(Last story of Apathy; part of the Brotherhood series)
Donghae entered the kitchen and placed the bowl of noodles and soup on the kitchen island. He went to a drawer and pulled out plastic wrap to covered the bowl.
“Where is he?” Kangin asked quietly as he stood by the sink cleaning the dishes,
“In the nursery. He hasn’t moved an inch since we got home,” Donghae said quietly as he practically slammed the bowl onto a shelf in the fridge, “He probably hopes that YooMae’s happiness will saturate him enough.”
“Donghae,” Kangin began with a sigh as he began rinsing the dishes, “It’s-”
“Don’t say it’s not my fault because it is,” Donghae said as he slammed the fridge door, his hand remaining on the handle, gripping it. His free hand slammed on the door’s surface, “If I hadn’t suggested to Auntie that Kyuhyun be the tutor… if I hadn’t forced this on Kyuhyun he wouldn’t have gotten hurt.”
“Sooner or later Kyuhyun would’ve had to open up his world again,” Kangin stated matter-of-factly, “And when that happened he was bound to get hurt at least once, especially with his powers untamed. There was no getting around it.”
“But he would’ve been more prepared. Because of me… it… it was basically thrown at him before he could even build up his defences,” Donghae retorted, a bitter edge to his words, “Had I known that Sungmin was actually like that…-”
“But you didn’t-”
“I SHOULD’VE!” Donghae whirled around to face Kangin just as his brother was turning off the faucet and drying his hands, “I’m his brother! I wanted this for him! I should’ve known!”
“Donghae, Eeteuk didn’t even know,” Kangin reasoned as he stared at the water swirling down the sink drain; “And he knew Sungmin beforehand.”
“But Eeteuk isn’t me!” Donghae exclaimed, “Eeteuk isn’t Kyuhyun’s brother - I AM! I’m responsible for him, not Eeteuk!”
“Damn it Donghae stop bringing this all on you! You think you’re the only one who feels that way? You think just because I didn’t have a hand in this that I don’t feel guilty either!?” Kangin slammed his palms on the edge of the sink. Gripping it until his knuckles whitened, he continued, “I am the oldest. I’m supposed to protect you two. I shouldn’t have let things happen so easily. I should’ve… I should’ve found out more about Sungmin, I should’ve kept an eye out for Kyuhyun… damn it, I should’ve talked to him about it!”
“WILL YOU BOTH SHUT UP!?”
Kangin and Donghae turned towards the doorway that led to the main corridor rather than the dining room. Kyuhyun stood there, his chest heaving from his laboured breathing, his blue eyes rimmed with red, his face paler than either of them had ever seen it and his body slightly shaking.
“THIS IS MY LIFE! THIS ISN’T HAPPENING TO EITHER OF YOU!” Kyuhyun exclaimed, his eyes narrowed dangerously as tears threatened to spill forth, “The nursery’s right above here… I can hear you both yelling… taking the blame… I can feel your guilt… but damn it, I’m the stupid one!”
“Kyuhyun,” Kangin took a step towards him,
“NO!” Kyuhyun pointed a finger at him, stopping his progress, “NO! I don’t want your big brother act… this happened because of me. Because I was stupid enough…. Stupid enough to let him in. I took the chance and let him in…. And what happened was what I knew would happen. I knew if I let him in I could get hurt.” He laughed bitterly as tears trickled down his cheeks, “The damned hypocrite even had the gall to scold me for treating a girl bad. I guess it’s okay when it’s a guy.” He grounded out: “Maybe that’s why he’s gay… because it’s okay to hurt a guy.” He slammed a shaking fist against the frame of the doorway, “BUT I WAS STRAIGHT BEFORE THAT BASTARD CAME ALONG!”
Kyuhyun pressed his forehead against the doorframe, clutching it tightly as if holding on meant everything. But he was too tired… too tired… He slid against the doorframe until he was slouched against it, his eyes clenched tightly, his nose inhaling the smell of its wood as his tears stained the grain, “I didn’t want to… but I couldn’t help it… I had to let him in… I… I… I…”
He gritted his teeth to stop himself from crying out. He felt a lump form in his throat, painful to the point of suffocating. He had dammed his feelings up for so long, that they were returning with a vengeance. His sadness, his pain, his betrayal, it all swept over him like waves crashing against the land, ebbing away… and away… His chest hurt. It felt as if something was clamping down on his heart, constricting it, disallowing it from pumping. It felt as if it were on fire, burning until there was nothing but black ash.
Strong arms wrapped around Kyuhyun and he fought against them as best he could, “STOP IT! NO!” He cried out as he tried to pull away from his oldest brother. “LEAVE ME ALONE!”
“No Kyuhyun,” Kangin said firmly as he held onto him firmly, pulling him into a strong embrace, “Not this time… You can’t run away from us anymore-”
“But you two-”
“That was different… You’re our little brother, you’re not allowed to make the Brotherhood wait,” Kangin stated as his arms locked around Kyuhyun’s shaking body, “We can’t wait forever… we certainly weren’t going to. So, you’ll just have to put up with us!”
Kyuhyun struggled against Kangin a bit longer until he realized he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to pull away, he didn’t want to run. When the rest of the world… when Sungmin… turned its back on Kyuhyun, all he had left was the Brotherhood. He couldn’t - wouldn’t - turn his back on them. They were all he had. Upon this revelation, Kyuhyun turned into and collapsed in Kangin’s embrace. For so long - too long - he had the walls built up strong. He had kept his emotions held within.
For the first time in a long time, Kyuhyun stopped being apathetic.
Donghae sat against the headboard, his hands folded loosely in his lap as his eyes stared out the window set in the wall where his bed was pushed up against. Slowly, he followed the path of the moonlight to the curled up body beside him. His youngest brother had refused to sleep in the attic alone and begged to stay with him. He conceded, especially since he had never had such a request since Kyuhyun was a mere child. Now, Kyuhyun was curled beneath his own light blanket, one hand fisted beneath his chin, almost as if he were thinking in his sleep.
Kyuhyun rolled as if seeking Donghae’s body heat. When he felt nothing immediately, he jerked from his sleep. When his eyes saw that there was half a foot separating them, he calmed back down, “I… sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Donghae said gently as he reached out and pushed hair from Kyuhyun’s eyes.
Kyuhyun did nothing but said, “I’m not five anymore.”
“Well, you’re sleeping in my bed like you were five, so I’m going to treat you like that,” Donghae replied warmly, “How… how are you?”
“Mostly I feel stupid,” Kyuhyun admitted quietly, “In the beginning I was angry… but now… now I just feel stupid.” He quickly wiped away the tears which seemed to be almost automatic now.
“He fooled us all, Kyu,” Donghae stated, “You weren’t the only stupid one.”
“But I’m the one who let myself…” Kyuhyun swallowed hard on a sob that rose within him. He grew silent, not trusting himself to speak. So, Donghae spoke instead.
“You know that when hyung started getting serious about archery, he’d take me with him to help him focus,” Donghae said as he looked out at the night sky that mirrored the colour of Kangin’s eyes. “He wanted me there so that when he was shooting, he could be sure that he wasn’t subconsciously using his powers, that his thoughts were on anything but his telekinesis.”
Kyuhyun merely nodded as his eyes slid close.
“Kangin-hyung had always kept his own problems to himself because we came first to him. I accused him of running away once, but really… it’s because that’s all he knew how to do. All his life, hyung had been so used to pushing away his own problems and desires that in the end, he hadn’t realized he had - in a way - been running away,” Donghae said as he absentmindedly stroked the soft hair of Kyuhyun; “So, to allow himself to be so vulnerable to my untamed telepathy was a difficult choice for him. He knew that by having me with him on those private practices that all of what he was thinking, remembering - I would know them all.”
