nc-17; 12110 words; multi-chapter
there was a lifetime in each other, if they chose to see it.
the chapter is split into two parts.
part zero; a moment | part one; a past | part two; a denial | part three; a growing up
It's past one-thirty in the morning when the front door finally opens. Jungsu comes in first, balancing his bag, umbrella, and miscellaneous gift bags from the fans at KTR while kicking off his shoes. Their manager, Seunghwan, comes in overloaded with grocery bags; he likes shopping in the supermarket at night, he says, less people around, quieter, never mind that the vegetables might have been lying there the whole day. Hyukjae follows behind, brushing raindrops off his bag. They don't register surprise when they see Donghae sitting in the darkened living room hunched over his PSP, but Jungsu does pause long enough to remark, "Are you getting so much sleep in the day that you can't sleep at night?" before dropping everything on the floor and going into the bedroom he shares with Ryeowook and Kyuhyun. Donghae imagines him stepping over Kyuhyun's legs, reaching over to grab the home clothes that Ryeowook laid out on his bed earlier.
Hyukjae turns on the kitchen light and presses hot water from the boiler into his mug. They don't say anything yet. Seunghwan is messing around in the kitchen and Donghae is willing him to leave, to feel how much he's not wanted because even though he might be a great manager who doesn't mind grocery shopping for the good of the dorm, Donghae really doesn't want to hear about tomorrow's schedules and how he's sorry it's so packed but there isn't much he can do about it so be sure to be up at six, we have to be out of here by six-thirty, goddamn it everything is so tight I'm two steps away from strangling kittens.
"Glad to know that it's not me you want to strangle, hyung," Hyukjae says, and Seunghwan rushes to assure him that no, no, of course not, it's not his fault, it's the damn company thinking that 60 million won a year is reason enough to squeeze their very lives out of them.
He leaves a rant later for his bedroom and Jungsu emerges from his, towel draped over one arm, ratty home clothes over the other. "Don't sleep so late today," he says en route to the bathroom. "Have to be up in five hours."
Donghae waits until the bathroom door is closed and the sound of the shower going before he turns off his PSP and goes to the kitchen. Hyukjae doesn't move from where he's leaning against the kitchen sink, legs planted on the ground looking like they might fold under him any minute, dirty mug discarded in the sink. His eyeliner is smudged under his left eye, dark and indistinct. Donghae smoothes it out with his thumb. "Hey."
Hyukjae works his hands loosely around Donghae's waist. "Are we still going out?"
"Not if you're too tired."
"It's not like I'll be able to sleep even if I go to bed, anyway," Hyukjae sighs. He closes his eyes and his head comes down on Donghae's shoulder. He's breathing slowly, almost painfully, pushing out each breath like he doesn't have the energy for it, and it seems to Donghae that he's about to disintegrate.
"I want to go out with you," Hyukjae says into his shoulder.
"But you don't seem like you can even walk," Donghae says, settling his fingertips into Hyukjae's dark brown hair. The roots are black. The colour is going to change again. "I don't want to have to piggyback you. This isn't a drama, you know."
Hyukjae laughs a little and raises his head. Donghae's about to brush his fingers over Hyukjae's eyelids, over his nose and cheeks and mouth, so beautiful even with the tired make-up, when the bathroom door opens and they're suddenly standing more than inches apart, Hyukjae turning to scrub the mug clean.
Jungsu yawns audibly as he crosses the living room. "I'm going to die early," he mumbles pathetically and disappears into his bedroom.
"You don't have to piggyback me. I'll crawl," Hyukjae says, turning back with smiling eyes and Donghae almost, almost kisses him.
It's mid-summer, but the near ending rain has made everything cold. They skirt puddles on the uneven sidewalks, feel the dampness gathering on the soles of their shoes. The night is still and yellowed over the glow of streetlights, and Donghae thinks of the two boys who'd used to walk home together on Saturday nights, skirting puddles skipping over cracks, one two five six eight streetlights, laughing, arguing, sixteen years old with no idea of the incandescence and heartbreak of the world lying at their feet. He reaches out to hold Hyukjae's hand.
