(First story of Control; part of the Brotherhood series)
“Mrs. Park? Your nephew’s here to see you.”
The secretary ushered in a young man. He was dressed in jeans and a white long-sleeved shirt. He sported a matching white beanie and black, full-rimmed glasses. As the door closed behind him, he stepped further into the vast office, taking a seat before the desk where the name plate read Chancellor.
“It’s the first day of the school year, don’t tell me you’re already in trouble, Kangin,” His aunt smiled at him, folding her hands atop the desk,
“No, no,” he replied, crossing one knee over the other; “I just left Donghae and Kyuhyun at their classes and thought it time I thank you.”
“You’ve thanked me already-”
“No, I haven’t. We haven’t,” he cleared his throat as he crossed his arms, his eyes moving to a window behind his aunt’s desk, “After the accident… after you let us come with you to Ulsan… even after you enrolled us into SM University so we could continue our schooling… after all that, we never once said thanks.”
“March was difficult on all of us, Kangin,” His aunt replied gently, “Besides, your mother wouldn’t have expected anything less from me.”
“But still… I’m already 22, I could’ve gotten a job and supported my brothers-”
“But you want to become a teacher,” His aunt interjected,
“Exactly! Aunt AhMae, you’re letting that happen by letting me continue my graduate studies and-”
His aunt, AhMae, held up her hand to silence him; “Kangin, I love you and your brothers. I did what I had to do. So please, you’ve said enough.” She smiled at him indulgently, “I know you don’t have class until tomorrow and it was nice of you to bring your brothers here for their first day. Why don’t you go tour the campus hmm? Get accustomed to it before you have to trek around it tomorrow finding all of your classes?”
“So you want me to leave you alone because you’re busy running the university?” Kangin grinned knowingly. He stood up, “But you’re right, I’ll go walk around.”
“Well, if you need anything, I’ll be in here,” She sighed as she gestured to all the paperwork on her desk,
Kangin chuckled, “That’s one of the downsides of living near campus, Auntie, they know where to find you.”
“Don’t I know it,” She shook her head as her eyes caught sight of the school‘s newspaper. She picked it up, “Kangin, why don’t you try out for the tae kwon do team?” She looked at the paper, “They’re looking for new recruits already for this year.”
Kangin’s laughing eyes suddenly became shuttered as he turned to leave, “You know I quit, Auntie.”
“It’s been five years, Kangin and I know how much you used to love it,” AhMae replied, “Surely it’s time you returned? Perhaps it’ll take your mind off of things?”
Kangin shook his head as he reached the door, “If I do that, I’ll lose myself in the sport and… I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
“I could control you,” AhMae suggested,
“Perhaps… I don’t know,” Kangin sighed as he looked at the door intently. It practically flew open, banging against its hinges. He sighed, “I may need you even if I don’t join.”
AhMae almost jumped out of her seat when the door unintentionally slammed shut. Once she was alone again, however, she sighed heavily and prayed to her sister and brother-in-law in heaven.
Let them be okay.
Kangin stepped out of the main office building of SM U. and inhaled deeply the cool, spring air. It was the beginning of April and as he saw the signs of spring appearing, he began to feel that this was his and his brothers’ second chance at life. Stuffing his hands into his pockets, he slowly began to randomly walk around campus.
He walked around for what seemed like forever before he came across the recreational building. He entered and as he walked down the main hallway, he caught sight of the walls which were lined with trophies, plaques and photographs. He slowly perused the walls and display cases when he came across one in particular. He gazed at the tall, gold-plated trophy in the centre of the case.
“SM U. is world famous for its tae kwon do team,” a voice interrupted his peaceful silence.
Kangin glanced out of the corner of his eye at the intruder. It was a young man, perhaps a bit older than himself, dressed in sweats as if he intended to go running or some other activity. He returned his gaze to the large trophy, “I know,” Kangin said simply, “There was a time when I wanted to attend SM U. simply because of the team.”
“You’re here now,” the other man replied,
“I just transferred from Seoul University,” Kangin explained, not really sure why he was relating such personal facts to this stranger, but it felt good to talk to someone so casually after his parents’ accident.
“So far!” The man exclaimed, “And you moved to Ulsan from Seoul just to switch schools?”
