(Last story of Escape; part of the Brotherhood series)
Kyuhyun was in the living room watching a cooking show when he heard the front door open. He felt elation, excitement and knew immediately it was his oldest brother.
“I’m home!” Kangin called as he practically fell into the living room, dropping his bags to the floor. He plopped down on the couch beside his brother,
“Where’s Eeteuk?” Kyuhyun asked,
“He’ll be back. He was just dropping me off on his way to the university. He has to bring the trophy to the coach,” Kangin explained, a smile on his wide face, “It’s too bad it’s not the biggest trophy,”
“Third place is pretty damn good for your first national tournament,” Kyuhyun said with a smile. Kangin had left two mornings earlier for the national archery tournament of the university level. They had heard from him yesterday afternoon that he had placed third in Korea.
“Where’s Auntie and Donghae and YooMae?” Kangin asked, realizing for the first time how quiet the house was.
“Auntie’s next door, but she’s going out for dinner with some other professors. Apparently they had a pot going to see how well the school would do at the nationals with you being our only representation,” Kyuhyun said with a slight shake of his head, “Sometimes I forget that she’s our aunt.”
“She used her powers?” Kangin laughed, “Mom used to scold her whenever she did stuff like that. Where’s Donghae and the little demon?”
The light in Kyuhyun’s pale blue eyes dimmed as he brought his gaze back to the television, “Two nights ago hyung and Choi-sshi got in a fight of some sort… Aside from rides to and from school, I haven’t seen him for the past two days. He doesn’t even show up for meals… When we got home half an hour ago, he sent the babysitter home and then said he was taking YooMae out.”
“Did he say where?” Kangin asked,
“Probably where he always goes when he leaves the house,” Kyuhyun said with a slight shrug, “To see Mom and Dad.”
“Did… did you two make up?” Kangin inquired hesitantly,
“In a way, I suppose. Without Mom and Dad forcing us to make up, we… we’ve made amends the best we can,” Kyuhyun shrugged again, crossing his arms loosely over his stomach, “There’s just this silence between us now rather than… whatever it was before. Regret? Sadness? Guilt?” He sighed quietly, “Even I wasn‘t sure of what lay between hyung and I, but this silence… There’s more there now… there’s… expectation… and… from hyung there’s a lot of fear. He wants to talk, he wants me to talk - oh, how he wants me to talk, but I refuse and he’s too scared to do so himself.”
“I was going to go to the cemetery but perhaps you should go instead,” Kangin stated,
“I can’t deal with hyung when he’s being stubborn,” Kyuhyun turned his gaze to his brother, narrowing his eyes slightly,
“Well, learn,” Kangin retorted,
“You’ve both said the same thing: Mom and Dad aren’t here, so we’re not going to solve our problems. Mom and Dad may not be here and Aunt AhMae wouldn’t know how to handle you two even if she tried, so I’m going to force you two to make up so you can do it yourselves next time,” Kangin stated firmly, crossing his arms over his chest just to emphasize his point.
“If you two don’t learn how to fix your issues on your own, you never will. Mom and Dad never got to teach you two, so I’m doing it for them,” Kangin swiped the remote from his brother, “Now go,”
“But- he might be on his way home already!” Kyuhyun argued,
“Then you can talk on the walk back,” Kangin replied, already changing the channel,
“Not cool, hyung,” Kyuhyun scowled as he slowly got up and trudged towards the door, his brother behind him.
“Yes, well, Mom and Dad were never cool, were they?” Kangin chuckled slightly as he leaned a shoulder against the frame of the doorway that led between the hallway and the living room.
“Cooler than you,” Kyuhyun muttered as he slipped on his shoes and grabbed his jacket because it had been quite nippy that late-September day.
Kangin only laughed as he watched his younger brother slip out the front door.
“I knew you’d think this was a good place to nap,” Donghae grinned at YooMae who was fast asleep in her rather bulky stroller. It had taken them twenty minutes to reach the cemetary and he had walked around the grounds for the first ten minutes when he realized she was sleepy and knew that the stroller’s movement would put her to sleep.
Having been to the cemetery several times since he and his brothers moved to Ulsan the previous March, Donghae knew his way around the grounds fairly well. He was slowly pushing the stroller along, when he paused. He looked around, feeling a familiarity for his surroundings.
“His grandmother,” Donghae muttered, suddenly realizing why. The surroundings were familiar because he had seen them from Shiwon’s own thoughts and memories. He looked around once more, trying to find the tree that Shiwon had been standing beside, because then he could find his grandmother’s grave. He tried to think back to the images that flashed in his mind when he stopped himself. Abruptly, he turned the stroller and headed down one of the roads in the cemetery that led to his parents’ graves.
He gently rolled the stroller onto the grass towards their parents’ gravestones. He kicked on the brakes for the stroller and face YooMae away from the gentle wind. Sitting down on the dry grass, he leaned against the side of the gravestone. He had closed his eyes for no more than ten minutes when he heard footsteps amongst the rustling leaves and singing birds. Almost immediately he saw the image of himself sitting against his parents’ gravestone, YooMae’s stroller beside him. Almost immediately he heard the voice of his younger brother.
“Is something wrong?” Donghae asked as he slowly opened his eyes just as Kyuhyun stepped off the cement and onto the hard, cold grass.
“Not really,” Kyuhyun shrugged, crossing his arms loosely as he approached the graves. He said nothing then as he neared to the gravestone. His eyes slid close and after what seemed an eternity, he bowed before the graves. When his pale blue eyes were visible again, he smiled faintly, “It’s been so long.”