"I missed you so much today," he says. "I won't get to see you tomorrow, too."
The angle of the yellow light shadows Hyukjae's quick smile. "We live together, what's there to miss?"
"Living together doesn't mean I'm seeing you," Donghae insists. "We live with Kangin hyung too and we almost never see him unless it's for work."
"Mmm," Hyukjae says thoughtfully, splashing through a tiny puddle. "We're colleagues after all."
"Say that again and I'll do a lot worse than this," Donghae threatens, pulling him near and poking him right in the space between shoulder and armpit that makes Hyukjae jump. They muffle their laughter into their palms and hastily release their hands when a small group of tipsy guys wander past talking about big-busted girls. Cigarette smoke and alcohol.
"Donghae-yah," Hyukjae says when they're alone again, "do you think that one day we'll end up calling each other by our stage names? Not on screen, I mean, but at home…privately…you know."
"I don't have a stage name. Donghae is just Donghae."
"You know what I mean."
"I'll always call you Hyukjae."
"You called me Eunhyukkie yesterday," Hyukjae says.
Donghae blinks at him.
"When you were helping Ryeowookie and Kyuhyunnie with dinner," Hyukjae clarifies. "You said that Eunhyukkie doesn't like overly-salty food, so don't put in too much salt."
"Oh," Donghae says, wondering if there's some sort of significance that he's supposed to be perceiving.
Hyukjae gives up walking and collapses onto the curb of the pavement. It's a quiet side road and the watch hands are turning to three o'clock, so Donghae sits down beside him instead of pulling him up. Behind them, a little 24-hour convenience store spills white light onto the pavement and they really shouldn't be holding hands in such illumination, but Donghae links his fingers with Hyukjae's anyway. "So what if I call you Eunhyuk sometimes? You're still the same person. A Hyukjae by any other name smells just as bad, remember?"
Hyukjae tries to grin, but his mouth falls into straight lines. "Sometimes I think I've become more Eunhyuk than Hyukjae," he says. "Like I'm just…on performance mode all the time." He looks at Donghae; his face is sober, too sober, and Donghae suddenly forgets to ruminate how long and how tight he can hold onto Hyukjae's hand before he has to let go. "I know this is going to come out all wrong," Hyukjae goes on, "but I feel…I'm beginning to feel that I can only be with you when I'm Eunhyuk."
Donghae's too afraid to let go now. "What do you mean?"
Hyukjae doesn't answer immediately and Donghae presses, "You think that this is all an act? Hyuk?"
"It's not that. Not that exactly. It's just that, I feel that, if it's reality…"
"It is reality."
"If it's reality, I don't know how to continue."
They're staring blankly at the empty road and closed shops when Donghae finally says, "I'm not playing, Hyukjae."
"I know." Hyukjae sounds distressed. He tries to slip his hand away but Donghae holds on tight, grips his fingers. "I just get the feeling that I can't face this as Hyukjae, I can only go on if it's Eunhyuk and Donghae and we're EunHae and everybody knows and nobody cares what we do…"
"This has nothing to do with EunHae! Nothing at all, Hyuk!"
"But I can only touch you when I'm Eunhyuk." The yellow light shines directly onto the tears on Hyukjae's cheeks. "I can only get close to you when I'm Eunhyuk. I can't when I'm Hyukjae."
Donghae pulls him up and around the corner against the side of a building where they won't easily be seen. "EunHae is just an act," he says. "This is real, Hyukjae. This is you and me. Don't confuse it all up. I'm touching you now, we're close, we're real."
