(Phase 12 of the Scarlet Night series.)
Phase Twelve: Mutual Suffering
The next morning; Saturday; Third week of April 20XX
“You fed, didn’t you?”
It was the first words Kyuri said when she entered Kyuhyun’s private room in the nurse’s office. Dressed in black slacks and a white, button-up blouse, she had her long hair free to cascade down to mid-back. She crossed her arms as she approached him as he stared calmly at her,
“Good morning to you, too, Kyuri,” Kyuhyun stated from his supine position on the flat bed,
She raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow at him, “Don’t be evasive; did you or did you not feed?”
Kyuhyun tilted his head as he regarded her, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t lie,” she said swiftly, “Your skin has a healthier colour than yesterday.”
Kyuhyun looked down at his arm, “I can’t tell. My skin looks jaundiced to me.”
“You can only see the yellow pigment in your skin?” Kyuri approached his bed, “That means you’ve regained some of your sight for colour which means: you fed.”
“So it is because I’m drinking blood that I’m regaining my colours?” Kyuhyun asked,
“I thought you said you didn’t feed,” Kyuri challenged,
“You already knew I was lying,” Kyuhyun waved her words away, “What do you know about feeding and seeing colours?”
“With all my knowledge I never thought I’d be telling a vampire what I know,” Kyuri sighed as she slowly sat down in the chair at his bedside,
“You are being nice today,” Kyuhyun slanted her a look, “What’s your angle?”
Kyuri frowned slightly, “I promised Kibum I’d be nicer. Although, I think I’ve been nice already. For one thing, not once have I tried to kill you.”
Kyuhyun chuckled softly, as he looked up at her, “So? Blood and colours?”
“What an odd statement,” Kyuri mused before stating, “I don’t know a lot considering a lot of the vampires I meet, well… I kill –”
“I feel special,” Kyuhyun muttered,
“But from what I do know is that vampires are colour blind and those who have been transformed lose their sight for colour. When they start feeding, some half-vampires regain their colours; not all of them and not a lot… maybe less than one percent?” Kyuri shrugged, “There is a connection between feeding and regaining colours, but I don’t know what it is and I don’t know why only a rare few half-vampires are affected.”
“Didn’t you say you were going to start treatment today?” Kyuhyun asked simply,
“I was… but if you fed, I don’t think I have to do anything,” Kyuri replied, “The nourishment will cause your body to start healing itself. Of course, you still need more blood since apparently you haven’t been feeding for months…”
“I’m not going to let my vampirism control me, Kyuri… I’m not going to let it take control of my life and change me,” Kyuhyun stated quietly, firmly, “Despite the hundreds of vampires you’ve probably faced, I’m different. I’m fighting and… and I like to think I’m winning.”
“I heard it’s been almost a year and seeing you as you are now… I’d say you were winning,” she said, her lips pulling into a smile so much like his. Suddenly realizing her change in expression, she wiped her face of emotion and stood up and turned away, seemingly to pace; “I was told that our lovely parents moved out of Seoul; is that true?”
“Yes,” Kyuhyun said quietly, sternly, his single word holding so much anger and bitterness.
“I couldn’t believe it when I was told that yesterday… you’re the heir to father’s fortune; they need you,” Kyuri stated as she paused and turned to look at him again, “I learned that they were going to replace you with me.”
Kyuhyun’s eyes widened, “Really? After all these years?” He sighed, “Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.”
She waved away his apology, “That was my reaction. To think, they used us as if we could be interchanged so easily… as if I would come back after they abandoned me.” She laughed bitterly, “It makes me half-happy that they were scammed.”
Kyuhyun blinked, “Scammed?”
Kyuri paused and then looked away, “I’ll be honest with you: the host parents I was living with took all the money our parents gave them and left me when I was ten. I came home from school and everything was gone; they were gone. To this day, I don’t think our parents are even aware of this.”
“When you were ten… you came home that year,” Kyuhyun said, “Is that why you came home? But… but you went back, you didn’t say… you didn’t say anything.”
“If I said anything, would our parents have done anything?” Kyuri challenged, “They probably would have thrown their money at someone else and sent me off again. Would you have done anything? You wouldn’t even talk to me.”
“Kyuri, I –”
“Forget it,” she interrupted, turning and heading to the door, “The past is the past.”
“I’m still sorry,” Kyuhyun said as she stopped in the doorway, her back to him; “I can’t apologize for what our parents did to you, because that’s their wrong… but I apologize for not talking to you when you came home… I apologize for furthering your isolation even when you were home again.”
