(Second story of Control; part of the Brotherhood series)
Kangin loved his brothers; he truly did. However, sometimes he really did need to get away from them. When they first moved into their new house in Ulsan, he had given them the option of picking their own living spaces. Despite his seemingly generous move, what his brothers didn’t realize was that he actually manipulated them into taking the floors that they did; he coveted the basement the moment Aunt AhMae told them there was once. The way he accomplished this without Donghae figuring it out was talking to Kyuhyun. In doing so, Kangin had influenced his youngest brother to convince Donghae to not take the basement.
Now, he sat in bed, his back against the headboard. Arms crossed and legs stretched out before him, crossed at the ankles, Kangin had locked himself in his basement the moment he arrived home from school an hour ago. After he had ran away from Eeteuk earlier that day, he had gone to class and moved through the day in a sort of trance. When he had met his brothers at the car at 5, he wasn’t even sure how he had gotten there. When Donghae had offered him the keys, Kangin waved them away and got into the back seat, hoping that Donghae would be too preoccupied with driving to read his mind.
Kangin sighed heavily, running both hands through his hair as he jumped from the bed. He didn’t know how he was able to stay still for so long and began walking around his room in random circles as he tried to understand what had happened and what to do.
Eeteuk had kissed him.
His mind couldn’t wrap around it and yet, some other part of him could. He felt his heart pound and he tried to push away those thoughts. He couldn’t touch on that yet, not when he had more to worry about than himself. He paused at his desk and glanced at the family picture that was framed above it. It was taken on Kyuhyun’s eighteenth birthday just two and a half months ago and the only person missing was their aunt, who had many end-of-year things to attend to at the university.
Pressing his palms on the desk, Kangin leaned slightly as he peered at the five smiling faces in the frame. His gaze swept over the faces of his brothers, his beloved parents and his mother’s hands laying protectively over her large baby bump.
“How could I have been so careless!?” Kangin growled then snapped straight up when the glass of the picture cracked.
Muttering angrily at himself, Kangin took the photo off its hook and began to take out the photograph from the frame. Once it was the photo had been extricated, he picked it up in his hands as he sent the broken glass into the waste basket with no more than a second’s thought.
Holding the picture as if it would break at any moment, he gazed down at its glossy surface; “I want to keep my promise Mom… but I don’t want to lie to him.” He placed the photo on the desk, his hands planted on either side. His eyes drifted to his dad, a hand on his wife’s shoulder and also his eldest son’s; “You’d understand, right Dad?”
He turned away, leaning his hips back against the desk. He shoved his hands into his sweats’ pockets, “I love you Mom, I really do,” He said quietly, steadily as if he were truly talking to her. To him, he was and that’s why he had to turn around. He couldn’t say this to her face as she smiled at him. “But sometimes…” He felt a lump form in his throat and hot tears sting his eyes as his mind raced with memories of his mother, especially of that October night so many years ago. When he continued, he heard his voice hoarse and broken; “But sometimes I hate what you told me…”
Unperturbed by the feel of thick tears dotting his eyelashes and rolling down his cheeks, Kangin swiped at them with an angry hand before he dropped his arm, his hand clenched tightly; “I don’t want to disobey you… to disappoint you… BUT I NEED TO LIVE MY LIFE!” He was breathing heavily as he found himself staring up at the ceiling. He could feel himself trembling and cold all over. The only part of him that felt remotely warm was his heart as it beat painfully against his ribs.
A firm rapt at his door pulled Kangin out of the trance he had been in throughout the day. He quickly wiped the rest of his tears away, “Yeah?” He called out.
“Dinner!” He heard Donghae’s muffled call through the locked door. He tried the doorknob and when he realized it was locked, Donghae called to his brought, his tone suddenly concerned and quiet as if he was mindful of others near him, “Kangin?”
There was a moment when Kangin said nothing. Should he answer? Was he ready to answer? He knew if he unlocked the door, he was welcoming Donghae into more than just the basement. The silence seemed to stretch on, but Kangin knew Donghae was still there; how could he not be? After all, they were both part of the Brotherhood.
Slowly, he went up the wooden steps to the door and unlocked it. Light from the hallway filtered into the dim stairwell. Donghae said nothing, but Kangin hid nothing. Those blue-green eyes took in the red eyes, the messy hair and wet spots on the t-shirt.
Donghae faced his back to his brother, “Whenever you’re ready… the Brotherhood’s here if you need to talk.”
“Why don’t you…” Kangin trailed off; not having the courage to finish his sentence, not having the courage to be weak to his brother and let him in.
“We promised not to use our powers on one another… And even if you let me read your mind,” Donghae let out a small sigh as he laced his fingers behind his head, “I want you to tell me yourself. You’re not allowed to run away anymore, hyung. If you want me to know what’s going on with you, I want to hear you say it, not have me pick around in your mind.” He glanced over his shoulder, hoping his brother wasn’t upset with his boldness, “Sorry, Kangin… but if I don’t do this, you’ll never let yourself truly open up… you’ll never truly stop running away.”
Kangin turned to head back down into the basement, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said gruffly, pushing away any acknowledgement of the truth that rang in his brother’s words.
“Don’t you?” Donghae called after him, “Then why did you quit tae kwon do?”
