Challenge: Themes Challenge
Disclaimer: I don't own any of them, SME does. Plot is mine.
Summary: He might not make the smartest life decisions, but he lives with no regrets. He'll make sure of that, until the day he dies.
Warning(s): Long. 4000+ words long. Un-beta'd and written while I was half asleep; errors are plentiful and guaranteed.
Donghae is not in the position to fight off the brutal forces and gesticulate needs of the turbulent years trailing closely behind himself. Often times, he finds himself sitting under the sweltering summer sky; the sun a tone too bright, the heat a couple degrees too high, and he just sits there, remembering.
There are many things he remembers, but none quite so clear as the common misconceptions he had at younger ages-- ages too reproachable for his own taste.
But someone had appreciated him then, even as he wallowed in his own delusions, and he could only be thankful. For as much as he remembered, and as much as that accounted to, he had given everything he could afford to that person.
Unfortunately, it was not enough.
When that person left him, inevitably, he was left behind with many regrets. In times as such, Donghae could only blame himself-- he blames himself for believing in such apparitions; he blames himself for not believing in the more obvious realities brought to his attention.
One need not be in love to be happy, he tells himself now, but it’s too late; happiness has left him and, he reasons, it might not be coming back.
At least, not in the form of Hyukjae.
“That picture is from middle school.”
Donghae smiles proudly at the photo resting in Yesung’s palm. The older man quirks his lips awkwardly and nods, handing the picture back to Donghae silently.
The photograph is slightly yellowed, curled at the edges with folds here and there. Neither of them had expected to find such a box in Donghae’s attic, a box filled with memorable goods, but the two of them are cleaning out old items of their shared residence and more and more reveal themselves from corners and slots of the loft.
As Donghae digs deeper into the box, Yesung leans back against the wall.
“I remember the day he got his first motorcycle,” Donghae chuckles, his voice a tad too strained in his own ears when he looks down at another photo he discovers from the box. “I wasn’t there, but I might as well have been; Hyukjae kept calling me and telling me how great of a ride it was and how all of his friends were jealous.”
Yesung laughs along, neck bent wearily. He accepts the photo handed to him and is invited by a warm sight of a young man clad in a ripped jean outfit and a dark blue motorcycle. Hyukjae wears a smile as bright as the sun; almost blinding.
“It was a really beautiful bike.” Donghae says.
“Sure is.” Yesung agrees.
Memories, they are very tricky things. “I can’t recall whether he liked driving down the night streets of Daegu more, or through the shaky roads of Busan more...” Donghae trails off, lips thinned into a line.
In an effort to help, Yesung retells the tale of when Hyukjae had forgotten his bike outside of a bar in Busan and didn’t have the money to catch a cab home. According to Hyukjae, the vehicle was stolen and he was stuck in Busan for nights.
They discovered later on, though, that Hyukjae was in a crash and was hospitalized the entire time. Hyukjae refused to tell any of them the cause of his ‘accident'.
“That’s right.” Donghae laughs, eyes crinkled wearily at the ends. “He swore never to go back to Busan after that.”
The atmosphere is suddenly tense and Yesung can’t find the right words to say.
“Except he did. He went, and then he never came back.”
There is silence; a horrible, heavy silence. Yesung struggles for words of comfort; he struggles to tell Donghae that the reality he is faced with may not be as harsh as it seems. “When he left, you were the only one he couldn’t leave behind.”
“And, ironically, I am the only one he has left behind.” Donghae says, nearly a whisper to Yesung’s ears. “But maybe that doesn’t matter so much in the end because we were never in love. We were happy, but never in love.”
Fool, Yesung wants to scowl but he doesn’t, because they’re losing time.
They’re losing time and, with it, Donghae seems to slowly be losing his sanity.
“Hyukjae was loved by many, many great people.” Yesung sighs, dusting off the top of a covered box with the back of his hand. “Maybe you’ve lost yourself in the mass.”
Donghae shakes his head. “I loved him but I’m not great. I’m far from it, in fact.” He says. “But maybe you are right, maybe I have lost myself. I’ve lost myself too good.”
And maybe, he thinks, it’s not such a bad thing.
Under the blazing street lights and provocative hollering surrounding him, Hyukjae reflects on all of his life decisions. If the night could bleed into the morning and leave a stainless mark, he’s sure his decisions wouldn’t be as hard to make as they are now.