A breath, and then two. He can't see Hyukjae's face distinctly in the darkness, but he knows from the cadence of Hyukjae's breath that he's trying to stop his tears. Crazy, he thinks, how crazy that this is how well he knows Hyukjae, this is how intimate he is with every sign that Hyukjae's body gives him, this is how familiar he is with the way Hyukjae's mind works, and yet here they are, standing at the edge of confusion and misunderstanding, poised to plunge down. He puts his arms around Hyukjae's waist and pulls him close, closer still, until they're flush against each other, Hyukjae's hair tickling his cheek. "It's you I want to be with," he says into his ear. "You, Lee Hyukjae."
Hyukjae's head dips. "Why does this have to be so hard, Donghae?"
"It doesn't have to be. It isn't."
"I'm still scared," Hyukjae says. "I try not to be, but I am."
"I'm scared…," Donghae begins, and pauses to lean his cheek against Hyukjae's for a moment. "I'm scared too."
They wait until they're back at the dorms, huddled under the covers of Donghae's bed, before they allow their mouths to meet. Sungmin is sleeping just two feet away, and he's the kind that wakes up if the bed so much as creaks, so they have to be quiet. It's tough, but it's better here than out in the living room or in the big bedroom; it is, really, the only place they have. Donghae wraps his leg around Hyukjae's hip and loses himself in the taste of Hyukjae's mouth, the intoxicating push of his tongue, the weight of his breath, the intimacy and comfort and rightness of being so close to Hyukjae. He won't, he thinks, he won't ever be this close to anyone else, he'll never feel this oneness with another person.
"Donghae," Hyukjae whispers into his jaw and Donghae slides his hand down, over his chest and midriff and into the tiny curve of his waist meeting hip. His fingers linger, and Hyukjae sighs. Then he moves again, down down no, stop, this is too much, I won't, I won't; but Hyukjae has already stiffened and Donghae's just a little too late when he stops because Hyukjae is already clamped up, whispering, "No, no."
He disengages his arms and pulls away and the distance between them feels huge even though they're in the same narrow bed.
"No," Hyukjae says again, turning on his side.
Donghae touches his shoulder tentatively and swallows hard when Hyukjae flinches. "I'm sorry, Hyukkie."
"I'm sorry, I won't, I really won't."
"I can't…not yet."
"I know. It's okay. I'm sorry." He can't say how much he has fantasised about this, how he jerks off in the shower to the image of Hyukjae's face and the memory of his kisses, burning still on his lips, on his tongue, sweet and aloof and maddening. He can't think about that now. "Hyuk? Please don't be angry…I'm sorry."
Hyukjae reaches over his shoulder and pulls Donghae up against his back. "Never mind. Let's sleep."
Donghae presses his forehead into the nape of Hyukjae's neck. Take it step by step. Step by step, step by step, step by step, how many steps do they need to take? How wide are those steps? How high?
They'll climb it together. They'll be okay. They're together now. Stay still, stay still, don't wake him. Feel him beside you, feel him breathe, feel how strong his heartbeat is. It's okay. We're together now.
"No, no, hyung, if you're throwing out three identical tiles it's pong not chi."
"Does it even matter? You see my tiles, you get my meaning."
"But you'll be confusing everyone if you do it your way, hyung!"
"So? That's what I call my 'distraction tactic', haha."
"Hyung, you can't…"
Hankyung leans over and pats Zhou Mi's arm. '"What Heechul's actually saying is 'I will say pong next time'," he explains kindly.
Youngwoon, still lying on the living room floor where he'd passed out four hours earlier, snorts with laughter. Heechul needs his own translator, he says, but Donghae's really thinking of how nice it is seeing Hankyung being able to interact with someone in his own language and culture. Sometimes they feel sorry for him, because no matter how they valiantly try to learn ni hao with all its proper inflections or how much broken Mandarin Siwon and occasionally Heechul drop his way, he's still that little bit different; that little distant from the rest of them. It is hateful to be different. Donghae knows how it feels.
