(Phase 25 of the Scarlet Night series.)
Phase Twenty-Five: At the Stroke of Midnight
Monday, early morning; First week of December 20XX
He couldn’t sleep.
Well, actually, he was sleeping, but it didn’t feel like sleep. It was restless and fitful. He tossed and turned in his bed. He would throw off the sheets one minute and then fold himself in the sheets the next. He pounded the lumps out of his pillow and then fluffed it again. He flipped his pillow one way and then flipped it the other.
Eventually, his eyes shot open. His eyes took in the darkness of his room. He was breathing hard and he could feel a cool sheen of perspiration layering his skin. He rolled onto his stomach, leaned over the edge of the bed as if any minute he would be sick. He clutched the sheets beneath him as if they were his last link to the present. Without them, he would slip back into that semblance of sleep and those shadows that haunted him.
It was not the first time.
It had been well over a month since he last had a restful, satisfying sleep. Even when Zhou Mi returned and he was feeding several times a day, he still could not settle himself during the night. He wished he could sleep with Zhou Mi again, just to lie beside him, feel his arms around him. He didn’t know why, but he felt that if Zhou Mi could be with him at night, he would be able to sleep properly again. However, with the Hunters doing extra rounds, it wasn’t safe for him to be sneaking around the teachers’ dorms.
He slumped onto the mattress, his cheek against the cool sheets. He wiped his brow with the back of his hand. He pushed his dreams aside; could he even call them dreams? Slowly, slowly, he closed his eyes, wanting to examine what it was that he saw at night.
He was always outside and it was always night. Despite there being no sun, he just knew that he wasn’t a vampire in his dreams. But even though he wasn’t a vampire, for some reason, he was in danger. He was running, always running. He never looked back, only kept his eyes forward as he ran. He heard someone call his name in the distance, but he ran away, not wanting to wait.
Tall shadows grew around him, surrounding him like thick, cage bars, imprisoning him. The ground crunched beneath his feet as the light from the moon disappeared from the sky. Suddenly, he ran into a hard wall. He bounced back, made to run around the obstacle when he realized what he ran into was not a wall, but a person. Darkness surrounded him and he could barely make out who the person was. Red eyes glowed in the dark and he immediately realized it was the danger he had been running from.
Fingers like bands of steel wrapped around his arms, making him immobile. Before he could react, pain sliced through his neck. He screamed into the night but he didn’t think anyone heard him, not with the thick shadows towering around them. The pain didn’t lessen and his strength quickly seeped out of his body. He slumped but those hands kept him upright.
Suddenly, the pain was gone and the other person was gone. His neck throbbed and he could feel blood pouring out of him. He had collapsed on the crunchy ground, trying to see the shapes in the darkness. He could hear feral growls and grunts. Then, silence. He heard someone approach and he flinched, too weak to do anything else. He felt something swipe over his neck and somehow – somehow – he knew that the blood was stunted.
He smelled something intoxicating wafting beneath his nostrils as he felt something solid against his mouth. He felt thick, hot liquid against his lips,
“Drink,” a voice commanded quietly, sternly.
He didn’t understand. He didn’t know who this was, where he was or even what had just happened. All he knew was that he smelled something sweet, something calling to the hunger that coursed through him after losing so much strength, so much blood. Before he could even understand what he was doing, he drank whatever it was at his lips. He drank and liquid spilt into his mouth, enriching him, filling him with a renewed strength.
Suddenly, the drink was gone and the person, whoever it was, was gone also. Then another presence came to his side, his name repeated over and over again from this new person,
“Kyuhyun! Oh, God, Kyuhyun!”
He jerked awake. In his attempt to examine the dream, he had allowed himself to fall back into slumber, to relive the dream, to… relive? It was a peculiar way to express dreaming and yet, he instinctively felt that way, knew there could be no other way to describe it. Perhaps because it wasn’t just a dream?
He scrambled from the bed, almost falling over from the sheets tangled amongst his limbs. He ran to his desk and fumbled to find where he had placed his cellular phone. He sent out one message. Then, he collapsed at his desk chair, clasping the phone in his hands as he laid his cheek on the desktop. He was so tried, but at the same time, he didn’t want to sleep, didn’t want to see again those shadows, those dreams… those memories he had long suppressed.
Later that morning
Sungmin zipped up his jacket as he stepped out onto the roof. It was blistering cold outside and raining. The rain assaulted all exposed skin and the wind turned it to resemble ice. He approached the other person on the roof, his dark eyes sweeping over the soaked clothes and hair plastered to the young face. He may have just arrived on the roof, but the other person seemed to have been there for quite some time.
He approached the other person slowly, tentatively. They had seen each other every day, but hadn’t spoken a single world. He stood beside them, almost shoulder-to-shoulder before the roof’s fenced perimeter,
“I’m sorry I didn’t get here sooner, I only saw your message a few minutes ago,” Sungmin explained,
“It’s fine… I’ve been here for hours,” Kyuhyun replied,
“Hours? But… it’s been raining since I woke up,” Sungmin stated,
“For about four hours now, actually,” Kyuhyun corrected with a small smile.
