theme: o17. Accidents
(Part of the For Two series.)
Many thanks to Hokum who agonized with me for a few hours trying to remember what I had written in Mandarin.
One of Seoul’s most popular evening restaurants, Suju went almost into a frenzy when a year after the restaurant’s five-year anniversary, the former head chef returned from France. He smiled at them quietly as he bowed at their greetings and cheers. Eventually the crowd broke up to go about opening the restaurant for that evening. He approached the bar where the owner was sitting,
“Shiwon-sshi, it’s been a long time,” the former head chef bowed at him,
“Ah, Henry,” Shiwon turned in his stool to face the young man, “It’s been so long since I last heard your voice. I’m honoured that after going to France you’re still willing to come and work for me again. I feel guilty that I cannot offer you your position again, but Hankyung is an amazing chef.”
“He’s most likely better than me,” Henry conceded, “While in France I grew a love for pastries and desserts. Coming back to Korea as a pâtisier is more than I could hope for, I’m just glad I can work for you and with everyone again.”
“Shiwon-sshi, here’s the soju you wanted,” The bartender said, holding a bottle on the bar counter. He held it as Shiwon turned in his stool and reached out his hand. The bartender placed the bottle in his hand and Shiwon took it with a smile of thanks, got up from his stool and headed to the back of the restaurant where his office was located. “Henry, I think you should give me a taste-test of any dessert you make tonight.”
Henry smiled at the bartender, “Whatever you want, Eeteuk-hyung.” He glanced towards where Shiwon had headed and waited until the owner was out of sight, “Hyung…”
“He’s been blind for two years now,” Eeteuk answered easily, seeing the confusion on the pâtisier’s face; “Heechul got into an accident in another job he had. He was facing permanent blindness and Shiwon sacrificed his own sight to save Heechul’s.”
“But why? Heechul doesn’t care about anyone else,” Henry stated,
Eeteuk gave him a small smile, “You’ve missed a lot in three years, Henry. Heechul’s changed, even I’m amazed when I think about it sometimes.”
“Yeah, yeah I was a jerk, it’s been two years, can people stop reminding me?” The head waiter joined them at the bar, rolling his eyes,
“You mean you can actually remember who the owner is now?” Henry teased, remembering how the waiter always forgot who the owner was,
“You remember that too?” Heechul sighed as he ran a hand through his now short hair, “Geez.”
“Anything else change?” Henry asked, smirking at Heechul’s exasperated expression, “Is Kyuhyun still head host? What about Kibum-sshi?”
“Kyuhyun’s still head host, but he’s had to cut down his hours,” Eeteuk answered, “He’s attending SM Academy of Fine Arts to be a grand pianist, and Kibum is still the sous chef.”
Henry sighed heavily, “I should go talk to him. I’ll catch up with you guys later.” With a small wave, he disappeared into the kitchens.
“Don’t you think it’s weird he didn’t even mention Ryeowook?” Eeteuk asked quietly as he pulled out glasses from his own private dishwasher behind the bar counter,
“Honestly, I don’t know what to think,” Heechul replied, “Does Ryeowook know Henry’s back?”
Eeteuk straightened and leaned against the back counter, “Why do you think he’s not working tonight?”
Henry slipped into the kitchen and tentatively approached the sous chef’s station in the kitchen. Kibum, who was inspecting his knives, glanced at Henry before turning his attention back to his knives,
“Why so cautious?” Kibum asked,
“Well… for one, you’re holding knives, and for another, I didn’t recommend you for the head chef position,” Henry admitted,
“It’s fine,” Kibum said easily as he placed down his knives. He turned to face Henry, leaning his hips against his table, crossing his arms loosely about his torso; “Hankyung-sshi makes a way better chef than I could have hoped to be.”
Henry blinked then smiled, “You’ve grown, hyung.”
Kibum shrugged, but a smile tugged at his lips all the same. “Have you met Hankyung yet?” Henry shook his head in a negative answer. Kibum called to the head chef. Tall and lithe, Hankyung came over to them, “Henry this is Hankyung, Hankyung, this is Henry; he was the former head chef.”
“Zhōngguórén ma?” Hankyung asked as he searched the other man’s face,
“Shì,” Henry replied simply. “Ni hé Kibum shì hao péngyou ma?”
Hankyung smirked, “Yi shàng de péngyou… qíngrén.”
“Ne?” Henry blinked, glancing from Kibum to Hankyung, “Zhēnzhèngde ne?” Hankyung gave a simple shrug with a smile and Henry laughed, “Henduō găibiàn yīnwèi wo líkāi!”
Kibum glanced between the two before fisting a hand and punching Hankyung’s arm, “You told him!”
“How would you know? You don’t know Chinese,” Hankyung brushed him off,
“Two can play this game,” Kibum scowled when he turned to Henry, “Comment était la France? Avez-vous rencontré beaucoup de belles femmes?”
“Tu parle français? Comment?” Henry gasped, easily slipping into French from Mandarin,
“Quand j'étais au lycée, j'ai étudié en Angleterre et en France. Je ne tu l'a dit?” Kibum asked casually, smugly noting Hankyung’s confused looks.
“Non, tu ne le faisaient pas,” Henry crossed his arms with a raised eyebrow, “France est… magnifique et oui, j’ai rencontré beaucoup de belles femmes. Très belles. Jaloux?”
Kibum glanced at Hankyung who stared at him with a displeased look. Kibum turned back to Henry and shook his head, “Non,” He smiled, “Je l’adore. L’adore beaucoup.”
Henry felt a little pain in his chest, “Ryeowook… est-il ici?”
Kibum shook his head, “Pas aujourd'hui… Il… Il a prévu un arrêt de travail…Désolé.”
Hankyung sighed heavily, “If I promise not to speak in Chinese with Ryeowook, will you stop speaking in French?” Kibum nodded, “Thank you,”
“Shouldn’t you go prepare your usual glass of wine for Shiwon?” Kibum asked, a mischievous smile on his lips,
Hankyung said nothing. He turned on his heel and stormed off.
“What was that?” Henry smirked,
“When Hankyung first started, within a few weeks of each other he managed to cause two major food critics to storm out and be escorted out - respectively,” Kibum laughed but interjecting solemnly, “I’ll admit the first time was in my defence… and the second time was because the critic was targeting Hankyung for failure. Either way, since then Shiwon made Hankyung promise to always bring him a glass of wine and he’d forget those… mishaps.”
Henry smiled as Hankyung glanced over at them threateningly, presumably knowing what they were discussing, “What are the usual desserts? Have they changed since I left?”
“Yes… We have desserts now - that’s the change,” Kibum laughed lightly, “But now that you’re here, we can have a bigger dessert menu than just ice cream and the occasional cake.”
