pg-13, 6,558 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 | part five; a separation | part six; a confession | part seven; a quarrel | part eight; a break up | part nine; a falling | part ten; a support | part eleven; a loyalty | part twelve; an understanding | part thirteen; a reconciliation
The many-many years after that pass by in brightly coloured vignettes; equal parts laughter and tears, adventure and routine, kisses and quarrels, fun and mundanity.
Donghae thinks that if he could make a painting of their relationship through the years, it would look something like this:
The blueness of the sea and sky at Jeju where they escape to for a few days of healing in between chaotic schedules. They book a suite in the most expensive hotel ("we've reached the point in our lives where we should be splurging," Hyukjae had reasoned), and spend their time swimming, playing badminton, driving around the island in search of recommended restaurants. Making love in the hot hours of the afternoon as the sun beats against the tightly closed hotel windows; massaging each other in the cool evenings; kissing and talking the quiet nights away when the world has narrowed down to the two of them.
The anxiety in Hyukjae's eyes when they gather their families together and tell them the truth ("we're in love, we have always been in love, and we intend to make a go at life together"). Hyukjae's dad only asks "Are you sure about this?" and Hyukjae says, yes, I've never been so sure of anything before. And perhaps because they've prayed so hard for acceptance, perhaps because something in the way they hold hands and lean against each other for support touches their hearts, Hyukjae's parents say "As long as you're happy", Sora says "I'm behind you all the way, little brother and…little brother-in-law", Donghwa says "I always knew you and Hyukjae would end up together somehow, whether as friends or partners", and Donghae's mum doesn't say anything; chooses instead to give him a tight, loving hug.
Donghae isn't the naïve kid he used to be. He knows that despite all the reassurances and outward signs of acceptance, it'll take Hyukjae's parents a long time to fully accept the fact that their only son is with a man. They may never think of Donghae as a proper family member; they may always harbour some hope that Hyukjae might change his mind and settle down with a woman instead. Deep inside, they may be mourning the loss of a grandchild that will bear their name. But they've taken the first major step towards acceptance by deciding to love and support their son regardless of his preferences, and Donghae has learned through the years that compromise is perhaps the best outcome anyone can ask for.
He would include in the painting the flashing lightbulbs, red recording lights, and large headlines of the news articles that flood the internet after he and Hyukjae go public with their relationship. They hold one huge press conference in Seoul, many one-on-one interviews with journalists from Taiwan and China, and email interviews with Southeast Asian media, bloggers and international LGBT activist groups looking for inspirational stories. It explodes into a far huger story than they'd anticipated, because it isn't simply about one idol coming out, but two idols who are in a same-sex relationship.
Amid the many criticisms from netizens, cancelled endorsements and petitions from conservative religious groups calling for their removal from the entertainment industry, the voices of their supporters emerge loudest and clearest: gay rights groups cheering their courage, fans banding together to send them gifts and messages of encouragement. "Our fans are actually over the moon about this," Hyukjae remarks when every new day for a month after their press conference brings a truckload of handwritten letters and gifts to their dorm.
"You know they've always wanted us to be together," Donghae says with a laugh, "and this is the best 'fanservice' we can give them."
"Except this isn't 'fanservice' at all," says Hyukjae, pulling him close to press a few hard, unmistakeable kisses on his mouth. "This isn't 'EunHae'. This is Lee Hyukjae and Lee Donghae."
Their coming out prompts a number of other celebrities to come forth with their own stories, forcing the public to take notice of what has so long been swept under the carpet. Supportive news columnists write several articles de-mystifying homosexuality and bisexuality; influential bloggers unite to organize small pride events; the annual pride parade registers a 50% increase in participants. Traditional mindsets are overturned so quickly that everyone within show business, not just Donghae and Hyukjae, are rather stunned by it all.
"So I get maybe three people a day screaming 'faggot' in my face," Hyukjae tells Jungsu, "but fifty people telling me that they're supporting me. That's not a bad ratio, is it?"
"Not bad at all," Jungsu agrees.
