song: "Incomplete" by Sisqo
Kyuhyun slipped into one of the middle seats of the van, a hulky man coming in on the other side and sitting in the seat beside him. The driver looked over his shoulder at him,
“Crazy crowd today, Boss,” the driver stated, “How’d the concert go tonight?”
“The same as the other nights, I suppose,” Kyuhyun sighed as he slowly drew down the blind for his window, wanting to block out the hordes of people banging on his window and screaming his name; “But this was the last day of the concert and thankfully we all get a vacation.”
“After the past few months preparing for this concert, it’s a good reprieve,” the man beside him, his bodyguard, agreed, “What will you be doing, Boss? Visiting family? Friends? Ah – I know, that Chinese guy you met in Beijing six months ago! I’m right, aren’t I? He’s definitely in the country, I saw him at the concert two days ago.”
“Yes, Zhou Mi is in Seoul, and I did see him a few days ago. He’s actually at the same hotel we’re staying at,” Kyuhyun smiled briefly as the image of a handsome Chinese man flashed in his memory. He had a permanent smile on his face and he was adorably clumsy, all limbs. He was a famous actor in his country, but he was personable and humble and he loved to laugh; oh, how he loved to laugh.
They had been able to be together simply because, since he debuted, Kyuhyun had never lied nor hid about his gender preferences in his partners. The news had a field day with him for months after he debuted; his manager had been inconsolable and praying for their situation to get better – she was not a religious person. Kyuhyun knew it was risky to blatantly throw his orientation to the public, he knew he was making his country his enemy from the moment the words left his lips. However, he decided to make them come to his side and to see past the ‘gay’ sign hovering over him. So, he continued to sing. He sang and made them grudgingly admit that, gay or not, he was good. Really damn good.
Since he debuted over two years ago, Kyuhyun had never entered a relationship of any kind – casual or romantic – but not due to anyone not trying. Oh, they tried – men and women – and he was startled at how persistent some of them could get. However, no one caught his eye, let alone his heart, until he met Zhou Mi.
Someone cleared his throat, maybe his bodyguard, maybe his driver or maybe even both, but either way, Kyuhyun was pulled back to the present. He blinked at both,
“Boss, so what are you doing?” His bodyguard prompted,
“Ah, no, no… I won’t be seeing Zhou Mi,” Kyuhyun replied as his memory of Zhou Mi slowly faded from his mind, “We’re just friends, anyway.”
“That’s a shame, Boss,” the driver said as he started the engine and pulled away from the curb, trying hard not to hit any of the more enthusiastic of Kyuhyun’s fans; “Zhou Mi-sshi seemed really nice. And really, Boss, you need someone in your life.”
Kyuhyun laughed lightly, “I recall you damning me to hell the first month you were my driver.”
“I don’t remember such a thing,” the driver scoffed,
“I remember it!” A young woman climbed into the passenger seat, “Great concert tonight, Kyuhyun!”
“So, where to, Boss? Just back to the hotel?” The driver inquired,
“Um…” Kyuhyun leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms lightly, “Do you mind just driving around Seoul for a bit?”
“I don’t mind a bit, but it looks like we won’t be getting out of this crush for at least an hour, Boss,” the driver sighed,
Kyuhyun slowly closed his eyes, “Then wake me up once we’ve escaped the parking lot; I should have thought up a place by then.”
The soft murmur of his driver, bodyguard and manager began talking amongst themselves slowly swayed him into a deep rest. Not sleep, just a state of total calm and peace.
His mind drifted back to his time with Zhou Mi. He had become a good friend and Kyuhyun had been so happy to make his acquaintance. He had spent a ridiculous amount of time with Zhou Mi while he was in Beijing and, for three months, whenever he travelled to China, they would meet up. The press seemed to follow them everywhere, but there was never anything to report; he and Zhou Mi were just friends.
When his three companion’s voices drew him back, he could hear them softly bickering with one another.
“But he’s had a hard week! He should rest!” The high, lilting tone of his manager rang,
“But he told us to wake him!” The bodyguard argued,
“Well, whatever you two decide, just tell him we’re out of the parking lot,” the driver replied, “I won’t have anything to do with waking up Boss.”
Kyuhyun saved them all the trouble by, without opening his eyes, simply saying, “The Shim Jang café. It’s on the corner of Shim Jang Street and Kang Street.”
“Why does that sound familiar?” His manager wondered aloud as the driver began driving in the designated direction,
“Because,” Kyuhyun said as he turned his gaze to the still-shaded window beside him, “That’s where I was discovered.”