It is then that he spots Jongwoon beckoning mysteriously at him from the doorway of the big bedroom. Jongwoon has a peculiar liking for being mysterious; nobody understands it, and Hyukjae had once attempted to analyse it as 'bringing flavour into his mundane life' (Hyukjae is such a jerk, really, when he wants to be) and then narrowly avoided a cuff from Jongwoon's small but powerful hands (Hyukjae is such an easy target, really, when they want him to be). Jongwoon shuts the bedroom door behind him when Donghae enters and he has an awful moment of wondering if Jongwoon is going to confess to him when he (blessedly!) sees Sungmin curled up in Shindong's blankets, comfortably nibbling at a digestive biscuit.
"What's up, hyung?" Sungmin says. "What's all this provocative mystery about? You're not planning on confessing to me or Donghae, are you?"
"Shut up," Jongwoon hisses, sitting down on his own bed. "I called you in here for a serious discussion."
Sungmin yawns, adorably, and Donghae settles down on Hyukjae's bed. Hyukjae had been in too much of a rush this morning to tidy it up in his usual obsessively neat style (soft toys lined up by the side, round shapes first, squares after) and so Donghae snuggles into the crumples in the bedsheets, cuddles the smiling monkey plushie with the oversized head that Hyukjae hugs when he goes to sleep.
"We're all ears," Sungmin says.
Jongwoon clears his throat. "Don't you think there's something up with Zhou Mi being at our dorm almost every day now?"
"No?" Sungmin says. "He comes to play mahjong. Is there anything 'up' with that?"
"Not the mahjong, Min. You're so short-sighted. Haven't you heard the rumours coming from management lately? They're thinking of forming a Chinese sub-group out of us."
"I haven't heard of that, but then I'm not dating someone from the office," Sungmin says with a little laugh that earns him a glare from Jongwoon.
"If you dare to broadcast that, Lee Sungmin…"
"No, no, I won't breathe a word. Not a word. Not one." Sungmin holds up his hand in surrender. "But really, hyung, are they thinking seriously of doing that? We can't speak Chinese. Except Hankyung hyung, but he's another story."
"It's something you can learn, can't you?" Jongwoon points out. "Anyway, we've got Hankyung hyung to do all the talking. I heard that they're thinking of adding two other Chinese members to the sub-group, and seeing as Zhou Mi is being ferried here every day by Seunghwan hyung, there's a high chance that he might be one of them. Now you see what I'm getting at?"
"Ah," Donghae says, suddenly impressed with Jongwoon's deductive skills.
"Wouldn't that mean that whoever's in the sub-group might be stationed in China or Taiwan for activities?" Sungmin says. "Or at the very least, shuttling back and forth from South Korea to China? There isn't any market here for Chinese songs!"
"Of course if it's for Chinese songs it would be for China," Jongwoon says. "Anyway, as for who's in it, Teukie hyung or Heechul hyung or Hyukjae won't be. They've got way too many obligations here to be flown to China for a month. I don't think Youngwoon hyung will be in it either, they'd want to put him in more shows, earn more money for us. The way I see it, there's a big chance…"
"You've been thinking this out, haven't you?" Sungmin says. "Hyungie, you can be so creepy."
Jongwoon ignores him. "…that Ryeowookie will be in it, and maybe Kyuhyunnie. Or, even, either one of you."
"I have Chunji," Sungmin says.
"Donghae then. Isn't that likely? He's not involved in any sub-group, he's cute, lots of girls like him."
Donghae doesn't realise he's crumpling the blanket until his hand screams with cramp. "I don't want to go to China."
"Why not? It'll be a great opportunity. A market of one billion people compared to 49 million."
"I like being here."
"Donghae will cry into his pillow every night," Sungmin teases. "Wouldn't be able to stand being away from Teukie hyung and Eunhyukkie's apron strings for a month, huh, Donghae?"
Donghae throws the monkey at Sungmin, who ducks. The monkey hits the wall and lands on the floor with a soft-sounding thump and Donghae yells that Hyukjae's going to be mad now that his toy has picked up a thousand germs and Sungmin yells back that you were the one who threw it in the first place, wise guy, and Jongwoon plugs his ears.
