(16th cycle of the Mourning Song series)
16th Cycle: From Ashes
Sat in the quiet park
in the spot we used to sit
closed my eyes and thought of you,
yeah, I couldn't help it.
The next morning; Wednesday; Fourth Week of November 20XX
He felt like a changed man. For the first time in so long, he knew who he was, what he was. For the first time in a long time, he didn’t feel even a bit of emptiness.
Sitting at his desk in his large but windowless office, the heir to the Jo Shipping Company sat in his large, leather chair and surveyed his surroundings. Even though he had regained his memories, filling in the gaps of his mind and soul, Kyuhyun couldn’t help but feel just a little perverse as he sat in his office. He had done so almost every day for almost a year and, yet, it felt as if he were doing it for the first time. Regaining his old identity, he couldn’t help but feel slightly uncomfortable in the role and life he had taken up during the three years in which his memory had been sealed. Pushing away the perturbed thoughts with a shake of his head, he pulled towards himself a thin, leather-bound portfolio, his eyes absorbing the words as easily as always.
However, as it had done all morning, his mind couldn’t completely focus with his task at hand. Thoughts and emotions pushed against his concentration, teasing his mind to wander away from work and surround itself in the treasured memories he had once more. With half a mind understanding the words before him, the other half was solidly remembering the previous evening.
After he and Zhou Mi had kissed, they had remained in comfortable – indeed, comforting – silence. Zhou Mi had come to stand between the heir and the desk, his hips resting against the edge as a hand absent-mindedly stroked through the soft waves of the younger man’s hair. Kyuhyun had pulled the chair as close to the older man as possible, his arms wrapped firmly around his former teacher’s waist, his face buried against Zhou Mi’s torso, just below his heart.
How long they remained in such a position, Kyuhyun never truly found out, but it had felt too short a time when Zhou Mi has softly asked in a teasing voice how long they were going to remain thus because the edge of the desk was not nearly as comfortable as he once thought it to be. Kyuhyun had then only tightened his embrace and pressed his face more firmly against the other’s abdomen as if he couldn’t get close enough to the older man. It was then that the younger man had admitted, in a voice barely above a breath, he was scared – wholly terrified – that if he let go, he would wake up and find everything had been a dream.
Kyuhyun felt the rising despair at the thought that, at one point, he would still wake up and realize the past few days were nothing more than a figment of his ridiculously sickened and deteriorated mind. The fact he felt stronger and healthier than he had ever felt over the past three years only further planted seeds of worry that he was falling into a false sense of security. He felt the despair being covered by a warm blanket as he recalled how Zhou Mi had patiently coaxed him into releasing his iron-like embrace and formally escorted him out of the office building to his car. There, Kyuhyun had found overwhelming comfort and peace at just having Zhou Mi hold his hand as he was driven home.
He blinked, realizing his thoughts had enveloped him. Suddenly looking down at the page before him, Kyuhyun was startled to find he had made appropriate connotations and edits despite his mind so consumed with thoughts of the previous night. With a sigh of relief, he put his pen down, closed the portfolio and placed it on one side of his desk’s top. His fingers had barely released the leather-bound folder before his father burst into his office.
“Why haven’t you been at work?” His father demanded, stopping a mere inch from the front of his son’s desk, eyes narrowed,
Kyuhyun felt the confusing mix of anger and confusion well up within him as he regarded his father. He still couldn’t even begin to comprehend what had prompted his parents to suddenly take interest in either of their children; let alone both. And, yet, despite all the previous years of deficient, indeed, non-existent affection, Kyuhyun couldn’t help but feel grateful towards what his father had done to keep Kyuri’s family together. He wouldn’t allow the irony of their own family being emotionally – and, in Kyuri’s regard, literally – separated to mar his father’s secret endeavours.
“Mother didn’t tell you?” Kyuhyun asked with uncertainty, his tone due to the fact that he didn’t know how to act towards his father anymore,
“That you have your memory back? Of course she did, but that doesn’t excuse your absence!” His father practically growled,
Anger, Kyuhyun quickly decided; “Doesn’t it? After three damn years of not knowing who the hell I am and you come in here acting as if something miraculous didn’t just happen to your son! I won’t apologize for prioritizing my regained memory above work!”
“Well, you better get over this fast because you have too much work to do to laze about daydreaming about the past,” His father retorted, “And you watch your language!”
“If you want me to stop ruminating over the past then tell me why, for the past three years, not once did you or Mother tell me the truth?” Kyuhyun questioned,
“It’s none of your concern,” His father replied coldly as his entire body stiffened,
“None of my concern? It’s my life!” Kyuhyun argued,
“Yes, but you are my son! I gave you life!” His father countered,
“And, yet, you let me believe for years – YEARS – that I was dying!” Kyuhyun exclaimed, pushing away the horror at hearing his voice catch at the end of his sentence; “Do you have any idea what it was like to live each day thinking it would be my last? Do you have any idea what it was like to live without hope for a future? To live without hope for anything!?”
“Stop being dramatic –”
“I prayed for death every time I went to sleep!” Kyuhyun yelled, slamming his palms on the desk as he jumped to his feet, hissing the words through his clenched teeth as he fought back stinging, hot tears. “People pray to live, but I… I prayed to die.”
His father remained quiet. Indeed, he didn’t even react, didn’t flinch.
Kyuhyun laughed bitterly, angrily swiping away his tears, uncaring that he was crying, showing weakness before his father, “I used to give you excuses. I use to lie to myself, defending you whenever I happened to think of Kyuri. From the moment we were born, she was removed from my life and I grew up without her. I grew up comfortable, not realizing there was an empty space beside me. Selfishly, I thought to myself that as long as you kept me around, as long as you continued to acknowledge me, then I didn’t need my sister… I didn’t need your love.”
