(Part of the Fated series.)
“I love you, Kangin.”
The phone slipped from his hand, dropping back onto the desk with a loud clack, shutting as it hit the wooden surface. He was immobile as he felt… how did he feel? His heart was racing, beating painfully against his ribs. His lungs couldn’t seem to take in enough air and he found himself gasping. His hand still in midair by his ear was shaking terribly; his entire body was trembling.
Had he heard right? If he didn’t, would he be disappointed? If he did, how would he feel? Slowly, he glanced at the bed. The form there was shifting slowly, sitting up slowly. His hand slowly dropping to his side as he locked eyes with Sungmin, Kangin could feel his cheeks heating up as if he were a child being caught stealing cookies from the jar. As he stared at Sungmin, his heart began to pump even faster, his body preparing itself for… he wasn’t even sure.
“Kangin?” Sungmin muttered sleepily, using the heel of his palm to rub his tired eyes, “Is something wrong?”
“No,” He replied as his mind screamed ‘Yes!’.
Everything was wrong. He felt as if he was good again. He felt as if he was slowly becoming who he once was. He was happy, he laughed. Damn it, he was loving again. But now? As if in a trance, he glanced at the phone lying dormant on the desk, precariously half-off the edge. In the span of four words, he was brought back, catapulted months before when his world revolved around someone else, before that world began to crumble around him.
His mind was flashing memories of secret smiles and subtly brushing hands; of long walks together and conversations that lasted until dawn; of skin on skin, sweat and panting and the climatic end. He blinked at Sungmin, they had done those same things as well, but it had all been different. A different time, a different feeling… a different man.
He was happy, wasn’t he? He loved Sungmin, didn’t he?
In a split-second, Kangin crossed back over to the bed and stretched out beside Sungmin who still looked at him with sleepy eyes. His hands cradled his face and before Sungmin could say anything, he pressed his lips against the other’s. His kiss was feverish, demanding and a little of something else. He kissed urgently, passionately, trying to quell whatever it was he was feeling just moments ago. He slanted his lips even more over Sungmin’s, his tongue insistent against the seem of his lips. He pressed Sungmin back against the mattress, demanding entry.
Sungmin was startled, what had brought this on? So many questions roamed in his head, but all his attention was on this kiss. He felt its heat, its ferocity and at the same time, he felt something darker tinge it. He wanted to push Kangin away and demand what was wrong. He wanted to pull Kangin closer and cleanse him with his body. He was conflicted on how to react and somehow, he knew Kangin was always conflicted over something.
No he comes first, Sungmin thought as he eased his muscles, becoming pliant beneath Kangin’s hard body. Slowly, he parted his lips and Kangin slipped his tongue through immediately. His tongue tasted every surface of Sungmin’s mouth, tickling the roof before caressing his tongue. When Kangin moved his mouth away, Sungmin was breathless. He wanted to talk, wanted to ask, but Kangin wouldn’t let him. His mouth pressed hard kisses against his jaw, up to his ear. When Sungmin felt teeth graze his earlobe, he let out a soft, content sigh, his arms immediately wrapping around Kangin’s shoulders.
“Kangin,” Sungmin whispered urgently, his thoughts too insistent, wanting to know what brought on this sudden fervour.
“Shhh…” His lips tickled Sungmin’s ear as he softly breathed, “Let me have this…”
Sungmin said nothing, but allowed him to do as he pleased. As Kangin brought his mouth down his throat, his hands pushing up the hem of his shirt, Sungmin stared intently at the ceiling, trying to battle against his worried thoughts and heightened arousal. Kangin handled him with all the intensity and passion as he always did, and yet, he felt something different between them this time.
Something was missing. It allowed him to keep his wits as Kangin kissed and touched him everywhere. It allowed him to not respond to Kangin while at the same time getting aroused. He shut his eyes tightly as he realized what was missing. He bit down on his lip to stop himself from crying out a sob that had nothing to do with Kangin’s ministrations. He felt the hot sting of tears and fought them back.
What was missing was love.
Heechul sighed as they rode the elevator down. He was tired which essentially meant he was moody which essentially meant that today’s shooting for a variety show was going to be grating, indeed. He glanced towards his companion for the day, Eeteuk. They were scheduled to both shoot for the show today. Eeteuk hadn’t spoken to him since last night and even now as they rode down the elevator with two managers, they were in silence.
He could tell by the way Eeteuk was that something must have happened between when they were on the balcony and this moment. Eeteuk was pressed against the back corner of the elevator, his arms crossed loosely about his torso. His gaze was on the ground, his eyes slightly narrowed in deep thought. He had become accustomed to seeing Eeteuk as thus, especially since after he had broken up with Kangin, Eeteuk had grown very pensive. This time, however, seemed different. His posture was as it usually was, but the air around Eeteuk seemed different.
