It was a sunny afternoon when Kyuhyun pulled away from his typewriter and leaned out the window, straining to hear the gentle strum of guitar strings and a soft voice accompanying it. He didn’t understand the words, but it was lovely, nonetheless. Immediately recognizing it as Donghae’s voice, he delighted in the soft, lilting notes and allowed himself to dream of fairy tales and happily-ever-afters.
He didn’t have to analyze it or fight himself over it – it was love, painting his world in vivid Technicolor glory and making his heart beat in time with the rest of the universe.
A sudden knock at his door pulled him away from his reverie. Zhou Mi entered the apartment as soon as Kyuhyun opened the door and rushed to the street-side window.
“Guixian, there’s someone out there watching the building,” he whispered, panic wavering his voice. “I don’t mean to sound paranoid, but I saw him yesterday in the exact same spot. I don’t know who he is, but I’m worried that Jielun might be having me followed.”
“I’ll go check it out, then; I won’t be too long,” he said, grabbing his keys from the nearest table.
“Do be careful,” he called out.
Kyuhyun left him behind and headed downstairs, hoping to take care of whoever it was before it got out of hand. When he got downstairs, the man in question wasted no time in seeking him out and motioning for him to come closer.
“Listen, son, I really need a friend,” he said, a tired expression drawing lines on his face. Kyuhyun thought he was awfully handsome, but there was such an air of heaviness about him that it was hard to imagine him ever being happy. “Do you mind if we go somewhere a little more private, somewhere we can sit down? I’m mighty tired of standing around here.”
They reached a nearby bench wordlessly, the pair sitting down and the older man pulling out a picture from his coat. “That right there is him,” he said as pointed out a figure in the now-faded photograph. “Next to him is his brother Donghwa, and that’s me on the left.” Kyuhyun studied the picture, noticing how young Donghae looked and all the other children scattered about in front of him.
“You’re – you’re Lee Donghae’s father?” Kyuhyun asked.
“No, not his natural-born father,” he laughed. “His name ain’t Lee Donghae, either. His name’s Jung Donghae; I’m his adopted father, Jung Yunho, but you can just call me ‘Doc’.”
“Cho Kyuhyun,” he replied, taking Yunho’s hand in greeting. “Forgive me, but you seem rather young to be a father to someone of Donghae’s age.”
“Well, I wasn’t set out to be anyone’s pa until I came across them two – I’m a vet in Gwangju, you know. His brother Donghwa’s getting out of the Army soon; Donghae belongs at home with his father, his brother, and all his siblings.”
“All of those are your kids?” Kyuhyun asked incredulously.
“Some are, from my previous marriage; others are strays like them,” he sighed.
“How’d you meet them, if I may ask?”
“When I found Donghae, he was going on 14 – him and his brother both were sneaking around back of my practice looking for something they could take and sell for food money. I brought ‘em in, asked ‘em what was going on, and he told me they blew in from Mokpo after escaping from their parents’ house. I contacted the parents, found out they were scum of the earth, then took them both in as my own.
“They had damn good cause to run away from them – none at all to leave me,” Yunho said, a distant look in his eyes. “I fed ‘em, loved ‘em as if they were my own.”
“Did Donghwa also run away?”
“No, sir. We had him until he signed on up for his mandatory service. That’s why I come to talk to him; I got a letter from Donghwa telling us that he’ll be out soon. I need you to be my friend,” he pleaded.
“Just let him know I’m here; I don’t want to scare him none and it’d be better if you re-introduced us. Could you do that for me?”
“Yeah, sure, Doc,” he said. “Come on, we’ll go talk to him now.”
A doorbell buzzed loudly and Donghae answered it, all dolled up in vintage Westwood with his favorite wayfarers, finding Kyuhyun on the other side. “Oh, I’m glad to see you, but I can’t stay; I was supposed to be somewhere a half-hour ago. Maybe we can have a drink tomorrow,” he said as he grabbed his watch from the small table near the door.
“Of course, Mr. Jung Donghae – if you’re still here tomorrow.”
A look crossed Donghae’s face and he took off his sunglasses. “Where is he? Where’s Donghwa?”
He moved past Kyuhyun and looked around the empty rooftop, walking to the edge of the staircase when he found Yunho standing there, waiting for him. The smile Yunho had when he finally laid eyes on Donghae nearly stopped Kyuhyun’s heart, it was so dazzling and genuine.
“Donghae… oh wow, Donghae,” he whispered, barely audible. “Do they even feed you up here? You’re so skinny.” He ran up the rest of the stairs and took the younger man into his arms. “Kingdom come, Donghae; you look so good.”
The two of them disappeared into Donghae’s apartment and Kyuhyun slinked back to his own place. It felt good knowing that he’d helped a kind-hearted soul like Yunho, and he hoped that by reuniting them, he did the right thing by Donghae and Yunho both. Perhaps he wouldn’t see either of them again, but it was probably worth it.
Not even an hour later, long after Zhou Mi had left, there was a knock at his window. He knew who it was before he even drew back the blinds.
“Donghae-hyung, what’s the matter?” Kyuhyun asked, opening the window and letting him in.
“Donghwa, I need your help – Doc still thinks I’m going back to Gwangju with him, but I refuse. We’re going to the train station and I need you to help me play the scene; I can’t do this on my own.” The slight crack in his voice alone was enough to break his heart.
“But he’s your father.”
“No, he’s not,” Donghae groaned. “He never officially adopted us; he’d never filed the papers and the name change was only superficial. Just please, meet us out front in an hour.”