“That’s all we have?” Henry gaped,
“We never had a pâtisier before and it’s not like desserts were ever a big demand,” Kibum reminded, “Whenever someone asked for it, Hankyung would make it.”
“Well, I plan to make Suju the place to go for desserts,” Henry smiled at him,
“If you’ve become as good a pâtisier as you were a chef, then I don’t doubt that,” Kibum smiled as he returned to his knives,
“I’ll start thinking up a new menu for tomorrow,” Henry ran a hand through his hair, “Ah… I’ll be back, I forgot my lip chap in my locker.”
Kibum chuckled, “Still use lip chap?”
“My lips are sensitive,” Henry defended as he began walking away.
Henry was coming out of the employee’s change room, applying a thin layer of his raspberry lip chap when he collided into someone. He instinctively grabbed their arm to stop them from falling,
“Ah, thanks I… Henry.”
Henry blinked, startled to suddenly be standing before a face he didn’t expect to see that day, “Ryeowook-” Ryeowook pulled his arm from Henry’s grasp; “I thought you don’t work today.”
“I don’t,” Ryeowook replied, looking away, “I came in to get the rest of my schedule however… I thought if I just popped into the office for my schedule I wouldn’t run into you.”
“No such luck,” Henry grinned at him as he pocketed his lip chap.
Ryeowook said nothing as he continued a few steps away to the office. He raised a fist, but before he could knock on the door, he felt something grab his other wrist. He glanced over his shoulder at Henry who was staring at him intently, “What?”
“It’s been awhile… can’t we talk a bit?” Henry asked tentatively,
“What’s there to talk about?” Ryeowook snapped, “I think you leaving was all there was to it, hmm?” He yanked his wrist from Henry’s hand and crossed his arms about his torso,
“I thought…” Henry sighed as he trailed off,
“You thought what? That you could waltz in here after three years and expect me to be happy to see you? Expect me to want to see you? You have got to be kidding,” Ryeowook scoffed, his voice low and laced with hostility,
“It seems more has changed here than I thought,” Henry said quietly, “You never used to be like this… You were always quiet or introverted… Never raised your voice… Never spoke with anger,” He offered a small smile, “You’ve grown stronger while I was gone, Ryeowook.”
Ryeowook narrowed his eyes, “I had to become stronger. You left me with nothing else but myself,” he spat bitterly as he dropped a hand to his side and knocked on the door, then re-crossed his arms. He heard Shiwon call whoever knocked into the office.
“Ryeowook, please - I want to talk,” Henry pleaded now before the other man could even move at Shiwon’s call.
“Then talk,” Ryeowook replied coldly,
“Not here,” Henry stressed, glancing around them,
“Then not at all,” Ryeowook said decisively, “You didn’t give me any courtesy beyond that, so why should I give you more?”
“What do you want to say? That you’re sorry? That you regret leaving?” Ryeowook laughed bitterly,
“No…” Henry muttered, his eyes dropping to the floor.
A feeling like his heart being twisted came over Ryeowook at Henry’s answer. He bit down hard on his bottom lip to force back a cry. “Well then,” he managed, forcing strength into his words, “There’s nothing we have to talk about then.”
Before Henry could say anything, the office door opened. Shiwon looked at the wall across from the door, “Ryeowook? Is that you?”
“Yes Shiwon-sshi,” Ryeowook bowed to the owner, despite him not being able to see it, “I was coming to see the schedule.”
Shiwon nodded as he stepped aside to let him in, “Good thing you came, I wanted to speak with you. Henry, are you here too?”
“Ah, yes,” Henry replied,
“Then please excuse us, it’s just Ryeowook I need to speak to,” Shiwon smiled.
Henry nodded before remember Shiwon’s condition and said, “Of… of course.” He turned and walked down the hall back to the kitchen.
Shiwon closed the door after Ryeowook and gestured towards the seats before his desk as he walked to the desk and grabbed a binder where the schedule was placed. He sat on his desk as he handed Ryeowook the binder, “That is the right binder right? I don’t think I have any others on my desk,”
“It’s the right one,” Ryeowook confirmed as he opened the binder and his eyes wandered over the schedule, not really taking it in, “Why did you want to speak with me?” He asked quietly, all strength gone from him and suddenly very exhausted - physically and emotionally.
“I didn’t in truth. When I called for someone to come in and no one did, I went to the door,” Shiwon pinked slightly, “I admit I heard the last bit of your conversation with Henry. I thought it best I step in, if I was wrong-”
“No, no,” Ryeowook looked up at Shiwon, “I appreciate it, really.”
Shiwon tilted his head, as if regarding Ryeowook with sightless eyes; “It had been 3 years since Henry left… I had assumed it be okay for him to return… Had I known, I would’ve asked you-”
“When we work together, he’ll be in the kitchen and I’ll be serving customers. I never have to see him,” Ryeowook said as he turned his eyes back to the schedule, “And I’ll be okay, Shiwon-sshi… It’s just that this is the first time I’ve seen him since he left… I was caught off guard.”
“And next time you run into him?” Shiwon asked quietly,
“I’ll be prepared,” Ryeowook stood and placed the binder back on his desk, “Thank you again, hyung.” He turned to leave. His hand was on the door knob before he heard his name. He glanced over his shoulder, “Shiwon-sshi?”
“I know what it’s like to be in love, Ryeowook… are you sure you’re okay?” Shiwon asked tentatively,
“Yes,” Ryeowook said firmly, “It’s been awhile since I’ve loved him.” With that, Ryeowook left the office, closing the door firmly yet quietly behind him.
A few nights later, Ryeowook came into work for the first time since Henry returned. It was the weekend and usually it was Kyuhyun who would host that evening since he didn’t have school, but Shiwon decided that Ryeowook would host along with Kyuhyun since the weekend would prove to be busy.
Kyuhyun returned to the host’s podium after leading a few customers to their table. He went to the touch-screen computer that was imbedded into the podium and added a number to one of the tables on the computer’s map. More customers came in and Ryeowook greeted them. Kyuhyun offered to show them a table and led them away. When he returned Ryeowook stared at him,
“Yes?” Kyuhyun asked as he went to the computer once more,
“Since we opened an hour ago, you’ve taken every customer that’s come through those doors,” Ryeowook stated, “Why?”
“In all honesty, I thought if I kept you here all night there’d be less of a chance for you to run into Henry,” Kyuhyun admitted,
Ryeowook sighed heavily and ran a hand through his hair, “Thanks Kyuhyun. I do appreciate it.”
Kyuhyun watched him a moment, seeing for the first time in a long time the old Ryeowook. The one who was shy and quiet, the one who was sensitive and gentle. Over the years he had seen Ryeowook change from an awkward waiter to a confident host, but there were times when he missed the old Ryeowook.
