(First story of Apathy; part of the Brotherhood series)
It seemed odd to him, that a new school year had begun. It seemed odd that time had seemingly passed so fast and yet the days seemed to drag on. It seemed odd to think that over a year ago his parents died in a car crash when he remembered it clearly like it was last night.
Kyuhyun blinked towards the passenger seat in the car. His eldest brother, Kangin was driving and his second oldest brother, Donghae, was sitting in the passenger seat twisted so that he could see him. Kyuhyun’s gaze locked with that of his brother’s eyes which never seemed to amaze him. He and his older brothers all shared blue eyes that they had inherited from their mother. Their sister’s eyes, at the tender age of thirteen-months, still resembled black pearls. However, what tied them together also varied amongst them. Donghae, for example, had the most beautiful eyes that shone like wet aquamarine gems. Kangin had eyes of the velvet night sky. Kyuhyun felt his eyes were the less spectacular. Sure, they were the palest out of all their eye colours, but other than that, his eyes were pretty normal.
“Kyuhyun…” Donghae repeated, raising curious eyebrows at his brother who still remained silent.
“Ah, sorry,” Kyuhyun replied as he broke their locked gazes to look out the car window, “What did you say?”
Hesitance. Kyuhyun knew the emotion well. It was what everyone, even his brothers, felt when they first approached him, talked to him. He barely registered the passing scenery as he pushed away the thought of how sad it was that he knew the emotion too well.
“I was asking if you were taking any upper-year courses against this year,” Donghae repeated, still turned in his seat watching his brother,
Impatience. Surely that was what he noted this time from his brother. He suppressed the want to sigh, knowing full well his brother’s annoyance was stemming from his lack of focus that day. He was always detached from situations, sitting on the sidelines. However, he usually kept some awareness of what was going on around him.
“Yes, fourth year this time,” Kyuhyun answered, “My professors from last semester practically demanded it of Aunt AhMae to allow me to register for fourth-year courses.”
Donghae nodded his understanding. Their aunt was chancellor at their university, S.M. University in Ulsan where she had moved them all after their parents’ deaths. Their aunt was their mother’s sister and possessed bright blue eyes identical to their mother’s.
“So I won’t have the pleasure of having you in one of my classes - again - this year?” Donghae asked with a slight grin.
Relief. Kyuhyun rolled his eyes. The previous year had been his first in university. It had been Donghae’s second year, but neither anticipated on having each other in the same class - twice - in one semester. His brother exuded relief, after all, no brother wants to find out he shares a class with his younger brother.
“You say it like it was his fault,” Kangin said, a light scold in his tone.
Wariness. The atmosphere within their car as they drove to school was tinged with it. Kyuhyun felt it often whenever his oldest brother took on his role as guardian for them and their little sister, YooMae. Kyuhyun felt guilty that his brother had to become a parent so early in life. However, whenever he realized that half the emotions he felt weren’t his own, he didn’t feel quite as guilty as before.
Kyuhyun turned his attention away as his brothers bickered lightly. Both were irritated on some level with the other, but neither were serious. He sighed heavily, he hated how he knew what they felt. It wasn’t because he didn’t care about his brothers, truly, he loved them quite a lot. However, there was a difference from knowing how they felt and truly knowing.
Kyuhyun reflected lightly on the fact that the moment each of them were born, they were endowed by another trait inherited from their mother’s family: psychic abilities. Their mother, who had perfect control of her own abilities, was blessed with telekinesis, telepathy and empathy. He and his brothers inherited one power each in that exact order, the power lying dormant until each had turned eighteen. Whether he was blessed with empathy as his mother was, remained to be seen.
His brothers had both learned to control their powers when they came into them, however, when their parents died - specifically their mother - all of their powers increased by at least tenfold. His older brothers, who had once controlled their powers as easily as their mother, were suddenly back at square one with him. He hated the chaos his powers brought to him and hated what his brothers had to go through because of their own powers. However, on some level he was happy because it meant they were equal.
His pale blue eyes slid towards his brothers as they finished their sad excuse for an argument. Unfortunately for him, within the first year after their parents died, Kangin and Donghae had both regained control of their powers. He, on the other hand, had still not tasted the sweetness of a moment’s worth of control.
Anticipation. He felt it again as surely as he did before when his brother had first asked him a question. Kyuhyun had opened the door to the car and stepped out into the cool, early-spring morning before he glanced at his brothers again, “Sorry?”
“You’re out of sorts this morning,” Kangin noted, worry causing his eyes to narrow slightly,
“Just wondering what Auntie wants to seem me for today,” Kyuhyun explained. When they had left their house a few minutes prior, a note had been taped to the front door from their aunt, requesting Kyuhyun’s attendance to her office the moment he had a chance that day.
“Maybe she’ll say you can graduate tomorrow,” Donghae mocked playfully.
Kyuhyun rolled his eyes as he slipped the strap of his satchel across a shoulder. His brother had become quite like his old self in the months after he regained his control over telepathy. Unfortunately, that meant endless teasing and non-stop chatter from the beautiful-eyed boy. As Kangin began to scold Donghae, Kyuhyun took this chance to slip away.
“It’s not that I’m not proud of you Kyuhyun, but fourth-year classes?” AhMae sat behind her desk in her long office, her hands folded atop the desk. “Isn’t that a bit much? A bit intense for a second-year?”
“It’s not like I asked for it,” Kyuhyun reminded lightly from his seat before the desk, arms crossed loosely over his stomach, “My professors demanded it,”
“I know they did,” She replied.
Annoyance. It practically radiated from his aunt. Thankfully, he knew it wasn’t directed towards him. Instead, it was directed towards his professors who had hounded her until she relented and allowed Kyuhyun to be placed in some fourth-year classes this year.
