(Chapter 4 of the Beyond Words series.)
Chapter Four: Every Suffering Moment
And I'll still love you,
Beyond what words will say.
I'll take your every suffering moment
and bring a better day.
I'll still love you
more then what I hope to be.
Let me wrap my arms around you
Let me take your breath away.
It was a long night.
First, Eunhyuk had to go back to the ball with Donghae, but still fight off all of his horny suitors. Then, he had to ignore both his uncle and Kyuhyun because of their suspicious glares at Donghae. Then, he had to keep an eye out on Sooyoung because any man who wasn’t hitting on him, was surely going after his beautiful cousin. Then, he had to wait until the damned ball was finished.
However, once the last guest left, all of Eunhyuk’s problems weren’t over. The King had retired almost immediately and Sooyoung had left for her room to call her friends and tell them about the ball and all the cute boys she had seen - although Eunhyuk couldn’t see any appeal in any of the men of course, except for Donghae. Kyuhyun, however, was hanging around the entrance hall when the butler closed the door on the last guest.
Eunhyuk made for the main staircases and Donghae was on his heels. However, they had barely taken more than five steps when Kyuhyun grabbed Eunhyuk’s arm,
“What?” Eunhyuk spun around to look at him,
“Where is he going?” Kyuhyun demanded, eyes narrowed,
“I need to leave the house and Donghae’s helping me,” Eunhyuk went to move when Kyuhyun only tightened his grip on his hyung’s arm, “What Kyuhyun!?” Eunhyuk looked over his shoulder at him,
“What’s going on Eunhyuk? Since when did we start hiding things from each other? And why haven’t I seen Taeyeon since that guy’s friend asked her to dance?” Kyuhyun questioned, eyes flashing dangerously,
Eunhyuk shook of his hold, narrowing his eyes, “First of all, I didn’t start hiding things, but you’re the one who started trying to run my life -”
“Don’t you dare interrupt,” Eunhyuk warned as only a hyung was able to do. “Second, ‘that guy’ has a name and it’s Donghae. Third of all, I’m going to Taeyeon now. So either you shut the hell up and come with me or you go to your room and make sure no one realizes she’s not at home.”
Kyuhyun’s eyes widened, “What happened to her!?”
The door to the hospital room burst open and instinctively, Junsu jumped to his feet from the chair where he sat. Kyuhyun and Eunhyuk were running in when Junsu shushed them with a threatening look. When they calmed down, they realized that Taeyeon was lying in the hospital bed, asleep.
“Thank you, but we can take over from here,” Kyuhyun stated as he reached the bed.
Junsu lowered himself back to the chair on the other side of the bed, “I’m not leaving her.”
Kyuhyun turned wild eyes towards him, but Eunhyuk put a hand on his shoulder to calm him, “He’s older, Kyuhyun. Prince or not, you should respect him.” He glanced at Junsu before adding, “Not to mention after all he’s done for Taeyeon.”
Kyuhyun jerked his shoulder from Eunhyuk’s grip but said nothing. On the way there, Eunhyuk had explained all to his cousin about Taeyeon’s school situation. He was angry. He was angry that Taeyeon hadn’t said anything to him even though he was the older brother. He was angry that Eunhyuk had been confided in, that Eunhyuk hadn’t said anything. He was angry that the one who was there when Taeyeon needed someone was this stranger, Junsu. Most of all, he was angry that he hadn’t noticed. He hadn’t noticed his sister was in pain, hadn’t noticed the struggles she went through each day.
He grabbed her hand in both of his as his eyes stared intently on his sister. He always thought he was a good brother, better than most of the neglecting ones he heard of. He was indulgent with the way he and his sisters treated each other. He would do anything for them. However, as Eunhyuk relayed to him of Taeyeon’s problems, he realized for the first time how lacking he had truly been as a brother.
Seeing the emotions playing across Kyuhyun’s face, Eunhyuk turned his attention to Junsu, “What did the doctors say?”
Junsu crossed his arms tightly, “Two broken ribs, one fractured. Since it’s her right side, they checked her liver for any damage but they didn’t find any, nor her kidney or diaphragm. They said there’s nothing specific they can do for her injury, but to help support the ribs as much as possible as they’re healing. She’s not to do any major movements for a few weeks and they’ll be giving her medication for any pain and discomfort that’s bound to come.”
Eunhyuk nodded his understanding before looking back at Taeyeon. She looked so peaceful sleeping that it hurt his heart just thinking what pain she had been going through for the past two days. He felt a hand on his shoulder and he looked back at Donghae. Donghae gestured towards the door with his head and Eunhyuk silently followed him outside.
“I’m worried for your cousin, but this is… more of a family thing,” Donghae said, rubbing the back of his neck wearily, “And I want to go check up on my brother. Ever since what happened to me, well, I just want to make sure he’s alright.”
Eunhyuk nodded, “Go ahead, I’ll probably return to the house in an hour or so.”
“You will?” Donghae raised his eyebrows,
“I… I want to stay, but Kyuhyun needs rest; this entire thing’s got him on edge. Besides, I need to tell my uncle about this… he has to know at some point,” he glanced briefly at the door. He could see through the small window and could see Junsu sitting in the chair, silently watching Taeyeon, “Besides, I know Junsu won’t leave her.”
Donghae nodded, “Junsu’s loyalty is unbreakable. For as long as he feels loyal to your cousin, he’ll never betray her.” Donghae’s eyes swept over the Prince’s, taking in all he saw. He saw the dullness in his dark eyes, the bags beginning to form beneath. He reached out, taking his chin between thumb and forefinger, “Get some sleep, okay? I’ll call on you tomorrow.”
Eunhyuk nodded before swatting his hand away, “Brat,” he murmured as he headed back to the door. He stopped then, his hand on the door knob, “Thank you for tonight.”
“For everything,” Eunhyuk replied, his voice quiet but firm. Without another word, he opened the door and slipped back inside.
