nc-17; 8724 words; multi-chapter
there was a lifetime in each other, if they chose to see it.
warning for overwhelming sap!
part zero; a moment | part one; a past | part two; a denial | part three; a growing up | part four; a togetherness | part five; a separation | part six; a confession
2009 begins with Donghae discovering French love songs.
Quand il me prend dans ses bras, il me parle tout bas, je vois la vie en rose, he attempts to sing, putting all his effort into mimicking the French sounds. But when all the effort goes to waste because Hyukjae does not understand a single word of French and cannot be convinced to learn French just for the purpose of understanding Donghae's mangled pronunciation, Donghae decides to print out the Korean translation to make life a little more romantic for both of them. Quand il me prend dans ses bras, he sings to Hyukjae while moving his finger over the Korean words. When he takes me in his arms and speaks softly to me, I see life rose-tinted.
Hyukjae starts to develop a liking for French love songs too. He says that they have a way of expressing things that is really quite sweet and artistic and he can take inspiration from their lyrics when he writes his raps. Donghae takes it to mean that Hyukjae simply likes the implication that he makes life rose-tinted.
They spend the giddiest evenings twirling round and round in Hyukjae's tiny room, scrapping knees against the bedframe and knocking into his chair as they sing la, la la la la la la la into each other's ears, breathless because they're laughing so hard. They're not in his room at all. They're dancing down the streets of Paris where lovers dream the day away under awnings at sidewalk cafes and kiss on top of the world at night. Hyukjae says he'll go to Paris the minute they're given any sort of chance at a vacation. Donghae says, put me in your suitcase when you go, and clenches a fake rose between his teeth that sadly Hyukjae refuses to take from him because he says it's full of saliva.
Siwon quickly gets infatuated with their latest kick too, partly because he hates it when Hyukjae and Donghae leave him out of anything and partly because French music is classy and therefore very much up his alley. He drags Kyuhyun into it, saying something about how French and wine go together, and since Kyuhyun's in it, Sungmin and Ryeowook tag along to this latest fad too. They end up spending plenty of spare evenings playing French music on the stereo in the 11th floor living room, dancing and drinking Sungmin's wine.
"This is fun," Ryeowook says happily when they're sprawled on the couch sipping Sungmin's favourite Burgundy with 'Je Ne Veux Pas Travailler' as dessert. "It's taking the 'sorry sorry' out of my head."
"Sorry Sorry is making it hard for me to fall asleep at night," says Sungmin. "It keeps playing on and on in my head. Sorry sorry sorry sorry. Like some kind of scary zombie chanting."
"Don't say our song is like zombie chanting, hyung," Ryeowook protests.
"It's going to be a hit though," says Donghae. "I can feel it!"
"It better be," Hyukjae says with a shade of gloom in his voice. "The hit's been a long time coming."
The French songs had kept him occupied for a while, but they can't completely disguise the fact that Hyukjae's on-and-off moody these days, sometimes dancing with Donghae and scrapping knees and laughing in his silly, crinkly-eyed way, other times sitting by himself glaring aimlessly at a wall. When Donghae tries to wheedle some confidences out of him, all Hyukjae chooses to say is that he's stressed – he's been spending endless hours per day in the practice room working on the choreography for Sorry Sorry with the guys the company flew in from America, and he's tired of talking through a translator and trying to figure out who should go where during which part of the song.
All that would make sense to Donghae, could qualify as legitimate reasons for moodiness – but it's Hyukjae. Hyukjae, who doesn't even realise how obvious his lying is – who loves dancing and would walk barefoot on broken glass if that would make him a better dancer; who admires Nick Bass with all his heart and could barely speak for admiration when Nick first walked into the practice room; who has so much passion for the upcoming third album and Sorry Sorry; who takes so much pride in being the group's lead dancer and choreographer. There's something there, and Donghae throws a couple of tantrums and even resorts to sulking one whole day in hopes of drawing Hyukjae out of his shell. But there's one thing that has remained constant about Hyukjae all through the years and that is that nobody short of God can make him disclose his secrets when he doesn't want to.
So Donghae gives up and tries to get him into bed more often instead, to woo him with cartons of strawberry milk and fruity mocktails that he concocts in the kitchen and as many romantic cheesy lines that he can think of in hopes that it will accelerate the passing of Hyukjae's bad mood. But even though Hyukjae drinks everything and smiles at Donghae's dialogue, he doesn't have much spirit or energy for sex, or for anything else, really, that requires some effort and contribution on his part. I'm just tired, he says, and in Hyukjae-speak it means that there's something bothering him but he doesn't want to tell. Donghae sighs and flips on the Edith Piaf just because, just because for five minutes it makes Hyukjae smile and sing and look like the Lee Hyukjae of old again. These days Hyukjae's acting too much like Eunhyuk.
Eunhyuk. That fascinating alter ego of Hyukjae, so much like Hyukjae and yet not at all. Eunhyuk had started out being something like Hyukjae, smelly feet and playfulness and vulnerability and ridiculously big smiles that you could drown in, and morphed somewhere along the way into being a whole separate identity. When Hyukjae has slipped into Eunhyuk, he doesn't belong to Donghae. He's a beautiful man decked out in a stylishly modern suit, going through the moves of Sorry Sorry without error and with a certain swagger that is, really, the key thing that sets him apart from everyone else – look at him move now, the way he's already owning the dance, adding his own touches, cocking his proud head.