“So what brings you here? Surely it’s not to bask in the solace of the lack of people in the cemetery,” Donghae stated,
“Well if I am, I’m going to the bench down by the road,” Kyuhyun said, turning around, “Come, at least there’s a tree blocking the wind.”
Donghae said nothing as he slowly rose. Dusting off his jeans, he released the brakes on the stroller and pushed it down towards the road where a bench was, a tree shading it. He had always noticed the bench, and knew quite well that it was just a few meters away from his parents’ graves. However, he preferred his usual spot next to the gravestone because feeling the granite at his back made him feel as if his parents were still tangible.
Placing the stroller against the tree and putting on the breaks, Donghae sat on the stone bench with his brother. “I’ve often thought of suggesting this as a place for you,” Donghae said after a few moments’ silence; “Especially when I realized what a reprieve it was from everywhere else.”
“Why didn’t you?” Kyuhyun asked, his voice flat and his face void of any real emotions. It had been like that for some time, Donghae acknowledged then. The moment Kyuhyun’s powers had been awakened the past February, his emotions had become volatile. When their parents died and they increased in intensity before he could even control them, he had become apathetic. The boy who had been friendly and smiled easily became the young man who secluded himself and rarely showed any emotion, even with the Brotherhood.
“At first it was because this was my place… this was my escape,” Donghae answer honestly, lacing his fingers behind his head as his blue-green eyes gazed at their parents’ graves; “Being the middle child, I lived a life of sharing. I never really minded, but this… this, I could call just mine. Eventually when the childish selfishness had dissipated I never said anything to you because I could still remember their funeral. I remembered how badly you should between Kangin-hyung and I. I remembered how once the service was over you practically ran and hid in the car… I realized a few months ago how you hated to be here.” He slid his gaze towards his brother for a moment before looking back at the graves, “I realize now, that I never asked why.”
“It’s too sad,” Kyuhyun said simply, matter-of-factly, “The emotions are too saturated in a place like this; too everlasting. Once in awhile I’ll feel a hint of happiness, like the kind one gets from remembering… but sadness weaves through every part of this cemetery - as it should - and I just can’t stand it… not for a long period, anyway.”
“You… You can feel emotion from places as well?” Donghae turned his head to look at his brother, practically gaping.
Kyuhyun blinked at him a moment before nodding once, “If it’s an emotion that is often repeated in a place… or if the emotion took place recently, I’ll usually feel it.”
“I… I thought your powers were just for people, I never knew they extended to your environment too,” Donghae said, awed by the news,
Kyuhyun merely stared at him silently for a five-count, his head tilted slightly as he regarded his brother. Finally, he said, “Well… you never asked.”
Donghae immediately snapped his gaze back towards where his parents lay, “I… I haven’t been that great of a brother.” He paused a moment, “Really? Just since Mom and Dad died?” He countered the statement his brother thought,
“I’ve already said it before Donghae… and you already know from my thoughts. We were close and you were an attentive brother. It’s only after Mom and Dad died that everything changed,” Kyuhyun replied. Then, he added tentatively, “That’s when you got scared.”
Donghae felt the prick of hot tears, but said nothing; could say nothing as a lump formed painfully in his throat.
“Hyung… I, more than anyone understand what you’re going through,” Kyuhyun continued, his gaze towards his parents’ graves, “I, more than anyone feel the vulnerability you must feel because of your unstable powers… You… You shouldn’t feel scared with the Brotherhood, least of all your little brother.”
“Well… you’ve said, it haven’t you?” Donghae asked lightly, “Yes, I do feel vulnerable. And regret… Oh, how I regret the past two years of my life.”
“The past two years? Why?” Kyuhyun inquired, curiosity slipping into his tone;
“Because I took for granted the control I had over my powers. Now that I don’t have it,” Donghae practically growled his words, “I realize how easy my life had been… how… blissfully ignorant I was.”
“But… but regret is different from vulnerability,” Kyuhyun stated,
“I know others’ thoughts the moment they come into my awareness. I see a person, hear a person, feel a person… immediately, their thoughts become my own… I learn things I should not know. At least with emotions you can give some leeway for ignorance but me… For me, there is no such thing as ignorance,” Donghae slowly lowered his hands from behind his head and lightly clasped them in his lap, “Before we left Incheon, I learned that popularity does not mean you are liked by a lot of people; rather, a lot of people just want to be around you. Their reasons for being around you, however, aren’t always so pure.”
“Surely you had some real friends?” Kyuhyun asked,
Donghae shrugged slightly, “If I did I never let myself find out. After that day when I came home from the mall I severed all ties with everyone outside of the family… I… I didn’t want to be disappointed again.”
“I’m sorry… but you’re still holding back,” Kyuhyun prompted tentatively. He felt the apprehension as if it coursed in his own blood, could feel the anxiety grip his own heart as if it were his own. “What else is there, hyung?”
“I want to be told things out of pure trust,” Donghae answered, his voice barely above a whisper, relying on the soft autumn wind to carry his words; “I don’t want to have been told lies… or know someone’s hiding something from me. What hurts the most to me is a lack of trust… a lack of honesty.”
“But isn’t that just because you know more than you should?” Kyuhyun asked slowly, “Everyone has secrets, surely you can understand that with being in the Brotherhood… so surely you can accept that not everyone you meet is going to tell you all their secrets.”
Donghae said nothing for a moment as the memory of the last time he saw Shiwon flashed in his mind; “I know… But to share secrets means to trust a person… That’s all I want.”