"Well," he says, "you can yell all you want, but ultimately it won't be your decision to make."
"Don't sound so scary about it," Sungmin says. "It's a career option, not a march towards death."
Donghae picks up the monkey and ties its ears into a knot at the back of its head. Hyukjae will probably be very upset to see his toy being manhandled on top of gathering a thousand germs, but it's okay. Everyone knows that Donghae is attention-needy anyway. Jungsu will say that it was an outlet for his agitation of mind.
He's outside the KTR studio ten minutes before it ends, chewing on hot gooey takoyaki balls that he'd bought along the way. They burn his tongue. It's drizzling again, so his umbrella leaves a shower of rain droplets on the vinyl flooring right next to the sign that says 'PLEASE LEAVE YOUR WET UMBRELLA BY THE DOOR.' He's still speculating if he can somehow scrub out the droplets with the soles of his shoes when Jungsu and Hyukjae exit the studio with caps pulled low over their faces.
"Trust you to drip all over the floor, Donghae," Jungsu mutters as he brushes past him, and Donghae raises his eyebrows at Hyukjae. But Hyukjae doesn't say anything other than "Hey" and it falls to Seunghwan, after some close questioning, to explain that they'd had one of their usual conversations about their ideal wives/girlfriends/dates and Hyukjae had 'revealed' too much of Jungsu's flirtatiousness behind the scenes which would, Seunghwan concedes, be okay if Jungsu's current girl hadn't gotten angry and sent him a text of asterisk-spelled words. Which, Seunghwan concedes again while rubbing his temples, wouldn't be a big deal but she and Teukie have been having problems lately and this is like the icing on the cake or the gochujang sauce on bibimbap or the wasabi on sushi and you know what, let's just stay out of it.
"What are you doing here anyway?" he blinks at Donghae like he's suddenly aware of who he's talking to.
"I'm taking Hyukjae out for supper," Donghae says, trying to sound as cheery as possible, and Seunghwan shoots him a look that says, I've never met anyone with a worse sense of timing than you.
Seunghwan attempts to turn up the volume of the radio in the van; Jungsu reaches out and turns it back down. They seem to get stopped by an inordinate amount of red lights; the red lights take decades to change into green. Donghae works his hand briefly into Hyukjae's, but Hyukjae lets his palm lie still and unresponsive and eventually he gives up, tries to distract himself by people-watching through the window. It's hard, though, to people-watch when you're moving at 70 kilometres per hour and even harder still when Hyukjae leans forward and says, with an edge to his voice that he recognises as just-spilling-over temper, "You know, Teukie hyung, you really don't have to be such a jackass about the whole thing."
Jungsu's head whips back. "What did you just say?"
"I said, you don't have to be such a jackass. It's not my fault that you have a hypersensitive girlfriend."
"So that makes it okay to broadcast your made-up stories on radio, does it?"
"Don't say that as though you haven't done the same thing to me! Goddamn it, how many times have you told some weird concocted story about me and some girl…"
"I've never gone overboard!"
"I didn't go overboard! You're only accusing me of going overboard because your damn girlfriend got all pity party over you asking for some celebrities' phone numbers. The fuck, hyung. Don't take it out on me because your personal life happens to be shitty."
"Shut up, you two," Seunghwan says in his best imitation of the invisible man.
"Right," Jungsu says, "and your personal life just happens to be stellar, doesn't it, Hyukjae? I have to concoct stories about you to make you more interesting because you've never had anything with any girl at all, except Miyoung, and that was short-lived, wasn't it? If I told the real stories about you, you probably wouldn't even survive till the second broadcast."
Hyukjae says something, but Donghae doesn't process it because he's suddenly shaking against the car door, ramming his fingernails into his palms.
"Don't think I haven't noticed what you and Donghae have been up to over the past month," Jungsu says. "You think you're being so smart sneaking out late at night and pretending that everything's normal, but what you've been doing is big enough to bring us all down with you and you don't even have the courtesy to inform me of it. You want to talk about personal lives being shitty, Hyukjae? You want to talk about going overboard? Take a look at yourself."