Hyukjae smiles at Donghae, who leans forward to kiss his cheek and ask, "Do you think that one day I'll be able to hold your hand in public?"
"One day," says Hyukjae, "I will bring you to the center of Myeongdong and kiss you in front of every single person there."
Shortly after they reveal their relationship, they agree that they should move out of the dorms and find a place for themselves. They're over thirty-five anyhow; there's no excuse to continue living a suspended life in a group dorm. When the leases on the apartments are up, everyone goes their separate ways. Kyuhyun moves back in with his parents; Ryeowook buys a one-room apartment near Seoul Forest and calls it his nest.
After several apartment viewings, Hyukjae and Donghae finally settle on a spacious two-bedroom apartment with a balcony and huge picture windows overlooking the Han River. They can't co-own the apartment as a legally married couple, so – as with every major decision in their life – they settle it with rock paper scissors. Legal ownership goes to Donghae, while their cars and bank account are placed under Hyukjae's – "just to be fair," as Donghae puts it. They go furniture shopping, squabble over the colour of curtains and the size of their kitchen sink, test out half a dozen beds (“the bed is the most important piece of furniture in the house,” Hyukjae says), and wrangle ceaselessly over the brand of the TV. They paint the apartment themselves, with lots of helping hands from friends and the Suju members, and spend days painting in faux bricks on the wall for the 'industrial look'.
"It feels like a bachelor's pad," Sungmin comments when he comes over to help with the painting.
"That's what you get when you have two guys living together, instead of a guy and a girl," says Hyukjae. "No pink quilts for us."
"I'll have you know that both my wife and I are very fond of pink," Sungmin says loftily.
They don't invite anyone over on the first day that they move in. Hyukjae buys champagne and eclairs and they sit out on the balcony, watching the city lights twinkling over the river. They're comfortably quiet, content, and sitting there Donghae suddenly has an acute sense of homecoming; a realisation that he has reached the place that he has been heading to all his life. He reaches out and takes Hyukjae's hand. "From now on," he says, "when I say 'welcome home', it'll actually mean home - our home. And when I come home from now on, I know I will come back and find…you!”
Hyukjae smiles, eyes half-lidded. “You’ll find me, lying on the couch with my feet up and a lot of unwashed dishes in the sink, and you’ll yell at me for being such a bad housekeeper.”
"Did you have to spoil my romantic image?" Donghae asks plaintively. "You're going to tell me next that you'll fight me every weekend over who has to clean out the toilet."
“Cleaning the toilet is okay, but I hate vacuuming,” says Hyukjae. “I’m just going to put it out here right now, while we’re being honest and open with each other.”
Donghae sighs. “Let’s just hire a housekeeper. That will settle all our problems, apparently.”
Hyukjae laughs, and they sit in silence for a while, hands entangled. It seems incredible that they could be here in this spot, in this moment, in their home, after so many years of struggle and heartbreak and uncertainty. “No matter what happens, we’ll be together,” says Donghae softly. “Dreams will be very sweet now.”
Hyukjae turns his head and smiles into his eyes. “Welcome home, darling.”
They finish up the champagne and leave the balcony in favour of the bedroom, undressing in silence and pulling each other close in the cool, comforting security of their room. And what happens after that – Donghae won’t paint it into a picture. He paints it, instead, in kisses all over Hyukjae’s body, so that Hyukjae will never forget.
Their first real fight as a couple happens a year into their marriage. In that year, they have a lot of disputes, of course – little trivial disagreements over meal choices, space and furniture ownership that they get into more for the fun of fighting and making up than for any other reason. Hyukjae’s stand is that it’s good to have a squall now and then to clear the air and keep things interesting, particularly when Donghae is usually amenable to any revolutionary sex-related ideas he suggests for their making up sessions. But their first real fight doesn’t clear the air, doesn’t keep things interesting, doesn’t have even the slightest hint of fun about it, and doesn’t end up with them laughing while tangled up in each other in bed.