“I thought perhaps that at least my life would mean something since I was your heir. Since I’m the one you kept,” he snorted with self-mock; “I guess things changed the moment I became a vampire, hmm, Father?” Kyuhyun snatched his suit jacket from the back of his chair as he rounded his desk.
“Where do you think you’re going?” His father questioned, slowly turning, his eyes following him unwaveringly,
“To visit my past,” Kyuhyun replied simply, slipping his arms into the jacket sleeves, his steps never faltering to the door.
“You may have your memories back, but that doesn’t mean you should go without Mijoon,” his father stated, slowly folding his arms over his chest; “Just because you’re mad at me, doesn’t mean you can start making stupid choices out of spite.”
Kyuhyun paused at the door as if he had more to say. Instead, he patted his pockets to reassure himself that he had his phone and wallet on him. Then, he opened the door and left, not even bothering to soften the slam of the door.
Once the windowless office was silent, Kyuhyun and Kyuri’s father slowly turned to walk to his son’s desk. His eyes, dark and their shape the mould from which his children’s eyes were borne, slowly swept over the small stack of thin, leather portfolios. From the past year, he had no doubt that Kyuhyun would not leave unless all his work was done. Indeed, even though Kyuhyun had been away from the office, he hadn’t fallen behind in his work.
He reached out and opened the top portfolio, quickly scanning its first page, the pristine white marked with black type and green writing. He let the cover drop close and turned to leave. He knew why his son did all editing and notation with green ink and he knew he never had to double check his son’s work. He walked out of the office, gently and securely closing the door behind him.
Went to all the places
where we had memories
and all the while thinking
how my life could be different.
If you were still here
I'd laugh a bit more.
If you were still here,
I wouldn't be alone.
“Young Master, at least take the umbrella!”
Kyuhyun run up the front steps of a building he hadn’t seen in three years. Once he was protected from the pale, goldenly painful sunlight, he turned to look back at his driver and grinned. He had left the Jo Shipping Company’s main building directly, without hesitation and without even considering making a phone call first. He had found his driver lounging in the security lounge, as always, not expecting to leave after driving Kyuhyun to the office just a few hours prior. The moment the car escaped into the city streets, Kyuhyun had directed the driver to the school and, from the brief glance in the rear view mirror, he knew he had surprised the driver by revealing he was no longer an amnesiac.
“See? I’m already safe! I don’t need an umbrella,” Kyuhyun called out, unable to help the unwavering smile,
“If you get even one little, itty, bitty sunburn, your mother will kill me and your father will burn my corpse!” His driver growled, having come out and standing by the driver side door, waving a closed umbrella at the Young Master.
Kyuhyun waved his hand as if jokingly waving away the driver’s words when, in truth, he was trying to wave away the sting in his chest. His parents didn’t care for him other than as the heir. Lowering his hand, he briefly recalled the melancholy that had seemed to infuse in his mother since Kyuri’s hospital admission. Well, perhaps one parent cared just a bit.
“I’m probably going to be here all day, so I’ll call you when I’m ready to leave,” Kyuhyun said; “I’ll be safe indoors.”
Kyuhyun saw the hesitance in the driver’s face and, he understood. Ever since his mother had come to collect him from the very spot where he now stood, his driver had been wherever Kyuhyun was. Whenever Kyuhyun was expecting to stay somewhere for a long period, such as at home or at work, his driver was always somewhere in the building. The thought of leaving a location without the Young Master was, indeed, foreign to the both of them.
“I’ll be fine,” Kyuhyun insisted. When the driver continued to look at him with uncertainty, he added, “You know I used to live here when school was in session. Nothing will go wrong.” Kyuhyun crossed his arms, “Taeyeon’s husband works here, if that makes you feel better.” He recalled that the driver had been in his family’s employ for several years, but he had been hired after Sungmin had moved away when they were still children.
“I didn’t know your cousin got married,” the driver stated. He still looked hesitant even as he said, “Well… I suppose there can’t be too much harm if you have family nearby… but you call the minute – no, the second you even begin to consider leaving. This school’s quite a way’s from Seoul, so it’ll take me some time to get here once you call.”
“I promise,” Kyuhyun replied solemnly. He rolled his eyes when he realized the driver wouldn’t even get into the town car until Kyuhyun was safely inside the school building. With another wave, Kyuhyun turned and, for the first time in three years, he entered Shim Jang Academy.
Kyuhyun didn’t even pretend his awe as his eyes wandered over every surface, every crevice of the large entrance hall. Light filtered in from windows and Kyuhyun edged around them, but never did his eyes stop soaking in every detail. Once again, he felt as if he had lived two separate lives. He felt a pang of nostalgia, remembering how he spent four years in the school. However, he also felt as if he were seeing everything from the first time, fascinated that such a posh-looking place could be a high school.
He glanced at his watch and knew that classes were still in session for at least another quarter hour before lunch. Unable to help smiling, he sprinted determinedly, pulling out his phone as he did so.
“Um… Kyuhyun?” The voice on the other end picked up the call, voice tentative,
“Tae!” Kyuhyun struggled not to exclaim as he sidestepped a ray of sunlight,
“You’re in a good mood,” his cousin mused,
“I have my memory back; nothing can make me upset at this point,” Kyuhyun replied; “What’s wrong? You prefer me an amnesiac? I guess that would be better since I wouldn’t remember all the times you were such a brat when we were growing up.”
“Oh, shut up,” she snapped and Kyuhyun could easily imagine her rolling her eyes,
“Now you sound like my cousin,” Kyuhyun chuckled. Then, abruptly, he stopped. He stopped running. He stopped laughing. He stopped smiling; “But… you’re not the Taeyeon I remember, are you?”
“What do you mean?”