Frozen one-third down the stairs, Kangin said nothing. Instead, he tilted to the side until he felt his side make contact with one of the walls that lined the stairwell. Feeling once more the sting of tears, he glanced through the corner of his eye at the opposite wall. There, he saw the light from the hallway as it filtered down. He saw the odd shape of his brother’s shadow. He kept silent, kept still. He blinked and a tear rolled down his cheek.
The shadow moved away. A different shadow remained.
Kangin raked a hand through his hair as he looked up and down the aisle of books. He was busy researching in the library and couldn’t figure out where to find the books he needed. He walked to the end of the aisle and looked around for a librarian and found too. Unfortunately one was busy on the phone while the other seemed to be completely deaf despite her kind, helpful smile. Sighing heavily, he returned towards the aisle. He moved on towards the other end where the elevators were.
“Ten floors,” He sighed as he spun on his heel and let himself fall back against the wall where the map of the library hang.
“You look a little lost.”
Kangin felt as if everything stopped in the moment he heard that all-too-familiar voice. Slowly, he looked to his left. There stood Eeteuk, one hand holding one of the straps of his backpack, the other hand clutching a rather thick book against his body.
“Need some help?” Eeteuk offered with a smile, his eyes shining behind a pair of thin-wire framed glasses.
“Yeah, if you don’t mind,” Kangin replied quietly, tentatively as he rubbed the back of his neck wearily, “I’m trying to find stuff related to… um… literature and… stuff.”
“Oh, that’d be arts and humanities,” Eeteuk replied, “Eighth floor, I’ll show you,” he immediately pushed the ‘up’ button for the elevators.
When the doors opened for them, they climbed in silently. Kangin leaned a shoulder against one of the elevator walls, his arms crossed over his chest. As the elevator seemed to continue at a glacier pace, he ventured a look at Eeteuk. Subtly looking over his shoulder, Kangin took in Eeteuk’s appearance.
The other man was leaning back against the opposite wall, both arms now wrapped around the ominous looking book. He had his head leaning back against the wall, eyes lightly shut. One hand drummed lightly on the book’s cover, playing out some obscure melody. As if knowing he was the object of inspection, Eeteuk slowly opened his eyes. Immediately, Kangin looked away, his cheeks fused with red. He did not see the small smile that had Eeteuk dimpling.
When the elevator stopped and called out which floor they had reached, they stepped out and Kangin silently followed Eeteuk past rows and rows of books; “Anything related to the arts and humanities can be found on this floor and the one above us. The computers can help you search for any specific books or topics you want to find,” he stopped and turned on his heel abruptly. He smiled at Kangin, “Basically, if you’re taking up studies in literature - which I’m assuming since you wanted this section - floor eight and nine will be your best friend and home for the next few years.”
Kangin could barely hear anything Eeteuk said. All he was aware of was the rapid beating of his heart and the memory of those talking lips against his own. His eyes were mesmerized by the little indentation that made its home above the left corner of Eeteuk’s mouth. Before he could stop himself, Kangin had taken the small step that separated them and touched his lips to Eeteuk’s.
He didn’t know why, but his body moved of its own accord. He closed his eyes as he raised his hands to hold Eeteuk’s head captive. At first he felt the other stiff and startled. He felt Eeteuk raise his hands on his shoulders to push him away, but then it changed. Heat flowed between them as Eeteuk became more pliant beneath his lips and eventually Eeteuk moved his hands, sliding them around until his arms wrapped around Kangin’s neck.
Eeteuk felt his hands meet behind Kangin’s neck and then he stiffened again. Slowly, he pulled away from the kiss, moving his head back until he could clearly see into Kangin’s questioning eyes. As if knowing what the other was thinking, Eeteuk stepped away from Kangin, his arms dropping. Then, he slowly looked down. Kangin followed his gaze and felt his heart stop. A foot above the ground levitated the heavy book Eeteuk had been carrying.
Suddenly consciously aware of it, Kangin looked away and the book dropped to the ground with a loud thud. Slowly, slowly and slower still, Kangin slid his gaze back to the other man. Eeteuk gracefully squatted, picked up the book and straightened to his full height.
“I realized I was no longer holding the book and wondered how…” He stated casually as he kept his eyes down, dusting off the book that had been touching the ground.
Kangin pulled out a pen from his pocket and, without looking at Eeteuk, grabbed his hand and began writing on the back of it, “Come to my house around seven tonight and I’ll… I’ll answer any questions you have.” When he was done, he promptly dropped Eeteuk’s hand and replaced his pen.
“You don’t have to,” Eeteuk assured him, his voice quiet but firm as he looked down at the writing on his hand,
“I know,” Kangin replied tentatively, his fists clenching in his pockets; “But I want to.”
A silence fell upon the two and Kangin felt his mind racing with thoughts and choices and decisions. His brother was right: he had to stop running away. However… he glanced at Eeteuk who looked up from his hand at Kangin. Immediately he walked away, disappearing between the bookcases. Eeteuk didn’t follow him. He glanced down at his hand again; Kangin wouldn’t be able to escape any longer.
Eeteuk blinked. In all his 24 years of life, he had encountered a fair number of people. Never before, however, had he seen a young man as handsome as the one who answered the doorbell. Wavy, short black hair that framed a delicate face with a strong jaw line. A straight nose between two beautiful, pale eyes. He blinked again.
The young man tilted his head slightly as his eyes seemed to sweep every detail of Eeteuk’s face. “Are you here to see Kangin?” He asked finally.