“For those private practices, hyung couldn’t run away anymore,” Donghae continued, his voice quiet but firm; “Well, Kyu… you can’t run away anymore either. I know that remaining apathetic was the only way to distance yourself from others; was the only semblance of protection you procured for your empathy… It’s too much to remain that way when, by nature, you are empathetic. I’m not talking about your powers, I’m talking about you - Kyuhyun - before you turned eighteen.”
“You smiled easily because when others were happy, so were you. You laughed easily because when others were joyful, so were you. You cried easily because when others were sad, so were you,” Donghae stated softly, “I believe the reason your empathy plagues you so much is that because by nature you are empathetic. The emotions you sense become your own because that is what is natural to you, not because your powers are overcoming you.”
“How do I stop it without losing them? Without losing memories of Mom?” Kyuhyun asked tentatively as Donghae’s ministrations soothed him as they did when he was little.
“You have to learn to control them,” Donghae replied simply,
“That’s what I’ve been trying to do for the past few weeks,” Kyuhyun admitted, “I’ve been trying to contain it, or hold the other emotions at bay.”
“So when hyung found you in the kitchen in the middle of the night?”
“The emotions in this house are less when you’re all sleeping,” Kyuhyun explained quietly, “But even then I couldn’t…”
“Don’t force it,” Donghae insisted as he could feel Kyuhyun’s head lulling beneath his fingers,
“Why not?” Kyuhyun demanded quietly, “You and Kangin gained control within half a year. It’s been a year and a half since Mom and Dad,” he paused to yawn, “died… and I haven’t even gained a semblance of control… I haven’t even,” yawn, “tasted a moment’s reprieve.”
“You will,” Donghae insisted while at the same time he prayed he wasn’t lying.
“You’re unsure,” Kyuhyun murmured, “You feel conflicted…”
Donghae said nothing but continued to lightly stroke Kyuhyun’s head until he heard the even breathing of his brother. Donghae finally turned his gaze from the window to his sleeping brother, “You will, Kyuhyun… because you’ve suffered the most.”
“I didn’t tell you that so you could come and kill him!”
Sungmin looked up just as Kangin burst through the door, Eeteuk futilely holding him back. It was early morning, too early for anyone to be in the recreational centre’s gym with its exercise equipment and weights. As they approached, Sungmin slowly lowered the weight he had been lifting, slowly placing it on the ground. He rose just as Kangin reached him,
“You have a lot of nerve to cheat on my brother,” Kangin practically growled as he grasped Sungmin’s collar,
“I did not cheat on Kyuhyun!” Sungmin exclaimed,
“Oh really? Then why was he so positive that’s what happened? Do you know it took me hours - HOURS - to get it out of him what happened!” Kangin stated angrily, “Saw you with some other guy-”
“He could’ve just been a friend!” Sungmin replied, crossing his arms over his chest as Kangin kept a tight grip on his shirt’s collar,
“Kyuhyun was positive that you loved the guy, so obviously he wasn’t just a friend!” Kangin retorted, eyes narrowed dangerously,
“How the hell would Kyuhyun know how I felt about the guy? He was at least ten feet away when I saw him!” Sungmin countered, pressing his hands against Kangin’s chest and shoving him away,
Kangin faltered slightly before recovering, “Everyone knows you can’t hide your emotions, they’re always written all over your face! So obviously, my brother saw it in your expression when you saw this other guy!”
“This is a conversation I need to be having with your brother, not you,” Sungmin grounded out as he turned away,
“Well Kyuhyun’s not here and you still haven’t explained this other guy-”
“That is none of your concern!” Sungmin turned around to face Kangin again, “You’ve been at this school… what? A year and a half? This is the first time we have ever spoken to each other - I owe you nothing!”
“That’s true… but seeing as Kyuhyun refuses to even talk to his brothers, the chore of talking to you has fallen in my hands,” Kangin grounded out, fists clenched at his sides,
“Sungmin-sshi,” Eeteuk stepped between the two, his back to Kangin, “I won’t get involved because you’re right, this is between you and Kyuhyun… but at least give Kangin - Kyuhyun’s brother - the satisfaction of knowing that you didn’t cheat on Kyuhyun.”
As if the other sports captain got through his frustration, Sungmin sighed heavily. He crossed his arms loosely but aimed his gaze at Eeteuk, not Kangin. “The supposed other guy that Kyuhyun saw me with was Lee Sungjin. He’s here for the national tournament this weekend.” Without another word, Sungmin left.
Kangin sat on a nearby exercise bench. Elbows on thighs, hands clasped lightly, he looked at Eeteuk, “National tournament? As in the tae kwon do one that S.M. U. is hosting this year?”
Eeteuk nodded, “He’s a first year, so it’s no wonder you haven’t heard of him. If he’s competing in the tournament, then he’s done fairly well for his first year at university level.” Eeteuk pressed a palm to Kangin’s forehead before pushing back hair from his eyes, “Still haven’t made the connection?”
Kangin shook his head,
“Sungjin is Sungmin’s younger brother,” Eeteuk explained softly, “That’s why Kyuhyun sensed love from Sungmin.”
“Then why the hell didn’t he say that?” Kangin demanded,
“Did we give him the chance?” Eeteuk replied, “The moment Kyuhyun ran into you, you blocked Kyuhyun off… Donghae was there in less than ten minutes… Besides, I saw the state Kyuhyun was in, I doubt he would’ve even listened to Sungmin.”
“I’ve got to tell Kyuhyun about Sungmin’s brother,” Kangin moved to stand up.
Eeteuk placed both hands on Kangin’s shoulders and pushed him back down, “This is a situation between Sungmin and Kyuhyun. I know it’s hard for you, but you can’t protect him forever.”
“The last time you told me that, Kyuhyun got hurt!” Kangin stood up, pushing Eeteuk’s hands away as he moved towards the door.
“He’s not a child,” Eeteuk retorted.
Kangin swung around to face him again as Eeteuk loosely crossed his arms about his torso, “I-”
“Kyuhyun is an adult. Yes, he did get hurt however, you can’t protect him from getting hurt forever. How is he ever going to grow? How is he ever going to become stronger if you hinder him from getting the chance?” Eeteuk questioned as he closed the distance between them, “Yes, throwing him into a social situation wasn’t the right thing; he’s got to learn how to walk again before he can run… But how will he ever learn to pick himself up if you never let him fall?”
“I should stop him from falling! I should catch him if he falls! I am his brother! I am the only parent he has anymore!” Kangin exclaimed, hot tears stinging his velvety, blue eyes,
“No, you should cushion his fall. You should offer him a band-aid if he needs it. Yes, you are his brother and that’s all he needs from you,” Eeteuk stated firmly, reaching out and grabbing Kangin’s wrist,
“I PROMISED MY MOTHER I’D PROTECT THEM!” Kangin yelled as the tears brimmed his lashes, as he tried to free his wrist from Eeteuk’s iron grip, as guilt swept through him once more.
Eeteuk released his wrist, raising that hand to Kangin’s neck, pulling on it until Kangin rested his head on Eeteuk’s shoulder. He held him firmly, “Not like this, Kangin… By being like this you’re not protecting them… you’re crippling them.”
Donghae closed the door to the car, locked it then leaned back against it. He sighed heavily as Shiwon came from where he waited in the parking lot and leaned on the car beside Donghae. Since he lived at the dorms, Shiwon waited every morning for Donghae.
“No Kyuhyun?” Shiwon noted,
“He wanted to stay home with YooMae, so I let him,” Donghae explained. He laced his fingers behind his head, tilted his face to the autumn sky and sighed heavily,
“How is he? From what you said on the phone last night, I can see why he’d want to stay home at least one day,” Shiwon said,
“He feels betrayed,” Donghae answered, “I… I was worried, so when he slept last night I used my telepathy.”