“You’ve been out… dear, God, Kyuhyun! You could catch a fever!” Sungmin exclaimed,
“Could I? Can vampires get sick? I’ve always wondered,” Kyuhyun wondered,
“Have you forgotten all the times you’ve had a fever!?” Sungmin demanded, turning to him with his eyes narrowed,
“But those were all related to extreme cases. Can I get sick just from being in the rain?” Kyuhyun asked just before he sneezed.
Sungmin slanted him a look, “I think we just proved that.” He paused a moment before adding, “So, let us hurry with this before you get really sick… Why did you want to meet me?”
“Because I’m sick of the way things have been between us,” Kyuhyun said simply,
Sungmin raised an eyebrow, “I’ve been trying to speak with you for weeks.”
“I know, I know,” Kyuhyun sighed, turning and falling back against the fence. He pushed his hair out of his eyes, tried to wipe the rain from his face, but it didn’t matter for the rain continued to splatter where he had wiped. He looked up at the dark, grey skies, “After what happened… after what I did… I got scared, Min… I got scared that I would hurt Tae again, that one day I might hurt you, too.”
“I figured out that much,” Sungmin admitted, “I’ve known you since we were kids, Kyuhyun, I knew almost immediately what you were about when you started avoiding Taeyeon and stopped talking to me.”
“I’ve been dreaming about when it happened,” Kyuhyun confessed, “When I was attacked and turned. For some time now I didn’t know what my dreams meant, but last night… well, I guess it was this morning… I thought about it and I realized what I was dreaming… they were what I didn’t remember. All I remembered was the pain… what I remembered was the turning as Heechul watched after me.
“But in my dreams, I remember when I left the school, wanting to run away. Then at some point, I felt as if I were in danger, as if I were being chased. I ran off campus, through the east gates. I was… in the forest when I ran into the vampire…” Kyuhyun shook his head, pushed the thoughts, the memories away, “Taeyeon had followed me and found me in the forest… since then she has always been by my side and I repay her by attacking her.”
“You weren’t yourself, Kyuhyun. You did not know what you were doing in your rage,” Sungmin insisted, “Granted, you should have sought isolation when your bloodlust got so bad… but you weren’t even thinking when you attacked Taeyeon.” Sungmin stepped so he stood directly before Kyuhyun.
He crossed his arms and stared at him, “Kyuhyun, at the beginning of this school year, you asked for my help. You told me all of what happened to you and asked that I help you. I accepted and offered my help. I wanted to make things easier for you, to be a part of your life again. I can’t do any of that, I can’t help you if you don’t let me, if you keep pushing me away whenever things get difficult.”
“Difficult? I could have killed my own cousin!” Kyuhyun exclaimed, his eyes stinging from the rain and tears.
“But you didn’t. You need to get past that, Kyuhyun. Taeyeon has, so you need to, too!” Sungmin countered, “If we ever want to get past this, Kyuhyun. If we ever want to keep battling your vampirism, we can’t fall apart… we can’t have all this distance between us. Kyuhyun, you’re my oldest friend, but you are also my best friend. I know Taeyeon is your best friend, but you are mine, you always have been. Whether you want it or not, you will always have my support and help. What you have to decide is whether you’ll accept it or not.”
Kyuhyun was silent. Sungmin waited, but still the other said nothing. “You’d better get inside soon. The rain doesn’t seem like it’ll let up. It’ll probably turn to snow soon,” Sungmin stated. He turned to leave.
He stopped when he heard a peculiar noise. He glanced over his shoulder and then spun back around. He crouched down before Kyuhyun. The younger man had slid down against the fence until he sat on the wet rooftop. He had curled his knees to his chest, propped his elbows on his raised knees and covered his face with his hands, pressing the heel of his palms against his eyes.
“What’s happening to me, Min?” Kyuhyun questioned, pleading for an answer, “My bloodlust is almost impossible to control half the time… I’m finally recalling what happened to me that night… even though I’m feeding every day, I need to feed several times a day and sometimes… sometimes it’s not even enough. I… I don’t know anymore, Min… I don’t…”
“Kyuhyun… I… I… –”
“I’m so tired of fighting, I’m so tired of all these changes… I’m tired of never knowing what’ll happen to me the next day, I’m tired of… of… of everything,” Kyuhyun stammered, his tears mingling with the rain.
Sungmin crawled to kneel beside Kyuhyun, rather than in front of him. He wrapped his arms around the younger man and pulled him against him, pulled him into his embrace. He held him tightly, protectively, something he hadn’t done since they were children.
“I know… but that’s why I’m here, to support you when you’re tired, when all you want to do is run away,” Sungmin said through the rain, “If you’ll let me.”
Kyuhyun huddled against him, against his warmth and remembered when all he ever did was rely on Sungmin, when all he ever did was stay behind, protected. He was loathe to do so again, but at that moment, he wouldn’t have it any other way. At that moment, all he wanted was for Sungmin to lead the way and protect him as he did when they were children.
