(Spin-off from the Beyond Words series.)
Kyuhyun's Story: From the First
It was cold.
It was cold and like the damned nice big-brother that he was, he was waiting for his sister. Granted, he could wait in the black town car, but he had been waiting close to a quarter of an hour already and he was growing restless. Shoving his hands into his pockets, he stamped his feet as a means to assure himself that they could still move.
He glanced at the university campus located past the cement gates where he waited with the car. He had stared up at the towering buildings over and over again in perfect intervals awaiting just a sign for his sister to appear. He let out a low, frustrated growl which formed a white puff of air before dissolving into the cold atmosphere.
At his back, the window rolled open, “Your Highness… Prince Kyuhyun… surely you should wait inside the car!” The driver insisted,
“If I do that, I’ll warm up and forget how damn mad I am at Taeyeon,” Kyuhyun – Prince, at that – replied, “I swear, this is the last time I agree to pick her up.”
“Um… Your Highness… would it be bold to point out that you’ve said that every other time you’ve come to attend your sister and she’s been late?” The driver inquired,
“Yes it is bold,” Kyuhyun muttered angrily, “You know… perhaps this is why I have two sisters, so I can kill off one of them.”
“I don’t think the King would appreciate sororicide,” The driver stated doubtfully,
“Yes well, my cousin will appreciate when he realizes how quiet the Royal House would be,” Kyuhyun replied, referring to his cousin, the King of Korea, and the house where they – and his two younger sisters – had lived all their lives.
Kyuhyun sighed heavily, wondering what he had done to be cursed by two sisters; the elder one constantly trying his patience since she became more extroverted three years prior and the younger sister constantly finding newer ways to annoy him. As he glanced once more towards the university buildings when he saw movement. His dark eyes immediately latched onto the figure running out of the building,
“About damn time,” Kyuhyun muttered as he pushed away from the car, straightening his posture.
The other person, however, made it halfway to the car before tripping and falling to the ground, the contents of her arms sprawling around her. Swearing under his breath, Kyuhyun sprinted over, reaching and grabbing her arm,
“You’re late as it is, no point in rushing to the point of clumsiness,” Kyuhyun admonished, just a slight edge to his tone. After all, his sister did just take a… this wasn’t his sister. Kyuhyun blinked down at the heart-shaped face of the young girl who stared up at him, startled. He tried to speak, to move, but he was transfixed. He found himself lost in the most peculiar pair of fox-like eyes he had ever seen.
“Sorry… I think you have the wrong person,” she pointed out,
Kyuhyun straightened, dropping her arm immediately, “Ah… yes, I thought you were my sister.” He blinked a moment before reaching for her arm against and helping her up, “Sorry, I was so surprised I forgot my manners.”
She stood her full height – which was still only to his nose – and brushed off her faded, loose-fitting jeans, “It’s fine.” She looked around and began to collect her books which she had been carrying in her arms prior to her fall,
“L-let me hold those for you,” Kyuhyun offered immediately.
She looked at him, blinked and watched as he took her books before she could even argue. She opened her mouth to speak when she paused and then looked down at her hands. Her palms were rubbed raw, drops of crimson appearing on her pale skin, “Damn it all.”
Kyuhyun watched silently as she pulled out a handkerchief and wiped off her skin. Then he watched, surprised, as she pulled out several band-aids from her pocket and began to apply one to each of the heel of her palms.
As he watched her, he scolded himself for even thinking she was Taeyeon for a moment. For one thing, this girl was considerably taller than his pixie-sized sister. Secondly, Taeyeon was not clumsy. The moment she fell, he should’ve known it wasn’t his sister. Indeed, both of his sisters had the annoying habit of never getting hurt when they were children. Not that he wished ill upon either of his siblings, but whenever he took a spill from a bicycle, it would be nice to see either of his sisters get a bit dirty too. Thirdly, his sister most definitely never made him feel like this.
She looked up at him again, her bright eyes apologetic and Kyuhyun could swear that his heart stopped.
“Oh my… I’m such an idiot sometimes,” she immediately bowed, “I’m so sorry Your Highness, I didn’t mean to be rude or anything I was just a little disoriented about everything and it hit me a little late – well.. now actually – who you were… not that I don’t know who you are it’s just that –”
Kyuhyun stared as she began to speak a mile a minute. He couldn’t catch everything she said – indeed, he wondered at some point if she was still speaking Korean – but he heard everything she said. He heard the crescendos and decrescendos of her soft, soprano voice, the slight lilt as emotion was poured into each word. From the way she spoke, from the way he first saw her bursting from the doors and running as fast as her load allowed, he had a feeling that this girl, whoever she was, never did anything in half-measures.