“Donghae…” Shiwon began in a stern, scolding tone,
“Even in his sleep he kept reliving what happened. He had run up to one of the campus gates and there was a car parked at the curb. Sungmin appeared and a guy stepped out of the car,” Donghae recalled, “I… I was so close to waking him up several times last night.”
“You shouldn’t have used your telepathy,” Shiwon scolded nonetheless, “Didn’t you say once that you promised one another not to use your powers on each other?” Donghae nodded, “I call this breaking that promise, Donghae.”
“Kyuhyun needs to fight his own battles. You can’t keep reading his mind to find out things he’s not telling you, it’s not right,” Shiwon stated,
“He’s my little brother!”
“He is his own man,” Shiwon said simply, “He’s nineteen, he’ll be twenty in five months. Did Kangin protect you up until two years ago?”
“No…” Donghae muttered,
“Then don’t spoil Kyuhyun’s chance to grow up by doing the opposite,” Shiwon said, “He needs to learn how to get through this in order to be okay the next time it happens; the next time anything bad happens.”
Donghae dropped his arms to his side, sighing lightly, “Sometimes I hate that we have to hide our relationship.”
Shiwon blinked, “Such a sudden change in topic.”
“You’re right… I have been protecting him, especially since I was the one who instigated Kyuhyun tutor Sungmin. But now I’m tired and I’m weary and I want nothing more than for you to hug me,” Donghae said simply.
After a moment, Donghae pushed off from the side of the car and went to the trunk and opened it. As he reached for his backpack, Shiwon grabbed his arm and pulled him against him. He held him in an embrace that was both loose and protective at the same time,
“But someone might see and think-”
“No one can comment on a hug between friends.” Shiwon said quietly as he held Donghae for a moment then released him and took a step back.
When Donghae looked up, his blue-green eyes were wet with tears, “Thank… thank y-… thanks,” Donghae muttered as he picked up his bag and slung an arm through a strap. He closed the trunk and turned away, “We better go before we’re late for our classes.”
Shiwon clasped his hand a moment before letting his fingers slip from his grasp, “Of course.”
Kyuhyun heard the distant sound of a bell ringing. Groggily, he stood up from the futon bed in the nursery and stretched his arms up to the ceiling. After peering into the crib to assure himself that YooMae was still sleeping, Kyuhyun made his way down the stairs to the main floor, opening the door to the persistent visitor.
Kyuhyun fell back a step immediately. He had been so consumed with his own emotions that he hadn’t even registered the other emotions that were vividly flowing through the front door. Sungmin stood there.
“What?” Kyuhyun asked quietly as he walked back to the stairs and sat on the lower steps, his arms crossed tightly over his stomach as he kept his gaze to the ground.
“Are you going to let me talk this time?” Sungmin asked, tentatively and yet with a resentful edge.
“I haven’t closed the door in your face… that should be answer enough,” Kyuhyun said quietly,
“Kyuhyun… if we’re going to make this relationship work, you can’t assume things!” Sungmin exclaimed, “You’ve been trying to predict outcomes and make assumptions based on what… mere instinct? Like when that girl confessed to you, you were assuming that even a friendship with her would be all for naught. Then when you saw me yesterday you just assumed… what? That I was cheating on you?”
“You love him,” Kyuhyun said simply, his eyes following the pattern of the floor board‘s grain, “I based it on that.”
“How? How could you tell that I love him? From one simple hug?” Sungmin demanded as he approached Kyuhyun on the stairs.
Kyuhyun said nothing.
“I was right before, wasn’t I? You are psychic,” Sungmin said quietly, “That’s why you knew… why you were so confident in my feelings. Even when you were tutoring me, you described my emotions exactly. Why didn‘t you ever tell me?”
“We’re not exactly on the best of terms right now,” Kyuhyun muttered,
Sungmin grabbed his chin and forced him to look at him, “Before then… even then you didn’t say anything. I asked you specifically-”
“You asked if I had telepathy. I don’t,” Kyuhyun replied simply, “I never lied to you.”
“But you never told the truth either,” Sungmin stepped away from him as if his hand had been burned,
“You’re one to talk. You’re the one who was hugging-”
“My younger brother,” Sungmin grounded out. Kyuhyun stared at him, startled. He crossed his arms over his chest, “That’s right, you saw me with my brother, Sungjin. He attends Y.G. Academy in Seoul and is here for the tae kwon do nationals this weekend.” Silence fell upon them. “You could’ve asked me, Kyuhyun. Damn it, you SHOULD have asked me! You should have given me the chance to explain at least!”
Kyuhyun said nothing; could say nothing. He was in the wrong, that was clear. He could tell by the look in Sungmin’s eyes that he was angry. So, he remained silent, tightening his arms about his torso.
“DAMN IT, SAY SOMETHING!”
“What do you want me to say?” Kyuhyun asked, his face was towards Sungmin, but his eyes saw past him, not daring to look at him directly. “I can’t control my psychic abilities, so if I read your emotions, I apologize.”
“I don’t care about that, especially from you,” Sungmin stated angrily,
“Then I’m sorry I never told you the truth about-”
“I DON’T CARE ABOUT ANY OF THAT!” Sungmin exclaimed as he turned towards Kyuhyun, grabbing his upper-arms, “You did what you always do when it comes to other people! You just base your information on what you garner with your powers and then make assumptions for people; of people! You don’t even give them a chance!”
“It’s how I’ve learned to live,” Kyuhyun replied quietly, “Imagine knowing someone to be a good friend and beneath that smile, they’re actually a very cold and calculating person. Imagine making a decision when you know it’s secretly breaking your mother’s heart. Imagine having a sweet and innocent girlfriend only to find out that inside, she’s changing. She’s becoming bitter and jealous because of you… Since my eighteenth birthday, I’ve learned to predict people’s reactions based on their emotions. If I can stop certain events, situations, then I can save people from a whole lot of hurt.”
“Then what of us, Kyuhyun?” Sungmin demanded as he dropped to his knees before Kyuhyun so they were on eye level. He cradled Kyuhyun’s face in his hands, forcing him to look at him, “How did that work out for us?” When Kyuhyun said nothing, Sungmin continued, “You knew I loved Sungjin, but you didn’t know why and you just assumed the worst.”
“I didn’t assume the worst… not at first anyway,” Kyuhyun said, his voice low and unsteady as he tried to look away, but Sungmin kept his head prison in his hands. Kyuhyun dropped his gaze from Sungmin’s just as he felt the hot sting of tears; “All I knew at that moment was that you loved that other person… and you had never felt that towards me.”
“Kyuhyun… we’ve only been together… what? A month?” Sungmin reasoned, “In such a short time… you can’t… you can’t expect-”
“I know,” Kyuhyun broke free from his hold by standing up. Arms still folded about his stomach, he kept his gaze away from Sungmin’s, “I know that… but it didn’t stop it from hurting and… and that was part of the reason why I felt so stupid. When I realized you felt more about this person than towards me… I had… I had hoped I was your… your number one.”
Sungmin grabbed his arm, “You are! Kyuhyun, I-”
Kyuhyun finally looked at him, knowing his pale blue eyes were watery and probably blood shot too. “I know… I know I’ve made mistakes… but right now…”
“Do you want me to leave?” Sungmin asked tentatively, his hand dropping away from Kyuhyun’s arm. He turned to leave, “I shouldn’t have ambushed you like this-”
Kyuhyun grabbed the back of his shirt, stopping his progress, “Since I turned eighteen, I didn’t let anyone in… not even my brothers. For… for some reason I took the chance on you. I let you in knowing that I’d be vulnerable to you so… so you’re the only one I keep showing such a weak side to. So…” He took a deep, steadying breath as he tried to force strength into his words; “So for a few minutes can… can you just hug me so I don’t feel so stupid?”