“You’re not talking about generality… you’re talking about Choi-sshi aren’t you?” Kyuhyun inquired hesitantly, “You know there’s something he’s not telling you and… and it bothers you.” Donghae merely nodded; “You’ve known Choi-sshi… what, a few weeks? You’ve been with him a few days and you immediately believe he should spill all of his dark secrets to you from the beginning? Hyung, trust takes time to build, asking for so much at the start isn’t right… And you’re only asking for it because of your powers, because your powers tell you there’s more to know.”
“Yes… there is more to know and he refuses to tell me and I hate it because I know what he’s not saying is important to him, it affects him, makes him upset when he thinks about it… and… and I can’t do anything about it!” Donghae jumped to his feet, his arms crossed tightly over his torso, “How am I supposed to help him when he won’t tell me why!?”
Kyuhyun said nothing for a moment as he got up and took YooMae from her stroller. He noted she started to awaken while Donghae had been speaking. Sitting back on the bench with YooMae sleepily leaning against his shoulder, he looked up at his brother, “You don’t need to know everything just to help him, hyung. All you need to do is be there for him whenever he does get upset. Eventually, perhaps Choi-sshi will tell you, but for now, all you’re going to get is silence from him and you’re just going to have to accept that. Relationships aren’t built overnight and they certainly aren’t perfect from the beginning. To expect it to be so is unrealistic, to want it to be so is selfish.”
“I…” Donghae could say nothing and just allowed himself to fall back onto the stone bench.
“Everyone has secrets, that’s an automatic given,” Kyuhyun stated matter-of-factly, “But because of your powers you know what those secrets are, or at least what they concern. However, you want people to tell you their secrets rather than just knowing on your own, which is understandable because if they tell you themselves then it means they trust you. However, expecting it now, demanding it now, wanting it now… that’s not right. Our powers are supposed to be used for good and… it sounds like you’ve allowed your powers to turn you into someone selfish. Choi-sshi knows about the Brotherhood, I’m assuming?”
“Then he probably already guessed that you know what’s going on in his head. However, if you throw that at him, demanding answers, he’s going to go on the defence. What he’s thinking is probably hard for him to say out loud. So, even if you know what it is already, he’s not prepared to voice it yet,” Kyuhyun explained, “Sometimes we don’t say what we’re thinking because it’s just… too hard… because saying out loud is giving it a voice, making it almost tangible. And, perhaps, Choi-sshi isn’t ready to completely face whatever it is he’s hiding.”
“You’re my younger brother and yet it seems I’m the one who’s been naïve all these years,” Donghae said, his gaze on the ground as a small smile tugged at his lips. His vision was blurring slightly from hot tears, but he ignored them; “My social life in Incheon was idyllic; I was popular and surrounded by many people whom I called friends… when we moved here I demanded complete trust because then my powers wouldn’t bother me so much… I demanded complete honesty because I didn’t want to get hurt again.”
When he finally looked over at his brother, his eyes shone like aquamarine gems with the tears that brimmed his lashes, “What’s worse is that I demanded it of the Brotherhood as well… But I hate myself for it… because we promised not to use our powers on one another.”
Kyuhyun offered him a small smile, “You don’t wear your headphones at home, hyung and I can’t ask for more than that.” Kyuhyun stood up slowly and began walking towards the graves, “I don’t think YooMae’s met Mom and Dad yet.”
Donghae slowly walked behind his brother, leaving the stroller by the bench. He wiped at his tears with the back of his hand as they drew closer to the shared gravestone. Once he stood abreast with his brother, Donghae laced his fingers behind his head, his eyes raking over the names of his parents. In the end, they were there as he and Kyuhyun made things right between them. He glanced towards Kyuhyun then looked back at the grave, then again, perhaps Kangin was now the one watching over the two of them.
Kyuhyun slowly squatted as he allowed YooMae to stand between his knees. She had begun to fully awaken and grown restless in his arms. She pulled free of her brother’s hold and crawled on the grass towards the gravestone. Shakily, she stood, her hands propped on the granite.
“Do you think she knows that’s Mom and Dad?” Donghae asked quietly as YooMae patted the engraved names of their parents. When all that was heard was the soft fall breeze, Donghae turned to his brother, “Well?”
Kyuhyun looked up at his brother, his pale blue eyes blinking, “Don’t… Don’t you know what I think?”
Donghae opened his mouth then closed it. Slowly, his hands fell to his sides as he was greeted by silence. A hand covered his mouth as he shook his head.
A peculiar light entered his brother’s eyes before he asked, “W-when?”
Donghae searched his mind for the answer. When did it happen? When did Kyuhyun’s thoughts stop whispering in his ear? When did his thoughts become the only ones that drifted in his mind? When did he receive the blissful ignorance of his brother’s thoughts?
“I never… I never realized,” Donghae stammered, “Because we were still talking but… at some point the only things I heard came from your mouth… I… I still remember Mom, so my telepathy’s still there.”
“Test it,” Kyuhyun encouraged as he slowly rose to his full height.
Donghae blinked. When he did first gain control of his powers, all he ever did was put a lid over it, keeping it dormant. He never wielded it. Tilting his head slightly, he peered at his brother carefully. It felt foreign, but in his mind, he could feel as if he were in his brother’s mind. He felt as if he were standing in and endless room at the centre of hundreds and hundreds of boxes. He looked down at the box closest to him and suddenly, he just knew. He knew that this box could contain Kyuhyun’s current thought and anything beyond would be past thoughts and even further would be his memories.
He lifted the lid off the closest one and a voice whispered, “Donghae needs a haircut.”