He shrugged, “My family lived in Incheon, I just lived on campus in Seoul. But yes, I transferred here.”
“Joining the team then? You did say you wanted to come here because of the tae kwon do team,” The man stated,
“I said there was a time when I wanted to do that; that time was five years ago when I was graduating high school,” Kangin replied, “And no, I won’t be joining the team now I’m here.”
When silenced ensued, Kangin ventured a glance at the man. He was startled when he found the young man staring at him with scrutinizing dark eyes, “I thought you looked familiar! Heck, I should’ve known by your eyes!”
Kangin blinked, suddenly looking away. His eyes were a family trait, inherited from his mother’s side. Growing up he had been self-conscious because his eyes were a different colour from the other kids. However, he learned early on how fortunate he actually was since his eyes were less obvious than those of his younger brothers. His eyes, those of royal blue, were different, but not as much as his brothers whose eyes shone lighter shades of blue. His own mother had eyes the colour of sapphires, identical to his aunt’s eye colour.
“I… I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kangin forced his gaze to remain on the display case before him, silently willing this stranger to leave him alone to his thoughts.
“Yeah, yeah! The tae kwon do genius with the blue eyes!” The other man exclaimed, “You were a national champion in your high school years; all sports writers were hoping to follow you into university but…”
When his company grew silent, Kangin continued on, hoping his words were flat instead of laced with bitterness as his memories were; “But after my first competition in my senior year, I placed first - as expected - but I quit the team immediately afterwards. Yes, I recall the news articles. After all, it was my life.”
“I’m sorry,” the man insisted, his tone indeed sounding sincere and apologetic, “It’s just that you were all the coaches here talked about all those years ago. They were so disappointed when they heard you quit so early in your senior year, and even more so when you refused the full-scholarship they offered.”
“That was so long ago. If you knew what was going on at this school at that time, does that mean you were a student here all those years ago?” Kangin asked, “Are you a grad student like me?”
“This will be my second year postgraduate. Should be third, but I blame that on a late birthday,” He smiled at him, “If I do this right, in three February’s I’ll have my master’s degree. But school means money, so I work here to help pay for tuition. For the past five years, I’ve practically lived in this building, unless I was studying, of course.”
“You work in here? As in the recreational centre?” Kangin inquired,
“Indeed I do. So as a sports enthusiast, I must ask you,” The man crossed his arms loosely, “Why didn’t you take the scholarship? You were offered it before your so-called change of heart.”
“My parents wanted me close to home,” Kangin said simply. It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t the whole truth either.
“Ah, those type of parents,” The man nodded his head knowingly, “But here you are, far from Incheon! I guess they must have loosen their hold eh?”
“My parents died last month,” Kangin didn’t intend for it to come out like a growl. He cleared his throat and continued in a quiet but flat tone, “I live with my aunt now.”
“I’m sorry…” He said quietly. After a moment, he spoke again, “Your aunt… with eyes like yours… are you related to the chancellor?”
“That would be my aunt,” Kangin confirmed, feeling the awkwardness of just moments ago, melting away. Somehow, it was hard to be awkward with this stranger. Then again, perhaps Kangin just needed to talk and this was the first person outside of his family he had talked to since the accident.
“Well, I know I interrupted you, so I’ll let you continue whatever it was you were doing,” the other man replied, “I, too, was on my way- a good jog around campus in this weather really awakens the senses; helps one concentrate.”
He was halfway towards the main entrance when Kangin heard himself call out to him. The main turned around but continued jogging, “What’s your name?” Kangin asked, “You seem to know my past pretty well, so you must know my name-”
“You’re Ju Kangin,” He called out his answer, “The name is Park Eeteuk!”
Before Kangin could say more, this man, this Park Eeteuk, had turned and ran off. When Kangin saw him disappear beyond the main entrance doors, he turned back towards the display case. He sighed heavily as his eyes swept over the trophy. A few years ago, he would have given anything to see his name one day engraved on the plaque that accompanied this trophy. Now, he wish he’d never laid eyes upon it. Then again… he glanced towards the entrance again. Perhaps it wasn’t too bad that he had stopped to admire the trophy of his abandoned dreams.