The doors slid open as they reached the lobby and their managers stepped ahead of them. As Heechul and Eeteuk exited, Heechul caught sight of another Super Junior member leaning against the wall opposite the elevators. Something did happen. Eeteuk had stopped beside him and, even though they weren’t even touching, Heechul could tell that the leader had stiffen.
Kangin pushed off the wall and took a mere step towards them, his eyes intent on Eeteuk alone. Heechul glanced between them and was startled to find the air charged with… something. It wasn’t something necessarily good, but it was something and that was more than what had been there over the months following their break-up.
Heechul glanced questioningly at Eeteuk who returned his gaze. He raised an eyebrow challengingly, not completely sure if he should leave them to their own devices.
“I’ll be there in a few minutes,” Eeteuk said swiftly, breaking their eye contact.
With one last glance at Kangin, Heechul strode off to catch up to their managers. Before he even disappeared from their view, Kangin grabbed Eeteuk’s wrist and dragged him over to the stairwell. The moment they were in the cement encasement, Kangin backed Eeteuk against the door, his palms slamming against the metal door on either side of Eeteuk’s head. He flinched.
“What the hell was last night?” Kangin demanded, praying he wasn’t shaking as he did every time he thought of this moment.
“It was… it was the truth,” Eeteuk said simply, returning Kangin’s gaze steadily.
“What happened to all of that crap about you not being able to love me back?” Kangin demanded, “Huh? Why the fuck did you wait four months to say it back!?”
“Because it took me three months to realize it and… and by then…” Eeteuk looked away, his words trailing off into silence.
“By then I was already with Sungmin,” Kangin finished. He pushed away from the door and stood a few feet away from Eeteuk. Arms crossed over his chest, Kangin stared at the wall rather than at Eeteuk, “Then why the hell are you telling me now?”
“I wanted to tell you,” Eeteuk replied,
“Oh, that’s nice,” He retorted, his words drenched in sarcasm, “One thing though, Eeteuk - I HAVE A BOYFRIEND!”
“I… I know-”
“DO YOU!? Because I don’t think you do!” Kangin swung his gaze towards him, “Four months ago I told you I loved you and you threw it back in my face! I’ve finally bounced back… I’m finally happy again and… and… and NOW you decided to tell me!? WHAT THE HELL!?”
“I couldn’t stand it Kangin,” Eeteuk said quietly, steadily as he locked gazes with his dongsaeng, “For a month I watched the two of you and all I could think was ‘that used to be me’. I can’t stand it anymore - I just can’t. I can’t stand back and watch you with someone else, I can’t be idle anymore, I can’t-”
“THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU!” Kangin roared, his voice echoing in the stairwell,
“You can’t tell me that your love for me died so easily! You can’t tell me that love disappears so quickly!” Eeteuk exclaimed, eyes narrowed and fists clenched at his side.
He knew he was probably shaking, but he didn’t care. His heart was pounding ferociously in his chest and he could barely breath as he talked. Thoughts that had accumulated over the past month were finally given a voice and he wasn’t going to allow his fear stop him. He was probably making a fool of himself, he acknowledged, but he had to try. He had to try one last time for Kangin, or he’d never forgive himself.
“Love… is stronger than that,” He somehow managed to ground out, feeling the familiar sting of tears behind his eyes.
Kangin stood their, frozen. His mouth had gone dry, his heart had slowed to the point that he wasn’t sure it still beat and he seemed to lose the ability to breathe. Those memories that assaulted him last night were back with a vengeance. He had loved Eeteuk, had loved him dearly and to the point of obsession. Every moment was spent thinking of him, of waiting until he could see him again, touch him again. He had loved Eeteuk fiercely like a burning flame and… and did three months truly extinguish the fire?
Kangin walked towards him until a foot separated them. “Four months ago,” he heard his voice come out quiet and hoarse, “you didn’t even know what love was.”
“Things change… people… people change too,” Eeteuk replied softly as he tentatively reached out towards Kangin, his slim hand cupping his cheek. “Now that I know what love is, don’t let me lose faith in it already, Kangin.”
Kangin didn’t say anything, couldn’t say anything. His eyes fluttered close as Eeteuk pulled him into a small, sweet kiss.
The day was cool even as the sun shone brightly above. Kangin stood on the rooftop, one hand loosely gripping the criss-crossing wires of the fence which surrounded the roof’s perimeter. Letting out a heavy sigh, he closed his eyes and leaned his head against the cold, metal wires. It had been an hour since Eeteuk had left him in the stairwell. Afterwards, Kangin began the slow ascent to the building’s roof via the stairs.
Why had he let it happen? He knew what Eeteuk was planning on doing and yet he allowed Eeteuk to hold his face so affectionately and kiss him so tenderly. He had allowed it all despite that the entire time, he knew he shouldn’t, knew that he had a loving boyfriend. He knew he shouldn’t have let Eeteuk do it, should have walked away or pushed him away. However, for some reason or another, he didn’t - couldn’t. It seemed almost as if his body had a will of its own and refused to walk away from Eeteuk.