“But you didn’t have to take those classes,” AhMae reminded lightly, “You didn’t have to listen to your professors.”
Kyuhyun shrugged slightly, “This way makes less problems for everyone.”
“You mean for you,” AhMae raised a single eyebrow, “If you didn’t take those classes you’d felt your teachers emotions, perhaps they would even hold grudges.”
Kyuhyun shrugged once more, “Besides, I don’t want to be bored in class, so I might as well take higher-level classes.”
AhMae propped an elbow on her desk, her hand supporting her head as she leaned forward, “I’ve always wondered Kyuhyun, you’re so smart, why didn’t they ever try bumping you up a few grades when you were younger? It’s not like you’ve only been smart recently.”
Kyuhyun dropped his gaze slightly from his aunt’s, “I didn’t want Donghae to hate me… I still don‘t.”
“What?” AhMae gapped,
“Whenever my parents told me that my teacher wanted me to move ahead a grade or two, I would always decline. My reasoning for doing so is because I didn’t want Donghae to hate me,” Kyuhyun repeated, “In his own rights, Donghae is smart, I just happen to be… to be… more so… Well, I didn’t like the fact that if I skipped grade levels I would be in his class or in a higher class… I didn’t want Donghae to come to resent me because I was his younger brother and I was already at his level or… or surpassed his.”
“He wouldn’t have hated you,” AhMae insisted,
“You don’t know that… anything could’ve happened, anything could’ve changed his perception of me had I agreed every time my parents approached me,” Kyuhyun replied, “I didn’t want to take that chance, so I always just remained where I was. Even having two classes together first semester last year was a trial on hyung…”
“Then why the fourth-year classes? You certainly won’t be in any of Donghae’s classes, but now you’re on a level higher than he is,” AhMae pointed out,
“I thought about that too… but since he’s regained control over his powers, he’s slowly becoming like his old self, before Mom and Dad died,” Kyuhyun stated, the ghost of a smile on his lips, “Besides, it’s only two classes I have that are fourth-year, and at least he doesn’t have to walk into a class room and see me there.” He shook his head slightly as he stood from his chair, “Well, I better go. My lunch break is almost finished.”
AhMae said nothing, merely watching as her youngest nephew left. She sighed heavily once the door closed after him. Burying her face in her hands she silently prayed, “I hope you can go back to your old self as well, Kyuhyun.”
It was June, just after midterms had concluded for the first semester. Kangin and Donghae were waiting at the east gates for Kyuhyun as they always did so they could head out to their car together. Kangin glanced at his watch for the third time, Kyuhyun was a few minutes late and he was never late. Donghae raised a hand to make a visor over his eyes against the hot summer sun. He looked around the area when his gaze stopped at a cluster of trees that seemed to divide two campus buildings.
“Hey, isn’t that Kyuhyun?” Donghae nudged his brother, “And with a girl!”
Kangin immediately spun around. He squinted to where Donghae pointed, “It looks like Kyuhyun… that girl’s a grad student!”
Donghae lowered his hand as he turned towards his brother, “Are you kidding me?”
Kangin shook his head, “No, I definitely recognize her from one of Eeteuk’s classes,” he replied, referring to his boyfriend and captain-turned-assistant coach of the archery team.
“I’m pretty sure Kyuhyun’s officially hit every level at S.M. U. now with the confessions,” Donghae nodded as he laced his fingers behind his head, “That can be the only reason that girl’s talking to him.”
Kangin rolled his eyes, “Kyuhyun hit every level within the first month of last year.”
Donghae could only nod. Out of the three of them, Kyuhyun was always regarded as the most handsome and neither of them denied it. Kangin was good-looking in the manly sense and Donghae had boyish good looks. Kyuhyun, however, seemed to have a hybrid of the two making him seem manly and adorable at the same time; mix that with his rare, pale blue eyes and it became a dangerous combination for the hearts of many.
“Wait for it…” Donghae noted as they subtly watched the two. As if on cue, the girl turned and seemed to run away as Kyuhyun merely turned towards their direction and approached them.
Upon nearing his brothers, Kyuhyun felt the anticipation immediately. He rolled his eyes, “This isn’t the first time, so must I always say what happened?”
“Well if you’re so sick of relaying the events to us, I could always pick around in your mind,” Donghae offered with a lop-sided grin as the three turned and headed out the gate towards the parking lot where their car was located.
“Well it never changes. Girl-”
“Or boy-” Donghae interjected,
Kyuhyun rolled his eyes once more, “Yes, girl or boy confesses and I turn them down.”
“That’s a light way of putting it,” Kangin replied, “More like you give them the cut-direct, throwing their confessions back at them.”
“I hardly do that,” Kyuhyun defended, a slight anger edge to his voice, “I merely tell them that I’m not interested and that they should go find someone who reciprocates their feelings.”
“What about that one girl last month… what did you say?” Kangin asked, trying to remember in earnest,
“I believe what he said was ‘I could never be with someone like you. You could never make me happy. Now please kindly remove your hand from my arm before I remove it for you’,” Donghae recited, “Or something like that.”
“Stay out of my mind,” Kyuhyun said in a low growl.
“I was never in it,” Donghae replied easily, “My memory is just that good, and you know it.”
Kyuhyun sighed, he did know it which meant he couldn’t argue or get upset. Sometimes, however, his brothers’ teasing annoyed him, especially when it occurred after he had to turn someone down. After each confession he was always left with a bitter taste in his mouth and a heaviness in his heart that he didn’t know if he could call his own. With his abilities to perceive others’ emotions, those emotions absorbed Kyuhyun to the point where he wasn’t sure if they were his own or not. That’s why he hated confessions and the more that they occurred, the faster he ended the confrontations.