“You look troubled.”
A bottle of beer is shoved into his hands and Hyukjae takes it gladly, taking a large gulp, hissing, and then elbowing his friend in a gesture of thanks. “Not in the least.”
“Uh huh.” Kibum scoffs. He downs a mouthful of his own bottle and lets it seethe through his teeth before he turns to look Hyukjae in the eyes, disbelieving.
He decides not to press Hyukjae too hard, though. He’s learned better.
“So they say the next shipment is for Seoul. You think you can handle that?” Kibum asks exhaustively. If he tried hard enough, he might be able to sound more sympathetic, but he doesn’t, for various reasons.
Hyukjae takes a deep breath and sighs a little. “I don’t want to go to Seoul.”
A cough breaks through the momentary silence and Kibum scrunches up his face. “Seoul doesn’t want you anyways.”
Every ounce of his words are true. Hyukjae is not welcomed in Seoul-- not by the people, not by the city, not by anyone or thing but the friends he once had there. “I’d probably get shot if I step foot in there.”
“No doubt.” Kibum nods in agreement.
“You think I could probably just sneak in real quick with a Roll?” Hyukjae wonders aloud. “I mean, all he wants me to do is build up a link with the small vendor in center Seoul for easier trafficking, I don’t need to stay there long.”
Kibum shrugs. “Sure.”
“You’re not even listening, are you? You bastard.”
It’s silent for a while, a very, very long while until Hyukjae punches Kibum in the arm and Kibum retaliates by shoving him aside really hard, really irritably.
“I don’t want you to go to Seoul, either.” Kibum says honestly, frustration in his tone. “The last time you went, you got your ass on their blacklist and swore never to come back here after your damn motorcycle crash. I know you could care less about those wannabe hoodlums up in Seoul and, really, I wouldn’t either, but to swear never to come back here, to your brothers, that’s some real bull, Hyuk.”
Hyukjae nods, setting his bottle down to the side. “I got carried away.”
“By some kid,” Kibum adds bitterly. “Some dude you met for less than a month. You ditched us for him, you ass.”
And there’s nothing Hyukjae can do but laugh, because it wasn’t true yet he doesn’t want to argue; he doesn’t want to delve into his past and explain to Kibum, the closest he’s ever had to best friend.
He laughs as hard as he can, but it’s still swallowed up by the ruckus of clashing beer bottles and imposing music. He’s still drowned out by the blinking of neon lights and the contrasting dark, diverging skies.
He’s buried deep, too deep into this dull reality for him to turn back.
But he reflects on all his life decisions and, he thinks, going back to Seoul wasn’t going to be the worst of them.
“Happiness was only ever with him, hyung.”
Kangin scoffs to himself and stops his rummaging to scoop Donghae a glass of cocktail from the table. Donghae accepts it gratefully and takes small sips from the flute glass. It’s sweet, but doesn’t quite sit well on his tongue.
“I don’t think he realized that.” Donghae continues. “But it’s alright. I don’t mind.”
“It’s because he knew too well, Donghae.” Kangin corrects him. He glances towards his computer, the screen black and motionless. “Maybe he thought he wasn't sufficient enough to be your happiness.”
Donghae frowns. “It’s not what he thinks that matters, though. It’s the truth that does.”
“Well, what’s the truth then?” Kangin asks promptly.
It’s a twofold answer, really. “I think...” Donghae trails off, his brows furrowed over his dark, considering eyes.
He’s relieved by the sound of a beep accompanied by the flashing of Kangin’s computer screen. Kangin rushes over to his computer, muttering ’one second, Donghae,’ before he isolates himself from the real world and indulges himself into his computer activities.
The younger boy sighs, taking another drink of his cocktail. This time, though, he’s tempted to spit it right back into the cup.
“You alright?” Yesung asks as he walks in through the doors. He waves at Kangin, who’s nodding his head at him from the desktop in the corner of the room.
Donghae purses his lips and pushes the flute of alcohol further away from himself. “I feel miserable,” he complains.
Yesung laughs and pets him on the back of his head. “Sungmin came back.” He says.
As if on cue, Donghae raises his eyes and meets with the elder’s calm ones.