When the three of them arrived at the train station, Yunho took off to buy the tickets while Kyuhyun stayed with Donghae. “Whatever you do, please just stay with me,” he whispered.
“Donghae-ah, our train’s pulling up!” They both turned around and saw the elder man waving at them. “It’s time to get to the platform.”
“Doc, I’m not going with you,” Donghae said, suddenly feeling bold. “We’ll walk together and I’ll try to explain. Donghwa can help me.”
Yunho only shook his head. “I appreciate you wantin’ to help, son, but this is between me and Donghae.” Kyuhyun nodded and backed off, wandering towards the wall of maps on the other side of the hall.
“I love you, Donghae.”
“I know, Doc, but that’s the problem,” he sighed. “You’ve always made that mistake, loving wild things. You always try to rescue them – stray dogs with busted legs and poor cats with litters too big for them. You can’t give your heart to a wild thing, because they get stronger. They get so strong, they’ll run away and leave you with nothing.”
“I’ve got something to tell you, Donghae,” he interrupted. “I just got a letter from Donghwa. He says he’s getting out of the Army soon and he’ll be home. You need to come back home with me and your siblings.”
“But I can’t go back, Doc; I just can’t.”
“But you got to. I don’t wanna seem like I’m pressurin’ you, but if you don’t come back, I’ll have to tell young Donghwa that he needs to find somewhere else to stay.”
“Don’t do that to him!” Donghae snapped. “Tell him to come up to Seoul; I’ll take care of him. Just don’t do that to him, please.”
They both stood there in silence, neither man wanting to make the first move. “Alright, Donghae,” Yunho said, “You seem to know what you’re doing. Just please, eat something? You’re so skinny.”
Donghae smiled widely, hugging him close and settling into that familiar warmth. “I love you, Doc, I truly do. I’m just not Jung Donghae, anymore. I hope you’ll realize that.”
Yunho gave him a soft, sad smile of his own and walked off towards his platform; not saying anything in fear of his own voice giving way. They waved and turned away at the same time, both somehow knowing it’d be the last they’d see one another, yet happy that they at least said goodbye.
Returning with a box of ddeotbokki from a cart outside, Kyuhyun handed Donghae a pair of chopsticks. “Here, I figure you could use something to eat.”
He laughed as he took the box from Kyuhyun’s hand. “Yeah, I’m getting too skinny.”
“You alright, hyung?”
“I’m alright. I guess I just realized now that I am still fourteen, looting about for scrap metal to sell and hanging about in alleys. Except now I call it the mean reds.”
Kyuhyun thought he saw him tear up, but a second later, it was gone and Donghae soon straightened up. “It’s far too late to go to Tiffany’s,” he shrugged, “but we can still go get a drink. We’ll take this food and get ourselves properly hammered – and I don’t want you to take me home until I’m too wasted to remember where home is.”
“I have come to a major, life-altering decision,” Donghae slurred as he wandered up his stairs with Kyuhyun following close behind. “After last count of being taken to dinner by no less than twenty-six different rats and super-rats this past month alone, I, Lee Donghae, will no longer play the field.”
“Good for you,” Kyuhyun snorted. He gently pushed the elder man up the stairs and kept him from slipping in any which way but up.
“Heretofore, let it be known that I, Mister Lee Donghae, utilizing my not-inconsiderable talents of persuasion, seduction, and overall charm, shall capture, for the purposes of becoming a kept man, one Mister Shin Donghee.”
“Who?” asked Kyuhyun as he fiddled with Donghae’s keys and unlocked the door to his apartment.
“Shindong – the one that came into my party with Choi Siwon,” he laughed, alcohol still heavy on his breath. “The one that looks like a blonde pig. I know you probably don’t approve, but I don’t need your approval.”
Kyuhyun took him by the arm and led him gently to the couch. “Donghae-hyung, you’re drunk. Let’s just calm down, alright?”
“What, you don’t think I can do it?” Through his intoxicated haze, a flash of anger sparked through his eyes. “I need the money – you heard what Doc said, Donghwa’s getting out of the Army soon, and I need to support him. I will do whatever it takes to get it, too. So, this time next month, I shall be Shindong’s new side-piece. We ought to celebrate – you still have the whiskey downstairs?”
“Yeah, I do – but you’ve had enough.”
Donghae leered at him and moved to get his wallet from his back pocket. “Go get it – I’ll pay you for it. I’m not going to accept a drink from any gentleman that disapproves of me, so take the money. You should be used to accepting money from older men by now.”
“If I were you, I’d be more careful with my money,” Kyuhyun snapped back, anger flushing his face. It was a low blow and the both of them knew it. “Mucking about with the pigs is too hard of a way to earn it.”
“It should take you four seconds to cross over to that door – I’ll give you two,” he spat back.
Kyuhyun stormed out of the apartment and back out onto the rooftop, not bothering to spare Donghae a single glance. He knew he’d crumble and scatter like so many pillars of salt if he did.
A week later, with the newspapers filled with news of Shin Donghee’s latest marriage to some rich chaebol daughter (the fourth one so far), Kyuhyun found himself in front of Donghae’s door yet again – this time, bearing a bottle of milk, a check for 50,000 won, and an olive branch.
He greeted him much the same way he did when they first met, but this time, it almost felt as if he were coming home rather than visiting someone else – the way Donghae moved about the kitchen, the way his thoughts flew about faster than he could move his lips, even how he poured out the milk for him and the cat just made the world feel right.
“By the way, I don’t want you to feel bad about the Shindong incident,” he called out as he walked back into his room for a shirt. “He was a super-rat, and not only was he a super-rat, he was also absolutely broke. Turns out, it was all his family’s money; he actually owed seven million won. I can’t even wrap my mind around that – can you?”