“Why don’t you ever give someone a chance?” Kangin asked lightly as they approached their car,
“Because the last thing I need is someone pining after me when I feel nothing towards them. I don’t need someone fussing over me, getting jealous and petty… I don’t need all those feelings associated with relationships,” Kyuhyun replied matter-of-factly,
Kangin and Donghae merely glanced at one another as they walked to opposite doors of the car. They understood quite well why Kyuhyun felt that all relationships revolved around such vicious cycles. As a senior high school student, Kyuhyun had a steady girlfriend. She was quiet but nice and fairly smart. She was the type of girl one brought home to their parents, which was what Kyuhyun did. However, despite having a girlfriend, Kyuhyun was still popular and still got confessions. It wasn’t until after Kyuhyun turned eighteen that he understood the toll it took on his girlfriend. Suddenly, he felt that the girl he knew was turning into something completely different. He broke it off immediately - to spare her or himself, neither Kangin or Donghae knew - and never entered another relationship since.
“If you must know,” Kyuhyun said as he climbed into the back seat and shut the door after himself, “I was quite nice this time. I simply told her, sorry but no.”
“The way she ran off… it seems like you said more than that,” Kangin said, traces of a scold in his tone. He had become accustomed to taking the parent role with his brothers when needed.
“Perhaps I mentioned that five years older isn’t to my liking,” Kyuhyun said, almost flippantly as he turned his gaze out the car window, “I’m not going to be dishonest. I hate it when people are dishonest about their feelings, especially since I know otherwise.”
“Hey! I recall a conversation when you said I was being selfish about the same thing!” Donghae exclaimed from the front, twisting in his seat to glare at his brother,
“No, what I said was that you were selfish for demanding they tell you everything they’re thinking. I’m merely demanding it of myself to be honest about my feelings, since others rarely are. I might as well not become the hypocrite and hide my emotions like those whom I’ve come to avoid in life,” Kyuhyun stated,
“But… Kyuhyun, everyone hides their emotions once in awhile: to save face, protect someone’s feelings, perhaps even to protect themselves. You say you’ve come to avoid people who hide their emotions, but everyone does that, save yourself,” Donghae stated tentatively,
“Exactly,” Kyuhyun replied simply, his tone flat.
A few days later, Kyuhyun was in the kitchen making dinner. At some point during their first year in Ulsan, he had taken over the cooking duties that usually his aunt had done. Usually she would come to their house for dinner and cook for them. However, Kyuhyun felt something almost therapeutic in cooking. The precision of ingredients, the motions of mixing, even observing things cook would absorb Kyuhyun. It was the first time he felt something like this that wasn’t math. Numbers had no emotions and Kyuhyun began to relish in them after his eighteen birthday. Cooking, he realized, was math but with food and he could move his entire body, further distracting himself from the outside world.
He was pouring the contents of his wok into a serving bowl when the door from the dining room swung open and Kangin’s boyfriend, Eeteuk entered carrying little YooMae.
“Are there any band-aids here?” Eeteuk asked,
“What happened?’ Kyuhyun asked as he put down his things, turned off the stove and went over to a drawer, extracting a band-aid and handing it to Eeteuk.
“Kangin was playing with YooMae, and you know how lately she likes to be flown around the room?” Eeteuk asked as he sat YooMae on the kitchen counter so he could peal the band-aid, “Well, she went a little too high this time and bumped her head on the ceiling.”
Kyuhyun blinked as he noticed then the slight red scratch on his sister’s forehead, “Where’s Kangin?”
“Probably crying in the basement,” Eeteuk said coldly, “I warned him and he wouldn’t listen.” He moved to pick up YooMae again but she stretched out her hands for Kyuhyun, “Ah, I’ve been replaced.”
Kyuhyun softly laughed as he picked up YooMae, “I am her favourite.”
“It seems like she’s your favourite too,” Eeteuk stated, “You smile the most around her.”
“She’s too little to be conniving with her emotions,” Kyuhyun shrugged. He had long since grown accustomed to people outside their family knowing about their abilities. Fortunately for his comfort, those people didn’t go beyond Eeteuk and Donghae’s significant other, Shiwon.
“Not everyone is conniving just because they hide their feelings,” Eeteuk said, crossing his arms lightly over his torso,
Kyuhyun blinked before he rushed to explain, “I didn’t mean anything by it-”
“I know Kyuhyun,” Eeteuk gave him another smile, the left corner of his mouth dimpling, “I was merely stating a fact.” He sighed, “I better go check on your brother before he gets too upset with himself.”
Kyuhyun laughed lightly as they both walked through the second door in the kitchen that led to the house’s main corridor, “Well, that’s what he gets for being careless.” The doorbell rang and Kyuhyun went to answer it, instinctively shifting his sister to his hip. He opened the door and there stood a young man on the doorstep, “May I help you?”
“This… this is the Ju residence right? Where the nephews of Chancellor Park live?” The young man asked,
Eeteuk returned to Kyuhyun’s side, recognizing the voice immediately, “Sungmin-sshi!” His eyes narrowed suspiciously, “I told you once, I’ll tell you again-”
“No, no, no Eeteuk-sshi!” The young man, apparently named Sungmin, exclaimed, “I’m here to talk to Ju Kyuhyun.”
Kyuhyun blinked, perplexed, “Me?”
“Yes, you see, I was under the impression that you’re ridiculously smart and… and I would really appreciate it if you would be my tutor,” Sungmin stated, his fox-like eyes filling with lights of hope.
Kyuhyun glanced at Eeteuk, “Eeteuk?”