An hour passed and Eunhyuk finally convinced Kyuhyun to come with him back to the house for some sleep. Eunhyuk practically shoved him out the door when Junsu called after him. Eunhyuk swirled around, still dressed in his cream and gold Hanbok to find Junsu approaching him,
“Junsu-sshi?” Eunhyuk looked at him expectantly,
“I didn’t want to say anything earlier because… well, from the way Prince Kyuhyun came in here I had a feeling it wouldn’t be good to tell him,” Junsu looked at Taeyeon, arms crossed firmly once more, “When they were attending to her ribs, they decided to do a full-body inspection just in case.”
“What did they find?” Eunhyuk could barely breathe as his body went very, very cold.
“The whole left side of her torso is purple which they said is caused by massive internal bleeding… they were surprised she lasted this long,” Junsu swallowed hard, “And her entire stomach was bruised and they found more internal bleeding. They… they had to pump blood from her stomach. They said it’s a miracle that her organs didn’t make her lungs collapse from all the damage.”
Eunhyuk could feel his body subtly shaking. He could feel it in his legs which were weakening, in his fists which were clenching. His blood was boiling and his heart was racing as his mind was turning to darker thoughts. Somehow, he managed, “What else?” Because he could tell Junsu wasn’t saying something.
“After… after the physical… they did an ultrasound,” Junsu’s voice had lowered in volume and was now coming out barely above a whisper. Eunhyuk now saw that Junsu had crossed his arms to keep from shaking with anger. The other man’s eyes were narrowed and he could see them glassing over with unshed tears, “They want to do more testing tomorrow but… but there’s a good chance that… that your cousin may…” He breathed hard through his teeth as he tried to collect his composure, tried to steady his raspy voice, “Your cousin may not be able to have kids when… when the time comes.”
In that instant, Eunhyuk felt as if the ground beneath him shifted and he almost fell. Junsu grabbed his arm to steady him. Those dark eyes were now watching him with concern, “Your Highness?” Junsu asked tentatively,
Eunhyuk’s gaze was concentrated on his sleeping cousin, “Junsu… you said you won’t leave Taeyeon. I’ll know your reason now.”
Instead of looking at Taeyeon, Junsu locked eyes with Eunhyuk, proving his determination, “When I first saw your cousin up-close two days ago, I thought she was the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen. When I saw her at the ball I could barely breathe because she was so beautiful. I admit that at first, my interest in her was completely physical. However…”
Junsu paused, taking a deep, steadying breath. Now, he looked over his shoulder at Taeyeon, “After I danced with her and saw she was in pain, I grew worried. In the car ride here, she told me what happened to her, how she’s been bullied for two years. I can’t quite explain it Your Highness… all I know is that in that moment I danced with her and realized she was in pain, I wanted to protect her. After she told me on the way here, after staying by her side all these hours, I knew that I wanted to protect her forever.”
“All the things the doctors discovered… does she know?” Junsu shook his head negatively; “I want to be here when you tell her… I need to be here.”
“Of course,” Junsu bowed his head, “Will you return tomorrow morning?”
Eunhyuk nodded, “At the earliest possible moment.” He turned to leave when he felt warm fingers close over his own. He looked over his shoulder at Junsu.
“Donghae… He’s not just waiting in the hallway for you, is he?” Junsu asked lightly, “When you came back alone all I could think about was the princess but… where’d he go?”
“He went home,” Eunhyuk said simply, confused at Junsu’s furrowed brow and darkened eyes, “He said he wanted to make sure his brother was okay.”
“Tomorrow… before you come back here… can you just check on Donghae?” Junsu asked, “You’ll probably find him at the store.”
Suddenly, Eunhyuk’s eyes narrowed dangerously, his hand now gripping Junsu’s back, “What? Why?”
“He’s not as completely healed as he would like everyone to think,” Junsu replied, “In truth… he left the hospital against the doctor’s orders. He… sort of ran away and I just happened to find him at his place.”
“Why would he do that!? If he’s not healthy he shouldn’t-”
“He can’t afford it,” Junsu explained, his voice low and tight.
Eunhyuk’s eyes swept over Junsu’s and tried to understand. He saw a tenseness in the other man’s face, he could feel it in the hand holding his own; Junsu was worried about Donghae, yet still didn’t want to betray his trust.
“Medical services, hospitals especially, are expensive. As soon as he could walk on his own, he snuck out of the hospital,” Junsu said, “He promised me after the ball he’d come back and when he came in with you, I felt relieved but…” He locked eyes with the Prince, “I know it’s hard for you to understand, but nowadays, it’s hard to get the right care simply because the people don’t have enough. Especially with his grocery store the way it is… Donghae knew he couldn’t pay for more hospital time.”
“I…” Eunhyuk felt as if his throat was tightening as his heart was clenching painfully. In that instant, he felt selfish. He knew Junsu didn’t intend to do so, but he was shrouded in guilt. The entire night he had been complaining about his own life and yet, Donghae didn’t even have enough money to heal in the hospital properly. Swallowing hard, he promised, “I’ll check on Donghae in the morning.”
“Thank you,” was all Junsu said. He squeezed his hand comfortingly before bowing. Then, he released his hold and returned to his chair at Taeyeon’s bedside. After a moment of watching them, Eunhyuk slipped out of the room, the door closing firmly behind him.
The next morning, dawn had barely broken when Eunhyuk had retreated from the balcony and back into his bedroom. He felt as if the night had slipped by before he realized it. When he had come home the previous evening, he had gone up to his room, but found he couldn’t sleep. Kyuhyun had helped him with the Hanbok before retreating to his own room. Alone, Eunhyuk had donned his robe, clad in just his pyjama bottoms beneath the silk material.
He had slipped onto the balcony and sat on a wicker chair. His eyes had slipped up to the sky as he rested a foot on the opposite knee and crossed his arms loosely. In March, the nights were still cool and yet, Eunhyuk couldn’t feel it, couldn’t feel anything really. His mind was reeling over Taeyeon and what happened to her. His thoughts kept returning to his conversation with Junsu and he got an ache in his chest whenever he thought about what Junsu had revealed to him - about Taeyeon and about Donghae.
