nc-17; 8478 words; multi-chapter
there was a lifetime in each other, if they chose to see it.
part zero; a moment | part one; a past | part two; a denial | part three; a growing up | part four; a togetherness
"Where do we go now?" Hyukjae asks.
"Anywhere," Donghae says.
He's slumped down in the passenger seat, watching the orange-lit road through the windscreen. The bright headlines of the cars zooming past them on the opposite side of the road. The blinking of a red signal light in front of them. Hyukjae follows the car into an exit off the highway. The GPS complains, re-routes, and re-routes yet again until Donghae tires of it and turns it off.
"Where are we going?" he asks.
"Anywhere," Hyukjae says.
They end up in the corner of a parking lot in the financial district, quiet and dark, long after hours. There are a few guys standing around the light of a nearby 24-hour convenience store, clutching cigarettes and flicking ash onto the ground. The tendrils of their cigarette smoke curl into the air and dissipate, and Donghae wants to know what they're doing there; why can't they go home? The digital clock changes from 10:36 to 10:37 when he reaches out to lower the volume on the radio.
He does it so that he can hear Hyukjae's breathing. So that he can feel, more acutely, Hyukjae's hand on his knee, making its way up his inner thigh. It's strange how silence adds weight to everything.
He's almost hard when they kiss first, tongues colliding in Hyukjae's mouth. Hyukjae's hands are tight on his shoulders, lips wet and red in the dimness of the street light when they pull away for breath. He feels the vibration of Hyukjae's throat when he mouths his Adam's apple, licks the length of his collarbone. He wants to tear the shirt off him, slide his arms fully around Hyukjae's waist, wrap his legs around him and –
"Donghae," Hyukjae says, only it comes out more like a whisper, a little needy moan. And it is testament to how much of an effect Hyukjae has on him that it makes Donghae tremble, fingers winding into a grip on Hyukjae's jeans. It has been too long, he thinks. Way – too – fucking – long.
"Hyukjae," he murmurs, breath stuttering a little, "I need…"
Hyukjae's hand is almost, almost on his crotch when the guys near the convenience store suddenly start walking in their direction and Hyukjae freezes, and Donghae can't restrain the curse that slips out of his throat. "Hyukjae," he says, impatient, perhaps a touch whiny; "they aren't going to look at us. They don't even know that we're here."
"Won't hurt us to wait until they're gone," Hyukjae says, watching the guys mucking around before finally getting into their car and heading out of the parking lot.
Donghae lets out his breath, slowly. "Can we continue now?"
Hyukjae looks back at him, slightly sheepish. "Sorry."
He's still distracted, so Donghae takes over instead, foregoing slow and teasing in case someone else should decide to come into the parking lot and scare Hyukjae off any sort of remote intimacy. He unzips Hyukjae's pants, reaches into his underwear and pulls out his cock before Hyukjae even fully processes what's happening. "Donghae," he squeaks, one hand on Donghae's and the other gripping the wheel, "is this a good idea."
"What do you want to do then?" Donghae demands, dragging his thumb from base to tip. "Go back home?"
"Um," Hyukjae says, watching as he hardens in Donghae's hand. "No."
"Then I suppose you'll just have to put up with this," Donghae says, and wraps his mouth around the head before Hyukjae can think of anymore protests.
Hyukjae makes a sort of gargled sound at the back of his throat, but Donghae's paying more attention to the way tension eases out of his thighs as he hollows his cheeks around Hyukjae's cock, sucking him deep and slow, running his tongue over the raised veins. Just a few more seconds, he thinks, and he's right when Hyukjae's hand touches his cheek, running his thumb in a gentle, soothing circle before tangling in his hair. "I'm sorry," Hyukjae says again, tugging at his hair a little, and Donghae makes an it's okay sound in his throat, grins when Hyukjae's legs quiver at the vibration.
He reaches down with a blind hand and gropes around his jeans button before raising himself awkwardly to tug at his zipper and pull his own cock out without releasing Hyukjae's. He's so hard that he thinks he might explode then and there, and he's certain of it when Hyukjae groans, "Me", and stretches over to wrap his own hand around him.
Donghae moans around his cock and starts sucking harder, faster, because he knows that it's only going to be a short while before they cramp up completely in their awkward positions and this whole encounter becomes less sexy and more painful. Hyukjae's bracing himself against the floor of the car and humping infinitesimally into his mouth, breathing becoming loud and laboured, and Donghae grips Hyukjae's knee, almost whispering love songs against his skin as Hyukjae strokes his balls quickly before curling his hand around Donghae's erection again and jerking him off, quick and furious, hand warm and slick from pre-come.
"Donghae," Hyukjae gasps, once, and his grip on Donghae's cock tightens before his legs quiver again and he comes into Donghae's mouth like he's never going to stop, hips and breath jerking erratically. Donghae keeps his breath steady, in out as he swallows Hyukjae's come slowly, savouring it, wishing they were naked so that Hyukjae could paint him with it, with this deep desire between them.
Hyukjae's hand has slackened, so he pulls back and wraps his own hand around his, guiding Hyukjae through it until he hits orgasm and spills into both their hands. When he opens his eyes, still trembling, Hyukjae is leaning against the car seat, smiling lazily at him, eyes half-lidded.