“You’re my best friend, too.”
“You’re an idiot. I hope you’re aware of this.”
Kyuhyun glanced at Heechul and then defiantly looked away. He sat on a chair in the nurse’s office with his feet in warm water, blankets draped over his shoulders. He clutched the halves of the blankets together to completely surround himself.
“At least it’s not another fever, just a damn cold,” Heechul sighed as he plopped down in his chair behind his desk.
“How’s the idiot?” Sungmin asked as he came in. He moved to the chair beside Kyuhyun’s before Heechul’s desk, hitting him upside the head as he did so.
Kyuhyun scowled at him before yawning loudly, “What was that for!?”
“For being out in the freezing rain for hours!” Sungmin retorted, crossing his arms over his chest.
“It’s a good thing you sent him,” Heechul shook his head,
“It was hard not to send him. He was coughing and sneezing… interrupting my class,” Sungmin shook his head, glancing at Kyuhyun as he said so. “No temperature?”
“No,” Heechul answered, “I swear, kid, if those Hunters came and looked at your file, they could grow suspicious at the amount of times you’ve been sick. But all I’d have to do is show them as you are now, sick because you stood out in the rain.”
Kyuhyun rolled his eyes, yawning as he did so, “Okay, okay, I get it. I was an idiot for staying out in the rain for so long. Can we move on, please?”
Heechul glanced at Sungmin who nodded. Heechul looked back at the student, “Yes, we can. However, the moment your water starts to feel cold, tell me so I can get rid of it.”
“So, have you bought a tuxedo yet?” Heechul inquired,
Kyuhyun raised a brow, “Why? Because of the senior ball?” He snorted, “It’s the most I’ve seen any of the students at this school actually give a damn about the school. But no, I haven’t. I didn’t go last year –”
“You weren’t at school for the last one –”
“And I’m not going this year,” Kyuhyun shrugged, acting as if Heechul hadn’t interrupted him. “There’s no point. I don’t talk to anyone, there’s no way I would enjoy myself at all.”
“Taeyeon wants to go,” Sungmin stated,
“Taeyeon actually talks to people,” Kyuhyun pointed out, “Despite all the time she spends with me, she actually talks to other people, socializes. She would be able to enjoy herself.”
“Then go with her,” Heechul suggested.
Kyuhyun blinked, “What?”
“Your cousin wants to go, so go with her, escort her,” Heechul explained, saying so slowly as if to allow Kyuhyun time to understand.
“Why? Taeyeon has no enemies at this school,” Kyuhyun stated as he barely stifled a yawn,
Heechul rolled his eyes, sighing exasperatedly; “Sungmin can’t go, so you should go to keep all the boys away. If you’ve forgotten, that’s why you two started the entire boyfriend-girlfriend ploy.”
Kyuhyun sighed, looking at Sungmin, “Is that what you want, too?”
“Considering Taeyeon may not allow me any opinion on a dress she may buy, it would be much appreciated if you kept the wolves at bay,” Sungmin replied, “Also, she wants to go, but she refuses to because she cannot go with me. If you go, perhaps she will go… I believe that if she doesn’t, she’ll regret it later on when she’s reflecting upon her memories of SJA.”
Kyuhyun pulled his feet out of the bucket of water, “That means being surrounded by a group of people I don’t care for, for four hours.”
Heechul tossed him a towel before moving to get the bucket to empty it, “Yes, but you do that anyway everyday you’re at school. Might as well do it for the good of your cousin.”
“Do I have to pretend like they matter and talk to them, too?” Kyuhyun inquired as he put the towel on Heechul’s desk before tugging on his socks and shoes again,
“No, just dance the night away,” Sungmin shrugged, “That’s probably all Taeyeon will want to do anyway.”
“I hate wearing suits,” Kyuhyun muttered as he leaned back in his chair, pulling the blankets close around him once more, “My father had me wearing them the moment I was born.”
At Heechul’s raised brows, Sungmin added, “He’s not even exaggerating. I’m pretty sure I met Kyuhyun in a suit.”
Kyuhyun sighed heavily, “I guess I shouldn’t mention that I have a suit at my Aunt’s home.”
“Is it that black one you wore during that press conference two Christmases ago?” Sungmin inquired lightly, “Where your father addressed the plans for the company? Something like that?”
Kyuhyun blinked before nodding, “It’ll need some tailoring, but I finished my growth spurt when I was 15.”
“Now all that’s left is to convince Taeyeon,” Sungmin smiled at him,
“If I’ve just agreed to willingly put on a suit, you need to make her agree to go to this stupid ball,” Kyuhyun muttered resentfully.
“I’ll worry about that. You worry about wearing the suit,” Sungmin grinned at him, glad to have regained this camaraderie with the younger man again.
“Oh, I am,” Kyuhyun replied bitterly, holding the blankets close, “I am.”
“You are what?” The three men looked over just as Zhou Mi strode in
“Going to wear a suit,” Kyuhyun yawned as he stood up, keeping the blankets draped around him.