Without a response, Sungmin spun around and pulled Kyuhyun into his arms. You’re not the stupid one, Kyuhyun, Sungmin thought as he tightened his embrace of the younger man, I am..
Donghae felt himself being hit by a pillow. He scrambled into a sitting position in the darkness of his room. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, he found himself looking at his older brother who stood by his bed, towering.
“What are you doing?” Donghae hissed at him in the darkness.
“I’m leaving for nationals,” Kangin explained as he sat down on the edge of the bed, his hands in his pockets, “Eeteuk’s outside waiting for me.”
“Nervous?” Donghae yawned as he stretched his arms above his head,
“No… well, yes, but not for me,” Kangin replied, “Kyuhyun and Sungmin…”
“I don’t know how, but they‘re okay,” Donghae said, “He won’t say more than that they’re okay. And that was two days ago,”
“I know… But Sungmin has his national tournament this weekend, heck, it starts today like mine does,” Kangin said, “I don’t… I feel uneasy about something.” Kangin sighed as he looked over his shoulder at his brother, “Has Kyuhyun gained control yet?”
“Not that I know of,” Donghae answered, “And I’m pretty sure had he, he would’ve shouted it from the rooftops.”
“If… if for some reason he doesn’t… or he can’t… do you think he’ll still be okay?” Kangin asked tentatively,
Donghae peered through the dimness of the room as streams of moonlight pushed through the cloudy sky and entered his bedroom window. He locked eyes with his brother whose eyes looked like black velvet at that moment, “I don’t know… it… it depends on Kyuhyun… Have you said bye to him yet?”
Kangin shook his head, “I wanted to talk to you first. You’ll watch out for him while I’m gone?”
“Of course,” Donghae offered a lop-sided grin, “So long as you don’t come home with anything less than silver this time.”
Kangin laughed as he stood up, “So much pressure.”
Donghae laid back down as Kangin headed out of the room. Before the door closed behind his brother, Donghae called out after him, “It’s only because I know you can get gold!”
Kangin climbed up the stairs to the attic, cringing every time the boards squeaked from the weight. When he peered up through the opening in the floor, he looked through the railings at the attic. The three windows in the attic were all open to let in a cool draft to the attic which was still warm even in late-September. Having moved around in darkness for some time now and with some moonlight streaming through the three windows, Kangin was able to see fairly well in the dark attic. He climbed the rest of the stairs in silence and as he approached the bed, a body slowly sat up, looking at him. When he approached, he realized that Sungmin had not gone home after dinner as he and Donghae had previously assumed.
Kangin turned away, throwing a forearm over his eyes, “At least tell me my brother’s dressed under those covers.”
“He was at some point,” Sungmin muttered before he slowly left the bed and gestured for Kangin to follow him to the other end of the room. He stopped near one of the three windows, arms crossed loosely about his bare torso, “If you want to yell at me, we can go downstairs,” Sungmin began,
“I’d like to do more than just yell,” Kangin grounded out, crossing his arms over his chest,
“Kyuhyun’s old enough to make his own decisions,” Sungmin sighed, turning towards the window and looking out at the quiet night,
“Doesn’t mean he’s not my little brother anymore,” Kangin stated, eyes narrowed, “If you’re just playing with him-”
“I’m not,” Sungmin hissed at him, looking over his shoulder at him, his fox-like eyes lit with defensive fires, “If I was, would I have gone through so much trouble to reconcile with him? If I was just playing with him, I would’ve moved on to the next guy.”
“The whole school knows you’re gay-”
“The whole of South Korea probably does, with all that publicity from two years ago,” Sungmin practically spat his words,
“Yes… well… if it got out that you’re with Kyuhyun, you are aware of the ramifications of that?” Kangin demanded quietly, seriously,
“The same reason why your other brother and that top student hide their relationship,” Sungmin replied simply,
“You… you know?” Kangin stammered,
“I saw them hugging in the parking lot two days ago. Anyone passing by wouldn’t comment on such a thing between friends but… but I could tell there was more,” Sungmin explained, “It takes someone truly observant to see the difference and one needs to be able to read people to truly excel in my sport.”
“If your relationship with Kyuhyun is found out, it’s different than if people found out about Donghae and Shiwon,” Kangin insisted, “Donghae will be okay with criticism-”
“Kyuhyun is not weak,” Sungmin defended angrily,
“I’m not saying he is,” Kangin narrowed his eyes, “He’s just… he’s more vulnerable.”
“Why? Because of his empathy?” Sungmin questioned,
“Yes because - he told you?” Kangin countered,
“Yes, but your aunt told me first… Anyway, just because of his empathy, Kyuhyun is not weak-”
“He’ll hear criticism and then he’ll feel it too,” Kangin interjected, stressing his concerns, “For over a year and a half now Kyuhyun has been plagued by others’ emotions. He can’t fight them off and because of his natural empathy to others, they eventually begin to feel like his own. He’ll start feeling uncomfortable, angry… he may begin to resent you and your relationship. Do you want that to happen?”
“What then? You want me to break up with Kyuhyun? You want me to just give up? Have a little damn faith in your brother-”
“I have every bit of faith in Kyuhyun,” Kangin stated in a low growl, “But you’ve never seen him when it gets too much. When he’s so saturated in others’ emotions that he doesn’t know what to do. I’ve seen it to the point where he can’t even stand anymore; where all he can do is sit there and let himself be bombarded.”
“He avoids crowds anyways-”
“It wasn’t because of a crowd - it was because of me!” Kangin hissed angrily, his fists clenched as his folded arms tightened, “If one person feels strongly enough it can do serious damage to Kyuhyun.”
“What do you want me to do then?” Sungmin demanded, his voice just above a whisper,
“Give a damn about him-”
“I DO!” Sungmin cleared his throat and glanced at the bed. Assuring himself that Kyuhyun was still sleeping after his yell, he repeated quietly, angrily, “I do.”
“Then protect him,” Kangin stated, his eyes like hard, dark sapphires as he turned to the window, his powerful hands gripping the wooden frame, “He acts apathetic, but I know he’s not; I know his apathy ate at him… Protect him because you’re the only person he’s willing to allow himself to be vulnerable with… If news of your relationship gets out… make sure he doesn’t end up suffering even more than he has been.”
Sungmin gaped when he saw the wood splintering beneath Kangin’s hands. He wasn’t sure if it was due to the power Sungmin knew Kangin had or if it was his natural strength. However, he was reminded vividly that this man before him was originally thought to be the next great tae kwon do master, even when he was a prodigy in high school.
“I never… I knew he knew what others were feeling… He never said the rest of it,” Sungmin admitted quietly,
“He never does…” Kangin sighed heavily as he pushed away from the window. He shoved his hands into his pockets as he locked gazes with Sungmin, “That’s why he avoids crowds. That’s why he avoids talking to strangers for more than a few minutes.”
“That’s why he rejects confessions so swiftly,” Sungmin muttered,
Kangin nodded, “I don’t… I don’t know if Kyuhyun would’ve told you any of this - not… not because of who you are, simply because it took Donghae and myself so long to learn it… But if I’m letting you be with my brother, I want to know that the last person he’s going to get hurt from is you; that you’ll now be the one protecting him.”
Kangin turned towards the stairs, but before he began to descend, Sungmin called after him. He turned to face the eldest brother, “I promise that I will do all that I can - and more - to protect Kyuhyun.”
Kangin looked over his shoulder at him, “Do you love him?” When Sungmin said nothing, Kangin added, “Even if you don’t… I hope you can learn to. Kyuhyun deserves to be loved by someone outside of the family.”
Kangin took two steps when Sungmin called again, “Was… Was he different before his powers awakened?”