Two weeks later, Kangin turned off the engine to the car in one of the parking spots in one of the university’s parking lots. As he slowly climbed out, he glanced to his brothers who both got out of the car, one-by-one. As he tugged on his bag and closed his door, he noted that the car was another piece of evidence of their aunt’s never-ending generosity.
“So how has school been?” Kangin asked.
The middle son, Donghae glanced at him briefly. He shrugged slightly before slipping a pair of retro-looking headphones over his ears and walking off without them. The youngest, Kyuhyun, gently closed his door, crossing his arms lightly as they walked together,
“Don’t mind him,” Kyuhyun said easily, “You know how he gets when he’s at school.”
“Yes, but he hasn’t been like this since he turned eighteen and had to take a semester off school,” Kangin scoffed, stuffing his hands into his pockets as a soft, spring breeze blew past them,
“It got bad after Mom and Dad’s accident. I’m surprised he didn’t have to take another semester off. Think of it this way,” Kyuhyun offered, “At least he’s going to school.”
Kangin sighed, “But he’s so… isolated. At least in Incheon he was always smiling and laughing; he had so many friends.”
“He still smiles and laughs,” Kyuhyun argued,
“Yeah, when it’s just us. But before, he was the most popular out of the both of us,” Kangin reminded, reflecting on their childhood in Incheon. He sighed heavily, “At least you still talk to me in public.”
Kyuhyun shrugged, “That‘s because I‘ve learned to not care about those around us. Donghae hasn‘t yet, so he’s still not comfortable in public. That‘s why he secludes himself even from us when we‘re out.” They walked in silence for a few moments before Kyuhyun asked, “I’m sorry, I’ve been trying to ignore this for two weeks, what’s wrong?”
“What do you mean?”
“Regret, that’s all I ever feel when I’m around you,” Kyuhyun explained, his eyes narrowing slightly as he periodically observed his brother, “I’ve felt it before, over the past… oh five years or so; but recently it’s been more evident. I can practically see regret written all over you.”
“It’s nothing,” Kangin said firmly,
“Oh? Doesn’t matter that we’re at the school you’ve been wanting to go to since you were in high school?” Kyuhyun inquired. “Oh no hyung, you can’t hide it from me. You’ll tell me eventually.”
“And eventually isn’t now,” Kangin replied, finality in his tone. He sighed heavily and glanced around, trying to escape the topic at hand. He was surprised when he noticed that, as they walked, heads would turn towards them, especially those of girls. “Kyuhyun…”
“Don’t mind them,” Kyuhyun interjected, “I don’t. Actually, don’t even acknowledge them; they’ll look away eventually.”
“What’s going on?” Kangin muttered quietly, so only his brother could hear,
“They’re curious,” Kyuhyun replied, his eyes glued straight ahead of them as they crossed campus, “Perhaps a little infatuation. The former towards you, the latter towards me.”
Kangin glanced sidelong at his brother and believed it. The eighteen year old was good-looking. Had Kangin not been the devoted and protective brother he was, he would’ve held a grudge against the youth’s physical appearance. Somehow, God had managed to mix handsome and adorable in that young face. It was most apparent when Kyuhyun smiled. Unfortunately, since the accident, he only smiled in private and even then, they were few and far in between.
“No need to be jealous,” Kyuhyun commented lightly before adding, “They feel soft towards you too.”
“Don’t even try to hide that from me,” Kyuhyun interrupted. Kyuhyun paused and Kangin followed suit, “My class is in this building,” he gestured to the building beside them,
“Alright, meet at the car at 5 to go home,” Kangin reminded,
Kyuhyun nodded. However, before he took a step away, Kangin reached out and grabbed his shoulder. Kyuhyun looked over his shoulder at the feel of the familiar warmth, “Hyung?”
“Since… Since Mom and Dad… I know we’ve all acknowledged it, but… but you’re coping right? You’re okay?” Kangin asked hesitantly, his eyes searching those of his brother’s. Kyuhyun had beautiful light blue eyes like the rain in spring, or the clear sky on a winter morning. However, in the past weeks following their parents’ accident, those eyes, despite how light they were, had been quite dull in appearance.