"What the hell, Teukie…" Seunghwan begins, but stops when he catches sight of Donghae's face in the rear view mirror. He pulls the van up by the side of the road and they listen to the ticking of the hazard lights, the rush of passing wheels on gravel, the long long silence that follows. The many silences. The screaming silences, until Hyukjae manages to say, strangled, near convulsive, "Does anyone else know?"
"That isn't what you should be concerned about right now," Jungsu says.
Donghae fumbles for purchase on the car door. He doesn't know why he's short of breath like he's been running miles, but he can't seem to work an adequate amount of oxygen into his lungs, doesn't seem to remember how the mechanics of breathing work. "Hyung, don't. Please don't."
Jungsu stares at the both of them. It's dark and they can't see his face clearly but they trust him, they want desperately to trust him because he's their leader Eeteuk and their almost big brother Park Jungsu and he has always come through for them, all the way through breakages and mishaps and relationship-destroying quarrels and surely, surely, he will come through for them in this, too (why should he? asks a cynical self; but they don't listen to it, they try to ignore).
When he speaks, it's as though his voice is barely filtering through wavering static, disjointed, incomprehensible, miles and miles of water in between. "You better stop this before anyone else finds out."
"Please don't say that to us," Donghae says, forcing himself to release his fingernails from his palms. "Hyung, please. You have no idea how hard it has been to get to where we are. We can't just stop it like it's nothing."
"So you're telling me that you're serious?" Jungsu turns back to stare out of the windscreen. The wipers moan painfully across the screen, once, twice, three times, and Jungsu's saying, "You can't afford to be serious in this business. Not now, not ever, when it's about something like this."
"Guys," says Seunghwan, "I'm going to have to stop you here. I don't know exactly what's going on but if it's what I think it is, Teukie's right. You can't mess around like this at this point in time, or any other point in time, for that matter. You have to be out of your minds. Donghae, Hyukjae, I thought you would know better than this."
Hyukjae speaks again after innumerable splattered raindrops. "If it wasn't for business…would you say the same thing to us?"
"Yes," Seunghwan says without missing a beat. "You know it as well as I do. There isn't any room for gays in this country."
And then Hyukjae's out of the van in seconds, door slamming so hard behind him that Jungsu winces. Donghae grabs his bag and follows him and something inside him hopes that Jungsu will run after them, tell them that he's sorry and everything's going to be okay, but he doesn't know if he can face Jungsu again without wanting to hold his head and scream at him, howl even, in all kinds of words about disappointment and betrayal. Hyukjae's five steps ahead of him, charging down the road like something's after him, and Donghae wants to catch up to him and hold his hand, maybe, but there's too much pain surrounding Hyukjae now, too much overwhelming, untouchable pain, and so he hangs back. He doesn't know what to do. He thinks that this is how a person suffering from hypothermia must feel just before the onset of death; heartstoppingly numb and yet gripped by so many little sharp pains that he can't identify the source of the original big pain anymore.
They draw together five minutes later, maybe ten, and Hyukjae's crying big tears into his palm as they continue walking in the midnight silence. How would it feel to walk in the daytime, Donghae wonders, just like this, hand-in-hand, in the daytime? How would it feel to be able to stop worrying about the faces of the people around them?
They walk the entire remainder of the way to the dorms, two hours past shops and residences and street lights and late-night pubs with sweat pouring down their foreheads and over their chests, and when they finally reach the dorm they've stopped crying but there still isn't anything to say. It had been drizzling all the way, miserable and maddening and unstoppable, incongruous with the hot night, and they track wet footprints on the floor when they step in, close the door softly behind them as though nobody will hear.