He felt a pair of slim arms wrap around him from behind and for a fraction of a second, he stiffened. Then, he smelled the scent which he knew to be solely Sungmin. He didn’t smell or have body odour and he didn’t even wear distinguishable cologne and yet, he knew that subtle scent. He felt the strength in those arms despite being slim and his body knew they belonged to Sungmin alone.
Slowly, Kangin turned in his arms and wrapped his arms around Sungmin’s shoulders, holding him tightly. They stood there silently, simply embracing as a crisp, light wind embraced them. Kangin closed his eyes as he brought his head beside Sungmin’s, his lips at his ear, his nose tickled by Sungmin’s short, black hair. They said no words and made no actions but Kangin knew, just knew that that wasn’t needed. He felt as if his heart had been thrown into chaos but this, him, calmed it.
If he could describe his love for Eeteuk as fire, he had to describe his love for Sungmin as water. It flowed freely between them. It calmed him, cooled him and refreshed him body, mind and soul. His love could be like a light, spring rain or as intense as a thunderstorm. It could relax him or give him vitality. He was in love with Sungmin, he had never doubted that. What he did doubt, however, was if he was over Eeteuk.
Sungmin buried his face into Kangin’s shoulder, his arms tightening accordingly. He did so to hide his smile. He wasn’t sure how, but he had felt a change in Kangin. He felt whatever was raging in his hyung calm down. He felt whatever made him so stiff, soften. He felt the love again.
“You’re back,” Sungmin said, his words muffled by Kangin’s jacket, but only a bit.
“You brought me back,” Kangin replied earnestly as he inhaled deeply. Yes, this was what his senses knew to be Sungmin.
“You… you scared me,” He admitted, his voice quiet and tentative.
“I know… I’m sorry,” Kangin said as he released his hold, taking a step away from him, “I’m… I’m working some things out.”
Sungmin tilted his head slightly to he side as he regarded his boyfriend quietly. In that instant, he knew. Nothing changed of Kangin’s posture, but Sungmin still knew. It could be the slight shake in those strong hands he loved to feel on his body. It could be the light in those eyes he always got lost in. It could be the way Kangin stared at him without actually seeing him. It could be any of these, all of these or none of these but, no matter what, Sungmin knew: Kangin was going to leave him.
“I’ll call you later,” Kangin insisted with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.
Sungmin was silent as Kangin brushed a kiss to his cheek then walked towards the door into the building. He heard behind him the swinging of the heavy, metal door. He heard it shut with a thud and then heard nothing but endless silence. He realized at that moment, that he had been holding his breath, that his heart seemed to understand the moment and had stopped beating.
Hand trembling, he brought it to clasp over his mouth. He stood still, looking out at the city as he felt something hot and wet pool around his eyelashes. He felt it was hard to breath, hard to move, hard to do anything other than what had just transpired between him and Kangin. When he fell, his knees touching the floor, he was doubled over, a hand propping him from lying down, one hand still covering his mouth. He slowly moved that hand so he was on hands on knees, his eyes staring at the cement below him. He was gasping for air, gasping for warmth, gasping for life. He felt the cement turn dark as wet spots appeared but he couldn’t make the connection between that and his suddenly blurred vision. He felt pain seep through his entire body, centering around the left side of his chest. He couldn’t do or say anything.
All he knew was that he had just lost something.
A few days later, Kangin was with all the other members in one of the dorms. They decided that since their activities pulled them all apart, they’d get together for dinner. So, as he sat in the living room beside Sungmin on the couch, Hankyung and Shindong cooked in the kitchen. The members were displaced randomly throughout the dorm, others who lived in the dorm below remained there until dinner was finished.
Heechul, who had taken a nap with his cat, came out of his room, stretching his arms high above his head. He made the barest of pauses in his steps to the kitchen when he noticed that, while Kangin and Sungmin sat on the love seat in the living room, Eeteuk sat on the couch adjacent to it, placing him on the other side of Kangin. He continued on to the kitchen and just as he was getting a drink, Hankyung asked him to go to the convenient store a few doors down from the apartment building for drinks for dinner.
Instead of saying no or scowling as he usually would, Heechul leaned against the archway that separated the kitchen from the living room. His eyes roamed over his friends in the living room, specifically over the three who sat silently as invisible lines connected two of them to the man between them. He called out to the leader of Super Junior, stating that Hankyung had ordered Eeteuk to get drinks for all of them. Accepting it as his duty as a leader, Eeteuk consented almost immediately. Heechul stood silently as he watched Sungmin.
Sungmin was sitting on the love seat, an elbow propped on the armrest and his chin in his hand. He watched the movie he, Kangin, Eeteuk, Kyuhyun and Kibum were watching. The movie was one of his favourites, and yet, for the past forty minutes, he was unable to register anything that was going on. As he sat leaning forward, presumable enraptured by the movie, his free hand was beside him on the couch, loosely clasping Kangin’s.
