(7th Cycle of the Mourning Song series.)
7th Cycle: Forgotten Reflection
These days, people say "love" so easily.
And I begin to wonder what does it really mean?
Is it an easy smile,
a helping hand,
some thoughtful words?
And if so...
First week of November 20XX
They were excited. It was one of the rare times they got to visit their Aunt Taeyeon while she was working. Kyuri had layered the twins until they resembled little dumplings (Kyuki in forest green and Kyumi in cream). She strapped them into their dual stroller, placed the plastic tent overtop and headed off to the studio knowingly. She, herself had visited Taeyeon before, both wanting to keep the children away. However, as Taeyeon was slowly allowing more of her personal life to be exposed, she allowed Kyuri to bring the children this visit.
Taeyeon’s assistant met them in the lobby and escorted them to the recording room. Kyuri parked the stroller to the side of the room, taking a few minutes to herself as Taeyeon was busy recording a song. Kyuri opened up the plastic tent that protected the twins from the cold weather as they walked from their home. Squatting down before them, she stared them directly in their twin, dark eyes,
“Okay, do you remember the rules about visiting Aunt…” Kyuri glanced at the crew around them, remembering belatedly that no one knew Taeyeon’s real name, “Auntie?”
“Yes!” Kyumi chirped as her brother answered happily, “No!”
“Oh, you two will be the death of me,” Kyuri murmured so they didn’t catch her words.
“Auntie’s singing!” Kyumi squealed, hearing Taeyeon over the speakers suddenly. She struggled with her seatbelt vigorously, a new strength entering her tiny frame simply from the knowledge her aunt was near.
Kyuri sighed as she released Kyumi, scooping up the little girl before she could run away and cause havoc in the studio. However, the moment Kyumi saw her aunt through the glass window between the rooms, she seemed to calm, suddenly content in just sitting in her mothers arms. Kyuri felt a swift kick to her shins and she just barely silenced a swear. She put Kyumi down on the ground, but held her hand to ensure her daughter wouldn’t run away at the first opportunity. Kyuri squatted down again on eye level with her son,
“Kyuki!” Kyuri scolded quietly so as not to disrupt the crew, “Why did you kick me?”
“Meanie!” Kyuki accused, crossing his little arms angrily.
Kyuri had to blink, the resemblance to her brother almost too great. She cleared her face from all emotion, “What did I do?”
“You let Kyumi out but not me!” Kyuki accused again, his little face scrunched up in anger.
Kyuri sighed, “You don’t kick! You say something. Hitting people is wrong, Kyuki,” She calmly scolded him. Oh, how that lesson will come back to haunt her later when the children were older and learned what she did for a living. “When you hit someone, you hurt them.”
Kyuki’s eyes suddenly widened, all animosity gone from his face; “Did… Did I hurt you, Umma?”
Kyuri found herself at a crossroad. She wanted to be honest with her son so he would learn the lesson she was trying to teach him. At the same time, she knew how sad Kyuki would get if she said yes and she wasn’t sure she could handle her son’s sadness. Mentally, she cursed Kibum for not being around when she realized once more how inadequate she was with families.
She glanced at Kyuki, horrified to see his big, dark eyes shining with unshed tears. Kyuri mouthed a swear as she let go of Kyumi’s hand to undo Kyuki’s buckles. When he was free, Kyuri felt the familiar hesitance sweeping through her, the familiar pain as her heart clenched and her mind was filled with memories of a different face, an older face. Ruthlessly, she pushed thoughts of her own twin away and picked up her son, holding him firmly against her heart,
“You only hurt me a little bit. But do you see why you don’t hit?” Kyuri asked quietly,
Kyuki nodded as he gently patted his mother’s forehead, “Sorry I hit – where Kyumi?”
Kyuri looked down at her feet where Kyumi should have been still standing. Jaw dropping she scanned the recording studio just in time to see Taeyeon step out of the recording room and pick up something by her feet. Taeyeon straightened, the little girl in her arms as she walked over.