“Um… yes,” Eeteuk replied, managing a dimpling smile,
Kyuhyun stepped aside to let him into the house, quietly closing the door after him. Kyuhyun lead him down the corridor to a door at the end. He knocked and after a few moments, Kangin appeared.
“Guest,” Kyuhyun said simply.
Kangin gestured for Eeteuk to go into the basement ahead of him. As Eeteuk passed Kyuhyun he couldn’t help but be surprised. Such a good-looking guy had such a dull, flat voice. As he climbed down the stairs, he paused when he heard the most melodic of laughs. He looked over his shoulder and was startled; the other man, presumable Kangin’s brother, was transformed.
“This explains so much,” Kyuhyun whispered to his brother as Eeteuk began to descend the stairs. He looked at his brother with laughing eyes, “All excitement and anticipation. No wonder you kept away from me all day.”
Kangin scowled at him, “Shut up. He’s just… a sunbae.”
“Mhmm,” Kyuhyun grinned at him.
Kangin wanted to get mad, but he couldn’t when Kyuhyun gave one of his rare, big smiles. He managed a half-hearted glare, “Go do your homework.”
“Is he your homework?” Kyuhyun asked mischievously. When Kangin’s jaw dropped, he let out a sweet and strong laugh. Before his eldest brother could regain his senses and take a playful swipe at him, Kyuhyun walked off, retreating to the living room.
Kangin watched him then shook his head with a smile. He turned to go into the basement when he saw Eeteuk, frozen half-way down the stairs and looking up, “Is something wrong?’ Kangin asked as he descended, closing the door behind him,
“My youngest brother, Kyuhyun,” Kangin offered,
“Well, he should smile more,” Eeteuk stated as they reached the bottom of the stairs, “Or maybe he’s just shy. I couldn’t hear what you two were saying, but his whispers seemed to take on… a liveliness that it lacked when he spoke to me.”
Kangin smiled knowingly as he led Eeteuk to the half of the basement he had transformed into a sitting area complete with couches and a television. “Kyuhyun isn’t shy, he just prefers to keep to himself unless he truly knows the person.”
“I understand, to friends and stuff,” Eeteuk replied as he sat down on a couch,
“Sort of,” Kangin shrugged as he sat on the couch perpendicular to the other. He sighed heavily as he propped his elbows on his knees and clasped his hands lightly, “I want to make this point clear before you ask anything: nothing leaves this basement. Without a doubt, anything you have to ask will touch on things that no one outside of my family can know and if you’re not ready to keep my secrets, then I can’t say anything.”
“I swear to you, I’ll speak of this to no one,” Eeteuk promised solemnly as he sat back, arms crossed loosely about his torso.
Kangin looked at him a moment then nodded, “Go ahead.”
“You’re psychic, aren’t you?” Eeteuk asked tentatively, almost quietly, staring him directly in the eye;
“Yes and no,” Kangin replied, “I have telekinetic powers, but that’s it.”
“You said your family just now, does that mean…?” Eeteuk prompted,
Kangin nodded, “My brothers have their own abilities, we all inherited from our mother. I have a sister too… but we don’t know if she inherited anything. Before you ask, yes, my aunt is the same and that’s all I’ll say on her because they’re her secrets to tell.”
Eeteuk nodded, accepting this answer, “Why did you quit tae kwon do.”
Kangin blinked, sitting up straight, “I thought you wanted to know about my powers?”
“I did, and now I do,” Eeteuk replied, “But I wanted to know you, Kangin and your powers are only one part of you.”
Fighting the heat that crept into his cheeks, Kangin looked away, “Oh…”
“So why did you quit?” Eeteuk repeated, his tone quiet and expectantly,
Kangin was quiet for a long moment before finally speaking, his voice quiet and seemingly steady. His hands were clasped again, his eyes on the ground rather than at the other person; “To explain why I quit, I have to explain why I started. Growing up, my brothers and I were teased constantly because of our eye colour. We were different and that was all it took for kids to bully us. I’m the oldest and I took it as my duty to protect my brothers, so I learned to fight back.”
He took a deep, steadying breath as he stood up and walked over to a wall where framed pictures of his family were hung. He stuffed his hands into his jeans as he looked at the pictures, “I would get into a number of fights a day just protecting my brothers. I would fight even over the smallest of comments because I had grown sensitive to the remarks on our eyes. When I moved on to high school, things are different. You’re suddenly one out of thousands but I still was sensitive.”
He turned away from the photos and looked at Eeteuk, “On my first day I got into a fight. I’ve always been stronger than most my age and it was no different back then. I was pulled off the guy the moment his nose started bleeding. The person who stopped me happened to be the captain of the tae kwon do team.”
He raked a hand through his hair, “He told me to hone my strength, use it for tae kwon do. I learned to control my temper and use my strength to something constructive.”
“You were named a genius in your first year,” Eeteuk recalled,
Kangin nodded his acknowledgement, “My sunbae was proud of me and I worshiped him because he was the one who brought me to tae kwon do in the first place.” He leaned back against the wall with the frames and plucked the closest frame from the wall and peered down at a picture of him walking as a baby, his mother holding onto his hands, “When we’re old enough to understand, our parents told each of us the power that was lying within us. You see, my mom had three abilities and her family had never had a son and had never been able to conceive more than once. The fact that Mom has… had… a sister was surprising enough. When Mom gave birth to me, it was seen as a near-miracle. When she gave birth to my other brother, Donghae, it was truly a miracle… I won’t even mention the surprise that accompanied Kyuhyun’s birth.”