"One day," Donghae says, pressing his thumb into Hyukjae's mouth and watching him suck, "we'll find a proper place where we can actually have sex."
"Mmm," says Hyukjae, and leans on him for a moment, and all Donghae wants to do is to put his arms around him and hold him close and never fucking let him go.
They make it back to the dorm just in time to see Kyuhyun battling Sungmin down on the nth level of whatever new video game he's into. Sungmin calls out, "Hyukkie, come help me before he kills me", and they share a look, holding back from reaching out to touch, before going their separate ways.
After five years of living in Seoul, Donghae would consider himself pretty well-versed in its non-beaten paths. He has his pet restaurants (everybody recommends Myoungdong Kyoja, but he personally thinks that Bongchu Chimak is way better), his pet hang-outs (the small, nondescript café across the street where he's on friendly terms with all the serving staff), his pet bars (which are uncannily similar to Heechul's favourite bars, since Heechul is his most regular drinking partner). He knows where to get the best bibimbap, kimbap, jajangmyeon, he doesn't need to use a GPS when he drives, and if any tourist stops him to ask for directions (there are many of them – particularly females – Youngwoon says it's his inviting big eyes), he knows enough to draw them fairly accurate, if childish-looking, maps.
And yet, these days he's getting the feeling that he doesn't know Seoul well enough. At least, not well enough to know where all the hidden, inconspicuous gay pubs are where he can get drunk and make out with Hyukjae without any nosy tabloid journalists or homophobic guys coming in and having a field day by spotting them. Not well enough to know where he can hold Hyukjae's hand on the dinner table without the whole restaurant giving him weirded out looks. Not well enough to know where to go on those long, aimless drives down highways with them tapping on the GPS, trying out this bar and that bar and then systematically rejecting every single one for being too crowded, too well-lit, too noisy, or too full of clearly heterosexual couples, until they get tired of the fruitlessness and end up in some parking lot making out surreptitiously under the cover of darkness.
Three weeks after their last parking lot venture, Donghae's bare minutes away from clawing at walls. Hyukjae's increasing popularity in variety shows means that he's away most days from early afternoon till early morning, and Donghae finds himself being shuttled to several meetings about a sub-group aimed at the Chinese market, one that includes half of Super Junior but no Hyukjae.
"Are they going to make me stay in China?" he asks Jungsu one night, when he's feeling particularly frustrated over his lack of say in the company's plans for him.
"They might," Jungsu says. "You guys will be targeting the Chinese market, after all, and you can't really do that from Korea, can you?"
"Why aren't they including Hyukjae?"
Jungsu looks up from his notebook, frowns thoughtfully at him. "They've got plans for him here," he says, in a tone that clearly implies there is to be no more discussion on this topic. Donghae looks at him and thinks of something he'd learned long ago, that ostriches avoid danger by sticking their heads into the ground. He wants to pull Jungsu out by his hind legs, yell at him that you can't pretend something doesn't exist simply by choosing not to see it; it's juvenile, it's about the stupidest thing you could ever do, but he turns away.
He calls Junsu instead. "I'm going nuts," he says the moment Junsu picks up the phone.
"Hello to you too," Junsu says. "I'm beginning to think that you call me only when you're being driven insane by lust."
"Give me some credit," Donghae says. "It's not just that. You're the only one who knows about Hyukjae and me aside from Jungsu hyung and he's being a total jerk about it so I can't talk to him."
"What's happened now?"
"I'm going to China," Donghae says, and hears, with some surprise, the despair in his voice. "They've decided it. We're going to live there."
"About two months."
"Hey, that isn't so bad," Junsu says. "It's just two months, and you'll be so busy that you won't even notice it."
"No," Donghae says. "It's weird, but when we were just friends, two months seemed really long…and now that we're, I don't know, more, it just seems harder. Even two days is hard."
"Well," Junsu says. "Maybe two months will be easier because you'll get used to being apart."
"Maybe," Donghae says, unconvinced. "The thing is, we can't even be together here, because there isn't anywhere we can go. There's always someone hanging around in the dorm so we aren't ever alone, and if we go out there isn't anywhere we can hold hands or anything. It's like we're already apart every day, and I can tell you I'm not getting used to it."
"That does sound tough," Junsu says. "I guess I hadn't thought of the whole privacy thing when you guys told me about your relationship. Not going to tell the rest of the group?"
"I think we should, but Hyukjae doesn't want to – at least not yet…"
"What, he thinks they might castrate you or something?"
"He's a paranoid little ass sometimes," Junsu says, almost fondly. "Not that you can really blame him, you know. His parents would die if they ever heard of…"
"I know," Donghae snaps, a little rougher than he'd intended. "I know everything that you're about to warn me of. I don't need you to remind me."
"Hey, buddy," Junsu snaps back, not really angry, but a little offended nevertheless. "You're the one who called me."
Donghae groans. He might, he think, just might, be going mad. Or his head might be turning into wool, judging from the way he's losing his ability to think clearly. "Sorry. I'm just…sick of trying to find somewhere to hide and finding nowhere. If there was somewhere we could go – but there isn't, and I have to pretend that we're just friends because there's always someone with us and if I touch him anywhere but, you know, people give us weird looks…and if we avoid each other, the others start asking if we've quarrelled but I can't just touch him without wanting to…it's just stupid. Okay, I'm not making a lot of sense."