Kyuhyun offered the slightest of shrugs, barely a raise of his shoulders, “I could do without school, but I don’t have something that can block me off from the world like Donghae has his music. So, I have to live with it and I have been.”
“That doesn’t sound too happy,” Kangin stated quietly, his hand unknowingly tightening protectively on his brother’s shoulder,
“I am happy,” Kyuhyun insisted, “When I’m with the Brotherhood.”
Kangin felt his heart lighten slightly at the familiar name. Growing up, he and his brothers knew that they were different from all others - with or without their striking eye colour. So, when they were much younger and were subjugated to harsher teasing - as younger children often take part in - they had named themselves the Brotherhood. A pack amongst brothers over the bonds that tied them together more closely than normal siblings; the Brotherhood became their haven when they were young. As they grew up, they hadn’t need such childish dependencies on one another.
However, after the accident, they were exposed to a different experience than when they were kids, but this was more intense, even more damaging. Now that Kyuhyun had mentioned the reminiscent name, perhaps it was time to bring the Brotherhood back. Besides, after the death of their parents, things for them would get more difficult before they would get tolerable, if not easier.
Later that day, Kangin sighed heavily as he pulled on the shirt over his head. With it being his first year as a grad student, he had wanted to take at least one course that would be easy; something that would lighten his load so he could ease into things. Having studied biology in his previous university years since it coincided with his athleticism, he thought kinesiology would be just the course he was looking for. However, his professor was quite pregnant and quite adverse to standing in a classroom for too long.
“Seeing as this is a kinesiology course, why don’t we see it in action?” She had asked the class.
They were cheers at having a break and they all headed towards the recreational centre. From the direction they were coming from however, they first passed the archery range. The professor, who seemed to be in the mood for spur-of-the-moment, had suggest archery and a majority of the class agreed.
Kangin crossed his arms loosely as he left the change room with his other classmates and headed towards the stage where the beginning of the range was. The stage was covered and connected to the recreational centre. However, it opened up on one side where it was attached to the range; a long patch of land that stretch for 100 metres, completely exposed to the elements.
As each person grabbed a mechanical bow and metal arrow, they would line up along the stage, aim at the targets that were at least 30 metres away from the stage and shoot. Every time Kangin stepped up, he would roll his eyes, sigh and let the air fly in the air. He would then proceed to the end, slowly. So slowly, that many of his classmates had double the turns he did - triple, if they were enthusiastic enough.
After his fifth shot, Kangin eventually melted into the back, replacing his bow with the others and leaning against the wall. Arms crossed, he observed his classmates with the barest of acknowledgements. For all his criticisms and worries about his brothers and their lone-wolf conduct, he was doing the exact same. After all, it was the only way to keep them safe.
The professor would comment once in awhile, talking at the students instead of to the students. Kangin sighed out of exasperation, but apparently the professor’s hearing was razor sharp for she turned her eyes on him. He briefly wondered if she was irrationally mad at him when she suggested he shoot one more arrow. Forcing himself not to sigh or roll his eyes again, Kangin silently took up his bow again and walked to the front. Raising the bow appropriately, he barely glanced at the target before releasing the arrow. He turned away before he could even see where his arrow landed.
His hand had just left the bow in a holder when he heard, “Wait!”
He looked up when he saw Park Eeteuk running over from one of the doors that led to the stage. He bowed to the professor out of respect, “Professor, I want to see something, is that okay?” The professor smiled at him bright, acknowledging him by first name before agreeing. Eeteuk walked up to Kangin, picking up the bow he had just set down. He held it out to him, “Shoot once more, please.” When Kangin hesitated, he repeated more firmly, “Please!”
Kangin glanced around; Eeteuk’s second appeal was loud enough to disturb his classmates. Now, they stood still, watching in anticipation and curiosity. Grudgingly, he swiped the bow from Eeteuk’s hand and stepped up to the front of the stage. He raised the bow, aimed at the target directly aligned with himself and shot the arrow. He could barely hear the thud of the arrow as it made contact with the target, 30 metres away.
He lowered the bow and looked at Eeteuk, “Happy?”
“Quite,” Eeteuk smiled, “Please stay around after your class.” And once again, before Kangin could say anything, Eeteuk had walked away. He approached the professor and spoke to her a moment. Then, with one last glance towards the target Kangin had hit, he departed from the stage, re-entering the main building of the recreational centre.