Eeteuk glanced at Sungmin then back at Kyuhyun. Arms still crossed lightly, he shrugged, “It‘s your decision and I‘m hardly in the place to advise you just because Kangin‘s off sulking.”
“Well we were just discussing about people a moment ago,” Kyuhyun glanced at him, a teasing light in his pale blue eyes, “But if it’s my decision,” he turned to Sungmin, “I’m honoured for the request, but I’ll have to decline,” he moved to close the door.
Sungmin slammed a palm on the door, stopping him, “Please!” Sungmin exclaimed. Both Eeteuk and Kyuhyun watched with widened eyes as the young man slowly lowered himself to a full bow on the doorstep, “I’m begging you… please.”
“You may not be my brother,” Kyuhyun said lightly to Eeteuk, “But I hardly know how to respond to this.”
Eeteuk rolled his eyes, “Sungmin-sshi, get up and come in.”
“Does that mean-”
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Eeteuk stated as he and Kyuhyun moved aside for the other man to enter the house, “But making a scene is hardly the answer. So come in so you can ask Kyuhyun properly.”
Sungmin nodded as the door closed before him. He was silent as Eeteuk and Kyuhyun led him to the living room where a cartoon show was playing on the television. Kyuhyun sat on the couch opposite the television set, his sister squirming out of his arms and sitting beside him to watch her show. Eeteuk gestured for Sungmin to sit on the smaller, adjacent couch, which he did so.
Standing almost sentry to Kyuhyun as a proxy, Eeteuk stared at Sungmin, “I think this is when you explain why you’re resorting to begging - no, begging on the doorstep - just to have Kyuhyun tutor you.”
“I… I heard he’s brilliant,” Sungmin stammered, “And I really need a tutor.”
“There are other smart students walking around S.M. U.” Kyuhyun stated, “Why me?”
“You were recommended to me,” Sungmin admitted,
Kyuhyun slanted an eye at him, “My aunt, right?” Sungmin nodded vigorously, “But there’s still others-”
“Please, I’ve already begged, don’t send me to someone else,” Sungmin stated,
“Don’t want to beg again?” Eeteuk teased with a slight grin,
“Kyuhyun’s the best, or so I’ve heard. I wouldn’t beg to anyone less than that,” Sungmin said.
Kyuhyun watched the other man for a moment. Since the moment he opened the door, Sungmin’s passionate emotions had been almost palpable to Kyuhyun. However, he didn’t need to name or identify those emotions simply because they were written all over the other’s face. Without the other person vocalizing their every emotion, this was the closest Kyuhyun’s ever felt to complete honesty of feelings. He seemed drawn to it and yet…
“Why should I tutor you?” Kyuhyun asked simply,
“I got back my marks from midterms and I’ve done fairly well in all my classes save one,” Sungmin replied, “But I need to get at least 70 percent in that class.”
“Why?” Kyuhyun asked, noting the acute anxiety on the other’s face,
“Sungmin-sshi is captain of the tae kwon do team,” Eeteuk answered, “Both being captains, we know one another. As a sportsman, he is required - by school law - to have an average of 70 percent. Otherwise, he won‘t be able to compete.”
“If it’s just an average, then surely your other classes could pull your average up?” Kyuhyun suggested,
“I can’t get even above a fifty in the class,” Sungmin shook his head, “You see, this is the second time I’ve taken this class. The first time was in my first year at S.M. U. and because I failed it then I wasn’t able to compete in nationals as I could have… I don’t want that to be the case this time. This is my final year and I want to be able to compete in nationals when it comes in September.”
Kyuhyun glanced up at Eeteuk. Eeteuk caught his gaze and shrugged slightly, “It’s a very legitimate case, and it is true. Sungmin was targeted from the moment he entered the school’s team to be the next captain. He wasn’t able to compete that first year, but when second year came around, he was chosen to be captain nonetheless. S.M. U. is internationally known for its tae kwon do team, so it would be beneficial to have their captain be at nationals.”
“Are you defending me, Eeteuk-sshi?” Sungmin grinned, his fox-like eyes displaying a tinge of happiness for the first time since Kyuhyun first opened the door.
“Well, that’s the most you’ll get from me,” Eeteuk scoffed just as Kangin entered the living room.
Kyuhyun sighed, “I’ll think about it.”
“Thank you, thank you so much,” Sungmin grinned at him as he stood from his seat and bowed at the younger man, “You have no idea how big of a favour you’d be doing for me.” He bowed at Eeteuk, “I’ll leave you alone before Eeteuk throws me out himself.” With a brief glance at Kangin, Sungmin left swiftly.
“What was the tae kwon do team’s captain doing here?” Kangin asked as he came and sat on the other side of YooMae,
“He wants me to tutor him,” Kyuhyun explained then added tentatively, “Um… He was pretty nervous when he saw you, hyung.”
Kangin blinked, “Me? But I’ve never even talked to the guy since we first came to S.M. U.”
“Not even once? But… every school wanted you for their tae kwon do team,” Kyuhyun stated, “Even after you quit six years ago… heck, even after you’ve proven yourself as an archer at nationals last fall, we still get calls for you.”
“Yup, from everyone but our own school’s team,” Kangin said with a slight shrug.
Kyuhyun turned knowing eyes to Eeteuk who had grown silent over the course of his conversation with his brother, “Eeteuk-sshi… I thought you didn’t like Sungmin from the way you addressed him at first. But the way Sungmin teased you just now makes me believe otherwise.”