“This is the last time I’m bringing them,” Kyuri murmured as Taeyeon reached her,
“No harm done,” Taeyeon shrugged, “Everyone is going for lunch, so we can talk in here.”
They stood off to one side as the crew slowly cleared out. Taeyeon sat on leather-back chair on wheels, putting Kyumi down so she could explore. Kyuri did the same with Kyuki, albeit, hesitantly.
“I should warn you in case you haven’t told Sungmin, but Kibum knows you’re pregnant,” Kyuri stated as she watched the children for a moment, “It’s scary how he just knows.”
Taeyeon laughed lightly, “I told him. He’s panicking already even though we have until May.”
“Even if Kibum was panicking I’d never know,” Kyuri shook her head, “But he was so calm the last time I was pregnant.”
Taeyeon eyed her cousin’s stomach, “When are you due?”
“You’re four months already?” Taeyeon gaped,
Kyuri shrugged, “If my clothes were smaller you’d see it more.”
Taeyeon acknowledged the words, looking down at her own stomach.
“I hear you had a run-in with Kyuhyun,” Kyuri began, her own chair turned towards Taeyeon, but her eyes constantly watching the twins running havoc in the studio.
“Yes, and I’m still deciding whether or not to kill Zhou Mi for that,” Taeyeon sighed. She propped an elbow on the armrest and then cupped her chin in her hand; “I can’t believe it’s been three years since I’ve spoken with him like that.”
“How was it?” Kyuri inquired, leaning back in her chair, crossing her arms loosely over her stomach;
“Terrifying… it’s so weird because this is Kyuhyun and yet, it was like we were starting over again,” Taeyeon paused, thinking about the cellular phone in her pocket, thinking about the messages between herself and her cousin. She had told Sungmin about them, but she was selfish enough to keep that communication secret from Kyuri.
“Did he say anything?” Kyuri asked as she shook her head at Kyuki who looked at her in silent questioning before doing something undoubtedly mischievous.
“He’s a big fan?” Taeyeon offered before laughing lightly. At Kyuri’s bland look she added, “No, he didn’t say anything regarding the past. He did say something though…” She paused, trying to pull the memory forward in her consciousness; “He mentioned the person I’m always writing about in songs… something, I’m not sure what, but maybe the way he said it I feel like… I mean, his memory may be gone, but his vampirism is still very much present, right?”
“Theoretically, yes. We have no other proof to conclude anything else was affected,” Kyuri answered as she reached out and gently grabbed Kyumi’s arm as she ran past, a silent reminder not to run in the studio.
“Well, I think he read my thoughts or memories,” Taeyeon shrugged, “Even if he did, he didn’t recognize them as being his own memories, too.”
“I thought when he saw Kyuki he’d realize how much they look alike… or if he heard my name,” Kyuri laughed quietly, an almost bitter edge to her tone, “I know we weren’t as close as you two were, but I thought maybe that twin-theory would come into play and he’d just innately recognize me.” She emulated Taeyeon’s shrug with one of her own, “You’d think after 9 months stuck together in the smallest of spaces would instil some kind of instinct.”
Taeyeon laughed lightly as she rolled a few feet away, picked up a large purse and rolled back to her cousin. Shelving the purse on her lap, she pulled out a small piece of paper. She unfolded it revealing it to be a photograph with curling, slightly worn edges and creases crossing the photograph signifying it was old and had been folded and unfolded several times since its origin. Taeyeon handed it over to Kyuri.
“What is… I knew I wasn’t crazy,” Kyuri murmured as she held the photograph in her left hand. Her right hand reached over, her fingertips slowly tracing the three faces.