When the class was dismissed and Kangin had dressed, he returned to the stage where he knew Eeteuk was waiting for him. He adjusted the strap of his bag as he stepped back onto the wooden floor. Eeteuk had taken off the jacket he was wearing earlier, now dressed in jeans and plain wife-beater. Eeteuk was holding up an ancient-looking longbow. Simple in its wood and string construction, he pulled back what looked to be a metal-tipped, wooden arrow.
Kangin stood in the doorway, silently watching. His eyes took in the still and firm stance the other man took. His eyes ran along the straight lines of his arms as they held the bow still and steady. Eeteuk’s arms were smaller than his own, but they were lean and toned. The stillness of his body despite holding the bow at the ready noted a strength and control that his small frame hid.
Kangin blinked, effectively pulled out of his reverie by the sound of the arrow making impact on a target across the range. Slowly, Eeteuk lowered the bow and, as if always knowing he was there, spoke out,
“Many people dismiss archery to be a sport for the weak. They’re wrong,” Eeteuk said quietly, firmly.
Kangin said nothing, startled. Where was the enthusiastic sportsman? The one who spoke with a happiness and bounce in his words? Who smiled easily and eyes crinkled when he did smile? Who possessed the most curious of dimples in the left corner of his cheek? Kangin shook his head of these thoughts; when had he taken the time to observe such things?
“Archery,” Eeteuk continued as he grabbed another arrow; “takes control,” he took up the bow again, drawing the arrow back, “takes concentration,” he narrowed his eyes the barest amount as he focused on the target, “takes confidence.” As if to make his point, he released the arrow. It cut through the air and hit the target with a loud thud. He lowered the bow again, this time turning to look at Kangin, “Care to take up the challenge?”
“I… I don’t do archery,” Kangin replied,
Eeteuk raised an eyebrow as he lowered the longbow to the ground and gestured for Kangin to follow him. They strode out into the range towards the target Eeteuk had been aiming at. Earlier before everyone left, the teacher had instructed them to fetch their arrows. They reached the target and Eeteuk jarred free the arrows he had shot. He moved past the target to one directly behind it. This target held seven arrows, each being within the first two centre circles of the target.
“Nice shots,” Kangin whistled appreciatively, “High points in a competition I would assume?”
“The highest without hitting bull’s eye,” Eeteuk nodded, “And yet you still say you don’t do archery.”
“This is the target you’ve been shooting all during class,” Eeteuk laughed, his tone suddenly less solemn and back to the way Kangin remembered it; “So tell me again how you don’t shoot.”
“I… that is,” Kangin moved to leave when Eeteuk reached out, grabbing his hand,
“Please, we could use you on the team,” Eeteuk stated. Kangin glanced down at their hands and he promptly let go but continued, “I used to be on the archery team here at SM U. But my grad studies is proving to take to much of my time to practice and compete as I wish, so the professor in charge suggested I coach so I can keep my captaincy. Since I can’t compete this year, the team will be lacking and I was pressed to find someone to replace me. Then - THEN!- I was walking by and saw you shooting!”
“You don’t… you don’t understand, those were just flukes,” Kangin insisted, walking back towards the stage,
“Those are pretty good flukes!” Eeteuk exclaimed, “You can’t expect me to believe that all of those shots - ALL SEVEN - were the result of pure luck!”
“Well they were!” Kangin practically growled, swinging around to face Eeteuk again once they reached the wooden floor of the stage, “I barely even aimed when I shot those arrows. I wanted to just get it over with. I didn’t want to come here, I’d rather be in the classroom rather than wasting my time engaging in sport - in any sport, I’ll say before you get offended.”
“But… you may have given up tae kwon do, but you expect me to believe you’ve given up all other sports too?” Eeteuk blinked, startled as his gaze swept over the fit physique of the young man before him,
“Well I did,” Kangin retorted, “Those were all luck.”
When Kangin abruptly turned and began to walk away, Eeteuk moved to follow him. However, he felt as if a strong wind had suddenly pushed him back, blocking his path. He froze, watching Kangin silently.