For years, Hyukjae’s family has made keen efforts to spend every other Wednesday night together. Fridays and weekends are typically out of the question because of Hyukjae’s filming schedules, and weekday afternoons are difficult for his working sister, so they settled on Wednesday nights for their precious “family bonding” time. Hyukjae’s mum comes with random little gifts that she buys for them whenever she goes shopping, Hyukjae’s dad comes brimming with discussions on the latest news headlines, and Sora comes with her husband and little baby daughter. Hyukjae comes alone. They’ve never explicitly mentioned it, but everyone knows that Donghae is not expected to be present at these family bonding sessions. To be sure, Sora had brought it up once, asking where Donghae was, and Hyukjae’s dad had mildly hinted that Donghae was probably too busy to be bothered with coming along for their boring family get-togethers. Hyukjae, out of his lifelong habit of respect and reverence for his parents, had let it pass without disputing it, and Sora had not brought it up again.
It takes about ten months before Donghae starts questioning why he’s never invited along when Hyukjae goes for his family gatherings. Hyukjae is always present for Donghae’s family’s activities; they’ve even gone on a couple of short holidays to Thailand and Bali with Donghwa, Donghwa’s family, and Donghae’s mum. Donghae’s mum considers Hyukjae as a bonafide “son-in-law” and showers him with motherly concern; in return, Hyukjae visits her every week and accompanies her for her regular medical checkups when Donghwa and Donghae can’t make it. In contrast, Donghae has barely anything to do with Hyukjae’s family and it hurts him, especially since he likes his parents-in-law a lot. He keeps the hurt to himself because he doesn’t want to cause any trouble, but when Hyukjae comes home one day and announces that his family is planning a five-day trip to Italy, the long-suppressed words burst out of him before he can clamp them down. “And I suppose I’m not invited?”
Hyukjae pauses, momentarily thrown off balance. “It’s just a family thing,” he says at last, carefully but foolishly.
“And I’m not family. I get it.” Donghae tries to stop himself, but the words come out regardless; “yet Sora noona’s husband and child are considered family. I’m not because I’m clearly no more than a good friend of yours who happens to live with you and have sex with you on a regular basis and cook your meals and deposit my savings in the same bank account!”
"Donghae," Hyukjae begins, reaching out for him, but Donghae brushes him away angrily. “Please don’t say things like that. You know it isn’t true. You’re my husband, nothing less than that.”
“As long as it doesn’t inconvenience you and your family,” Donghae snaps. “You’re fine with me living with you and sharing my life with you, but also just fine when your family decides to treat me like an outsider.”
“Donghae, please,” Hyukjae says, his voice breaking. “You know I don’t like it either. I’m sorry. I didn’t realise it meant that much to you. I’ll try, but you have to give me time.”
Donghae, poised for another barrage of angry points, softens the moment he sees the tears in Hyukjae’s eyes. After all, his rational self tells him, his fight isn’t with Hyukjae. Hyukjae has already done all he can to ensure that he and Donghae have a life together - he was the one who came back from overseas and patched up their relationship; he has married him and put his money into their home; he has stood beside Donghae and announced their relationship to the country. It’s not his fault if his parents are unable to accept Donghae the way he wants them to. He scolds away his anger and pulls out tissues, drawing Hyukjae close and wiping the tears on his face. “Hey, baby, stop crying,” he says. “I know it isn’t easy for you too. I shouldn’t have said those things to you. I know better than anyone else how much you’ve done for me.”
“I love you so much,” Hyukjae says, his voice still thick with sobs.
“Yes,” Donghae says, pressing kisses on his hair. “I know that. I love you too.”
They make love that night, tenderly and quietly, Donghae trying to caress and pleasure Hyukjae in all the spots that he knows Hyukjae likes in order to make up for his outburst that afternoon. When Hyukjae comes against him, mouth open and eyes closed, Donghae watches him with a heart so full of longing and love that he’s almost afraid of suffocating him with it. “Hyukjae,” he says into his ear, softly and clearly, “Hyukjae, Hyukjae, I love you.”