He hung the photo again as he continued, “Because the many uncertainties that accompanied each of our births, our grandparents - when they were alive - and our parents had no idea what to expect of our powers.” He looked over his shoulder at Eeteuk, “That first competition of my senior year… did you hear anything about it?”
“The person you beat to win, didn’t he get hurt somehow? Even with all the padding and stuff?” Eeteuk tried to remember,
Kangin nodded, remembering every moment of that final fight; “My supposed ‘winning hit’ was a side kick to his upper body. I was ecstatic, it was the first competition of the year and I placed first again.” A shadow passed over his eyes as he crossed his arms over his chest, “About a week later I was at the hospital visiting my grandfather. Grandpa’s health had begun to deteriorate since Grandma died in my junior year, but he had held on until last year… Anyway, I was at the hospital when I ran into the kid I beat.” He swallowed hard, “He had two broken ribs from our fight and had been recovering in the hospital since the competition. He was a really nice guy which made me feel worse, saying that these things happen in the sport.”
“I don’t care if it happens or not,” Kangin said as he stared at Eeteuk, “But if I could do that much damage before my powers were even awakened… I couldn’t fathom it… I just couldn’t.”
“Our powers aren’t awakened until our eighteen birthday,” Kangin explained, “So, really I had a good year until I had to quit but… but I didn’t want to take the chance. The way I see it, the longer I prolonged quitting, the harder it’d be.”
“So you quit,” Eeteuk concluded,
“So I quit,” Kangin nodded, his arms dropping to his side as his hands slipped into his pockets, “And now you know.”
“Thank you,” Eeteuk said finally, standing up from the couch. “I’m glad you were able to tell me.”
Kangin nodded, saying nothing.
“I understand you a lot better and I’ve gotten to know you which both makes me happy,” Eeteuk admitted, offering a smile, “But regardless, I won’t stop bothering you about joining the team.”
“The only way you could hurt someone in archery is if you sent the bow flying at them and I don‘t see that happening unless you‘re pushed to it,” Eeteuk said with a light laugh before turning serious, “But I can train you to not.”
“It’s not my temper I’m worried about, it’s my powers,” Kangin admitted, “When my parents… died… when Mom died all of our powers - my brothers’ and mine - increased in intensity. Kyuhyun hadn’t even adjusted to them yet, but Donghae and I had already learned to control ours. But after their deaths, we had to learn to regain control and… and that still hasn’t happened.”
“Is there a way to get rid of them? Your powers, I mean,” Eeteuk asked,
“Technically…” Kangin admitted, “But none of my ancestors has ever taken that step, as far as I know.”
“Then why haven’t any of you done so if it causes you all so many problems?” Eeteuk wondered,
“Our psychic abilities links us to our past. It’s… I can’t really explain it, but it’s like a palpable thread that ties us all to our ancestors,” Kangin grew silent a moment before adding, “And… and it’s our last tie to our mother. If we were to get rid of our powers, it’s as if we were getting rid of our bond with our mother and none of us is prepared to do so… None of us wants to dispense of the gifts that our mother had cherished her entire life. If we did, it’s like being ungrateful, almost as if there were a part of our mother that we didn’t love.”
“Well, I understand your worries since you still can’t control your powers, but you’re not even going to be touching another archer,” Eeteuk reminded,
“But I won’t know if the arrow scored because of me, or because of my mind,” Kangin stressed,
“That’s why you said you don’t know if it’s you,” Eeteuk realized, his eyes lighting up with comprehension.
Kangin sighed heavily , “Yeah… So, if I ever won, I’d never know if it was earned and I refuse to win by those standards.”
Crossing his arms loosely, Eeteuk cocked his head as he regarded Kangin a moment. Finally, a small smile tugged at his lips which caused the elusive dimple to appear, “If I find out a way to train you to shoot without your powers interfering, will you join the team?”
“But during competition-”
“I’ll train you to become an archer, on your own time - as you’ve always had - you train yourself to regain control of your powers,” Eeteuk interjected, “When the district competition rolls around, you should be able to control your power and you’ll be able to compete as a true archer.”
Kangin looked at him reluctantly. He had missed the sports world. He had kept fit over the years, but he never participated in any sports just as a precaution. However, now there was his sunbae, this stranger… no, no longer a stranger… and he was offering him a chance to get back what he had lost five years ago. Before he realized it, Kangin was smiling also as he held out a hand, “Deal.”
Eeteuk grasped his hand and shook it firmly. He smiled at Kangin, “You won’t regret it.”
Soon, they began to train. Eeteuk felt it best they train outside of regular team practices. So, in the early hours of five in the morning before even birds awoke on campus, Kangin and Eeteuk would meet at the archery range. When Eeteuk approached Kangin the first morning with a wooden, longbow, Kangin thought he was insane,
“If you can aim and shoot well with this old thing, you can shoot with any bow,” Eeteuk explained, “Wood and string was the original, they are home. If you can be comfortable at home, you can go anywhere.”
“Nice metaphor,” Kangin said dryly with a roll of his eyes.
Eeteuk grinned at him, “It works. Trust me,” he continued, “It’ll teach you control that a mechanical bow will never show you. You have to learn to grip the bow gently but firmly. Too hard and you injure your hand, too lightly and you lose balance in your grip.” He took up a stance and held the bow up. He slowly began to draw back a string, a metal-tipped arrow in his fingers, “You have to learn to pace yourself. If you pull back too fast, you’ll get ahead of yourself, become too confident and you might release the arrow too early or too far back.” He drew the arrow back slowly, “You have to be slow, calm, collected.”