Hyukjae leaves the dorm early the next morning and doesn't come back that night. Seunghwan reports that he's gone back home for a breather, he's fine and he'll still be up and about his schedules, but they won't be seeing him back at the dorm until he feels like coming back. He looks like he hasn't slept all night, but nobody notices except Donghae. They're all nonchalant about the news; who hasn't felt the need to back home once in a while for breathers, or, in plain language, to get away before they commit a crime by bashing all the members' heads against a wall? Love has its limits. Sungmin takes over the task of ensuring Hyukjae's space in the big bedroom remains neat and nice-smelling, and life goes on.
Donghae tunes in to KTR as he does every night if he's within reach of a radio. They're joking about Hyukjae's failures at learning how to control manual gear during his driving lessons and Jungsu having failed his first practical driving test, and it's so weary, somehow, listening to them talk as though they hadn't been biting out words at each other the previous night. Donghae turns it off ten minutes in and goes out for coffee, but even though he heaps in two and a half packets of white sugar the bitterness still burns into his tongue (he thinks that he would be joking, angrily, about how frustrating it is that emotion colours over even the solid, practical taste of food).
Jungsu tries to apologise the next day. He was over-tired, he says, and frustrated, and things really haven't been going well. It's no excuse though, what I said was really uncalled for and rude and I'll understand if you don't want to listen to this. Still, I'm really sorry for the way I spoke to the both of you.
"You still wouldn't support us, would you?" Donghae says, and Jungsu sighs, to be frank, there's really no way out of this, supporting you would only be harming you in the long run…; and this is where Donghae tunes him out, because despite all the nice genuine words of apology he's still not on their side and Donghae doesn't have the strength nor inclination to listen to someone who isn't on their side.
I'm at war with the world now ^^, he texts Hyukjae (he doesn't dare to call him now, not when he's within hearing distance of the rest, which is weird but maybe somehow he has become hypersensitive too). Hyukjae calls him but he's talking to Ryeowook and Youngwoon just then so he hesitates too long and eventually his handphone stops buzzing in mid-song.
Half a day later, his phone rings again and this time he's out of the dorm lingering by the refrigerated drinks corner of a nondescript convenience store, so he picks up.
"I need to talk to you," Hyukjae says. "Can you stay over for the night?"
Youngwoon offers to give him a lift since he has forty minutes till his next schedule, and anyway, just consider it a hyung's responsibility since knowin' you two lovebirds you'd probably be wailing your eyes out if you're separated for another ten seconds. Donghae stares at him but the word means nothing to Youngwoon at all, he's bopping his head to Usher on the CD player, I guess I gotta give you part two of my confessions. How can someone bop his head to a song that's so sad? Donghae leans against the window not watching anything until they've turned into a side street and there they are again, one two three four five six seven eight, it's the house right at the end of the road. Youngwoon stifles a yawn against the back of his hand and says I'll see you tomorrow for the performance at wherever, where the heck are we going? Ah well, remember not to burn down Hyukjae's home.
He's ringing the doorbell with the corniest love phrases in his mind when Hyukjae finally opens the door and he doesn't get the chance to say them because Hyukjae's in his arms and all he can think of is that they're still okay, they'll be okay as long as they can hold each other like this.
"I wanted to tell you that I've talked to Jungsu hyung and it's kind of settled between us now," Hyukjae says later when they're sitting on his bed with Donghae's duffel bag dumped on the floor. "He's really sorry about it and it was a pretty rough night for him that time…I think we should let it be. He doesn't hate us."
"But he doesn't support us either," Donghae argues.
"Maybe that's too much to ask," Hyukjae sighs. "For now he isn't going to tell anyone, and he says he won't mention it again unless we do, so…he won't try to break us up, you know, Hae. He isn't the type who would do that."
Donghae strokes the back of Hyukjae's hand with his fingertips. "I don't know if I can be the same again with him."
"You'll try?" Hyukjae says. "I don't want us to keep harbouring unhappiness towards him. He's Jungsu hyung, after all."
"Why can't we hold a grudge once in a while?" Donghae says just for the sake of argument because he's smiling now, looking at Hyukjae's hopeful face. "You know, Hyuk. All the way here…I was so afraid that you were going to tell me that you wanted to end it."