Kyuri tightened her crossed arms, swallowed hard and ignored the sting of tears in her eyes. Without looking at her brother, without looking back, she said quietly, earnestly, “Thank you,” and left.
“I have to admit, even I had doubts that your sister wouldn’t kill you upon learning you’re a vampire,” Zhou Mi said simply as he gracefully sat down in the chair at Kyuhyun’s bedside.
“I’m pretty sure she would have by now had it not been for Kibum-sshi,” Kyuhyun admitted as he lay on his back, his head turned on the pillow to face the older man.
Kyuhyun had awoken that morning to find himself alone and the bed lowered to its resting position. Heechul had then entered to do a morning assessment and as he had been questioned about his night, Kyuhyun was sure his skin had been thoroughly flushed.
After his sister had left and Zhou Mi had entered, Kyuhyun didn’t know how to act. His heart was positive he was running a marathon, beating a million times a minute, and his lips seemed to have a ridiculously good memory, tingling at just the sight of the other man.
“What did she tell you? Will she be starting treatment today?” Zhou Mi inquired, seemingly oblivious to the younger man’s reactions to him,
“She said if I’m feeding then I don’t need any treatments, but I still need a lot of blood,” Kyuhyun answered,
Zhou Mi raised an eyebrow as he took off his thick-rimmed glasses to clean the lenses, “And are you feeding?”
“I… No?” Kyuhyun sighed as he looked up at the ceiling, “I don’t want to be but I have a feeling Seonsaeng-nim will make me feed whether I want to or not.”
“Don’t say that,” Zhou Mi said gently as he replaced his glasses on his face,
“You’ve forced me in the past,” Kyuhyun reminded, snapping his gaze back to him,
“I meant, don’t call me ‘seonsaeng-nim’,” Zhou Mi amended as he leaned back in the chair, crossing one knee over the other, “It makes me feel… dirty… and not in the good way.”
Kyuhyun was sure that if his face hadn’t been red before, it was certainly red after hearing the other’s words. He turned his gaze back to the ceiling, purposefully avoiding the older man’s eyes as he muttered, “You and your… thoughts.”
Zhou Mi leaned forward, propping an elbow on his crossed knees and balancing his chin on that hand, “You don’t even know the half of my thoughts, Jo-sshi. Remember, you’ve only read last night’s… I’ve had seven weeks of thoughts.”
“I should sue you,” he muttered before adding suddenly, “I told you that you can call me Kyuhyun… again.”
“And I refuse to do so until you call me by my name,” Zhou Mi replied simply.
Kyuhyun looked at him again, “I can’t… do that. You’re… you’re my teacher.”
“I was your teacher last night,” Zhou Mi reminded. He tilted his head slightly as he continued to balance his chin on his hand and raised an eyebrow, “Is calling me by my name – in private – really that difficult?”
“Yes,” Kyuhyun answered swiftly, easily,
“Is this a trust thing?” Zhou Mi asked earnestly, hesitantly,
“No,” Kyuhyun said, “It’s a getting-you-fired thing.”
“Oh, there are plenty of things that can get me fired, Jo-sshi, and you calling me by my name is the least of it,” Zhou Mi insisted, “And I assure you, I plan to do plenty more things that could potentially get me fired.”
“Excuse me?” Zhou Mi slowly straightened in the chair and looked over his shoulder at the door where Kibum stood, “Have either of you seen Kyuri? I thought she was down here beginning treatment?”
Kyuhyun, his face aflame, kept his gaze up on the ceiling as he replied, “She said I didn’t need it. I haven’t seen her for about a quarter-hour.”
Kibum nodded, “Um… can I speak with you?”
Zhou Mi raised an eyebrow before nodding. He watched as Kibum disappeared from the doorway before he stood and looked down at the younger man, “Get some rest.”
“I’ve rested enough. I’m tired of resting,” Kyuhyun argued,
“Well, if you’re so lively, I have plenty of ideas for things you could… do,” Zhou Mi suggested lightly,
Kyuhyun’s eyes narrowed dangerously, “Why do I have a feeling I need to start locking that door at night?”
“Only at night?” Zhou Mi laughed softly as he slowly walked to the door, “You, my dear Jo-sshi, seem to underestimate my…. Thoughts.”
Zhou Mi stepped out of the room and walked over to where Kibum stood, leaning against the wall, arms crossed. He simply looked at the younger man in silent questioning.
“I don’t like to interfere with peoples lives because it’s not my place to do so,” Kibum stated, “But in the case of Kyuri and Kyuhyun, I think it’s best that Kyuri and I not leave so suddenly for Japan again.”