“I wanted Kangin for the archery team. I was hardly going to allow that fox take him away so I warned him not to even think of talking to Kangin about the tae kwon do team,” Eeteuk said defensively, his arms tightening over his chest,
Kyuhyun felt mischievousness lying beneath the surface of Eeteuk’s obvious hostility. So, he prompted, “How did you warn him?”
“That I could hit a bull’s eye from 90 metres away, which means I could get him before he even realized I was there,” Eeteuk replied.
For the first time since their parents died, Kangin heard the most hearty and melodic sound as his youngest brother let out a full, true laugh. His brother always looked best when he smiled, always looked handsomest when he laughed. However, this first time to see him laugh with such passion after so long, Kangin was reminded of the little brother who was once so friendly and quick to smile. He realized then how much he missed that brother, how much he regretted that Kyuhyun had turned into the young man who was exclusive and seemingly apathetic to everyone. For what seemed the millionth time since their parents’ death, Kangin prayed that his beloved little brother would return.
The next day when he had a lunch break, Kyuhyun headed across campus to the main campus building where all of the administrative offices were located, his aunt’s included. He made the familiar trek to his aunt’s office, greeting the secretary as always and getting the go-ahead from her. He entered the office and stalled for a moment when he saw that Donghae was there. He continued on, closing the door behind him.
“I want to talk to you,” Kyuhyun stated, standing before the desk instead of sitting in the empty chair beside Donghae’s. He turned slightly narrowed eyes towards his aunt, arms crossed over his chest, “Why would you send someone to me to be tutored? You know I want nothing more than to be left alone, Auntie.”
“I told her to do it,” Donghae said, twisting in his chair to look at his brother directly, “I came to visit Auntie after Lee Sungmin came to figure out a solution so he could go to nationals. She suggested tutoring and he obliged, but I’m the one who told her to send him to you.”
Kyuhyun’s eyes narrowed further, to the point where barely any of his pale blue was visible. Donghae stood up, lacing his fingers behind his head, “Walk with me to the library,” He said as he headed out of the office. After a few steps, he paused and looked over his shoulder at his brother, “I’ll let you hit me if you let me explain myself first.”
Sincerity. Usually if someone offered such a deal, they were hiding something or up to something. However, Kyuhyun didn’t sense any thing underhanded; he never did when it came to his family. He sighed heavily, he couldn’t deny his brother was being sincere about his offer. So, he relented and quietly followed his brother out.
When they stepped out onto the open campus, they were embraced immediately by a warm summer breeze that was just a few degrees cooler than the outdoors were. They began their walk across campus and Kyuhyun immediately felt curiosity and admiration as he and his brother walked amongst the other students on campus. It was the usual emotions he felt whenever walking on campus and he learned to almost ignore it all. Almost.
“I’m anxious to hit you hyung, so I would rather you speak sooner than later,” Kyuhyun grounded out,
“When you put it like that, I’d rather put it off for longer,” Donghae threw him a lop-sided grin before looking ahead of them once more, “But since I did catch you off guard, I’ll concede this time. Kyuhyun, you helped me last fall and I plan to help you now.”
“Explain how ‘helping me’ includes throwing a stranger my way when that person would have to be with me several hours a week? You know how much I hate being around people with my empathy the way it is,” Kyuhyun practically hissed.
Donghae gave him a side-long glance. Kyuhyun was good-looking, that was without a doubt. Even when he was as angry as he was at that moment, he was handsome. The only difference between when he was angry and when he was not was that the anger gave him an edge. When he was angry as he glared at him now, Kyuhyun’s handsomeness gained a darker edge, a dangerous edge; indeed, hearts were never safe around his younger brother.
“Ever since two birthdays ago, you’ve withdrawn into your own world. You used to be so kind and sensitive and that’s why everyone thought you so friendly. You used to smile easily and laugh so much,” Donghae said wistfully, “Now you avoid people, heck, the way you reject people is so cold that I wonder how you still receive so many confessions. You smile rarely and when you laugh it seems a bit hollow-”
“Your perception of me shows a lot of love,” Kyuhyun stated dryly,
“That! That is what I’m talking about!” Donghae stated, his hands dropping from his head; “Your tone is always so flat, so dry, damn it Kyuhyun, now that I can control my ability I never know what your thinking anymore.”
“I could say the same thing about you last September,” Kyuhyun bit out,
“I know, damn it!” Donghae hadn’t meant his words to come out like a low growl. He sighed heavily as a silence slowly fell upon them.
Frustration. Kyuhyun pinpointed the emotion immediately but said nothing, after all, he was allowed to be upset, not Donghae. He tightened his arms around his torso as they continued on towards the library that stood a remarkable ten floors high. As they continued, Kyuhyun could feel frustration dissipating, but he knew without a doubt that that portion of frustration was all of Donghae’s and none of his own.
When they entered the library, they headed towards the elevators and managed to get into a lift on their own. As the doors slid close, Donghae broke the silence, his frustration long gone.
“I know I was very much like how I just described you, Kyu…” He began, purposefully using the diminutive he and Kangin had used as children; “I have no illusions to how I became, but you made me realize that. You brought me back and now it’s my turn to do the same,” Donghae said as he raised his arms, entwining his fingers behind his own head once more; “Not only did you bring me back, Kyu… but I think you were the reason I gained control over my telepathy.”
“What do you mean?” Kyuhyun asked, his tone holding a slight annoyed edge,
“When you and I talked in the cemetery last fall, at some point during that conversation I gained control again. I’ve thought it over and I thought about the circumstances in which Kangin and I got back our control. For hyung, he regained it when YooMae was about to fall. When he lost control of his telekinesis he wouldn’t go near YooMae because he was scared he’d hurt her with his powers. However, in the end it was his powers that protected her. For me, I resented my powers and often thought they were a curse… but because of you - you, Kyu - I was able to accept them,” Donghae explained thoughtfully as the elevator slowly rose through the shaft; “Having regained control over my telepathy, I can’t begin to repay you Kyu. So, the only way I know how is to do for you what you did for me.”