Every time his mind got within a whisper of thinking about Donghae, his chest would begin to ache. Eunhyuk didn’t want to examine that particular reaction, not yet at least. He knew quite possibly what it was, but he wasn’t ready. For the first time in twenty-three years, he had finally allowed someone in who wasn’t Kyuhyun. He had finally allowed someone into his private, secret world and that alone was leaving him bare. To look closer at his feelings, to examine that pain close to his heart would leave him more vulnerable than he was already feeling.
The moment the sky was turning lighter, Eunhyuk felt himself snap back to reality. His thoughts receded just enough for him to remember where he was. He slowly rose from the wicker chair and returned back to his room, closing the balcony doors behind him. He went straight to his closet to find clothes to wear. He wanted to go to Taeyeon, but he knew his uncle and Kyuhyun would go there, and Junsu probably stayed with Taeyeon all night. With his cousin well looked after, Eunhyuk was dead-set on seeing after Donghae.
His eyes swept his closet for clothing. He knew he couldn’t stand out, couldn’t draw attention to himself. He pulled a pair of faded jeans that he hadn’t worn in years. Changing into them, he was thankful they still fit. As he buttoned them, he recognized another emotion washing over him. Feeling such worn-out jeans fit him still, he found an oddly placed comfort. He felt almost transported, as if such a simple pair of jeans from the past comforted his tumultuous present.
Shaking his thoughts from his mind, he pulled on a simple t-shirt and a plain hooded sweatshirt. Next, he looked around his closet for a baseball cap. He found a simple, black hat. Grabbing it, he ran back into his bedroom towards the vanity. Finding a hair tie, Eunhyuk tied his hair into a loose, simple bun and began tucking it beneath the hat as he placed it on his head.
When that was done, he pulled up the hood and made for the door when he froze. In his peripherals, he saw the mirror and caught sight of his reflection. It startled him. For once, he saw just Eunhyuk. He didn’t see the Princess everyone thought him, or the Prince he was born to be. He was just Eunhyuk.
With his hair tucked up into the hat and just some of his bangs peaking out to sweep over his forehead, he could finally see his face. He could see past the façade of the Princess and see the man he had become. The loose-fitting sweater hid his figure just as any Hanbok, but the sweater didn’t hint at femininity the way the Hanbok did. His jeans, were more of a problem. They weren’t tight, but they weren’t as baggy as they could be. He knew one wrong move could draw attention to a certain area and the way the jeans fitted him just right on his hips, he knew it wouldn’t be hard to guess what was there. Self-consciously, he tugged at the hem of the sweater, grateful that they reached just bellow his bottom and hoped that would be enough.
He looked back to the door, only half surprised to see Kyuhyun standing there.
“You look surprised,” Kyuhyun said simply,
“I had a feeling you’d want to leave once the sun-”
“I meant when you looked in the mirror,” Kyuhyun amended. He glanced behind him in the hallway before continuing, “I have to admit… there are times when even I forget to remember.”
“Same here,” Eunhyuk admitted quietly as his eyes drifted back to the person in the mirror who could be a girl or a boy, but was most definitely him. “Most of the time I only remember when I see myself without a shirt or when I shower.” He took a deep, steadying breath as he tore his eyes away from his reflection, but refused to meet his cousin’s eyes, “I don’t know how long I’ve been like this.”
“Been like what?”
“Comfortable,” Eunhyuk replied. He pushed past his cousin into the hallway and started walking, “You’re going to Taeyeon, is Uncle going too?”
Kyuhyun nodded as he fell into stride with his hyung, “Yes, we’re going together, then he has some meetings at city hall, so I’ll stay with Taeyeon then.”
“I’ll meet you guys at the hospital,” Eunhyuk said once they neared the main staircase.
Kyuhyun stopped as his cousin did, “What? You’re not coming with us?” As if suddenly understanding, his eyes narrowed, “You’re going to him aren’t you?”
Eunhyuk sighed heavily, “Kyuhyun, it’s too early to argue about this-”
“I saw you two on the balcony last night,” Kyuhyun blurted out. When Eunhyuk looked at him, he explained, “I noticed that you had gone missing from the ballroom when one of your pups came up to me and asked for you. I knew you hadn’t gone to the corridor because I was standing near the doors, so I checked the terrace. You two were together and he was holding you.”
“It seems you’re getting comfortable in more than one area,” Kyuhyun muttered as one of the maids walked past them. He narrowed eyes on his cousin, “What if someone else had seen you two together? Can you imagine the scandal? What if you two were talking about your secret and someone else had overheard? Don’t you understand how dangerous it is to associate with that guy even without considering the circumstances that first brought him to this house?”
“The moment I stepped on that floor for a fourth dance, a scandal was already in full swing,” Eunhyuk replied as he began to answer each question, ticking them off with his fingers as he went, “Donghae and I aren’t so careless as to talk about my secret in the open like that-”
“It looked like you were…” Kyuhyun hesitated for a moment. He was slipping into the habit of forgetting his cousin’s true gender again. Despite what happened, despite how the world saw him, Eunhyuk was still his cousin and was still a man. As such, he found it difficult to say what he saw that night. As Eunhyuk’s eyes bore into his own, somehow, he managed in the quietest of voices; “Crying…”
“I knew you were there from the moment you came out onto the terrace,” Eunhyuk stated, crossing his arms over his chest, “Kyuhyun, I was trained in kendo to be observant, to be aware and vigilant. My instincts warned me to your presence before my senses took over.”
“What if it hadn’t been me, Eunhyuk?” Kyuhyun whispered at him angrily, “What if-”
“I understand your concern for me, Kyuhyun - I truly do. However, you’re still forgetting who I am, what I am. I am twenty-three,” Eunhyuk stressed, “I know how to take care of myself. I’m not some damsel in distress, Kyuhyun…” He glanced down the main staircase where he could barely see his uncle talking to a butler, “And right now I’m going to play the knight on the white horse.”