“Kyuri has never alluded to any family, simply saying her parents had abandoned her,” Kibum explained, “I see now that she sees the situation as almost a betrayal on her brother’s part and has transferred her hurt and anger against him, which is why she refuses to do a blood transfusion. However, I’ve seen how she acts around him and it’s her old self, before training for the Council changed her… despite her remarks and her scowling, I think she’s beginning to act like she cares.”
“Well, they were alone for a few minutes earlier and I didn’t hear any yelling and Kyuhyun is definitely still alive,” Zhou Mi added, “What are you planning?”
“I don’t know… I want Kyuri to spend more time with her brother, but she’ll never do it on her own accord, she needs to believe she HAS to be with him. She’ll resent it, but I think, over time, she’ll begin to warm up to him more,” Kibum explained, “But if he doesn’t even need her medical help… for all I know she could be back in her room packing her suitcase.”
“So, you’re saying this because you want Kyuri and Kyuhyun to reconcile? Not because you hate flying?” Zhou Mi challenged,
“My hate of flying has a little to do with it,” Kibum admitted, his lips twitching, “But that doesn’t even matter since there’s nothing forcing us to stay. The most I can hope for is getting a mission that makes us stay here… of course, that wouldn’t breed any warm feelings between them since we’d be hunting vampires and Kyuhyun is… well… for all intents and purposes, a vampire.”
“Look at you two, conversing in the nurse’s office as if you’re in some invisible, sound-proof box,” Heechul mocked as he walked by to place a newly-arrived supply of medicine in the cupboards,
“Ignore him, he’s just bored,” Zhou Mi stated,
“Fine, but I was going to suggest the perfect way to keep the twins together,” Heechul said as he closed the cupboards then turned to face them, leaning back against the wooden doors, “Kyuhyun has midterms next week, just like the rest of SJA. He’s been M-I-A from his classes all week. He’ll need a little tutoring to keep him in tip-top shape for exams.”
“How much tutoring? Enough to keep us here for the rest of the semester or just another week longer?” Kibum inquired,
“Considering his grades in the class I teach, probably until graduation,” Zhou Mi muttered,
Heechul blinked, “Are you sure you and I are talking about the same Kyuhyun?”
“Yes, why?” Zhou Mi asked,
“Before Kyuhyun had to withdraw from school last year, he was second-ranked in his class every year,” Heechul said as he loosely crossed his arms, “And that’s without trying.”
Zhou Mi blinked, “What? What do you mean? How could he get second place without trying? And I thought this school had all those geniuses.”
“Just because Kyuhyun got here on his parents’ wallet, doesn’t mean he didn’t have the potential to be a genius,” Heechul defended lightly as he pushed past the two younger men, “Besides, haven’t you noticed the way his cousin is always studying when tests come around but he never does?”
“There’s a lot of light in the library?” Zhou Mi offered,
Heechul scoffed as he began heading back to his desk, the other two following close behind, “If you really believe that then Kyuhyun isn’t the stupid one around here.”
“But… if you say he’s as smart as that, why is he failing my class?” Zhou Mi challenged,
Heechul raised an eyebrow as he plopped down into his chair, “Who cares about Literature Studies?”
“That’s a –”
“Before you two go on… can we get back to what I originally came to ask help with?” Kibum drawled, tilting his head slightly as he regarded the older men,
“Get Kyuri to tutor Kyuhyun and you have your solution,” Heechul replied swiftly. He turned his gaze to the teacher, “And you, leave my patient alone. He needs to rest and he can hardly do that with you barging in and out of his room at all hours.”
“He doesn’t seem to be complaining,” Zhou Mi murmured as he headed towards the main door,
“Mhmm…” Heechul watched him before calling out, “You dirty old man!” Once Zhou Mi had left, Heechul looked back to Kibum, “Yes?”
“Do you really think it’ll work?” Kibum inquired,
Heechul blinked, “I… I don’t know, but it’s worth a try? She’s a bright kid, from what I can tell. All of her medical knowledge is from experience and it’s a ridiculous amount she knows. If she can back that up with the proper theory, she could go far.”
“I don’t suppose you could offer her that?” Kibum asked as he slowly sat down in a chair before the nurse’s desk,
“I could, but I think you know it won’t keep her here,” Heechul stated,
Kibum sighed as he looked over his shoulder to Kyuhyun’s door, “I’m almost afraid nothing will.”
“Tell him ‘hell no’,” Eeteuk exclaimed as he practically jumped from his chair in his office.