Kangin didn’t look back this time. Instead, he gripped the nearby railing that surrounded the stair’s entrance in the floor, “Have you ever seen Kyuhyun around our baby sister? How he talks so warmly? How animated his face is? How he laughs and smiles so freely?”
“Yes,” Sungmin answered immediately, “That’s how he was before he changed?”
“Well… Kyuhyun - himself - hasn’t changed since his eighteenth birthday,” Kangin answered, “He just became scared.”
“You could say bye before you leave,” Kyuhyun muttered as he pulled his blanket over his head, trying to dispel the soft morning light that was filtering into his room through the three open windows.
“I have to leave before your brother wakes up,” Sungmin answered as he came and sat down on the edge of the bed. It was barely after six in the morning and he had already dressed and was about to leave when Kyuhyun called out to him. “As captain I should be at the tournament before it begins at eight, but I have stuff to do before then.”
“Still doesn’t explain why you didn’t say bye,” Kyuhyun’s muffled voice came through the light blanket that covered him,
“You don’t have to wake up until another hour or so, I didn’t think you would appreciate being woken up earlier-”
“Who’s assuming things now?” Kyuhyun bit out.
“Okay, then remove the blanket so I can say bye to your face,” Sungmin stated as he pulled for the edge of the blanket, tugging it away from Kyuhyun’s head. The moment he saw the other’s face fully, he dipped his head and brushed his lips against Kyuhyun’s. He pulled back enough to see clearly into Kyuhyun’s pale blue eyes, “Come watch me at the tournament? My first match is at ten.”
“I… crowds, I…” Kyuhyun let his words trail off as he looked away. He may have let Sungmin in, but it didn’t make his vulnerabilities any easier to admit to.
“At least the finals on Saturday if I make it?” Sungmin asked. When Kyuhyun said nothing, Sungmin sighed heavily as he reached out, taking Kyuhyun’s chin between thumb and forefinger and forced him to look at him, “Kyuhyun… I was worried to say this before, but I do love you and I want you to be there if I win in the finals.”
“But I never-”
Sungmin shook his head slightly to silence him. Then, he continued, “I knew for quite some time of your empathy. When I realized that I had fallen in love with you, I was scared to admit it… scared that you wouldn’t accept me or love me back. So, when I approached you again after finals this past summer, I hid my emotions as best I could. I tried to concentrate on other emotions, hoping they would hide my feelings for you.”
Just like before, when Kyuhyun heard Sungmin’s confession, he felt as if he had known all along; as if there was finally a name to that warmth that seeped from Sungmin every time they were together, as if he could finally understand what it was that flowed beneath his other, more evident emotions. Now, however, it freely spilled from Sungmin, even his facial expression was more open than Kyuhyun had ever seen it.
Kyuhyun had witnessed this emotions on a number of occasions. He witnessed it whenever his aunt was with them, or when he watched his brothers with his sister. However, he felt the differences between familial love and a romantic love when he’d catch Eeteuk calming Kangin’s temper or see Shiwon laughing with Donghae. He hadn’t realized the difference when he saw Sungmin and Sungjin simply because all that consumed him was that Sungmin loved this person and hadn’t felt that way towards him.
Now, he felt it. It was like an invisible fire wrapped around Sungmin, setting aflame his body, but instead of incinerating him, it protected him, warmed him, made him vibrant. As Kyuhyun stared into Sungmin’s fox-like eyes, he could feel his heart pound a steady, strong beat in his chest. He felt as if his body were suddenly surging with so much energy and yet his lungs didn’t need to breathe, his organs didn’t need blood. No, he needed something more… something more vital… something more sustaining… something more.
“I… I didn’t want to tell you until I knew for sure that you felt the same,” Sungmin continued, his voice low, “And for… for some time I’ve thought - hoped - that you… you had come to love me as well. And last night, I got my confirmation.”
Kyuhyun’s eyes swept over Sungmin’s face while in his mind he tried to understand. His heart was beating as if he were running a marathon, his body was licked with flames without being burned, his mind was full of nothing but Sungmin and yet…
He turned his head away from Sungmin, breaking free of his hold, “You’re mistaken,” Kyuhyun stated flatly.
“W…W… What?” Sungmin stammered, his hand still in midair from where it lost contact with Kyuhyun’s face,
Confusion, Kyuhyun labelled it immediately.
“I don’t love you,” Kyuhyun replied, almost apologetically, “I… I’m infatuated with you… I like you a lot… but I don’t love you Sungmin… I’m not in love with you.”
“You can’t… you can’t be serious!” Sungmin got to his feet, staring down at the younger man, “I’ve seen the way look in your eyes… I’ve felt how you feel… Last night-”
“Last night was us sating our lust,” Kyuhyun said matter-of-factly, suddenly turning the memories of the previous night into something factual and cold; “But lust does not equal love.”
“Last night wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t love you… if you didn’t love me,” Sungmin grounded out, his fists clenched at his sides,
“I’m apologize for the misconception… I hadn’t intended for it to be like this. I know before I had talked of love, but it didn‘t mean I love you… I was just being selfish,” Kyuhyun replied quietly, still unable to look at Sungmin, “But I think what you thought was my love, was just your love reflected in me. It’s just like always… if someone feels strongly enough, if I’m with them long enough… their emotions will saturate me, practically becoming my own. But… but they’re not.”
He knew what he’d see if he did. Hurt, betrayal; the emotions poured out of Sungmin and flowed into Kyuhyun so easily, so quickly. Pain sliced through his chest as he felt his blood turning to ice. He hated experiencing these emotions - whether or not they came from himself.
“Then… I guess there’s no reason for you to come to my tournament,” Sungmin said quietly, stiffly as he slowly turned his back to Kyuhyun, “I’ll call you when it’s over.”
When Kyuhyun turned to look at him, Sungmin was already down the stairs and out of sight.
Kyuhyun moved through the motions of that day as if he were nothing more than a shadow. He hadn’t said a single word to Donghae the entire day, nor had Donghae said anything to him, as if he knew that Kyuhyun was in no mood to talk. He had been approached twice for confessions and each time, he had simply walked away, not even bothering to allow them to talk. When he finally sat down to dinner with his brother, aunt and sister, he couldn’t remember what transpired in his classes that day. In truth, he hadn’t even recalled making dinner, the motions being so automatic to him now.
His thoughts were flooded with Sungmin and over and over again he replayed their bitter parting that morning. He was pulled from his listlessness when Donghae’s voice resonated in his mind. He looked up; he and Donghae and YooMae were alone, Aunt AhMae had gone to answer the telephone.
“I called your name five times,” Donghae said before taking a big spoonful of rice, “So I used my telepathy the sixth time. I figure if you’re trapped in your own mind, I’ll go in your mind too.”
“I… I’m sorry,” Kyuhyun stammered as his eyes dropped to the plate of food before him, “I’ve been preoccupied.”
“Well, that’s obvious,” Donghae rolled his blue-green eyes as he turned to YooMae in her highchair and fed her a spoonful of food as well. “But it’s not just that, you look… depressed.”
Kyuhyun raised his head and blinked confusedly, “I… I do?”
Donghae stared at him, “For someone with empathy do you not realize your own emotions?”
“I do, I just… I haven’t been feeling depressed,” Kyuhyun stated,
“Haven’t you?” Donghae shrugged slightly, “That’s what I thought when I first saw you this morning, and when I met you at the car after school, and when you brought the food to the dinning room, and even when I pulled you out of your own mind.”
Kyuhyun pushed his food around his plate silently. He wasn’t sure how he had been feeling all day. Donghae was about to say something when their aunt re-entered the dining room from the living room,
“It was Kangin,” Aunt AhMae explained as she sat down again on the other side of YooMae’s highchair, “He’ll be in the finals tomorrow. That kid is really finding his niche in archery. I have to admit, I had my doubts, especially since the only other sport he played was tae kwon do. I always thought he was too naturally strong for archery, but I think it‘s helped him curb his strength.”