Zhou Mi rose a questioning brow, “The blankets? Last time I checked, the school has more than efficient heating. It should, at least, considering the tuition costs for this school.”
“Hey, Kyuhyun, are you going to tell him about how much of an idiot you were this morning?” Heechul prompted, a mischievous glint in his eyes as he sat back down behind his desk.
Zhou Mi glanced at Sungmin who said nothing. For all his teasing, Sungmin recalled quite clearly what happened on that rooftop that morning. He recalled the way Kyuhyun had spoken, had huddled in his embrace. He recalled the tone of Kyuhyun’s voice and how it seemed so hopeless, so lost… so scared. He wasn’t sure what made him colder that morning, the weather itself, or the way Kyuhyun was prepared to give up to his vampirism.
“I was out in the rain and I now have a cold,” Kyuhyun said simply. He glanced at Sungmin who stared at him knowingly. Subtly, Kyuhyun nodded and looked back at Zhou Mi, “Can I talk to you for a second?”
Zhou Mi nodded as he followed the younger man towards the isolation room.
“You should take a nap while you’re in there,” Heechul called after them, “You’ve been yawning since you came here!”
Once they were in the room, Zhou Mi closed the door behind them just as Kyuhyun turned on the lamp in the room. Kyuhyun sat on the edge of the bed, watching Zhou Mi as the older man walked over to the new chair in the room, pulled it near the bed and gracefully sat down, arranging his long limbs comfortably as he sat.
“What did you want to talk about?” Zhou Mi asked. He waited, always waiting. Since he saw Kyuhyun sneak off and on campus the previous week he had wondered, wanted to ask and yet, also wanted Kyuhyun to tell him.
“Last night… well, this morning… I remembered what happened when I was attacked last autumn,” Kyuhyun confessed, “I… After all this time, it’s finally come back to me and… I’m… I’m...” He sighed, flopping on his back, lying across the bed, “This is difficult.”
“Sharing things,” Kyuhyun muttered,
Zhou Mi laughed lightly as he reached over, grabbed Kyuhyun’s hand and pulled him back up, “Try again, then.”
When Zhou Mi tried to let go of his hand, Kyuhyun only held onto his tighter. Curious, Zhou Mi looked at Kyuhyun, but the younger man was staring at the ground, “I’m scared because all of these things are happening so suddenly and… and I don’t know what to expect when tomorrow comes.”
In that moment, Zhou Mi forgot about Kyuhyun’s clandestine whatever-it-was. His hand fractionally tightened around Kyuhyun’s as he willed the younger man to look up. He waited, waited and, finally, he did. Kyuhyun locked gazes with him and Zhou Mi felt his world tilt. In that one stare, he saw someone vulnerable, scared and anxious all at once. He saw someone who was lost and afraid. He saw someone who was slowly crumbling, slowly losing hope and yet, trying to keep it all in, trying to hide it all from those around him.
Slowly, the pieces shifted in his mind, fitting around this new revelation, fitting around the small bits of information he had garnered over the past few days.
“Kyuhyun, why are you tired this morning?” Zhou Mi asked quietly,
“Because it’s all I dream about… all I see the moment I close my eyes. I see that night, I feel the emotions… I know pain and horror all over again,” Kyuhyun replied honestly, swiftly, his hand unconsciously gripping Zhou Mi’s harder. “For over a month now, that’s all I am when I sleep…”
“Kyuhyun… last Wednesday, where did you go?” Zhou Mi asked tentatively. He didn’t want to ask, didn’t want to push him away and yet, he felt this was the time to ask.
Kyuhyun stilled, steeled immediately. He knew immediately to what Zhou Mi was referring to. He swallowed hard, wanting to ask so much, wanting to say so much and yet, all he managed was a croaky, “How?”
“I saw you leaving from and returning to campus,” Zhou Mi answered, hand still locked with Kyuhyun’s, gaze unwavering.
“During summer break I met someone… a turned vampire,” Kyuhyun replied. They had made promises to one another and would abide to them with all he had. He was tired of many things, one of them being hiding things from Zhou Mi. “I found out he’s the reason the pureblood didn’t kill me after feeding… he fought him, caused him to forget about me and leave… If I have questions, I send for him and he comes when I ask him to…”
“How can you trust him?” Zhou Mi questioned, “How do you know he’s the one who helped you that evening? He could be lying to you, Kyuhyun. Damn it, a turned vampire!”
“You seem to forget that I’m a turned vampire!” Kyuhyun exclaimed, “And I know it was him because I feel… I feel a certain bond to him… It’s one of the things I feel when I feed from you.”
“Then how do you know he’s not…” Zhou Mi released Kyuhyun’s hand, running both of his own through his hair, “HE COULD BE THE PUREBLOOD WHO TURNED YOU!”
“He’s not!” Kyuhyun defended,
Zhou Mi felt his jealousy rear its head at the strong defensive tone in Kyuhyun’s voice. He felt his heart contract painfully as his entire body raged; “How can you be so sure!?”