Heechul, who was giving Eeteuk an update on Kyuhyun’s status, stood before the headmaster’s desk, curiously watching his friend. Arms loosely crossed about his torso and his hair loosely braided and pulled to the front over a shoulder, he watched as Eeteuk slowly began to pace as much as the telephone cord allowed him.
“You’re big and made of muscle, just… don’t let him in,” Eeteuk argued, “There’s three guards on today, how can none of you stop him?”
“Who is it?” Heechul whispered,
Eeteuk held up a hand to quiet him, “What? No, he does not pay for your jobs – I do; I’m the headmaster! … Okay, yes, I don’t pay from my pocket and… He’s threatening to sue you!?”
“Who is threatening to sue?” Heechul hissed,
Eeteuk waved at him to be quiet, “What? No, he has no basis to sue you! Yes, I understand you can’t afford to be sued… And… fine, fine… FINE! Okay… just… stall him! Make him fill out sign in sheets – any sheets… Just… just stall him and give me time, okay? What? What do you mean!?” Eeteuk slammed the phone back on the receiver and heaved a deep breath,
“Now can I know who is at the gates?” Heechul asked in mock politeness,
“You’ll know soon enough,” Eeteuk sighed as he propped his hands on the desk and closed his eyes. His thoughts were running a million miles a minute and he couldn’t keep them straight, couldn’t organize them. He breathed slowly, deeply and, after a few moments, straightened and locked eyes with Heechul, “If you’re up here, who’s in the nurse’s office with Kyuhyun?”
“His sister and that Kibum guy,” Heechul answered,
“Apparently, this person at the gates passed through the gates some time ago,” Eeteuk muttered through gritted teeth, “They’ve all been trying to figure out a way of telling me this.”
“So… where is this person now?” Heechul asked tentatively,
Eeteuk sighed, “We need to get to the nurse’s office. NOW.”
Same day; Just before noon
“It’s my loving sister.”
Kyuri looked up from where she was changing bed sheets. She slowly straightened as she caught sight of Kyuhyun leaning against the doorframe to his room.
“What the hell are you doing out of bed?” She demanded just as Kibum entered with a tray of food for them.
He took one look at Kyuhyun, ran the tray to Heechul’s desk and crossed the room to the younger man’s side. He tucked himself beneath Kyuhyun’s arm, gently supporting him, “Where are you running off to?”
“I have been in that room for days. I have forgotten what natural light looks like,” Kyuhyun argued,
“You’re not allowed to be in natural light,” Kyuri hissed,
“Doesn’t mean I can’t see it,” Kyuhyun said as he pointed towards the beds on the other side of the room, “I’ll go back to my dungeon, I just want some time out of there. I’ll even lie in a bed again,”
“How about I make you lie in a coffin?” Kyuri muttered as she glared,
“Kyuri,” Kibum said, his tone even and monotone as usual, but his dark eyes flashed a warning. He helped Kyuhyun across the room at a moderate pace, “You don’t seem too weak.”
“It hurts more than it looks,” Kyuhyun admitted as they reached the first bed. He glanced over at Kyuri who moved on to the next bed, “Is this how you pay to stay here? Working for Heechul?”
“Considering my original objective to be here is no longer the case, I need something else to fill my time before we leave,” Kyuri snapped. Suddenly, she straightened, walked over and yanked the curtains just at the foot of the bed, effectively creating a barrier between Kyuhyun and the windows, “Kibum, aren’t you paying attention? The light filters in directly on his bed.”
“I was, but I knew you’d notice, too,” Kibum muttered before he turned and headed to the desk, sitting at a chair before it, “You know, the meals they serve here, I feel as if we’re at some kind of posh restaurant.”
“Do you work here?”
Kibum stood and turned to the door, “Excuse me?”
“Are you deaf or just incompetent? Do. You. Work. Here?” An older gentleman asked. He had dark hair, streaked with silver. A tall, lean frame dressed in a black suit of the finest material. He entered the nurse’s room, his dark eyes glaring at the first person he saw.
Kibum crossed his arms, adopted his expressionless face and drawled, “No, I don’t work here.”
“You’ll be of no help,” the man brushed him off,
“Father?” Kyuhyun felt his heart seize as the word fell from his lips before he could stop it.
The man turned to face him, his gaze falling on the young man in the bed and then suddenly taking in the sight of the young lady on the other side of his bed.
“You two are together?” Their father questioned as if what he saw before him was impossible, couldn’t ever be true.
“Heh… looks like our dear father is losing his sight, huh, Kyuhyun?” Kyuri asked in a mockingly sweet tone as she slowly rounded the bed to stand on the other side of Kyuhyun’s bed, closer to her father.