“Hey! I do not!” He exclaimed into the infinite space of the room.
Kyuhyun blinked, “I… I heard that.”
“But, I didn’t say anything, I just… thought it… I always thought telepathy was just others thoughts coming to me… perhaps… perhaps, it’s truly a two-way street that I control,” Donghae stammered, trying to understand these powers as he felt himself.
“It makes sense,” Kyuhyun offered him a rare, full smile,
“Before when I could read your thoughts it was like… like a flood that I had no control over. This time, it was like I could pick and choose what thoughts I wanted to look for. It was like instead of your thoughts coming to me, I came to them… and when I spoke, I was-”
“In my mind?” Kyuhyun suggested, “I thought as much considering your voice yelled at me and you didn’t say anything.” Kyuhyun blinked a moment before stating simply, “Relief.”
Donghae glanced at him before smiling and looking back at YooMae, “Yes…”
“Your basking in it,” Kyuhyun noted as he turned his pale gaze to his sister as well,
“No… I’m basking in the silence,” Donghae let his eyelids slide close as the breeze embraced them. “It’s golden.”
Suddenly, the one person who had always been there was no longer around. Donghae would keep alerted while on campus looking for Shiwon but he seemed never to find him. He would catch sight of someone whom he thought was Shiwon, but when he ran after them, they would be gone. Four full months passed and Donghae could not escape the emptiness he felt in his days. Oh, he had his silence and he had his control over his abilities, but he didn’t have Shiwon.
It was in early February when Donghae realized that Shiwon had always been the one to come to him. Except for the one morning when he had come across Shiwon in the music room, Shiwon was the one to find him; always. He realized that he didn’t know Shiwon’s classes nor where he went during his breaks or meals. Heck, he didn’t even know where Shiwon’s dorm was. At one point he asked his Aunt AhMae for the information but she refused, stating it was confidential.
He scoured the library, he stalked the music room, Donghae felt as if he searched every damned inch of S.M. University’s campus for four months to no avail. When Donghae’s first final exam came around, he was exasperated to learn he would do the exam without his other classmates - again - this semester. Before, his Aunt had done so because of his powers (since he would be distracted, not because she thought he would cheat). This time, he had no idea why he was being sent to a separate classroom for his exam.
Checking his jeans’ pockets for his pens, pencils and erasers, he opened the door to the designated room. There was no point in bringing a full-sized bag to his exam, so he stuffed his writing utensils in his pockets and grabbed his wallet that contained his student identification. He froze in the doorway, there was another student in the room: Choi Shiwon.
Donghae shot an accusing glare at his aunt who stood at the front of the room. She calmly looked back at him. Donghae peered into her mind,
“Why the hell is he here?” Donghae asked silently, “Is this why I’m here?”
“I thought you’d appreciate it. And no swearing in my mind!” AhMae’s thoughts scolded him,
Donghae rolled his eyes as he took the nearest seat to the door; seat on the other end of the front row where Shiwon was sitting, his desk far away, beside the window.
AhMae picked up two exam booklets. She walked to Shiwon and placed one on his desk, “You have three hours to write your exam,” she continued down the row and placed the last one on Donghae’s; “I know how intimidating it is to have a professor watch as you write your exam, so I’ll step into the hallway. But if either of you speak,” she lightly smacked the top of Donghae’s head for emphasis, “I’ll know. AND, if I may be prone to walking down the hall for a drink from the vending machines, don’t you dare talk to one another!” She warned as she headed towards the door, “AND, if those vending machines happen to be out of order and I have to go to a different floor - so be it - but if either of you speak,” She turned her sharp blue eyes on her nephew,
“I’M NOT GOING TO SPEAK!” Donghae exclaimed incredulously,
“You just did,” AhMae smirked. She fixed a hard stare on both students, “No speaking!” Then, just as she was closing the door behind her, she sighed loudly, “I’m parched!”
They were silent as they heard the emphasized, loud steps of AhMae walking away from the door. Donghae rolled his eyes, “Subtle as always,” he muttered as he opened his exam booklet. Before he began, he glanced towards Shiwon. Seeing the other bent over his exam and writing furiously, Donghae decided his aunt picked the worst moment for them to speak seeing as the exam was worth quite a lot of their final grade. Sighing slightly, Donghae took out a pencil and began his exam.
Shiwon didn’t know how long he had been writing for when suddenly he slammed his pencil on the desk and turned his head to glare at the other man in the room, “Will you STOP that!?”
Donghae looked over at him casually, “What?”
“That tapping!” Shiwon exclaimed, his eyes sliding to the pen held loosely in Donghae’s fingers before looking back at those blue-green eyes,
“Sorry, it happens unconsciously when I’m bored,” Donghae apologized,
“How can you be bored!? We have an exam,” Shiwon stated, thick eyebrows narrowing,
“Oh, I finished it forty-five minutes ago,” Donghae replied easily,
“But… what… how!?” Shiwon demanded hotly,
“It wasn’t that difficult,” Donghae blinked,
“Damn you it is!” Shiwon argued, “I studied so damn hard for this exam and you’re telling me it’s easy!? That you finished it just over an hour into the exam time!? How long did you fucking study?”
Donghae offered an apologetic smile, “I… didn’t.”
“But then… that doesn’t make sense!” Shiwon dragged his hands through his thick, black locks, “You’re the second of our year and you didn’t study for this exam yet you’re done already?”
Donghae nodded slightly, “Well… you see, when I came here it was after my parents had died and the last thing I cared about was school. I only attended because my aunt is chancellor. Since I didn’t want to be here, I never studied.”