And then he comes too, in long slow strokes into Hyukjae, and they hold each other tight like children when they finally fall asleep.
They don’t talk about it for the next week, both skirting the topic out of fear or reluctance or possibly a combination of both, though Donghae wishes in his heart of hearts that Hyukjae would be able to talk about it openly with him and arrive at a course of action together. But the following week Hyukjae suddenly says, over dinner, that his family will be making the trip to Italy in a month, and so he and Donghae will have to book their air tickets quickly. Donghae looks at him, startled, and Hyukjae gives him a brief smile before turning away to pack the remains of their dinner into the fridge.
“You asked your parents about it?” Donghae questions, his mind reeling.
“I talked to them,” Hyukjae says after a thoughtful moment. “I said I would like to have you come along because you’re as much a part of the family as Sungwon hyung.”
“What did they say to that?”
“They said it was okay,” Hyukjae says, after another reflective moment.
“When is it happening?”
“Third week of September.”
Donghae checks his phone calendar. “I have a couple of songwriting sessions with One Way, but I’ll reschedule it.”
“Yes,” says Hyukjae to the fridge. “I’ll really like to have you there.”
Donghae tries to think of something else to say, something that will give voice to the misgivings he has, but Hyukjae looks stiff and awkward and so he puts it off. There is, after all, really nothing he can say that won’t upset this delicate balance that they’ve arrived at. He’ll just have to make the best of it.
If he hadn’t believed before how bad a holiday can be, he believes it now.
It isn’t that Hyukjae’s family is hostile to him. On the contrary, Hyukjae’s parents are nice and accommodating, constantly asking if he’s having fun and if there’s anything in particular he would like to do or see, and Sora is more than nice; she’s sweet and warm and teases him like she teases Hyukjae. Sungwon, her husband, is a little odd around him, clearly uncertain about what to say to his brother-in-law’s male lover and uncomfortable at seeing evidence of Hyukjae’s relationship flung in his face every hour, but he makes an effort to be friendly. Sora’s little daughter loves him as all children do, and insists on attaching herself to him at every possible opportunity.
Yet, Donghae grows more and more despondent with each hour that passes. Sora is the only one whom he feels comfortable with; she’s the only one who treats him like he belongs to them. Despite, or perhaps because of, all the cordiality, he knows that Hyukjae’s parents see him as a guest, a good friend of Hyukjae’s who has to be considered and taken care of. He isn’t part of the family to them; he isn’t even Hyukjae’s husband or partner-by-choice. He sees it in the way Hyukjae’s mum talks to Hyukjae as though he’s a swinging bachelor; in the way Hyukjae’s dad points out pretty Italian girls to Hyukjae as though he thinks he would be interested in checking them out. He knows that they aren’t doing it intentionally, and that this is the way they’ve always treated Hyukjae, but the fact that they’re behaving to Hyukjae the same way that they’ve always done despite Donghae’s presence in his life is more depressing than Donghae would’ve thought possible.
What makes it worse is that Hyukjae himself doesn’t dissuade them; doesn’t, in fact, seem to notice that anything is amiss with the way his parents treat him. Donghae makes a weak attempt to point it out to him one night in their hotel room, but Hyukjae just stares at him with so much bewilderment that Donghae gives it up before he gets to the actual details. They’re on holiday, and he doesn’t want to ruin it for anyone. He keeps it to himself and it makes him more silent and withdrawn with each hour that passes.
“What’s wrong?” Hyukjae asks him in a quiet aside on the third day while his parents are busy taking photos of themselves and the baby. “You’re so quiet. Are you okay? I can go back to the hotel with you if you’re not feeling well. We don’t have to spend every single minute with them, you know.”
Donghae’s heart leaps at the thought of spending time alone with Hyukjae in their hotel, perhaps going for a swim or a massage and just hanging out together away from the suffocating politeness of his family, but he also knows how much Hyukjae loves spending time with his parents. He rarely sees them normally; goes into plenty of trouble to ensure that he manages to spend time with them when he can, and looks forward to all the holidays that they go on together. He knows that Hyukjae would go back to the hotel with him in a heartbeat, but he also knows that he won’t be at peace with himself if that happens. So he shakes his head and says, “No, let’s stay with them. We’re going to the Pantheon next, right? I don’t want to miss that.”