“I may have regained my memory… but that doesn’t replace the fact that I’m three years behind on everyone,” Kyuhyun explained. Slowly, as if in a trance, he moved to lean his back against a wall, shrouded in shadows with sunlight all around him. “I know you as Lee Yeon, the famous singer. I know Sungmin as a stranger I met one night at a playground near my house. I know Kyuri as someone who I met one day and couldn’t recognize that she was my twin.”
“And, Zhou Mi?” Taeyeon prompted softly,
“I know him as my assistant, my shadow for the past year, the one who knows all my little quirks as my father’s heir… I know him as the one who is always three steps behind me, ready to support me or ready to catch me,” Kyuhyun answered, “His feelings may be the same, but I was able to love someone other than him. Now that I can remember Zhou Mi… I cannot help but see how different him and Mijoon are.”
“You’re not making sense. Yeah, Zhou Mi was a real sneaky jerk for being Mijoon, but that doesn’t negate the fact that he is Mijoon,” Tayeon said,
“How would you feel if Sungmin wasn’t in your life for years and, then, suddenly he’s back? You know you still love him, but you can’t help but be afraid he’s not the same person you love?” Kyuhyun challenged, “How would you be, Tae? Because that’s what it’s like for me.”
Taeyeon sighed heavily, “I was going to tiptoe around you for at least a few more days since you only just regained your memory… but if you’re going to be as annoying as you were when we were teenagers, then forget treating you like porcelain… geez, you were way more tolerable when you had no memory.”
“I missed you, too,” Kyuhyun replied seriously, but he knew she knew he was smiling.
“Yeah…” Taeyeon sighed in resignation. “Well, to answer your inane questions, have you forgotten what happened to me our last year at SJA? Did you not, also, feel awkwardly startled when you realized Sungmin was around again, but, now, he was one of our teachers?”
“Well? How do you think I felt seeing that idiot again and, now, I really couldn’t be with him because he was our damn biology teacher,” Taeyeon said bitterly from her end of the line,
“That didn’t stop you from breaking into his bedroom whenever you got the chance,” Kyuhyun said dryly when, suddenly, a bell rang loudly.
Taeyeon was silent before, she asked with disbelief, “Are you where I think you are?”
“Standing outside that damn biology teacher’s classroom?” Kyuhyun asked innocently. Before she could answer, he rapidly replied, “Yes.”
“And you didn’t bring me along?” Taeyeon accused,
“Hey! He was my friend first. I don’t want to share him right now,” Kyuhyun replied as students began to pour out of the classroom, shooting him curious looks.
“Share him? He’s my fiancé! I don’t want to share with you!” Taeyeon snapped,
“Well, I’m here and you’re not,” Kyuhyun replied smugly as he shifted to see if any more students were in the room; “Therefore, I win and, this time, I’m not sharing.”
“You son of a … and how are you going to explain this to Zhou Mi?” Taeyeon questioned, “You can’t have Zhou Mi and hog Sungmin, too!”
“Well, that lying vampire isn’t here either,” Kyuhyun stated grumpily,
“I’m stealing Sungmin,” He interrupted and, then, abruptly ended the call. Dropping his phone into his pocket, he strode into the classroom, wearily eyeing the wall of windows opposite him. Almost, immediately, however, his gaze fell upon the young man at the front of the classroom, wiping the whiteboards clean with a rag.
Over the past three years, he had seen Sungmin twice and both times recently. They had been brothers growing up and, even though they had gone their separate ways for a few years, they came back together as nothing had changed. All at once, he remembered Sungmin’s sad words at the playground and the stab of guilt was unbearable in his chest.
“I hope you’re a better teacher than I remember,” Kyuhyun called out then, suddenly so nervous he was no longer excited. His palms felt sweaty and it was hard to breathe.
Sungmin froze, his arm extended in mid-stroke against the front boards. Had he heard right? Was the voice who he thought it belonged to? Slowly allowing his arm to drop, Sungmin turned around, his eyes wide. Allowing the rag to slip from his grasp, Sungmin ran between the desks, not stopping until he had pulled the younger man into a crushing embrace. Before Kyuhyun could hug him back, Sungmin abruptly stepped back,
“Idiot, I’m an awesome teacher,” Sungmin scoffed as he looked away, blinking furiously. “So… I hear that you… um… you know… remember stuff.”
“Yeah… I guess you have your best friend again,” Kyuhyun replied before clearing his throat which was suddenly very dry despite the feeling of being choked by unshed tears.
“Yeah… well… I guess I missed you,” Sungmin wiped his eyes, complaining, “Damn, got something in my eye.”
“Uh… yeah… sunlight’s real bright,” Kyuhyun rasped, looking in the opposite direction and quickly swiping at the tears in his eyes, “But… I missed you, too. I always felt like I was missing something and… even when I became friends with Tae as Lee Yeon… well, I knew I was missing a different kind of friend. One like a brother.”
Kyuhyun was suddenly in another hug, this one even stronger than the last.
“If you tell anyone about these hugs, I’m going to throw you into the sunlight myself,” Sungmin threatened before releasing him again, this time not bothering to hide that he was wiping away tears.
“Don’t worry about it… I don’t want the others to know how much we hug any more than you do,” Kyuhyun assured, swiping stray tears;
“Guys are allowed to hug,” Sungmin muttered, running a hand through his hair before sighing heavily and just looking at Kyuhyun. His fox-like eyes swept over him, taking each detail as if committing them to memory; “It’s so weird. When I saw you at the playground and at the hospital, I knew it was you, but something was off; something was missing. Now, it’s different. I swear, I can see a difference.”
Kyuhyun raised a mocking brow, “You saw me just a few days ago.”