“BECAUSE HE COULD HAVE KILLED ME ALREADY!” Kyuhyun exclaimed, “Because I’ve met him enough times that he could have killed me dozens of times by now! Because he’s had so many damn chances to kill me and no one would’ve ever found me, no one would’ve ever known!”
“How many times have you seen him, Kyuhyun? Why did you go alone? Why didn’t you ever tell me? Damn it, since summer break!?” Zhou Mi jumped to his feet, glaring down at the younger boy, “Well?”
“Well what!?” Kyuhyun retorted,
“DAMN IT, ANSWER ME!” Zhou Mi pushed him down onto the mattress. Hands still pinning Kyuhyun’s shoulders down and one knee on the mattress, he stared down at Kyuhyun. He grounded it out again, “Answer. Me.”
“Because I needed to know I could still do something on my own. I needed to know that I could still be independent,” Kyuhyun replied angrily, bitterly, fighting against the stinging behinds his eyes; “Because he had answers no one else did.”
Zhou Mi pushed away from him, straightening. He was angry, he was jealous. He turned, slipped out of the room, closed the door behind him. He collapsed against the door, heavily breathing from the roiling emotions within.
From within the room, Kyuhyun was gasping for air, trying to calm himself. He straightened on the bed, lying properly on it rather than across. Clutching the blankets still around his shoulders, he curled on his side, facing the wall. He shut his eyes and relived the past few moments, trying to understand what had just happened. His heart was still racing, beating painfully.
He felt angry and hurt at the same time. He wanted to follow Zhou Mi, to yell at him, shake him, making him understand. He had seen the jealousy in the dark depths of Zhou Mi’s eyes. He had seen the envy, the anger. He had felt the emotions rolling off the older man in waves so thick they were almost palpable. He had seen Zhou Mi’s anger before, had witnessed his jealousy and they weren’t sides of the older man he wanted to see again.
He felt shaken and a little bit more than hurt. They had promised to be honest with one another, to share everything with one another. So why was it that when he did as they promised that it still backfired on him? That he was still left to suffer? Why was he alone?
He clenched his eyes against the hot sting of tears threatening to push past his eyelids. He hugged the blankets tighter around himself, forcing sleep. He willed it, prayed for it, for once wanting sleep above all things even if it meant succumbing to his horrid memories.
His thoughts so consumed him, wanting to push it all away and to escape, that he never heard the door opening again. He never heard the footsteps approaching the bed. The first clue that slipped into his awareness was when the mattress dipped beneath a second weight. Then he felt a solid warmth settle behind him. Long, strong arms wrapped around him from behind, pulling him against that solid warmth.
“I’m still angry,” he heard Zhou Mi say, felt the warm breath against his neck, “But at the situation… not you… never you.”
“I… I know you’re angry,” Kyuhyun replied quietly, steadily, “But angry or not, I need you with me… I need you because I’m scared and… I want you with me however you are because I can’t… I can’t do this alone.”
Zhou Mi tightened his arms around Kyuhyun even more.
“Even if I have to kill that other vampire myself… I won’t leave you.”
After final period
Taeyeon pulled her jacket closed as she slipped out of the back courtyard’s glass walls. Glad she had run to her dorm to change from her sneakers to her boots, she ran across the grounds as the sky poured sleet to the earth. Her hair was plastered to her face, her skin felt red and raw from the wind. She glanced back towards the school, but the school was too preoccupied with the senior ball to find interest with her cross-campus journey.
She ran, squinting, trying to see clearly through the weather as she headed towards the east gate. Once she reached it, the stone driveway crinkling beneath her boots, she pushed the gates open just enough to slip out and then closed them again. Should any security guards walk by, she was sure they would ensure they were locked again.
She frantically looked around once she was out of the gates. It was still day, despite the dark grey skies, but considering it was near the east gates, inside the woods where she had found Kyuhyun after he had been attacked… She shivered and half-wondered if it was all due to the weather.
A horn honked and she looked up ahead. There just a few metres down the road from the east gates was a black car. She ran towards it knowingly, immediately going to the passenger-side door and slipping into the front. She shut the door and tugged on her seatbelt as she relished in the car’s warmth,
“I bet you’ve been dry and warm since you left the school, haven’t you?” She accused as she took off her jacket and slipped it onto the back of her chair to dry.
“Obviously. And it would have been the same if you were allowed to be seen with me as thus,” Sungmin said as he began to drive away from the campus.
“I know,” She sighed, “But we’ve always talked about not being able to leave… where are we going now? Why chance it after so long of hiding?”
“You have something to buy and I am bringing you to go buy it,” Sungmin explained.
Taeyeon shifted in her seat so she could look at him, “And what exactly is it that I need to buy?”
“A dress,” Sungmin said simply.
Taeyeon blinked, crossing her arms over her chest, “What?”