Eunhyuk belongs wholesale to the fans, to the world, and his caress leaves Donghae unsatisfied. He's not the boy who kissed him on the rooftop amid a grey drizzling morning, nor the boy who'd looked at him so trustfully in a dingy motel somewhere between Mokpo and Seoul, nor the boy who'd laid beside him letting sunlight catch onto their silver rings. The fans sigh at the way he seems to cling to Eunhyuk day and night, practically throwing himself at him, but Donghae finds it ironic that they're going into raptures over what's creeping cold fingers around his heart.
He starts spending more nights in his own room because Hyukjae says that they need to conserve all their energy for their comeback by having proper nights' sleep without being squashed together. It's alright in a sense, because Jungsu is hardly ever home and sharing a room with Jungsu is pretty much the same as having it to yourself, but once he stops going down to the 11th floor it's as though they're living in separate blocks instead of floors.
"I hardly ever see you now," he complains to Hyukjae when they're in a van heading for their album photoshoot.
"What do you mean? You see me every day," Hyukjae says.
"I never see you privately. It's always for work."
"But we're working all the time," Hyukjae reasons. "I don't even remember the last time I went out for fun." There's a little wrinkle between his eyes that Donghae hadn't seen before; when had that wrinkle grown and rooted itself in Hyukjae's skin? When had Hyukjae started losing even more weight?
"You're so different," he says, alarmed. "You look – you look like you're sick."
"Hey," Youngwoon says from the front. "Don't bother Eunhyukkie about it, Donghae. It's not his fault that we're all tired enough to qualify for hospitalisation. And if we look sick, guess it shows that we're still human and not entirely robots."
"Something like that," says Hyukjae, then relents at the look of worried puzzlement that Donghae gives him. He moves his mouth to Donghae's ear and drops his voice. "I'll tell you everything soon. I promise. I just can't yet, and not here, with everyone always around."
"What is it?" Donghae whispers back, but when Hyukjae shakes his head and resumes looking out of the window, Donghae knows that this is another time that sulking and demanding an answer will not get him one.
Their comeback is in a month's time, and he watches as the hours flow by in a current of dancing, singing, breathing techniques, formations, rehearsals, meetings. It's Super Junior's big comeback after more than a year, the highly anticipated third album, and of course they're not going to be allowed any personal time. The days are more hectic than the hours, and the hours are more hectic than the minutes; it's not entirely clear to Donghae anymore, or, he's sure, to anyone else for that matter, what exactly it is that they're doing. They're balancing on it, says Jongwoon. They're staying afloat, but barely.
Just as Donghae's made up his mind that he has to kidnap Hyukjae to have some private time with him, the whammy falls. Heechul wants out. Shit blows sky high.
It falls like lead onto Donghae's heart.
When they do things now, they do them quietly, as though the slightest sound will drive another member away. There's Hankyung, sitting secretively in his bedroom with the door closed; Youngwoon, closing the door gently behind him when he drops by; Jungsu, glaring silently at the sheets of choreography in the kitchen. And Donghae, wandering around the dorm feeling as though the walls are about to pull apart.
It has been coming for a long time, he realises. Since the second album, Heechul has been mentioning casually that he should probably try for a solo career, but Donghae had been too busy with SJ-M activities and caught up with Hyukjae's strange mood swings to pay much attention to it. It had just been Heechul's usual bluster, background noise, but then it suddenly became real and Donghae is sick with guilt. Or would be, if he could develop from being numb with shock.
"I mean it," says Heechul when Donghae attempts to talk to him one late night. Heechul looks tired and irritable and depressed, and most definitely not in the best frame of mind for a heart to heart. Donghae wonders sadly why everyone seems to be moody, why the joy seems to have been taken out of their comeback.
"But why, hyung? Why can't we be together?"
"We're not even together anymore. Look at Kibummie."
"But that's Kibummie, he's always wanted to be an actor. You…"
"I've always wanted to be an actor too. What, is Kibummie the only one who has the privilege to leave to do what he wants?"
"I'm not saying that. I'm just saying that…"
Donghae stares at him, and Heechul looks quickly away because there are tears in Donghae's eyes and that has always been something that Heechul can't stand.
"Okay," says Donghae. "If it's what makes you happy."
"It is," says Heechul, and drinks.
He's lying asleep on the kitchen table the next morning when Donghae wakes up and leaves the dorm for the practice room. Hyukjae had texted him last night asking if he was up to an early morning practice, and Donghae doesn't really, wants to just stay in bed and brood, but he's not about to let go of an opportunity for a few precious hours alone with Hyukjae. Hyukjae calls to say that he'd woken up earlier than expected and driven to the office first, so Donghae goes alone to the parking lot, retrieves his car and drives out into the early morning roads of Seoul. The sunlight glares into his eyes. He's running a little late, so the rush hour has caught up with him, jamming the roads and slowing traffic down to a crawl. Everywhere, people are on their way to work – businessmen in their winter suits, office workers in their button-downs and long coats, a few young men in jeans; Donghae wonders what it's like to be part of such a populace, to work 9am to 6pm every day, to be unaware of the safety and security of routine.
It's slightly after 8:30am when he parks his car in the SM building underground parking lot and takes the elevator up to the dance studios. Hyukjae, huddled in a corner of the room with his headphones on, looks up from where he's doodling on his hand with his fingers. "I got us coffee," he says.
"It's probably cold by now," says Donghae, sitting beside him. Hyukjae shrugs and hands him a Styrofoam cup.