“Are you telling me that you’re second of our year without studying?” Donghae nodded in silent response. Shiwon practically threw his arms in the air out of annoyance.
“I’ve always been able to memorize things pretty well. At some point in high school, I just got this bad habit of not studying since I remembered what the teachers said and what the textbooks said. If it lessens your irritation towards me, that’s all it is - a good memory. My youngest brother is the real genius.” When Shiwon merely glared at him, Donghae laid the pencil down on the table, “Sorry, I didn’t realize you could hear it,”
“Of course you knew I could hear it,” Shiwon accused,
Donghae raised an eyebrow slightly before turning his gaze to the front of the class. He grinned as he closed his eyes, entwining his fingers behind his head, “Actually, I didn’t and - may I add - this classroom has been blissfully silent since my aunt left two hours ago.”
Shiwon blinked at him, “It… it has? But I thought… does this mean.” He felt his own pencil sliding from his loosened grip, “You’ve learned to control it.”
“Perhaps now I can invest in some sort of music machine to attach to my headphones,” Donghae mused happily, “They been sadly neglected for the past four months.”
“You learned to control it four months ago!?” Shiwon gaped at him,
Donghae opened his eyes, turning his head enough that he could see Shiwon directly, “You’re a very elusive person when you choose to be, Choi Shiwon.”
“I keep to myself at this school,” he agreed,
“There were times when I ran after someone who I thought was you and they’d disappear,” Donghae admitted,
“I was on the track team in high school,” Shiwon replied simply,
“I even camped out in the music room one day,” Donghae stated,
“Liar,” His thick eyebrows narrowed suspiciously,
“Indeed,” Donghae gave him a lop-sided grin. He turned his gaze back to the front of the room, “I’ve waited four months to see you again. In the beginning I thought it’d be some happy reunion but as the weeks went on, my thoughts changed. Recently I imagined when I saw you again I’d approach you and punch you in the face.”
“You still could,” Shiwon said tentatively as he picked up his pencil again and looked back at his exam,
“That’s why I chose this seat,” Donghae chuckled slightly before adding quietly, “And besides… I don’t deserve to hit you. If anything, you should hit me.”
“You… you didn’t do anything wrong,” Shiwon stated, “If… If I were to be honest, all you did was ask a question.”
“But I was fishing for something… Had I asked through pure ignorance, fine then I’m innocent. However, I wasn’t completely unaware of what was in your head,” Donghae conceded, “So I asked because I wanted to know more… I wanted my answers… I wanted you to confirm what I had seen in your memories.”
“I can’t… I can’t just tell you about my grandmother,” Shiwon stammered, his gaze focused on his exam booklet, but the words didn’t register in his mind; his concentration was elsewhere.
“I understand that now,” Donghae insisted, “You see: when I first got my powers I had to take a semester off school because it was just… it was too hard to be bombarded by these thoughts. Because my birthday’s in October, I was in my last year of high school, but even that was too hard… I spent second semester in day school and night school just to catch up.”
He paused a moment, as those memories flashed through his mind. He had never worked so hard in his life; “After a few months I had gained control over them and it was like I didn’t have my powers anymore… After my parents died, I lost that control and I saw into the thoughts of my so-called friends for the first time in two years. I saw disloyalty, lies, deception… I saw nothing but fakes around me and… and I vowed I wouldn’t let that happen again.”
Shiwon felt himself become very still. He felt himself hold his breath but could feel his heart thumping loudly in his chest. He gripped his pencil tightly as if to focus all his concentration on it; almost as if, should he loosen his grip a fraction, he would jump from his seat and cross the room to the other man.
“Because of that, I wanted to prevent the lies from happening. I told myself the next time I let someone in, I was going to demand complete honesty and nothing less,” Donghae explained. He forced a strength into his voice as he felt the lump rising in his throat. His fingers tightened behind his head as he felt the hints of his body wanting to tremble from his thoughts; “In wanting to protect myself, I had forgotten what it was to be a friend.” Then, he added, chuckling bitterly, “Damn, I had forgotten what it was to be a brother even.”
He sighed slowly, to focus himself so the hot tears he could feel prickling behind his eyes wouldn’t appear; “What I believed was that if someone truly cared, then they would tell me everything they were thinking… if what they said, if what they revealed was different or lacking from what they thought, then they didn’t care. I believed… I believed that if a person couldn’t trust me completely…that they didn’t… they didn’t…” He took another deep, steadying breath, but could not continue. Instead, his eyelids slid shut in an attempt to block the tears.
“Donghae… I promise you when I say that - other than that first time when you asked about my grandmother - I have been completely honest with you,” Shiwon stated, his eyes staring hard at his exam, but not truly seeing it. “But… I have my secrets and I’m used to my privacy. If… If I withheld the information about my grandmother it wasn’t because I didn’t love you back… because I did - I do… it’s because of my own feelings towards the situation.” He gripped his pencil tighter, his other hand gripping the edge of the desk tightly, “I lashed out on you that other night because… because I was scared. I believed that you knew about my family-”
“I don’t!” Donghae interjected, opening his eyes and twisting in his seat to look at Shiwon directly. He lowered his hands to his lap, “I swear, Shiwon I don’t!”
“Well, I believed that then… and feeling that you knew… I was scared because it’s something so important… so painful,” Shiwon shook his head then as to banish the poignancy that began creeping upon him like a dark shadow; “You demanded honesty and trust because you wanted to protect yourself. Your telepathy made you vulnerable, so you protected yourself the only way you know how. Well, my family makes me vulnerable, Donghae… and the only way I know how to protect myself is by keeping to myself… in all honesty, you’re the first person I’ve spoken to for more than five minutes since I first came to this school.”