“Not at all,” Kyuhyun replied.
“You know, I’d stay with you for your money – hell, I’d marry you if I could,” Donghae laughed. “Would you marry me for my money?”
“Any day.” It took him aback when he realized just how much he had wanted that.
The elder man’s head peeked around the doorjamb, smile shy and bottom lip bitten. “Then I guess it’s a good thing neither of us are rich, then.”
Donghae emerged from the bedroom, partially decent in a clingy white undershirt and plaid pajama bottoms. “Kyuhyun-ah, I really am glad to see you again.” As if he weren’t paying attention, he leaned over and pressed a small kiss to his cheek before slowly realizing what he’d done and moving away. He quickly walked towards the living room and sat down on the couch. “Uh, so what have you been doing lately?”
“Writing, mostly – I actually came up here to tell you that I’d just sold a new story and got an advance on it. Check came in the mail today.” He was quietly grateful for the sudden change in subject.
“That’s amazing! And have you told your decorator friend?”
“You know something?” he laughed, “I haven’t even thought about it yet.”
“You know what we ought to do to celebrate? We should go to Tiffany’s – Apgujeong’s not all that far away and we could both stand to get out of here.” Donghae nearly bounced out of his seat to run to his bedroom. “I’ll get changed into something nicer and we’ll go. You’re going to love it, Kyuhyun!”
As he waited for the other man to get dressed, he realized that for once, he used his actual name instead of his brother’s – an otherwise innocuous act that took him aback in its intimacy and its realness. The thought kept him warm against the slight Seoul autumn, a small smile touching his lips all the way into the heart of the city and to the store Donghae loved so much.
The inside of the shop was wealth and elegance, a quiet temple dedicated to the worship of the material and all things that glitter. There was no such thing as ostentation or pretention here – subtlety in extravagance was the creed and Old World glory the standard. One could feel completely insignificant yet welcomed in a place like this, and suddenly Kyuhyun understood what Donghae meant when they first met.
“You see, the thing is, I’m not too terribly much into diamonds,” Donghae whispered lowly – as if he were afraid of disturbing the sacred air. “It’s all beautiful, but it’s not for me. I just love looking at it and imagining how it would look on me – especially those.” He pointed towards the silver and gold bands in one of the many display cases. “Although I think they’d look simply divine on you, Kyuhyun; you have the loveliest hands.”
He took one of his hands into his own and squeezed it slightly, smiling up at him and pulling away. Before Kyuhyun could sufficiently blush hard enough, a salesman approached them from behind the counter.
“Is there anything I can help you with today?” the clerk inquired.
“Yes, we’re looking for a present for my friend here,” Kyuhyun said, taking the initiative. “He likes simple, tasteful pieces – preferably rings.”
The much older man nodded in agreement. “I’m sure we can accommodate your… friend’s tastes.”
“There’s also another problem – one of finance. See, we’re on a limited budget of about 60,000 won,” he added. “I certainly hope that won’t be a problem.”
Donghae looked wide-eyed and upset, but Kyuhyun placed a hand on his arm to keep him from interrupting. “Kyuhyun, I don’t want you to cash your check,” he whispered in his ear. “You worked hard for that.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he murmured back. “I want to do this. You got me something and it was good luck, so let me return the favor.”
“Well, it is a bit below our normal price range, but I’m sure you’ll find Tiffany’s to be understanding,” the clerk said, a bit confused. “We do have something, considered a bit of a novelty – a stainless steel ring, with a single cubic zirconium inlaid in the center. It is priced at 10,000 won, plus tax.”
“I think that’s perfect,” Kyuhyun said, brightly beaming at the clerk. “Can we also have it engraved?”
“But of course,” he said. “We’ll do it free of charge, since this is a Tiffany’s purchase. All we’ll need is the phrase you want, and we’ll have something for you in the morning.”
“Thank you very much,” Donghae said, smile so bright it outshone Tiffany’s entire stock.
“See, I didn’t even have to cash my check,” Kyuhyun said, elbowing his side teasingly after the clerk left them for the back room.
He rolled his eyes and shoved him back. “Whatever. Now tell me what you’re going to put on that ring.”
“It’s a secret. You won’t get it out of me, no matter what.”
“Fine,” he sighed dramatically. “But you’re going to take me to the library to make up for it – I want to see your book there.”
As they left Tiffany’s and meandered back onto the streets of Apgujeong, Kyuhyun wondered if this was what it felt like to be normal, to be a real person instead of a possession. He didn’t feel the weight of a thousand judging stares, the choking sensation of shame that he did with Zhou Mi. Regrets might not pay the bills, but they did a damn good job of keeping him up at night.
On the train back to their neighborhood, however, with Donghae’s head nestled into the curve of his neck in his slumber, he found he wouldn’t mind belonging here, belonging to him. Lee Donghae was a wild thing, he admitted – the wildest beast ever to roam the concrete jungle – but it made him all the more magnificent. He couldn’t tame him, and he’d never dream of it; his beauty was his freedom. But if he could be near him, be beside him, that would be enough.
They finally arrived at Donghae’s apartment with arms linked, laughing the whole while over some inane joke he’d heard on television. While he dug through his pockets for his keys, Donghae paused and shifted himself to face the younger man.
In that same moment, Kyuhyun stared down into his eyes and found everything he could’ve ever wanted staring back at him with such intensity that it made his knees weak. Donghae’s eyes shimmered in the Seoul lights around them, the honey-hazel pools drawing him in and consuming him whole.