When the van pulled to a stop, Kyuhyun finally pulled up the blinds of his window. He sat there for the longest time, just staring up at the black sign and its pale blue writing that said “Shim Jang Café”. The other three in the van looked at one another, confused at what to do because Kyuhyun just sat there. At some point, the driver turned off the engine and they all fell in silence, just waiting for Kyuhyun to move.
Finally, he reached out and opened the door, he stepped out and three pairs of eyes followed him as he closed the door and slowly walked towards the café’s door. The passenger window lowered and his manager peered at him,
“Kyuhyun? Do… do you want us to wait?”
“I’ll be a few minutes,” He briefly stated before disappearing into the café. It was small and dim with paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Mismatched tables and chairs were scattered throughout the café. At one end was the front counter where the barista did her work. At the other end was a small stage where, currently, a young man sat singing, his guitar in his arms.
Slowly, Kyuhyun approached the counter and sat at one of the stools.
“What can I get for you?” The young girl asked, “Oh my – you’re – you’re-”
“Please… I don’t want anyone else to know I’m here,” Kyuhyun said, “Can I just get a small cup of coffee –” He glanced at her name tag, “Sooyoung?”
She nodded as she quickly began to pour him a cup, “I heard this is where you were discovered, that you used to sing here every night with Sungmin-sshi.”
Kyuhyun glanced up at the man who was still singing, his eyes shut as he played and sang a quiet, sultry song that lulled the few customers in the café. He knew, without any doubt, that when he opened his eyes, they would be dark and fox-like. He knew that when he stopped singing, his lips would twist in a small smirk. He knew that when he spoke, his voice was a few tones deeper than when he sang. He knew that it was because of this man that he and Zhou Mi were just friends.
“Yeah, we used to be best friends,” Kyuhyun replied,
Sooyoung placed a steaming cup before him, “Used to? What ever happened?”
Kyuhyun tore his gaze away and looked at the barista, smiling bitterly, “Me. I always said that fame wouldn’t change me, but somewhere along the way… a phone call every night turned to every other night… then once a week… once a month…” He glanced over his shoulder as Sungmin’s song slowly came to an end, “I want to see how he’s doing but… maybe it was wrong of me to come here.”
“No, no,” Sooyoung replied, “I’m sure he’ll be glad to see you!” She offered him a bright smile and Kyuhyun couldn’t argue. She called Sungmin’s name, waving him over the moment he stepped down from the stage and placed his guitar in its stand beside the stage. He made his way over and froze when he was just a few feet away.
“Kyuhyun,” Sungmin said softly,
“Hi, Sungmin… it’s been awhile,” Kyuhyun replied hesitantly, offering a small smile.
Sungmin didn’t reply as a customer approached the counter to order some of the baked goods the café offered. Suddenly, the customer gaped at Kyuhyun,
“No, please-” Kyuhyun began,
“EVERYONE LOOK! IT’S KYUHYUN!” The customer exclaimed.
Suddenly, the few people who were at the café turned their attention and began clamouring over towards him. Pleads for him to sing – just one song, please! – echoed throughout the café. A loud whistle broke through the chaos and everyone turned towards the barista.
“Okay, Kyuhyun-sshi is a busy guy, but if he sings one song, will that make everyone happy!?” Sooyoung questioned, her voice booming. As people replied in the affirmative, she looked towards Kyuhyun and smiled apologetically, “Just one song?”
“Sure,” Kyuhyun replied as he stood from the stool. He glanced towards Sungmin, who had become silent. When those fox-like eyes finally looked at him, Kyuhyun tried his best smile on him, “Could you… could you play the accompaniment?”
Sungmin was about to disagree – Kyuhyun would bet all he was worth on it – but Sooyoung cut him off, saying Sungmin would love to play while he sang. He caught Sungmin shooting her a hard glare before preceding Kyuhyun to the stage, picking up his guitar as he went.
When Kyuhyun stepped onto the stage, he noticed that Sungmin had already sat on the stool, mercilessly making Kyuhyun stand on the stage. He glanced at Sungmin briefly before walking towards the microphone stand. He looked out towards the small crowd and felt himself pulled back to a time over two years ago. He was younger then, but everything else was the same. He was standing on the stage to sing, Sungmin was accompanying him on the guitar – of course, he was more agreeable to the task - , the small populace of the café were watching with anticipation, and the only thing that was different was Sooyoung who was now the barista of the café.