Sungmin shook his head as he moved to lean his hips back against a desk, shoving his hands into his pockets; “Before, there was this kind of emptiness in your voice, like you had lost something. Even though you tried to hide it, the hollowness was evident whenever you spoke because you didn’t remember your natural defences and, so, when you spoke, it was directly from your soul.”
Kyuhyun said nothing. Sungmin had described perfectly how he had been feeling for so long.
“And, the way you carried yourself. Before, there was a quiet confidence. You knew yourself capable and, so, your confidence was understandable, but you were quiet because you doubted yourself simply because you didn’t know who you were,” Sungmin continued. He locked eyes with his friend, his own gaze filled with mischief, “Now the quiet confidence is replaced with that annoying arrogance you always had before.”
Kyuhyun rolled his eyes, “I should have hidden the fact I got my memory back. You guys are mean to me, now.”
Sungmin laughed, “Who’s mean to you?”
“Your fiancée,” Kyuhyun muttered,
Sungmin laughed again, “Now she’s my fiancée and not your cousin and best friend?”
Kyuhyun crossed his arms, “No, I’m mad at her.”
Sungmin raised a brow in evident amusement, “Oh? I don’t think that’s ever happened before. What did she do that was so bad?”
“Tell me what’s changed since I’ve been gone,” Kyuhyun said then, blatantly refusing to answer.
Sungmin laughed once more, “You expect me to be able to tell you what’s changed in three years? Do you have another three years to spare to listen to me?”
“Maybe,” Kyuhyun muttered,
Sungmin’s expression sobered, “Why are you here Kyuhyun? Besides the fact that it’s the middle of the day, but it’s also the middle of the week. Why aren’t you at work at least?”
“I finished my work early,” Kyuhyun answered, “And, ever since I got my memory back, I’ve seen a lot of important people, but I still hadn’t seen you.”
Sungmin grinned, “Since I don’t have a class until class period, why don’t we go find the others and have lunch with them?” He paused and, then, smiled bigger, “Well, we can eat… you, hopefully, have already fed.”
“Not since last night,” he replied dryly,
“Zhou Mi?” Sungmin prompted,
“Who else would it be?” Kyuhyun confirmed and, then, added, “Unless you’re offering again.”
Sungmin pushed away from the desk to walk to the door, “No thank you. One vampire bite is enough for the rest of my life.”
Kyuhyun stopped him then by reaching out, his fingers lightly pressing against the older man’s neck, “This was also because of me… how long before it was healed and you could talk properly?”
Sungmin pushed his hand away from the silver scars that were subtle against the front and side of his neck, “This wasn’t your fault, and, if anything, you know you’re the reason it healed. You remember I couldn’t speak?”
Kyuhyun nodded, folding his arms over his chest again, “Yeah… I had to speak for you… that night feels like it was just last night. Even though I remember everything from the past three years, it still feels as if I was out in the snow at night one second and, the next second, I’m suddenly three years ahead… Even though it’s been three years, that night is so fresh for me.”
Sungmin clapped his hand on his friend’s shoulder, “But, I bet it also feels like you’ve seen Heechul, Eeteuk and Kangin.”
“Hyung? Kangin-hyung is here?” Kyuhyun gaped,
Sungmin nodded, “Yeah, he’s the Deputy Headmaster, if you can believe it.”
Kyuhyun’s eyes widened, “I can’t.” Then, he grabbed Sungmin’s wrist, “But, later.”
“I’ll visit with them later. I came here because it felt right to come back,” Kyuhyun explained, “But, I wanted to see you most of all.”
Kyuhyun felt his chest tightened just at the remembrance of his confrontation with his father. His past and his present, the person he was and the person he became suddenly came crashing together in the moment his father admitted to purposefully hiding the truth. When he was still a SJA, repeating his final year, he had struggled to figure out who he was, tried to put purpose and meaning on his vampirism. During the past three years, he had been struggling to cope with his lack of memories. When he finally found success at working at his father’s company, he had also, finally, accepted that he would die soon.
Every time he was beginning to fit into his life, everything would change. He needed clarity. His first thought had been his first friend; his oldest friends; his brother. Taeyeon probably knew more about him simply because Sungmin had gone away for a few years, but Kyuhyun knew that Sungmin knew him. The older man would know how he would react, what thoughts would cross his mind. Sungmin would know what was natural and instinctive to him.
“Yeah, I get it,” he said then, nodding as if he could read the other’s mind, “Everything’s happening fast, huh?”
“Ridiculously fast,” Kyuhyun sighed, “Just this past weekend, Kyuri was attacked by a vampire. She and baby Hina were close to dying. I was convinced to give my blood even though I still worried I might contaminate them,” He paused to take a deep, steadying breath; “Then, I got my memory back. I realized that, perhaps, my mother does have a heart – albeit, a small one. Zhou Mi isn’t dead and he turns out to be my assistant…”
“Everyone was so excited about you regaining your memories, but no one, not even you, stopped to consider how overwhelming everything would be… how shaken you’d be,” Sungmin squeezed his shoulder once more. He quirked a brow, “How close to shattering you’d be, even?”
“Last night I was close. This morning, I was close,” Kyuhyun admitted, instinctively shrugging Sungmin’s hand from his shoulder, unable to withstand his own problems without having to try and ignore Sungmin’s thoughts.
“And, at this moment?” Sungmin asked, shoving his hands into his pockets, understanding Kyuhyun’s reason for dislodging his hand.
“This is possibly the closest I’ve felt to calm acceptance of… well, of everything,” Kyuhyun said honestly, “The past few days, my mind’s been so chaotic and everything in here,” he grabbed at the material just above his heart; “Everything here is confused and hurting. Life hadn’t been simple before – before or after I lost my memory – but it was… simpler. Put together, both parts of my life are too much.”
“Well, then I will pull down the blinds over the classroom windows so you can at least relax and, we’ll talk,” Sungmin said as he strode to the other side of the room to do as he said.