There were three little children in the photo. On the left was one of two boys, slightly taller than the other two. Dressed in shorts and t-shirts, he had a cap on his head, the bill slightly sideways as his bright, fox-like eyes shone from behind his fringe. On the right was a little girl, her short, dark hair a mass of waves and curls pinned back by little pink ribbons. Dressed in a frilly pink dress, her smile gave away her identity. Finally, in the middle, was a little boy in dress pants and a blue, button-up, short-sleeved shirt.
“He looks so much like Kyuki does right now,” Kyuri murmured, “Sungmin’s so cute and you –”
“My mother made me wear that dress,” Taeyeon grounded out, none-too-pleased.
“Where are you guys in this picture?” Kyuri asked as she stared at the photograph, distantly wondering if things had been different, would she have a place in this photo, too? Would she have a place amongst the rag-tag group of children? She pushed away the thoughts and ignored the dark pain in her heart.
“In a playground near Kyuhyun’s house; it was where he and Sungmin always used to play,” Taeyeon answered as she turned her attention to watching the twins play an impromptu game of tag in the studio, “Careful,” she gently called out as Kyumi tripped over her own small feet and stumbled for balance.
“A playground? But Kyuhyun’s practically in formal wear,” Kyuri stated,
“He was more often than not dressed for business,” Taeyeon explained, “He hates suits, well, hated them… who knows about now, but, yes, it was the rare time when he wouldn’t be dressed like that. I think the most casual I’ve seen him dressed in our childhood were dark jeans and a golf shirt.”
A door on the studio opened and Taeyeon’s assistant popped her head in, “Lee Yeon-sshi? The staff’s finishing lunch. Should I stall them?”
“No, no,” Kyuri answered as she stood up, “I’m taking the kids to visit Kibum and then the playground afterwards.”
“Are you sure?” Taeyeon said as she stood, putting her purse on the chair she had vacated,
“Yeah, we’ll touch base again after you’re done recording this album,” Kyuri insisted. She whistled loudly, a signal her children knew instinctively. They came running to her side immediately, the perfect pictures of innocence in green and cream. “You’re so busy whenever you’re recording an album and the children… like to destroy things,” Kyuri trailed off, looking at her children suspiciously,
“They didn’t do anything,” Taeyeon waved off her words,
“I’m sure there’s some wreckage somewhere that we can’t see yet,” Kyuri murmured as she secured the twins back into their stroller, flipping down the plastic covering to protect them once more from the elements.
“Alright,” Taeyeon sighed. She walked with them out of the studio and headed down the hallway towards the elevators, “What playground are you going to? Is there one near here?”
“Not too far away. Close to Saekki and Chueok streets,” Kyuri explained as they reached the elevators.
Taeyeon grinned, “You two really are twins,”
“There was a doubt?” Kyuri quirked a smile as the elevator doors opened and she manoeuvred the double-stroller into an empty elevator,
“That playground is the one we used to play in,” Taeyeon explained, “It’s also the one where I watched him in.”
Taeyeon waved as the doors slid close. After the doors were closed, Taeyeon stood a moment staring at the metal doors. She distantly remembered one of the last times she had compared Kyuhyun and Kyuri. She recalled walking through SJA beside her male cousin and said the same words to him. He had been startled, appalled and she had laughed in return, grabbing his hand. She acknowledged that things had changed where she was now spending time with Kyuri and Kyuhyun was the… stranger. They all had different childhoods and she couldn’t help the selfish way she relished in the thought she had so much of Kyuhyun in her life. She sighed heavily as she turned and slowly made her way back to the recording studio.
“Those were cute kids,” Her assistant acknowledged, standing outside the studio waiting for her return, “A friend of yours?”
Taeyeon hesitated. For two years she had hid her personal life from the public, even her assistant and managers didn’t know the complete story on her. She belatedly wondered how they’d react if they ever found out she was an heiress in her own right because of her parents, or that she had been engaged for years, or that she had personal experiences with a vampire?
She sighed quietly, knowing most of the secrecy around her personal life was about to change. She smiled slyly at her assistant, “I have some news to tell you before I tell the public.”