It's latte with plenty of sugar syrup, the only coffee that Donghae drinks. It's still lukewarm.
Hyukjae takes off his headphones and stares down at his fingers. "I know this is really bad timing considering Heechul hyung and all, but…I think that I've dragged it out long enough, and it's not fair to you. Just let me tell you the whole thing before you…say anything?"
"Are you breaking up with me?" Donghae asks. When he sips the latte again, it's tasteless on his tongue.
"No," Hyukjae says, looking at him with genuine astonishment. "Was that what you've been thinking?"
"You've been behaving so weirdly, like you don't care anymore about our relationship…"
"I do," says Hyukjae. "This whole thing is because I care too much, it's…Donghae, I was…blackmailed by my friend."
He says the words like they're stones in his throat, and Donghae doesn't process it at first. When they finally make sense to him, he doesn't know what to say. He doesn't know where to look. He doesn't, in fact, realise that he's just dropped his coffee.
Hyukjae doesn't realise it either. He goes on in that strange voice that doesn't sound like his own, all sort of stiff and cold, "I went back home last June, when you were still in China – hung out with some of my friends from high school. We were messing around, and they grabbed my phone to look for female stars' phone numbers…and then they went to my photo gallery and saw a picture of us."
Donghae cuts his fingernails into his palm. "But there aren't any…we've never taken any weird…"
"They saw the one with us kissing…the night before you left for China…you remember?"
Donghae remembers. They had taken it on the spur of a moment, just as a kind of keepsake for Hyukjae, a little bit of silly fun. Hyukjae had been making funny eyes at the camera.
"It didn't leave much up to…to misinterpretation," says Hyukjae. "They asked me about it and they kept asking and asking until I gave up and said yes, I'm gay, and then they were really nice about it, said it didn't matter to them what I was. But then one of them texted me the next day telling me to meet him. So I did. He told me that he really didn't want to do this, but he owed the banks a lot of money and he – he needed two million won to get out of it. Or he would tell my family and SM and the media about…me."
"Hyukjae," says Donghae, and his voice doesn't sound like his own either, "you gave him the two million?"
Hyukjae drops his head into his hands. "I didn't know what else to do."
"But why? Why, Hyuk?"
"I held out at first. Told him that he could go to hell, I didn't stand for this kind of thing, if he wanted to tell the media then go ahead. I went back to Seoul and told Kibum hyung that there might be trouble, he might need to tell PR and get them to manage the thing if it came out in the media – but he said to hold on, if we told PR it would pretty much be broadcasting it throughout the company and we would get in big trouble with the bosses. Then that guy called me and told me that he was going to meet my parents the next day. And he wouldn't just tell them about me, he would tell them about you and all we've been doing together, and…I think I lost my head. I thought, if two million won can save my parents from learning about it in this way – and save you from being in trouble – I'd just give him the money and be done with it."
"It's done," says Hyukjae. "I can't get the money back. But it's not just him, Donghae – all the friends I told – they said it was okay but it wasn't, they've stopped talking to me cause they think that I'll try to turn them gay. I tried to get over it, I really did. But there was one friend who picked up my call – I was so close to him in school – he told me that he's sorry but I disgusted him. He said that I would break my parents' hearts, and that I had a mental problem."
"You shouldn't have given him the money," says Donghae, because that's the only thing he can handle thinking about now without wanting to howl. "You shouldn't have."
"What could I have done?" Hyukjae asks. "I couldn't let them do that to you or my parents. I thought of your name being splashed all over the tabloids and you losing all your endorsements and people turning against you like they did to me and – I'd have done anything."
Donghae says nothing at first. He should be crying, or at least tearing up. He should be wondering, fuming at such treachery and betrayal, at the hurt and bewilderment and anxiety that Hyukjae must have gone through, but Hyukjae's words have cleared his head and he's calm, thinking. About Hyukjae's war-refugee look, his weight loss, his mood swings, his retreat into being Eunhyuk; about their ignorant families, about the media, about PR, about Hyukjae's friends who had all turned against him. About how he himself had ignored all the signs of trouble, hadn't really investigated seriously into Hyukjae's moods the way he knew Hyukjae would have if it had been Donghae in his shoes; had thought that it was just a passing phase. Had, in fact, misconstrued everything into Hyukjae losing interest in the relationship and wanting to break up when all along, it had been Hyukjae who'd cared more, had thought for and of him. The traffic outside the building clears up and vanishes and the roads empty out as he sits there in the yellow-lit practice room beside the person he loves best in life and failed the most, and it is this that he realises: of the two of them, it has really been Hyukjae who's the braver one, who has doggedly pulled them forward step by step in this relationship, who has entrusted his body and soul to Donghae like a child and burned his hands to keep the rope tight between them instead of cutting it and letting them fall apart.
And it is this that Donghae concludes: he belongs to Hyukjae, belongs to him as simply and surely as Hyukjae's right hand, and regardless of what Hyukjae has to go through in future, regardless of what Hyukjae does, Donghae will be right there with him, as simply and surely as his right hand.
"Do you think we'll be able to get a couple of days off before we start promos?" he asks.
Hyukjae, still sitting huddled beside him, shrugs. "I don't know. Why?"
"I want the two of us to go back to your home. I want to tell your parents personally that we're together and that I love you and want to be with you for the rest of my life. They deserve to hear it from us firsthand before anyone else can get to them."