"No, you are," Junsu says. "Give me a moment. I think I can work something out for you guys."
He goes away from the phone and Donghae waits, studying the distortion of the buildings through the big raindrops on the window. He hates rain. It reminds him too much of drizzly mornings and grey skies and dirt-lined buildings and Hyukjae huddling in the wind, his tears mixing up in the rain, in his voice, in the fear on his face.
The funny thing is, he's always wanted to make Hyukjae smile.
"Back," says Junsu. "Has Hyukjae spoken to you about this?"
"He says we should try going to a hotel, but that's crazy. We can't exactly reserve a hotel room and march in there to check in with our passports. The media will find out in a minute. And anyway…" Donghae sighs. "We've been so busy lately with the Explorers show that we don't have any time to look around for a low-profile hotel. We can't go somewhere like the Marriott, you know."
"No," Junsu agrees. "But I do have something for you. My cousin Joowon has a wife who owns a boutique hotel in Seokyo-dong. Nice and quiet, not exactly a place for paparazzi. They mostly get foreign families and young couples who go out early and come back late. She won't mind putting aside a double room for you and Hyukjae to use, and you can come in through the back door instead of strutting through the lobby."
"Oh," says Donghae, and isn't quite sure how to continue because suddenly, a huge rush of gratitude is squeezing his throat.
"It's not free," Junsu says warningly. "She's nice, but not that nice. You'll have to pay for the room, though I don't know how she'll charge you – maybe you can pay her per night or something. But she'll handle it personally so your name isn't in the hotel guest records, and nobody will find out."
"No problem," Junsu says. "Just buy me a Harley or something."
"I'll have to get a loan from Siwon."
Junsu laughs. "Anyway, I'll text you her number and you can get in touch with her yourself. She knows about it. I wish you happy times."
Five hours later, he's on the highway with Hyukjae again, except this time they're travelling without the aid of a GPS. The downpour earlier that day had left the night sky clear and Donghae's sure that he has never seen so many stars before. Or perhaps he's imagining them, because they seem bigger than stars normally are.
"Are you sure this is…" Hyukjae begins nervously. He's messing around with the glove compartment, arranging and rearranging the lube and condoms that he'd ran out to a hole-in-the-wall convenience store to get earlier on.
"Yes," says Donghae.
"If anything happens…"
"At least we'd know that we tried."
Hyukjae doesn't say anything, and at the first red light off the highway, Donghae turns to look at him. All he can see, really, is the outline of Hyukjae's side profile, and he reaches out to tap his thumb affectionately against his chin. "You don't have to pretend to be all disapproving, I know you're trying to hide your smile."
"Ass," says Hyukjae, but he does smile, wide enough to crinkle his eyes.
"Ass yourself!" Donghae retorts originally.
It's twenty minutes later, when they're safely in the cream-coloured room with the locked door and drawn curtains, when Donghae is pressing him down onto the bed that smells so generic, so anonymous, that it can't possibly yield up any of their secrets, that he finally says, "You do know that I'm happy to be here like this with you…?"
"I know," Donghae says, kissing the line of his throat, the little dip between his collarbones, the warmth just beneath his shirt. He wants to strip him – or no, strip is an inappropriate word, because it sounds way too crude, too vulgar for what he wants to do to Hyukjae. He wants to undress him, lay him out bare and touch him all over, mark him with so much love and tenderness that Hyukjae will feel it like a silken cloak even during, or especially during, all those maddening times in the outside world when they can't be together.
"I don't want anyone to hurt you," Donghae says, his words coming out in such a rush that his consonants melt into his vowels. "I don't ever, ever want anyone to make you cry, I don't want you to ever feel alone, Hyukjae, I want to be – I want to be beside you always and, and, I want you to be happy, no matter what happens. I want to give you everything."
Hyukjae raises his legs, crooks them at the knees and holds Donghae between them. He looks, in that moment, so trustful, that it makes Donghae catch his breath; he'll never get used to this, never, to the sensation of seeing Hyukjae laying himself open for him, him, Lee Donghae, who has so little to offer.
"Let's do this together," Hyukjae says, smiling, and Donghae really, really, forgets to breathe.
It's nearing three-thirty when they finally flop limply on the bed, too exhausted even to think. Donghae pulls off the condom, disposes of it neatly in the trash can and notices that Hyukjae's still smiling. He leans over and traces the shape of Hyukjae's mouth with his index finger, trying to figure out all the reasons why he loves his mouth but capable only of focusing on the feel of it beneath his finger, the softness, the fullness, the way it fits against his own lips.
"I love you," he whispers. "Do you know that? I love you so much sometimes I don't even know what to do with myself."
Hyukjae raises his hand and rests it gently on his cheek. It looks like he wants to say something, but he smiles instead, and Donghae kisses him again, unable to keep away; kisses his beautiful mouth and his nose and the space of skin between his eyebrows. When they withdraw to look at each other, Hyukjae's expression is soft, almost bemused, and he holds Donghae's gaze even when his eyelids start fluttering, fighting valiantly to keep open. Donghae chuckles and holds his hand over his eyes. "Go to sleep, Hyukkie."