Taeyeon slowly raised her hands, and placed them protectively over her abdomen, and smiled brighter than the sun.
I love you.
Whatever may happen to us,
just know that I love you.
Whatever paths we walk along,
just know that I love you.
You are what love is to me.
Kibum turned around and instinctively took up the two little children who had jettisoned themselves towards him. One arm around each, he secured them beneath their little bottoms and hoisted them up as he straightened to his full height.
“They call you ‘umma’ you’d think they’d call me ‘appa’,” Kibum murmured as Kyuri brushed a kiss to his lips, the double stroller left out in the hallway.
“They’ve called you ‘ap-ap’ for so long it’s not like they’ll change their ways anytime soon,” Kyuri smiled up at him before turning to the screens around the room.
They had gone to the Council and found Kibum in one of the many control rooms. Workers were busy at the computers as three of the walls were embedded with several screens showing pictures, maps, traffic cameras and more.
“I don’t even know how Kyuki learned Japanese,” Kibum said before turning his attention towards the twins who began telling him about their visit with their aunt, their little hands flailing with excitement. More than once Kibum had to dodge his head to avoid an accidental punch or concussion.
“It’s because we always instinctively slip back into Japanese whenever it’s just us,” Kyuri replied distractedly as her eyes moved over several monitors that were showing different traffic and store-front cameras. “Tracking?”
“Monitoring,” Kibum corrected,
“So, waiting?” Kyuri prompted,
“I don’t know why you ask when you know the answer,” Kibum replied as he nodded his understanding to the children’s lively tales.
“Ap-ap needs to smile more,” Kyumi scolded in a serious tone, one little hand pushing the corner of his mouth up.
“Bishou!” Kyuki added in Japanese, pushing the other corner of Kibum’s mouth up in a mock smile.
Kyuri’s concentration was momentarily broken when she heard the quiet stifles of laughter amongst the crew in the room. With a break in her usual demeanour, she brought a finger to her lips to remind them to be quiet. The crew nodded their understanding. Kibum and Kyuri were famous in the Council. They were the stuff legends were made. When Kyuri had threatened to quit, the Council had offered her a new position as Head Tactician. Granted, she was the only one with such a title, but she was still the best. Kibum was promoted to Head Hunter once he couldn’t follow Kyuri any longer.
They were seen as serious, skilled and brilliant Hunters. Kibum was seen as silent, stoic and was only seen as human when he was around Kyuri or the rare chances his kids were at the Council. Kyuri was seen as slightly more personable even though she schooled her expressions just as much as her husband. She was seen as incredible smart and most had heard about her reputation at the Japanese Council.
“Kyuri, what is in your hand?” Kibum asked while the children began to wriggle, trying to gain freedom from his iron hold on them.
Kyuri looked down, startled to find she was still holding the photograph Taeyeon had showed her earlier. She had completely forgotten she hadn’t given it back. She loosened her grip on it, surprised at how tightly she had been gripping the photograph. Had she truly been holding it this entire time?
Kibum placed the twins on the ground, holding them as he looked them both in the eye, “No causing trouble unless I say so, okay?”
They nodded as they both raced away like twin cars. Kibum walked over to Kyuri and took the photograph from her. He looked down, “You weren’t kidding when you said Kyuki looks like your brother.”
“It’s okay, Kyumi looks like you,” Kyuri offered gently as she took back the photograph and stashed it in her purse to return to Taeyeon later,
“Don’t say that. I don’t want our daughter to take after her father,” Kibum stated,
“Don’t worry, she looks like me,” Kyuri murmured as her gaze slowly rolled back towards the monitors,
“Okay, what is it you see on the screens?” Kibum asked as he turned to look at them with her, “Your attention keeps returning to them, what do you see that we don’t?”