Hyukjae’s face brightens with relief, and he slips his hand inside Donghae’s. “Okay. Let’s go with them to see it, then. But if at any time you want to go back – just tell me, okay? We’ll go back together.”
"Hyukjae," his dad calls to him then, “let’s take a group photo. Why don't you ask that girl over there to take the photo for us – you’re the only one who can charm her into it.” He winks at Hyukjae, and Hyukjae laughs and lets go of Donghae to do his dad’s bidding.
Sora throws her arm around Donghae chummily. “Come on, little brother. Stand beside me.”
Donghae follows her slowly to where Hyukjae’s parents are beckoning, and Sora says softly, “Don’t mind them. They’re just being old fogeys, not wanting to see what’s right before them.”
Donghae glances at her in surprise, and Sora nods at him. “Of course I get it. Anyone with their eyes open would get it! Except for my idiotic brother, of course, but then the ones closest to the action are usually the ones who miss it, right? I love having you in this family, Donghae-yah. Don’t give up on us…or them. They’ll come around.” Hyukjae’s coming towards them with the aforementioned pretty Italian girl in tow, both of them smiling brightly and chatting in broken English to each other, and Sora adds, “Don’t desert my brother. He’s head over heels in love with you, and I've never seen him so committed to anyone before. If he’s hurting you in any way, he isn’t aware of it at all. But you know that, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do,” says Donghae, and the relief of having someone who understands and cares makes him able to smile brightly at Hyukjae when he comes up to him. It's a happy photo that they take – their first "real" family photo, as Sora declares boldly after they've viewed it – and it sits on the photo shelf of Hyukjae's parents' apartment for decades: the smiling parents, pretty Sora, Sungwon carrying the baby on his shoulders, and Donghae and Hyukjae with fingers intertwined, faces pressed together. It's the only happy memory that Donghae takes away with him from that vacation in Italy.
Five days of stoic endurance means that when he finally snaps on the very last day, the very last hour, in fact, he does it carelessly and angrily. They've cleared the Korean immigration and are waiting for their bags on the carousel, and Donghae is thinking with great relief that he and Hyukjae can head back to their own apartment and reclaim their proper married life when Hyukjae's mother points to two identical bags with matching pink and blue ribbons and says fondly, "Those must be couple suitcases. They're so cute! Sora, you and Sungwon should get a pair. Hyukjae-yah, when you get married, you should get a pair too."
"We don't need couple suitcases," Hyukjae begins to protest, when Donghae, exhausted from four restless nights and a long plane ride, cuts in to say more sharply than he'd intended, "Hyukjae is married, umma. He's married to me."
Hyukjae's mum stares at him, taken aback. "That's not what I meant," she says. "But you're not really married, you know."
Hyukjae grabs hold of Donghae's hand. "Donghae, stop it. You know that's not what umma meant."
"No!" Donghae pulls his hand out and turns to glare at Hyukjae. "That's not what she meant! That's not what anyone has meant this entire trip, when they've just ignored the fact that you and I are married! Hyukjae, I didn't marry you so you could pretend it doesn't exist when it suits you."
"Donghae," says Hyukjae's dad, more worriedly than angrily, "don't make a scene here, and don't talk nonsense. You and Hyukjae are together and we respect that, but you aren't married and you shouldn't keep saying you are."
Donghae can't bring himself to argue with Hyukjae's dad, but his temper needs an outlet, so he turns it onto Hyukjae instead. It is beyond understanding, he tells himself, that his beloved husband has been insensitive enough not to notice a damned thing; who even now prefers to turn a blind eye than to acknowledge that there's a problem. "Are we not married, Hyukjae?" he demands. "I want to hear you say it right now, to your family, so there can be no doubts about it. Are we or are we not married?"