Hyukjae does. Donghae closes his eyes too, but although his entire body is relaxed, sated, luxuriating in the feel of Hyukjae's leg between his, he can't drop into sleep quite yet. He lies half-awake instead, dozing lightly, listening to the silence around them. If intimacy – happiness – has a sound, this would be it. This; Hyukjae's steady breathing; the occasional hum of a car engine down the street next to them; Hyukjae's breathing turning into tiny snores. Footsteps outside; a room door clicking shut. He turns Hyukjae onto his side, and Hyukjae stops snoring.
If happiness has a physical touch, this would be it. Hyukjae's heartbeat beneath his palm, slow and steady, more wondrous than anything Donghae can conceive of. The warmth of his flushed skin. The perspiration drying on his forehead. The smoothness of his hip. The faint lines of half-defined muscles on his stomach. The grainy roughness of his throat, the curve of his neck. Donghae rests his head against that curve, breathes slowly as the minutes tick languorously by, as though they have world enough and time.
In days after, in years, he will try to piece together the moments of that night, recreate the sensations. But memory has a strange way of keeping certain details and throwing others away, and so he'll remember the touch of Hyukjae's lips but not of his cheek, the click of the door closing but not of the car humming down the road. The one thing he will remember, clearly, through the years of blurring and whitewashing, is the remembrance that if happiness could be a tangible something that you could touch, listen to, sleep and breathe against – that had been it.
They begin to find ways previously deemed impossible of scrounging out an hour here, two hours there, from their ridiculously packed schedules to fly down the highway to Seokyo Guesthouse and claim Room 316 as theirs; always Room 316, with its anonymous double bed and two soft pillows that sink beneath their necks.
Sometimes they don't have sex. Hyukjae is too drained from his exploits on variety shows to want to do anything but lie with his head on Donghae's lap; Donghae is too exhausted from juggling the recording of Explorers and learning enough Mandarin to rap in it to want to do anything but curl his fingers in Hyukjae's hair. Sometimes they talk, and Hyukjae makes Donghae laugh; sometimes they shower together, and Donghae bites a bruise into Hyukjae's shoulder. Days seem crowded into those stolen hours; all hours spent outside Room 316 begin to feel strange, unreal, somehow dissatisfying. Donghae doesn't want to admit it, but there are times, now, when he feels frightened of this consuming passion, that Hyukjae won't be able to keep up, or that such intense happiness never can last in this vicious, topsy turvy world.
Then Hyukjae says something along the lines of, "too much thinking makes you completely unsexy", and Donghae pushes him and maybe smacks him, for good measure. And he thinks, there's so much of life ahead for us. And he thinks, these will be the days that we'll look back to when we're old and remember that we were young, and beautiful, and we dared to pursue happiness and catch whatever we could of it in our palms.
"Donghae," says Heechul one evening, appearing in his bedroom with Heebum on his shoulder. "I'm going to close the door."
Donghae mmm's and receives, quite happily, a lapful of cat. It has been less than half an hour since Hyukjae, headed to SBS for Star King, drove him back home after a slow, leisurely three hours at Room 316 where they'd held off their orgasms until they almost blacked out with it. Hyukjae had kissed his wrists and told him that he loved him. Donghae isn't sure if it is biologically possible, but he's still tingling.
Heechul effectively rids him of all tingles in the next moment when he kicks Donghae out of post-coital glow straight into serious, I-mean-business confrontation. "Are you out of your goddamn mind," Heechul yells, and pauses to take a breath. "You and Hyukjae, are you both absolutely fucking insane."
"What are you talking about, hyung?"
"Don't even try to act innocent with me. You've been sneaking off every day to some hideout to do whatever it is that you do, don't tell me about it, I don't want to know, but are you out of your mind? Do you have any idea what the paparazzi would do to you if they found out?"
If a truck could be bashed through one's consciousness, Donghae's sure that he's just had a dozen trucks run over his. "How do you know?"
"Do you think I'm stupid? The two of you disappear for unexplained, unaccounted for hours every day and you return looking stupidly happy and everyone wonders where you've been. If you thought that you could actually do this without someone noticing, or maybe you did really think that we would just not notice that you go missing every single fucking day or that we'll think you're out for coffee, I'm here to enlighten you to just how wrong you are."
Heebum jumps angrily off Donghae's lap when Heechul kicks the bed again just to drive home his point a little more strongly, and Donghae stands up, simply because he feels vulnerable sitting down when someone's screaming at him. "Hyung, it's not as though we're harming anybody. I know you don't like me being with Hyukjae, but we're together, and that's that. We love each other, and there's nothing you can do that will change that. We've found a place that nobody knows about, and it's not likely that the paparazzi will ever find us there, so if everyone will just keep quiet about it it'll be fine, we'll keep out of your faces and you won't ever have to know…"
"You're not getting it, are you?" Heechul says, softer now, but still pacing up and down the length of the room, "Sure, I don't want you together, but you are, and there isn't a thing I can do about it so it's your business and I don't have any right to interfere. You can be with Hyukjae for as long as you fucking want, you get it? What I'm yelling at you about right now, in summary, is that I don't care that you've found a place where you can do whatever you like without worrying that Sungmin or Kibum is going to drop by and give you a nice little shock, but I do care when you go so often that everyone starts wondering where you are! For fuck's sake, Donghae, have some fucking control over yourself. You can't keep this up forever without someone finding out and then where will you be? Definitely not on stage with the rest of us, you get me?"