Sincerity; there it was again. Kyuhyun could never remember a time when he didn’t feel sincerity when around this brother. He knew that Donghae had always struggled with people being honest with him and thus, Donghae had always tried to be completely honest himself. But there was more in the elevator air as his brother spoke.
Appreciation. That was definitely an emotion Kyuhyun wasn’t accustomed to and, if he were to be completely honest with himself, it took him longer than usual to identify it. It was a peculiar emotion that warmed a person. It certainly warmed Kyuhyun and the acknowledgement of it humbled him.
Lastly, there was a definite bolt of something even more warmer in the elevator. It stung like a tongue of fire but instead of burning, it embraced, it blanketed and protected. Kyuhyun felt the hot sting of tears when he realized what the palpable emotion was: love.
The elevator doors slid open and Kyuhyun instinctively followed Donghae out. Immediately a tall, young man approached. He dimpled in both cheeks when he smiled in greeting at both of them and there it was again, love. Kyuhyun always imagined his brother to end up with a small, cute girl. For some reason, his brother found love with man and yet, it seemed even more right than his previous predictions. For months Kyuhyun had seen his brother go through turmoil because of his telepathy and now that he was with this man, this Choi Shiwon, he knew that his brother would be protected.
As Donghae and Shiwon turned to leave to head off and study, Donghae paused and turned back to his brother. He said nothing, but tilted his head in a silent gesture. Kyuhyun turned his back on his brother so that Donghae wouldn’t see the tears he could no longer fight back. He felt his brother’s emotions drop, felt the poignant emotions as if they were his own; perhaps, on some level, they were.
“I might not be able to meet you and Kangin anymore after classes… it seems I’m to become a tutor,” Kyuhyun said simply then slid into the elevator the moment the doors reopened. When the doors slid close, he practically collapsed against the elevator wall and let out a sigh of relief. His eyelids slid shut just moments before thick tears trickled down the sides of his face.
A whirlwind. That was the only explanation Kyuhyun could give every time he met up with Sungmin for their tutoring sessions. It seemed he was the person for the job because the class that Sungmin could not pass was calculus. Math had always made sense to Kyuhyun, which was why he took fourth-year calculus and physics. They met in the library three times a week and for two hours, Kyuhyun would teach Sungmin calculus.
What he felt as a whirlwind whenever he was with Sungmin was the emotions. Never before had Kyuhyun been around someone or met someone who was practically bursting with a hundred emotions at once. Sungmin could feel anxious, excited and sad all at once. After Kyuhyun would explain something to Sungmin and the latter would become silent as he worked out a problem, Kyuhyun would often take that silent period to rest. Being around someone with so much emotion was tiring for Kyuhyun. What didn’t help was the fact that Sungmin was passionate. No matter what the older man felt, it was always so strong and vivid that it knocked into Kyuhyun like large chunks of hail.
The only thing that stopped Kyuhyun from murdering Sungmin was two facts. The first was that Sungmin was captain of the tae kwon do team and was even being scouted for the Olympic team. The second was that despite all his swirling emotions, Sungmin displayed it all in his facial expressions.
Kyuhyun thought this all during a silent period in their tutoring session one early July afternoon, just a few days before finals began for that semester. He sat perpendicular to Sungmin, leaning back in his chair with his arms loosely crossed about his torso. He leisurely watched Sungmin as the older man hunched over his notebook, scribbling down numbers and every once in awhile glancing at the problem at hand.
Confusion. This emotion showed up at least once every session, but it had been appearing less and less as June had turned into July. As if on cue, Sungmin’s eyes narrowed as he brought the clip on his mechanical pencil to his lips and bit down on the piece of metal. It was a gesture Kyuhyun had come to recognize as something Sungmin did whenever he was confused over a problem.
Realization. It followed the confusion and began to appear more quickly as time wore on. Kyuhyun could practically predict the exact moment when Sungmin would show his comprehension. The corners of his lips tugged in a slight smile as Sungmin pulled away his pencil and began to write again.
Kyuhyun had noticed these little habits on their third session together almost for weeks ago. Even without his empathy, Kyuhyun was pretty sure he’d know what Sungmin was feeling because of these small gestures. But it wasn’t just that, he saw it in his fox-like eyes. He saw when they dimmed or lit up with his feelings. He saw it in the slight curve of his lips if they were slightly turned down or curved in a big smile. Kyuhyun had never experience such exhaustion and reprieve at the same time. Sungmin was both a whirlwind and a relief to him.
“Am I doing something wrong?” Sungmin asked abruptly as he sat up straight and stared at Kyuhyun.
Kyuhyun blinked before replying slowly, “No… Why?”
“Because you’re concentrating pretty hard on me,” Sungmin said simply,
Sungmin tilted his head slightly as he regarded the younger man, “Well, I guess you could call it instinct. For the past… fifteen minutes or so I instinctively felt you watching me.” When Kyuhyun said nothing, Sungmin blinked, his expression dropping slightly, “Or… perhaps you weren’t… I could be… that is… I’m sorry and just forget what I said,” he stammered before throwing his gaze back down to his notebook.
Kyuhyun barely stopped his own laughter before it managed to bubble out from his lips. He covered his mouth with a hand but laughed anyway. When Sungmin threw him an accusatory glare, he calmed slightly, explaining himself, “You were so confident and then suddenly it all changed into apprehension and embarrassment. Your emotions changed so rapidly that I could barely keep up!”