"Donghae, come on," says Hyukjae, shaking his head. "Don't do this here. This really isn't the place or time. We'll talk about it when we get home."
"You're avoiding it." Donghae barks out a sharp laugh. "I wish I'd known that this side of you existed before I said my vows to you, Lee Hyukjae."
He ignores Hyukjae's sudden whitening face. But Hyukjae says nothing then, simply pulls their suitcases off the carousel and walks after his parents with dragging steps, and Donghae tries to ignore the sagged unhappiness in Hyukjae's shoulders, the whites of his knuckles as he grips the suitcase handle. Sungwon tactfully keeps up with the parents, talking to them cheerfully in a bid to raise the atmosphere, and Donghae's so lost in his own misery that he almost doesn't feel Sora's fingers digging into his arm. "Why did you do that?" she asks quietly. "You should've done it back home, in private, not at the airport with all of us here. And that last thing you said – you have to take it back. When you get home, tell Hyukjae you didn't mean it, and take it back. Some things shouldn't be said, Donghae."
"I meant it," says Donghae stubbornly. "I didn't know he was such a coward…"
"Is he really?" Sora asks, stopping him before they walk out to join their family at the taxi queue. "Is he really a coward? Think about it a little more carefully before you use words that can't be forgotten." She leans forward to give him a quick hug. "I have faith in you two. Work it out."
He watches as they leave, Hyukjae's parents first, followed by Sora and her family. Then it's just him and Hyukjae, what he's been thirsting for the last five days, and he can't think of a single thing to say when they bundle their suitcases in the back and take their seats for the ride home. It's the most awkwardly silent drive that Donghae has ever sat through and he almost wants to stop the taxi and get out the way he'd done when they were kids and he'd been mad at Hyukjae over something so inconsequential that he doesn't remember it anymore. But this, he thinks, this isn't inconsequential; this isn't something we're going to recover so easily from; this is something I might actually lose him over. And it is frightening, more frightening than he can imagine, to think of losing Hyukjae when he'd thought that they were, at last, invincible.
The moment they step into their apartment, Hyukjae grabs a towel and heads to the toilet. Donghae drops his suitcase and goes after him. "Hyuk, I shouldn't have shouted at you at the airport. I'm sorry about that."
Hyukjae dumps the towel on the rack and makes a move to close the door, but Donghae stands firmly in the doorway, jamming it with his foot. "I shouldn't have said what I did about the vows, either. That was out of order."
"Donghae," says Hyukjae, rubbing his face wearily, "if at the first sign of real trouble, the first thing you think about is that you shouldn't have married me, then maybe you really shouldn't have."
A cold fear wraps itself around Donghae's heart. "Don't say it like that. I was out of sorts, stupid, mad. I wasn't thinking straight. You know I'd never have said it otherwise. I wouldn't even have thought it."
"I don't know," says Hyukjae. "You know what, it's too late for this. I want to shower and sleep. Will you let me do that?"
They stare at each other for a beat before Donghae steps back, because he really doesn't know what else he should do, and Hyukjae closes the door right in his face. Ever since they started living together they've more or less given up closing the toilet door, regardless of what they're doing inside; and having Hyukjae enclose himself in the toilet sends a blaringly loud message that things are about as bad as they can be. Donghae leans his forehead against the door and tries to think of what to do, but tears are dampening his cheeks before he even realises that he's crying. "Hyuk," he says, but just then the shower gets going and he gives up, going over to the bed and dropping facedown on it.
He's still crying into the pillow when Hyukjae comes out from a very long shower. He hears Hyukjae moving around the room, fiddling with things, unzipping the suitcase, dumping unwashed clothes onto the floor, and they're silent throughout; an awful, loud sort of silence that is horribly awkward to remain in and even more awkward to break. Finally the bed dips beside him and Donghae is grateful that they'd bought a huge king-sized bed, because there's oceans of space between them and it's easy to imagine that Hyukjae isn't there beside him at all, especially when Hyukjae is both soundless and motionless, lying completely still.