“I’ve gotten over him a long time ago, Kyuhyun… but the hurt is still there,” Ryeowook admitted quietly as the head waiter walked over to them.
“Kyuhyun, if you want to play I can cover you for a few minutes,” Heechul offered, gesturing towards the baby grand piano on the other side of the restaurant.
Kyuhyun glanced at Ryeowook, but he smiled at him in return. Satisfied, Kyuhyun crossed the restaurant and sat at the piano.
“Do you want to go on break?” Heechul asked casually as he glanced down at the computer screen.
“I can’t leave you here by yourself,” Ryeowook argued,
“Ryeo-sshi… have you ever heard Kyuhyun play?” Heechul inquired softly,
“Yes, of course-”
“Since Henry’s returned?” Heechul prompted,
“Then please go on break,” Heechul said firmly, but gently as he looked directly at him, “Kyuhyun’s playing can… it can invoke things in people that you would never expect, especially when they’re vulnerable-”
“I am not vulnerable!” Ryeowook stated angrily,
Heechul closed his eyes as a few notes began to play from the piano. He opened them and regarded Ryeowook a moment, “You were there that night, were you not? When Kyuhyun played for the first time here?” Ryeowook nodded sceptically, “That evening, Eeteuk was affected by the music and if you don’t go on break now, it might hit you too.”
“I’m fine,” Ryeowook argued quietly as he crossed his arms, “Besides…” He glanced towards the bar just as the pâtisier exited the kitchen with a plate and brought it to the bartender, “If I can’t get through one of Kyuhyun’s songs, then it means these three years were for nothing.”
Heechul said nothing, but placed his hand on Ryeowook’s shoulder.
Slowly, the restaurant’s lively conversations hushed as the piano’s melody moved into a crescendo. It seemed as if Kyuhyun were picking only notes that would move a person’s soul. The melody wrapped around everyone who was in the front restaurant. The music would dip and cause the heart to drop with it. The music would soar and the heart would beat fast, almost painful in anxiety.
Kyuhyun sat at the piano, his eyes closed, his fingers instinctively dancing along the black and white keys. After so long, his fingers were limber and quick as they once were. Over six years ago, Kyuhyun had been ambushed and his hands injured. He hadn’t played the piano again until just over a year ago. Now, his hands moved as if he hadn’t spent a single day without using them.
Ryeowook felt his heart move with the music. He remembered the first time Kyuhyun had played in the restaurant. He even remembered that crash from the bar when Eeteuk had dropped a glass. What he didn’t remember was feeling the way he did now as his dongsaeng played.
A poignancy entered him the moment Kyuhyun pressed the first key. Even though Ryeowook had been arguing with Heechul, his heart had been on Heechul’s side. He stood there firmly, eyes on Kyuhyun’s back as the music continued. He felt each constriction of his heart, each inhale of his lungs - each staggered in their movements and causing him insurmountable pain.
He clenched his fists at his side as he felt his heart twist in his chest, digging his nails into the palms of his hands, he willed himself to remain strong. At some point, Ryeowook inhaled then did not exhale. He held onto that breath to steady his core. He bit on his bottom lip until he tasted copper on his tongue. He did all of this and all the while, while the music consumed his mind, his heart was consumed with the person at the bar talking to Eeteuk.
The music floated about the room as if it were a heavy storm cloud. Then suddenly, with no indication from Kyuhyun at all, it seemed as if his music had reached a peak, a climax. At the end, the storm cloud gave way and rained droplets of serenity amongst the customers of Suju restaurant. To Ryeowook, it shattered the last of his resolve as all the feelings and thoughts he had over the last three years suddenly slammed into him at once. He looked over at the bar, and through a veil of tears, he could see Henry looking back at him. The urge to call out to him washed over him and then suffocated him when Henry suddenly turned away from him.
Heechul felt it the moment it happened. His hand had remained on Ryeowook’s shoulder the entire time and suddenly, there was a tremble beneath his fingers. His ears heard the beginning of a cry before it was swallowed up and bit back. As Kyuhyun finished and a few of the guests clapped appreciatively, Heechul pulled Ryeowook to the other side of him so that he was blocking Ryeowook’s view of the restaurant.
Heechul stood there, hands on both of his shoulders and stared hard at Ryeowook who avoided his eyes; “I warned you,” Heechul said simply,
“I don’t need a lecture,” Ryeowook managed, his voice quiet and broken,
“And you won’t get one,” Heechul replied, “But for now, I want you to stand here like you weren’t affected. I want you to smile like you didn’t feel anything. If you can do that, at least until Henry goes back to the kitchen, then you can salvage some semblance of what you gained from these three years since he left.”
“Hyung,” Ryeowook began, his voice cracking again,
“I know it’s hard,” Heechul said as he turned Ryeowook so that he was facing the front doors now, “But I’ll stay here with you,” He promised, his hand remaining on his shoulder.
Kyuhyun joined them shortly and without saying anything, knew the change in Ryeowook. Without being asked to, he stood on the other side of his younger hyung. He and Heechul conversed casually, as if nothing was odd about them acting sentry, all the while, Kyuhyun slipped his hand into Ryeowook’s and squeezed it comfortingly.
“Good crowd,” Eeteuk noted as a waiter handed over an order, “Hmm Yesung?”
The waiter nodded as he looked out around the restaurant. He glanced over as Kyuhyun walked back and forth from the host’s podium, taking every customer that walked through the front doors; “Is it just me, or is Kyuhyun doing all of the hosting tonight?”
Eeteuk glanced at the podium before he turned to the back shelves and grabbed some bottles to make drinks, “Well think of who might walk out of the kitchens if he happens to walk to the tables closest to us.”
“If we weren’t so busy, I’d go talk to him,” Yesung said quietly, “I think in this restaurant, I’m the only person who’d understand the closest to how he feels.”
Eeteuk grew silent as he continued mixing his drinks. Him and Yesung had been friends since high school and while he, himself, had fallen in love with their mutual best friend, Yesung had fallen in love with him. It had been a year ago when Eeteuk had denied Yesung’s feelings and it took some time, but slowly they had regained the comfortableness of their friendship before the confession.
“No, I’m sorry,” Yesung looked over his shoulder.
“How are you, really?” Eeteuk asked as he placed the drinks on a tray and turned, placing it on the bar counter.
Yesung turned to face him and looked at him. It always felt strange talking to Eeteuk about his feelings for him, and yet, it seemed right that Eeteuk was guiding him through this. The only reason he had recovered from rejection as soon as he had - which was a week - was only because Eeteuk had been there and had talked to him. In the end, all that mattered to him was that Eeteuk was his best friend and he had not walked away from him in that part of his life.