Donghae straightened in his seat, his eyes darting around the room as he tried to collect his own thoughts together. “I won’t pry… and I won’t dig anymore… I won’t even mention your family, Shiwon. If… if that’s what it takes for you to be in my life again, then I can ignore that whole side of you.”
Shiwon blinked. This was what he wanted, wasn’t it? He wanted Donghae without having to divulge his secret and yet… He felt an almost physical pain when he heard Donghae’s words. When he saw Donghae first step into the room’s doorway he had to practically hold onto the desk to stop himself from going to him. It had been four long months, but he had hoped - prayed, really - that Donghae’s feelings had not changed. However, now that Donghae had basically declared a confirmation of this, Shiwon felt a bit rejected at the same time. He wanted Donghae to still love him as before - according to his prior confession, anyway - but he wanted Donghae to love all of him. Not just most of him, not just a part of him - all of Shiwon, present and past.
“Unfortunately, Donghae… it seems I can’t be with you,” Shiwon turned in his seat to look at Donghae directly. Donghae twisted in his seat, blinking at him in shock; “You see… if you want me, you’re going to have to accept me. You’re not allowed to ignore even one part of me.”
“But…your privacy, I don’t-”
“It’s different when I choose to tell you,” Shiwon replied. Taking a deep breath, he began slowly. His head turned slightly to the side, just enough so that he wasn’t looking at Donghae directly. “What I never told you is that my name isn’t Choi Shiwon. Well, it is, but I was born with a different last name. You see, I’m adopted. I grew up in Taegu but on my eighteenth birthday my parents informed me that I was born in Ulsan. I… I wanted to be so mad at them when they told me I was adopted. I wanted to yell and scream at them for hiding it for so long even as they explained they wanted to wait until I was older before telling me.”
“How… How did you react?” Donghae asked quietly, tentatively;
“Oh, I was furious. I stormed out of the house even,” Shiwon recalled. A small, bitter smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he remembered the day as if it had been yesterday and not almost three years prior. “But I wanted to stay mad. I wanted to be mad and hate my parents forever because of their eighteen-year deception. Because of my late birthday, I was in high school at the time. To spite my parents, I applied to only universities in Ulsan. When I got here two years ago I began searching for my birth mother. There was a chance my birth father didn’t know about me, so I wanted to meet - at least - the woman who gave birth to me.”
“Did you find her?” Donghae heard himself asking,
“Oh yes,” Shiwon said. His smile had grown so that his cheeks dimpled, but the smile was cruel and his eyes held nothing but darkness; “She’s married to my birth father and are both living happily with a son and daughter. What I should mention is that their son is older than me and their daughter is younger. They had only wanted one child so when she had gotten pregnant a second time, they put the baby - me - up for adoption.”
“But… but they have a daughter,” Donghae stammered, such a tale barely registering. His heart thudded against his ribs as he wanted nothing more than to close the distance between them. He felt himself slowly rise from his chair and wait with bated breath.
“Ah, but she is their baby girl. What mother doesn’t want a girl?” Shiwon asked, not meaning the cruelty in his tone and hating himself for it. He felt a perverse stab in his heart justifying his anger and resentment towards a teenaged girl who - in all accounts - was his baby sister. “I realized then that I couldn’t stay mad at my parents… I couldn’t hate them because they were the only ones in the world that wanted me.”
He had faced the reality of things some time ago. However, he found that through say it out loud made him relive it again. He saw again his demons, felt again the pain. Somehow, he found the strength to continue, “That first day in the cemetery… I was watching the funeral of my grandmother - my birth mother’s mother. My birth parents didn’t want me, so I never got to know the old woman. Had I the chance, she would’ve been the only grandmother - no, grandparent - that I would’ve known. My parents are… of an advanced age. But they- they are my true parents!”
Shiwon felt the tears sting his eyes and he tried desperately to dam them up. He clenched his fists tightly to steady himself, to stop his entire body from shaking and collapsing like his heart every time he remembered. “I… I was scared to tell you… scared that you already knew…” He breathed out air through his teeth to calm his ramming heart and tearing eyes as he prayed his voice not to break, “If you had realized that I wasn’t worth it, like my birth parents did… I wouldn’t have… I couldn’t have… I would have died; I would have-”
Suddenly Donghae’s slender but strong arms wrapped around Shiwon. A warm hand cupped his head to Donghae’s chest. Having only his adopted parents know what happened to him in Ulsan, Shiwon had built a wall around himself to stop others from every finding out. However, now that someone else knew - and not just anyone, Donghae knew - Shiwon practically collapsed into Donghae’s embrace, relishing in his warm comfort as he had not felt in years.
“You don’t have to finish,” Donghae said quietly, “I know… I understand - perhaps more than anyone - what you feel. No, I wasn’t adopted or… or had to face what you did… but the pain of wondering why you weren’t enough. Damn Shiwon, we’re the same.” Donghae tightened his hold just enough to pass from comforting to protecting; “We were both so worried about not being accepted… loved… maybe that’s why I fell for you. Maybe I knew that you were like me and that we needed each other; knew not because of my powers, but-”
“But because you’re you,” Shiwon finished. Slowly, he raised his arms and wound them around Donghae’s waist, pulling him against his body. He allowed his eyes to close just as the tears brimmed his lashes and slid down the planes of his face. In that moment, he was aware of nothing but Donghae: his warmth, his hands, his smell, his soft breath. For the first time since his eighteenth birthday, Shiwon felt at home.