That hand was warm and big in his own. It conveyed a protection and love he felt from the other man. It also elicited a protectiveness and love from himself for his hyung. He knew that hand, could imagine every crease in the palm, every swirl in his finger prints. He knew what it felt like when those fingers were callused, when the backs of those fingers brushed his skin. He knew how strong yet gentle that hand could be, how commanding yet tender it could be. He knew how it felt when that hand was laced with his own, when that hand held him, when that hand caressed. He knew everything about that hand and refused to let go of it so easily.
His thoughts were broken when he heard Heechul yelling at them from the kitchen. Movement from his peripherals caught his attention more when Eeteuk stood from his place on the couch with Kyuhyun and Kibum. As Eeteuk went to his room for his wallet, Sungmin couldn’t help but tense up. Eeteuk appeared again, heading to the door and slipping on his shoes. He called out to the others, asking for some company.
Sungmin knew before it even happened. He felt Kangin begin to slip his hand from his, began to shift on the love seat to stand up. Immediately, he clamped his fingers around Kangin’s hand before its warmth left him completely. He tightened his hand with all his might yet disallowed the others from knowing something was wrong. From the corner of his eye, he knew Kangin was watching him and Sungmin knew he’d be correct in assuming that Kangin was staring at him questioningly. However, he refused to look at him, refused to move or breathe. His eyes remained fixed on the television, his entire posture remained slack except for the vice grip he had on Kangin’s hand.
Kibum stood up then to accompany Eeteuk. He lightly shoved Kyuhyun’s shoulder, telling him to come with them. Sungmin barely heard as Kyuhyun began to refused and Kibum commented on how the maknae was always either sitting at the computer or sitting before the television.
As the three left the dorm, all of Sungmin’s thoughts swirled around the one who remained beside him. The door closed behind their friends and Sungmin felt his lungs fill with air again. Slowly, ever so, he loosened his grip on Kangin’s hand. Eventually, he released Kangin’s hand altogether, suddenly feeling as if he were burnt. He had succeeded, he should feel victorious as he had kept Kangin by his side. However, his heart felt even heavier than before as he couldn’t deny the fact that he had to forcibly keep Kangin there.
Heechul watched silently as Sungmin pulled his hand away. When Kangin turned to him, Sungmin stood and excused himself to the bathroom. Heechul couldn’t help but watch protectively as his dongsaeng slip into the bathroom, the door closing firmly after him. He turned his eyes to Kangin, watching the emotions that played on his friend’s face. After glancing at the bathroom door once more, Heechul turned back to the kitchen.
So, he thought, Sungmin knows.
When dinner rolled around, it didn’t escape Kangin’s mind that he was - once again - sitting with Sungmin at his right and Eeteuk at his left. The members were dispersed throughout the dining area and the living room eating their meals. The dorm was filled with liveliness and talking as the members caught up with one another. The only silence found in the room were the three members who sat side-by-side at the dining table.
Kangin reached for the pitcher of water on the table at the moment Eeteuk was too. His right hand brushed with Eeteuk’s left. They both paused, froze as they looked at one another, their eyes locking.
“Go ahead, hyung,” Kangin said abruptly as he turned his gaze away.
He found himself looking at Heechul who sat across from him. He noticed the observant eyes of his hyung and raised a questioning eyebrow. Heechul glanced to Kangin’s left then to his right. Before Kangin could make anything of it, Heechul picked up his plate and retreated to the kitchen.
“Here, Kangin,” Eeteuk said as he poured water into Kangin’s glass for him then replaced the pitcher on the table.
Kangin looked at him, slightly startled. He could feel a tell-tale heat creep up his neck, willing it to not touch his cheeks. He nodded a silent thanks and Eeteuk smiled at him brilliantly, his damnably adorable dimple surfacing at the left corner of his mouth. He blinked, unable to say anything. What could he say? It had been so long since he saw that smile directed at him, that dimple appearing for his sake. When he saw that smile, he felt as if something had been lost but suddenly returned to him again.
Kangin forced himself to look away this time. He felt his head cloudy and confused. He loved Sungmin, but if it turned out he still wasn’t over Eeteuk as he previously assumed, he couldn’t continue on with Sungmin; it wouldn’t be fair to his dongsaeng. As if trying to find some truth, some stability, Kangin reached beneath the table with his right hand, searching for Sungmin’s hand. He found it and wrapped his fingers around it but Sungmin evasively slipped his hand away, bringing both of his hands atop the table.
He turned to look at him, confused and hurt. He said nothing but bore his eyes at Sungmin, trying to signal him, silently tell him to look at him. He felt his right hand itch, burn from the rejection. He felt his heart constricting painfully even as he heard his blood pounding in his ears. What happened? What had he done? That entire evening, they hadn’t exchanged any words with one another, but he hadn’t said a word to Eeteuk either until they both grabbed for the pitcher.