The hours tick by. Sometime during the night Donghae manages to get up from the bed, wash up and change into his home clothes – another odd thing to do, since he and Hyukjae are used to sleeping naked together. He doesn't even know if Hyukjae has any clothes on; he's so remote in his corner of the bed that he might as well be in the North Pole. Donghae falls back onto his pillow and tries to coax sleep; he coaxes, instead, a weird, fantastical sort of nightmare where Hyukjae is alternating between screaming at him and walking away, and then there's a woman, somehow, mixed up in all of it, and Hyukjae is marrying her – actually marrying her, in a church with rings and a certificate – and Donghae jerks awake in a cold sweat, shaking so hard that his teeth are practically rattling.
"It's okay," he hears Hyukjae saying. "It's okay. Drink this."
He's hoisted up and made to drink something warm and sweet. He's still shaking, so gripped by fear that he's unable to distinguish if he's awake or still in that nightmare, and then he feels Hyukjae sitting down behind him and pulling him back into the circle of his arms. "You were talking in your sleep," Hyukjae says. "Yelling, actually."
"Talking?" says Donghae blankly.
"Yeah. Telling me that you loved me and that I shouldn't marry some girl." Hyukjae sits quietly for a moment, arms around Donghae, while Donghae tries to shake off the last remnants of the dream. "God, Donghae. You're going to drive me mad one day, I swear."
"I do love you," Donghae says, his voice breaking into a sob. "And I'm – so – so-rry."
"I know," says Hyukjae gravely. Donghae leans back against him to kiss his neck, and he doesn't pull away. "While you were busily dreaming about me marrying some girl, I was doing some pretty serious thinking myself."
"Don't leave me," Donghae says. "Please."
"You're an idiot," says Hyukjae in that fond, exasperated tone that Donghae knows so well, and it comes like a streak of sunshine into his heart. "I wasn't thinking about leaving you. I was actually thinking about the first time we met. Fifteen years old, in that canteen in the old SM building, and me asking for your phone number. 'Member?"
Donghae nods, watching him closely.
"All the days and nights we spent together…with Yunho and Junsu back then…and Sungmin hyung too – just having so much fun together. Our dreams of hitting it big. Even making that promise not to smoke or drink. That didn't work out too well, huh? At least where drinking is concerned."
"I fell in love with you at fifteen," says Donghae. "I didn't even know what love was back then, but I loved you."
"And I didn't know. I didn't have the slightest clue." Hyukjae smiles at him. "I still remember being so surprised when you tried to kiss me in Kibum's room. Then actually kissing me in the van after that, and being on that rooftop with me – talking about us being together, as a couple. And – what was the phrase that we used then? About what we were doing?"
"Running blind. We were running blind."
"I ran blind with you for years," says Hyukjae. "Our first time having sex in that motel – our long drives down the highways trying to find somewhere we could be alone together…"
"Room 316," says Donghae. "We managed to have so many precious hours there before Heechul hyung found us out. I remember you would fall asleep and I'd stay up as long as I could just watching you and thinking that I was so happy."
"I remember we walked back home together once, after KTR, when I was so angry with Teukie hyung," says Hyukjae.
"I remember you came out with me to visit my dad's grave, and you said you wanted to build a house in Mokpo that we could live in together," says Donghae. "That was a good day, wasn't it? Even though we broke up soon after that and you – you slept with some Chinese bastard!"
"Don't call him a bastard," says Hyukjae. "He was a nice guy. I was the asshole. And you have no idea how many times I've wished that I've never slept with anyone else in my life except you. I wish you could be exclusively the one and only person I've ever been with in that way. But then again, what we've done together – is unlike anything I've done with other people. So it really shouldn't matter." He hugs Donghae tight to prove it, and Donghae smacks him lightly.
"Let's move on from this topic before I feel like injuring anyone who's ever touched you."