Donghae sits down suddenly. "Basically, you want us to go there less often."
"Yes," says Heechul. "Don't play around with fire, Donghae. You won't know how to deal with it when it blows up in your face."
Donghae looks at his toes and says nothing, and Heechul stops in front of him. "Think about it," he orders. "If you want to continue on with Hyukjae, this is something you're going to have to think about."
"Don't…," says Donghae. "I get it."
Heechul bends over and gives him a quick, smothering hug. "Control," he emphasises, and whirls out of the room as suddenly as he'd come in.
Donghae gets up, takes a shower, watches some TV with Shindong. Siwon drops by with dumplings from their favourite Chinese restaurant and they gather round the living room, letting soup drip out of the dumplings and teasing Ryeowook about his terrible chopstick skills, and Donghae feels great. He feels fine. This is Super Junior, this is his family, this is his home. Ryeowook says, I wish we could live like this forever, I can't imagine not living with you guys, and Shindong says, I've just gotten to know this girl in my former high school and I think I might be a little in love with her. Siwon just about dies over that, because Siwon is a huge sap and loves to hear everyone's romance stories.
It's eleven o' clock when he goes to bed, curling up against his pillow. At eleven-thirty, he's kneeling over the toilet bowl, puking water and remnants of dumpling into Seoul's sewage system. He rests his head against the cold white ceramic when he's done, swallows the sickening taste of bile at the back of his throat, and wants Hyukjae and wants his mum and wants to be anywhere but here.
They're six hours into the filming of the seventh episode of Explorers when Hyukjae, stupid on his feet from too many hours of sleep deprivation, slips while stretching himself across dividing platforms and falls awkwardly into layers of Styrofoam balls. He's up in half a minute, fingers scrabbling on the sides of the platform as he attempts to pull himself up, but the look on his face sends Jungsu, Youngwoon, and about three staff members flying towards him.
Donghae only unfreezes himself when Hyukjae's sitting on the floor with his foot in the hands of their medical staff member, someone they always have on hand in case of any accidents and someone they always hope never to call to duty. Hyukjae's biting his bottom lip so hard that he's bleeding, and Sungmin kneels down beside him, murmuring comforting words as he thumbs the blood away.
And then, before he even realises it, jealousy hits Donghae like a hurricane, so hard that he's shocked at it, had never imagined that he could be capable of feeling like this. "Get away from him," he says to Sungmin.
"Why?" Sungmin looks confused. "His lip is bleeding."
"Just go," Donghae says, his voice low.
"Donghae," Hyukjae says, his voice shaded with anger, but Sungmin goes anyway with a little suspicious wrinkle between his eyebrows. Donghae kneels down beside Hyukjae, takes his hand and cradles it in both of his. "How did you even fall?" he asks, ignoring the very narrowed-eye looks that Kibum, squatting by Hyukjae's knees, is giving him.
"I don't know," Hyukjae says, wincing as the staff member touches his rapidly swelling ankle. "I just suddenly felt dizzy."
"You scared the shit out of me."
"I know, I'm sorry." Hyukjae won't meet his eyes, and Donghae's suddenly aware of the many eyes directed towards his back. He contemplates letting go of Hyukjae's hand, but he can't quite do it yet, not when Hyukjae is beginning to perspire with pain. Still, Hyukjae pulls away when the staff member announces that he needs to get his ankle bandaged off the set, and Donghae's left staring as Hyukjae hobbles away without a look back.
The filming finally recommences ten minutes later with Hyukjae's ankle bound so tightly that he says his cells are suffocating. Youngwoon says that's funny, serves you right for being a clumsy ass anyway, and Hyukjae says, it's not fair to pick on someone who's injured. Everyone ignores that Hyukjae and Donghae are standing several conspicuous feet away from each other, and Siwon is the only one who looks in their direction, puzzled, when Donghae goes up to him during a break and says softly, "Are you mad at me?"
Hyukjae rubs his face in the way he always does after a variety; easing out the strain in his cheek muscles, or so he says. "Donghae…" his voice comes out like a sigh. "Let's not do this now; I really don't want to."
"But what?" Donghae persists. "What did I do wrong?"
"Nothing. God, Donghae, just…we'll deal with this later, okay? Siwon's looking at us, damn it."
"So let him look."
"No. Go away. Please."
"Wait a minute, you let Sungmin hyung touch you in that way, and now you're angry at me for not liking it?"
"Fuck, Donghae!" Hyukjae snaps. "Just go away!"
So Donghae does, and he doesn't say anything even when Hyukjae's face is so grey with pain by the time they wrap it up two and a half hours later that Seunghwan bundles him into a cab and sends him back to the dorm ahead of the rest.
"What were you thinking?" Jungsu asks unhappily when he and Donghae are standing by the exit to the parking lot, waiting for everyone else to gather. "You were all over him; you can't expect the rest to not notice when you're making it so obvious, you know."
"Maybe I want them to notice," Donghae says. "They've been kept in the dark for too long."
"Don't be so naïve, Donghae!" Jungsu hisses. "This isn't just about you or Hyukjae. If the company finds out, you're not the only one who's going to face shit. Seunghwan hyung and Kibum hyung are going to get it big time too. Stop thinking about yourself for a millisecond and let the thought of others filter through your selfishness. Please."