“I’m good, really,” Yesung insisted after a moment, taking the tray from the counter, “A girl in one of my classes sat beside me, yesterday - for the first time.”
“Was she cute?” Eeteuk grinned at him,
“Eh,” Yesung shrugged as he winked, “Not as cute,” then turned and went off to bring his drinks to their respective tables.
Eeteuk smiled, watching him leave. He leaned against the back counter and crossed his arms loosely about his torso. Suddenly, Henry came out of the kitchens with a small dish and brought it over to the bar. He sat on a stool and waited as Eeteuk put the bottles he had used back on the back shelves. Afterwards, Eeteuk came over and took the fork Henry held out to him,
“This looks good!” Eeteuk smiled happily as he took a piece, “What is it called?”
“Crème caramel,” Henry answered,
Eeteuk took the small morsel on the fork into his mouth and smiled, “You do know how to spoil your hyung,” Eeteuk laughed,
“Well, you asked for a taste-test, so I’m bound to do so every time I make something,” Henry said. He leaned his back against the bar counter as his eyes moved briefly towards the host’s podium where Heechul stood with Ryeowook, “How long has Ryeowook been a host?”
“About a year and half,” Eeteuk said between bites of the creamy dessert,
“And how long has Kyuhyun been playing for the customers?” Henry inquired as he pulled his eyes away from Ryeowook to the head host who sat at the piano, playing a sweet, sad melody. “When I left it was Shiwon-sshi who played.”
“Kyuhyun’s been playing during his shifts… around a year now,” Eeteuk answered, as he averted his eyes from the piano player.
“So much has changed,” Henry sighed heavily as his eyes drifted back to Ryeowook and Heechul, “I have so much to catch up on… ah, how about Kangin-sshi? How’s he doing?”
Eeteuk nearly dropped the plate. He cleared his throat as he managed to place the plate back on the counter for Henry to take back, “He died.”
“EH!? When?” Henry spun around in his seat,
“About a year and half ago,” Eeteuk said quietly as a waiter came and gave another order. He began to make it and when the waiter left with the drink, he looked back up at Henry, “It happened pretty fast… two years ago he was diagnosed and six months later he…” he cleared his throat again before smiling, “That was delicious, thank you Henry.”
“Hyung, I didn’t… I’m sorry,” Henry said quietly,
Eeteuk shook his head, his smile not quite reaching his eyes; “It’s okay.” He glanced over at the host’s podium as Kyuhyun finished his song and made his way back to Ryeowook and Heechul. He noted something strange at the way Heechul and Kyuhyun stood on either side of Ryeowook. His eyes took in Heechul’s hand on Ryeowook’s shoulder and then saw Kyuhyun’s arm move closer to Ryeowook’s. In that instant, he understood. Ryeowook had just experienced what he had experienced just a year ago.
“Henry,” Eeteuk said casually as a waiter dropped off an order on their way to the kitchens; “What really happened three years ago?”
Henry froze. He was still sitting and all he had done was reach for the plate Eeteuk had given back, but he had froze in his movements. His hand slowly dropped to the counter and he seemed to have shut him self away from Eeteuk. A five-count passed between then before Henry grabbed the plate and bolted into the kitchens without so much as another word.
Kibum was wiping down his station later that evening when Henry came over, towel-drying a large whipping bowl.
“A lot of people liked your new desserts,” Kibum congratulated as he brought some knives over to the sink for cleaning, “But you don’t look too happy,” he noted when he returned,
Henry glanced to the other side of the kitchen where the head chef’s office was located; “When you and Hankyung-”
“Shh,” Kibum glared at him,
Henry rolled his eyes, “Lorsque tu et Hankyung commencé votre relation ... combien de temps jusqu'à ce que vous avez réalisé tu l'adorait?”
“Je ne sais pas ... ce n'est que quelques mois jusqu'à ce que j'ai pu dire: je t'adore,” Kibum admitted as he began cleaning down his counter with a wet rag, knowing the cleaning crew would clean again after him; “Je n'adore pas facilement, mais Hankyung a le dit après un mois et je ne doute pas de son amour.”
Henry nodded his understanding before going back to his station and placing the whipping bowl he was drying on a shelf. After quickly checking his station, he returned to Kibum just as he was drying his counter, “Y at-il un moment où vous vous demandiez si tu devez lui laisser? Trouver une femme, la place?”
Kibum suddenly stood up straight and looked at Henry directly. After working together for two years as chef and sous chef, they had become quite close. Now that Henry was back, Kibum felt as if a missing piece of his life had returned. He looked at Henry now curiously, as if trying to solve another puzzle, “Je pense tous les jours. Mais alors, je le vois, ou pense à lui et je SAIS qu'il n'ya personne d'autre,” Kibum answered easily, “Pourquoi?”
“Quand j'ai quitté il ya trois ans, c'est parce que je ne l'adore plus…” Henry sighed heavily as he pulled out his lip chap and applied a thin layer of the raspberry protection;
“Et maintenant?” Kibum prompted, throwing his drying towel in the laundry basket with the other rags. He leaned a hip against his counter and crossed his arms,
“En Corée, Ryeowook a été mon univers. Quand je suis allé à la France, je me suis vite realizd il était toujours mon univers, je pensais à lui tous les jours. Je suis resté en France jusqu'à ce que j'ai arrêté de l'adorer,” Henry answered, his voice quiet but firm; his gaze steady on Kibum’s.
“Et maintenant? Maintenant que tu es rentré?” Kibum questioned,
“Le véritable amour ne s'arrête pas si facilement …” Henry replied. They stood there in silence for a few moments as the other staff noisily continued about their business within the kitchen. Finally Henry broke the quiet between them; “Tout le monde sait sur tu et Hankyung.”
“Je sais,” Kibum said easily,
“Hankyung a une partie de moi ne l'a jamais vu. Je me plais à penser que j'ai une partie de lui ne l'a jamais vu. C'est pourquoi je suis à ma manière, et Hankyung sait,” Kibum explained, glancing towards the head chef’s office, “Je l’adore. Je ne vous inquiétez pas si tout le monde le sait; juste si il sache.”
Henry said nothing as slowly staff started leaving the kitchen. Finally, Hankyung emerged from his office, rubbing the back of his neck wearily. His eyes spotted them and immediately he smiled, walking over to them,
“Home?” Hankyung suggested simply to Kibum who nodded.
Hankyung started to leave when suddenly Kibum grabbed his hand, stopping him. Hankyung looked back at him, startled. In the three years he had worked at Suju restaurant, and the almost three years he had been with Kibum, the sous chef had never done anything within the restaurant that would even suggest at their relationship.