“He’s pretty amazing when you see him,” Donghae agreed as he reached out for his glass and took a slow sip of his water.
“Have you heard from Sungmin?” AhMae asked. However, before she could answer, her own cellular phone rang. Sighing apologetically, she went back to the living room to answer her phone.
Kyuhyun caught Donghae watching him, “What?”
“You can answer the question still,” Donghae prompted, “Have you heard from Sungmin?”
“About the tournament? No…” Kyuhyun admitted quietly,
“Well, he called,” Donghae stated as he picked up his spoon again and went for the rice on his plate, “He said all he wanted was to say that he got into the finals for tomorrow. He said he didn’t want to bother you. In fact… he charged me to only tell you if you asked me.” He ate a spoonful of rice and chewed thoughtfully. After a hard swallow, he added, “I guess you didn’t ask me,” He glanced at his brother, “But I thought you should know anyway.”
“Thank… you,” Kyuhyun muttered as he ate a bit of his food, chewing on the head of the spoon after he had swallowed.
“Kyu,” Donghae began.
Kyuhyun pushed away from the dinner table, “I’m done-”
“You’ve barely touched your food-”
“I’m not that hungry-”
“The Brotherhood is like a triangle,” Donghae said. Kyuhyun stopped at the door and looked back but Donghae was turned towards YooMae, convincing her to eat; “We can’t continue with only two sides.”
Kyuhyun wanted to say something, anything, but something was holding him back. So, he took the step that led him through the door and away from his brother.
The next day was a cool Saturday that brought with it the crispness of a late-Autumn noon hour. Kyuhyun stood in a quiet cemetery, just a twenty-minute walk from his house. He stood before a shared gravestone where the names of his parents were engraved. Arms crossed loosely about his torso, his pale blue eyes swept over their names.
“I’m sorry I don’t come that often,” Kyuhyun said quietly, “But it’s too painful to be here… there’s too much sadness here… I miss you guys. I envy Kangin-hyung and Donghae-hyung for the extra years they had with you… And… and then I realize how selfish I am because YooMae’s had no time at all.”
“I wish I had been more serious growing up. I wish I had asked more questions,” Kyuhyun admitted as he felt an ache in his chest, “I wish I had asked what to do when Donghae and I fight… I wish I had asked what to do when Kangin gets too overprotective and neglects himself… I wish I had asked about love. I… I didn’t love MinYa, and I think you both knew it. We had only been dating for a couple of months… If I had known we were going to lose the two of you… I would’ve asked about more…”
“He says he loves me,” Kyuhyun said, no longer able to keep emotion from his words. He felt the hot sting of tears in his eyes and a lump painfully forming in his throat; “I don’t… I don’t know how I feel. For the first time I can’t determine which emotions are mine anymore. There have been times when it’s difficult but… but this time, no matter how long I think of it, I can’t… I can’t separate them. I don’t know if what I feel for Sungmin are my own true feelings or what I’ve gained from him…”
Kyuhyun sighed heavily as he plopped down before the gravestone, his legs crossed as he tightened his arms around his torso, “I… I want what I’m feeling to be real.”
“How do you know they’re not?” Donghae asked as he came and sat beside Kyuhyun on the grass. Crossing his legs as well, he loosely clasped his hands in his lap, “Hi Mom, Dad.” He turned his head to look at his brother, “Well? How do you know they’re not real?”
“I… I need the Brotherhood,” Kyuhyun stated. Finally.
“You know… last night I said you seemed depressed and I was wrong,” Donghae said as he looked back at the gravestone, “It’s been almost a year since I regained control over my telepathy. It should’ve been one of the happiest days of my life.”
“It wasn’t?” Kyuhyun asked. Sincerity. He also sensed a hint of sadness from his brother rather than the cemetery.
“It was the day I realized Shiwon was no longer there in my life,” Donghae explained as he began to play with the blades of grass around him. He picked at them playfully, wrapping one around a finger, “For four months I searched for him, waited for him… had Auntie not arranged for us to take our finals together, alone in the same room, I don’t know how long it would’ve been until I saw him again. Honestly, I don’t know how I survived those four months, I can’t even really remember what happened in that time - and you know that’s saying something.”
Kyuhyun nodded. His brother’s memory was impeccable.
“What I do remember was this deep ache in my chest,” He raised his right hand and placed it over the left side of his chest, “Right here… I remember never feeling warm enough, especially during the winter months… I remember continuing on with my life as if I were nothing but a shadow.”
Kyuhyun snapped his attention towards Donghae, their blue gazes locked. His brother had pinpointed exactly how he had felt for the past twenty-four hours.
“I was wrong to say you were depressed, because that doesn’t even begin to describe how you’ve been feeling huh?” Donghae asked, his tone light, his words completely serious; “I was lost those four months, Kyuhyun. I didn’t feel right, I didn’t feel whole again until I saw Shiwon again… until I was with Shiwon again.” He gently tossed down the grass he had been idly plucking as he slowly stood up. His blue-gaze was on the gravestone now, “I had known I loved Shiwon before then… but that moment had confirmed it.”
“Hyung… I still don’t…” Kyuhyun couldn’t formulate the words to explain the churning he felt in his soul, the almost painful beating of his heart, the deep chiasm he felt since parting with Sungmin.
“I’m heading to the school to check out the tae kwon do finals,” Donghae interjected as he pulled out car keys from his jeans’ pocket, “Want to come with me? It’ll be for a few minutes? We’ll leave the moment the crowd gets too much for you.”
Kyuhyun looked up at his brother. His aquamarine eyes looked at him expectantly, his grin was lop-sided as he held out an inviting hand. He gladly took it.
The entered the gym of the recreational centre on S.M. University campus. The stands had been pulled out from their usual, folded position against the walls. The stands were full of students, faculty, parents, friends. There were scouts from the Olympic team, it was rumoured, and scouts from around the world. Donghae spotted Shiwon who had saved some free spots in the third row from the bottom and they quickly sprinted up the few steps and slid in.
Anticipation. It poured from every person in the gym and crashed into Kyuhyun like waves in a fierce storm. It itched, it made his heart beat fast even though all he was doing was climbing six steps to the third row.
“What’s going on?” Donghae asked as he and Kyuhyun sat down,
“It’s the fourth match of the quarter-finals,” Shiwon explained, “Sungmin’s in this match. If he makes it, he’ll only have to beat one more person to make it to the final match.”
“Is he the last from our school?” Donghae inquired.
Sungmin was sitting on a bench on one side of the designated ring area in the centre of the gym. He was sitting there as his coach stood before him, talking to him.
“Yes. Most were defeated yesterday and five more were defeated this morning,” Shiwon explained, “I don’t know if he’ll make it to the final match though.”
“Tough competition?” Donghae prompted,
“Yes and no,” Shiwon replied, “If he beats this person, his next match is against the third best at the university level. In the other pool, already the first and second won their matches. So if he were to beat the third, he’d still have to go against the second or the first.”
“But two years ago he was so close to beating the third best,” Kyuhyun interjected.
Shiwon blinked. Kyuhyun was speaking with determination in his voice as his pale blue eyes were lit with conviction and just the slightest shadow of worry. Once or twice had Shiwon seen such emotion from the youngest brother and it never failed to startle him. If this Sungmin person was the one to bring him out of his apathetic shell, then he was a good guy.
Finally he smiled at Kyuhyun, but it was a sad smile, “If this had been a different day, a different tournament I would’ve agreed,” Shiwon said as he looked back just as Sungmin and his opponent approached the middle to begin their match, “I’ve seen a few matches, whenever S.M. U. hosted, and I swear Sungmin is amazing when he fights… but throughout this entire tournament it’s like… it’s like seeing a different Sungmin.”