“You know, our conversation in the playground makes so much more sense now; how you could differentiate between having a best friend and talking to them,” Kyuhyun said as he watched the natural light being slowly blocked out by the shades.
“I wanted to say so much to you that night,” Sungmin confessed as he made sure the windows were covered and the blinds secured; “Taeyeon was a little stalker and watched you a few times in the playground, but that was my first time seeing you since the night of the vampire attack. It was so hard to remember that you had forgotten me. It was so hard not to react.”
“It was only this morning when I was on my way to work that I passed the playground and realized it was the same playground we used to play in,” Kyuhyun said; “And realizing that the house I live in was my childhood home; I guess my parents never sold it after they disowned me after I was bitten.” He slowly followed Sungmin to the front of the classroom, “That night… I felt such an urge… such a need to be your friend.”
“I know, Taeyeon told me,” Sungmin confessed, “I don’t get to know about all of the text-conversations you two have since I lived at SJA, but she wanted to let me know about this one.”
“Lived? Where do you live now?” Kyuhyun asked,
“With Taeyeon. It was only because of my job was here that I lived here and she needed to be in Seoul for her job, but she’d visit me every weekend,” Sungmin explained as he rounded his desk and plopped down, pulling out a lunch bag from one of the desk drawers; “But, after I learned how the pregnancy’s been affecting her, I moved back home and commute here every day.”
“Why haven’t you two married yet? You were waiting for years to be with her, I was sure you two would have the shortest engagement in history,” Kyuhyun stated dryly as he plucked one of the chairs from a student desk and brought it to sit before the teacher’s desk.
Sungmin remained silent, withdrawing the lunch box from the bag and beginning to eat his meal.
Kyuhyun’s eyes narrowed, “Me? You didn’t marry because of me?”
Sungmin shrugged, “It wouldn’t have been right to get married without you. I wanted you as my best man and Taeyeon needed you to keep her from becoming a runaway bride.”
“She wouldn’t have done that,” Kyuhyun defended and, then, added, “Would she?”
“Probably not,” Sungmin conceded, “But, you used to give her a confidence she couldn’t find in herself. You were her entire universe for so long that, had we gotten married within the past three years, something would have been lacking.”
“Well, I can confidently say that her entire universe does not revolve around me,” Kyuhyun said, “In fact, she’s quite determined to make me share you instead of letting me be with you alone.”
Almost choking on his rice, Sungmin coughed as he got his laughter under control. He pointed his spoon at his friend once he had settled, “Another reason why we couldn’t marry without you; you make up the third corner of our peculiar triangle.”
“I still don’t like the thought that I stopped you two from marrying. Even Kyuri and Kibum got married without me,” Kyuhyun said and, then, added, “Although I never thought I’d be so upset on missing my sister’s wedding.”
“That was for legal reasons; they wanted their marriage legitimized for the twins’ birth certificates, so they got married in a chapel near the hospital,” Sungmin explained; “They always planned to have another one once you got your memory back.” He took another spoonful of food before he continued; “Unfortunately, your aunt and uncle would kill me and Taeyeon if we did a small chapel wedding and, like I said, it’d be wrong without you there – small wedding or not. And, we don’t have the money to have two big weddings.”
“And my sister and Kibum would?” Kyuhyun scoffed, “How much money can Hunters make? I recall Kyuri wondering where Kibum got the money for her engagement ring.”
Sungmin laughed as he shrugged, “They changed jobs when they moved here. Kibum finally accepted a Head Hunter job, but only because your sister isn’t a field agent anymore. She’s Head Tactician… well, as far as I understand it, she’s the only one who actually uses the title of ‘tactician’. All Head Hunters defer to her before doing missions.”
Kyuhyun stared directly at the other man, “I’m sorry you had to wait.”
“Stop apologizing,” Sungmin murmured, his mouth was full of rice and his spoon; “It wasn’t anything you could help.”
Kyuhyun looked at him skeptically, “Well… I know you guys didn’t wait for the wedding night.”
Sungmin, withdrawing the spoon from his mouth, pointed it at Kyuhyun like a sword in defense; “That was not my fault. I should be canonized for how well-behaved I’ve been all this time. It was your cousin who jumped me.”
Kyuhyun laughed quietly, shaking his head. He smiled softly and spoke sincerely, “I’ve missed you, Min. Even though I couldn’t remember you, I wanted desperately to have someone who I could talk to like this.”
Sungmin blinked furiously, suddenly dropping his gaze to his food. He cleared his throat but, when he spoke, his voice was hoarse, “Yeah… I know what you mean.”
When Sungmin finally looked up, his eyes were suspiciously bright, but Kyuhyun was determinedly avoiding his gaze, trying to subtly wipe at his own eyes.
If you were still here,
I'd remember how to love.
But I've been learning to live,
learning to be okay.
Sat in the old chain swings
in our childhood park,
Thinking of all the times,
we'd venture through the dark.
“I have to admit, I’m a little jealous right now,” Headmaster Park said as he leaned back in his leather office chair, his gaze occasionally dipping to the work he had opened on his desk.
“Jealous? I’m completely surprised,” Heechul drawled as he walked along the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the Headmaster’s office, casually stretching his limbs after a long day of sitting in the infirmary.
Ever since he decided to leave SJA at the end of the school year, he had begun to studiously review his textbooks in order to be prepared for any job and interview. With Hankyung working at the Council in Seoul, it only made sense that he should work in Seoul. Now, Heechul was aiming for a job at Seoul Memorial Medical Center.
His gaze moved to the pair who sat before the Headmaster’s desk; “The softer side of Kangin. Who would have ever thought?”