"I can't let you do that," Hyukjae says. "I don't want you to see how bad it can get with them."
"Come here," says Donghae, and he pulls Hyukjae close, nudges his lips apart and kisses him with his entire heart. Hyukjae is passive beneath him at first, half-responsive, but as Donghae continues kissing him, caressing his tongue and making love to his mouth, Hyukjae succumbs and gives him back all his kiss, raising his hand to Donghae's cheek and stroking his skin softly.
Donghae withdraws, but only to look Hyukjae in the eyes. "This is how much I love you. And we will go through this together."
Hyukjae closes his eyes. Nods. Says, "Yes."
"I'm sorry that I didn't do anything to help you through this…"
"You didn't know," says Hyukjae. "I didn't want to worry you when you were all the way in China, you sounded so down as it was…and I was frightened, too. I couldn't bring myself to say it out."
"Do any of the members know?"
"Not the blackmailing, but they know about the phone call I had with my friend…I was so sick after that. I wanted to die. I spent the night vomiting in the toilet until Sungmin hyung found me and he was so scared that he brought me to the doctor."
"I'm sorry," Donghae says again, and this time the tears come but all he wants to do is hold Hyukjae tight, wrap his arms around him and keep him safe, cocoon him in so much love that he'll never again have to feel any ugliness of hatred or betrayal from a judgemental world. He thinks he understands why Hyukjae had paid the two million. "I'll get those two days off," he says, "and we'll face whatever else there is together."
Hyukjae touches Donghae's face again to thumb away his tears. "Look at you," he says with sudden affection. "When did Lee Donghae get to be so manly?"
"When he decided that he had to be man enough for Lee Hyukjae," Donghae says.
"He's plenty man enough now," says Hyukjae. "I would face an army with him."
He smiles for the first time that morning and Donghae looks at him, at his beautiful face and hopeful eyes and mouth slightly swollen from kissing. "Yes," he says, and means, I would face certain death with you.
It takes a lot of bargaining and wheedling to get time off, but four days later, on a Sunday, they're driving back to Hyukjae's home on the solemn promise that they will be back by 8am on Tuesday. Hyukjae says that his family will be at church until noon, so they take their time having breakfast at the little café near Hyukjae's neighbourhood that serves the most amazing doughnuts and lattes. The day is fair, mild, and the sky is so blue that Donghae wants to paint it in poster colours. Hyukjae doesn't seem to notice, so intent is he in staring at his plate and crumbling his doughnut into an unrecognisable mush, so Donghae hums to him, rubs his foot comfortingly on Hyukjae's calf.
It's not quite noon yet when they leave the café and drive up to Hyukjae's home, still one, two, three, six, eight streetlights from the main road to the side road. The house is empty, so they kick off their shoes and go up to Hyukjae's room to wait. Donghae hasn't been there in years and he's struck by how different everything looks; there's a new comforter on Hyukjae's bed, the cabinet has been changed from the old dilapidated white cupboard to a classier wood, the Manchester United poster on his wall boasts of an entirely different team, and there are tons of photo frames crowded on the bookshelf. Hyukjae as a soft-looking baby, sucking his thumb on the bed; toddler Hyukjae posing with his sister Sora in a playground during a family holiday; Hyukjae, Junsu and Sungmin making stupid faces; Hyukjae and Donghae as they were at fifteen, gawky and muddied and laughing after a game of football. Then Donghae realises that he is actually quite prevalent among the photographs; his face seems to be everywhere in different stages of teens and young adulthood. There he is, fooling around on an escalator with Hyukjae in Malaysia, eating Pad Thai in Bangkok, and there he is again, posing with the 'Twins' CD, squishing his face against Bada's.
"I like your interior decorating," he says teasingly, picking out a frame that has him and Hyukjae smiling against the background of the sea in Mokpo.
"We've been to a lot of places, haven't we?" Hyukjae says.
"Not that many," says Donghae. "We haven't been to Paris yet."
Hyukjae does an exaggerated twirl, sings a line from La Vie En Rose, and then gets cut off abruptly because Donghae is backing him onto the bed, pushing him down and kissing that maddening mouth. "Lee Hyukjae," says Donghae, and can't seem to stop all the endearments, all the cheesy love names from tumbling out of his soul, "my sweetheart, darling, lover, love…"
"Go on," encourages Hyukjae, sneaking his hands under Donghae's shirt to caress his back.
"My love," says Donghae, because he's run out of endearments but doesn't want to stop just yet.
"Your love," Hyukjae says, and doesn't protest when Donghae moves a hand to his pants zipper, tugging until it's undone and pushing it down to Hyukjae's knees. Hyukjae's cock is hot against his cheek when he kneels down on the floor and presses his face into Hyukjae's crotch, licks him through his underwear.
"Donghae," Hyukjae says, a note of urgent want in his voice, "Quick," and Donghae complies, pulls the underwear out of the way to fasten his mouth over the head. He keeps it wet and teasing the way he knows Hyukjae likes it at first, sucking lightly and letting his fingers play over his balls, and Hyukjae moans, low and hot, thrusts a little into Donghae's mouth.
It's a sign that he wants it deeper and Donghae obligingly takes more of his length in until his eyes water, braces his hands on Hyukjae's hips as he works his mouth up and down. Hyukjae slides heavily against his tongue and it feels so good, so arousing, that he's barely halfway through before he realises that his cock is aching too, straining against his pants.