It was March and the break between years at S.M. University. The Brotherhood was at home on the one-year anniversary of their parents death. They were accompanied by, of course, their Aunt AhMae, and also by Eeteuk and Shiwon. It was supposed to be a day of mourning and remembrance. However, Donghae had suggested it be a day of celebration and remembrance instead; after all, it was YooMae’s first birthday.
They gathered in the home of the Brotherhood that sunny spring day, preparing for a late lunch that would cast the sad memories out of their hearts. AhMae had been in their kitchen since the sun rose and barely left it since. She had been cooking non-stop and barely had time to spare for any of her precious nephews or niece. Her nephews, however, understood that despite the now celebratory feel of the day they were introducing, in her heart, their aunt was still suffering from that stormy night a year prior. They left her to her peace and distractions that the kitchen seemed to bring.
The only brother, however, that did not leave her be was Kyuhyun. He remained within the kitchen with her the entire time, assisting her with the meal. Fortunately, it worked out for AhMae since Kyuhyun didn’t seem to need much direction - if any at all - in terms of cooking. So, she was given solitude in the busy kitchen despite her ever-present nephew. Guiltily, she knew Kyuhyun could feel her emotions and selfishly, she didn’t banish him from the kitchen like all the others; she didn’t want to be left completely alone on that day of all days.
Kangin and Eeteuk had spent the morning away taking care of YooMae since their aunt dedicated her time to the kitchen and they had dismissed the babysitter for the duration of the break. Eeteuk was blowing up balloons as Kangin sat on the couch, YooMae asleep in the space between them. Above the noise of the television and the chaos from the kitchen, Kangin managed to hear the doorbell ring.
“I’m here,” Eeteuk stated just as YooMae began to awaken.
Trusting him completely, Kangin left his sister in Eeteuk’s care. He got up and headed for the front door. He opened it, curiously wondering who would be coming to their house. The only people the Brotherhood knew were in the house already and not even solicitors graced their doorstep. So, it would be underestimating the situation to say that Kangin was surprised when he opened the door to a young girl, perhaps in her mid-teens.
“Can I help you?” Kangin asked,
Hands clasped before her - out of respect or anxiety, Kangin wasn’t sure -, she bowed as was her due, “I was hoping that Choi Shiwon was home?”
“Ah yes… he’s just upstairs taking a nap,” Kangin replied, still not sure what to make of this girl being present. She was too young for him - had he been inclined towards her - but not too young for Shiwon. But Shiwon had Donghae. Didn’t he?
“I’ll go get him,” Eeteuk said, walking into the corridor with YooMae clutching to his shoulder and arm sleepily, her head lolling on his shoulder.
“Wake up Donghae too,” Kangin called up the stairs after him, “The jerk plans all of this and then sleeps the day away. Even Shiwon woke up and helped before his nap!” Once he heard Eeteuk knocking and opening the door to Donghae’s room, Kangin turned back to the girl suspiciously, “Please, come in,” he stepped aside and allowed the girl to step in. Closing the door behind her, he asked casually, “So… how do you know Shiwon?”
“Well… I don’t,” She replied tentatively, her cheeks pinking, “Actually… he doesn’t know that I know he exists.”
Kangin could only blink at that statement.
“Eeteuk said that I have a visitor?” Shiwon asked sleepily as he stretched his arms to the ceiling, feeling his body groan wonderfully from the pull. When he reached the bottom step and saw who it was, he blinked.
She bowed at the waist, remaining so until her introduction was completed, “My name is Shim LiWon and I know you’re my brother.” When he said nothing, she straightened and continued, “I had learned you attended S.M. University and when I went there I learned you had moved to this address for the break. Choi Shiwon-sshi, I know our parents-”
“They are not my parents,” Shiwon stated, not intending his tone to be so cold;
“I know my parents turned you away and… and I wish I could apologize on their behalf but I don’t think you’d want that,” She said, “But you see, what my parents seem to lack in familial priorities, I do not. That day you came to first see our… I mean, my mom, I had overheard the conversation and… I love them but they can be so stubborn sometimes. I asked and asked and all they would do is give me silence or send me to my room or-”
“What’s going on?” Donghae yawned as he descended the stairs behind Eeteuk who now held a sleeping YooMae.
“This is Shiwon’s sister,” Kangin said politely, a small smile on his lips. He had watched LiWon speak, had seen the vividness and liveliness in which she spoke that was accompanied by the flourished hand gestures to emphasize her meaning and emotions. In that small time frame, Kangin had seen the resemblance between brother and sister immediately.
“Shiwon’s…” Donghae blinked between brother and supposed sister.
“Well, this isn’t any of our business,” Eeteuk stated as he saw immediately the curiosity in Kangin’s eyes. Assuming the role of parent to his brothers, Kangin had gotten into the bad habit of meddling and Eeteuk could sense it a mile away. He grabbed Kangin’s arm and dragged him relentlessly to the living room, despite his protests.
Donghae moved to return back to his room, feeling that Shiwon would want some privacy. However, the slightest move of Shiwon’s hand at his side told him otherwise. So, he leaned against the wall beside the stairs. Lacing his fingers behind his head, he let his eyes of aquamarine slide over the young girl before concentrating on what he could see of Shiwon‘s profile.
“As I was saying, they’d send me to my room or-”
Shiwon held up both palms to silence her, “Please, I’ve stopped following your train of thought after you said you overheard the conversation between myself and our… your mother.”