Kyuhyun, who had sought out Heechul once Sungmin had another class to teach, had accompanied the school’s nurse to the Headmaster’s office; Heechul sure that both Headmaster and Deputy would be there. Since then, he had sat down in one of the chairs before the desk and the Deputy had engulfed him in a hug and hadn’t let go.
“Yeah, Hyung, even I’m a little startled,” Kyuhyun said. He sat in the chair and Kangin, who had sidled onto the arm, had his muscular arms securely wrapped – one around his neck, the other around Kyuhyun’s head like a bandeau.
“You’re not allowed to judge,” Kangin practically growled, “The last time I saw you, you were worried about your damn bloodlust. Then, you go off and let a pureblood seal your memories. I didn’t even get to see you that night before it happened. So, you don’t get to judge.”
“I’m not judging. I just wasn’t expecting it,” Kyuhyun defended, trying to tilt his mouth so his words weren’t muffled by Kangin’s arm.
“And, furthermore,” Kangin continued as if the younger turned vampire hadn’t spoken; “Eeteuk, you can get over your jealousy because I’m not letting go of this damn brat. Every time I let him out of my site, he finds trouble.”
“I do not find –”
“When I first met you, you were being attacked by that damn pureblood. When I caught up with you again during summer break, you were going crazy because you thought you would kill your boyfriend eventually out of bloodlust. After the break, you came to SJA and decided to starve yourself. That boyfriend of yours leaves and you find out he’s been keeping secrets and you get royally pissed off. Boyfriend comes back, but that doesn’t matter because your bloodlust has turned you into a psychopath. Then, you go off and get attacked by the same pureblood as the first time!” Kangin had freed one arm so he could stick up one finger at a time as he listed the numerous ways in which Kyuhyun had been hurt after one of their secret meetings. Kangin replaced the arm around his neck and hugged him again; “Did I forget anything?”
“No,” Kyuhyun muttered.
He would have argued – he was 21 and quite the business man! He didn’t need coddling! – but, he was grateful that, the one thing Kangin left out was what no one else knew. The others could easily recount the same list of events that transpired during Kyuhyun’s second-senior year at SJA, but only Kangin knew how broken up he had been when he had learned of Zhou Mi’s secrets.
“So, can you let go, yet?” Kyuhyun asked, “Other than catching up with all of you, I did have a serious question to throw out there, get some opinions.”
“Ask away,” Kangin replied,
“I think he means without the hugging,” Heechul said as he pulled out one of the student portfolios from a bookcase, casually opening it; “You’ve been hugging him for the past twenty minutes.”
“Ask your question, Kyuhyun,” Kangin growled,
Kyuhyun succinctly explained Kibum’s theory of how he got his memories back. After the three older men thought on it, eventually, one-by-one, they nodded in acceptance of the theory. Then, he asked, “But, Zhou Mi told me that he’s been giving me small amounts of his own blood for the past year. If that’s true, how come I didn’t recover any of my colours?”
Eeteuk looked up from his work, “Zhou Mi? For the past year? How did he manage that magicians trick?”
“I knew he was a sneaky bastard. Ever since you told me all the stuff he hid from you,” Kangin muttered, fractionally tightening his embrace on the younger vampire,
“Zhou Mi was Kyuhyun’s assistant,” Heechul explained absent-mindedly as he slowly walked towards them and gracefully sitting in the other chair before the Headmaster’s desk. “He assumed the pseudonym Choi Mijoon and has been creeping around out little Kyuhyun this entire time. That’s why he always knew so much.”
“And, how do you know this?” Eeteuk questioned,
Heechul turned a page of the portfolio he still had; “Hankyung told me… eventually. And, besides, Zhou Mi didn’t want anyone to know.”
“That selfish vamp,” Kangin growled again, “After all I did for him and he hides this secret.”
“Any ideas?” Kyuhyun prompted, trying to take the heat off of Zhou Mi; although he still felt sore whenever he recalled the dual identities.
“It could be the amount. If he was only giving you small amounts, it could be that it wasn’t enough to release your colours,” Kangin offered and, then, added, “Then again, by now you should have regained at least one colour, or, at the very least, a tint.”
“Although it was Zhou Mi’s blood, it could be because your sealed memories, you weren’t able to acknowledge your feelings for him,” Eeteuk suggested, turning his attention back to his work; “From what I’ve learned from the both of you bloodsuckers, drinking the blood of the one you love has been the trigger to getting your colours back. So, even though it was still Zhou Mi, the love wasn’t fully recognized, so the trigger didn’t work. And, now that your memories have returned, perhaps you will eventually get them back.”
Kyuhyun glanced away, “I can see red,” he confessed,
“But, you only got your memories back the other day. How many times have you fed since then?” Eeteuk asked,
“Twice if you include the feeding that gave me back my memories,” Kyuhyun answered,
“Maybe your colours will return faster then,” Eeteuk offered,
Heechul snorted as he turned another page of the portfolio, “It’s because he began to fall in love with his assistant. If Zhou Mi gave him a bit of blood every day under the guise of the assistant, then, it’s been some time now that he’s been drinking the blood of the one he loves.”
“So, wait…” Kangin finally released Kyuhyun from the headlock-like-embrace, straightening his back as he perched on the armrest. He put a hand on the younger man’s shoulder as if needing physical contact to remind him Kyuhyun was there; “Zhou Mi has been masquerading as Choi Mijoon, obtaining the job as your assistant.”
“For the past year,” Kyuhyun confirmed,
“And with no memory of Zhou Mi, from your point of view, you were free to love whoever you wanted?” Kangin asked,
Kyuhyun sighed, predicting the course of the current interrogation. He nodded nonetheless.
“And, somehow, you still managed to fall for Zhou Mi? A second time?” Kangin questioned incredulously,
“Yeah,” Kyuhyun muttered,
“Eeteuk, is that why you never moved on?” Kangin asked, then; “We could only love one another so, even though I was potentially gone, you could love no one else?”