“A dress. I believe that is the tradition apparel for females at the senior ball,” Sungmin said simply, a teasing light in his fox-like eyes,
“Sungmin! I told you I wasn’t going to go if I can’t go with you,” Taeyeon reminded crossly,
“Ah, but I also know that if you don’t go, you’ll look back and regret it,” Sungmin countered, “So, you’re going to go.”
“What are you, my keeper?” Taeyeon retorted,
“If I have to be,” Sungmin countered. They drove in silence for a moment before Sungmin said, “Come on, Taeyeon. You know you want to go, so just go.” Before Taeyeon could reply, he added, “I’ve convinced Kyuhyun to wear a suit.”
“Did you bribe him?” Taeyeon questioned baldly.
Sungmin laughed, “Not really. But if Kyuhyun is willing to put on a suit to escort you to the ball, surely you’ll consent to going to the ball without me.”
“It’s not the same and you know it,” Taeyeon murmured as she uncrossed her arms, holding one out.
Sungmin easily reached over, linking his fingers with hers. “I know,” he said softly, the mischief gone from his eyes and tone, “But you should make memories when the opportunity presents itself. This is yours and Kyuhyun’s final year – well, we’re hoping he doesn’t repeat a third time – you both should make the most of it and that means attending the only function this school does: the senior ball.”
Taeyeon sighed as she leaned back against her seat, “Always saying the right things. Can’t you say the wrong things sometimes?”
“No, why would I want you to get angry at me? Worse, why would I want you to get upset?” Sungmin replied simply.
Taeyeon laughed softly, melodically, “There you go again with the right words at the right time.” She sighed,
Sungmin raised their linked hands to his lips, brushing a kiss over her knuckles, “I love you.”
Taeyeon sighed with annoyance, “You can’t say that when you’re trying to persuade! That’s cheating.”
Sungmin shot her a mischievous glance, “Is it working?”
“If I’m buying a dress, why do you have to be with me?” Taeyeon conceded,
“Because I need to make sure other boys don’t see too much of you,” Sungmin said darkly,
Taeyeon raised her brows at him, “What?”
“If I can’t be there, I need to make sure that no one gets any ideas,” Sungmin grounded out; “If I had it my way I would have you covered from neck to ankle, but I have a slight suspicion you’d never allow that.”
“I’m glad I don’t have to say so,” Taeyeon replied. She squeezed his hand comfortingly, “But you know it doesn’t matter what the other boys think. It’s you I love.”
Sungmin sighed as they entered Seoul. They reached a stop light and he leaned back in his seat. He looked over at Taeyeon, “I wish we could be like this all the time… like we don’t have to worry about who’ll see us.”
“One and a half more months,” Taeyeon smiled at him sadly,
“One and a half months too many,” Sungmin muttered darkly. He shook the thoughts from his mind as the lights turned green and he began to drive again. “So you’ll go to the senior ball with Kyuhyun?”
“Yes,” she replied dutifully,
“And you’ll only dance with him?” Sungmin asked lightly,
“Dance all night with just my cousin?” Taeyeon asked with a mock affronted tone. At the dark look in Sungmin’s fox-like eyes, she laughed lightly, “It will be my pleasure. Kyuhyun’s a marvellous dancer.”
Sungmin released her hand, gripping the wheel with both of his, “Damn it.”
“What?” Taeyeon glanced around at the other cars and pedestrians, “Someone from SJA?”
“No,” Sungmin muttered, “I’m jealous of your damn cousin.”
Taeyeon laughed heartily as Sungmin continued to scowl.
Saturday; End of the Second Week of December 20XX
They said nothing to each other.
Kyuhyun sat on the bed in the isolation room as Zhou Mi sat before him in a chair. He held one of Kyuhyun’s hands in his own and he securely wrapped his knuckles with bandages. Zhou Mi secured the bandages and then held out his hands for Kyuhyun’s other hand. When Kyuhyun dutifully placed his hand in Zhou Mi’s, the older man began to wrap more bandages around that hand’s knuckles as well.
“You’ll look quite the sight in a tuxedo with your hands wrapped in bandages. It’s like you just got in from a street fight or something,” Zhou Mi said lightly,
“I… I’m sorry,” Kyuhyun murmured.
Zhou Mi looked up at him, startled, “Sorry? Whatever for?”
“Going on a rampage,” Kyuhyun replied, “You were a few minutes late and I was so impatient… I couldn’t even…” He sighed heavily and looked away.
Zhou Mi said nothing as he finished bandaging Kyuhyun’s hand. Securing those bandages, he lowered Kyuhyun’s hand. Then, he reached across, taking Kyuhyun’s chin between thumb and forefinger,
“You can barely control your bloodlust now, we know that. We’ll get through this,” Zhou Mi insisted, his tone soft, “You’re not starving which is the important part.”
“But what if I need blood suddenly and –”
“You’ve been able to hold it off for a few minutes once it begins. I’ll be nearby the entire time,” Zhou Mi promised, “My Hunters are all on duty tonight, but I’ll be around also just in case you need to leave, then you’re not stuck with my Hunters.”