“What do you mean?” Donghae inquired, only briefly glancing at his brother whose eyes were glued to the match that was beginning; who had suddenly grown stiff and silent beside him.
“I can’t explain it exactly,” Shiwon said, crossing his arms over his chest as his thick eyebrows narrowed in thought, “It’s just… different.”
“Like he’s lost his passion for it,” All three looked at the young man in the row before them who had spoken. He looked back at them and Kyuhyun was stunned into silence, “It’s the only way to say it.”
“Lee Sungjin, right?” Shiwon asked, “For a first year, you did amazing… making it to nationals.”
Sungjin smiled, “Thanks, but I’m no match for my brother. Someday, maybe… actually, it’s regretful I wasn’t able to make it far enough to fight against him. In the state he’s been since tournament’s start, I’m sure I’d be able to get quite a few points off of him.” He turned his attention to Kyuhyun who had been silently staring at him for some time. “Ah! You’re that guy from a few days ago!”
Kyuhyun felt his cheeks heat up, “Yeah.”
“I’m Lee Sungjin,” Sungjin held out his hand, “I think under the circumstances we should be introduced and since my brother is busy, I’ll do the introductions!”
“Ah… Ju… Ju Kyuhyun,” He stammered as he reached out and shook the younger man’s hand. “I… Your brother and I… We’re… friends,” he finally said,
Sungjin smiled at him, the same fox-like eyes as his brother, “Don’t worry. After what happened two years ago I can understand your want of discretion. But you’re here to support my brother, so that’s good enough for me. It’s a shame you can’t see him at his best.” He turned back to the match just as the crowd came alive with applause, “It’s over?”
“Your brother won,” Shiwon replied, almost with relief, “There… there was a moment when I wasn’t sure he would.”
“The way he’s been fighting, I don’t blame you,” Sungjin agreed as he joined in clapping with the crowd. “But his next match is against the third best. Last time he wasn’t able to beat him but it was a close game. This time, however, it might not even amount to that. I wish I knew what was going on in his head.”
Kyuhyun felt on edge. The anxiety was getting to him, that must’ve been it. His hands were fisted atop his knees as his feet bounced on their balls. His pale blue eyes remained on Sungmin as he walked off the mat and towards his bench again.
He felt as if no matter how much he breathed, he was still out of breath. He felt as if his skin was overheated and he couldn’t cool down. His heart was pounding, his blood pumping vigorously through his body as his heartbeat reverberated from the core of his very being.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
In the distance he could hear his brother and Shiwon talking with Sungjin. He heard the distant noise of the communication system in the gym stating that a small break would occur before the semi-final matches began. The crowds slowly began to exit the gym, fifteen minutes being too long for them to remain idle.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Sungmin was on the bench again and his coach stood before him. It was evident from the coach’s stance that Sungmin was being reprimanded. He said nothing in return however, his forearms propped on his thighs, his face tilted to the ground as a small towel draped over his head. Finally, the coach turned and it was apparent from his gait that he was storming off.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
He was completely saturated in thoughts of Sungmin. He couldn’t move, he could scarcely breathe as he felt his emotions churning within him, enveloping him wholly. He was so entranced that Donghae had to physically shake him to get his attention. However, even when his brother was talking to him, he couldn’t seem to think of anything else but Sungmin.
“Are you okay, Kyuhyun? We’ve been here for twenty-five minutes already. If you want to leave, we should do it before the crowds start coming back from that break.”
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Suddenly, it didn’t matter anymore. It didn’t matter if he knew if what he felt was love or not. It didn’t matter if he would never gain control of his empathy. All that mattered was that Sungmin stay in his life. All that mattered was he go and be with Sungmin, support him during his time of struggle in the tournament. Suddenly, he was standing while Donghae was in mid-sentence. He was sprinting down the six steps to the ground and he was running over to Sungmin.
Sungmin had stood, preparing to grab some food before the next matches began. He heard his name and turned just as Kyuhyun reached him, his arms wrapping around Sungmin.
“Kyuhyun, what are you doing here? The crowd-” Sungmin looked around the gym. Most people had left for the break, but there was still at least a hundred still in the gym and slowly, more people were trickling in as the fifteen-minute break was coming to a close.
“I don’t care about that,” Kyuhyun stated as he hugged him tightly, his face buried in the older man’s shoulder, “I just… all I cared about was you. All I care about is you knowing that I came like you wanted… that I’m supporting you.” Kyuhyun felt tears prick his eyes and, for someone who had remained apathetic for so long, he suddenly didn’t care if others saw him cry. “I… I don’t know if I love you… but I want to-”
Sungmin pulled back enough to look at Kyuhyun clearly, his hands cradling his tear-streaked cheeks, “I’m okay if you don’t love me, Kyuhyun. You came,” He said, smiling.
“Donghae dragged me here,” Kyuhyun admitted as he released Sungmin from his arms and wiped his tears with the cuff of his sleeve,
“But he didn’t drag you down here,” Sungmin replied, his hands falling away from Kyuhyun, crossing his arms lightly over his chest, “How long have you been here? Didn’t the crowd bother you?”
“There’s not that many people right now,” Kyuhyun explained with a small smile.
Sungmin blinked as he pointed behind Kyuhyun. Kyuhyun turned back to the bleachers where he had been. Already, it was half full, as were the other bleachers surrounding the gym as more spectators returned from the slight break.
“You… you didn’t know?” Sungmin asked, “You didn’t… sense them?”
“I had… I had no idea,” Kyuhyun barely managed as he looked at the crowd in awe.
He could tell by the looks on peoples’ faces that news of what had just happened was being spread. People were trying to subtly point towards them as the hush of whispers slowly grew louder and even louder as more people filled the stands. Kyuhyun was sure he saw several females - and males - burst into tears when their neighbour turned and whispered to them of what had happened during the break. He witnessed it all, and felt nothing.
When Kyuhyun looked back at Sungmin, it was through a veil of tears, “I… I don’t sense anything.”
“Nothing?” Sungmin asked, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips,
“Nothing but you and me,” Kyuhyun said with the first brilliant, unrestrained smile he had ever given in public in almost two years.
“Kyuhyun-” Before Sungmin could continue, Kyuhyun grabbed the back of his neck and pulled him towards him until their lips were pressed against one another. There was a collective gasp from the crowd and Kyuhyun released him, “W-w-what was that!?”
Kyuhyun winked - actually winked! - at him and threw him another grin despite the happy tears the kept springing from his pale blue eyes, “For me to know this dream is real.”
“I MISS EVERYTHING!” Kangin growled, crossing his arms over his chest as he stepped out of the living room, through the sliding glass doors to the backyard.
It was a warm, autumn day and Kyuhyun and Donghae thought of doing a barbeque in their backyard. It was Sunday, the day after the national tournament had ended for both archery and tae kwon do. Eeteuk shoved Kangin out of the way of the door as he followed him to the backyard. He clapped a hand on Kangin’s shoulder,
“He’s just upset that he didn’t get first this year,” Eeteuk smiled at the others, “Of course, silver isn’t good enough for him.”
Shiwon and Donghae were pulling over a picnic table they had taken from their aunt’s backyard, next door. They placed it in the middle of the yard and Shiwon plopped down on the bench as Donghae sat down on the table portion, Shiwon leaning his head against Donghae’s knee as he closed his eyes to the sun.
“I told you the moment you appeared,” Donghae stated as he absent-mindedly stroked Shiwon’s hair from his eyes,
“You should’ve called me from the gym the moment Kyuhyun told you he had control!” Kangin grumbled as he came over to the table and sat down on the bench, “I told you guys the moment I had it.”
“We were in the living room with you,” Kyuhyun called. He stood by the grill cooking pork and beef for them.