As Kangin stared at him, willing for Sungmin to turn and meet his eyes, he remembered earlier that evening. He remembered when Sungmin had gripped his hand so tightly that it was almost painful. He remembered how his grip hadn’t loosened until Eeteuk had left the dorm. He felt as if all air had gone from his lungs. Did Sungmin know of the confession? Worse yet, did Sungmin know of the churning emotions within him?
Sungmin sat there, eating silently. Once he had cleared his plate, he rose and brought his dishes to the kitchen. He went to the sink, barely noticing that Heechul was nearby, hips leaning against the counter as he finished his food. Sungmin placed his dishes in the sink then ran the water to prematurely wash the dishes.
As the water flowed, he gripped the edge of the sink. His eyes sought out his left hand and recalled the feel of Kangin wrapping his fingers around it. His skin still felt warm from the contact. At the same time, his touch had felt like a burn, hurting him in more than just the physical sense. That same hand had touched Eeteuk’s first. It was the barest of touches and completely innocent, Sungmin knew. However, all that ran through his mind when Kangin grabbed his hand with that same hand, all he could think was that Eeteuk had touched it first.
He could feel his heart beat slow down until he wasn’t sure it still beat. If he was being completely honest with himself, Eeteuk had touched every part of Kangin before him. Eeteuk had kissed those lips first, probably even touched that body first and had certainly been the centre of Kangin’s attention first. He gripped the sink even harder as the final realization pummelled into him, knocking the air from his lungs:
Eeteuk had been in Kangin’s heart first.
Suddenly, Sungmin whipped his head around, looking over his shoulder past the kitchen’s archway to the dining table. His eyes landed upon the pair who were now alone at the table, sitting quietly as they finished their meals. The chatter of the other members rose in volume but Sungmin heard none of them, saw none of them. All he saw was the two members who had been together, had broken apart but now sat together again.
He willed his heart to beat. Please.
His sight blurred before him and he turned his gaze back to the sink before anyone saw his tears. He gritted his teeth, biting down hard to stop the sobs from escaping his body. He gripped the sink until his muscles ached from the effort, trying to stop himself from shaking. He willed himself to breathe, tried to inhale deep, steadying breaths. It was all in vain.
The clatter of dishes pulled him from his thoughts. He looked up to find Heechul now directly beside him having just dumped his plate atop of Sungmin’s in the sink. He looked at his hyung questioningly, no longer caring that his eyes brimmed with unshed tears. Heechul, leaning his back against the counter, glanced towards the others and, when he saw that no one was paying them any attention, reached up to Sungmin’s face. Using the cuff of his sleeve, he dried Sungmin’s tears. Standing with his back to the sink as Sungmin faced it, Heechul turned off the running water then wrapped an arm around the closest of Sungmin’s, his hand warm on Sungmin’s wrist. With his other hand, he reached over and clasped his dongsaeng’s shoulder.
Sungmin blinked back his tears at Heechul’s gesture when he realized what Heechul was doing. I’m not the only one who sees it… As his tears returned, he ducked his head, no longer having the strength to keep it held high. He stifled a cry as Heechul’s arm tightened around his, Heechul’s hands gripping him more firmly, more protectively.
He finally felt his heart beat, only to have it crack at the effort.
After dinner, while some members retreated to their beds, others stuck around in the one dorm to watch a movie. In the dimness of the dorm, Eeteuk pulled Kangin away from the living room where the others were. He pulled him down the hallway where the bedrooms were and brought him far enough from the living room that they could talk privately while at the same time, the sounds from the movie made sure they weren’t overheard from the others. Once they stopped walking, Kangin tugged for Eeteuk to release his arm. He did so reluctantly.
“What are you doing?” Kangin asked, eyes narrowing,
“Please Kangin… I… I can’t go on like this,” Eeteuk stated, “I need to know how you feel.”
“You know how I feel,” Kangin hissed as he turned to leave.
Eeteuk stopped him by pushing him against a bedroom door, “No, I don’t… not about me, anyway. Kangin, please… do you still love me? Is there any part of you that still loves me?”
“Eeteuk,” Kangin sighed, looking away to where a light from the television broke the darkness of the hallway.
“Please!” He whispered urgently, “Kangin… if there’s a part of you that still loves me, we can start again. We can have what we did before except this time, I’ll be loving you too. Isn’t that what you wanted? Isn’t that what you’ve been waiting for?”
“Eeteuk, I’m with Sungmin now,” Kangin said simply, still avoiding his gaze.
“Then tell me you don’t love me anymore. Tell me that and I’ll leave you alone. I’ll walk away and never mention it again,” Eeteuk insisted. He swallowed hard before continuing, “But if you do still love me, then don’t walk away from me… don’t walk away from love…” He reached up, cupping the side of Kangin’s face, forcing him to look at him; “Don’t make the same mistake I did.”
Kangin gazed at him for an infinitesimal moment before reaching up and pulling Eeteuk’s hand from his face. He moved to leave, but Eeteuk manoeuvred their hands so that he was holding Kangin’s, stopping his escape.
“You didn’t answer,” Eeteuk stated.