Ignoring the other’s shocked expression, Kibum glanced over at Henry, “Parlez-lui.” And with that, he tugged on Hankyung’s hand and they left together.
Henry was just pocketing his beloved raspberry lip chap upon entering the employee’s locker room when he stopped dead in his tracks. Within the locker room, Yesung had his arms wrapped around Ryeowook. At the sound of the door opening, Yesung looked over and slowly, released his embrace.
Yesung turned back to Ryeowook so that he was a barrier between them. He placed his hands on the younger man’s shoulders, “Trust me on this, Ryeowook,” he said quietly enough for just Ryeowook to hear, “It’s better to talk to him than not to…”
“There are a lot of what if’s… and it’s going to hurt a lot to talk, but at least if you talk, you won’t have to think about what if’s anymore. The conversation is going to be hard and when you think you can’t take it, then come and talk to me,” Yesung prompted, “But talk to him first, hmm?”
Ryeowook nodded, wiping away betraying tears, “Thanks hyung, you’re a good friend.”
Yesung gave him a small, encouraging smile, “I know what it’s like and I knew you’d need one.” After giving his shoulder a supportive squeeze, he went to his locker and pulled out a bag. He glanced towards a doorway on the other side of the room that led to the employee bathrooms and then headed to the door, “Have a good night Henry,” He said, clapping his hand on Henry’s shoulder before leaving the two alone.
“You two seem close,” Henry noted casually as he walked towards his own locker and opened the door,
“We’ve worked together for six years,” Ryeowook said quietly with a shrug as he turned to his own locker, “He’s been a good friend to me over the years… a lot of the staff has. Now that I think of it, all of Suju’s employees are guys. Leave it to Shiwon to think up a concept for the restaurant that would rake in 70% of the female population of Seoul’s night life. And-”
“Do you know how much it killed me to see you in another person’s arms?” Henry demanded, turning to face Ryeowook;
“Do you know how much it killed me after being together for over a year - A YEAR - and you suddenly announce to the restaurant that you’re leaving for France within two weeks!?” Ryeowook demanded as he yanked his bag from his locker, “Do you know how much it killed me how after you announced your resignation you broke up with me thirteen minutes later in the parking lot!?”
“It was not that soon after-”
“IT WAS THIRTEEN MINUTES, DAMN IT!” Ryeowook exclaimed as he slammed his locker door shut, “I know Henry! That night has relived in my mind over and over and over again for years!”
“Then why won’t you let me talk to you!?” Henry questioned, “I want to explain myself! I want to tell you what happened in France! Damn it, I want to be with you again!”
“You can’t!” Ryeowook exclaimed, eyes narrowing,
“Why the hell not!?” Henry demanded, closing the distance between them;
“Because YOU broke MY heart,” Ryeowook argued through gritted teeth, punctuating each word with a stab to Henry’s chest with two fingers.
Henry grabbed Ryeowook’s hand, “Ryeo-”
“I’m not in love with you anymore!” Ryeowook declared, snatching his hand away as if having been burnt.
A silence fell upon them as Ryeowook watched the pain contort Henry’s face. He felt his heart twist and knew that Henry felt the same. He clenched his hand to his chest to stop himself from reaching out. He gripped his hands tightly to stop the rest of his body from shaking. He used all the pain from the past three years to steel himself and turn away from Henry.
“You may want to get back with me… But I don’t want to get back with you,” Ryeowook grounded out, feeling the familiar sting of hot tears in his eyes, “I spent days… and weeks… and months… and years getting over you and I finally did tonight.”
“What…?” Henry managed, his mouth dry and his lungs struggling to take in air,
“When Kyuhyun was playing the piano earlier, I looked at you. And while my heart was breaking all over again, you looked away,” Ryeowook stated, forcing strength into his words to push them out and stop them from suffocating him; “I had to go through that two times… I can’t go through it a third.”
Already feeling his heart being slashed through, Henry couldn’t find any strength to say anything. He couldn’t say or do anything as for the first time in his life, Ryeowook walked away from him. A pain that froze his entire being and left him with a painful numbness, made him wonder if he was feeling perhaps just a fraction of what Ryeowook had felt that day, three years ago.
The door had closed after Ryeowook for a few minutes before he appeared and cleared his throat. Startled, Henry spun towards the doorway leading to the employee’s bathroom where the bartender stood, innocently drying his hands with paper towel.
Henry turned to his locker and busied himself with taking off his chef’s jacket and tossing it into his bag with his apron, “I… I didn’t know you were there.”
“I should’ve made myself known,” Eeteuk said apologetically as he tossed the paper towel in the garbage and walked over to his locker, opening it; “But honestly, there wasn’t a right time to do it.”
“It’s… alright,” Henry insisted, blinking his eyes to fight against his tears, “Hyung… Yesung-”
“Sees Ryeowook as nothing but a friend,” Eeteuk assured him,
“How are you so sure?” Henry asked weakly,
“Because Yesung is in love with me,” Eeteuk answered simply as he pulled out his bag and slung it onto his arm. “But I’m helping him get over it.”
“Why?” Henry asked, turning his head to look at him, confused at his statement; “If he’s in love with you-”
“But I’m not in love with him,” Eeteuk said,
“Isn’t that cruel?” Henry questioned, “If he’s in love with you, is it not cruel to do that to him!?”
“Isn’t it more cruel to be with him when I love another?” Eeteuk countered easily, a small, sad smile on his lips; “I loved Kangin and I still do. I promised to love him forever, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m sorry that my best friend has to suffer because of my stubbornness, but it’s a lesser evil than being with him when my heart belongs to another.”
“Don’t you think you deserve another chance at love?” Henry asked,
Eeteuk shook his head as he closed his locker, “I’ve had the love of my life taken away from me and my heart died with him. I choose not to love again out of loyalty to Kangin and out of selfishness to not feel that pain again.”
“Just like how Ryeowook chose to walk away from me right now,” Henry stated,
Eeteuk shook his head again, “The difference between Ryeowook and I, is that the love of his life is still here. The love of his life still loves him,” Eeteuk reminded him gently, comfortingly.
Before Eeteuk left, Henry called out to him, “Hyung… loving again isn’t being disloyal to Kangin-sshi.”
Eeteuk looked over his shoulder and Henry was startled by the tears in his eyes; “I know. But how can I think of even just liking someone else when I’m still in love with him?”
It was a few weeks later when Ryeowook came to the restaurant an hour early. He hoped doing so meant avoiding Henry in the change room. He was buttoning up his shirt when he entered the restaurant front, immediately meeting passionately played notes on the piano. He stood there quietly as he watched Kyuhyun sitting at the baby grand piano, his eyes watching his own hands dance up and down the keys.