Kyuhyun could say nothing because Eunhyuk suddenly turned down the stairs. He followed his cousin down and watched as he greeted his father while the butler went off to call for the main car.
“I didn’t know you’d be joining us this morning,” the King stated, “But your state of dress-”
“I’m not, I have something else to attend to before I meet you both at the hospital,” Eunhyuk said blithely, “And I thought my choice of clothes would be perfect for being incognito, don’t you think Uncle?”
“Remember what you promised-”
“He’s fine, Father,” Kyuhyun stepped up them, coming shoulder-to-shoulder with his cousin. When his father turned startled eyes to him, Kyuhyun took a deep steadying breath as he wondered what the hell he was doing; “I retract my previous complain about Lim Donghae. I was erred and jumping to conclusions…” When he noticed the suspicious light in his father’s eyes, he added what he knew would be the icing on top, “And Mother would have been completely disappointed in the way I so readily judged someone before I knew them.” He raised a calculated eyebrow, “You know how much Mother hated unwarranted prejudice.”
Just as Kyuhyun predicted, the King nodded, his gaze now seeing past him rather than at him, “Yes… she was always seen as unsuitable to be my princess and…” he sighed as he looked between his son and his nephew warily, “You two will be the death of me, I swear it.”
Kyuhyun grinned at his cousin’s shocked expression, “We do try our best, Father.”
The King sighed as he turned his back on them and headed towards the front door, “But to ease my heart, I’ll have you know, Eunhyuk, that I spoke to your parents.”
Eunhyuk adopted a blank expression, “And what did they say, Uncle?”
The King looked over his shoulder at him, “Don’t be impudent.”
“Only sometimes, Uncle, only sometimes,” Eunhyuk grinned at him.
The King rolled his eyes as he turned away. A footman hurried to open the door for him, “Come Kyuhyun, I want to be there when your sister awakens.”
Kyuhyun moved to follow when Eunhyuk grabbed his arm, “In a moment, Father.” He turned towards his cousin, question in his eyes.
“Less than five minutes ago you were raging at me about why I should even talk to Donghae… what changed?” Eunhyuk asked, his hand falling from his cousin’s arm,
“Nothing, but like I said - I saw you on the terrace,” Kyuhyun said with a simple shrug of his shoulders,
“You’re right, I do keep forgetting certain things about you, Eunhyuk, especially when it concerns him,” Kyuhyun admitted, crossing his arms loosely, “But despite my worries, I cannot deny what I saw last night on the terrace… He was able to comfort you in a way I could not. He is able to see you and protect you in a way I can not simply because you won’t allow anyone to see that part of you. He is the only one you’ve let come that close to you, Eunhyuk… I begrudge him for it, but I cannot completely hate him.”
“Besides,” he smiled at his cousin, “Despite all my warnings, you gave him plenty of chances to slit your throat and he didn’t.”
“Thank you,” Eunhyuk managed, his throat tight with unshed tears and silent cries,
Kyuhyun pulled him into an embrace, “Now, now, hyung. You just convinced me you’re not some damsel in distress, don’t start crying.”
Eunhyuk pulled away from him and punched him in the arm, “And don’t forget it.”
Kyuhyun laughed as he mockingly bowed at his cousin and sprinted after his father. Eunhyuk couldn’t help but smile as he watched the car pull away from the house. The black town car was almost at the gates before the butler approached Eunhyuk,
“Princess, shall I call for another car for you?” He inquired, his voice the epitome of formal, his hands clasped behind his back.
“Hmm… I need to be inconspicuous this morning. My bike perhaps?” Eunhyuk inquired.
The butler balked, his face startled before he schooled it once more, “Your Highness… I know it’s not my place to disagree, but you know you’re forbidden-”
“Ah, but Uncle just left and I’ll make sure to take care when I go to the hospital and when I return so he won’t see it at all,” Eunhyuk said, turning a smile to the pale-faced butler, “Come now, it’s been three years since the accident.”
“I suppose my saying a princess does not belong on a motorcycle won’t do anything to sway you?” The butler all but pleaded,
“Afraid not,” Eunhyuk confirmed.
Within ten minutes, Eunhyuk was striding down the front steps as his motorcycle was brought forth from the garages. The hyper sport bike shone in the pale morning light, its body a sleek black and yellow. As Eunhyuk approached, he brushed back his hood and took off his cap. Placing his hat in the storage beneath the seat, Eunhyuk took the helmet the attendant handed him. Straddling the bike, he secured his helmet and gave a salute to the butler, who watched anxiously from the front door. Gripping the handles, he kicked up the stand and put the bike into motion. Then he, too, was gone.
When Eunhyuk arrived at grocery store, the other stores along the quiet street were still closed as their owners were slowly readying things within. He parked his bike on the curb and tried the door. Locked, of course. He sighed as he tried knocking on the door. Nothing. He spotted a doorbell high on the doorframe and tentatively pressed it twice.
One minute, then two and on the third minute, some one appeared from the back of the store. As the person approached, Eunhyuk recognized the young man to be the one who had been cashier the day he and Kyuhyun had come here.
The young man stared at him, “Who are you? Why are you here?” He demanded through the glass.
Eunhyuk took off his helmet and locked eyes with the young man. Immediately, he unlocked the door and opened it, “Your Highness,” he bowed,
“Please, I’m trying to be low-key,” Eunhyuk said, his voice slipping into his higher, more feminine tone;
“That’s pretty hard if that’s your bike over there,” the man stated,
“It’s either that or the town car and I thought it’d be the lesser of two evils,” Eunhyuk shrugged as he tucked his helmet under his arm, “I’m looking for Donghae.”
A light crossed the young man’s eyes, “It’d be best if you brought your bike in here, it should fit through the door.” When he saw the confusion on the Princess’s face, he added, “It’s not safe out there.”
After a quarter of an hour of manoeuvring the bike into the store, the young man locked the door once more and gestured for Eunhyuk to follow him to the back room. Once there, he led him to stairs that led to the level above.
“I didn’t know where Donghae lived, and his friend said to come here to find him,” Eunhyuk explained, just trying to fill the silence.