Her jaw dropped, “And here I am making you carry my books! I’m so sorry!”
When she reached out for them, Kyuhyun took a step away from her, “It’s fine,” he was surprised at the growl in his town. When she blinked at him, confused and a little hurt, he amended gruffly, “You’ll just end up falling again.”
“I most certainly will not!” She argued, “I may have just fallen, but I assure you I will not fall again! I may not look it, but I’m quite strong!” She had the audacity to sweep her fox-like eyes over him as if sizing him up, “Why, I’m pretty sure I could even take you in a fight! Er… Your Highness.” Before Kyuhyun could even think of a way to reply to such an absurd comment, she continued in her fast-paced talk, “Wait, was that treasonous to say that? I didn’t mean to! Really I wasn’t even making a threat! I was just making a statement – a truthful statement, really, but not in any way treasonous! Please, you must –”
Kyuhyun shifted the stack of books to one arm so he could hold up the other to silence her, “It’s fine. Can you at least give me a chance to speak before you jump to conclusions?”
“Yes…” She said slowly before adding adamantly, “But then what if by then you had already jump to your own conclusions because of my wrongly-worded statement? Clearly, the only way to right some wrongs was for me to amend my statement – indeed, to clarify my meaning – before you had a chance to speak.”
Kyuhyun blinked. She was a whirlwind, this girl. When she finally stopped speaking, he waited a five-count before talking.
“Since you seem to know who I am –”
“Oh! I do!” She insisted immediately, “My parents follow the news most religiously! Not in the way that some do like vultures waiting for a piece of fresh meat, but as a way to keep up with the times. Naturally I was exposed to the news almost daily, so I know all about you and the Royal Family.”
Kyuhyun paused again before finishing his previous statement, “I think it only fair that I at least know your name.”
“Oh. That does seem fair,” she replied, tilting her head slightly as she peered up at him with her fox-like eyes, “My name is Sungmin. Lee Sungmin.”
He was no longer cold.
His hand clamped over her mouth the moment the door closed behind them. He narrowed his eyes at her, his voice a fierce growl, “I swear, if you tell anyone I’ll kill you.”
She tried to push him away, even tried to bite his fingers which covered her lips. However, he was immoveable and his digits were curved just enough to elude her teeth.
“Eunhyuk, please tell me we have not travelled back in time and that my two eldest children are not acting like they are six and seven again,” a drawl interrupted the two of them.
Scowling slightly at his sister, Kyuhyun stepped away from her to face his father and cousin, King Eunhyuk. Taeyeon threw him a triumphant stare before catching the none-too-pleased expression on her father’s face,
She sobered immediately, “Daddy…”
He raised an eyebrow as he and his nephew drew closer, “You only use that when you’ve done something I won’t be happy about…”
“Indeed you might not be happy about what I am about to say, but it’s not something I have done,” Taeyeon stated solemnly, shooting her brother a mischievous glance,
“Damn it, Taeyeon –”
Their father raised a hand to silence him, “Remember your age, Kyuhyun.” He scowled when their father gestured for Taeyeon to continue,
“Kyuhyun is in love!” Taeyeon exclaimed, immediately flying to her cousin’s side before her brother could grab at her again. Arms wrapping around Eunhyuk’s arm, she grinned at her brother as she continued, “When Oppa was getting me from school today, I found him talking to this girl and I could tell he was in love!”
Kyuhyun glanced at his father for some sign of disproval. All he received, however, was a blank stare. The two men stared at one another for a pregnant pause before his father cleared his throat, his cheeks tinged slightly with red, “There are times I truly wish your mother were still here.”
“She’s lying, Father,” Kyuhyun insisted, looking awkwardly away from him,
“Still… Perhaps I should go visit your mother… Haven’t been to the cemetery in weeks now,” he muttered, taking a few steps, glancing at his son and then continuing away.
“YOU ARE A BANE IN MY EXISTANCE!” Kyuhyun declared the moment their father’s footsteps had dissipated completely,
“He really must be in love to talk like that,” Eunhyuk commented casually to his younger cousin,
“Oh, he is Oppa!” Taeyeon insisted, smiling up at him, “You should’ve seen the way he was looking at her while she was talking like the wind! And we even drove her home!”
“Damn it, why am I even the one to pick you up from school!? Where’s your damn husband!?” Kyuhyun scowled at his sister,
“You know he’s busy at school,” Taeyeon defended, her big eyes narrowing at her brother, “And don’t you dare talk about Junsu like that!”