“We’re on different sides now, though. I don’t think we could ever stand on the same line anymore.” Yesung continues. “But the fact that he’s back just makes everything less... stressful.”
“Back to you?” Donghae asks.
Yesung gives him this look-- a look between distraught and astonishment. Donghae almost regrets asking. “He’s not here to stay but even if he was, it would never be just to return to my side. To people like them, nothing is more important than their mob.”
Not even love, Donghae reasons to himself.
“He’s not with Hyukjae, either. They’re on opposing sides, as well.” The words weigh heavy on his heart but Yesung simply chews down on his lip. “My team told me that Seoul has declared hostility towards Busan. If he even steps on Seoul soil, they’ll take it as declaration of war and wipe them out.”
Donghae’s eyes are cast low, hands fisting until his knuckles are white. “It’s because of me.”
“It’s not because of you, Donghae.” The older man tells him. “Hyukjae should have known not to step on a landmine in Seoul. The gangs here may seem useless, but they have a lot up their sleeves.”
“That’s right.” Kangin adds. “And as long as Hyukjae doesn’t compensate them for what he’s done, he sure as hell needs to make sure they don’t get to him.”
None of this makes sense to Donghae, but no matter how dumb he is, he can tell that it all basically means one thing. Hyukjae can’t come back and if he does, the chances of them meeting are slimmer than slim.
Kibum holds Hyukjae’s hand really tight that night, before he leaves for Seoul. There is unspoken sadness in the younger kids eyes and Hyukjae is reluctant to force Kibum’s hand off of his own. It’s uncomfortable, though, so he does it anyways.
“You have to come back.” Kibum says. “Alive.”
Hyukjae chuckles and nods, his fringes hanging over his eyes.
The younger boy reaches out to brush them away, but Hyukjae slaps his hand and fixes it himself. He’s never allowed anyone too close to himself-- never. No one but Donghae.
“I’ll be back before you know it, Kibum.” He tells the kid. “Just make sure he doesn’t get anyone else involved in this, it might stagger my progress and interrupt my work.”
Kibum bites his cheek and turns Hyukjae around by the shoulders, slipping a transparent packet of white pills into his back pocket. There are a variation of noises tonight, from boasting music to the sound of car horns.
What Hyukjae takes with him to Seoul, though, are Kibum’s words.
If you don’t come back alive, I’ll chase you down to the deepest hills of hell and, damn it Hyukjae, if I have to, I’ll slap you in the face and shred your heart into pieces for breaking mine.
The words bring a nonexistent frown to his lips and he looks at the ground, kicking the cement beneath him. Hyukjae pretends he hadn’t heard it, he pretends he doesn’t know.
Day after day he pretends not to know that Kibum is in love with him because it’s all he can do, really. It’s all he can do to stop himself from hurting Kibum, the closest he’s ever had to anything like a family.
In Seoul, nothing much has changed since Hyukjae last left.
He runs into some very old friends off the street, kids that he knew from elementary who still hang out around their old gathering area; boys like Kyuhyun and Changmin and Henry who wouldn’t sell him off simply because they just couldn’t care any less about the ‘rules’ of the road.
And then he sees people like Siwon and Leeteuk who he has to avoid. They aren’t parts of the mob but that’s all the more reason he has to hide from them. They work for and under the law and that’s never been something Hyukjae has been good at.
Keeping things legal, he means.
He slips between broken fencing and smuggles himself through the back door of a small building in the alley. Once the door opens, he is greeted with clouds of smoke and the stench of cigars and alcohol.
He pulls his cap lower until its just over his eyes as he walks down the hall. From the corner of his eyes he glances at the numbers on the doors until he reaches Room 15, where he’s supposed to meet the dealer he’s working with in Seoul. Someone familiar.
Swiftly, he pushes the door opens and slips in. Clean and smooth.
“Welcome back.” A gruffy, thick voice greets him.
Hyukjae smiles and takes his cap off, running a hand through his hair and ruffling it around, puffing it out. “How have you been, hyung? Doing good business, I see.”
A low laugh is elicited from the man and Hyukjae feels at ease, relishing in memories that are overflowing him. “Not bad,” Kangin says. “It could always be worse.”