The tall youth looked over his shoulder briefly as they ascended the stairs, “You didn’t know? We live over the store.”
“ ‘We’? Are you his brother?” Eunhyuk asked,
He smiled as they reached a door and the young man opened it, leading Eunhyuk in, “His one and only,” he said simply, locking the door after them, “I know hyung will probably kill me for doing this but… I have a feeling it’s best you see him.”
“Why would he get mad?” Eunhyuk wondered aloud as he was led through what must be the living room to a door in the corner. He wanted to prompt the youth more, but he had opened the door and Eunhyuk felt all his questions disappear immediately.
Lying on an unadorned, single mattress on the floor, Donghae was lying on his side, hugging a pillow to his stomach. Clad from only the waist down, Eunhyuk could see purple on what little of his stomach he could see. The brother walked over and pulled the thick blanket over his brother’s naked torso and only then did Eunhyuk realize how cold it was.
“Why isn’t he wearing anything on his top?” Eunhyuk demanded,
“He said it’s easier to tend to his injuries this way,” the brother explained before adding, “Besides, even in the dead of winter he scarcely wears more than just his bottoms to sleep.”
Grumbling, Donghae rolled onto his back, slowly throwing a forearm over his eyes, “Changmin, I’m going to kill you.”
The brother grinned at Eunhyuk, “I told you so.” He turned his eyes to his brother, “Yes, well, what do you expect me to do when just yesterday me and Junsu find you here, escaped from the hospital?”
“I told you the bills-”
“We’ll handle it however way we can,” Changmin narrowed his eyes, his voice growing lower, more stern, “You think Mom and Dad would want to see you like this?”
“You think Mom and Dad would want to see us starve for a few weeks just because I wanted to stay in the hospital longer?” Donghae retorted as he removed his arm, “Besides, you idiot, exposing the Princess to me half naked. Have you no sense?”
Eunhyuk swallowed a laugh as he saw Changmin’s cheeks reddened and soon even the young man’s ears were red as well, “Donghae, stop teasing him. Um… Changmin-sshi, can I have a moment with your brother?”
Changmin nodded and slipped out of the room. Eunhyuk closed the door and sat on the edge of the mattress. Tentatively, he pulled down the blanket to Donghae’s waist to expose his torso. He barely fought the cringe as he finally saw the damage. Donghae’s stomach was heavily bruised, the skin black and purple all over.
Gingerly, he ran his fingertips over the skin, “Where else?” Eunhyuk choked out. When Donghae said nothing, he repeated it louder, angrier, “Where else!?”
“Just there and my face,” Donghae said quietly.
Eunhyuk’s eyes swept over Donghae’s face and stomach, that pain in his chest returning ten-fold. He could feel his heart physically clenching, feel his lungs shudder with each cold breath in the apartment. When his eyes finally locked with Donghae’s, he allowed himself - for a brief moment - acknowledge what that pain in his chest was. This stranger, this man had burst into his life one evening and was breaking down his shields one by one. He was too vulnerable, too open and thus, was falling way too fast.
“You need to go back to the hospital,” Eunhyuk barely whispered, his hand moving to his bruised jaw, cupping it gently,
“I’ll be fine,” Donghae insisted, “I just need to rest and I don’t need a hospital to do that.”
“Help me up, will you?” Donghae interrupted as he slowly began pushing himself up, “I’m guessing you’re going to the hospital - I’ll go with you.”
Eunhyuk immediately grabbed his hands and helped him until he stood. All the while, Donghae cringed and flinch with each movement of his abdomen. Once he was standing, he wrapped one arm around his torso and headed over to a sliding door that hid the closet he shared with his brother. He pulled out a t-shirt, but when his movements were slow and jerky, Eunhyuk was behind him in an instant.
When Eunhyuk took the shirt from him, Donghae whirled around to face him, “I’ll rest, I swear, but I’m coming with you-”
“I’m just helping you put this on,” Eunhyuk said simply as he held the shirt to help Donghae.
Donghae looked at him a moment before nodding. He slid both arms into the sleeves and slowly, Eunhyuk helped him with his head. Flinching slightly, Donghae remained silent as Eunhyuk slowly pulled the hem of the shirt down over his bruised torso. After, his hands rested on Donghae’s hips, their gazes locked.
Eunhyuk began leaning his face in when Changmin called to them, “Hyung! The neighbours are here!”
Sighing heavily, Donghae stepped away from Eunhyuk. Grabbing a zip-up, hooded sweater and not bothering to change out of his pyjama bottoms, Donghae slowly led Eunhyuk out of the room. Changmin stood at the door and led the way down the stairs, Eunhyuk and Donghae behind him.
Eunhyuk had been through the store once just moments ago, but this time, he stopped to look around. The freezer doors were all smashed in, crates, displays and shelves were broken, smashed and tipped over. It was obvious that some cleaning had been done, but there was still a distinct odour from spoiled food.
Eunhyuk pulled up his hood immediately and hung back by the door of the back room. Donghae and Changmin walked further into the store where some other people had entered, some looking at the motorcycle with a degree of curiosity.
“Is there a problem?” Donghae asked as he tentatively put his arms through the sleeves of his sweater, leaving it open.
“We heard about what happened,” One elderly man stated as he stepped up and produced a basket full of fruits,
“Yes, we want to help as best we can,” A younger man stepped up this time with a basket of bread, “It’s not much, but it should help while you and Changmin-sshi bounce back from this.”
“We can’t take all of this,” Donghae said immediately, “It’s appreciated, really, but you all need this to support yourselves-”
“Now see here,” the elderly man from before began, putting the basket on the cash counter as he leaned heavily on his cane, “you two have helped us out often enough, it’s not a big deal for us to return the favour.”
“Ahjusshi, but you all need your produce for money-”
“And that didn’t stop you when my husband lost his job and we were struggling to pay rent with just our store’s income,” a lady stated, crossing her arms,
“Ahjumma, all we did was give you some food until he found another job,” Donghae insisted,
“But we would’ve starved after two weeks if it weren’t for you boys,” she replied.