Donghae looks away from Jungsu's face to the gloomily lit parking lot. He feels nauseated, as though he's been drinking too much on an empty stomach. Maybe it's over-tiredness from a full day's worth of schedule. Maybe if they put him on dividing platforms now, he'd fall too. "I get it," he says flatly.
"Donghae-yah," Jungsu says, kinder now, "I know how much you want to be close when you're starting out. It's not my business to get into what you two do together, but it does become my concern when…"
He cuts himself off abruptly when Sungmin, Siwon and Kibum come up, all yawning with beanies pulled low over their foreheads. Siwon is the only one who bothers covering his mouth.
"What's wrong, hyung?" Kibum asks, putting his arm around Donghae's shoulders. "You look pretty upset."
"I'm tired," Donghae says, pushing Kibum's arm away. Kibum chews his bottom lip and Donghae feels bad, knows it's an awful thing to pull away so blatantly from Kibum's attempt at comfort, but he's quite sure that he'll scream if anyone touches him now. He huddles into himself when they pile into the van, pulls his hat over his face and plugs his ears with music (when he gets back to the dorm, he doesn't remember a single song that had played) and he doesn't want to see the inquiring, baffled looks that he knows the rest are exchanging in the thick blanket of his unnatural silence.
Hyukjae is asleep when they arrive and Donghae doesn't go into the big bedroom to check on him. Sungmin's sitting on the edge of his bed massaging his feet with his night-time moisturising lotion and talking about something, but his words don't make sense, they're just sounds, vibrations in the air. Donghae grunts a couple of times in response and Sungmin gives up on making conversation when he pulls the blanket over himself, turns away to face the wall.
He wants to break something then, to throw one of his rare but famous tantrums, to scream at someone about how unfair the world is and how he can't stand another minute of Hyukjae's paranoia and Jungsu's superiority and Heechul yelling at him about control, but he lies still instead and he doesn't quite know how he gets there but he's in Room 316 again, and the late night Japanese restaurant on the opposite side of the road is turning off its sign board. The two pillows are depressing under his weight, and Hyukjae's face is snuggled into his shoulder, his arm across his waist, breaths coming slow and regular. He's warm under the blanket, a little too warm, but the intimacy makes Donghae choke. Makes him reach out in his single bed; makes him think of all the nights that Hyukjae had laid beside him, kissing him, whispering words into his skin. He feels intoxicated by frustration, by desire, by loneliness. A fear of the loneliness. A fear that he has somehow damaged things. He falls asleep sometime that night with the jumbled mess of thoughts still working at the back of his mind.
And so it doesn't help, really, not at all, when they finally get to talk one day later in Hyukjae's car and Hyukjae says, "Maybe this whole China thing is going to be good for us. We need the time apart."
"What the fuck are you talking about?" Donghae demands.
"You're too much, Donghae, you think that you're in love and everyone should know it, and so you don't give a damn what you do, you push Sungmin hyung away without thinking that he's been close to me for longer than we've been friends, and you try to pick a fight with me while Siwon is looking, and you don't think for one moment that this is not what I want."
He doesn't understand. He wants to shout, goddamn it, don't talk in circles. Say exactly what it is that you're so upset about. He says instead, "You done criticising me yet?"
"You just don't get it, do you?"
"No, I don't! What exactly is it that you want? You want to hide like some kind of criminal forever? You want to pretend that we don't exist whenever it suits you? I'm not a toy, Hyukjae! You can't just wind me up when you want me and then chuck me in a cupboard when you don't!"
"That's exactly, precisely, what you're doing!"
Hyukjae stares at him with a sort of bewilderment, and Donghae has to look away. "You think that I'm just playing with you?" Hyukjae says, and the pain in his voice practically throbs, it's so palpable, "After all that we've done together, you think that I'm playing at this?"
"It's not like you're giving me any chance to think otherwise," Donghae says, because hey, he has the license to be hurt, too.
"I'll pretend you didn't say that," Hyukjae says very quietly, "because you don't really mean it."
"Stop patronising me."
"I'm not a child, Hyukjae. Try remembering that once in a while."
"If that's the case, why are you throwing this tantrum at me?"
"Because you want to live in a world where you don't have to face anyone with your true feelings and everything is going to be happy and rainbowy," Donghae says. "Because sneaking around is apparently enough for you, and you get mad at me when I can't always keep my feelings under the amount of secrecy that's acceptable to you. Because you think that I don't feel any pressure at all, you think you're the only one, you don't know that both Jungsu hyung and Heechul hyung have been at me at this and I'm exploding, Hyukjae, I really am, and I will if one more fucking person comes up to me and talks to me like I'm a spoiled kid. You don't understand that I have my own dreams for this relationship, that I want to hold your hand in public and show the world that we belong together, damn it. You don't understand how long I've wanted to be with you, that I've spent half my fucking life wanting and loving you, and if you can be satisfied with a couple of hours here and there in a hotel room, I can't."
"But it's what we have," Hyukjae murmurs, "and if we ask for anything more, we're going to feel it far, far worse than we are now. I know Jungsu hyung and Heechul hyung have been at you – they've been at me too, okay, I know, but if we push this we'll lose whatever support they have for us now and it would be so bad, we wouldn't even want to be together anymore."