When their lips finally met, the world around them dissolved into nothing as Kyuhyun’s world collapsed into a singularity where time slowed down to nonexistence and his body felt simultaneously massive and weightless. It was the best first kiss he’d ever had, yet when it ended, he was left breathless and bereft in an endless sea that he couldn’t stay afloat in.
Kyuhyun considered going to visit Donghae’s apartment, after he cleaned himself up and got some breakfast in him, but a loud knock soon changed those plans. Shuffling to the door, he opened it to Zhou Mi’s smiling face – the fact that he had a key at the ready didn’t escape his notice.
“Good morning, Mi-ge. To what do I owe the pleasure?” he mumbled.
He only giggled in reply, settling his arms around Kyuhyun’s shoulders and pulling him in. “You’re so silly, but I love you for it,” a teasing smile and a wrinkle of his nose following. “You know what I’m here for, darling.”
That was it.
“Zhou Mi, we need to talk.”
“Alright,” he purred, shutting the door behind him. “I feel a serious discussion coming on – is that what this is? Oooh, is this girl trouble? Guy trouble? Well, either way, it’s trouble for me.”
Kyuhyun sighed deeply, carding his fingers through his ebony hair and already wishing for this conversation to end. “This has nothing to do with anyone else – it’s strictly between you and me.”
“I can’t say I haven’t been expecting it. Mind you, I didn’t think it’d happen so soon nor did I want it to happen at all, but I saw it coming.”
“You’re a stylish man, Zhou Mi – can’t we end this stylishly?”
“End it?” Zhou Mi’s eyes flashed dangerously, but a sardonic smile overtook his expression and set Kyuhyun on edge. “I get it – you’re in love,” he said, as if the very notion were laughable. “So who is this person that captured the lovely Guixian’s heart – a waitress? Another writer, perhaps? Maybe someone with more money than me – someone that would be useful to you.”
“No, actually,” he groaned. This conversation already started to make him feel ill. “He can’t help me anymore than he can help himself – but I can help him, and it’s a far better feeling than being owned.”
Zhou Mi only gave him a mildly amused stare before reaching into his coat pocket and pulling out a checkbook. “You’re absolutely right, Guixian; I am a stylish man. We’ll do this in style, then. I think an even million won sounds good, right? I want you to take her – or him, whoever it is – to Jeju for about a week or two. You’ve earned your vacation with pay; it’s a fringe benefit, but I’m generous. Go have your summer fling on the beach and come back to me whenever you’re ready to act like an adult instead of a love-sick teenager.”
“An adult? Don’t make me laugh, Zhou Mi; I’m not the one that thinks keeping someone around as a pet is the way a decent person behaves,” he spat. “So if you find another starving writer to ‘sponsor’, you’d better make sure he wears my size in suits.”
Storming out of the building with his cell phone in hand, he quickly texted Donghae and hoped that he’d respond quickly. He had to see him; it was the only way to make any of this right again. As he strode down the street, no particular destination in mind, his phone went off and his heart leapt up into his throat – Donghae was only sitting at home.
When the elder man answered the door, Kyuhyun swept in with a bottle of soju and a kiss for Donghae’s cheek – the latter of which he backed away from.
“Hyung, aren’t you happy to see me?” Kyuhyun gasped, slightly breathless out of exhilaration and exertion.
“What is it you want, Kyuhyun?”
His terse tone made him panic and something in his gut told him he needed to leave before the situation turned even more sour, but he stayed, anyway. “I just came to talk to you, but I guess I caught you in the middle of… whatever it is you’re doing.”
“I’m reading,” he supplied.
Kyuhyun’s gaze shot down to the book in Donghae’s hand. “China: Empires Old and New,” he read aloud. “Donghae-hyung, what is all this?”
“Donghwa, would you mind leaving now? I’m in the middle of something,” Donghae said, turning back towards his couch and promptly ignoring the man standing at his door.
“Donghae-hyung… I love you,” he blurted out. It shocked him as much as it did Donghae, of that he was sure.
Saying nothing, he rose off the couch and quickly made his way to the back of the apartment. Kyuhyun dashed after him, taking hold of his elbow and begging him to turn around.
“Where are you going?”
“To the bathroom,” he sniffed. “Now please let me go, Donghwa.”
He nearly felt his throat close up at hearing that name again. “Donghae, I am not nor have I ever been Donghwa; I’m not even Kim Kibum or whatever rat you’ve come across. My name is Kyuhyun, Cho Kyuhyun, and I love you. What the hell is all of this about China, anyway?”
“Well, if I’m going to marry a Chinese woman, I might as well learn a little more about the culture, right?” The smile on his face told him all he needed to know, but he didn’t want to believe it.
“You’re not serious – you’re going to try and seduce that young woman from the party? Victoria?” Kyuhyun spat.
“Victoria Song, yes,” he chirped. “Choi Siwon’s friend from the party – the gorgeous girl in that dangerous dress? As it turns out, not only is she beautiful and rich, she’s apparently quite taken with me.”
“Have you no shame? You’re just seducing her for your own selfish gains!”
“Seduction is such a nasty term – I much prefer charming or wooing. Besides, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship,” he said airily, as if he were talking about a drama he’d watched. “She gets a handsome piece of arm candy and a chance to impress the family while I get taken care of. It’ll be like a political alliance, like with ancient royalty – I think that’s wildly romantic, actually.”
“You’re right; that’s not manipulative or cruel at all.”
Donghae pulled his arm out of Kyuhyun’s grip easily and turned away. “Please let me go now.”