“Kangin, go call your brothers for dinner,” AhMae called from the kitchen a few days later.
Kangin stood up from the couch in the living room where he had been reading. Silently, he made his way up to the second floor where his Donghae’s room was located. Their aunt lived in the house beside theirs, believing that they were old enough to have their own home. However, she came to make them dinner every night. Upon arrival to Ulsan, each brother had claimed a floor of the house for themselves. Kyuhyun had taken the attic, turning it into a hospitable room; Donghae had claimed the second floor and Kangin had happily accepted the basement for his own.
He knocked on Donghae’s door, “Dinner,” He called dutifully. When there was no answer, Kangin opened the door.
Donghae lay in his bed, his hands folded beneath his head as his headphones covered his ears as always. His ankles crossed, the top foot swinging presumable to the beat of his music. Rolling his eyes, Kangin leaned a shoulder against the doorframe. He watched Donghae as the headphones suddenly slipped from his head, floating into the air just above his head.
Donghae blinked, grabbing the headphones and sitting up, “We promised not to use it against one another,” Donghae reminded as he placed the headphones on his bedside table. He swung his feet to the ground and stood from the bed,
“Well, when you’re ignoring me, I’ll use my powers how I see fit,” Kangin grinned,
“Fine, then who’s this guy you keep thinking about?” Donghae asked easily as he stretched his arms above his head,
“If you use yours on me, I’ll use mine on you, hyung,” Donghae grinned, his eyes shining.
Kangin had often hated the fact that his brother would periodically read his mind. Unfortunately, whenever he tried to get upset, Donghae would grin at him with his eyes as bright as they were now. Out of the Brotherhood, Donghae had the most unique of eye colour. Sure, Kyuhyun was considered the most handsome, but Donghae’s eyes were the most striking. His blue eyes were the colour of a deep tropical ocean, a newly polished gem of aquamarine.
“I wish I could control it like you can,” Kyuhyun’s voice drifted towards them as he descended the steps from the attic.
Kangin only gave a small smile sympathetically. Kyuhyun referred to the abilities each of them had inherited from their mother. Their mother’s side had been blessed with psychic ability that was passed on from generation to generation. However, each generation had borne only daughters and no more than two. When their mother gave birth to not just one son, but three, she wasn’t sure how the powers would deploy themselves.
As it happened, when each of them turned eighteen, only one of the abilities their mother possessed appeared. Kangin had achieved the power of telekinesis. Donghae was bestowed with telepathy. Kyuhyun, the youngest, was given the acute power of empathy. With her powers distributed amongst her sons, they could only guess at what their fourth sibling was to inherit. However, after their mother’s death, the powers they had grown accustomed to were suddenly increased ten-fold and they had to readjust to them once more.
AhMae came up the stairs, still dressed in the suit she wore as chancellor of the university; “If you three keep stalling the food will go cold and you’ll all silently complain,” She foresaw, “So I decided to take it upon myself to get you three before that comes true.”
Kangin smirked at his aunt. The younger sister to their mother, Aunt AhMae had been blessed with two abilities, often considered the two strongest in those traits that were passed down. AhMae was given visions of the future and the power to control; she often felt they were a curse.
His eyes slid to the baby she cradled against her shoulder. From the horror that was their parents’ death, the paramedics on the scene were able to save the baby. AhMae took custody of the child but because the baby was barely a month old, while she was at work, AhMae left the baby in the paediatrics ward of the nearby hospital. After work, their aunt would get the baby so as to help it grow accustom to them, to life outside of the hospital. Kangin smiled as he caught sight of the sleeping face; their mother had finally borne a daughter.
“You’re not even that mad,” Kyuhyun stated as he walked past his aunt to the stairs, “Despite what you pretend.”
AhMae shook her head, “You three will drive me crazy,” she muttered affectionately as she turned and followed Kyuhyun down the stairs.
“So, who’s this guy?” Donghae asked lightly as he went into the corridor with Kangin,
“No one,” Kangin replied as he gestured for his brother to proceed him down the stairs,
“Are you sure? Because the brief moment I saw, you were quite focused on him, not to mention-”
“Alright, alright,” Kangin interrupted, “He’s another grad student I met and he wants me to join the archery team.”