“I’ll talk about him any way I want! Disregarding his duty to you! I’m defending you when I say this!” Kyuhyun exclaimed,
“You are not! And he’s a dedicated student! Just because you decided not to go to school like a responsible person would, doesn’t mean you can condescend to those who have chosen to attend school! Junsu happens to be one of those people so you can just shut up right now,” Taeyeon defended fiercely, unknowingly tightening her grip on her cousin’s arm,
“If you’ve forgotten, our dear cousin – THE KING – also has chosen not to attend school!” Kyuhyun exclaimed,
Eunhyuk rolled his eyes, “At least acknowledge that I’m here when you talk about me… Damn, why didn’t I follow Uncle’s lead and escape before you two began to fight again. Really you two, you’re how old and you’re still fighting like this?”
“DON’T INTERRUPT!” Kyuhyun and Taeyeon exclaimed in unison before turning their glares back on each other.
As the siblings continued bickering, Eunhyuk glanced at a passing butler, “Would you consider it treason the way they spoke to me?”
“Most definitely, Sire,” the butler replied, his lips twitching in amusement,
“What do you think I should order this time, hmm? Beheading?”
“Oh, that’s too predictable Sire. Perhaps we should have a dungeon constructed in which you could throw them into?” The butler suggested lightly,
“What a wonderfully medieval idea. And if Princess Taeyeon’s husband comes along, we can throw him in too,” Eunhyuk grinned,
“Whatever did he do?” The butler inquired,
“Treason by association?” Eunhyuk chuckled when he noticed his cousins had finally stopped fighting. He turned his attention back to them, “Are you two done?”
“I’m not in love,” Kyuhyun stated immediately,
“And there’s no way I’ll let you jail Junsu!” Taeyeon exclaimed,
Eunhyuk opened his mouth to reply when the butler approached once more, “Phone call for Prince Kyuhyun. A Lee Sungmin –”
“I’ll take it,” Eunhyuk immediately disentangled himself from his cousin’s grasped and lunged for the handset the butler held. When Kyuhyun tried to rush at him, he held up his free hand, “King says stop!”
As his cousin raised the phone to his face, Kyuhyun turned to his sister, “Has he pulled that on you yet? I swear, if I knew he would pull rank on us, I would have kept him in a Hanbok longer.”
Taeyeon stifled a laugh as she watched with amused eyes as their cousin spoke on the phone,
“Er… No… No, this isn’t Kyu –” Eunhyuk glanced at his eldest cousin, “Does she ever stop to breathe?” At Kyuhyun’s head shake, he attempted to speak again, “As I was trying to say, I’m not Kyu –” He paused again to look at his cousin, “She seems very afraid of offending you,” he turned his lips back to the phone, “May I speak now? No – wait, don’t answer that and just let me speak. This isn’t Kyuhyun, this is his cousin… Erm… yes, the King.”
“Regret announcing who you are, huh?” Kyuhyun asked knowingly when Eunhyuk was cast into silence once more.
Eunhyuk was about to answer his cousin, when he caught his moment in the telephone conversation to finally speak again, “Come for dinner tonight and we can speak more! Okay, bye!” He hung up immediately, “If I gave her a chance to speak, I have the slightest feeling it would take another half hour to make her agree.”
Kyuhyun gaped at his cousin, “W-what are you doing? W-why did she call?”
“Apparently she forgot a book in the town car,” Eunhyuk explained as he gave up the phone to the butler, “So now she is coming to dinner to retrieve it!”
“Oh, Junsu can meet her too!” Taeyeon exclaimed happily, “And I don’t think Sooyoung has to work tonight –”
“Okay, okay… Junsu, fine; he’s you’re husband, but Sooyoung?” Kyuhyun swung his gaze to his sister, “Can’t you show some mercy towards me?”
Taeyeon rolled her eyes, “Sooyoung lives here, it’s not like you can ban her from dinner. It’ll be a big family affair, Oppa, so you might as well –”
“Damn it, Father will be at dinner too!” Kyuhyun exclaimed, flinching visibly before glaring at his cousin, “Damn you, Eunhyuk!”
“Ever since I became King I feel as if there’s this hostility between us,” Eunhyuk sighed, raising a hand to his heart in mock hurt, “What I would give for the care-free days of when I was still a Princess.”
“I’d rather strangle you with your own Hanbok,” Kyuhyun growled as he stalked towards the main staircase which led to the second floor, “The only thing good about you, Hyung, is that Donghae hasn’t moved in,” he stated, referring to Eunhyuk’s beloved.
“I told you he’s in love,” Taeyeon teased lightly, “He’s probably going to change five times before dinner!”
“I’m not in love!” Kyuhyun growled as he stormed up the stairs. As he escaped to his room, he continued that chant until it sounded hollow even to his ears.