Stunned, he backed away and met Donghae’s hardened stare with his own. “You honestly don’t believe that I’m no better than all of those other rats and super-rats that take you out to dinner and come sniffing around here for just a second of your precious attention?”
“That’s just dandy, because I nearly forgot to give you your 50,000 for the restroom,” he said, a crack hiding at the edge of his voice.
Reaching inside his coat pocket and taking out his check, Kyuhyun grabbed Donghae’s hand and pressed the paper into it. He turned on his heel and strode towards the door, never feeling so cheap in his life.
It was a quiet evening indoors for Kyuhyun, still pecking away at his typewriter (he never did get the hang of speed-typing on it), when he heard two distinct voices coming up the stairs that ran beside his window. The first he immediately recognized as Donghae’s, the second had a slightly familiar foreign lilt to it – Victoria’s. He listened to their laughter and a pang of jealousy throbbed through his skull, the ache making him sick.
Despite all efforts to the contrary, Kyuhyun could never bring himself to truly hate Victoria – if anything, he worried for her – but knowing that she was the one at Donghae’s side and not him turned his stomach, anyway.
The voices passed as did the ill sensation, but not even a few moments later an urgent, frantic knocking on his window had him scrambling to pull back the blinds. Victoria stood on the other side, obviously panicked and visibly shaken.
“圭贤! 请帮我!” she shouted as Kyuhyun pulled the window up.
“Slow down, and please speak in Korean,” he soothed, taking her hand in his and squeezing gently in an effort to calm her down. “What happened?”
“Donghai – I mean, Donghae-ssi and I went up to his apartment, but then he found a message waiting for him on the door and he went… insane; I am not entirely sure how else to describe it,” she panted out. “Please help him; you are his friend.”
“I’m coming right out.” He climbed through the window and followed Victoria up the stairs and to Donghae’s rooftop home.
The apartment door was slightly ajar, the light streaming through and illuminating a sliver of the night. Kyuhyun entered the place with Victoria following close behind, her presence a small comfort; he had no idea what to expect, much less Donghae’s emotional state at that moment.
They walked into a complete mess – items strewn about and in pieces all over the floor, furniture overturned, broken glass littered across the linoleum in the kitchen – and the elder man was nowhere in sight. He found Cat hiding underneath the coffee table, crouching in fear and tail curled up protectively around his body. Leaving Victoria to look over Cat, Kyuhyun made his way into the bedroom.
There, he found Donghae sobbing on his bed, feathers still floating in the air after he’d gutted one of his pillows. The bedroom was as much of a wreck as the rest of the house with Donghae being the epicenter of the disaster. Sighing deeply, he walked over to the edge of the bed and sat down carefully, gently running his fingers through the other man’s hair.
“Hyung, what happened?” he murmured.
Donghae only let out a choked cry and buried into his comforter deeper. After a few moments, a muffled Donghwa came out.
“I know, hyung, I’m here,” Kyuhyun said, still doing his best to comfort him.
Victoria came into the room and knocked softly on the doorjamb. “Kyuhyun-ssi, I think you need to read this,” she said softly, holding up a small yellow piece of paper.
Leaving Donghae on the bed, Kyuhyun entered the living room and closed the door behind him.
“I am so sorry to have interrupted your night, but I was so confused and I had no idea who else to ask. He came in here, read this letter, then started carrying about. I cannot have a public scandal, Kyuhyun-ssi – my name, my position, my family? Oh no, what if someone calls the police?” Victoria whispered lowly.
“There’s no law against trashing your own place,” Kyuhyun sighed. “So where is this letter?”
She unfolded it and smoothed out the creases before handing it over. His eyes scanned over the page and his heart felt numb.
“We regret to inform you that Lee Donghwa has been killed in a training accident,” he read, “during a routine rifle exercise. Private First Class Lee served his country with distinction, and he has made his family and his country proud. The Republic of Korea extends its deepest heartfelt sympathies, and we assure that he will be buried with full military honors. Yours in grief, General Cho Junghwan, Chief of Staff, The Republic of South Korea Army.”
“Oh my God,” she whispered in a hushed shock. “Was he very close to Lee Donghwa-ssi?”
“They were brothers, so yeah; they were really close,” he answered morosely.
“What can one do at a time like this?” She sat down on the untouched couch and looked up at Kyuhyun expectantly.
“Try to help him. I tried; it didn’t do any good,” he said. “Say, you got a nice place in Beijing? Something really fancy?”
“Yes, I do. My family owns several homes in that city, as well as in Shanghai and Guangzhou.”
“Whichever’s the quietest one, can you take him there?” He smiled as she nodded in agreement. “Well, you’d better get in there; he needs you now more than ever.”
Kyuhyun gave Victoria a gentle hug before handing the letter back to her and leaving the apartment. It felt callous, shallow, even, to leave right then – but he wasn’t going to stay where he wasn’t needed any longer.
The leaves had already started to turn from their natural green into various reds and oranges before Kyuhyun saw Donghae again. In some ways, it felt as if they’d never been parted – in others, it felt as if they’d been apart for centuries. During that time, he’d worked more on his novel and landed a job editing for a major magazine. All of it provided a welcome respite from thoughts of Lee Donghae and his own emotions.
All of that changed, however, the day he received an e-mail from Donghae – he’d asked to get together sometime and catch up before he left for China. He left an address for a small Portuguese place in one of the sleepier parts of Seoul, asking him to meet him there around seven o’clock the next night. Kyuhyun briefly thought about cancelling – coming up with some excuse or another to get out of it – but he couldn’t bear to let him leave without at least saying goodbye.