Ryeowook had heard Kyuhyun play often enough, but it had always been a quiet song, a slow song, something that would set the mood of the customers in the restaurant. The song Kyuhyun was playing now was loud and powerful, full of energy that not only showed on the young man’s face, but exuded from his body. He had always thought Kyuhyun was a skilled pianist due to the emotions he could draw from his listeners. Now he knew that Kyuhyun was also skilled with his ability to make his fingers waltz so rapidly and perfectly on the black and white keys. It was a side of his friend that awed Ryeowook and at the same time, sadden him at the thought that Kyuhyun had been without this talent for five years.
The music had ended long before the remnants of its effects on Ryeowook had dissipated. He was only drawn out of his reverie when Kyuhyun called his name. Ryeowook blinked before smiling and approaching him,
“If only the customers could hear you play like that,” Ryeowook stated,
Kyuhyun laughed softly, “It’s been awhile since I’ve heard myself play like that. Why so early?” He glanced at his watch,
Ryeowook shrugged, “I could ask the same.”
“Ever since I returned to the piano Shiwon’s offered me free reign of the piano before the restaurant opens. Since I don’t own a piano and there are nosy people at my school, I come here,” He answered easily, “And since you’re reluctant to answer as I have, I can only assume.”
Ryeowook said nothing as he sat on the piano bench beside Kyuhyun. He played a few keys on the piano’s high range, “Have you ever fought with Sungmin-sshi?”
Kyuhyun raised his brows at the mention of his boyfriend. After a moment, he answered simply, “All the time. Actually, it’s sort of annoying because he doesn’t get angry very easily so often I seem the immature one since I’m getting angry while he’s being very calm about the situation.”
“Was there ever a time when you felt of leaving him?” Ryeowook asked hesitantly as he watched his own hand draw out a seemingly happy tune from the piano,
“Hmm… There was,” Kyuhyun admitted, “But that was because I felt I was being too much of a burden on him, not because I had stopped loving him.”
“Have I… Have I ever told you Henry’s reason for breaking up with me?” Ryeowook asked, his voice suddenly very quiet and his expression suddenly very vulnerable,
“I don’t think you’ve told anyone. Over the years, we’ve all become good friends, but I doubt any of us had the courage to broach the subject with you,” Kyuhyun answered, “It hurt you and we didn’t want to hurt you more by probing.”
“He said he had fallen out of love with me,” Ryeowook said, his voice flat and his fingers now trembling as they continued to play, “But now that he’s back… he acts as if he never left…”
“And you don’t know what to think,” Kyuhyun prompted gently. Ryeowook nodded silently as his hands stilled on the piano, eventually pulling his hands into his lap; “I honestly don’t know what to tell you Ryeowook. There has never been a doubt in my mind when it comes to my feelings for Sungmin and he has never expressed any from his side either. If you’re looking for advice-”
“I don’t know what I’m looking for,” Ryeowook muttered,
“If you’re looking for advice,” Kyuhyun repeated steadily, “I would go talk to Boss.”
“Shiwon-sshi?” Ryeowook blinked,
Kyuhyun nodded, “According to the stories, he fell in love with Heechul the moment he first saw him, but Heechul never paid him any attention until after his accident, three years after Suju opened for business.”
“What advice could he give me though?” Ryeowook asked confusedly as he glanced towards the archway that lead to the back rooms of the restaurant.
“If the stories are true, Shiwon loved him one-sidedly for three years. If he’s known anything about doubting love and the such… or perhaps the closest person who could feel remotely as you do would be Shiwon,” Kyuhyun shrugged simply,
“And Yesung,” Ryeowook sighed,
“Yesung?” Kyuhyun asked,
“I just mean, he’s been helping me since Henry’s come back,” Ryeowook answered quickly. He had forgotten what Yesung had told him: that no one in the restaurant besides Eeteuk and Heechul knew about what had happened between Yesung and Eeteuk a year ago; “So… he would know too… because he’s been talking me through it…”
“Ah,” Kyuhyun nodding his understanding. He could tell that Ryeowook was hiding something - his hyung was a horrible liar - but he wouldn’t push if Ryeowook didn’t wish it, especially if, he assumed right, and Yesung had bound him to secrecy.
“Did Shiwon-sshi really love Heechul all those years?” Ryeowook asked then,
“Like I said, if the stories I’ve heard are true,” Kyuhyun said,
“All those years with unrequited love… and he still gave up his sight so Heechul could keep his,” Ryeowook sighed softly, “I wonder if he could help me understand what I’m going through.”
“Do you still love Henry?” Kyuhyun asked simply as his hands began to play amongst the black and white keys once more;
Ryeowook nodded then added softly, “I don’t want to… I’ve been hurt by him before… and I’ve told others I don’t anymore, including Henry… but I know I do… Even if I convince myself otherwise, my heart will still know.”
“Then I think Shiwon can help you,” Kyuhyun answered with a small, comforting smile, “He’s in his office if you want to talk to him before the others start coming to start work.”
Ryeowook returned the smile, albeit weakly, then stood and headed off to find Shiwon before Kyuhyun played more of what he could only presume was another song that would pull him back into his sadness.
“Come in.” Shiwon heard the door open and close. He heard someone approach his desk and sit down at the chairs,
“Sorry to disturb you Shiwon-sshi,” Ryeowook said as he settled into a chair before the desk,
“It’s fine, the managers do all the work in their own office upstairs and I don’t do any work unless Heechul’s around,” Shiwon insisted with a smile, “I was just reading.” Ryeowook caught sight of the open book, the upraised bumps on the pages guiding Shiwon to understand the book. Shiwon placed a book mark in the pages then closed the book, it had taken some time, but he had learned to read Braille two years ago. “Is there something I can help you with? It’s too early to start work,” He noted, remembering the clock had not chimed the top of the hour yet.
“Well… it’s just that… is it true you loved Heechul before his accident?” Ryeowook asked tentatively,
Shiwon nodded, “Almost since the first time I spoke to him during his interview.”
“How did you do it?” Ryeowook asked, his voice trembling then; “How did you love him for so long when he couldn’t so much as remember your name for three years?”
“I didn’t know he didn’t remember so much as my name until he confessed it to me one night. But he did ignore me for three years,” He chuckled, “He didn’t even realize we had a pianist up until two years ago.”
“How did you live like that?” Ryeowook asked,
“How did you live three years without Henry?” Shiwon countered, “The only difference is that Heechul was always there. You had a harder time than I-”
“But at least in the end, Heechul loves you!” Ryeowook interjected, his voice more fierce than he had intended. He cleared his throat, trying to reign in his feelings;
“How do you know that Henry doesn’t still love you?” Shiwon asked him gently,
“Because he told me he didn’t love me anymore when he quit! Because if he loved me he wouldn’t have left! Because if he loved me he wouldn’t be toying with me like this!” Ryeowook cried.