“I wasn’t so sure the first time, but the more I look,” Kyuri’s eyes swept over the monitors again, “You need to tap into more cameras or… no… camera four, nine, ten and 13…” Kyuri looked back and forth between the four said camera screens, “Camera four – two point three degrees to the right. Camera nine – five degrees down and one degree left. Camera ten – half a degree up. Camera 13 – fifteen degrees to the right, four degrees up. Wait, wait… Camera four another half degree to the right. There.”
Kibum, who had been silent as Kyuri orchestrated the cameras, watched intently, “Ah… blind spots. How many?”
“Do you really want to know the number?” Kyuri asked,
“It’ll be a big blow to my pride, hmm?” Kibum inquired in his usual monotone, “It can’t be that many –”
“Fifteen,” Kyuri interjected, “There were fifteen.”
“Damn,” Kibum sighed with a flat tone, “And you only had to move four cameras to cover them?” Kibum shook his head as he took her into his arm and beneath his shoulder, “It’s a good thing my wife is brilliant.”
“He’s happy,” Kyuri whispered to the crew who looked at him curiously, not able to read his expression or tone.
“Ap-ap!” Kyumi cried, “Can I push this red button?”
“No,” Kibum stated as he swiftly walked over to his daughter and his son who seemed to be reaching for the button anyway.
The door to the control burst open as a Head Hunter strode in, dressed in a dark blue suit. “Ah, Jo Kyuri-sshi!”
Kyuri turned around as the Head Hunter walked over to her holding out a manila folder, “Someone said they saw you here today and thought I should seek out your opinion on a mission before we implement it later this afternoon.”
Kyuri took the folder and opened it out. It took only a quick sweep of the first page to realize that the vampire being hunted was not a pureblood. Kyuri instinctively looked towards Kibum who was already watching her from across the room. Kibum strode over, beginning to take the folder from his wife,
“She’s off duty –”
“It’s okay,” Kyuri insisted as she began flipping through the pages in the folder, taking in all the information and processing it like a well-oiled machine. “They can just pay me overtime.”
Kibum stood silent like a sentry as Kyuri quickly began outlining corrections to the mission plans. The Head Hunter thanked her profusely as he took back the folder, leaving immediately after. Kyuri whistled loudly, bringing the twins to her side immediately.
“I need to learn that,” Kibum said as he gently brushed their heads with an affectionate touch,
“I’m taking them to the playground,” Kyuri explained as she took their hands,
“Alright, not for too long, it’s supposed to rain later,” Kibum said as he leaned down and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Will the plan you just give obviously fail?”
“Never obviously,” she whispered, a small smile on her lips as she and the twins left.
These days when people say "love" so casually,
I wonder if it can be more, quite possibly?
A comfy hug to stop the tears,
a gentle voice to ease the fears,
a listener when I need to talk.
And if so...
Kyuri smiled down at the twins in the toddler swings she was pushing. She gently stopped them, “It’s time we go home, hmm?”
Kyuri laughed lightly as she lifted Kyumi and then Kyuki out of the swings, “No, no. We’re going home.” She strapped them into their stroller once more, covering them with the plastic tent to protect against rain and wind. She pulled her own hood down and secured her jacket.
They left the playground that had quickly emptied as the rain started. She turned once out of the playground and absently listened to the chatter of the twins. A black car drove past, but thankfully there wasn’t enough water on the street yet to cause a backlash towards Kyuri and the twins. Suddenly, the car did a u-turn and pulled up to the curb despite being against traffic.
The back window rolled down and Kyuri froze as her brother’s face appeared.
“Would you like a ride?” Kyuhyun asked as he stepped out of the car, holding the door open,
“Um… no,” Kyuri stammered, desperately trying to regain her wits,
“My car splashed you on our way past, it’s only fair I give you a ride to wherever you’re going,” Kyuhyun insisted as his dark gaze swept over Kyuri’s as if trying to memorize each detail.