"Do it," Hyukjae says, pushing himself up on his elbows and staring at Donghae with desperate desire in his eyes. "I want to see you jerk yourself off."
Donghae releases one hand to unzip himself and pull his cock out, already dripping pre-come, and fists himself as he goes back to sucking Hyukjae off with as much concentration as he can muster with Hyukjae's hands in his hair and the intense pleasure building up in his body. "God, Donghae," Hyukjae whispers, moving his hands down to grip Donghae's shoulders, fingers digging red impressions into Donghae's skin, and then he moans long and deep and comes, filling Donghae's mouth, smearing onto his chin and lips. Donghae's still swallowing when Hyukjae lifts him up and pulls him onto the bed, kissing him and wrapping his legs around him and letting Donghae thrust against his body until Donghae comes too, mouth open in a half-groan, eyes tightly shut against Hyukjae's cheek.
When Donghae opens his eyes, Hyukjae's looking at him smiling. At last, smiling. Donghae's heart shudders in relief, and he lies limp and pliant in Hyukjae's arms, lets him kiss his nose and mouth, lick away the remaining come on his mouth.
After a beat, Donghae reaches up to smooth down Hyukjae's hair.
Hyukjae's family comes trooping in some time after one, and his mum screams when she sees the open windows in the house. They hear her from upstairs, shrieking But I closed the windows! and Did someone break in? so Hyukjae runs down for reassurance and Donghae waits for all the happy fuss to die down before he makes his appearance.
Hyukjae's family is as funny and adorable as he remembers; his dad more interested in lunch than in his son, his mum fussing over his weight loss, his sister Sora teasing him about his spiffy new hairdo – "what's with this long overhanging fringe; you're really out to get the girls this time, aren't you?" – and they're all pleased to see Donghae again. "To what do we owe this honour?" Sora asks. "Don't try to deceive us into thinking that you two took time off in the middle of preparations to drive up here simply because you wanted to see us!"
"Well, I missed Umma's bulgogi," Hyukjae says.
"I would like some bulgogi," says Hyukjae's dad wistfully.
"Let me enjoy my son for five minutes more, will you?" grumbles his mum, and Sora laughs and says, come on, little brother, let's get our hungry family fed.
When the three "younger generation people", as Hyukjae's mum puts it, have warmed the food and set the table, the atmosphere is so lively and congenial that Donghae loses his courage. He's not going to say anything, he thinks. He won't be able to say the words that will kill the happiness, that will probably make Hyukjae's wonderful mum cry, that will make them disappointed in Hyukjae – he can't bear the thought of that. Perhaps it was cruelty after all, to insist that they confess their relationship to Hyukjae's family. Perhaps there's another way of protecting Hyukjae from causing so much pain to his parents – but what way would that be? What?
He doesn't realise that he's brooding until Sora pokes him under the table with her foot and says, "Donghae-yah, stop dreaming! Umma's asking about your love life!"
"What?" he says blankly. "My love life?"
"Have you gotten together with that pretty girl yet?" Hyukjae's mum asks, smiling at him mischievously.
"Pretty girl?" Donghae repeats.
"That girl from Seo Nyuh Shi Dae? Jessica?"
"Jessica?" Hyukjae says incredulously.
His mum blinks. "I saw some reports in the magazines that there was something going on between her and Donghae."
"How old were those magazines? Umma, you're so outdated."
She looks vaguely disappointed. "Oh, so it's not true, then? I did think that the two of you looked so good together – she is very pretty, isn't she? And she speaks very good English?"
"It's not true," Hyukjae says, in a very firm, end-of-discussion kind of voice. "None of us are going out with any of the SoShi girls – we barely even see each other because we're so busy."
"Sometimes I worry about you boys, so busy with your schedules that you don't have time to meet nice girls," his mum sighs. "You're almost twenty-four already – this should be the time for you to go out and meet lots of girls. Instead, you work so hard every day."
"This is also the time for working hard, isn't it?" Hyukjae says.
"Not when it causes you to lose weight," his dad jumps in suddenly. "Look at you, have you even been eating properly? Hyukjae, if this idol thing affects your health, you should rethink your line of work – Donghae-yah, excuse me for speaking so bluntly, but I'm concerned for you, too. I hear about all these worrying things that the sasaeng fans do to idols, and all the times you have to be hospitalised because of exhaustion…"
"We're coping with that, Appa," Hyukjae says. "We really are. Anyway, I love dancing and performing, it's what I want to do until I can't do it anymore."
"Let them be," says Sora. "There aren't many almost-twenty-four year olds around who can say that they love their job. I know I hated mine when I was twenty-four." She smiles at Hyukjae, her eyes warm and understanding, and Donghae wants to hug her.
After lunch, Hyukjae passes a few hours playing Chinese chess with his dad while Donghae helps Sora out in the kitchen. Sora's baking an Oreo cheesecake for her best friend's upcoming birthday, so Donghae crushes the Oreo cookies and beats the cream cheese for her. She's intelligent, funny, and he loves listening to her talk about her job, the seminars and conferences that she's organising, the rich businessmen she has to entertain. It would be nice to have her as a sister, he thinks, and forces himself to laugh at her jokes even though he really just wants to crawl into a hole and hold his head. But he hasn't been an idol for four years without learning some tricks along the way, and he mastered the art of genuine-sounding laughter long ago.