Kyuhyun was sobered immediately and struggled for an answer, “Your face, I mean. Your face says all of your emotions and… and just seeing them play over your face was amusing,” And when Sungmin said nothing, he added; “Sorry.”
Sungmin shook his head, “No, it’s okay. I’ve always been told I can’t hide my emotions. My coach often scolds me because if I display my emotions so easily my opponents will be able to defeat me easily.”
“So what do you do during a match?” Kyuhyun asked, truly curious to know how someone with such passion learned to curb it.
Sungmin gave him a brilliant smile, “Nothing. I just stay the same and let my opponents read me. Why change who I am just to beat someone else? Instead, I’d rather become stronger so that I don’t have to change the way I am.”
“But… how can you be like that all the time?” Kyuhyun asked, acknowledging his constant exhaustion whenever they were together,
“Like what? Physically emotional all the time?” Sungmin prompted with a slight laugh,
“No, no. That I can understand; it’s almost instinctive for you to react with your emotions. I mean… how can you be so… passionate all the time?” Kyuhyun asked. When Sungmin blinked at his odd wording, Kyuhyun felt a blush heat his cheeks and he scrambled for a better explanation, “By passionate I mean… your emotions are never half-measures. They’re always all or nothing; they’re always so powerful, so vivid. Isn’t it exhausting to always feel so much?”
Sungmin narrowed his eyes in thought, “Hmm… I never really thought about it that way. I guess you could say I really enjoy life? Yes, that’s really all I could say about it: I enjoy life. So much that I don’t hold back with my emotions. If I’m going to be angry, I’ll be down right angry. If I’m going to be confused, I’ll have fun with it and get lost in my own confusion.”
“I guess it could get exhausting,” He relented after working on the problem for another few minutes. He continued talking as he kept working, “But the way I see it, so many great things happen in life that they should be expressed, almost as if… as if our emotions to life is what honours life. So, the way I feel about things - passionate, as you said - is how I honour and respect what happens in life.”
“Even when not-so-great things happen in life?” Kyuhyun prompted casually, pushing away his own thoughts about a specific not-so-great event that happened a month after his eighteenth birthday.
“Well, when I say great things, I mean powerful, really. Great things can be happy or sad,” Sungmin explained as he looked up at Kyuhyun, “If a family member dies, for example, the only way I know how to honour their death is by being sad; by displaying my sadness. I won’t be sad forever, but at that moment all I want to do is be sad.”
Kyuhyun said nothing. What could he say? Sungmin had just described a situation that hit the bull’s eye. When his parents died, Kyuhyun was beyond sad, he was devastated. What was worse, however, was that he felt everyone else’s sadness. He felt Aunt AhMae’s guilt, Kangin’s disorientation, Donghae’s abandonment… he had felt all of those emotions surround him, soak into him until they practically became his own.
However, what Sungmin had said was true: he hadn’t been sad forever. Unfortunately, the memory of those feelings remained with Kyuhyun; they mixed in with his own sadness whenever he remembered his parents or when the one-year anniversary came that previous March along with the first birthday of YooMae who was also in that fateful car crash.
A throat clearing itself broke the silence that had suddenly blanketed the pair. Kyuhyun glanced up as a young girl approached them tentatively from between the aisles of books. Hands clasped before her she approached Kyuhyun, “Um… Ju Kyuhyun?” She began in a soft, hesitant voice.
Kyuhyun nodded curtly once.
“I was… that is… if you don’t mind, can… can I have a private word with you?” She practically stuttered her words and Kyuhyun could tell she was struggling not to shake with anxiety.
Kyuhyun stopped himself from rolling his eyes. Whenever girls like this one (or the occasional male) he always felt the same combination of emotions: anxiety, anticipation, hope and infatuation. Those made a tricky combination to begin with and Kyuhyun had come to loathe such a hybrid. However, he slowly stood up and followed the girl a few steps away until they were out of earshot of Sungmin.
Before she could even open her mouth, Kyuhyun began in a brisk and matter-of-fact tone, “I know what you’re going to say. I’m pretty sure anyone who saw you come up to me knows what you’re going to say. You’re going to say what many others have said in the past. Some are more flowery than others, some more blunt and they all boil down to this: I like you, go out with me.”
Kyuhyun crossed his arms loosely across his stomach as he continued, “So, before you waste your time expressing those same intentions, let me save you the trouble. I’m not interested so please, find someone else.”
Her eyes filled with tears as many others had, “You’re a lot meaner than before,” She managed, clenching her hands together now.
“Oh?” Kyuhyun replied easily,
“I confessed to you two springs ago,” She admitted, her tone both bitter and tentative at the same time.
“As did a lot of people. I’m hardly going to remember every single person that confesses to me,” Kyuhyun drawled, this time unable to stop himself from rolling his eyes. Being confessed to was supposed to make a person flattered. He, however, felt nothing but exasperation.
The tears now flowed freely as she released her hands, but kept them fisted at her sides, “I don’t even know why I convinced myself to confess a second time!” She exclaimed angrily, “It seems a pretty face isn’t all there is to a person after all!”
“Then explain to me why I should give you a chance when - in the end - all that I really am to you is a pretty face?” Kyuhyun countered, his pale blue eyes narrowing at the girl,
“That’s because we haven’t gotten to know each other yet,” She replied, startled at his defence, “We could… we could be friends first.”
“Sorry but no,” Kyuhyun said briskly, “What would happen is we’d both enter this so-called friendship just to ‘get to know’ one another. Through it all, however, the feelings I never had for you would remain as thus while you continued to hold onto the hope that maybe - just maybe - our friendship would develop into something more.” His stare hardened just a fraction, “Ours would be a friendship that would remain platonic. Still like to be just my friend?”