“I’m guessing it helps with stance too?” Kangin asked, his eyes running along Eeteuk’s straight arms, parallel with the wooden floor.
“Indeed,” Eeteuk replied, “With more modern bows, you can get away with slacking off a bit in your stance, but that’s what makes the difference between first and second place.” He adjusted his feet slightly to steady himself further, “With the older bows, they’re not as clean-cut as the newer ones, so you have to learn how to steady yourself, keep still. This is what will determine how good of an archer you are.”
“You’re speaking and the arrow’s drawn, but you’re steady,” Kangin acknowledged,
“And when the moment’s right, you’ll feel it in your body. You’ll learn to tell from your bow, your position and from pure instinct, when it’s time,” Eeteuk had kept his eyes on the target this entire time and then, he released the arrow. It landed within the innermost white circle. He smiled ruefully when he turned to Kangin, “I’m a bit out of practice.”
“But you almost hit bull’s eye,” Kangin commented,
“But that’s also the nearest distance,” Eeteuk countered. He held out the longbow to Kangin, “This is home and this is where you’ll start from.”
Kangin covered Eeteuk’s hand with his own, feeling the delicate but strong hand beneath his own. Eeteuk looked at him, startled. Kangin yanked him towards him, his free hand curling around the nape of Eeteuk’s neck and drawing his lips to his own. After a moment, he released him, freeing the bow from Eeteuk’s loosened grip.
Kangin took up a stance and held up the bow, positioning himself. He looked at Eeteuk, still silently surprised. He grinned at his sunbae, “Another point I forgot to make clear the other night.”
The district competition was at the beginning of June and it was already mid-May. After training with Eeteuk for two weeks, Kangin still wasn’t sure he was ready for the competition coming up. One morning when he wasn’t scheduled to practice with his sunbae, Kangin had gone to the archery range with Donghae. He got ready as his brother sat against one of the wooden beams that held up the front of the stage that opened up to the range.
Legs crossed, his headphones hanging around his neck and fingers laced behind his head, Donghae watched as Kangin adjusted the brace that he placed on the arm that held the bow. “Remind me again why I’m here,” Donghae yawned, “At five-thirty in the morning.”
“I need your help,” Kangin repeated, “Because I need to figure out if when I’m shooting, I can keep my mind on anything but my powers. If for a moment I think about them and end up using them, you’ll know because you’ll sense it.” Kangin looked at his brother once he had secured the brace, “I’m letting you in, so don’t take advantage.”
Donghae rolled his eyes, “As if I can control what I read,” he scowled momentarily, “It’s not like before. Before I could pick and choose which door I wanted to open.” He sighed as he leaned his cradled head back against the beam, “Now it’s like a dam that’s broken.”
“Well, then perhaps this’ll help you too,” Kangin said as he raised the bow, “You’ll be able to concentrate on only thoughts regarding my powers.”
“And if I’m not able to concentrate on just those thoughts?” Donghae asked casually, his eyes sliding towards the target across the range,
“Then I’ll have to pummel you if you tell anyone what else you may see,” Kangin replied lightly, a small smile on his lips.
Recovering from their parents’ accident had been hard on the Brotherhood. At some point over the month and half since they arrived in Ulsan, they had begun speaking normally again. At moments like this, Kangin could see a shadow of what they once were; of what Donghae once was.
The change in Donghae after the accident was palpable. He was the most popular with friends galore from high school and university. After the accident, however, that was when Donghae severed all ties with his friends. That was also when Donghae first donned his retro-looking headphones. Even at home, Kangin realized, it was usually during meals when Donghae would appear out of his room; when any of them left their own sacred spaces.
“Don’t judge what you don’t understand,” Donghae said quietly.
Kangin glanced over his shoulder at his brother, “What?”
“Your power is different than mine and Kyuhyun’s,” Donghae answered, eyes lightly closed as he continued the air of relaxation, “We know things that we’re not supposed to know…” He opened his eyes and those gems of aquamarine shined at him like a rapier reflecting light; “The truth hurts more than you can ever know.”
Kangin turned around fully to face his brother, the bow at his side, “You’re right. I don’t understand the consequences of your power or the depth of Kyuhyun’s, but how am I supposed to know anything when neither of you talk?”
“We could say the same for you,” Donghae countered lightly, “Our powers may be different from yours… but yours has external consequences and those can be more burdensome than the internal ones Kyuhyun and I have to endure.” He stared at Kangin a moment before sliding his eyes shut once more, “You never did confide in us why you quit tae kwon do.”
Kangin said nothing as he turned his back and aimed the bow. He remembered all Eeteuk had taught him over the two weeks and aimed his shot accordingly. He took a deep, steadying breath and after a moment, he released the arrow. When it hit the target, he let out a sigh of relief,
“Definitely not thinking about telekinesis,” Donghae answered.
Kangin turned to face him, “Really?” He asked, not helping the smile on his face,
“Really,” Donghae replied. He had moved and was now sitting on the edge of the stage. It was raised from the ground a metre, so his legs dangled over the edge, his hands clasped lightly in his lap. His eyes on the target, he grinned, “You’re pretty good, hyung.”