Immediately, Shiwon got up from his seat, came around the desk and knelt before Ryeowook, pulling him into an embrace. Ryeowook had grown exponentially over the past three years since the former head chef had left for France. He felt a swelling pride at seeing how stronger, more extroverted Ryeowook had become as if he were his child instead of just his friend. It had been a long time since he had seen this side of the younger man and he felt the need to protect his dear friend.
“I lived those three years before Heechul noticed me drawing strength from my love for him,” Shiwon said quietly as he felt Ryeowook tremble in his arms; “Every day I looked forward to seeing him, even if he didn’t see me. It was painful how he ignored my existence but I realized now having him there at all would be even more painful.”
Ryeowook said nothing, could say nothing. Ever since Henry had returned, he had relived that night over three years ago when Henry had taken him into the parking lot after announcing his resignation, and had broken up with him. With a strength he didn’t realize still remained with him, he had come to work and forced his heart to the back of his mind, only there could it be safe. He had always worn his heart on his sleeve and over the past three years, had learned to hide it. He let his heart come to the front now, allowed it out of its hiding place.
“You need to think which is more painful for you… now that he’s back, or when he wasn’t here at all,” Shiwon told him gently; “You can ignore him or you can quit - but both will be just running away from it. Eventually, as I did, you’ll have to ask yourself which is less painful for you to live through. If it’s the former, then talk to him so then you can begin healing. If it’s the latter, then talk to him so then he’ll leave you alone.”
“Either way… I talk to him,” Ryeowook managed through his tears,
“Unfortunately, that’s the only way to live without regrets,” Shiwon said as he pulled back enough so he could look Ryeowook directly in the eyes; “It’s the only way you can live again - be it with or without Henry.”
Ryeowook nodded his understanding as he wiped his eyes dry with the cuff of his sleeve. Slowly, Shiwon stood and sat in the chair beside Ryeowook’s, “Thank you Shiwon-sshi.”
The door opened to the office then, “Oh… am I interrupting something?”
“Ryeowook and I were just discussing something, Heechul,” Shiwon answered, immediately recognizing the voice. He hoped Ryeowook had gotten enough time to regain his composure.
“Is Kyuhyun done practicing?” Ryeowook asked brightly,
“I think so? I didn’t hear any music coming from the front of the restaurant,” Heechul answered, eyeing the two suspiciously,
“Ah, great, I wanted to talk to him,” Ryeowook insisted as he got up and walked to the door, “Thanks again, Sh… Hyung.”
Heechul watched as Ryeowook left and closed the door behind him. Heechul approached Shiwon, “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”
“He came to me under the strictest of confidences,” Shiwon said solemnly,
“You told him the wedding date, didn’t you?” Heechul watched him suspiciously as he came to Shiwon’s chair,
“We’ve been engaged for over a year,” Shiwon rolled his eyes as Heechul came and straddled his lap, “Besides… I’ve already told everyone.”
Heechul sighed exasperatedly before his expression softened, “Is he going to be okay?”
Shiwon nodded thoughtfully, “I think so.”
“Can I have a hint about what you two were talking about?” Heechul asked, his voice low and sultry,
“That tone doesn’t work with me,” Shiwon laughed, “And yes you can. It was mentioned how you never remembered my name the first few years you worked here.”
Heechul cursed as he leaned his forehead against Shiwon’s, “I’m never going to live that down, am I?”
Shiwon smiled, his cheeks dimple, “Never,” he replied before capturing his lips in a kiss.
The banging at the door caused Hankyung to sit up suddenly in his chair. He glanced to his office door. He always kept open in case someone needed him all they need to do was yell. Standing in the doorway was Kibum and Henry, the busy kitchen beyond them,
“I told you it doesn’t take much to wake him,” Kibum said bitterly,
“I insisted he didn’t have to wake you,” Henry said immediately, seeing the head chef narrow his eyes, “We all know how unwell you are-”
“And THAT’S why he should’ve stayed home!” Kibum exclaimed, crossing his arms, “I told him I’ve handled the kitchen on my own before and he keeps himself in his office anyway -”
“And I refuse to stay at home,” Hankyung interjected, his voice nasally. Kibum scoffed then turned on his heel and returned to the kitchen.
“Why are you here if you’re sick?” Henry asked,
Hankyung glanced at the open door, “Sān nián qián, jīntiān shì dì yī cìdāng Kibum wen le wo,” He grinned,
Henry rolled his eyes, taking out his lip chap and applying a thin layer of the raspberry before pocketing it again, “Zhè shì juéduì de ài.”
“So what’s up?” Hankyung asked, slipping back into Korean,
“Ni céngjīng weiqū Kibum?” Henry asked, prompting the need to keep their conversation private.
Hankyung raised his eyebrows in curiosity before answering, “Rènzhēn? Dì.”
“Wo bù zhī dàoyou duōshăo ni tīngguò, dàn wo shòushāng Ryeowook zài wo líkāi zhī qián. Xiànzài wo yi jīng făn le…” Henry shrugged helplessly,
“Ni wéi dāng yāo líkāi ne?” Hankyung replied seriously, crossing his arms over his chest,
“Yīnwèi wo shì yúchun de. Yīnwèi wo juéde wo yijīng bùzài ài tā,” Henry answered. An anger, a darkness laced his words- not because of what was happening nor at how things had become, but because of himself and how he had LET things become as they were.
“Xiànzài? Ni réngrán ài tā?” The elder of them prompted, watching him carefully,
“Dāng wo shī qù le tā … zài Făguó … Wo yì shí dào wo ài tā,” Henry blinked back tears that threatened to fall; “Wo ài tā! Wo bù zhī dào gāi zen me bàn!”
“Tā tántán,” Hankyung said simply, calmly.
“Wo shìtú zhè yangzuò!” Henry exclaimed, suddenly covered his mouth; not because he remembered the door was open behind him, but to also stop himself from crying aloud.
“Băochí hé tā tánhuà. Háiyou méiyou biéde,” Hankyung told him, making to stand up.
Henry waved him off, silently telling him to stay sitting. He did so because Hankyung was sick and didn’t want to tax him. Also, he did so because if Hankyung did anything to comfort him, he wouldn’t be able to stay strong.
Hankyung stood up anyway, putting on a face mask over his nose and mouth. He walked past Henry and patted his shoulder comfortingly, “Talk to him,” He reiterated, his voice muffled by the mask. He took one stop out of the office before Henry heard Kibum yelling at him,
“Either go home or get back in there!”
Hankyung took off his mask as he sat back down at his desk. He smiled at Henry’s startled look; “That’s his way of saying ‘wo ài ni’.”