Unable to reply now with tears streaming down her heart-shaped face and body slightly shaking, the girl turned on her heel and made a mad dash to escape him. Kyuhyun waited until she was out of his view before he took a deep steadying breath and turned back towards the table where he and Sungmin had been working. He was startled to see that Sungmin was staring at him.
Kyuhyun blinked, “Yes?” He asked as he plopped back down into his chair,
Shock. Kyuhyun mentally cursed as he identified the emotion that wrapped Sungmin completely. He and that girl had been a few metres away, surely he couldn’t have-
“You two were talking quite loud,” Sungmin explained quietly as he looked down at his notebook even though, Kyuhyun saw, that he was finished it; “And it’s none of my business but…”
Anger. Definitely anger.
“You shouldn’t treat people like that!” Sungmin exclaimed, those fox-like eyes narrowed and lit with his burning emotions; “You didn’t even give that girl a chance to just be your friend! You cut her off immediately without any regard for her feelings!” Sungmin gripped his mechanical pencil until Kyuhyun half-expected the plastic to snap in half; “When I first met you I thought you were a pretty odd person. You were expressionless quite often and silent even more so. I always thought that underneath that schooled expression that you were actually a pretty cool guy; that you were just the silent type.”
Kyuhyun was silenced by that angry glare more so than the emotion he felt flowing around him. He couldn’t defend himself, not without being dishonest. However, he felt the need to say something which surprised him even more. He had never felt the need to justify his actions, he had never wanted to give explanations to why he was so apathetic. The only people who truly mattered were his brothers and they already understood him. To everyone else, what was he to say? That the only way he could stay sane was to become apathetic to others? That their deceptions with regarding their emotions was so despicable to himself that he had learned over the past year to just stop caring?
“I… I don’t know what to tell you,” Kyuhyun finally managed.
“Well I’ll tell you what I think. I think I was completely wrong and that you are nothing more than a rude, nasty person who’s only concern is himself,” Sungmin stated firmly, his words lace in bitterness and anger, “And now I see that you were the silent type because you truly had nothing good to say to anyone. Why I never saw this sooner I don’t know why,” Sungmin practically spat as he jumped from his chair, slamming his notebook and textbook close. He was stuffing his things into his bags with strong movements of his arms as he added, “But I refuse to remain here while knowing who you truly are Ju Kyuhyun. I appreciate the help you’ve given me, but this will be our last session. I’ll send you the money for this session and that will be the last of our association.”
Sungmin slung his backpack over a shoulder and turned to leave. He made it three steps before Kyuhyun grabbed a forearm and pulled him to stop. Sungmin whirled towards him, “What do you want? Why can’t you let me leave? Are you even more worse than I just discovered!?”
“You’re not just angry at me,” Kyuhyun stated,
“What?” Sungmin’s strong front faltered as those pale blue eyes swept over him, as if reading his face as surely he was doing. “What do you mean?”
“You’re scared,” Kyuhyun replied, “What you just witnessed… it scared you-”
“Of course it did,” Sungmin yanked his arm free, “Someone I thought I knew after a month turned out to be someone completely different! How else am I supposed to feel!?”
When Kyuhyun said nothing, Sungmin took that as his cue to leave. He turned to leave, but this time, he practically ran away. He made it to the elevators before he realized he had been followed. He practically lunged towards the buttons when a familiar hand covered them both. Sungmin turned a hardened glare at the younger man,
“I don’t like using violence when it’s unwarranted, but I assure you, Ju Kyuhyun that you’re warranting it right now,” Sungmin threatened, his voice a low growl,
“You’re infatuated with me.”
It was a statement rather than a question. It startled Sungmin all the same and soon confusion swirled amongst the emotions that enveloped the young man.
“You’re infatuated with me and when you saw what happened with that girl, you got scared that I’d do the same to you, if I ever found out,” Kyuhyun said, his voice quiet and hesitant as if he were putting puzzle pieces together.
He didn’t know how long that emotion had hung between them, but the moment he acknowledged it, Kyuhyun realized it had been there for some time. It was different from Sungmin’s other emotions, however. It wasn’t unleashed and vivid. Instead, it was hidden beneath the other emotions, as if guarded by the usually emotionally-open man.
Sungmin stepped back just as the elevator doors opened, “I… I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Please,” Kyuhyun said, placing a foot where the doors would come together, activating the elevator’s sensors and stopping the doors; “Don’t start lying about your feelings now.”
“Don’t tell me you’re arrogant too!?” Sungmin exclaimed, gripping the strap of his backpack tightly until his knuckles whitened.
“I’m not… I know because… because I know,” Kyuhyun explained hesitantly.
“How? Are you psychic or something?” Sungmin retorted, angry that his only hidden emotion had been so perfectly read by the younger man.
Kyuhyun blinked, as if being pulled back to reality, as if realizing what had just happened, what he just said and what Sungmin had just described him as.
Expectance. Sungmin was waiting for an answer and was probably waiting for an ‘of course not’. However, Kyuhyun couldn’t answer in that normal way simply because he wasn’t normal. He could lie and keep his secret and yet, he didn’t want to lie to Sungmin, just as he didn’t want Sungmin to hear him reject that girl. Anxiety and scepticism flowed from Sungmin now. The pause was too long, an answer had to be made but Kyuhyun knew that Sungmin was already drawing his own conclusions from such a long pause.
As if answering him, Kyuhyun took a step back so he no longer activated the sensors of the elevator. Just before the doors slid shut, Kyuhyun felt realization in the air just as the epiphany liven Sungmin’s face as all his other emotions did.
(The Second story of Apathy)