“You didn’t,” Kyuri argued,
“Well, then how about I’m standing in the rain because of you so it’s only fair you accept my offer?” Kyuhyun smiled,
Kyuri faltered, her word scrambled as she saw glimpses of the brother she lost three years ago. A small sneeze pulled her back to the present. Immediately, her gaze snapped towards the twins who were silent, watching the strange man by the car. Her heart twisted at seeing Kyuki so like Kyuhyun and Kyumi so like herself. Looking at her daughter, she realized it was she who had sneezed.
Sighing, she looked at Kyuhyun who was staring at her expectantly, a smile too close to smugness for her liking, “Very well, but only because she sneezed.” She released them from the stroller and after slipping into the back seat, marshalled them in after her, placing them between herself and her own twin brother, the driver managing the stroller, collapsing it and putting it in the trunk.
After asking Kyuri, Kyuhyun gave the driver the directions before settling back again in his seat. Kyuhyun shifted so he was partially facing Kyuri, “So… I haven’t seen you since that day at my house.”
Kyuri nodded stiffly, “I had a meeting with your mother.”
“I know… I… I heard some of it,” Kyuhyun admitted,
Kyuri remained silent, not entirely sure what to take from his words.
“Are you from here?” Kyuhyun asked, “Korea, I mean.”
“Of course –”
“It’s just that you spoke in Japanese to your kids,” Kyuhyun explained, gesturing towards the twins who had fallen asleep already, Kyumi burying her face against her mother’s jacket;
“I was born here but lived most of my life in Japan. It’s only a few years ago that I returned with my husband and we decided to stay here,” Kyuri explained, wondering if her words were affecting her brother at all. How much had he heard of the so-called meeting? Did he know? And if so, how did he feel about it because it was obvious he still didn’t remember her.
“Do you have any siblings?” Kyuhyun asked casually, slowly raising his gaze from the sleeping children to Kyuri’s,
“If you’re asking me that question, you already know. It seems you’ve heard more about the argument than I previously assumed,” Kyuri said simply, her tone flat; “Have you told your mother about how much you know?”
“You mean our mother,” Kyuhyun corrected,
Kyuri was silent a moment. Should she bring up the past? Should she mention the resentment, the hurt, all the pain she had been put through? After all, Kyuhyun began to suffer afterwards also. Finally, she raised a single brow, “No, I meant what I said before. She’s no mother to me, never has been and she’s hardly been one to you.”
Kyuhyun blinked. The words rang true and he hated how much they hit the target. However, this was still his mother – their mother, damn it – and he couldn’t idly sit silent and not defend her, right? He still had to otherwise what kind of son did that make him?
Eyes narrowing, he hissed quietly, “How dare you! You know nothing about the relationship between myself and our mother.”
“I know more than you think I do,” Kyuri said simply.
She refused to fight with him, especially with the children present, albeit asleep. She refused to be baited into an argument because she had seen that moment’s hesitation. She had seen the whisper of conflict in his eyes before he decided what stance to put on her statement. She had seen it, recognized it and acknowledged it almost immediately. Despite their eighteen years of separation, they were probably more like one another than either of them ever admitted. After spending time with him those few precious months three years ago, she knew it to be true.
The remainder of the ride was silent. Even though Kyuri had her face slightly turned towards the window, she occasionally saw from the corner of her eye, her brother glancing at her, curiously watching her, observing her. She also saw that, when Kyuki began to stir, Kyuhyun reached out and began stroke his head to urge the boy asleep again, almost instinctively.
Kyuri silently congratulated herself with her control. She knew from past experiences that, more often than not, when it concerned her brother, she had almost no reign on her emotions, particularly her temper. The fact that she didn’t rise to the bait, didn’t burst out with all the anger, all the emotions she had withheld after so many years. Well, she should be canonized that moment, really.
There were so many things she wanted to say to Kyuhyun. Despite his delusions about their parents, she wanted to tell him the truth, indeed, wanted to protect him. She wanted to tell him everything that had happened, everything he had missed and almost – almost – forgot about the consequences that could arise from such a truth-telling. She remained quiet, however, knowing that if she went on a tirade of the truth, Kyuhyun might very well think her mentally insane and never speak to her again. So, she remained quiet and bided her time. She knew, soon, her brother would learn the whole truth.