"I...thought of it," Hyukjae says. "But I. It wouldn't be. I can't…" He stops, stumbles over his words because he's Hyukjae and he's impossibly ineloquent when it comes to things that matter. The bright, the charming, the witty Eunhyuk whom variety show producers adore, Donghae thinks while watching him fumble; the one who makes everyone laugh, the smooth-talking DJ, the silly joker; he can't say a simple, heartfelt I love you. Hyukjae's onto fidgeting now and Donghae reaches out, cups his face and ghosts his thumb over the curve of his cheekbone. I have enough I love you's for the both of us, he wants to say, but maybe he's impossibly ineloquent too, because he's suddenly crying and Hyukjae has abandoned stammering to laugh at him.
"That's my Donghae," he says, and it's amazing, quite quite amazing, how much that one word means.
The door is closed and locked, and so they kiss. It's too hard to stop. Donghae knows where this is headed and he wants to restrain himself because Hyukjae's not ready, Hyukjae won't like it, but right now he has mental capacity enough only to concentrate on the warmth of Hyukjae's mouth. On tracing the line of Hyukjae's jaw with his lips and tongue, on running his mouth over Hyukjae's neck and hearing a breath leave Hyukjae's mouth, soft and yielding, erotic like nothing he's ever heard before (is it okay to love like this, to want like this?). He's stroking Hyukjae's abdomen under his shirt and he feels Hyukjae's fingers on the small of his back and maybe this force of emotion is something that people only experience once in their lives, or maybe some don't ever experience it at all; stronger than hatred or jealousy or lust, stronger and innumerable times more beautiful.
"I can't…I won't if you don't want to," he gasps against Hyukjae's skin, shaking, because even though everything in him is pushing him forward he'll find enough energy to pull back if Hyukjae says no. But Hyukjae only pulls him closer and whispers, "It's okay."
Take it slow, he thinks, slow and careful and luxurious like smoky sentimental ballads, like moonlight and love songs, but his body has different ideas. Hyukjae's legs are wrapped around his and they're hardening more with every breathless brush of tongue. All the fantasies of the past three years coming together all at once, push and pull, thrust, Hyukjae is gripping fistfuls of his shirt and moaning into his neck, incoherent slurred together words. Not quite making love in the strictest sense of the word but so much raw passion, so much desire and want and, Donghae thinks, love, because it can't possibly feel so good if it isn't Hyukjae moving with him, discovering with him a sort of rhythm that they've fallen into, sloppy and yet so perfect, rising and falling, right there.
Hyukjae throws his head back and chokes; he's breathing through his mouth and Donghae watches a heated flush work its way down Hyukjae's cheek to his throat, watches the perspiration forming on his forehead as he rolls his hips against Hyukjae's, and they're so far gone now that they're rocking together almost mindlessly, murmuring words that don't make sense except for Hyukjae and Donghae and the repeated, the breathless, refrain of those four distinct syllables. Donghae wraps his hands around Hyukjae's hips and shudders and grinds down hard, once, twice, and suddenly it's too fucking much and they're flung wide open and breathless, coming into their pants, bodies glued together, groans mixed into each other's mouths.
They lie side by side for a few dazed moments afterwards, hands only grazing, and while it seems like there's a multitude of things to say there's really only one, and that is that they've gone beyond coming back, they're too deeply enmeshed now. Hyukjae turns over on his side and Donghae feels his fingertips on his face, moving slowly from eye to nose to mouth, and he doesn't want to think anymore of the boys they'd been, he wants to think of the men they'll become.
Hyukjae spreads his fingers on Donghae's chest, looks at him, smiles at how fast his heart is beating under his palm.
"I really, really…" Donghae swallows a little. "Really, really like you."
Hyukjae lies back down beside him and holds his hand and in half an hour's time he'll have to leave for KTR, but they can take it slow now, they've got enough time.
previous: part two; a denial | next: part three; a growing up (ii)