“He’s very good,” Donghae and Kangin looked over their respective shoulders at the voice. Eeteuk was leaning against one of the doorframes, arms crossed lightly. He stepped up towards them, “But I believe I can take some credit.”
Donghae swung his gaze from this stranger to his brother. Kangin caught his gaze, “Donghae, this is Eeteuk; the captain-turned-coach of the archery team.”
He smiled at the older man as Eeteuk approached him and shook his hand. Eeteuk stepped back as he looked at the target, “In a few weeks’ time at the districts, you’ll be amazing.” He looked back and forth between the brothers, “Ah, don’t let me interrupt, I was just dropping off my things in my locker before I went for a run.”
Kangin said nothing, but simply nodded.
Eeteuk exchanged the common pleasantries of making acquaintances with Donghae and then, true to his word, left. Once they were alone again, Kangin took up another arrow and aimed at the target once more.
“You could’ve asked him to stay,” Donghae interrupted just as Kangin released the arrow.
He faltered and the arrow’s tip nicked one of his fingers. He scowled as he sucked at the cut, “What?”
“You wanted to ask him to stay,” Donghae said simply, “I don’t need to read you to tell you that though. Although… what I did read was quite… interesting.”
Kangin blinked, eyes narrowed; he couldn’t remember exactly what he had been thinking, “How?”
“Well, when you shoot, you definitely don’t think of your powers. If anything, you think about your sunbae…” Kangin caught the blush on his brother’s cheek as he mildly added, “And… other stuff.”
“I think we’re done,” Kangin said, turning away,
“No, no,” Donghae insisted, “I’ll control my roaming, just continue practicing.”
Kangin looked at him, an eyebrow raised, “Why?”
“Because it’s good practice for you… and for me,” Donghae replied as he looked out towards the target again, raising his hands to entwine behind his head, “And, sometimes I need a reminder of why my brother’s cool.”
With the urge to swipe at his teasing brother, Kangin took a step forward. Then, he was halted as Donghae looked over his shoulder at him with those green-blue eyes and smiled a lop-sided smile he hadn’t seen in over two months.
“Oh this is so exciting,” AhMae exclaimed as she sat in the front row bleachers that surrounded the track and field area.
The district competitions were to be held at SM U. this year and they took advantage of the wide land of the track and field space. The range for the archers occupied the grassy centre of the race track. Underappreciated that archery was, the bleachers were sparse with watchers, most of them being from the teams that competed themselves.
Donghae lowered his headphones, “I’m sorry Auntie, what did you say?”
“I said this is so exciting!” She said when suddenly she heard a small cry. She glanced down at the basket at her feet and leaned down, pulling out a three-month old baby and cradling her, offering a small bottle of milk that immediately silenced her, “I saw that if I didn’t give her the milk first she’d cry for a much longer period of time,” she explained at Donghae’s impressed look, “Decided to save myself time.”
“I can’t believe you brought YooMae,” Donghae said, almost like a scold as he gazed at his content little sister; they named her after their mother, “She’ll be nothing but upset-”
“Archery, is a very quiet sport,” AhMae disagreed, “She’ll be a perfect angel and won’t be disturbed in the slightest. Besides, we need to be here to support Kangin; it’s his first sport… his first competition since he was seventeen.”
“Well, I’m here,” Donghae replied, moving for his headphones again,
“I just wish Kyuhyun conceded as well,” she sighed slightly, a small frown on her lips,
“Kyuhyun can’t control his powers at all. At least I can, somewhat, and at least I have a means to block it.” As if to further his point, Donghae replaced his headphones on his head, effectively dropping anymore conversation between himself and his aunt. When YooMae had fallen asleep and his aunt moved to lay her back in her basket however, Donghae swiftly took his sister into his arms and kept her there. He didn’t need his powers to tell that his aunt was surprised and pleased.
Eeteuk came and stood behind Kangin who sat on the bench with the other archers of the team. Arms crossed loosely, Eeteuk looked straight ahead as one batch moved up to shoot, two of their own archers joining in.
“Ready?” Eeteuk asked, quiet and serious.
“Yes,” Kangin replied. He had gotten used to this side of Eeteuk, the solemn, professional side. It differed greatly from the smiling, spirited side of him; but he liked both sides a great deal.
“You trained hard,” Eeteuk acknowledged, cursing quietly as one of their archers missed the target, “It’s at 30 metres, he must be nervous.”
“I couldn’t have reached this level without you, sunbae,” Kangin said, his fists clenched over his knees as he watched, anxiously. He would be in the next batch.
“You were at a high level to begin with,” Eeteuk insisted. Then, he lowered his voice accordingly so only Kangin could hear, “Even without your powers.”
Kangin said nothing, but took deep steadying breaths. After the first morning with Donghae, both acknowledged the good it would do for them both. So, after talking to their aunt it was agreed that Donghae would accompany Kangin during his practice sessions in the morning and then Kyuhyun would get a ride with their aunt. Morning after morning, Donghae would sit to the side as Kangin practiced under the guidance of Eeteuk. When the districts rolled around, Kangin felt he was ready and Donghae said he would be there if he needed him.
Feeling a slice of panic rise in him, Kangin looked over his shoulder and his eyes scanned for his brother. He felt his heart slow down when he caught sight of him immediately in the front row, his aunt beside him waving both arms when she noticed him. He blinked then squinted slightly, startled to see his baby sister in Donghae’s arms. Knowing his family was there, Kangin turned back towards the shooters.