She folded her arms loosely about her stomach, “I saw you at Grandma’s funeral.”
Shiwon felt his stomach twist. He had hoped not to have been seen that day. He kept quite a distance away, hoping that should anyone see him, they assumed he was a quiet mourner. Not - as he truly was - a rejected grandchild of the deceased. “Y-y-yes? And?”
“Grandma died rather suddenly. She was… I guess she was quiet healthy for her age and yet one day her heart just stopped,” LiWon stated matter-of-factly, but her eyes shown with sadness regardless; “We had no control over what happened to Grandma. I don’t want to lose another family member, not when I can prevent it unlike with Grandma. To do so would to disappoint her. To do so would mean a part of my life is incomplete.”
“You don’t even know me, your life is hardly incomplete,” Shiwon scoffed, crossing his arms loosely about his torso; Donghae couldn’t help but note that brother and sister had the same stance at that moment.
“But I have two brothers - not just one. It doesn’t matter if I don’t know you, all that matters is that for the past sixteen years I’ve had another brother out in that world and no one bothered to tell me; not even the brother I do have,” LiWon stated, an angry edge to her words. “I plan to rectify that.”
“You’re just upset because you’re the only one who didn’t know,” Shiwon reasoned, “It’ll pass and you and I will return to our normal lives. Pretending otherwise is just a waste of both of our time.”
“That’s not true!” She exclaimed, eyes narrowing slightly, “Grandma’s death made me realize how important family is and whether you like it or not, Choi Shiwon, you’re my family! No matter what my parents and my brother say; you’re my brother too!”
“You don’t know what you’re asking of me,” Shiwon stated, hoping the wobble in his voice was his imagination.
“I know very well what I’m asking! You came to Ulsan, came to my house looking for family. I know… I know this is delayed, but that’s what I am - I’m family! It may not be the parents who you were looking for, so I may be a sad replacement, but that doesn’t reject the fact that we’re family!” She exclaimed most passionately.
Shiwon blinked, not sure what to say. Everything she said was true and his heart disallowed him from arguing with her. However, his old fear was nagging at him from the back of his head. He didn’t want a sister because she could end up leaving him. He didn’t want to take the chance of losing family again.
“I’ve never heard someone use the world family so many times in one argument,” Donghae commented lightly as he descended the rest of the stairs and stood abreast with Shiwon, “I’m sure after all of that you’d be hungry hmm? Er… I’m sorry, you are?”
“Shim LiWon,” She prompted, surprised at the interruption and startled as such beautiful blue-green eyes;
“Well, Shim LiWon-sshi. I suggest you join my family and I for lunch - it’s my little sister’s birthday,” Donghae invited, his startling gaze sliding towards Shiwon at the mention of his own sister before turning back to Shiwon’s sister; “My aunt and younger brother have been working too hard this morning to have their food not eaten because we’ve tired ourselves out arguing in the corridor like this.”
“Donghae-” Shiwon began in a slightly warning tone,
“Please, come in,” Donghae insisted, “If you’ll lead us to the living room - which is this way - we can all get acquainted while waiting for the food.”
Unsure of what to do, LiWon simply stared at her brother for help. Instinctively, Shiwon merely nodded his silent advice. Nodding in her own silent reply, LiWon slipped off her shoes and then proceeded to the living room where Donghae had designated her.
“We’ll be there in a second,” Shiwon stated, a hand gripping Donghae’s arm. Once he heard a chorus of hello’s from Kangin and Eeteuk, Shiwon turned to the man next to him, “What the hell are you doing?”
“She’s your sister, you’re not really going to turn her away, are you?” Donghae asked, linking his fingers behind his own head as he gazed steadily at Shiwon,
“But what if… what if…” Shiwon tried, but he couldn’t say the words that would strip him bare and leave him vulnerable once more. With just Donghae, he wouldn’t hesitate, but not like this; not in the bright daylight with a house full of people.
“She won’t leave you,” Donghae insisted, his eyes sweeping over Shiwon’s face, trying to reassure him. Slowly, his lips curved into a lop-sided grin, “I read her mind, she’s completely serious and devoted to having you as her brother.”
Shiwon’s thick eyebrows narrowed, “You read her mind?” He hissed,
Donghae shrugged slightly, “A bit. Enough to ease my mind if not your own.” He shook off Shiwon’s hold as he headed to the living room.
“You’re not allowed to read my sister’s mind!” Shiwon whispered a warning after him,
Donghae looked back at him with a grin, “Ah-ha! Progress! You’re already calling her ‘your sister’!”
Shiwon grabbed his wrist and yanked him towards him until there was barely an inch between them. He stared into those startling blue-green eyes as he stated in a low and sultry voice, “You’re lucky I love you. Otherwise I might have to do something to you for invading my sister’s privacy like that.” Even as Donghae filled his thoughts, Shiwon couldn’t deny the easiness and warmth he felt at hearing the words ‘my sister’ roll off his tongue.
Donghae’s eyes gazed back at him brightly, “You’d never hurt me,” he said solemnly, steadily as his wrist slid from Shiwon’s hand until their fingers were laced; He leaned and barely brushed his lips against the other’s before releasing Shiwon’s hand and continuing to the living room. Before completely leaving the main corridor, he turned back to him as Shiwon began to follow him.
As Shiwon saw the light in those beautiful eyes and the small smile on that dear face, he confirmed the same feelings. Donghae would never hurt him as he would never hurt Donghae. Neither needed telepathy to know that.
(The Last Story of the Brotherhood)