“And when Kim-sshi broke his leg, Changmin-sshi, you helped out in his store free of charge,” a man stated, “That was months of working for free and you never accepted payment once he was walking again.”
“We weren’t that busy and hyung didn’t need me around as much,” Changmin stated as his cheeks pinked.
“Listen boys,” the elderly man spoke up again, “We just want to repay in kind to how you’ve helped all of us, despite being in desperate straits yourself. Now you two just keep quiet and take what we’re offering, okay? These are hard times we’re living in and we need to help each other get through this.”
Donghae exchanged looks with his brother before looking at their neighbouring storeowners, “We accept all of your help, but please, at least let us help out at your stores once in awhile. It’ll take some time to clean this place up and rebuild it, but we want to help you all out too.”
“If that’s the only way you’ll accept our help,” the elderly man said grudgingly. He glanced at the motorcycle, “Now that’s been taken care of, what’s this doing here?”
Donghae and Changmin looked at one another again, not knowing what to say. Swiftly, Eunhyuk stepped forward, making sure to keep his hood on, hoping that he wouldn’t be recognized without his long hair and Hanbok on.
“It’s mine,” Eunhyuk said in his normal voice, “The store wasn’t the only victim, Donghae-sshi was also attacked when all of this happened,” he stated, sweeping his arm in a gesture, “Because of hospital bills, Donghae-sshi left the hospital before he completely healed. It was at the hospital that I befriended Donghae-sshi, so outside of my work hours, I come here to check up on him to make sure he’s healing right.”
“That’s very descent of you,” one young man stated,
“Indeed, you’re surrounded by friends on this street, Donghae-sshi,” a lady added.
Slowly, the people began to leave the store, Changmin bowing and thanking each and every one of them. The elderly man was the last to leave, turning back to them,
“If you need anything boys, you just ask, alright?” The elderly man said, leaning on his cane for support. After Donghae and Changmin gave the affirmative, the elderly man stared at Eunhyuk for a moment before bowing his head slightly, “I hope next time you come, Your Highness, you bring more protection.”
Eunhyuk blinked, not realizing his tone had reverted to that of the Princess’s, “Ahjusshi?”
“The Lim brothers are a great help to us here, but look what happened to their store and Donghae-sshi. If it was ever found out you were walking about on your own, who knows what might happen,” the elderly man said warily, “You’re your father’s daughter, wouldn’t want you to get hurt just because some people are getting desperate.”
“T-t-thank you… Ahjusshi,” Eunhyuk called when he turned to leave, “Why didn’t you call me on my lie?”
“You have your reasons for hiding and I don’t blame you,” the elderly man stated, “Besides, looks like you’re taking care of your friends, princess or not and I can’t begrudge you on that. Yes indeed, you’re your father’s daughter.” And with that, he left the store, his cane making a distinct clack on the pavement as he went.
Eunhyuk was silent as Changmin grabbed a push-broom and began sweeping things to one end of the store. Donghae went behind the cash counter and checked the register. When Donghae opened it and his expression didn’t change, Eunhyuk wondered how many times had Donghae opened the register since he was attacked.
“How long will it take to clean this up?” Eunhyuk asked tentatively,
“Another day or two?” Changmin offered, “It already looks a lot better than when it first happened.” He sighed as he glanced at the freezers, “Getting the store back to normal will take longer than that.”
“Because of money?” Eunhyuk asked, his voice quiet and hesitant,
Changmin nodded again as he continued sweeping, “To fix the doors on the freezers alone will take a chunk out of our savings. Replacing and repairing the crates and displays will take even more money.” He sighed heavily before looking at the Princess with a forced smile, “We’re fortunate that our neighbours offered to help us as we get back on our feet. The food they’ve given us will provide for at least a week and a half, so we can take money from our food and put it towards restoring this place.”
Donghae raised his gaze from the register to Eunhyuk. Immediately, he walked over, grabber his arm and pulled him into the back room, “I know what’s going on in your head so stop it.”
“I don’t know what-”
“Yes you do. This is life and Changmin and I will get through this fine,” Donghae said, eyes narrowing, “We don’t need your help and we certainly don’t need your pity-”
“We’ve gone on for years like this fine. It’s a set back, I won’t deny that, but the neighbours will help us somewhat and that’s more than I could’ve hoped fore,” Donghae stated, his grip absent-mindedly tightening on Eunhyuk’s forearm, “I don’t want you pitying us or getting some strange notion of charity in your head just because of what you just saw and because of what my brother just said.”
“Donghae, you said you wanted me to see the poverty and I know you two aren’t destitute, but I see how hard things are for not just you, but your neighbours,” Eunhyuk insisted, “The fact that you both resisted so much shows how much your neighbours rely on their products for income… the fact that Changmin expects the food to last you both a week and half when we both know it’d be luck to go past three days… the fact that your apartment upstairs is practically a freezer itself… I get it, I get why you wanted me to see the city.”
“Not like this, Eunhyuk… I didn’t want you to see it like this, to see me like this,” Donghae ran his free hand through his hair,
“Why? Because you didn’t want me to see that not only does my country need me, but you need me too?” Eunhyuk asked, “The only flaw in your plan, Donghae, is that once I’ve seen how desperate things are, I don’t know how to fix things. I don’t know how to do more than what my uncle’s already doing. The people only hold a grudge against my uncle because the recession is occurring while he’s in power, but had my parents not died, the recession would still be happening. I’ve seen the charts and trends - I know.”
“But don’t you see, Eunhyuk?” He moved his hands to Eunhyuk’s shoulders, holding them firmly as he locked gazes with him, “If you took the throne, there’d be more peace in the country. There’s so much strife and despair simply because the people are wary of the King. If you - their beloved Princess - took over, it would soothe the minds of more people than you think. The fact that you’re your father’s daughter is such a big symbol to the people, if you took to the throne, it would restore some hope to the people without you even doing anything!”