“I know,” Kangin grounded out.
“Tomorrow… at midnight… Tomorrow I’ll be up on the roof. If you don’t show up, then I’ll know you no longer love me and I swear that Sungmin will never know about this while wishing you and Sungmin all the best. But if you do come, then I’ll know you do love me, at least a little and I promise I’ll no longer hold back what I feel for you,” Eeteuk declared amongst the noise from the living room.
Kangin stared at him, shrouded in shadows while parts of his face were lit by the soft light from the television. His eyes searched Eeteuk’s face. Finally, he asked quietly, “Why are you doing this? If Sungmin knew… don’t you realize how hurt he’d be?”
“I do… and… and I don’t want to, the last thing I want is to hurt Sungmin. And yet…” Eeteuk looked away but his hand gripped Kangin’s tighter, “And yet I can’t let you go. I’m not doing this to hurt Sungmin… I’m doing this to be with you again.”
Kangin tugged on his hand, quietly asking Eeteuk to let him go. Eeteuk looked at him again for a pregnant pause. Finally, he released his hold as the door Kangin had been pushed up against opened.
“Tomorrow,” Eeteuk whispered before retreating to the living room.
Sungmin sat on Heechul’s bed as his hyung sat before him on a chair. He wasn’t sure how long ago it was that they retreated there, but it had happened before the other members had finished their dinners. Beyond the bedroom door, they could hear the muffled noise from the movie the others had begun to watch.
Sungmin felt exhausted. His body felt as heavy as lead while he couldn’t even feel his heart. His eyes felt burned and rubbed raw while his throat was dry and sore. He didn’t think he could cry another tear.
Suddenly, a thud against the door pulled the two from their silent getaway. Sungmin felt drawn towards the door. He leapt towards it, his hands on the door handle. He began to turn it when Heechul’s hand covered his, stopping him. He looked up at Heechul who used his free hand to press against the door, keeping it closed. Heechul returned his gaze, a simple challenge in them. Just listen.
“Eeteuk, I’m with Sungmin now,” Kangin’s voice drifted through the wooden door.
Sungmin felt his heart jolt at the words.
“Then tell me you don’t love me anymore. Tell me that and I’ll leave you alone. I’ll walk away and never mention it again,” Eeteuk’s voice said then, “But if you do still love me, then don’t walk away from me… don’t walk away from love…” There was a silent pause, and then: “Don’t make the same mistake I did.”
Sungmin felt his heart beat, but it pained him almost as if a dagger were thrust through the muscle and with each pump, the jagged edges drove deeper into him. He heard Kangin push away from the door and on some elementary level, he wanted to rejoice. Kangin was walking away. Then, as he pressed his forehead against the wood, he realized something that Eeteuk voiced then,
“You didn’t answer.”
“I know,” came Kangin’s reply.
What did that mean? Sungmin thought wildly. What could it mean? All he knew was that his body instinctively didn’t like it. He felt as if a cold wind swept over his body as that dagger twisted into him more and more.
“Tomorrow… at midnight… Tomorrow I’ll be up on the roof. If you don’t show up, then I’ll know you no longer love me and I swear that Sungmin will never know about this while wishing you and Sungmin all the best. But if you do come, then I’ll know you do love me, at least a little and I promise I’ll no longer hold back what I feel for you,” Eeteuk declaration came through the door.
Silence again until Kangin asked, “Why are you doing this? If Sungmin knew… don’t you realize how hurt he’d be?”
“I do… and… and I don’t want to, the last thing I want is to hurt Sungmin. And yet… And yet I can’t let you go. I’m not doing this to hurt Sungmin… I’m doing this to be with you again.” Eeteuk’s pained reply was heard.
Silence met the reply and Sungmin couldn’t handle it anymore. He couldn’t remain idle anymore. All his life he had been the nice guy, but this time he refused that role. He refused to stand by and allow someone come and take his love from him, even if that someone was a friend. This time, when he turned the doorknob, Heechul didn’t stop him and even moved away from the door.
“Tomorrow,” Sungmin heard Eeteuk’s quick whisper before the leader slipped back towards the living room.
He stood there silently, the door opened just enough to show himself. As if feeling his gaze, Kangin turned around slowly, his eyes immediately meeting Sungmin’s. They widened slightly in realization before they clouded over with so many emotions, Sungmin couldn’t tell them apart.
“You heard…” was all Kangin managed, his voice quiet, barely audible against the movie playing in the background.
Sungmin felt Heechul’s presence behind him. It comforted him and warmed him and gave him a strength he hadn’t realized was still there. Taking a deep, steadying breath, Sungmin stepped into the hallway, the door closing behind him without him having to pull it.
“Tomorrow at midnight…” Sungmin locked his gaze with Kangin’s. His body wanted to move towards him, hold him tight and never let go. His voice wanted to beg him to not leave him. His heart wanted… “Where will you be?”