“Don’t you dare talk to me in that tone, young lady!”
“Why are you here?” Kyuhyun questioned swiftly before Kyuri could say more,
“I was told you had gone missing and when you were found you were close to death,” he pulled his gaze away from the dark expression on his daughter’s face to the confused, suspicious face of his son, “I decided to take it upon myself to see what was really happening here.”
“And you waited almost a week to make sure Kyuhyun was still alive,” Kyuri scoffed as she crossed her arms, “Truly a dedicated parent.”
“That still doesn’t answer why you’re here,” Kyuhyun persisted, “You and Mother left me, left Seoul. So after all these months – half a year later – why are you here?”
“If it was found out that the heir to the Jo Shipping Company was missing, do you know how that would look on me?” Their father demanded, “For all appearances the world still sees you as my heir, so I might as well appease their bleeding hearts.”
“Well, he’s alive and well. You go tell the reporters that,” Kyuri stated, “So you can just leave.”
“You need to go back to where you belong – in Japan and away from Kyuhyun!” Their father exclaimed,
Kyuri laughed bitterly, “Why? Because no one knows that Kyuhyun’s a twin? Because you paid off the doctors and the staff to keep quiet that two babies were born that February night?” When she saw the slight paling of the man’s face, she smirked spitefully at him, “Eighteen years and you think I would never notice that no one questioned the missing twin or why one twin was sent away? I got a hold of the records – to Seoul… no, to all of Korea, I don’t exist.”
“It was better that way. Kyuhyun would have been able to take over the company without any trifling matters in the way,” he stated briskly,
“Trifling matters… I guess that is the best way to describe my birth,” Kyuri mocked,
“Kyuri,” Kyuhyun interjected, reaching with his left, bandaged hand and gently placing it on her shoulder. He looked at their father, “It’s best you leave now.”
“Not until I’m sure that you don’t get yourself idiotically killed and your sister leaves the country,” their father stated, “You will be on the first plane out of Korea, young lady.”
“Kyuri’s not going anywhere,” Kyuhyun stated firmly, “Not unless she wants to… but never by your orders. And I did not willingly choose to be beaten half-way to death. You think I like having broken bones? That I like feeling weak because I have internal bleeding everywhere? You think I enjoyed being exposed to the sun for an entire day!?”
“I am your father and you two will do what I tell you to do!”
“You have no power over either of us! You abandoned Kyuhyun and I’ve been on my own since I was 11!” Kyuri exclaimed,
“I made sure you were provided for and made sure you were admitted to the best schools in Japan,” their father waved her words away, “It’s not my fault you chose to go to a smaller, poor school!”
Kyuri tightened her arms against her abdomen, “Is that what those so-called host parents told you? I didn’t even know I had a choice! How can you claim power over me when you can’t even control the people you do pay?”
“What are you going on about now?” Their father spat,
“I wore the clothes my host parents gave me and I went to the school that they sent me to – there were never any choices,” Kyuri grounded out, feeling the hot sting of tears and desperately willing them away.
She wouldn’t cry; not before this man of all people. She wouldn’t because she didn’t want to let him think she still cared about what he and her mother did. If she cried, she wanted him to know it wasn’t because they still had the capacity to hurt her. If she cried, it would be to mourn the childhood she never had.
“When we turned 11, Kyuri was abandoned by her host parents,” Kyuhyun explained darkly, bitterly, the anger causing his blood to boil; “She was in a foreign country with people YOU left her with and THEY left her!”
“They took all of your money and left,” Kyuri said, the words making her numb, hollow; she never realized how apathetic she had become towards her parents until that moment.
“I’ve been paying them up until your 18th birthday. Are you telling me that you haven’t even been with them for eight years!?” Their father roared,
“Even now, all you heard was that you lost money,” Kyuhyun spat, “You didn’t even blink when you heard that your own daughter was abandoned, alone and destitute when she was only 11!”
“Why didn’t you ever say anything? Why didn’t you come home?” Their father demanded, his eyes narrowed accusingly at his daughter,
“Home? What home?” Kyuri snorted, “And I did come back to Korea… but both you and Mother just turned me away. I tried to tell you both but you thought I was just complaining again… So no, Father, you don’t have any power over me or even Oppa.”
“Despite the past, I am still your father and you will not disrespect me with that tone!” Their father threatened, approaching his children,
Kyuri locked gazes with him, her face emotionless, her heart reacting not a bit to his words. She laughed mockingly, “To call you a father is to degrade and perverse the word.” Her smirk left her face as she said simply, as if it were a fact: “You’re disgusting.”