“Your youngest brother isn’t there,” Eeteuk stated having followed Kangin’s gaze,
“His… abilities are sensory whereas mine are physical. Since he hasn’t adjusted to them since they increased in intensity, crowds must be avoided,” Kangin replied, “Besides, he got up early to wish me luck before I left this morning.”
The shooters dispersed to their teams and the scores were tallied. Eeteuk kept his eyes on a young archer who came and sat beside Kangin on the bench. The young man was in his first year of university and had been the one to miss his target.
“Sorry sunbaenim,” He said when he saw Eeteuk’s gaze,
“It’s your first competition at this level,” Eeteuk conceded, “Being nervous is to be expected.” He looked at the boy seriously, “But you’ll be ready for regionals if our team moves ahead right?”
“Yes, sir!” He replied seriously, “I’ll train hard.”
They called for the next batch of shooters and Kangin slowly rose to his feet. Eeteuk clapped a hand on his shoulder, “Ready?”
“Yes,” Kangin replied as he checked the brace on his forearm,
“What do you need for archery?” Eeteuk asked,
“Control, concentration and confidence,” Kangin answered immediately.
Eeteuk held up one of the competition’s standardized bows for him. “It’s not a longbow,” Eeteuk stated hesitantly. They had trained hard, but the entire time, he had Kangin shoot with a longbow. Now that he was using a more modern bow, Eeteuk was worried since Kangin had no time to practice transferring his skill.
“The longbow was home, but you can go anywhere from there,” Kangin assured him with a small smile, taking the bow. With that, Kangin turned on his heel and walked out towards the designated range.
The coach approached Eeteuk, “So that’s your replacement,”
“I believe so,” Eeteuk said, crossing his arms loosely about his torso,
“You insisted on a special schedule for him. Up until this point I still haven’t seen him,” She said hesitantly, “but if you believe he’s good enough to take your spot…”
“I do,” Eeteuk insisted, his fists clenching as he saw Kangin raise his bow and draw back the string. The archers shot their arrows, but Kangin hadn’t released his own. Eeteuk felt his heart pounding, could hear his blood pumping. “Let go,” Eeteuk muttered, “Let go already.”
“Could he be nervous?” The coach offered, biting down on her thumb as she watched anxiously.
“I don’t-” Eeteuk stopped when Kangin released the arrow. It cut through the air and landed within the inner most white circle of the target. He felt the tension leave his body, but then he felt it slowly being replaced by something else.
“Not nervous it seems,” The coach noted with a smile, “He’ll get the highest of his batch from what I can see.” The coach turned her smile to the captain and assistant coach, “You chose right, Eeteuk. Hopefully one day we can have both of you competing. Until then, we have Kangin-sshi and, seeing as how he’s getting results like you would, that’s fine with me.”
Eeteuk said nothing as the coach slowly walked away to talk to the archers in the next batch. He tightened his arms around his torso as he narrowed his eyes, watching Kangin. Kangin approached him with a big grin,
“Highest of the batch,” Kangin confirmed happily,
Eeteuk couldn’t squash the feeling that had been rising in him. He nodded curtly, “This is just the beginning, start thinking about the next round.”
Kangin watched as Eeteuk turned and walked away to stand beside the coach. He didn’t know what to expect when he approached Eeteuk, especially if his sunbae was in his serious mode. However, he didn’t think he’d get what he would call a brush off. He didn’t want a pat on the head like some young pup, but he wanted some acknowledgement. He glanced at Eeteuk who calmly and quietly conversed with the coach now. Considering how… close… they had become over the past few weeks, he thought he warranted more.
Sighing heavily, Kangin plopped down on the bench where he sat before, accepting quietly the congratulations of his adjacent team mates. He glanced once more at Eeteuk before looking back out at the range. He adjusted his brace as he pondered. One way or another, by the end of the districts, he’d receive Eeteuk’s praise.
Round after each round, Kangin continued. After each shot, he managed to not only pass onto the next round, but he also continued to receive the highest mark of his batches. When the final arrows were shot and the marks were tallied, SM University’s archery team was able to continue on to regionals because their team achieved second place. Overall first place amongst the individual archers went to Kangin and everyone cheered for him, all except for the one person who’s cheers meant the most.
Donghae gently laid YooMae into her basket, meaning to go down to Kangin when Aunt AhMae placed a hand on his arm and gestured for him to sit back down. When he went to ask her, he noticed her staring specifically. He followed her gaze to Kangin. The team had packed up their things, but when Kangin moved to leave with the others, Eeteuk had held him back.
“Wait for Kangin,” she said quietly as she picked up the handle for the car seat, “He’ll need you after.”
“If I stay, I change the future… and I can only allow myself to do that so many times,” AhMae interrupted before hesitantly and slowly leaving.
Donghae sighed heavily as he secured his headphone on his head. He stood up, stretching his arms towards the sky. Then, lacing his fingers behind his head, he slowly made his way out, preparing for whatever it was that his aunt foresaw.
When the field was clear, Kangin turned to Eeteuk expectantly, “You wanted to talk?” He asked lightly, casually. He had won the entire competition, surely Eeteuk would praise him now.
“Was it you, or wasn’t it?” Eeteuk demanded, eyes narrowed and voice a low growl.