"I never told you this," says Hyukjae, "but after our final breakup – when you were seeing that Andy guy – I was having a really bad time over it. I couldn't move on. It didn't make any sense to me because I was the who'd initiated it, but after it was over for real – I felt like dying. I was crying every night in the dorm, it was hopeless. Kyuhyunnie and Sungmin hyung tried to snap me out of it but I couldn't – it lasted for weeks – I really wanted to die. I thought of quitting the group. In the end I decided that the only way I could deal with it was to patch things up with you and be friends again. That was why I approached you in Taiwan and tried to woo your friendship back."
Donghae stares at him in astonishment, trying to remember those days – but they're too hazy, too much a part of what he has relegated to the 'forgotten' space in his mind to recall now, and in any case he hadn't seen too much of Hyukjae in the weeks following their breakup. He'd spent most of that time with One Way and Siwon and had consciously avoided Hyukjae as much as he could. "So that was why everyone acted weird when I told you about Andy during dance practice."
"Were we acting weird?" Hyukjae says. "I don't remember. Kyuhyunnie was telling me to hold on and put on a good face because you'd finally found someone better for you, which was truly what I did want at that time, after all the shit I put you through – but it wasn't easy. I used to have nightmares about him sleeping with you – though they weren't only nightmares, they were actually reality! But I learned how to deal with it."
"I don't remember Andy anymore," says Donghae. "I don't even remember what it was like being with him. My memories of Taiwan are all of you. The notes that you used to leave on my bedside table every day, and the basketball game you organised for me, and going prawning with me in the middle of the night and listening to me complain about my day. I think that was when I fell in love with you all over again. Because after that – we were sort of lovers, weren't we? Even though we still saw other people and we were in principle just really good friends – we were sort of lovers, actually."
"Sort of," Hyukjae agrees. "Until we made it official – after I came back from my 'around the world in 80 days' escapade."
Donghae smiles and tilts his head up, and this time Hyukjae meets him halfway in one of the intimate, open-mouthed kisses that they've perfected over the years.
"So here's the thing," Hyukjae says when they part. "I've been running blind with you for such a long time, but I'm not blind anymore. I know exactly what we have going, what we've done to get to this point, and what we're going to have in the future – because we are going to have a future, my love, despite what your dreams tell you. We're married, as married as anyone can be – you're my husband, and we're going to live together always. And I'm not going to give that up for anything in the world. I've been thinking back on the holiday and I know why you felt so bad about it – it's my fault for not being sensitive enough – but let's not play the blame game now. What can we do about it? How can we make you truly part of my family? And I've got it. I really have." He looks intently at Donghae, and there's so much love in his eyes that Donghae has to respond by kissing him again. "See, Donghae, the thing is, my parents don't know. They know nothing of all this. All they know is that we somehow fell in love, broke up, and then got back together again, and they've accepted it because they want me to be happy, but I've basically just – shoved us in their faces and expected them to understand. Of course they don't understand! With our – not very great – history of constantly breaking up and getting back together, of course they'd think that this is just another phase that we're in. We need to tell them everything that we've talked about tonight – the whole story of how we fell in love. What we've been through together – all the steps we've taken to arrive at this point. And then they'll finally understand what I mean when I call you my husband. Do you see, Donghae?"
"I do see," says Donghae softly. "You're absolutely right."
"Shall we do that tomorrow?" says Hyukjae. "Shall we go down to have dinner with them, and talk to them properly – and tell them the whole story?"
Donghae nods, smiling at the hopefulness in Hyukjae's face. "But you know," he says after a beat, "even if it doesn't turn out right – even after all that – you do know, don't you? That I'm yours for good. I've been yours since we were kids."
"I do know that," says Hyukjae. He reaches out to pull off Donghae's clothes and his own, and then they're nestling together naked again, the way they are, the way it should be, and Donghae kisses his arm as Hyukjae runs a hand slowly over his body to rest against his cock. "I've been so lucky to have you in my life, baby."
"Quit the talking now," says Donghae, lips against his throat. "Get inside me and show me how lucky you are."
There will be ONE final part before this story - at long last - comes to a close. :D