Kyuhyun sighed, “I’m starting to feel going to the senior ball is just such a huge risk.”
“You’ll be fine,” Zhou Mi insisted,
“I just… I can’t believe I couldn’t wait for you to get here… that I just went on a rage,” Kyuhyun shook his head, “Even hyung doesn’t know what’s happening.”
Zhou Mi dropped his hand, straightening in his chair, “Hyung? You went to that vampire again, didn’t you?”
“He has a perspective no one else has, not even you, Mi,” Kyuhyun defended lightly, “He might have gone through this before.”
“No… but I didn’t know that until I asked him,” Kyuhyun explained.
Zhou Mi got to his feet, pacing away as he ran both hands through his hair, “I don’t like it, Kyuhyun. I don’t trust whoever-it-is and I don’t like that you meet him in such secluded areas at night.”
“I’m a vampire. It has to be at night,” Kyuhyun reminded dryly,
“But do you have to go alone? Do you have to go to such a secluded area?” Zhou Mi questioned,
“He likes his privacy,” Kyuhyun shrugged, “And for all his help, I’m willing to give him that one request.”
“What if one day he wants more than just privacy?” Zhou Mi questioned, “What if one day he wants to feed from you?”
“He won’t. He saved me that night, he won’t –”
“WHY DO YOU TRUST HIM!?” Zhou Mi exclaimed angrily, “It was so hard for you to trust me and yet all it takes from him is a few choice words and you’re willing to chance getting caught… I don’t understand!”
“I trusted you from the beginning. I told you that,” Kyuhyun replied, “I trusted you from the beginning even when I didn’t want to.”
“And yet you want to trust him even though there are so many reasons you should not!” Zhou Mi argued,
“I get that you’re jealous, but –”
“HELL, YES, I’M JEALOUS!” Zhou Mi practically roared, a voice so angry, so loud that Kyuhyun wondered where it came from within his tall and lithe frame. Zhou Mi swung away, curling his fingers into his hair, “But I’m so scared, Kyuhyun… I’m so scared that he’ll do something and I won’t be able to protect you. I’m so scared of all these things happening and… and I just don’t know anymore.”
“Don’t know anymore of what? Of us?” Kyuhyun looked up at him, alarmed,
The door opened and Taeyeon slipped in holding two suit bags. “Mother just brought your suit. She said they should fit according to the measurements we sent her.” She glanced between her cousin and the literature teacher, “Should I come back?”
“No, it’s fine. You two have to get ready for the ball,” Zhou Mi replied as he went to the door. He paused and glanced over his shoulder at Kyuhyun who was staring at him in silent confusion and hurt. “No, I wasn’t talking about us.” Then he slipped out, closing the door securely behind him.
Taeyeon draped the suit bags across the bed before placing her hands on her hips, “Are you okay? Do I have to go attack Seonsaeng-nim?”
Kyuhyun allowed Zhou Mi’s words to sink in before he laughed softly, “No, it’s okay… I think.” He glanced at the suit bags, “Why are there two bags?”
Taeyeon slanted him a look, “One is my dress. What, you thought I’d go to the ball in my jeans and t-shirt?”
“You would have made a statement, that’s for sure,” Kyuhyun stated as he stood up just as Taeyeon handed him one of the suit bags. He unzipped the bag and pulled out a simple, black suit, “At least it still looks good.”
“Better than your hands, what happened?” Taeyeon stared at his bandaged hands, his fingers the only skin bared;
“Oh, my bloodlust, you know how it is,” Kyuhyun shrugged nonchalantly as he rolled his head and shoulders, trying to loosen the tension in his body. He began to pull his shirt off his head when he paused, glancing at Taeyeon, “You’re my best friend and my cousin and everything… but I would rather you turn the other way.”
“Did you feed?” Taeyeon inquired lightly as she took out her dress from its bag while turning her back to her cousin.
“Yeah, I’m just on edge,” Kyuhyun sighed as he slipped on a dark blue button-up. “Everything going on, Mi and I basically just argued and… I feel like I’m going to snap and not even because of my bloodlust.”
Without any warning, Taeyeon began to hum a tune. It was familiar to both of them and reflexive for her. She draped her dress back on the bed as she picked up his black blazer, brushing off lint as her soft melody filled the quiet room. Kyuhyun tensed when she began but slowly, all his tension seemed to seep out of his body, clearing his mind completely. He continued dressing, turning back to his cousin when all he needed to do was put on his blazer.
“Thank you,” he said quietly as she turned to him, holding up a black vest. He raised a brow, “Really? I’ll be wearing three layers.”
“Just do it,” Taeyeon tossed it at him, “And turn around so I can dress.”
Kyuhyun rolled his eyes as he turned his back to her, slipping his arms through the vest, slipping the silver buttons into their holes. He glanced to the bed, “Is that a tie? Really? Suit, vest and a tie? Man… either I really do love you or Sungmin owes me big time.”
“Both,” Taeyeon promised as she ran her hands down the dress, straightening the fabric over her body. “Help, please.”
