the house, almost stumbling as he threw himself at Donghae’s legs, wrapping his arms around them. Sungmin stared as the little boy smiled happily up at Donghae whom he had called uncle.
“Don’t… Don’t tell me this is Mihyun,” Sungmin stammered,
“Then let me introduce you to my son.”
The voice washed over Sungmin with a warmth he thought long lost from his life. He slowly turned as Prince Kyuhyun came out through the kitchen door of the house onto the patio. Dressed in khaki-coloured dress pants and midnight-blue dress shirt with the sleeves rolled to his elbows, Kyuhyun approached the group.
“Sungmin-sshi, this is my son, Prince Mihyun,” Kyuhyun introduced in a formal tone; “Mihyun, this is Sungmin, he’s brothers with Uncle Eunhyuk and Uncle Junsu.”
The boy blinked at him with wide, curious eyes that were obviously inherited from his mother. Mihyun waved at him shyly before looking away. “Uncle Kangin!” He cried and immediately let go of Donghae and dashed across the patio to where Kangin and Eunhyuk finished setting up the food.
Sungmin watched as Mihyun jumped into Kangin’s waiting arms as he picked him up, “He’s very lively,” Sungmin offered with a hesitant smile, “You must be very proud.”
“He’s my world,” Kyuhyun admitted as he watched his eldest brother listen earnestly as his son regaled him with what probably was a ridiculous tale.
Sungmin saw the pride light up Kyuhyun’s eyes and he felt his heart lighten. He excused himself from the others and quietly retreated into the kitchen.
Once in the kitchen, Sungmin had the need to busy his idle hands, anything to keep his mind off of the man who had re-entered his life just moments ago. He found Donghae and Eunhyuk’s coffee maker and promptly began brewing the hot liquid. It had finished and Sungmin was pouring a coffee into several tall glasses when Kyuhyun entered from the patio door.
“Four years is a long time,” Kyuhyun greeted coolly as he spotted Sungmin standing by the kitchen’s island,
“Indeed,” Sungmin briefly swept his eyes over the Prince, “I see you changed your hair - the platinum looks good.”
“After the accident two years ago, you could’ve come back,” Kyuhyun stated suddenly, throwing away all facades and pleasantries as he closed the glass door behind him, “Why didn’t you?”
“Miyoung died… you were in mourning,” Sungmin replied casually as he took a tray of ice out of the freezer and began to drop two in each glass of coffee. He suddenly found it hard to keep his hands steady with Kyuhyun so close. So, he gripped the tray tighter just to keep himself from reaching out for him;
“I was in the hospital,” Kyuhyun grounded out as he reached the island in the kitchen, his hands gripping the counter’s edge tightly, “You could have-”
“You had family and friends around you,” Sungmin interjected as he spooned sugar into each glass. He put away the sugar and opened the fridge, “So don’t act like you were alone-”
“But I still didn’t have you,” Kyuhyun argued, “I was at my weakest and most vulnerable and all I wanted was you… I had my parents… and my brothers and cousin… even your brothers were there, but it was the loneliest I ever felt.”
Sungmin tightened his grip on the fridge handle, “Kyuhyun…”
“What if I had died?” Kyuhyun questioned, his voice suddenly forced and hoarse, “What if… what if I had died and I never got to…”
“But you didn’t-” Sungmin replied as he pulled out a can of whipped cream and turned back to the island where his glasses of ice coffee were.
“Only because Miyoung game me her blood,” Kyuhyun gritted, reaching across the island as Sungmin began to put whipped cream atop the coffee. His hand closed around Sungmin’s hand that held the can, “Even though she needed it herself…”
Sungmin gazed into Kyuhyun’s eyes and automatically the tears just came to him, he didn’t even have a chance to fight against them. He pulled at his hand but Kyuhyun wouldn’t let go. He yanked harder, but Kyuhyun only held him tighter. The longer he stared into Kyuhyun’s eyes, the more of his strength dissipated and he dropped the can of whipped cream onto the island counter,
“Eventually…” Sungmin took steadying breaths, but nothing seemed to calm his wildly beating heart nor fill his lungs with enough air, “there comes a time…. A point when it gets… too hard to come back.”