He clasped the stand before him, “This isn’t one of my songs… instead, this is a song I haven’t sung in a long time… Actually,” he glanced towards Sungmin, “It’s a song I used to sing before I was famous, when every night I worked here as a barista to pay the bills and I sang to make work more tolerable. This song is called ‘Smile’.”
Sungmin suddenly raised his gaze from the guitar, his eyes flying towards Kyuhyun’s and shining with disbelief. Kyuhyun saw the emotions playing across his face – he was never good at hiding his emotions – and knew that Sungmin was fighting an eternal battle of whether to stay silent and play the song, or to leave that stage and never talk to him again. He felt a profound relief when Sungmin, gaze still locked with his, began plucking the first few bars of the song. It wasn’t until he heard the familiar melody wrap around him that Kyuhyun turned his gaze back to the small audience.
He allowed the soft, sultry music to pull him in and fill his mind with memories. Instinctively, his eyelids slid close and he began to sing, “Your two eyes look at me and smile sweetly. Even on the day we parted, you looked and smiled at me. I know it all: love can always approach you blindingly, making you dream until it takes everything from you… Forever.”
The distinct smell of coffee wafted to him, washing over him almost therapeutically as he remembered when he used to be the barista and Sungmin would smile at him from stage. He remembered the night when he looked up at the stage and a different light was in Sungmin’s eyes. It had warmed him, made his heart shake and made his soul quiver when he realized that what he saw in Sungmin’s eyes was what he felt.
“Your two eyes look at me and smile sweetly. Even on the day we parted, you looked and smiled at me…”
Sungmin continued playing the softly swaying, blues-like melodies of the song. During this short instrumental, Kyuhyun looked towards Sungmin who had shut his eyes once more, completely absorbed in his playing as his left hand moved along the guitar’s neck, his fingers instinctively knowing the chords of the song. He remembered a time when those fingers instinctively knew everything about his body and he fought the urge to shiver.
He looked back to the crowd as he began to sing again, “I know it all: love can always approach you blindingly, making you dream until it takes everything, forever, from me…” He looked back over to Sungmin, startled to find Sungmin was staring back at him, “Don't leave me, I need you. After you've shaken my mind, don't leave.”
The words felt foreign to him, the words twisted his heart as he remembered back once more. He remembered the soft hum of these words over a bad phone connection. He remembered when he would hear these words – a soft plead, a gentle prayer – every night, and then every other night, and then once a week, and then once a month… and then never again.
He turned back to the crowd, “Your two eyes look at me and smile sweetly. Even on the day we parted, you looked and smiled at me…”
His voice dissipated as Sungmin softly played the last bars of the song before, that too, was silenced by the loud clapping of the small audience. For some reason, the small amount of people in the café with their exuberant claps and cheers warmed him more than the thousands that cheered for him every night for the past week. For some reason, this small, dim café brought him more excitement than the flashing lights, moving platforms and fireworks of even the greatest of stages. For some reason, the man who joined him on that stage, affected him more than all the other people in the world.
He turned to that man now, but Sungmin was already placing his guitar on its stand beside the stage and making his way back to the counter. When Kyuhyun was walking towards the counter, Sungmin was walking around to stand behind it, joining Sooyoung.
Kyuhyun felt a painful jolt in his chest as he saw Sooyoung throw her arms around Sungmin’s neck just as he leaned in and pressed his lips against hers. When she pulled away, she turned to Kyuhyun, smiling, “That was wonderful! Of course, my fiancé was brilliant as always on his guitar. I’m sorry to do that to you, but it’s the only way to get everyone happy.”
Kyuhyun forced himself to ignore her slender arms still hanging around Sungmin’s neck; ignored that he now noticed the simple ring on her finger; “Yes… happy.”
“Can you take over for a bit, Min?” Sooyoung asked then, “Just need to run to the washroom.”
“Yes, I’m sure I can pour coffee and put cookies on a plate,” Sungmin said dryly, despite smiling.
“I’d hit you for that condescending comment if I didn’t love you,” Sooyoung gave him a bright smile before dropping her arms from his neck and running off towards the washroom.
When Sooyoung had disappeared, Kyuhyun approached the counter. Sungmin barely looked at him as he grabbed a dishcloth and began to idly wipe down a spotless countertop. Kyuhyun stood there awkwardly and took a deep, steadying breath before breaking the silence between them,
“I… I never should’ve left when we got the offer to debut… I should have stayed when you refused to go,” Kyuhyun said quietly, feeling more nervous in that moment than when he stood before his first filled auditorium.