He arrived at the restaurant just before the appointed time, noticing the odd name of the place before walking in. Immediately spotting Donghae sitting alone at a corner table towards the back, he waved and made his way over towards him. His heart beat wildly in his chest, betraying the feelings he’d promised himself he’d keep restrained tonight.
“Hello, stranger,” Kyuhyun said, smiling as if the past months never happened and the man sitting across from him hadn’t nearly destroyed him.
“Hello, yourself,” Donghae laughed, motioning for him to take the opposite chair. “So, tell me how you’ve been.”
“I’ve been doing quite well for myself – I’ve got a job again since my, er, decorator friend’s gone, and I’ve already had a few more stories published.”
“I know – I’ve read at least three of them in that one magazine, and another on that one website,” replied Donghae excitedly. “I’m really happy for you, Kyuhyun.”
“Thank you – and you seem pretty happy, overall.”
“I’m divinely happy, actually. I’ve been brushing up on my Chinese and I feel like I’ll be able to survive a little in Beijing,” he said.
Kyuhyun just smiled and picked up a piece of bread from the basket on the table. “So tell me, hyung, why did you contact me again? And why didn’t you call before?”
“Well, I’d lost your number, but I found your e-mail off that website so I figured it’d be the best way to find you,” he shrugged. “But the thing is, I’m flying out to Beijing tomorrow – Victoria’s in Incheon right now taking care of some loose ends and she’ll be following me out the next day. I’d already said goodbye to everyone I care about, even Kim Heechul-ssi. So, I figured I’d treat you to dinner at a fancy restaurant.”
“So that does mean you’re marrying her?”
At that, Donghae squirmed a little in his seat. “Well, I haven’t really gotten around to asking her, and she hasn’t brought it up – well, not in so many words – so I mean…”
“That’s how many words it takes – ‘Will you marry me?’.”
Their eyes shot up and met each other’s, neither sure quite what to say.
“Well, yes, of course that’s how it goes. And we will get married – in Beijing, with all of her family there, in a church or a temple or whatever her family prefers. That’s why we’re waiting until we get there,” he brushed off. “Probably.”
“Right. So, did you want to order, or…?” It was time for a change in subject, he felt.
Donghae quickly grabbed his menu and skimmed through it. “Oh, right. You know, I’ve never really had Portuguese food, but I chose it because of the name – ‘Saudade’.”
“I noticed that on the way in – what does that mean, exactly?”
“It doesn’t really have a direct translation to Korean,” Donghae explained. “I guess the closest thing is geurium. It is a nostalgic feeling of loss, of emptiness, yet still feeling happy that you had the memory.”
“I remain impressed with your worldly knowledge. You have to admit that’s rather depressing for the name of a restaurant, though – but I suppose you think that’s wildly romantic.” Kyuhyun chuckled.
“Oh, you know me so well, Kyuhyunnie. But I feel that saudade already,” he sighed, picking up his own roll.
“And how so? You haven’t gone anywhere yet.”
“Ever since – well, you know – I haven’t really been here. I don’t belong here anymore, Kyuhyunnie. I still love this city, even more than my own hometown, and I do want to come back someday. Maybe I’ll have a whole horde of Chinese-Korean brats by then, with Victoria’s smile and my eyes, or maybe the other way around, and I’ll bring them all here just to see what a wonderful place it really is.”
Kyuhyun raised an eyebrow at that. “Well, if it helps at all, I think you’ll make a wonderful father.” His stomach dropped when he realized that it was something he knew he could never give to Donghae, and in a way, it made letting him go just a little easier.
“You’re too kind, really,” Donghae said as he rolled his eyes. “And I know what you’re thinking – it’s rather odd for me to just settle down out of the blue, but honestly, other than you and maybe one other person, Victoria’s my first non-rat romance. Sure, she’s a bit too prim and proper at times, but I really am happy with her. I think I’d give up alcohol completely if she asked.”
“Well, I’m happy for you, hyung.” And he found that he actually was.
“Now, let’s order; I’m starving and I still need to go home to pack,” he said with a teasing wrinkle of his nose.
After a satisfying meal and a conversation lasting until the restaurant staff kicked them out, the pair headed back towards their apartment building practically floating on air. Deciding that the night air was too perfect to waste spending it inside the back of the cab or on a train, they made the trek back on foot, chattering and joking all the while.
They had expected to spend the rest of the evening in Donghae’s apartment with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and their memories, but their landlord had completely different plans.
When the lights came on in the living room, an entire group of police officers flanking Mr. Han Geng on either side immediately set upon them and put Donghae in handcuffs none too gently. He didn’t complain or struggle, but Kyuhyun saw the shock in his eyes and his sight went red with pure anger.
“This is your man, officers!” shouted Mr. Han Geng, pointing at Donghae. “He’s the one involved in your narcotics ring, with that crime boss Kim Heechul!”
“Now wait a damn minute, here – “ Kyuhyun shouted back, but a pair of handcuffs slapped onto his wrist interrupted that thought.
“Save it for the judge, kid,” the police officer scoffed as he tugged his arms behind his back, locking his wrists together. “Or maybe if you’re lucky, you can post bail tonight.”
Kyuhyun caught a glimpse of Donghae as they were led out of the apartment and back out onto the street, looking as wounded and dismayed as he felt. Before they shoved him into the back of the squad car, he saw him mouth the words I’m so sorry.