“I know what you mean.” Hyukjae chuckles. He pulls the packet from his back pocket and hands it over to Kangin, dropping down onto the couch beside him. “It’s a sample from my boss,” he explains. “We’re not looking for any big dealings in Seoul, honestly. All we want is a proper connection to Incheon. Without Seoul in the track, it’s a little harder to form a dependable route.”
Kangin nods and tosses the Rolls onto the table. He leans back into the couch and looks at Hyukjae, concerned. “Yesung mentioned that the gangs in Seoul are unhappy with you.”
The younger boy shrugs.
“They’re not the only ones.”
Hyukjae raises a brow, shifting so that he’s facing Kangin. “I’m pretty sure I haven’t pissed anyone else off.”
The older man laughs low in his throat. “I meant Donghae, you idiot.”
“Oh.” Hyukjae blinks. “What about him?”
Kangin frowns. “He’s upset that you haven’t contacted him whatsoever. Donghae feels like he’s lost you, for forever.”
“Maybe he has.” Hyukjae shrugs. “I’m not allowed in Seoul anymore, anyways.”
They both momentarily forget about the music and the smoke; they forget that they’re living in a world of tainted realities and stained records. “That didn’t stop you from coming here tonight.”
“I’m on a mission.” Hyukjae states calmly. “Where I’m from, you don’t reject any job imposed on you. It would be like asking for them to throw me out of the loop, without the actual asking part.”
“Donghae wouldn’t ever throw you away.” Kangin says calmly.
Hyukjae smiles weakly, looking down at his hands. “That’s the problem, hyung. You watched us grow up; you know how Donghae and I are. He can and will give up the world for me because of the word ‘love’, but I can’t do that.”
He can’t forsake everyone else in the world, even Donghae, just because of love.
“If Donghae never told me he loved me, we could still be together. Once those words left him, anything between us became impossible.” Hyukjae continues.
Kangin is listening, but he doesn’t believe in Hyukjae’s logic.
“Donghae and I aren’t meant to be together-- he’s a proper little boy, working hard to keep himself alive on a legit salary. I run around dealing with mobs and drugs, selling out woman who prostitute themselves for a living. We’re so different that it just doesn’t make sense for us to be in love.”
“Except, you are.” Kangin stresses.
That’s not the point, Hyukjae thinks. “When I moved during the last years of middle school, I changed. Donghae’s still the same, though. We’re not in diapers anymore, hyung; we aren’t taking quizzes in grade five and living off of our parents income. I have my own friends now, my own brothers, and I have to watch over them.”
Kangin intensifies his gaze. To Kangin, family was Donghae, Hyukjae, Kyuhyun, Leeteuk, Yesung and Sungmin. There are others, but none were more of a family to him than these six people he guarded all his life. “And Donghae?”
“I’ve done all that I can for him.”
It’s true, and Kangin knows that. If Hyukjae continued his affairs with Donghae, it would only bring him unwanted and unprecedented troubles. Donghae deserved more than a life of dangers and gambles, his life pending on the line from a day to day basis.
They all deserved more, but Hyukjae chose otherwise. He hadn't chosen wisely.
“I’ll ring Heechul up in Incheon. He’s the best I can hook you up with for now.” Kangin sighs. “Don’t come to Seoul anymore, Hyuk. It’s too dangerous. If you ever need something, just email me. I’m always at my computer.”
Coming back to Seoul was not such a bad decision after all.
On his way across the back alley of the bar towards the parking lot, exactly the same way he came in, he runs into someone near the fence.
Donghae grunts at their impact and rubs his arm. “I’m so sorry,” he cries, and almost immediately he realizes the way the person has tensed and can barely move. For a moment, he thinks he’s crushed the poor soul.
The person tries to get away but Donghae recognizes that figure, he recognizes the curve of the man’s back. “Hyukjae!”
He speeds up his pace, not daring to turn back. When Donghae almost catches up to him, the headlights to two cars up ahead flash on and Hyukjae widens his eyes in alarm.
The car engines are blaring. Hyukjae immediately turns on his heel and strips his jacket off, throwing it over Donghae’s shoulders and pulling the hood over Donghae’s head. “Don’t turn back.” He demands.
Donghae listens obediently, suddenly remembering everything Yesung had told him just days before. “I’m sorry.” He repeats. “It’s all my fault.”
“It’s not your fault.” Hyukjae grounds out.