When the car pulled up to the curb in front of her building, Kyuri thanked the driver and opened the door. She gently stirred the children, whispering for them to wake up. Kyumi, too tired to wake up, almost immediately went into her mothers arms and Kyuki groggily climbed out of the back seat. Kyuri closed the door, however as the driver went to retrieve the stroller, she knocked on the window. The tinted glass slowly slid open and Kyuhyun slid over towards it.
With her free hand, Kyuri reached into her purse and pulled out the photograph. She handed it over to Kyuhyun, “Don’t lie about something you don’t know the whole truth about,” she said simply, without condemnation, without judgement. She stated it as she placed the twins in their stroller and headed into the lobby.
Before they disappeared into the building, Kyuki twisted partially in his seat so his little head was visible from the side of the stroller. He looked back towards the car and waved a small hand at Kyuhyun who remained by the open window. “Bye, bye, Uncle,” he called sleepily.
Kyuri stared at Kyuki a moment before looking over her shoulder at Kyuhyun who slowly dragged his gaze from the little boy to her. Acknowledgement passed between them during the brief eye contact. Slowly, almost synchronized, Kyuri and Kyuhyun gave one another a small, curt nod. Then, Kyuri took her children and slipped into the apartment building. Kyuhyun, watching them until they were safely inside, took a moment before closing the window and asking the driver to take him home, the photograph loosely clasped in his fingers.
People say "love" so many, many times,
but I want you to know,
that I always,
sincerely mean it
when I say...
North of Seoul, evening
He put the photograph down on the desk and walked across the bedroom to the large, four-poster bed. He leaned a shoulder against one of the posts, arms folded about his torso.
“Hmm?” The other man rolled over so he was facing him, but his eyes were still closed and it was obvious he was still half-asleep.
“If you never stopped loving me, how were you able to stay away for so long?” Eeteuk asked simply,
Kangin began blinking back the sleep from his eyes. His gaze took in the older man’s posture, reheard the tone of voice. He sighed heavily as he rolled over again, giving his back to him, “I have no energy or desire to fight tonight, Eeteuk.”
“Neither do I,” Eeteuk replied as he climbed into the big bed, “I’m being honestly curious, that’s all.”
Kangin was silent. He remembered those lonely years. He remembered scouring the streets to find a place to sleep. He had slept in stoops in dark alleys, beneath infrastructures of playgrounds. During the winter was worse, the cold seeping to the bone and staying there. A few times he had agreed to stay at Heechul’s apartment, but he didn’t dare stay there too long, not wanting to endanger another person. Feeding, well, that had never been a big problem. He had reverted back to his practice of going to the clubs and finding someone drunk enough they’d never quite remember what happened.
No, it was the sleep that was difficult. During the day it was hard to find shelter, hard to find places to stay when the sun was out. In the last year before he revealed himself to Eeteuk, he had finally relented to staying permanently at Heechul’s apartment. He had grown weary of not knowing where he was going to lay his head the next evening. He had grown near-death several times from cold temperatures. The first few days he stayed at Heechul’s, he was either in a bed wrapped in blankets or soaking in the bathtub. The smallest of luxuries to normal people had become like gold to him then.
That’s when his life was stable enough to get strong again. That’s when Heechul directed him towards a young, vampire who tried to live with his vampirism alone. That’s when he sought out Kyuhyun for the first time. Suddenly, he gained another purpose. Suddenly, he didn’t just have to keep the Hunters away from Eeteuk, he could also do something pro-active, he could protect and teach another turned vampire. Suddenly, his life, which had been dark and lonely for so long despite Heechul being there, was given more direction and given a chance to help someone else.