Their father’s arm cut through the air like a knife through hot butter. Kyuhyun had just barely reacted, hooking his arm around his sister’s abdomen and pulling her back against him. However, the way her head had snapped to the side and stayed there, he suspected their father had still made contact. Kyuhyun held his sister against himself, pushing away the throbbing pain he felt and concentrating completely on her. He looked up at his father, feeling all of his pain, his anger and bitterness just fill his eyes.
“You son of a –”
“I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” Kibum stated suddenly, slipping himself before the older man,
“Get out of my way – they are my children,” their father stated,
“You don’t even know what it means to have children,” Kyuhyun spat angrily, tightening his arm around his sister,
“Sir, you can go to jail for what you just did. So, I suggest you turn around and leave,” Kibum repeated, crossing his arms defiantly over his chest,
“Jail? For what? Punishing my child?” He laughed mockingly, “I’d like to see you try.”
“Jo Kyuri is a government official in Japan,” Kibum replied, his voice even, monotone and his expression bland. Only his eyes burned with a quiet fury, “Striking such as her, specifically an Agent of Defence is an offence punishable by law and, considering we have a branch here in Korea, you can be convicted here.”
“That’s impossible, she’s only eighteen,” their father replied,
“Be that as it may, Kyuri is one of the most intelligent people I have ever had the honour to meet,” Eeteuk entered the nurse’s office, Heechul right beside him, “And, if I’m not mistaken, she’s already qualified to take the board exams to become a doctor.”
The older man turned to face the headmaster.
“I suggest you leave,” Eeteuk said simply, sternly, his arms crossed; “Wouldn’t want to get the federal government involved and that would mean cameras and reporters.” Eeteuk raised a single eyebrow, “And you love reporters, don’t you Jo-sshi?”
Their father looked over his shoulder at them, eyes narrowed scathingly, “You two don’t deserve to carry the Jo title.”
“We never wanted it in the first place,” Kyuhyun retorted.
For a few minutes, the only sound that penetrated the nurse’s office was the retreating footsteps of the eldest Jo-sshi.
“I’m sorry we weren’t in time,” Eeteuk stated, “Are you okay?”
Kyuhyun nodded while Kyuri remained still.
“I’m going to make sure he leaves campus,” Eeteuk turned and immediately left.
“I better make sure he doesn’t attack the man… although I’m half-hoping he does,” Heechul admitted as he swiftly followed the headmaster.
As the three were left alone, silence fell upon them. Slowly, slowly, Kyuhyun lowered his arm from Kyuri’s torso. Kibum closed the distance between them and he reached out, holding her chin between thumb and forefinger, he tilted her face so he could look at her cheek better,
“The bastard managed to scratch you and your cheek is all red,” Kibum muttered. His eyes flashed to the younger man, “Thank you for pulling her away; this could’ve been worse.” He slid his hand from her chin to her other cheek, holding it, “Hey, you’re being very quiet. That’s my job, isn’t it?”
Kyuri didn’t meet his eyes, but simply nodded.
“I’m going to get some stuff to clean that up a bit, okay? If I leave you, you’re not going to unleash your anger on Kyuhyun and kill him, right?” At her nod, he shot Kyuhyun a meaningful look and walked off.
Kyuhyun leaned back against the raised mattress, his eyes on the half of Kyuri’s face he could see. He was startled when she gently picked up his bandaged hand and cradled it between her hands.
“Thank you,” she murmured.
“Earlier… you called me ‘Oppa’,” Kyuhyun said quietly, tentatively.
Kyuri placed his hand on the mattress and stood up, “Yes… well… don’t look too much into it,” she replied briskly.
She kept her face turned away, but Kyuhyun could swear he saw her fight against a smile.
Same day; Dinner hour
“I haven’t seen you all day; studying?”
Kyuhyun lay in the bed in the main part of the nurse’s office, the curtains pulled around two sides of his area to block out the dying sunlight. Taeyeon sat in a chair beside his bed.
“Yeah. It’s ridiculous how empty the library is even with midterms starting next week,” she shook her head slightly as her gaze wandered towards the windows.
Kyuhyun’s gaze swept over his cousin. He could see her trying to keep her expression closed, but knew her eyes would tell him everything. He tried to catch her eyes, but she kept her face towards the window and he knew immediately that something was wrong. He hesitated, wondering if he should ask, wondering if she would tell him on her own.
“Tae,” he finally said, quietly. When she looked over at him in silent response, he asked simply, “You know I’m always here for you, right?”