Eeteuk glanced up from his work, “No, I didn’t move on because I knew you were alive and was waiting for the day when you’d show up again so I could kill you myself.”
“Ah, the joys of love,” Heechul said sarcastically, his attention still seemingly completely on the portfolio before him.
“What are you reading?” Kyuhyun asked,
“That’s a student file,” Kangin commented,
“Not just any student file,” Heechul said; “It’s Kyuri’s file.”
“Isn’t this a breach of confidentiality?” Kyuhyun questioned, even as he tried to squirm out of Kangin’s embrace to see the file himself.
“I’m school staff. I can reason it’s part of my job as school nurse,” Heechul shrugged,
“Why are you even looking at my sister’s file? Wait – why is it even here? Kyuri never went to SJA as a student,” Kyuhyun stated,
When none of the other men said anything, Kyuhyun’s eyes widened, “What?”
“In the off-chance that your parents would be able to find Kyuri, they sent her profile to me in preparation of admitting her to the school,” Eeteuk explained,
“But she would’ve been too old to go here,” Kyuhyun said. Then, he added, “Wow… they wasted no time. They sent you the profile when I had to drop out of SJA, didn’t they?”
“Why are you looking at Kyuri’s file?” Kangin asked,
“After all that work we did together, she never sought out a job in the medical field in any capacity,” Heechul replied, “I always figured it was because she wanted some influence in the Council to protect Kyuhyun. However, since the brat has his memory back, she doesn’t have to stay with the Council. So, I wanted to look through her file again. Even though your parents sent the barebones of a file, I added to it the few months Kyuri worked and learned under me.”
“He’s looking for a replacement,” Kangin explained, “Heechul’s resigning at the end of the year.”
Kyuhyun looked at the nurse, “Really?”
Heechul finally looked up from the portfolio, “Time to move on. The brats here are little whiners who just need a good swift kick to their behinds. The last students I had who made it worth it to be here were you and Taeyeon. I became a nurse because I wanted to help people,” he immediately added when Kangin and Eeteuk snorted with disbelief, “Yes, I know, unbelievable but that’s what I wanted and I don’t get the sense I’m doing that here.”
“Maybe you’ll be my nurse again the next time I’m hospitalized,” Kyuhyun commented,
Eeteuk and Heechul glanced at him sharply and Kangin tightened his hold.
Kyuhyun smirked, “Too early for jokes?”
Thought of all the things
that we've done together
thought of all the times
when I should have said more.
And it was hard not to follow
when you walked away
And it's still hard not to feel
like half my heart is missing.
“Looks like you have a visitor,” Sungmin slowly drove his car around the top of the drive that met Kyuhyun’s house at a circle.
Kyuhyun glanced up,” Ah, my boyfriend with a split personality.”
“So, you two are together again?” Sungmin grinned as he slowed the car even more so as to prolong his time with Kyuhyun and to further annoy Zhou Mi who was sitting on the front steps of Kyuhyun’s house.
“We never really broke up,” Kyuhyun shrugged,
“But did you two really get back together?” Sungmin stifled his own laughter. He was sure Taeyeon would hit him later once he related the story; “You should make him ask you out again.”
“That does hold appeal,” Kyuhyun mused as the car finally pulled to a stop, “One problem.”
“In the back of my head, he’s still my teacher first. Sort of hard to take the lead when I have a natural fear of getting detention,” Kyuhyun said, eliciting a laugh from the older man, “I’m still waiting to get in trouble for bossing him around as my assistant.”
“Well, you better get out there if you don’t want a detention for being late,” Sungmin teased,
Kyuhyun sighed heavily, “You don’t understand Zhou Mi. He will kidnap me and you’ll never see me again if he gets mad enough.”
“Then, maybe you should stop stalling and get out of the car,” Sungmin suggested as he exaggeratingly waved at Zhou Mi who had slowly stood up, arms crossed over his chest,
Kyuhyun sighed again as he undid his seatbelt, “Now do you see why I suggest we had our goodbye hug before we came here?”
“But, Zhou Mi knows we’re just friends. I’m very much devoted and in love with Taeyeon and you are… socially inept enough that there can be no one else to intrigue you other than Zhou Mi,” Sungmin said; “Not to mention the fact that I’m thoroughly straight.”
“I’m straight, too,” Kyuhyun said, “I’m just, as you said, socially inept enough that only Zhou Mi can intrigue me.”
“Yet, you’re still sitting in my car instead of getting out,” Sungmin said,
“The longer it takes for me to get out, the harder it is to make myself get out,” Kyuhyun muttered, idly playing with the door handle;
“Have you told him about Saturday?” Sungmin asked,
Kyuhyun shot his friend a glare; “You mean that damn society ball? Tell me again why you can’t take your damn fiancée and why I have to go? I’ve avoided those balls for years!”
“Taeyeon is a little protective –”
“You mean possessive,” Kyuhyun snorted,
“Yeah, well, that. She wants to protect me from the paparazzi for as long as possible,” Sungmin explained
“And, I’m food for fodder?” Kyuhyun questioned, “She won’t risk you, but she’s willingly throwing me to the wolves? What about the fact that the whole world knows she’s pregnant? They’ll think I’m the father.”
“They’ll also realize Lee Yeon is Kim Taeyeon,” Sungmin added, “But, hopefully it’ll pull attention away from the rumours of you and your assistant.”
Kyuhyun sighed, “Really? There are rumours of us?”
Sungmin nodded, “And you still not getting out of the car isn’t helping Zhou Mi’s mood.”
“I’ll tell him about the ball… tomorrow,” Kyuhyun muttered when he finally opened the door; “I’m only giving him one reason at a time to be upset.”