The cars pulled up to the police department and a sea of reporters – the news of a popular socialite being indicted in one of the city’s biggest drug busts in years caught on like wildfire, and everyone wanted a shot at being the first to break the confirmed reports. Kyuhyun simply ignored it – he was a nobody and nobody cared about his involvement – but Donghae drank it all up, a natural reaction to any sort of attention he got. He smiled for the cameras and answered their questions as the officers dragged them into the building.
“Is it true that you were carrying coded messages for Kim Heechul?” a brave reporter shouted above the din.
“That’s not true at all! All I did was receive the weather report and give it to Mr. Kim Youngwoon; please don’t ask me what any of this is about 因为我不知道什么这是的.”
“But you did visit him every week – so did you know that he was part of a major drug syndicate?” another questioned.
“He never once mentioned anything like that to me,” Donghae shot back. “I do wish they’d all quit persecuting him; he’s a perfectly sweet person.”
The first reporter asked, “So if you’re innocent, who’s going to represent you?”
“Well, I suppose Mr. Kim Youngwoon will,” he shrugged.
When another group of officers pulled a large, rather surly man into the lobby of the building, Donghae shouted and waved at him. “Mr. Kim! Kim Youngwoon-ssi! It’s me, Donghae! You’re going to help us get out, right?”
“Shut up!” he roared, knocking over a hapless reporter that had tried to take a picture. The police carted him into another part of the building as everyone watched, oddly fascinated with the scene.
Donghae only shook his head and allowed the officers to take him into booking, ignoring the rest of the paparazzi’s questions and looking rather despondent for someone who had only moments earlier seemed so full of life.
Kyuhyun was the first to make bail, after gathering up enough cash from his bank account to spring himself out. He didn’t have near enough for Donghae’s bail, so he called the only person either of them thought would give him any sort of sympathy for his predicament.
“Mr. Park Jungsu?” he called after the other side finally picked up.
“Yeah, this is Jungsu. May I ask who’s calling? And so late at night?”
“It’s Cho Kyuhyun, from Donghae’s party,” he said, relief evident in his weary voice.
“It’s Cho Kyu- Jungsu-ssi, it’s Donghwa baby.”
“Oh, why didn’t you say so? What’s the matter, Donghwa baby?”
“The thing is, Donghae-hyung’s gotten himself into a little bit of trouble and I was wondering if you could bail him out – I’ll pay you back as soon as I can,” Kyuhyun pleaded.
“Don’t worry about it, don’t worry about it,” Jungsu grumbled. “I’ll call my lawyer and get him out first thing in the morning – he’ll also give you some extra cash. I want you to take the money and rent out a little motel room so the two of you can lay low for a hot minute while all this blows over. You think you can do that?”
“Sure!” Kyuhyun was sure that he sounded like an idiot, but he didn’t quite care. “I’ll be out there waiting for him. Thank you so very much.”
“It’s not a big deal, Donghwa baby. I like the kid and I feel I owe him – well, I don’t actually owe him anything, but it’s like a paternal thing, I guess. You take care of yourself now, alright?”
A cab stood idling outside of the jail and Kyuhyun with it, a smile and open arms just for him as Donghae walked out of the back entrance. They held each other tightly, neither quite willing to let go.
“I grabbed all your suitcases and put them in the trunk; we’re going to find a motel and lay low for a while until all this blows over and the trial ends. Gotta make sure you’re in the clear,” Kyuhyun mumbled into Donghae’s shoulder. “I even grabbed Cat for you; he’s waiting in the back.”
“Thank you so much for doing that; you have no idea how awful it was, spending the night in that place,” he said, piling into the backseat of the cab.
They took off, and Kyuhyun gave the driver directions to the nearest motel – Donghae, however, disagreed.
“I’m going to Beijing and meeting up with Victoria, remember? I’ve already got my plane ticket and my bags,” he scoffed.
Kyuhyun winced, feeling the bottom of his stomach drop at the realization of what he had to do. “I don’t think you can. I found this at your door when I went to grab your things,” he explained as he pulled a slip of paper from his coat pocket.
Donghae’s eyes ran over the paper and he gasped aloud. “Dearest Donghae,” he read, “I care for you deeply and it would’ve been my greatest honor to have brought you home to my family. Sadly, the people in my world care far too much for appearances. Word would eventually reach them of all the trouble you’ve been in as of late, and I couldn’t stand to see you hurt because of their wicked ways. I would never dream of adding my condemnation to that which already surrounds you, so please do not condemn me. Please forget me, love, and live a happy life. Yours always, Victoria Song.”
“I’m so sorry.”
He only stared at the paper, eyes glazed over and fingers tense. “Well, I’m not,” he croaked. “I have a perfectly good ticket to Beijing and I don’t intend to waste it,” he declared, lips set in a firm line.
“You can’t leave the country, hyung; they’ll extradite you back here and throw you back in jail. You’re under indictment, remember?” Kyuhyun scolded. “You need to stay here and we’ll figure everything out.”
“They’re not going to charge me with anything; they’re just trying to get me to rat on Heechul-ssi. Besides, there’s nothing left for me in this country, anyway; it’s time to start anew.”
That struck a nerve. “What about me? Don’t I count as something for you? I love you, Donghae, and I think that counts for something.”
“You’ve told me,” he mumbled. “But as much as I adore you, I’m not letting something as foolish as love get in the way of what I need to do.”
“But you don’t need to do this,” pleaded Kyuhyun. “You belong here with me.”
“I don’t belong anywhere, or to anyone!” Donghae cried, tears pooling at the corners of his eyes. “If I’m not attached to anyone, then they can’t run away, either. I’m just like Cat here; I’m a no-name slob with no place else to go. We don’t belong to anyone or anything, not even each other. Driver, please stop.”