Kyuhyun, still holding his hand, came around the island until he was beside Sungmin, staring directly into his crying eyes, “You never should have left,” Kyuhyun stated firmly, his fingers becoming almost bruising on Sungmin’s hand,
“I had to… despite all my selfless words and serene smiles… I couldn’t…” He forced himself to look away, no longer strong enough to look at Kyuhyun directly. He was hot and cold all over and everything - his words, his feelings - was choking him mercilessly, “I couldn’t stay… everyday I stayed in Seoul, I was dying.”
“And when you left?” Kyuhyun asked. When Sungmin remained silent, his eyes glued elsewhere, Kyuhyun raised his hands to Sungmin’s face, cradling them in his hands and forcing Sungmin to look at him directly, “And when you left?” He prompted,
“Death…” Sungmin could no longer see Kyuhyun, his vision blurred completely by years of unshed tears, “…it came slower…”
“I can’t let you leave again,” Kyuhyun murmured as he dropped a kiss to both of Sungmin’s eyes, “Not after the first two years… or the last four years…” His thumbs wiping away his endless stream of tears, “I won’t be able to take it a third time,” Kyuhyun declared quietly, firmly with finality as he stared directly into his eyes, “I won’t be able to keep living without you, Min.”
Sungmin weakly raised a hand to Kyuhyun’s face, tentatively brushing a few strands of his platinum hair away from his eyes. His fingertips grazed the Prince’s cheek in a caress full of longing before finally placing his hand over one of Kyuhyun’s that held side of his face. He closed his eyes as Kyuhyun leaned towards him as he breathed,
"Neither will I."
Six years passed and it was a dark day for South Korea when the King died. The funeral was a grand affair and took place three days after his sudden and fatal heart attack, at the age of fifty-nine. When the funeral ceremony was concluding, the Queen fainted in a sob of tears; she was brought to the hospital immediately to be treated for exhaustion. When the graveyard cleared, only the four Princes of Korea surrounded the grave of the late king, their respective loves waiting for them by one of the roads that intersected the cemetery, four cars waiting for each couple.
“Fifteen years ago, Kangin wanted nothing but his father to leave him alone, to stop trying to get him to marry,” Eeteuk said quietly as he stood with Sungmin, Eunhyuk and Junsu by Kyuhyun’s car, “Now, he wishes they could’ve had a better relationship.”
“After Donghae left the crown, everything he did was in an attempt to make his father recognize him again, be proud of him again,” Eunhyuk crossed his arms loosely about his torso, “He… he never did hear the words.”
Junsu licked his lips before chewing on his bottom lip, “Yoochun feels guilty… the King was his uncle and yet… yet he felt nothing when he heard he was dead.” He ran both hands through his hair, “I guess being moved around the globe like a chess piece made him cold… to the man.”
“Now Kyuhyun will be king…” Sungmin sighed heavily, rubbing the back of his neck wearily, “For all the wrong the King did to his family, he was a good ruler… Kyuhyun’s worried he won’t even be half of what his father was.”
“No- he’ll be more than that.” The four looked up to see Yoochun approaching them. He glanced over his shoulder at his cousins still standing around the grave, “Kyuhyun will be everything and more than what his father was. The fact that he’ll never turn his back on Mihyun, is proof enough.”
“Where is Mihyun?” Junsu asked as Yoochun came to his side,
“He went with Miyoung’s parents after the ceremony ended. The thought Kyuhyun would like some peace after what happened,” Yoochun answered simply as he took Junsu’s hand, “Let’s go home,”
“Still feel nothing?” Junsu asked quietly.