“And if I reveal the truth, what then?” Eunhyuk asked quietly, firmly, his tone and gaze challenging, “You seem to keep forgetting that there’s two parts of me, Donghae and the country only knows of one part. If I reveal to them the other, do you think they’ll so readily warm to my rule? Do you think I’ll still inspire hope in the people?”
“It’s worth a try,” Donghae insisted, eyes narrowing,
“And when it’s my turn to have the assassin sent after me?” Eunhyuk asked as he stepped away from Donghae and towards the front of the store, “What then?”
“I won’t let it; I’ll stop them,” Donghae grounded out, his hands fisted at his sides.
Eunhyuk looked out at the store front, his eyes sweeping at the debris of the carnage. Finally, he looked back at Donghae, “Just like you stopped them last time?”
Donghae said nothing as Eunhyuk returned to the store front and began to talk to Changmin. Donghae leaned his back against the wall and sighed heavily. He knew what he was talking about, knew what the people wanted. How was he going to convince Eunhyuk? How was he going to give Eunhyuk the push he needed to take up the throne? After slamming his fist at the wall, he pushed from it and joined his brother and the Princess.
When Eunhyuk and Donghae arrived at the hospital, Eunhyuk knew his uncle and Kyuhyun had already been there for an hour. After he parked his motorcycle in the parking garage, he and Donghae headed for the hospital’s main building. Eunhyuk dispensed the use of his cap and hood, knowing his status as a Princess would help them get to Taeyeon before visiting hours.
Upon arrival at Taeyeon’s room, Eunhyuk was startled to find Kyuhyun out in the corridor pacing, “Kyuhyun?”
“Hyung!” Kyuhyun whispered angrily as they approached, “Father’s being unreasonable!”
Eunhyuk blinked as he rubbed his hands together. He hadn’t worn gloves and now they were cold from riding on the bike. He dismissed the fact that he had been feeling cold all morning. “How?”
“He won’t make that… that… that guy leave!” Kyuhyun stated, his accusatory eyes glancing at Donghae every so often,
Eunhyuk rolled his eyes, “Is Junsu-sshi that bad? He brought Taeyeon here when neither of us could, not to mention he stayed here with her through the night.”
“Exactly! He could have taken advantage of her … Oh my God, he could’ve taken advantage of her!” Kyuhyun turned back to the door, hands fisted.
Eunhyuk grabbed his shoulder to stop him then with his free hand, smacked Kyuhyun upside the back of his head. “Get a hold of yourself,” Eunhyuk stated, “Geez, and you’d think I’d be the dramatic one. Seems Uncle chose the wrong person to play princess.”
Kyuhyun scowled at him, but said nothing as the Prince opened the door and led the two into the room. Junsu had given up his chair to the king and now stood at the other end of the room, a shoulder against the wall and his gaze out the window. Upon entering, the King didn’t even so much as bat an eyelash at the intruders. He sat completely still, hands folded as his eyes watched over his eldest daughter. The only thing that pulled him out of his trance was when Taeyeon’s eyes slowly opened and she smiled up at him weakly,
“Such a long face, Father.”
Suddenly, all attention was on her, but she only looked at her father. It had been years when she saw concern from her father. He loved them, she knew, but after Mother had died giving birth to Sooyoung, he had withdrawn from them. When the country entered the recession, he became too busy for them. In all honesty, the only person her father seemed to show concern for still was her cousin, the Princess.
“Taeyeon… why didn’t you… never did you ever hint…”
The stricken expression on his face nearly killed Taeyeon. Somehow, she managed to keep her smile from wavering, keep the tears from showing; “There are more important things than what goes on in school.”
The King grabbed her hand and held it tightly, his eyes narrowed darkly, “There is nothing more important than you.” He threw a look at his son and nephew, “And your siblings and cousin.” He turned his gaze back to his daughter, “There is nothing, Taeyeon - do you hear me?”
His words warmed her more than anything else and suddenly, it wasn’t that hard to summon the strength to smile, “I love you, Father.”
An hour had passed and silence had filled the room. Kyuhyun and Eunhyuk hadn’t wanted to interrupt Taeyeon’s moment with the King and both Junsu and Donghae hadn’t wanted to say anything with the King there. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that they were both part of a plan to assassinate him. When the King had to leave for a busy day at city hall, only then did the other four people break their silence.
Kyuhyun had apologized profusely to his sister for not seeing her pain. When she waved him off, he went in search for the best breakfast the hospital could provide. When Eunhyuk had formally introduced Donghae to Taeyeon, she asked to speak to him in private, assuming the role of seeing if Donghae was good enough for her cousin.
Out in the hallway, Eunhyuk turned to Junsu, “Sorry it took so long for us to get here.”
“It’s fine,” Junsu insisted, “The king was very…” He cleared his throat several times, “Very kind and… thankful.”
“Considering all you did for my cousin, is that such a surprise?” Eunhyuk inquired lightly, crossing his arms as he felt his body still cold from earlier.
Junsu shoved his hands into his pockets, “Honestly, I don’t know.” He glanced at Eunhyuk, “I’m guessing you know about the group who hired Donghae?” Eunhyuk nodded, “Myself, Donghae and our friend, Shiwon, we’re all a part of it… we were all just scraping by and the syndicate offered us money, money our families needed. At first they gave us simple jobs, spying on government officials - stuff like that. When this mission came along, they offered Donghae a hefty amount of money - enough for him to clear his debts from university, so he could use all the income from the store to keep him and Changmin going.”
Junsu sighed heavily as he leaned back against the corridor wall. They fell into silence as a few orderlies walked by. Finally, he spoke again, “The night Donghae finally went to do his mission, earlier that day I had gone to him with Shiwon and we had told Donghae, pressured him to finish the mission already. Since then… since then I don’t know what to think anymore. Like anyone else, I blamed the King for the financial straits our country’s going through. Since Donghae failed his mission… Maybe even before then, I don’t know anymore.”