Kangin opened his mouth to reply, but found himself unable. He wanted to answer, wanted to tell Sungmin his answer. However, his body rebelled while his mind struggle to find the words; his heart was caught in the crossfire.
As if knowing the storm brewing in Kangin, Sungmin took a step so he was abreast with Kangin instead of facing him. He focused his eyes straight ahead while he knew Kangin turned to face him completely, “I think I’m going to stay at my parents’ house tonight.” He glanced at Kangin from the corner of his eye before forcing himself to look away, “In case… in case you were wondering where I’ll be tomorrow at midnight.”
Sungmin swiftly left the dorm before Kangin could say more. He was in the elevator, waiting for the doors to slide close when Kangin intercepted them, his hand covering the opening where the doors slid from,
“Why don’t you ask me to not go? Why don’t you tell me to come to you tomorrow night?” Kangin asked, his voice and expression pained. “Why don’t you grab me and tell me that it’s you I should be finding at midnight?”
Sungmin, whose eyes had widened at Kangin’s sudden appearance, suddenly stared at him with calm, dark eyes, “Because I already grabbed onto you once. I held onto you with all my might and silently begged you not to leave me… to stay with me. But I shouldn’t have to do that, Kangin. I shouldn’t have to convince you to stay with me.” He laughed hollowly as his gaze moved past Kangin, refusing to look at him as his eyes narrowed with bitterness, “I will fight for you, never think otherwise… but at the same time, I shouldn’t have to fight.” Finally, he looked back at Kangin, his expression collected once more as he raised a hand and flattened it against Kangin‘s chest; “I shouldn’t be the only one struggling to keep us together,” he said simply before lightly pushing Kangin away.
“Whatever you choose… I love you, Youngwoon.” He lowered his hand as the doors slid shut.
The next evening, it was cold as Eeteuk stood on the roof. He gazed past the roof’s fences towards the quieting city. The sky was clear, a sheet of dark blue velvet dotted with sparkling diamonds and a full, round moon. The moon cast a silvery light upon everything, including Eeteuk and the person who stepped out onto the roof.
He turned around, smiling as Kangin approached him, stopping just a metre away. “You came,” Eeteuk said, the relief evident in his tone and expression. As his eyes looked at Kangin’s, he realized something was very wrong. “What… what is it?”
Kangin regarded him another moment before giving him a small smile, “I came to say goodbye.”
“Are… where are you going?” Eeteuk asked, his heart suddenly beating very fast.
“I’m not saying goodbye to you… I’m…” He took a deep breath, “I’m saying goodbye to us.”
“Please… just let me talk,” Kangin insisted. Eeteuk searched his face before finally nodding. “When you told me that you love me, I can’t deny how happy I felt. I can’t deny that my heart skipped a beat. Eeteuk, you were the centre of my universe, you were the love of my life. To hear those words from you made me so happy.”
“Then… why are you saying goodbye?” Eeteuk asked, not caring that his words came out forced and hoarse.
“Because… while your words made me happy, they also made me realize that our time had passed,” Kangin said. He saw the tears slip down Eeteuk’s face and he immediately closed the distance. He cradled Eeteuk’s face, his thumbs brushing away the tears, “We had our moment Eeteuk, and it was wonderful, despite how short it was…” He held Eeteuk’s gaze as the moment stretched into eternity.
Eeteuk could feel his heart constricting painfully. He wanted to rip Kangin’s hands from him and at the same time, hold those hands there forever. He wanted to walk away, storm off and at the same time, he wanted to stay in that moment forever. His mind flashed with memories of when he had broken up with Kangin and his heart ached. For a moment, he felt he knew what Kangin had felt those months ago but, as the seconds passed with him gazing into Kangin’s eyes, somehow he just knew. He knew that his pain still did not equal Kangin’s; probably would never equal the pain he gave.
“You were my first love,” Kangin admitted quietly, his hands still and firm on his cheeks, “And on some level, I will always… always… love you.” Eeteuk failed to stifle a cry but when he tried to pull away, Kangin only held him more, “No, it’s true,” he insisted as Eeteuk’s tears flowed freely, “It’s true.” He leaned in and pressed his lips against Eeteuk’s forehead, “I will always love you, Jungsu,” he murmured.
Then, as quick as it happened, it ended and Kangin pulled away, his hands dropping from his face, “But I am no longer in love with you.” He took a step back and somehow, both of them could physically feel the space widen between them. Kangin smiled at him sadly, “And that’s why I have to say goodbye to us. That’s why I can say goodbye to us… finally.”
Eeteuk searched Kangin’s face then; searched his eyes. He turned away and then looked up at the sky, the moon’s lines blurry from his tears. His heart was still racing, but it no longer pained him as before. He allowed his tears to run their course, knowing that drying them would be pointless at that point.
“He’s lucky to have your love,” Eeteuk heard himself saying. Where he found the strength for his words, even he didn’t know.
“I’m lucky to have his,” Kangin replied quietly, tentatively, not wanting to hurt his hyung more. “Are… are you going to be okay?”