But, even that purpose wasn’t enough to fill the gaping hole in his life. He had, essentially, lost Eeteuk. He had lost the last vestige of happiness, warmth and sunlight in his life the day he decided to leave. He had willingly given up the colours from his world in order to protect his love, his heart, his Eeteuk. He had sacrificed so much light in his life and, while he didn’t regret it for one moment, didn’t doubt he’d do it again if given a chance, there were times when he was tempted to end the façade.
“There were so many times when I was tempted to go back to you,” Kangin spoke eventually, long after Eeteuk was sure he wouldn’t say anything at all. He rolled onto his back, staring up at the canopy, “Whenever you weren’t at SJA, I was watching over you. When you were on campus, I’d watch the school from outside the gates. I’d watch and with every second, was sorely tempted to break into the school just to see you again, just for a glimpse of your face or perhaps to hear you speak… Leaving you broke my heart as much as it did yours, but staying away broke…”
Eeteuk waited, but Kangin didn’t finish his sentence. So, quietly, he finished it for him, “You… it broke you, didn’t it?”
“More or less,” Kangin agreed, turning his head enough to lock gazes with the headmaster, “So much had happened to me after I left and… and I knew all of my… I knew all I had to do to stop everything was to come back to you.”
“All your what? Suffering? You never did tell me what happened to you while you were gone,” Eeteuk commented,
“It holds no significance to what I did to you. Did I suffer? Yes, but it was my own doing and I knew the cause was worth it,” Kangin shrugged.
Eeteuk narrowed his eyes, “If you were suffering, then why didn’t you just –”
“I would remember them breaking into our home… I would remember how they ambushed me, tried to kill me and left me for dead. They did it all without thought, doubt, just absolute conviction and not a care for the consequences if they were wrong, if I wasn’t a vampire in truth. I would remember that moment, that afternoon and my resolve to stay away from you would be solidified,” Kangin explained, his voice low but strong, his dark eyes and tone filled with such intensity that Eeteuk struggled to not step back from its sheer power; “I couldn’t expose you to that danger. I couldn’t let you become a target through your association to me.”
Kangin remembered the pain that tore his body apart. Remembered the indefinite feeling of helplessness, of chaos as his body was broken, his spirit shattered. He remembered feeling the blood spilling from his body like a scarlet river. He remembered the numb void he slipped into when the Hunters left. He remembered watching, weakly, the beams of sunlight slowly crawl across the floor towards him. Slowly, slowly, they inched closer, but he couldn’t move away, couldn’t even think to move away. All he could think of was Eeteuk’s face, the sound of his voice, the feel of his embrace. All he could think of was his infectious laugh, the warmth of his love. When he moved, it wasn’t because the sun was perilously close, but because he knew he had to get far away from the one he wanted closest to him.
“I couldn’t even fathom the thought of your name being tainted by my own, couldn’t even stand the thought of Hunters considering you a target because we lived together… I knew I would rather face an eternity of loneliness than your death because of my life,” Kangin stated quietly, confidently.
Eeteuk stared into his dark eyes, saw the emotions there, the flash of remembered pain, dark memories and the strong resolve to protect. He stared into those eyes he had loved for so long, would love for even longer, and remembered when he was able to look into those eyes again after years of separation.
He crawled onto the bed, lying along side Kangin, fitting his smaller frame along the other’s larger one. His head on the younger man’s shoulder, he wrapped an arm around Kangin’s waist, holding him close, tightly so. He felt the slightest of trembles in the bigger, stronger body he held. He sat up, moved up on the mattress and pulled Kangin’s body against his own, holding Kangin’s head against his chest in what he hoped was a protective gesture. He bowed his head, pressing his lips on the younger man’s crown and closed his eyes.
They had lost so much time together. Had weathered so much pain, so much loneliness.
The Council had to be stopped.
I love you.
No matter what life throws at us,
just know that I love you.
Even if the world is crashing
down upon us, I love you.
You are what love is to me.
You are what love is to me.
You are love.
(8th Cycle - Replacement)