This wasn’t what he wanted. This definitely wasn’t what he expected, “W-w-what!?” Kangin stammered,
“Damn it Kangin, you know what I mean! Was it you or not!?” Eeteuk gripped his collar with his thin fingers that held so much strength,
“Where is this coming from!?” Kangin demanded, pulling Eeteuk’s hand from him. His hands remained on Eeteuk’s wrists, gripping them tightly, “I thought you believed in me!”
“I did - I do!” Eeteuk exclaimed pulling his hands from Kangin’s hold, “But every shot you made was within the first circle! Damn, you even won against archers that rival my skill!”
Kangin clenched his fists at his side, “This has nothing to do with me does it?” Kangin closed the distance between them until he was mere inches from him, “You’re just upset because someone is probably almost as good as you. You found the person to replace you, but I came so close to your level that you’re scared and it’s hurting your pride. You expected me to be good, but not this good.”
“I don’t care how fucking good you are!” Eeteuk insisted angrily, his finger prodding into Kangin’s chest, “But if you’re going to be good I need to know if it’s you who’s shooting those arrows or if it’s something else!” His eyes narrowed dangerous, “You were fucking amazing out there Kangin, I’m not afraid or upset to admit that. But I need to know if that was really you out there. If not, then that win means nothing; our training means nothing.”
In seconds, Eeteuk had managed to pull down Kangin and strip away all the glory and all the pride and happiness he had gained from his victory. Something Kangin had coveted since he began to enjoy the sport was now something that left bitterness in his mouth. He enjoyed his victory for the briefest of moments before it was tainted. He ignored the tearing and ripping in his heart.
“Why can’t you just accept it? Why do you have to automatically think that it was my powers that won? Why can’t you just freely believe in me!?” Kangin demanded, grabbing the poking hand to stop it. He held it firmly, “Why does your belief in me come with limitations?” He asked quietly, the pain evident in his voice, flickering in his royal blue eyes.
“Because…” Eeteuk felt his anger melting away as he saw the shadows in those beautiful blue eyes. He sighed heavily, looking away from Kangin, his hand growing limp in Kangin’s strong hold. “Because even you don’t know if it was you.”
Kangin slowly dropped Eeteuk’s hand, his eyes baring down at Eeteuk who refused to look at him. He felt the hot sting of tears behind his eyes, “I could never believe in myself. I thought - hoped, even - that you could believe in me and then I’d be okay. I thought you would be the one who would look past my psychic abilities and believe in just…” He wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand, “But I guess I was wrong.” He tried to swallow the lump that choked him, “Thank you… thank you for reminding me why I quit.”
“Kangin…” Eeteuk called him when he pushed past him to leave. His voice was hoarse and cracked, “Kangin-”
“Don’t,” Kangin said quietly, firmly, forcing a strength into his words that he couldn’t feel, “You already took away my victory and…” He moved his hand to lay over his own heart “And you took my…” He let his hand drop, “At least let me walk away.” Kangin swallowed hard, trying to fight the tears that already blurred his vision, “At least… give me this.”
When Eeteuk said nothing, Kangin felt the last part of his heart break and die. With the burning pain evident in his chest and the ability to breathe gone, Kangin forced himself to move, forced his feet to walk. He escaped into the cement hallway that cut beneath the bleachers.
He wasn’t sure how long he walked, but before he reached the end, he felt the last of his strength fall away. He leaned his back against the wall and allowed himself to slide down until he was sitting. He found it hard to breathe and had felt the tears tracking down his face for some time now. He squashed down any urge to cry, pressing the heel of his palms against his burning blue eyes.
When suddenly he felt a pair of thin, strong arms wrap around him, he raised his head. When he found it was his brother who was holding him, he the last of his resolve broken and lost all control over his pain. It was only the second time he allowed himself to cry to the point that his solid frame shook and his lungs trembled as his heart withered. The first time had been the previous March when two solid pedestals of his life had been removed. Now he cried because he lost more this time. This time, he lost his heart too.
That evening when his brothers had returned to their own rooms and YooMae was asleep in her crib in the living room, Kangin approached his aunt in the kitchen. Standing at the sink washing the dishes, Kangin hesitantly approached him. After the competition, he had locked himself in the basement allowing no one in; too scared to completely expose himself to his beloved brothers. He hadn’t dared emerged from the bottom recesses of the house until he was sure only his aunt was around.
He hesitated in the doorway that connected the kitchen to the dining room. He clenched his eyes and turned, leaning his forehead against the doorframe. “Aunt AhMae…”
“Yes?” She asked casually as if he hadn’t been missing from dinner, as if she didn’t foresee the pain her nephew would go through.
His hands were fisted in his jeans as he forced the words to leave his lips, forced himself to say the decision he made hours ago, forced himself to say the request he had practiced over and over when he had been safe in his haven. “Please…get rid of them… please.”
A plate shattered in the sink as she dropped it. This wasn’t part of her vision from earlier. She took a deep, steadying breath, gripping the edge of the sink, “What is it, Kangin?” She asked hesitantly,
“My powers… I don’t,” Kangin managed, “I want them gone…”
“You’re sure?” She asked again, feeling the slight tremble in her body. In all her years, she had never been asked to do what her nephew was asking; not even her dear older sister had asked this of her, “You know what this means?”
An image of Eeteuk flashed in his memory. Kangin pushed it away along with the pain that associated with it now. “Yes,” he said, startled at the force at which he spoke; “I don’t want my powers anymore.”
(Last story of Control)