Eeteuk looked over his shoulder at him, not caring that his face was streaked with tears, his eyes unbearably red; “Yes. What I’m feeling right now doesn’t even come close to what I put you through four months ago. You’re okay… so, surely… I’ll be okay too.”
“Regardless of what happened between us… I would never wish you pain,” Kangin insisted, his eyes narrowed with concern.
Eeteuk found himself laughing softly as he turned his face back to the night sky. “I know,” he replied. A moment passed, and then he added, “Thank you.”
He stood there silently, just gazing up at the stars. He heard Kangin move behind him, heard him hesitate and then quietly leave. The wind embraced him, drying his tears. The minutes passed by before Eeteuk walked towards the fence surrounding the roof’s perimeter. He gazed down at the street below and saw a shadow pass from out of the building. Knowingly, Eeteuk followed the shadow until he couldn’t see it anymore. He leaned his forehead against the cool metal of the fence’s crossing wires. He felt the last of his strength leave him as he fell to his knees as he breathed, “I’m sorry.”
Kangin walked for what seemed like forever. At some point, he found himself outside of Sungmin’s parents house and he was gazing up at the dark window he knew to be Sungmin’s. He had the urge to grab a small rock or pebble and toss it at the window. Had some romantic thoughts of Sungmin coming to the window and smiling down at him. He glanced at the car in the driveway and knew none of that could happen or else he incur Sungmin’s parents’ wrath.
So, Kangin headed home. He walked steadily, surely as his thoughts were clearer than they had ever been his entire life. The night calmed him and the wind cooled him. His heart beat strongly, confidently as he replayed what happened on the roof in his mind. He was glad - but unsurprised - to feel no regrets. When he reached his house, he stopped at the cement path that led from the sidewalk to his front porch.
Sungmin sat on the porch’s steps, his arms wrapped about himself, hugging tightly to stay warm. As if sensing a change around him, Sungmin looked up and their eyes instinctively found one another. Kangin quickly closed the distance between them as Sungmin slowly rose. He stood on a small step above the ground, so that their eyes were levelled.
Kangin said nothing, could say nothing. Instead, he wrapped his arms around Sungmin, pulling him fiercely against him. He held him tightly and for once, finally, his mind and body and, yes, even his heart were one as he knew that he was home. He felt Sungmin’s warmth envelope him, encase him totally and thoroughly.
Finally, Sungmin pulled his arms from between there bodies and hugged Kangin back. Kangin closed his eyes as his body was swept with a calm he could only feel from Sungmin’s love. Yes, Kangin could only describe his love as water. It filled his body, surrounded it and made it feel light. It flowed through Sungmin, through himself and between them. It could be powerful or calming while always surrounding them both.
“I… couldn’t sleep… not while knowing…,” Sungmin said, his face turned and nuzzling Kangin’s cheek. “It’s way past midnight.”
“It’s midnight somewhere in the world,” Kangin replied before quickly amending, “I should’ve been here to find you sooner.” He took three calming breaths before stating, “I never stopped loving you Sungmin… what happened… it wasn’t because I didn’t love you.”
“I know,” Sungmin managed, “But… it wasn’t because you didn’t love Eeteuk either.”
“That’s true,” Kangin admitted. He felt Sungmin stiffen in his arms and quickly explained, “But not like that… not like this… I loved Eeteuk, that is for certain. But how I loved him then is different from how I love him now.” He raised a hand to Sungmin’s face, holding his chin between thumb and forefinger, “How I love him now is different from how I love you now. I love Eeteuk, but I could say that about any of the other members.”
“How… how can you be sure?” Sungmin challenged him, his voice wavering as he shook in Kangin’s embrace,
“The only way I can describe our love… is that it’s like water,” Kangin stated quietly, firmly, “It has varying levels of intensity, but it is always pure, always clear, always true. When I lost Eeteuk, it broke my heart. But if I lost you, it would kill my heart. It would kill my soul, my body - everything. I wouldn’t be able to go on living without water, just like how I would not - could not - continue living with you, Sungmin.”
Kangin leaned in and pressed his lips against a tear that slowly slid down Sungmin’s cold cheek, “I love you… I am in love with you, Sungmin.” He brought his lips to Sungmin’s other cheek as another tear broke free from his wet lashes, “I believe that everyone is fated to love.” He brushed his lips against the corner of both of Sungmin’s eyes that were brimming with hot, thick tears, “And I am fated to love you.”
Sungmin gazed at him through the tears, “You’re back.”
“You brought me back again,” Kangin stated honestly.
Sungmin felt his eyes slide close as Kangin brought his lips to his own. He relished in the warmth that surrounded them against the cold wind, the strength of Kangin’s arms and love that held him securely bound. He held him back even tighter, wanting to give as much love as he felt lavished upon him at that moment beneath the night sky.
In that moment, nothing existed except just the two of them. Just them in each others’ arms, loving each other as Kangin whispered into their kiss:
“Only you can ever bring me back.”