Eunhyuk played with the end of his pony tail, watching his fingers instead of looking at Junsu, “Money, power… it can make a person do crazy things, Junsu-sshi. I’ve always known that not everyone was as fortunate as I and mine, however after today… after actually seeing it… Desperation is a scary thing. It can make a person lie, make a person do things they’d never thought they’d ever be doing. Then, once those actions are done, that person will do everything in their power not to get caught and suddenly, they’re desperate again but for a completely different reason.”
Finally, he looked up and locked gazes with the other man, “The rich aren’t free from desperation as others may think, Junsu-sshi, it’s just a different kind.”
“But you never blamed Donghae for his mission, did you?” Junsu asked tentatively,
Eunhyuk shook his head, “He couldn’t go through with it and nor did he try to defend himself. If Donghae was someone I couldn’t trust, then he would’ve said anything and everything to stop himself from getting arrested and being prosecuted.”
“So what did he do? How did he gain your trust that night?” Junsu inquired. He had always wondered. The rest of the syndicate believed Donghae didn’t even get into the grounds, but Junsu knew better. Donghae had told him the entire thing, from climbing to the balcony, getting caught by the Princess, to the Princess helping him escape. Donghae had told him all that had happened, but had left out the why.
“He didn’t lie,” Eunhyuk said simply.
The door to Taeyeon’s room opened and Donghae appeared. He glanced between Eunhyuk and Junsu, wondering what the two could have been talking about.
“What happened?” Eunhyuk asked,
“She approves?” Donghae offered, “Which is a good thing, I think. Um, she wants to know what the doctors say about her health. I’m not sure what to do.”
Eunhyuk glanced at Junsu who nodded, “I know her results,” Junsu said as he went towards the room. He paused and looked back at Eunhyuk, “Your Highness?”
Eunhyuk nodded as he turned to Donghae, “I need to be there with Taeyeon when Junsu tells her what the doctors have said-”
“I’ll wait for you here,” Donghae replied simply.
Eunhyuk took his chin between thumb and forefinger, “Thank you,” he said before swiftly brushing his lips against Donghae’s, then following Junsu into the room.
“Unni,” Taeyeon smiled as Eunhyuk entered, the door closing behind him. The upper half of her bed had been raised so she was almost sitting up. Eunhyuk only glanced once to confirm that Junsu had retaken his spot in the chair at her bedside. He strode to her other side and accepted the hand she stretched out, “Your hand is cold.”
“I rode my bike without gloves,” he shrugged,
“I’ve never seen you in such regular clothing,” she laughed lightly, “If it weren’t for your hair, with those clothes you could pass for a boy, unni.”
“We’re not here to talk about me,” Eunhyuk said as he reached over and brushed a few stray hairs from her eyes, “The doctors consulted with Junsu since you were pretty out of it last night.”
She turned her eyes towards Junsu, her eyes wide and expectant, her hand gripping her cousin’s loosely. Junsu swallowed hard as he began relating to her the results; “You have some broken ribs and a fractured one, so you’ll have to be careful in the coming weeks as they heal. You have some internal bleeding, so they want you to stay here for another day or so just to make sure it’s okay. They… they were pretty surprised you lasted so long because it was pretty bad.”
With her free hand, Taeyeon placed it over one of Junsu’s. When he looked up at her, she gave him a bright smile, “It’s okay. I’m here now, aren’t I? So there’s no reason to be so sad-”
“There’s… there’s more,” Junsu choked. When he saw Taeyeon’s expression beginning to drop, he knew it was now or never - he had to tell her; “They’re going to do more tests today… but… but you may be infertile after what happened.”
Eunhyuk felt it first in his hand. He felt her hand trembling, shaking almost uncontrollably as she gripped him painfully. Then he saw it in her lips, as they couldn’t keep still, couldn’t stop from drooping at the ends. Then he saw it as she bit down on her lower lip, could hear her trying hard to swallow her cries as her bright eyes suddenly filled with tears.
“Unni,” she somehow managed, turning to look at him.
Immediately, Eunhyuk moved to the edge of the bed, stumbling as he sat on it, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and pulling her towards him. She buried her face into his shoulder, her cries slightly muffled by his sweater as her hand tightened even more around his own. She was shaking in his embrace and he couldn’t stop it. His heart was aching for his cousin and once again, he was powerless to do anything.
He felt a tug and looked up at Junsu. He had stood and was trying to leave to give them privacy. However, Taeyeon held his hand, not allowing him to leave her. When he locked eyes with Junsu, Eunhyuk just shook his head and Junsu slowly lowered himself to the chair once more.
Her cries racked her body, allowing her emotions to run unadulterated. Suddenly, both were startled when she released Eunhyuk’s hand and turned towards Junsu. Looking at Eunhyuk with panicked eyes, Junsu came and stood beside her, wrapping his arms around her. Eunhyuk pushed away the jealousy he felt pricking at his heart and gave an encouraging nod to the other man.
Unsteady in his movements, Eunhyuk slipped from the bed and headed towards the door. He glanced over his shoulder at his cousin. Junsu was now cradling her face with both his hands, crouching so he was on eye-level with Taeyeon. Eunhyuk could see Junsu’s lips moving with quiet words, his thumbs brushing away the endless tears. Assured his cousin was in good hands, Eunhyuk subtly left the room.
Donghae looked up the moment Eunhyuk appeared, shutting the door quietly and firmly behind him. Eunhyuk took one step then paused immediately. Donghae looked at him confusedly. When Eunhyuk attempted another step, the world seemed to fall around him and he stumbled. Donghae was at his side in a flash, had his arms around him in an instant.
“Eunhyuk? What’s wrong?” Donghae questioned as Eunhyuk leaned against him.
Eunhyuk looked up at him, trying to focus his eyes. The world wouldn’t right itself and the cold he had been feeling all morning was still there. Keeping his eyes open was too much effort, caused his world to tip and spin even more so. The world moving around him, exhausted him and he allowed his eyelids to slip close.
He could hear Donghae call to him. He didn’t feel the strength to open his eyes or to respond. He could feel his own body begin to shiver as the cold became more apparent. Finally, somehow, he managed to whisper,
(Chapter 5: There's a Hope)