They weave their way into a backstreet, Hyukjae’s arms placed around Donghae protectively. He’s going to make sure Donghae escapes, if it’s the last thing he does.
“I have a promise I need to fulfill in Busan, Hae. After I drop you off at Kangin hyung’s, don’t come after me. Don’t you ever dare come after me again.”
Donghae bit down on his lip. As they are rushing through an alley, he holds a hand over Hyukjae’s on his shoulder, clasping it tight, as though his life depended on it. “If you didn’t run from me, I wouldn’t have to chase after you.”
“It’s not like that.” Hyukjae grits through his teeth. “We... we’re just not like that, Hae.”
But they are, they are everything like that, Donghae thinks.
“I have someone else.” Hyukjae lies, but it’s not entirely a lie. “Someone is waiting for me.”
‘Doesn’t it matter to you that I’m waiting, too?’ Donghae wants to ask, but he bites down on his tongue because that would only push Hyukjae away from himself further. Hyukjae was already too far out of reach.
One need not be in love to be happy, he reminds himself.
When they get back to the clubhouse, Hyukjae tugs the door open and shoves Donghae inside, taking his jacket back as he begins to push the door close.
“Wait!” Donghae says.
Hyukjae glares at him, his eyes narrow and cold.
Donghae feels the words clinging to his throat, unwilling to leave him, but Hyukjae is endangered and he needs to go, he needs to leave again. “I’m sorry for loving you.” Donghae says.
Immediately, Hyukjae’s eyes soften a bit. He hears the rustle of car wheels against the pavement and is back on alert. Before he leaves, he looks at Donghae one last time. “If you need me, Hae, I’ll always be here. Maybe I can’t stay beside you physically, but we’ll always be best friends, okay? You’ll always be with me, and I’ll always be with you.”
There’s no time left and Hyukjae pushes him further inside, slamming the door shut and running down the aisle. He flips the jacket so that it’s inside out and slips it on, holding the hood low over his head. Out of sight, out of mind, he thinks.
When he’s about eight blocks down the road, he takes a turn down a curb and hops onto the nearest cab. “Train station.” He manages to gasp, taking large, deep breaths.
The 'In Service' light is clicked on and the cab is on its way towards the train station. Hyukjae leans his head back against the seat, facing the ceiling.
He recalls every image of Donghae, every word he spoke to him that night. Hyukjae doesn’t want Donghae to be sorry for loving him, he doesn’t want to see Donghae unhappy. Fittingly, he falls into a series of memories, remembering what he discussed about with Kangin, remembering Yesung and and the days they spent with Leeteuk.
Hyukjae remembers a lot of things, but mostly what Donghae said to him tonight.
I’m sorry for loving you. Donghae had apologized.
Exhaustively, Hyukjae’s eyes flutter close. “Don’t be sorry,” he whispers to himself. “Please, don’t be sorry, Donghae.”
The next thing he knows, everything is a mixture of black and white. He doesn’t want to open his eyes anymore, and he doesn’t know if he can.
When he does, though, he’s not at a train station. He vaguely hears a bombard of voices mixed in with the cry of sirens. There’s too much noise and he can’t make out any words, but his entire body aches and when he finally manages to make out forms and shapes, there's a blink of light before everyting shifts into tones of red, white and black.
Kangin and Donghae sit in the stillness of a VIP room, Donghae too tense on adrenaline to move a single fiber of his body. He’s worried, so worried about Hyukjae.
Over the radio, they hear a broadcast about a recent car accident not too far off from the train station.
“A taxicab has incurred a head on collision just on the curb of the highway off of the mountain heading towards the train station. The driver has suffered major injuries resulting from the crash and the only passenger of the cab was just towed away by the paramedics with an incredibly low chance of survival. Tire marks on the ground hint at the possibility that the accident involved a second party but there is not enough evidence for the police to make a direct statement. The highway will be closed off for the rest of the night in order to allow further inspection.”
The rest of their night is quiet, yet far from peaceful, but for Hyukjae, who is gradually slipping from consciousness, it’s a true blessing.
Read Nyx's version of Eunhyuk/Donghae [Memories] here.
[ [TC/007]: Hangeng/Heechul [\War] ] ♦ [ [TC/009]: Author's Choice [Violins] ]
A/N: I am so, so sorry, guys. T.T