They go out to a restaurant for dinner that night and Donghae watches as Hyukjae talks about Sorry Sorry, about the members and negotiations with the management about increasing their cuts from the third album profits and the mountains of gifts that he receives from fans every other week – the branded clothes, the electronic devices, the strange stuffed toys. Watches as Hyukjae's parents cluck their amazement and gaze at his face as though he's the pride of their hearts – which he is, Donghae realises. Hyukjae and Sora are the pride of their parents' hearts, the centre of their existence. He thinks of his own mother back home in Mokpo now, imagines telling her that he's gay and has had a male lover since he was twenty, and feels his throat dry up at how he'd dragged Hyukjae here to tell his parents.
He's quiet during the meal and the night-time movie marathon in the living room with Sora and Hyukjae. Hyukjae chooses Hero and Sora chooses The English Patient, so they go from periodic martial arts and philosophical Chinese politics into soaring dramatic love story. Hyukjae's eyes start closing midway through The English Patient and Sora says, you dumb little brother, you can't appreciate a good love story. Hyukjae says he can but it's just too long, and he snores gently during the saddest part so Donghae has to piggyback him up to the bedroom and deposit him on the bed.
"I do like a good love story," Hyukjae mutters.
"I know you do," Donghae says, closing the door and commencing his routine of preparing Hyukjae for sleep. He has perfected the steps over the plentiful nights of Hyukjae collapsing half-conscious in bed after Sukira: replace his underwear and pants with boxers, pull off his shirt, wipe his face with a warm damp towel, push him under the covers. When he's done with the last step, Hyukjae suddenly reaches up and wraps his arms around his neck. "G'night, Hae."
"Good night," says Donghae, and holds him as he falls asleep.
"I was a coward yesterday," Hyukjae says the next morning. They're still in bed, legs entangled, watching the dawn change from pale grey to bright yellow. Donghae is sure that they'd meant to sleep in on Monday morning – after all, when was the last time they had had the opportunity to luxuriate in bed past six o' fucking clock? – but their freak bodies, too used to waking up at unearthly hours, had jerked awake at six-thirty and stubbornly remained awake. It's almost seven now, and they can hear Hyukjae's dad shuffling about outside, getting in and out of the bathroom as he prepares for work.
"What do you mean?" Donghae asks.
Hyukjae turns his face to his. "I couldn't tell them yesterday. I wanted to, when Umma was talking about Jessica, but I…couldn't."
"We don't have to," says Donghae. He finds Hyukjae's hand under the covers, interlaces their fingers. "I was wrong to insist that we tell them. I didn't think."
Hyukjae looks genuinely surprised. "No, you're right. We should tell them. I want to tell them. It's not good too, pretending and – hiding like that. They have a right to know."
"But it'll cause you so much hurt," says Donghae.
"We're almost twenty-four," says Hyukjae, and pauses for a moment, stares quietly past Donghae at the bunch of photo frames crowded on his bookshelf. "We're not kids playing around – they can't blame us for being in love with each other and wanting to be together."
"You're braver than I can ever be," says Donghae.
"I'm not," says Hyukjae earnestly. "There are times when I'm so frightened that I just want to hide away and not have to face anyone about this ever."
"This is why you're braver than I am," Donghae says, and leans forward, cradling Hyukjae's head in his hands, lowering his mouth to suck gently at Hyukjae's chin. The morning sunlight is warm on his shoulders when the blanket falls away. The wheels of a car crunches on the gravel of the quiet road outside. It's early morning, and they're resting in a pool of sunlight. Hyukjae sighs and pulls him closer, wrapping his legs around Donghae's hips.
"Am I being too needy?" he asks.
"Are you seriously asking me that?" Donghae laughs.
Hyukjae smacks his forehead on Donghae's shoulder. "You're right. What in the world has gotten into me, asking that when you're the clingiest, neediest life form in the world?"
"It's touching to know that we're beginning to mirror each other," Donghae teases.
Hyukjae pushes him off and gets out of bed, heading for his backpack resting against the wall as Donghae leans back on the pillows and undresses himself. Hyukjae scrabbles about for a moment but eventually locates the lube that he'd thrown into his backpack just before they'd left the dorm upon Donghae's hint that it might be useful bringing it along.
"I'm always right," Donghae says, just because he can. He's lazily stroking himself into hardness, legs apart and body relaxed, and he doesn't miss the look of want in Hyukjae's eyes.
"Sometimes," Hyukjae acknowledges.
When he crooks a finger into Donghae's ass, it takes all of Donghae's restraint not to push down onto that finger and fuck himself on it. Less than twenty-four hours since the last time and here we are again, he thinks with some amusement, but there is really no holding back of the desire between him and Hyukjae, the intense physical closeness and intimacy and the hunger from having been emotionally apart in the past few months. He wants Hyukjae to enter him and fill him up and never leave, he wants them to be naked and vulnerable like this, pressed up together, kissing each other's ears in this warm yellow morning sunlight. "I love you so much," he says to Hyukjae, looking straight into his eyes, and Hyukjae says "I love you too", because when you remove the frills and poetry and big words that's really it, the foundation of their relationship, the reason why they're doing all this.
Hyukjae takes his fingers out and pulls Donghae onto his lap, holding his cock steady at the base as Donghae lowers himself, and it takes a little bit of time and effort going in but he's finally in all the way and Donghae's hands are tight on his shoulders as he adjusts himself more comfortably. They're in no big hurry and so they fuck as though they could do it forever, Hyukjae's arms tight around Donghae's waist, Donghae mouthing Hyukjae's chin, devouring his mouth, kissing the tip of his nose.