The cab pulled to a halt, pulling in towards the sidewalk. Donghae grabbed Cat from his resting place on the floor of the cab. He reached over and opened the door, shoving Cat out of the cab and into the rain. “Go on, scram! You’ll be happier out there, in the alleys with the rats and garbage.” He shut the door and told the driver to continue on.
“No, you’re right, Donghae – you don’t belong to me,” Kyuhyun relented, somewhat shocked at the elder man’s sudden hysterics. “You can’t own a person; but love isn’t about ownership, it’s about caring enough about someone to let them see the most vulnerable parts of you and trusting them not to hurt you. That’s when you know that you belong somewhere.”
“I’m not going to let anyone put me in a cage,” Donghae snapped. “I’m not Lee Donghae, I’m not Jung Donghae, I’m not anyone; I don’t even know who I am anymore.”
“I’m not trying to put you into a cage, I’m trying to love you.”
“It’s the same thing.”
“Sir, could you let me out here?” Kyuhyun pulled out a few bills and handed it to the driver. When the cab pulled up to the sidewalk again, he stepped out into the pouring rain and turned the collar up on his coat.
“You know what your problem is, Mr. Whoever-You-Are?” Kyuhyun asked. “You know exactly who you are and where you need to be, but you’re too scared to admit it. You’re chicken-shit. You’ve made it a point to run away – you don’t even know what you’re running away from anymore. You said that you didn’t want to be put in a cage, but you’ve always been in a cage, hyung. It isn’t in Beijing, in Seoul, in New York City; it’s wherever you are and you’ll always be there until you wake up and realize what was in front of you all along.”
“No, Kyuhyun, don’t –!”
“Here, I’d been keeping this for a while, but I don’t need it anymore. It’s yours,” he snapped, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small velvet box. He didn’t bother sticking around to hear anymore of Donghae’s protests; he slammed the door shut and watched as the cab drove off into the storm.
Anger coursed its way through his veins and jealousy clawed its way up his throat, burning and hurting as Donghae’s words played on repeat in his mind. The rain seeped into his coat and down onto his skin, the cold sending shivers up his spine and constricting his chest. The realization of just how stupid, how foolish he’d been hit him like a ten-ton truck and nearly knocked all the wind from him. All his dreams of sun-soaked mornings spent in white satin and starless nights filled with whispered hopes flowed down into the gutters with the rest of the run-off. He’d gambled it all and lost.
A cat’s cry stirred him out of his trance and drew his attention to the alley – where Donghae had pushed Cat out of the cab a few moments ago. The mewls grew louder and he ducked into the alley, searching amongst the refuse and the stacked pallets for the orange tabby. Maybe he couldn’t give Donghae a home, but he’d sure try to give Cat one.
“Cat!” he shouted above the hiss of the rain. “Come out, Cat!”
He pushed further into the alley, moving aside trashcans and boxes looking for the bright orange animal. A few moments into his search and he nearly gave up – wherever Cat was, he was buried deep in all the refuse piled up everywhere around the alley.
Kyuhyun turned around and saw Donghae, soaked to the bone, standing near the entrance of the alley. He watched as he moved past him and further into the alley, searching through wooden crates and cardboard boxes, yelling for the cat and shaking pallets in the hopes of coaxing him out. A weakened, frightened mewl finally came from a box underneath several piles of soggy newspaper, sending Donghae diving in after him. He pulled him out, nearly crying in relief as he tucked the cat into the opening of his jacket to keep him shielded from the rain.
“Kyuhyun, I found him,” he cried, snuggling the cat close to his chest.
Making his way past the garbage, Kyuhyun met Donghae in the middle of the alley and pulled him and Cat into a warm embrace despite the cold rain. “I’m so glad, Donghae, I’m so glad,” he sighed. “Why did you come back?”
“’I for You’,” he gasped as he ran his hand over Cat’s fur. Kyuhyun saw the glint of steel on his finger and everything clicked. “That’s what you wrote inside the ring. I needed to know what that meant.”
“It means that I – the entirety of my being – am meant for you,” he said, conviction lost and body tired. “I will always be there for you, in any way you need me. It was my promise to you, set in steel and crowned with a stone. But it doesn’t matter, anymore.”
“It matters to me, Kyuhyun. I’ve done my share of running and I just want to come home.”
In Donghae’s eyes, Kyuhyun saw all his longing and apprehension reflected straight back at him, and he’d never felt so frightened or excited in his life.
When they kissed, it wasn’t quite as magical as the first time – the world continued on around them and Cat squirmed in between their chests. The chilled rain continued to soak them through and he was sure that passersby were staring, but when Donghae broke away and gave him the same smile that floored him the day they met, he felt his universe align itself perfectly with this neurotic, selfish, gorgeous, wild soul in its center. And everything fit as it should.
A/N: Well, this is the single longest one-shot I've ever written - and I've written some damn long one-shots. This story was originally posted at sj_reel, but since my return from Army training, I made some major revisions and edits (as is often the case when one gets away from their work and has a chance to look at it with fresh eyes), so this is the absolute finito version.
If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll easily recognize some of the quotes and turns of phrase scattered about – my writing process for this story pretty much consisted of me sitting in front of my TV with this DVD and hitting the pause button repeatedly. Also, in case anyone was confused about the random bits of Chinese: in the original movie, Holly Golightly used random French whenever she spoke, so I translated that same habit to Donghae speaking random Chinese. I'd translate it for you, but it's not essential to understand what he's saying. Thank you so much for reading!