During his break, Henry went to the change room to find another lip chap since he had exhausted his last one. He was straddling a bench with his bag on the bench as he rummaged through it when the door opened. He locked eyes immediately with Ryeowook.
“We need to talk,” They said in unison. Henry gestured for Ryeowook to go first and he obliged immediately, if he didn’t, he’d lose all the courage he had been gathering all night.
“You hurt me, Henry - a lot. I was in love with you and you had decided to leave me long before I had any indication of it,” Ryeowook said, his flurry of words descending upon Henry like dark daggers, reminders of his guilt; “I spent weeks, months - YEARS getting over you!” He exclaimed, his fists clenched at his sides, “Whenever I was alone I’d cry because nothing could distract me and I would immediately think of you. The moment I begin to feel like I can TRULY be happy again, you decide to come back!”
Henry felt his heart twist at Ryeowook’s words. He acknowledged what Ryeowook had gone through, but couldn’t understand - probably would never understand how high a degree he had hurt Ryeowook. He stood up, “Ryeowook-”
“LET ME FINISH!” Ryeowook screamed, his voice dissolving into a sob at the end. His hand clamped over his mouth in an attempt to stop more cries to leave him, betray him; he’d rather they suffocate him. Ryeowook felt the familiar sting of tears, felt their burning liquidness and allowed them to flow. He couldn’t control both his screams and tears at the same time.
Henry slowly dropped back down to the bench. Silently, he motioned for Ryeowook to continue.
Ryeowook felt his heart throwing itself mercilessly against his ribcage, willing itself to break again and again and again. He felt his lungs shivering, trying to get air, but his throat was burning and painfully blocked with his silenced cries. He was shaking now, clenching his hands in an attempt to stop it, but he was growing weak from the effort and everything else.
When he managed to draw a breath, it was like sucking the air through a collapsed straw; “Three years,” his voice came out hoarse and broken. He steeled himself, trying to get more air; “THREE YEARS! I hear nothing from you, know nothing of you. For all I knew you could’ve di… I knew nothing of what became of you when you left,” Ryeowook managed, feeling his teeth begin to hit each other from his trembling jaw;
“And what killed me the most… What broke my heart each and every time was the fact that you didn’t say goodbye.” Ryeowook felt as if his lungs were collapsing, as if his heart had freed itself from his ribcage by slicing itself up against the bones, as if his throat were burning with acid and his eyes would never be dry again. “Despite what was between us… what you did… I had thought… hoped really… that you would have said goodbye. In memory - in honour - of what we had, even if it was for our friendship and not… us.”
The door to the change room opened and Ryeowook suddenly moved towards his locker, apparently preoccupied with opening the lock to get something from within. One of the other kitchen staff came in and went swiftly to the bathroom. He emerged a short time later, throwing a quick greeting before the change room door closed behind him. When he heard the door close again, Ryeowook leaned his forehead against the cool metal of the locker door. He needed to regain his strength, his composure, his heart; or what was left of it.
“I had truly believed that I had fallen out of love with you Ryeowook,” Henry said quietly, his eyes staring at his bag before him, unable to confess if he was looking at the other man. “I found it hard to be around you… found myself wary whenever I saw you. What my body went through whenever you were around was akin to how I felt when I fell in love. I couldn’t breath, couldn’t speak, my heart felt painful, I felt like trembling and crying… The only difference was that it was scary. ‘This can’t be love’ I told myself. But I didn’t know what to do, I knew I had to get away but the only way to hurt you as least as possible was to remove myself completely.”
“So you left for France…” Ryeowook said quietly, his voice barely audible.
“I knew leaving you so suddenly hurt you… but if I broke up with you and stayed, it would’ve hurt more-”
“You don’t know that.” He interjected, his words cold, sharp.
“It was what I believed,” Henry defended simply, weakly. He knew he didn’t have a right to defend himself. “But when I was in France and away from you, I couldn’t stop thinking of you. You were everywhere to me… your essence, your memory - it consumed me. I realized after losing you that I did love you, but I was scared. I was scared to love you, scared that someone could own me so completely and… and yet I was happy because it meant I did love you.”
“Then why didn’t you come back?” Ryeowook questioned, eyes closed now, trying to piece back the remnants of his heart,
“Because I had hurt you. I had hurt the one person I loved… Love… and it was unforgivable,” Henry said, his voice just above a whisper. “I stayed in France until I felt I stopped loving you, until I was ready to see you again.”
Then suddenly, his voice was closer and Ryeowook felt a warmth at his side. He closed his eyes even tighter, feeling his body longing for that warmth, remembering that warmth. He felt his heart weakly stir at Henry’s close presence and at the same time, felt his heart shake out of fear. How many times could it endure being broken by the same person?
“I couldn’t stop loving you, Ryeowook,” Henry whispered, “I tried… for three years… and now, it’s possibly even more than it was before. I love you.”
“My trust isn’t easily given… not anymore,” Ryeowook managed, slowly turning towards Henry and forcing himself to open his eyes and look at him. His voice caught in his throat for a moment as he took in Henry’s image; “My heart isn’t easily healed.”
“Then let me try,” Henry replied, his voice begging, his eyes pleading with him, “Let me try to earn your trust again… let me try to mend what I had broken.” Instinctively, he reached out and cradled Ryeowook’s face in his hands; “Please Ryeowook… let me try…” His voice was breaking and he was falling to his knees as his hands slipped from Ryeowook’s tear-stained cheeks; “Let me try,” He breathed, tears now running down his face, his hands falling to his sides. “Please.”
Ryeowook had never seen Henry as thus. Strong, lively, smiling - Henry, his Henry was now down on his knees, begging and crying. He thought his heart broken, but the sight before him just killed him all over again as he felt a pain in his chest akin to several knives twisting through the spaces in his ribcage.
The pain he had endured for so long was because of this man before him and yet he still loved him. Against all reason, he still loved Henry. When Henry had broken up with him, he refused himself the hope that Henry would take it back. When Henry had left, he refused himself the hope that Henry would return. For three years, the concept of hope had become a foreign entity to him and yet, now…
Ryeowook dropped to his knees before Henry and pulled him into his arms. Embracing the younger man, he managed to whisper, “I’ve waited three years for you.”
It took a moment for Henry to register what had happened, what was happening. And for the first time since they had met, he was the weaker one. He collapsed into Ryeowook’s arms, his face buried against his hyung’s shoulder. His body shook against Ryeowook’s firm hold and he felt a wetness on the top of his head telling him that Ryeowook was crying again. He wrapped his arms around him, tightly as if any less would mean the end. The end of life, of love. Of them.
“I’ll never make you wait again.”