"How did we survive before getting to this point?" Donghae says, his mind not really on the words at all but talking simply because he wants to, "How were those days, I mean, before we were in love?"
"I had a lot less trouble in general," Hyukjae says, but he caresses Donghae's nipples with his thumb to make up for it.
"Will we ever get married? I want to wear a white tux."
"And sing Marry You," Hyukjae suggests.
"Would you marry me?" Donghae sings, and laughs when Hyukjae pokes his thighs. "I'll sing something better, and you'll breakdance."
"Breakdancing at my wedding," Hyukjae muses, thrusting more firmly into him. "That would be interesting."
Donghae gasps and loses focus for a moment, clinging on to Hyukjae with arms and legs as Hyukjae tilts him towards the pillows and drives hard thrusts into him. "Don't you ever dare to marry anyone else, ever," says Donghae breathlessly when they've slowed down again. "Unless you've fallen out of love with me."
"It's a promise," Hyukjae agrees.
"Good," says Donghae, and proceeds to mark Hyukjae with his lips and teeth. And he thinks, now is that proverbial 'calm before the storm', the cliff before the plunge, the flight before the fall, but this moment - this exact moment - is artlessness, is daring, is promise, is the sum total of their love.
"So we'll tell them?" Hyukjae asks.
"We'll tell them tonight," says Donghae.
They tell Hyukjae's family that night, over dinner. They'd agreed beforehand that they should wait until the meal was nearing the end before speaking up, and so they sit through the steaming hot pot of kimchi jiggae and the expertly grilled barbequed meat. Donghae sees that Hyukjae is making a big show of eating when in reality he's only picking at his food, but doesn't say anything because the smell of the meat is making him nauseated, too.
When the food is mostly gone and Hyukjae's mum has pushed her chair back to begin clearing the dishes to the kitchen, Hyukjae reaches for Donghae's hand under the table, grips it so tightly that it hurt, and says, "Umma, we have something to say – Appa, noona, to you too."
"What is it?" his mum asks, faintly surprised.
"Donghae and I…" Hyukjae's voice is shivering, and Donghae presses his hand with both of his own to give him courage. "We're in love with each other, and we've been together for a while as…as a couple."
His family blinks at him in silence, his mum's mouth hanging open.
"It's okay if you don't – understand it now," Hyukjae goes on, "because I know that…you'll be concerned, and maybe…you'll think that it's wrong for two guys to love each other, but you have to trust me when I tell you that we really tried, we thought a lot about it, but we've decided that we're in love after all and we want to be together."
"But Hyukjae…" his mum says, looking back and forth between him and Donghae, "you're both males…you can't love each other."
"I love Hyukjae, Umma," Donghae says, because he's sensing that Hyukjae has reached the point where he's unable to speak anymore, "and I've loved him for a long time…that's the way it's been."
Something metallic clanks hard on the dining table and they look round to see that Hyukjae's dad has dropped his cutlery. "Are you trying to tell me that you're gay?" he asks.
"Yes, Appa," Hyukjae says, so softly that they barely catch it, but they do.
And then – but Donghae doesn't want to remember what happens after that. There are tears and shocked questions and attempts to explain that homosexuality is against God, is a perversion of nature and a terribly sinful thing, that they have to pray to be released from it. Hyukjae's dad says that he'll set up a meeting with their pastor as soon as Hyukjae is able to attend it, and they'll talk about love and relationships and what God meant for men to be. Hyukjae's mum says that it's all the fault of the companies, putting boys together like this and damaging their minds and hearts, and she assures them that they'll get over it soon, it's just a momentary phase. Even Sora, pretty intelligent funny Sora, asks if they're really sure about what they're doing.
The dinner goes unwashed, the hours of the night hang heavily as the parents take turns talking to them, first to Hyukjae and then Donghae, persuading and cajoling and explaining, and sometime towards dawn they gather in a circle and pray together, seeking for God's forgiveness for this terrible sin and asking Him to mend their son's heart. Donghae closes his eyes because it's respectful, but when he opens them he sees Hyukjae on the couch with his head in his hands, his shoulders shaking, and he wishes that he'd kept them shut.
Hyukjae's mum begs Hyukjae to stay a couple more days so that they can talk to him more and work this out properly, but Hyukjae says that he has to go, they promised to be back by 8am. His whole family comes out to see them off and his mum is still crying when they throw their bags into the car and start up the engine. "Please try to realise how bad this is for the both of you," she says. "I understand you're still growing up, you're confused, but it's wrong and sinful, and you'll get over it eventually. Don't do anything that you will grieve over when you're older, okay?"
Sora leans in to hug Hyukjae. "I'll love you no matter what," she says.
"We'll always love you," says his dad. "We'll help you get through this, Hyukjae. You must talk to us if you're feeling upset and worried…we'll always be here for you. We're in this together."
Hyukjae doesn't look like he has enough concentration left to drive safely back to Seoul, so Donghae takes over the wheel and drives silently down the residential streets. They're quiet for a while, passing houses and convenience stores and gas stations on their way to the highway, but just before the exit Hyukjae suddenly says, "Stop somewhere, Hae", and Donghae pulls up into the nearest side street. He sits staring out of the windscreen as Hyukjae breaks down beside him, rusty sobs tearing themselves out of his throat like they're going to choke him, snot and tears and saliva messing up his face. When he leans over and pulls Donghae in and crushes their mouths together, Donghae lets their tears mix together, lets Hyukjae pull back and pummel the dashboard in a frenzy of grief and helplessness, lets Hyukjae pull him in again and kiss his lips and neck and throat until he gives way to such aching sobs that he can only lean his forehead against Donghae's and cry like his heart is breaking.