“It was our… it was your dream; I would’ve forced you to take the offer if you had refused,” Sungmin replied. He had stopped his ministrations, but his gaze was still down at the countertop,
“I should have called. I should have kept calling. I… I still… I still l-…” Kyuhyun clenched his fists at his side to stop his entire body from shaking as his heart was doing. Finally, he ended lamely, “I should have called.”
“Kyuhyun?” His manager peeked her head through the café’s door, “You said you’d be a few minutes and it’s been almost twenty-” When he threw her a dangerous glare, she immediately pulled her head back, the door closing after her.
“Yes,” Sungmin’s voice brought his attention whipping back to him, “You should have called, but you didn’t.”
Kyuhyun felt his words slash at him like no sharpened, jagged edge ever could and what was worse, what made the pain more unbearable, more palpable was that he knew he deserved those words. He saw Sungmin’s hand fist in the dishrag and was sure he didn’t imagine the slight shake of the older man’s body.
“You didn’t call,” Sungmin repeated, his voice lower and harsher than Kyuhyun had ever heard it, “And now,” he finally looked up, locking gazes with Kyuhyun.
He sharply inhaled, never seeing the scathing, angry and hurt look into those fox-like eyes he held so dear for so long; still held so dear.
“And now,” Sungmin straightened, “I never want to hear that song again.”
Kyuhyun couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think and couldn’t move. All he could do was feel and what he did feel rocked him, shook him and shattered him so completely that he had no idea how he could continue standing so still. It wasn’t until Sungmin turned his back to him, turned away from him, that Kyuhyun inhaled his first breath and oh, how it was cold and painful.
He forced his feet to move, forced himself to leave and, the hardest part, was to force himself not to look back.
His manager, who had been standing outside of the van waiting for him, saw one look at Kyuhyun and flung open the door for him. Kyuhyun had clamped a hand over his lips and somehow managed to get back into the van.
It was close to two in the morning when he heard the banging on his hotel room door. Glad he had decided for once to sleep with at least his boxers on; he clumsily worked his way to the door in the dark. Too tired and too irritated to bother with light switches. When he flung open the door prepared to yell at someone until they were quite deaf, he was surprised to find a petite young woman standing there.
He blinked, “Taeyeon-sshi? What’s wrong?”
“It’s Kyuhyun,” she stated, twisting anxiously a handkerchief in her hands, “I don’t… I don’t know what to do. He won’t stop crying… I’ve never seen him like this, even when the entire country was against him, I never seen him like this and… I didn’t know what else but he said you were at this hotel too.”
He nodded, “What room?”
When he reached the top floor, Kyuhyun’s manager, Taeyeon, let him into the penthouse suite. All was dark in the spacious quarters and he managed not to trip over anything as he manoeuvred around furniture. He heard the distinct sound of stifled sobs and followed it to the bedroom. With all of the windows covered, the bedroom was remarkably darker compared to the rest of the suite. As his eyes adjusted, he saw a silhouette form on the bed. With three strides, he made it to the bed, sitting on the edge as his hand reached out and stroked the soft hairs of Kyuhyun’s head.
“Kyu… Kyu what’s wrong?” He asked gently,
In one fluid motion, Kyuhyun lifted his head from his pillow and turned towards the other man, “I… I saw him tonight… I… He’s engaged and… Oh God, I never should’ve gone!”
His long arms wrapped around him, embracing him as one hand continued to stroke his hair comfortingly, “No, it’s good. You needed to see Sungmin again… you needed closure, Kyu.”
“But I loved him… I-I… I still love him,” Kyuhyun cried anew, his sobbing and shaking growing more violent, “Zhou Mi, I still love him!”
“I… I know,” Zhou Mi replied stiffly as his arms tightened around him protectively, “It’s okay...” He inhaled slowly before pressing his lips against the crown of Kyuhyun’s head, “You’ll be alright…”
But Kyuhyun heard none of it, wasn’t even completely aware of the arms that held him so steadily, so protectively or the voice that had been soothing him for the past six months whenever he remembered. No, the only thing he was aware of was what he remembered all those times. All he was aware of was that friend he left behind in a small, dim café and who turned away from him for the first time that evening. All he remembered was the love he turned away from years ago.
Kyuhyun heard none of Zhou Mi’s words that followed: “I’m here for you, Kyu… I’m here for you.”