“But you’re cousins –”
“He’ll think I’d be attracting other women to me,” Kyuhyun explained, “As much as my cousin is possessive, Zhou Mi is even more possessive. One of the things he hates is me in a suit.”
“Which is fortunate since you hate suits, but why does he hate you in a suit?” Sungmin asked,
“How damn long does it take for two people to say goodbye?” Zhou Mi growled as he practically yanked Kyuhyun out of the car,
“Hi Zhou Mi,” Sungmin greeted lightly, his eyes lit mischievously.
“Sungmin,” Zhou Mi nodded curtly as he slammed the door closed.
Sungmin made the window open. He leaned over to see the other men again; “Don’t be so grisly, Zhou Mi, it’s not like he bit my neck again.”
“Don’t remind him of that!” Kyuhyun hissed even as Zhou Mi dragged him away from the car,
“Your room. Now,” Zhou Mi practically growled as he propelled Kyuhyun before him.
They walked in silence until the bedroom door closed behind Zhou Mi with a declarative thud. Kyuhyun casually moved across his room to turn on his lamp, fully aware that her teacher-turned-assistant was leaning against the door, arms crossed again. Kyuhyun had just managed to toss his blazer into the laundry basket and kick his shoes into his walk-in closet before he heard his name.
“Kyuhyun,” Zhou Mi repeated in a low growl. When Kyuhyun finally froze and tentatively turned to look at him, Zhou Mi crooked his finger at the younger man, “Your father called me this morning. How surprised was I to learn that the Young Master was not in his office as I believed but was out gallivanting in the northern countryside? Why didn’t you tell me you were leaving?”
“I didn’t want to bother you,” Kyuhyun shrugged, stopping a foot away from the other man,
“Bullshit,” Zhou Mi muttered as he reached out and wrapped his fingers around Kyuhyun’s tie, drawing him closer,
“I did it to go against my father, not because I didn’t want you there,” Kyuhyun insisted, “A childish rebellion, but I believe I’m allowed that since I’ve never truly gainsaid my parents before.”
“Well, that’s good to know,” Zhou Mi murmured as he snaked his free arm around the younger man’s waist, pulling him flush against himself;
“It’s the truth. Besides, going back to SJA… it was something I needed to do alone,” Kyuhyun insisted, “I did leave SJA alone after all.”
“I suppose,” Zhou Mi replied as he undid the tie’s knot and tossed the length of cloth away.
“I have another job for you if you’re idle enough to slum about my front steps,” Kyuhyun suggested as he batted away Zhou Mi’s hand which was now slipping open the buttons of his shirt,
“I miss when you were the student and had to listen to me,” Zhou Mi sighed and, then, added, “What job?”
“I… that is…” Kyuhyun tentatively slipped his hands around the older man’s neck, his fingers lacing at the back.
Zhou Mi ceased disrobing the younger man and raised a brow, “A vampire for four years and you still can’t tell me when you’re hungry? I do recall you being able to do so at SJA during the second semester.”
“Well, the past three years don’t count and…” Kyuhyun glanced away,
“And?” Zhou Mi prompted, making Kyuhyun look at him by pushing at the younger man’s chin with his finger,
“And you’ve been Mijoon for the past year,” Kyuhyun answered,
“So? You know me, Kyuhyun, regardless of what name I used,” Zhou Mi stated,
“I know but I haven’t told you I need to feed for the past three years,” Kyuhyun defended, “I’m out of practice.”
“Then, get back into practice,”
Kyuhyun sighed heavily, leaning his head forward until his forehead rested against the older man’s shoulder; “I do not miss when you were the teacher and told me what to do. Granted, even as an assistant you were bossy.”
“Well, how about outside of work hours we’re just Zhou Mi and Kyuhyun?” Zhou Mi suggested, nudging Kyuhyun’s head with his nose,
Kyuhyun raised his head only to glare at him, “Just Zhou Mi is still bossy and domineering. If anything, you’re even more bossy and domineering.”
“And you wouldn’t have me any other way,” Zhou Mi grinned, “Now, tell me what you need.”
Kyuhyun rolled his eyes, “Zhou Mi, I need to feed.”
“From?” He prompted, returning his attention to Kyuhyun’s shirt buttons again,
Kyuhyun shot him another glare, “From… you.”
“Then, let’s move to somewhere more comfortable,” Zhou Mi’s grin grew, “See? Not so difficult, was it?”
“I think I prefer you as Mijoon,” Kyuhyun grumbled as he let the older man lead him to the bed, “You were silent, waited until I spoke first, listened to directions,” he almost lost his breath when Zhou Mi pulled him into his lap, his knees straddling the other’s thighs, “And less bold in your treatment of me.”
“As you wish, Young Master,” Zhou Mi raised his hands to cradle the other’s face,
Kyuhyun slapped his hands away, “You said we’re Zhou Mi and Kyuhyun.”
“Indeed, outside of office hours,” Zhou Mi reminded,
“No, even during office hours,” Kyuhyun’s voice was a soft growl, “When it’s just us, you can’t call me that.”
Zhou Mi raised a brow, “Because it’s odd coming from me?”
“Because it should be illegal for you to call me that with those thoughts in your head,” he replied,
Zhou Mi blinked before a smile tugged at his lips, “I wasn’t even thinking illegal things until you said it… Oh, Kyuhyun, just what is going on in that head of yours?”
“It’s been three years,” Kyuhyun lowered his head, his lips brushing Zhou Mi’s neck, “What do you expect?”
Zhou Mi laughed before he felt the fangs pierce his pulse.
If you were still here
I'd laugh a bit more.
If you were still here,
I wouldn't be alone.
If you were still here,
I'd remember how to love.
But I've been learning to live,
learning to be okay.
I may never be okay...
(Next, 17th Cycle: Easy Prey)