She blinked, startled and yet, not surprised. She felt the hot sting of tears, could feel her heart lodging in her throat. She swallowed hard and somehow managed a small nod.
“Kyu… I’ve been so stupid,” she said quietly, her voice cracking.
“How? Why?” He asked gently.
She shook her head, looking down. Her hands rose to clasp over her mouth and he could hear her stifling a cry. Her small frame shook in bursts as she held her breath to stop the cries. She lowered her hands, fisting them on the chair’s armrests as she kept her head bowed. She took small, sharp breaths; as if breathing any more would leave her open to crying out.
Memories of last night filled her mind. She could still remember the warmth of another body, the tingling anticipation that threaded through her veins. She could remember his words in her ear as he drew closer, closer and then, walked away.
Her chest was physically hurting as if it were cut open and burning. The tears flooded her vision and she shut her eyes tightly to keep her tears in. Before she realized what was happening, before she could stop herself, she got up from the chair and climbed onto the bed beside her cousin. She felt his arm wrap around her shoulders as she curled against his warmth, careful not to hit his ribs.
“I’m sorry if this is too much for you,” she managed as she brought her fist to her mouth, biting down on her knuckle to stop from crying out. “Your telepathy –”
“Means nothing when compared to you,” Kyuhyun interjected as he pulled her firmly against his side, ignoring the sharp pain in his ribs and his hand as he securely clasped his fingers around her arm. “You’ve spent your life dedicating your time and worry to me. I’m sorry I’ve been so selfish, Tae so… so just let me worry about you for once.”
She laughed softly, disbelieving as she murmured, “What are you talking about? As I remember it, you were the one always protecting me… looking out for me.”
“And what have you done since I was bitten?” He asked lightly, “Our worlds were small, Tae, but over the past few weeks, they’ve begun to open up, hmm? But just because we have other people entering our lives, doesn’t mean we can’t have time for just us, right?”
Taeyeon lowered her fist from her lips, curling an arm carefully around Kyuhyun’s torso, “Yeah.” She allowed her eyes to close, allowing her body, her heart to calm and relax in the presence of the one person who was always by her side. “Kyu… can you just hug me for a bit?”
“Of course,” he replied swiftly, sternly, softly.
The moment her body touched his, Kyuhyun was bombarded with images and thoughts. He saw a dim hallway, a familiar one. He saw a shadowed figure in the distance, slowly, slowly approaching.
I never should have said anything… I never should have let him in… I never should have trusted him… I never… never… never…
Kyuhyun almost lost his breath when he saw how broken Taeyeon was inside her mind. He had always been able to tell what his cousin was feeling just by looking at her face. But now, seeing her thoughts and realizing how much she was actually holding in, letting it build and hurt her from the inside, he knew he had been wrong. He held her tighter, ignoring the stabs of pain.
He remembered a hand only slightly smaller than his own, squeezing his and trusting him as they ran. He remembered when it was raining and she was drenched, so he took off his sweater and draped it over her head. He remembered when she had tripped and scraped her knee and, immediately, he pulled her onto his back and he carried her home. He remembered that throughout their childhood, he was naturally drawn to be there for her, protecting her.
He had done so much for her, been with her through all the ups and downs of their childhood. However, when he needed someone, when he was thrust into a different world and abandoned by his parents, she was the one there. She had done everything and anything to keep him sane, keep him normal. She had offered her own blood just so he could live. She had dedicated her entire life to being by his side but when he needed her the most, he had pushed her away, kept her away and wouldn’t let her do anything. And because of that, he never realized how much she was breaking.
The images replayed in his mind. The dim hallway once more but the figure drew closer and closer until they were partially shrouded in a circle of pale light. Suddenly, the hallway wasn’t the only familiar image.
“I know you can see what I see… but please, Kyu, let me face this alone,” Taeyeon said quietly, her head against his chest,
“No,” Kyuhyun said simply, sternly, “For once you can’t hide anything from me… I’m not letting you face this alone.”
“He’s your oldest friend,” she stated, raising her head so she could face him directly, “I’m not letting you put what’s between me and Sungmin between you and Sungmin. Okay? I’ll tell you everything if you want, I won’t hide anything anymore, but you can’t jeopardize your friendship with Sungmin.”
“I know… I don’t… want to,” Kyuhyun admitted,
“Then don’t. Sungmin didn’t do anything wrong to you and… and I don’t even know exactly what he did to me,” Taeyeon said quietly, her voice quivering slightly; “But… but just because I’m mad at him doesn’t mean you have to be, too.”