“Archery!?” Donghae blinked, freezing on the stairs and looking back at his brother,
“Yeah, I sort of messed up and during a class we were doing archery as a break from the books,” Kangin wiped his face with a hand exasperatedly; “And I really hate doing anything physical-”
“In case you lose control of your powers-”
“Yeah, so I wanted to get it over with. So, I shot a few arrows to make my professor get off my back and without realizing it, I used my powers,” Kangin sighed heavily, “And apparently my powers are really good at archery.”
“And that’s all he is to you?” Donghae asked seriously.
Kangin said nothing as Donghae narrowed his right eye slightly. He narrowed his own eyes, “Stop reading my mind!”
Donghae laced his fingers behind his head as he continued down the stairs, “I don’t need to use my powers; you’re like an open book hyung.”
“I’ll show you an open book,” Kangin growled as he sprinted down the stairs after him.
It was a month into the school year and Kangin had left the house as the sun was cresting into the sky. He left the keys for his brothers, leaving them a note as to his earlier departure. It took him half an hour to walk to campus and once there, he headed straight to the recreational centre, specifically to the archery range. Dressed in grey sweats and a white shirt, he went to the stage, dropping his bag near the door. He got a mechanical bow and a few arrows.
Stepping up to the edge of the stage he aimed at a target. He drew back the arrow and narrowed his eyes at the target.
“Concentrate. Concentrate. Concentrate,” He muttered to himself as he stilled his trembling hands; “Ignore the power… ignore… ignore…” He released the arrow. It flew through the air and hit the outer most of the black circles. He lowered the bow, “Damn… which was it?”
Frustrated, he picked up another arrow. He pulled it back, a tail of the bow tickled his lip. He focused his eyes on the target; closing one eye to judge his aim, then opening it again to judge the depth. Once he was sure of his aim, he took a deep, steadying breath and closed both eyes. He let go. When he didn’t hear anything, he opened his eyes; only the first arrow was on the target.
“If you accounted for wind, it would’ve hit.”
Kangin blinked, turning towards the voice. Standing by one of the fences that ran along the lengths of the range was none other than Eeteuk. He glanced at his watch. He had wanted to be alone, so he had come early, hoping no one would be on campus. He had been right until a few moments ago. Before he could say anything, Eeteuk disappeared. Kangin was reflecting how this was becoming a habit whenever he was with the other man when Eeteuk bounded onto the stage, immediately sprinting up to him.
“I can’t compete, but I like practicing in the morning anyway,” Eeteuk explained as if he knew what Kangin was thinking; “Keep in top form in case the team ever really needed me.” He looked out towards the target, “Without a doubt, if you accounted for the presence of wind, you would’ve hit the target.”
“But my first arrow hit farther out than the ones I did before,” Kangin explained, pointing towards the target with his bow,
Eeteuk followed his gaze, a small smirk on his lips. Kangin couldn’t help but stare at the dimple that made its appearance at that moment. He was aware of Eeteuk speaking to him, so he forced himself to move his eyes up to Eeteuk’s,
“I’m sorry, what?” Kangin offered a sheepish smile,
Eeteuk laughed, “I asked if you really didn’t see it.”
“Didn’t see it?” Kangin looked back at the target; “I have… no idea what you’re talking about.”
Eeteuk crossed his arms loosely about his torso, “The targets you shot at when I first saw you shooting were at the nearest distance of 30 metres. The target you’ve been shooting at is 40 metres away. If you were judging your aim the same as you did before, obviously you’re going to be off since the difference is 10 metres.”
Kangin sighed heavily, “Damn.”
“What’s wrong?” Eeteuk asked, cocking his head to the side.
“Nothing,” Kangin muttered as he turned away, replacing the bow and the rest of his arrows in their holders.
Eeteuk blinked, confused. What Kangin achieved was great. Even if Kangin was the novice he claimed; the pure dumb luck the guy had with archery was amazing. Eeteuk had grown up with a small frame but he loved sports. In first year university when he first saw archery up-close, he knew he found the sport for him. He worked hard to gain the level he was at now. To see a newcomer be as good as he had been in his second year was like a sign that he had found his replacement. To now have that person be upset with his results was bewildering.