"What do you want to do, then? What? What?" His voice is hoarse, and he hates how weak it sounds, but clearing his throat would be even weaker. Donghae might look and sound like a puppy sometimes, but he does have a stubbornness that could break fists.
Hyukjae doesn't answer immediately. He gets out of the car, walks towards the nearest convenience store and Donghae's almost convinced that that was his way of making a run for it when Hyukjae returns with a mineral water bottle that he passes, silently, to him.
"Why do you have to do this?" Donghae asks. "I'm mad at you, we're shouting at each other, why do you have to do this?"
"Because if you don't want to lose your voice entirely and get murdered by Seunghwan hyung, you'd better drink the water."
"This doesn't solve anything," Donghae says, and drinks.
They sit in silence for a while, watching cars backing in and out of the parking lots. It's strange how it seemed that they'd gotten so far; they'd found a room to themselves, a room shuttered away from the rest of the world, a room that they can use anytime, a room that they've undergone so much sharing of soul and body, and yet here they are in a parking lot yet again, wading through their differences. Hyukjae surfaces first, because he is – he is, Donghae admits, even in the flush of anger, the more reasonable one, the one who considers others all the time, the one who would buy mineral water for the person he's fighting with.
"We'll tell them," he says. "But not everyone at once – Siwonnie will hate it, and so will Yesung hyung and possibly even Kyuhyunnie. We'll tell Sungmin hyung and Youngwoon hyung first, and if they will support us, it'll be – easier – telling everyone else."
Donghae wraps his fingers around the mineral water bottle. "Okay."
They're silent for a while longer, then Donghae turns to him. "Do you…Sungmin hyung…"
"No," Hyukjae says.
"Okay," Donghae says again.
They're not wholly at ease yet, but when Donghae puts his hand over Hyukjae's, they keep their hands linked until a little of the awkwardness goes away. Just before they get out of the car, Hyukjae kisses him, and he tastes of strawberry milk, and sweetness, and longing; and Donghae puts his hands on the back of his neck and kisses him back, wholly and hungrily. Hyukjae makes a sound at the back of this throat, a little pathetic, keening whine, and it sort of breaks Donghae's heart, because he's always wanted to make Hyukjae smile, and he's beginning to realise that he'd been overreaching himself.
"Donghae," Hyukjae says, and he drops his forehead onto Hyukjae's shoulder, breathes him in, reminds himself that it was love, really, that brought them together. Perhaps it will keep them adrift. Perhaps it will keep them holding on when practically nobody wants them to be together, and they're shouting at each other because they don't know how to deal with it; they've never been here before and it scares them shitless.
Let's do this together, Donghae says into Hyukjae's mouth. Into his ear. Into the skin over his chest, hopefully on a course headed straight towards his heart.
In March, Seunghwan buys Super Junior M's air tickets to Beijing. You'll be there for six weeks, he says. You'll be fine. We'll keep you so busy with promotions that you won't even have time to feel homesick.
Sungmin takes Donghae out for a celebratory meal, and Shindong and Hyukjae tag along just because it would be mean to leave them out. At the last minute, Kyuhyun insists on coming too, because he's a member of SJ-M too and it's silly to have a celebratory meal with just one SJ-M member. They go to their favourite BBQ restaurant and everyone wants samgyupsal, but Sungmin says he wants something more expensive, it's a celebration after all, and orders the galbi that everyone had secretly been hankering for but had been too polite to order.
"I don't want to go to China," Donghae says, sad and homesick already, poking his chopsticks viciously into the kimchi.
"Stop being such a baby," Sungmin says. "It's a great opportunity. You're going to be huge in China, and you're going to see so many different places and meet so many people. You don't know how much I want to be in your place."
"You don't know how much I want to be in yours," Donghae says, and doesn't add, to continue being in the room next to Hyukjae, to lie on his drool-soaked pillow in the mornings and sit with him on rooftops and never know what it's like to have to live without him.
"At least there'll be Korean food in Beijing," Shindong says.
"I'm glad as long as it means I don't have to be waken up by Teukie hyung coming in at three a.m. and bumping into my bed," Kyuhyun says.
They're halfway through the meal and down to the fourth bottle of soju when Donghae looks at Sungmin turning the galbi pieces over with a little concentrated wrinkle between his eyebrows. And he remembers Sungmin at fifteen with his arm around Hyukjae, Sungmin walking down a snowy street with them after DBSK's debut, Sungmin lying on a field with his head tucked into Hyukjae's shoulder. Many of his adolescent memories are blurred, and sometimes he can't remember what they'd been doing or where they'd been, but in all of those blurred memories, Sungmin had been right there beside them. "Hyung," he says.
"Yeah?" Sungmin's fiddling with his chopsticks now, balancing rice and pork belly, and Donghae suddenly reaches out and grabs his wrist, sending rice scattering all over the table. Sungmin jumps in surprise.
"Listen," he says.
"Donghae?" Hyukjae touches his leg under the table.
"I'm with Hyukjae," Donghae says, and he's surprised at the lack of tremor in his voice. "We're together. As a real couple, I mean. We're in love. We've been in love for a while now. I just want to let you know."
"Wha…" Shindong begins, and Kyuhyun doesn't say anything, but the next time they look at him, he has knocked over his cup.
Sungmin just stares at him, blinking, mouth half-open, and Donghae repeats, "Hyukjae and I are together."