Kyuhyun draped his tie over his neck as he turned back to his cousin. He zipped up the back of her dress. She turned to face him and he nodded approvingly, “Sungmin could not have been with you when you bought that dress.”
“He wanted to cover me from neck to ankle. He half-succeeded,” Taeyeon grimaced as she smoothed any creases in the dress.
The silk dress had a V-neck, halter top, hugging her bust and her slender torso before falling straight to the floor from her hips. Two slits ran up the sides of her dress to mid-thigh, showing glimpses of skin when she walked. The dress, midnight-blue in colour, had silver swirls of embroidery along the edges, climbing like silver-caste vines up the side slits.
“You look beautiful, Tae,” Kyuhyun grinned at his cousin,
She shrugged as she stepped forward to tie his tie for him, “Eh, you clean up pretty nice yourself, Kyu.” She tightened his tie and stepped back, sweeping her eyes up and down him, “Very nice, cousin dear.”
He paused, “Do we… do we match?”
Taeyeon blinked before smiling softly at him, “Yes. My dress is dark blue with silver highlights.” She paused before reaching up and brushing a few strands of hair from his eyes, “You still can’t see blue?”
He shook his head slowly, sadly, “Red, yellow, orange, green… Almost everything but blue.” He cleared his throat as he looked away, “We match remarkably well… Almost as if we planned this. How did you know what colour of shirt I asked your mother to bring?” Kyuhyun raised a brow,
Taeyeon laughed, “As if I don’t know your favourite colour, Kyu.” She picked up his tuxedo jacket and held it out for him.
He took it, slipped it on, “How could I forget? You know everything about me.”
“And you know everything about me,” Taeyeon replied as she sat on the edge of the bed, pulling silver-strapped heels from her bag. She stood up, pulling her hair out of its ponytail, “I thought of just leaving my hair as is, what do you think?”
Kyuhyun looked at the dark tresses that fell to her mid-back in soft waves, “You look like you. So I think you look perfect.”
Taeyeon grinned at him, “Right answer. We should get going. The ball should be starting soon.”
After a few words with Heechul, Taeyeon and Kyuhyun headed through the school to the back courtyard where the ball was to be held beneath the winter sky. The courtyard, having originally been designed as a greenhouse had a glass ceiling. Three of its walls were the building’s own stone and the fourth wall which faced the back of the campus was made completely out of five-inch thick glass; the perfect setting for a winter wonderland ball.
As they stepped into a stairwell to bring them to the first floor, Taeyeon nudged her cousin, “On our way to SJA in March, did you have any idea you’d be attending the senior ball?”
Kyuhyun snorted, “Not in the least. I would have rather gouge my eyes out than surround myself with the school’s snobby populace.”
“And yet here you are, going with me to the ball,” she laughed softly; “But a lot has changed for us since the school year began, hmm?”
“You have a boyfriend,” Kyuhyun stated in agreement,
Taeyeon slanted him a look, playfully stating, “I could say the same about you.”
“You talk to people,” Kyuhyun pointed out,
“I did before,” Taeyeon defended,
“You talk to people about things that matter,” He amended quickly, “Sungmin, Heechul and I’ve seen you talk to Kyuri more than once.”
“Oh, that’s the biggest change,” Taeyeon interjected, “Your twin sister is back with us.”
“You know… I never thought I was missing something, that I missed her… I mean, it sounds horrible, but how can you miss someone who was never there?” Kyuhyun confessed, “But after having her in my life again, having her here and with us… I can’t imagine not having her around.”
“Of course not, who would you fight with then?” Taeyeon teased lightly as they stepped out of the stairwell and onto the first floor of the central wing.
“A lot has changed since we came back to SJA,” Kyuhyun stated quietly as they slowly trudged towards the back courtyard amongst a stream of other third year students, “Not all of it completely horrible.”
“Well, tonight isn’t about the horrible stuff,” Taeyeon replied, “Tonight is about… having fun, I think. Tonight we are allowed to forget about all that bad stuff, okay?”
“Just for tonight?” Kyuhyun raised a brow,
“Unfortunately reality awaits us after the ball,” Taeyeon replied, placing her hand on his arm as he raised it,
“And our boyfriends,” Kyuhyun murmured quietly so no one else could hear.
Taeyeon laughed up at him as they approached the main, double doors to the back courtyard. Just beyond they could see glimpses of the velvety night sky and the many lights decorating the courtyard’s glass structure. She squeezed his arm comfortingly,
“Ready for a night that’s supposed to be memorable?” She grinned brilliantly up at her cousin,
“I’m pretty sure our year up until now has been memorable,” Kyuhyun slanted her a look. He covered her hand with his other and squeezed back, smiling back at her, “But it’s a night to be happy and, that, is what makes it rare.”
Taeyeon smiled back her silent agreement. Touching her temple to his shoulder, together, they stepped through the doors and entered the glass, palace-like world of the courtyard. Tonight was about being happy. Tomorrow, well… they would think about that after the stroke of midnight.
(Phase 26: Silent Harmonies)