“So I can never take sides when you two fight?” Kyuhyun asked,
“What are you talking about? You’re on my side,” she scoffed mockingly. Then she smiled slightly at him, “You’re my best friend and my cousin, Kyu. Sungmin is your oldest friend; you shouldn’t have to take sides when we… fight.” She shook her head as she laid it back down on his chest, “I don’t even know if we fought.”
“Whatever it was, it looks sad,” Kyuhyun said as he squeezed her comfortingly, “Are you sure you don’t want me to do anything? Despite all the times I’m being sent here, I’m secretly very strong.”
“No, it’s okay.”
“Can I at least glare at him?” Kyuhyun offered lightly, a laugh in his tone,
Taeyeon laughed softly as she gently hugged her cousin, “Yeah, you can.”
“When you do the night shift, what do you do during the day? Sleep?” Heechul asked as he stretched his arms to the ceiling.
“Yes,” Zhou Mi replied as he approached the bed where Kyuhyun had fallen asleep,
“Ah, preparing to join Kyuhyun in the world of vampires?” Heechul asked lightly,
“He will never become nocturnal,” Zhou Mi stated, “Did he get bored in that room?”
“Something like that. Besides, it was easier when visitors came,” Heechul explained,
“Oh! That’s right, you weren’t here – his father came,” Heechul stated as he absentmindedly pulled his hair to the front over one shoulder and began to braid it, “I don’t know what happened, I didn’t want to ask Kyuhyun, but Kibum was putting medicine on Kyuri’s cheek when I came back from making sure their father left campus.”
“Do you think their father hurt Kyuri?” Zhou Mi gaped,
“Seems like a big possibility,” Heechul admitted, “But Kyuhyun didn’t say anything and Kyuri was silent. She and Kibum didn’t stay long after that, so I couldn’t examine her. After that drama, Taeyeon visited for some time. She left just a few hours ago.”
“Did he seem okay? He seemed okay when I left this morning,” Zhou Mi said as he slowly began to pull back the blanket from Kyuhyun’s sleeping form.
“Yeah, he seemed okay. Didn’t eat, of course, but I have a feeling you can take care of that,” Heechul grinned as he slowly made his way to the door. He turned back to look at Zhou Mi, “If what I think is going on is actually going on, you better pray that Eeteuk or anyone else figures out what’s going on. In the end, Kyuhyun will be the one to get hurt.”
“Are you kidding me?”
Heechul blinked, “Did you not realize that!?”
“No, no… he’s burning up,” Zhou Mi replied as he pressed both his hands to either side of Kyuhyun’s neck, “He’s really burning up again, Heechul.”
“Damn it, his temperature’s been stable for awhile now,” Heechul hissed as he came over and touched his hand to the younger man’s forehead, “Okay, get him back into that room and I’ll grab compresses to start cooling him down.”
Zhou Mi slipped his arm behind Kyuhyun’s back and beneath his knees, picking him up and holding him against his heart, “Just grab me the compresses and water and you can go to sleep, Heechul. I’ll take care of him and if it gets worse I’ll come get you.”
“If you’re sure?” Heechul glanced at him as he pulled out a basin and a few facecloths,
Zhou Mi nodded as he crossed the room, “You’ve been here all day; you need to sleep. If you get sick, too, when am I ever going to sleep?”
Zhou Mi re-entered the room, gently lying Kyuhyun on the flat mattress. He turned on the lamp and sat on the edge as he began to unbutton Kyuhyun’s pyjama top. Heechul entered, placing the basin half-full with water on the bedside table and a stack of facecloths beside it.
“Why do you think he has a fever again?” Zhou Mi asked as he pushed the edges of the shirt to the sides, “I thought he was getting better.”
“Is he feeding?” Heechul asked bluntly,
“Just last night,” Zhou Mi answered,
“I want to say that if he keeps feeding he’ll be okay,” Heechul said, “But I think it’s more than just that. If he was just malnourished then it shouldn’t be like this… His body went through great stress and shock early this week and we haven’t been able to treat him medicinally since then. His entire body was black and blue with bruising – that’s a lot of internal bleeding.” He sighed, “He may still need a blood transfusion.”
“Kyuri’s our best hope for that,” Zhou Mi said quietly as his gaze swept over Kyuhyun’s bared torso, his ribs still bandaged and the skin visible a dusky purple.
“Any hope she’ll say yes?” Heechul asked quietly,
Zhou Mi sighed heavily, his eyes sweeping over Kyuhyun’s flushed face; “None.”
(Phase 13: A Step Forward)