"Hyuk?" Sungmin turns to look at Hyukjae.
"Come on," Shindong says, "don't kid around now, we're not…"
"Yes," says Hyukjae, looking straight back at Sungmin, and Donghae thinks he knows, but not really; he'll only know years later, when he has replayed the scene so frequently in his mind that he's become familiar with every nuance and shade, just how much courage it took Hyukjae at that moment to look Sungmin in the face. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier, but I didn't know when was the right time, or whether you wanted to know – but yes. It's true. Donghae and I are together."
"You're gay?" Shindong asks.
"Yes," says Hyukjae, still looking at Sungmin.
"When?" Shindong wants to know. "How? Does anyone else know? Have you been…oh, so that's why you two have been sneaking off every day! I thought there was something weird about it."
The waitress comes up to change the BBQ platter and they sit watching silently as she expertly slides in a new one and deposits the chicken bulgogi onto it. Kyuhyun asks for a towel to mop up his tea with.
"I think," says Sungmin when the waitress has left, "we're almost done with this bottle. Do you want another one?"
"Yes," Kyuhyun says.
"Hyung." Hyukjae is gripping his chopsticks so hard that his knuckles are white. "It's okay if you don't want to accept it, or if you don't understand it. We'll give you all the time you need. You don't have to worry about being upset by us, or anything…"
"What the hell," Shindong says, leaning over and pushing Hyukjae's head. "So you and Donghae love each other. What's wrong with that? It's love, isn't it? We don't need time to understand something as simple as that."
Hyukjae smiles at that, a little strained but a smile nonetheless, and Kyuhyun says off-handedly, "Does this mean you'll be making long soppy calls to each other when we go to China?"
"You can use our room," Sungmin says. Everyone looks at him and he backs up against his chair with mock horror on his face, but then he reaches over to take Hyukjae's hand in his. "So you don't, you know, have everyone listening in on your call."
All those blurred memories, all the walks in the snow and down windy sidewalks and video games and muddy soccer balls, and Donghae might be crying too, the same way that tears are leaking down Hyukjae's face. Kyuhyun's mouth is twisted at an odd angle, like he can't quite process what's going on, but he leaves an arm over Donghae's shoulders. Shindong's dumping chicken onto their plates, saying eat up, eat up, and he pokes Hyukjae's shoulder and teases him a bit about how lucky he is to get the guy whom pretty much every fan of theirs is weak-kneed for.
"Don't worry," says Sungmin. "I'll stand by you."
So this, Donghae thinks, is how it feels to be accepted.
None of the members go to the airport to send them off, which is reasonable since there'll be a stampede there anyway, so farewells are said in the dorm. Jungsu gives them packets of hot tea and issues last-minute advice to Hankyung to eat properly, don't skip meals, make sure everyone else is adapting. "It's not like I'll leave them to fend for themselves in my own home country," Hankyung says, slightly offended.
Jungsu smiles. "No, you're right. You'll be a great leader."
Donghae runs into the big bedroom and finds Hyukjae sitting alone on his bed, re-reading his favourite issue of One Piece. "I'm taking this," he announces, and grabs the monkey with the oversized head.
"You can't take that!" Hyukjae protests, making a futile snatch for his sleeping partner.
"Of course I can. Even though it smells like you."
"You don't have space for him in your luggage," Hyukjae says.
"Watch me," Donghae says. "I'll stuff him in headfirst and flatten his legs. This way I'll know you won't cheat on me with him while I'm in Beijing."
"You…you insecure ass," Hyukjae sputters. "If anything happens to him we're through, you hear me?"
Donghae tucks the monkey under his arm and leans forward. Their mouths cling briefly, wetly, and Donghae pulls away before it can get any deeper, pushes his hand under Hyukjae's skirt to finger his warm skin.
"Be safe," Hyukjae says.
"I'll call you every day."
"This is why I'm insecure," Donghae says, pouting.
"This is how you make yourself insecure," Hyukjae says.
They play with each other's fingers for a moment. Hyukjae smiles when Donghae licks the tips of his fingers playfully. "You'll just die without me."
"I will," Donghae says without missing a beat. "I love you, Lee Hyukjae. I'm so, absolutely, stupidly, fuckingly in love with you."
Hyukjae's mouth opens, and Donghae takes advantage of it to run his tongue into his mouth. Hyukjae sighs and pulls him close for a beat, and they're kissing, and kissing, and kissing, before Hyukjae reaches around him and snatches the monkey away. "Can't let him go all the way to China without me, sorry," he laughs.
"Cheater!" Donghae protests loudly.
Hyukjae reaches into his closet and throws a random shirt into Donghae's face. "This smells like me, too. And it's all you're going to get."
"Unloving bastard," Donghae grumbles, and smiles a bit anyway, just because they're being silly and it feels sort of wonderful, and brilliant, and lasting.
He manages to secure the window seat when they're on the plane, settling in comfortably with Hyukjae's shirt over his knees. The lights go off and the engine rumbles and roars and then Seoul is spread out beneath him, little streetlights and cars moving down highways and buildings as tall as his thumb, but he doesn't look down, doesn't brood, because he knows for sure that what's down there is still going to be waiting for him when he comes back.
THIS TOOK FOREVER AND EVER, I AM SO SORRY ;_;
previous: part three; a growing up | next: part five; a separation