Yoochun, knowing the others were watching him, remained silent. Instead, he led Junsu away to their car, however, Junsu felt the tremble in the warm hand wrapped around his own.
“So what happens now?” Sungmin asked as Yoochun and Junsu drove off,
“Kangin wants to return to the Royal House for a few days. His mother hasn’t been in the best of health the past few years, and now with his father’s death…” Eeteuk trailed off, rubbing his eyes behind his black-wired frames,
“Are you going with him?” Eunhyuk asked,
“No… despite what Kangin says, I still feel some guilt in coming between him and his father,” Eeteuk answered easily, a sad smile on his lips, “He’ll just be there a few days to be there for his mother and brother… he knows I’m not far away.”
“And you?” Sungmin turned to the eldest of his younger step-brothers,
“Remember that one Korean artist who I was going to choreograph for? When I could’ve gone to America ten years ago? Well, Donghae and I got a request from her in America,” Eunhyuk couldn’t help the lop-sided grin that spread on his lips despite the sombre day, “They want us to choreograph an entire concert tour for her, so by week’s end we’ll be on a plane.”
Eeteuk and Sungmin congratulated him heartily but they grew quiet when Kangin and Donghae approached them.
Kangin was silent, but Eeteuk saw his blood-shot eyes. Eeteuk held his face in his hands and whispered to him quietly. Kangin shook his head, pulling away from Eeteuk’s comforting hold. Unable to voice his goodbyes out of fear his voice would break, Kangin took Eeteuk’s hand in his own, lacing their fingers and walking off to their car.
Upon arrival, Donghae immediately went into Eunhyuk’s waiting arms. As Eunhyuk embraced him, Donghae immediately broke down in his arms, burying his face in his shoulder, hugging him back tightly as if holding on for dear life.
Sungmin turned away from the pair, wanting to give them privacy. So, hesitantly, he walked over to the King’s grave, approaching the would-be King.
Seeing him nearing, Kyuhyun immediately held out a hand. Sungmin confidently placed his hand in Kyuhyun’s as he allowed himself to be pulled against his side before the grave of the late King.
“I love him, Father…” Kyuhyun declared clearly and firmly, “I was never courageous enough to tell you that while you were alive like Kangin and Donghae did… so I hope you forgive me for telling you so late.”
Sungmin looked up at Kyuhyun’s profile as the Prince kept his eyes on the gravestone, “Maybe… He might be glad you never told him…”
Kyuhyun shook his head stubbornly his hand tightening around Sungmin’s, “Despite all he did and said, there wasn’t a day he wasn’t proud of Kangin and Donghae.”
“What!?” Sungmin exclaimed in disbelief.
Pulling his gaze away from his father’s gravestone, Kyuhyun stared at Sungmin, “On the day Mihyun was born, father told me so,”
“I don’t… I don’t understand,” Sungmin stammered, his eyes going back and forth between the late King’s gravestone and Kyuhyun’s insistent face,
“Neither did they when I told them just now,” Kyuhyun replied, “But I think they’re glad for it… even if they didn’t understand.”
“Why… Why did your father bring it up when Mihyun was born?” Sungmin questioned, still bewildered,
“He asked me if I was happy and I told him I was, my son was just born after all…” Kyuhyun paused a moment as his gaze drifted back to his father’s grave. When he spoke again, his voice was quiet and slightly raspy, “Then he went on to say he meant about my life… I asked him what he meant and he explained that despite hating how things happened between…” He paused again to take a deep, steadying breath.
Sungmin squeezed his hand comfortingly, waiting patiently for him to continue; allowing him the time he needed to gather whatever strength was left in him.
“Despite what happened between him and my brothers, he was satisfied knowing that they were at least happy,” Kyuhyun finished,
“he hid it well,” Sungmin admitted quietly, tentatively, hoping he didn’t offend,
“He had to, he couldn’t be a weak king… but… but he couldn’t be a hateful father either,” Kyuhyun explained with an understanding the other three Princes never were given the chance to have, “He couldn’t completely turn his back on his family… that’s why Kangin and Donghae - even Yoochun - never wanted for anything.”