“Still. When Donghae got it, I wasn’t there… and when you got it, I wasn’t there-”
“You can’t expect to be there all the time,” Kyuhyun rolled his eyes as he flipped his pieces of meat,
“That’s exactly what he expects,” Eeteuk chuckled as he came over to Kyuhyun just as YooMae, who had been walking around the yard, approached Kyuhyun. He scooped her up in his arms, “The grill’s hot and while your brother’s cooking I can’t let you near him.”
As if knowing she was being scolded, she fisted her small hand and hit Eeteuk’s nose.
Kyuhyun laughed a beautiful, melodic, freeing laugh, “That’s my monkey,” He patted her head with his free hand.
“Do you need any help?” Eeteuk asked as he easily manoeuvred YooMae to his hip,
“You can get some dishes from the kitchen and the rice cooker,” Kyuhyun asked lightly, “Since Shiwon and Donghae are suddenly too tired.”
“It’s heavy!” Donghae defended from the table,
“I told you to wait until Kangin came home,” Kyuhyun countered,
“It’s not that heavy!” Donghae said, suddenly defensive of his wounded pride,
“Hey! No fighting in front of guests!” Kangin warned them both. Donghae and Kyuhyun silenced, but glared at one another momentarily before carrying on with their business.
Eeteuk laughed as he headed back into the house, “Your brother is very bossy, YooMae.”
“You’re all so noisy,” Shiwon muttered, Donghae’s ministrations putting him to sleep,
“You shouldn’t stay up so late at night,” Kyuhyun taunted from the grill,
“He was studying!” Donghae snapped,
“One more word, Kyuhyun, and I swear-”
“What did I say before!” Kangin exclaimed, standing up this time. He looked back and forth between his brothers, “Geez, I leave for two days and what happens? Kyuhyun gets control of his powers and suddenly you two are fighting like before Mom and Dad died!”
“Well, he was studying,” Donghae muttered resentfully, “Because you made me start studying again, I beat Shiwon last semester for top of the year. Now his inferiority complex is kicking in and- OUCH!” He pulled away his hand which Shiwon had unceremoniously bit.
“Not you too, Shiwon. Don’t tell me I have to parent you as well,” Kangin fell back down onto the bench, “Ugh… I’m surrounded by children.”
“If you say I’m the mom, you won’t live to see your next national tournament,” Eeteuk warned as he came out from the house carrying plates with cutlery atop it in one hand and the rice cooker in the other. YooMae walked behind him, a pillow from one of the couches in her arms.
“I wouldn’t think of it,” Kangin said solemnly as Eeteuk placed his load on the table then swatted Kangin’s head with an irritated hand. He grabbed that hand and just held it as Eeteuk hit him with the other hand. “Is Auntie coming over?”
“She’s on a date,” Kyuhyun answered,
“What? With who?” Kangin asked, startled,
“With one of my former math professors,” Kyuhyun chuckled, “He kept bugging her for more than just me entering higher-level classes.”
“Kyu,” Donghae interrupted, calling in a sing-song voice, “Are you almost done?”
“Yes,” Kyuhyun said as he moved all of the meat to a serving plate, turning off the grill before he headed over to the picnic table.
“Look who I found talking to herself on the door step,” Sungmin grinned as he stepped into the backyard from the house. In his hands he had plastic bags full of drinks, which he brought over to the table. Behind him stood a young girl, perhaps in her late-teen years. With her hair swept back into a pony tail which fell over her shoulder, she bowed at the waist, her hands clasped before her,
“Hi everyone. My brother said to just come in but I didn’t want to be rude,” She stated,
“LiWon, it wouldn’t have been rude at all,” Donghae grinned at her as he got down from the table and held out a hand to her, “Come join us, Kyuhyun just finished cooking.”
Shiwon, who had been jerked when Donghae’s knee suddenly moved away from his head, was sitting up and pointedly glaring at their holding hands, “I’m glad you could come for lunch. What did you tell your mom?”
“I told our mom that I was having lunch with my brother Shiwon,” she answered simply as she sat down beside him, releasing hold of Donghae’s proffered hand. “Sooner or later she and Dad will get used to the fact that I’m not giving you up.”
His earlier mood dispelled, he grinned at his sister as Donghae began to pass out the plates.
“Good timing,” Kyuhyun stated as he joined the others at the table with the meat he had grilled. “Sungjin couldn’t come?”
“No, he has an assignment due tomorrow and he hasn’t started yet,” Sungmin shook his head, “So he headed out for Seoul early this morning.”
“Thanks for getting the drinks, Sungmin,” Donghae said as he began to pass out the canned drinks as well,
“Yeah, no problem,” Sungmin said before turning to Kangin, “I heard you got silver? Congratulations.”
“Eh, it’s nothing to your gold,” Kangin replied, accepting his hand in a steady shake.
“Had you been in the tournament, I wouldn’t have gotten it,” Sungmin grinned at him,
Eeteuk narrowed his eyes, “Watch it! My threat still stands, Sungmin,” Eeteuk stated, crossing his arms over his chest. Kangin rolled his eyes as he pulled Eeteuk to the other side of the bench and actually pushed him down to sit.
“Kyu!” Kyuhyun looked down at his feet where YooMae was grabbing his pant leg with a free hand, her other hand now dragging the pillow behind her. He scooped her up, “What’s up monkey?” To answer, she yawned and placed her head on his shoulder, the pillow now squished between their bodies, “Aw monkey, I haven’t even eaten yet.”
“Just put her down on the couch once she’s asleep,” Kangin stated,
“It’s not going to work,” Kyuhyun sighed, “It‘s like she knows if I leave her.. I swear, we won’t have to protect her from boys, she’s fierce enough to scare them away.”
“Just go inside and I’ll bring you food,” Sungmin suggested as he began to pile two plates with food.
Kyuhyun nodded as he entered the house and sat on the bigger couch. He leaned his head against the back of the couch as he gently patted YooMae’s back, feeling her breathing even out. A moment later, Sungmin slipped through the open doors, placing two plates of food on the coffee table. He sat down next to him.
“Hey! No funny business with YooMae around!” Kangin called from the backyard.
Kyuhyun rolled his eyes as Sungmin chuckled, “How are you?”
“In control,” Kyuhyun said solemnly as he shifted and gently laid YooMae on the other side of the couch. She curled against the pillow in her arms and continued sleeping. “It feels good,” he looked at Sungmin and smiled weakly.
“It’s good to hear,” Sungmin insisted as he reached over and brushed a few strands from Kyuhyun’s eyes. His hand moved and just held the side of his face, “I love you, Kyuhyun.”
“Sungmin… I…” Kyuhyun tried to look away, but Sungmin wouldn’t allow him to,
“I know, I just wanted to say it because that’s how I feel,” Sungmin stated, his fox-like eyes locked with Kyuhyun’s pale blue ones, “It doesn’t bother me anymore. I’m okay with just loving you.” He leaned over and brushed his lips against Kyuhyun’s, “It’s enough for me.”
Kyuhyun placed his hand over the one that cradled his face. He pulled that hand to his lips, “Thank you,” he muttered before Sungmin wrapped an arm around his shoulders and pulled him against him; “I told you… I want to… I want to…” He leaned his head against Sungmin’s shoulder and let his eyes close.
“What do you feel?” Sungmin asked quietly as he turned his head enough so that his mouth was pressed against Kyuhyun’s forehead, “Sense anything?”
“You. Always. And just me. Finally,” Kyuhyun sighed contentedly, “Almost as if… as if I could do anything now.” He could feel himself being lulled to sleep by the peacefulness and the warmth he felt in Sungmin’s embrace. Before he could completely fall asleep, he heard Sungmin whisper:
“Then hurry and fall in love with me.”
(The Last Story of the Brotherhood)