And all along he thinks, is this worth it, is this worth it, am I worth such pain, such struggle, but he's too afraid to find an answer.
When at last Hyukjae's sobs have run themselves out, when the clock is ticking to 7:30 and exhaustion has hit the both of them so hard that they can't find the strength to cry any longer, Hyukjae says, "I don't want to give up. There has to be a way."
Donghae reaches out to hold his hand. "I won't leave you to face this alone," he says, and in that instant it feels more like a vow than anything else, a promise binding them together. "There has to be a way."
"There has to be a way," Hyukjae repeats. "I won't believe that what we have is wrong. I won't."
"It's not," says Donghae. "One day they'll see it. One day everyone will see it, and they'll accept us, Hyuk."
"I'll wait for that day," says Hyukjae. "I won't give up."
Donghae tries to visualise that day in the nebulous future when the mention of two men in love with each other will be met with empathy and approval, and finds that he can't – it's too remote from the society that they're living in, too much of a demand on the reversal of their values and beliefs. But the other alternative is breaking up and he can't bring himself to believe that that is the more likely outcome, so he holds Hyukjae's hand and tries, tries to trust that everything will turn out okay.
The choreography for Sorry Sorry has mostly been finalised, and even Ryeowook remembers his part perfectly now. When they dance before the mirror, watching their moves and formations and coordination, Jungsu says that this will be their best performance yet – slick and powerful, professional and practiced. "For sure, it doesn't have the energy of Don't Don," he says, "but it's not like we're twenty anymore – our songs have to grow up with us."
"Speak for yourself, hyung," says Kyuhyun. "I'm still hovering around twenty."
Hyukjae sits on the floor, studying print-outs of their positions. "How is Heechul hyung?" he asks.
Jungsu shrugs. "Same old. Drinking every night, negotiating his release with the bosses, hanging out with his AB gang – what else is new? I barely see him anymore."
"He isn't happy," says Donghae. "I know he wants to stay."
"It's not like any of us are driving him away," argues Jongwoon, a little angrily. "Nobody asked him to leave. He can stay if he wants, but if he thinks that I'm going to beg him on my knees, he's thinking wrong."
"You can't do that, hyungie," says Hyukjae. "Not the begging on your knees, of course. But to keep quiet and expect that he knows he's wanted – I think we're all approaching this in the wrong way." He studies the print-outs a little longer, then marks positions with his pen and holds up the papers for them to look at. "I know it's too late to include him into the whole choreography, and Wookie will go mad if he has to re-learn everything a week before the comeback, but here, at his line – we can fit him here, can't we?"
Jungsu takes the papers from him and looks at them closely. "We can. It's only whether he wants to."
"All people want is a bit of understanding sometimes," says Hyukjae.
Jongwoon suddenly laughs, reaches out to cluck him affectionately under his chin. "Listen to our wise dongsaeng."
"You'd better," says Hyukjae. He looks fantastic these days, his face angular and defined with a sort of stirring, elusive beauty that's surprising even to Donghae when he looks at him, and he knows that Hyukjae has started taking particular care and pride in himself because he wants to show the world that homosexuality is not a disease, that a gay man can be every inch as beautiful and desirable and right as a straight man. And Donghae wants him, wants him impossibly, can barely take his hands off this amazing person whom he loves. Wants to shout to all the judgemental narrow-minded people: look at this man, he loves me, and you'll never get your hands on him because all your pettiness and ugliness will only make him stronger.
When Heechul comes in that night to watch their rehearsal and say goodbye, gaunt and spent from his drinking and tiredness, Hyukjae goes up to him with his print-outs. "Look, hyung," he says, not ingratiatingly but matter-of-factly, respectfully, "we left a space for you in the dance, so you can come in later. It'll be a nice surprise for the fans, and you can do the last bit too, nobody will be able to do it better than you."
"Yeah?" says Heechul, staring at the print-outs. "Won't it mess up the dance?"
"Don't think so," says Hyukjae. "We'll like to have you in it, hyungie."
"Let me think about it," says Heechul, and leaves the room.
Later on, of course, he re-joins them and asks for intense coaching in the dance moves before the big comeback. Later, of course, he tells the bosses not to worry, he'll stay with the group because he can't walk away from a group of people who want him so much that they're willing to let him mess up the most important comeback of their careers. Later he drinks with Donghae and Hankyung – Coke, not soju, and apologises for having made the group so worried. Later, he'll move back into his room in the dorm and continue making them laugh with his outrageous comments and ridiculous antics with Heebum.
But all that happens later, and when Heechul leaves the room, Donghae runs up to Hyukjae, throws his arms around him and gives him the biggest hug of his life.
look at my timely updates! it has been only over a month since the last one!
jk. i am really grateful to all of you who've stayed with this fic despite its horribly irregular updates and wordiness. by the way, the total wordcount has hit 57,000 and i am amazed that we have gotten to this point. thank you also for all the suggestions given; you guys have gifted me with lots of plot bunnies. also, in case you're wondering: when the fuck is this story ever going to end?!, i promise that i will try to wind down on the excessive words and work towards the ending. with that said, let's rock on! :)