Kangin was slipping his bag on when Eeteuk regained his wits. Before Kangin could leave, Eeteuk grabbed his hand, stopping him, “What’s wrong?” Eeteuk repeated,
Kangin glanced down at their hands and forcibly jerked his hand away. Still feeling the warmth of Eeteuk’s hand, he stuffed his hands into the pockets of his sweats, “What do you mean?”
Eeteuk crossed his arms, “Do you not realize how awesome your results are!?”
“I do,” Kangin replied, not able to keep the irritation out of his voice.
“Then what the hell is wrong? Why the heck are you upset!?” Eeteuk demanded. He worked hard to get to the level that Kangin was at now. The fact that Kangin was upset about his own skills, made him angry.
“Because I don’t know if it’s me!” He exclaimed exasperatedly, eyes narrowed dangerous.
Eeteuk blinked, perplexed, “What?”
He hadn’t meant that. Kangin swore mentally to himself. How was he supposed to explain that comment? So, rather than try, he did what he did best: he turned and ran off.
“KANGIN!” Eeteuk ran after him down the main hallway of the recreation centre. “Damn it, Kangin, what the hell are you talking about!?”
Kangin felt Eeteuk’s familiar fingers close around his arm. His fingers gripped him a moment before they were gone. He froze then. Surely… surely not? He stood completely still and was aware that the older man had also stopped his pursuit. Slowly, ever so slowly, Kangin turned around to face him.
Eeteuk stood there looking down at his hand. He looked baffled, startled and completely confused. As if sensing his gaze, Eeteuk looked up, his eyes shining with so many questions. “I… One minute I was holding your arm and then… and then it was like my hand was pushed back.” His hand, shaking now, lowered to his side. “The last time I saw you, that happened too.” He blinked, “Kangin, what was that?”
He took one step backward. He had spent too many years protecting his secret - the Brotherhood’s secret - to now let this stranger come into his life and discover it. However, he couldn’t look away. He tried to, but something about those almond-shaped eyes drew him in. He gripped his fists at his sides, mentally yelling at himself to turn and run and never look back.
He took another step back, but that was one step to many. Suddenly Eeteuk lunged towards him, closing the distance behind him. He cupped the back of Kangin’s neck with his hand and pressed his lips against Kangin’s. He kept his eyes open, staring into Kangin’s; challenging him. Kangin’s eyes widened and suddenly he began to push away at the other.
“I wouldn’t be the archer I am without a strong grip,” Eeteuk said against his lips; “Push me away, Kangin. Push me away or tell me what’s going on.”
As if to test Eeteuk’s words, he tried to push him away again. Eeteuk stumbled back a step, but he kept Kangin’s lips pressed against his own. Kangin felt his heart pounding in his chest, the heat flowing through him. He felt his hands shaking, his strength leaving him with every push he gave Eeteuk. He had to get away, break the contact. Every second that Eeteuk stayed with him, every moment their lips stayed touching was breaking his resolve, breaking everything he had built up to protect his brothers.
Shutting his eyes tightly, Kangin silently apologized to his deceased parents and third sibling. He apologized to his aunt and whatever trouble this would bring to her. Most importantly, he apologized to the Brotherhood. He was the eldest and it was his job to protect them. With just the barest of thoughts, he shoved Eeteuk away from him; his hands motionless, albeit clenched, at his sides.
Eeteuk stumbled back a few steps, but now he was more startled than before; all confidence that had made him kiss Kangin was gone. His cheeks were pinked, but those were outshone by the quizzical expression on his face. “Kangin…”
“Not right now,” Kangin interrupted, gaze dropping to the ground, “Please… eventually, but… but not right now.”
Eeteuk said nothing as Kangin turned on his heel and sprinted off. His eyes never left Kangin until he saw the main entrance’s doors close after him. Then, he slowly lifted his hand that had been reflected before. He gazed at it, wondering, wondering and wondering more. Hand slightly trembling, he brushed his lips with his fingertips. At that moment, Eeteuk wasn’t sure what surprised him more: visibly witnessing the mysterious force that surrounded Kangin; or the sensation he felt from the kiss that wasn’t supposed to be anything more than a means to an end.
(The Second story of Control)