“I thought your mother-”
“Mother said whatever she did because Father was embarrassed, but it was Father to think up making trusts for them,” Kyuhyun turned his eyes to Sungmin and admitted, “He even gave Yoochun all of his parents’ inheritance, keeping none for himself or the family… even the portion my aunt left for Father - it went to Yoochun and… when I told him, Yoochun was very touched.
“I can imagine,” Sungmin replied, “His whole life there was always a hostility between him and your father… for your father to do that for him…”
Kyuhyun nodded as, with one last look at the grave, he led them away and towards the lone car waiting by the cemetery road.
“You’ll make a great king, Kyuhyun,” Sungmin stated suddenly when they reached the car,
“Do you think South Korea’s ready for me to take on a male lover?” Kyuhyun asked with a small smile as he leaned a hip against the passenger door,
“Far from it,” Sungmin smiled sadly at him,
“I hate that…” Kyuhyun muttered as he brought Sungmin’s hand to his lips, “what’s the point of being king if I can’t even be with the one I love in public?”
“In a few years, Mihyun will be legal-”
“Then I can run away and he’ll serve as Prince Regent,” Kyuhyun grinned at him brightly,
Sungmin rolled his eyes as he snatched his hand away from Kyuhyun’s grasp, “I was going to say you could reign from the shadows and won’t have to be in public eye so much.”
“That’s still ten more years from now, Min,” Kyuhyun sighed with a deep, heavy sigh, wrapping his arms around his waist and pulling him flush against him,
“I’ve loved you for thirteen years, Kyuhyun. Including the past six years where we’ve hidden it from the public eye… for the four years I spent in Ulsan while you were married… the two years you were still in England… from the first time I laid eyes on you, Kyu,” Sungmin reached up to brush black strands of hair from Kyuhyun’s eyes before his fingers moved down to lovingly hold the side of his face, “I don’t mind not being able to acknowledge one another as a couple, publicly.”
“But the others-”
Sungmin pressed his fingers to the Prince’s lips, silencing him, “The other Princes weren’t king when they made appearances with their lovers. It’s fine. Just so long as we can be together, I’m fine with it remaining a secret.”
Kyuhyun sighed heavily as he pulled Sungmin hand from his mouth, holding it firmly in his hand, “Those closest to us do already know…”
“Even if they didn’t - I’m happy just being able to be with you,” Sungmin stated firmly, confidently, his eyes shining with a contagious happiness, “I love you.”
Kyuhyun captured his lips in a sweet and slow kiss. He broke the kiss, leaning his forehead against Sungmin’s, his mouth just a hair’s breadth from the other’s. Kyuhyun smiled as he held Sungmin so close he could feel their hearts synchronize, “And I love you.”
In modern day South Korea, the monarchy ruled along side the government. For fifteen years, the rulers of the country were feeling pressed for time for one of the Princes to produce an heir and as the King aged, the country watched with bated breaths, concerned for their hierarchy. What became a surprise to all was that when the King died, it was not his eldest son to inherit the crown. An era ended when the King died as he reached his sixties; a new era began when his youngest son was crowned King of South Korea.
Four Princes were in line for the thrown and within the span of six, that number dwindled down to one, the current king. However, despite who the crown went to mattered not to any of the Princes. What did matter was that at the end of the day, each Prince returned to their respective homes and into the arms of the one they love.
Four Princes, one crown, but being king has its price.
In the end - love conquers all.
“Free. It feels free, like there’s nothing that can stop me, nothing can hold me down.
It feels as if I can do anything because of love and I’m free of the fear of failure because,
even if I can’t do everything, at least at the end of the day,
there’s still me and him. When all else fails, love won’t.”
Reign on Me series