Dinner was a peculiar affair to Kyuhyun. He had only spent a half-hour’s time with Sungmin that afternoon before they had dropped her off at home, but that was long enough for him to realize that she spoke while barely breathing. That was long enough for him to realize that her fox-like eyes lit up with her emotions and she expressed her thoughts about anything and everything freely. What was peculiar about dinner, however, was that she barely spoke. Indeed, if he had been watching correctly, she barely even ate.
Junsu, his sister’s husband, had not joined them for dinner. After coming to the Royal House to pick her up, instead of suggesting they stay to have dinner with the family, Taeyeon had taken one look at her beloved’s face and pulled him up to her old bedroom to sleep. Fortunately for his brotherly mind, she returned almost immediately.
Also fortunately, his youngest sister was also absent, something about being contracted to style the hair for an up-and-coming singer and that being her ‘big break’ in the hair world. Kyuhyun didn’t think hair was so important it have its own ‘world’, but if it meant his little sister would be away from dinner – and make her career more successful – then he wished her the best.
Unfortunately, his meddlesome cousin, traitorous sister and all-too-intimidating father were present for dinner. He glanced at his father who had said not a word during the meal. Indeed, his father had been silent since returning from the cemetery. He did not know if the conversation with his mother’s grave resulted in some revelation.
As the meal drew to a close, Kyuhyun threw his cousin and sister grateful glances. Despite their previous machinations, they had kept the conversation going during dinner, not allowing an awkward silence to fall upon them even for a second.
Kyuhyun laid his napkin on the table and stood from the table. He walked over to where Sungmin sat, holding out his hand. Almost automatically, as if she moved before she thought, she placed her slender hand in his, glancing up at him in silent askance,
“Let us get that book of yours. I believe it’s still in the car,” Kyuhyun said simply as he brought her to her feet, tucking her hand into the crook of his elbow as if they were in the middle of a royal ball. He glanced at the others, startled to see that his father gave him an approving look.
The moment they escaped into the corridor to head to the garage where the town car was kept, Sungmin visibly sighed. Kyuhyun looked at her, surprised as she began to speak without missing a beat, “I swear, I’ve never been so silent in my life.”
Kyuhyun felt his lips twitch as he murmured, “Oh, really?”
“Indeed. I’m usually much more talkative, cramming more words into a minute than I can think of and,” she paused as if his tone suddenly sank in. She threw him a suspicious look, “You were being sarcastic weren’t you?”
“Just a bit,” Kyuhyun admitted, “I’ll admit, I was surprised when you barely said a word during dinner. Is my family that scary?”
“No, indeed they’re not!” Sungmin insisted most adamantly, “Of course… your father is very silent and… very intimidating… and your cousin, even though he’s the King, is very friendly and your sister is very nice – no, no, they’re not scary at all.”
Kyuhyun considered prompting her about her silence, but knew she would answer even before he could attempt to vocalize his question; “But half the time when I’m talking, I talk before I can even think about the consequences of what I say. What if I somehow insulted them? Or said something wrong? Or spoken when I’m not supposed to?” She looked up at Kyuhyun earnestly, “Sometimes I really don’t know when to and when not to talk.”
Kyuhyun couldn’t help himself; he laughed.
“It’s not very nice to laugh!” Sungmin exclaimed, “I was being honest and telling you exactly how I felt during dinner and you laugh at me?”
“I’m sorry, really,” Kyuhyun insisted, “It’s just that you were never worried about such things when you spoke to me earlier this afternoon and even when you first arrived for dinner.” He paused and raised an eyebrow at her, “Aren’t you worried about insulting me?”
“No,” she replied bluntly and then immediately amended, “That is, not that I want to insult you, it’s just that when I’m with you I don’t feel like I’ll mess up or trip over my words; as if I don’t have to worry about saying something wrong because I can’t be wrong around you.”
When she grew silent, Kyuhyun looked down at her to find her looking away, her cheeks red. He swallowed hard, suddenly not trusting himself to say the right words.
When he did find his words, they were nearing the garage. He said simply, “We only met a few hours ago… how can you say such things?”
Sungmin felt her body stiffen immediately. She had insulted him, hadn’t she? She had said something wrong, hadn’t she? Her parents – even her brother – had told her over and over again that her mouth would get her into trouble some day and, unfortunately, that day was the day. Silently, she tried to fight the urge to pull away from the prince, to lose all physical contact with him.
He opened the door to the garage, turning on the lights immediately. Sungmin almost stumbled, so surprised at the vastness of the garage. It held five cars and in the far end was a motorcycle half-draped by a tarp. She looked around in awe as she allowed the prince to further drag her in until they were before a black town car (actually, it was one of three black town cars) and on the roof was a hardcover book that the driver had left out for them.
Kyuhyun picked up the book in his hand and turned towards Sungmin, disengaging their touch as he held the book out to her. She reached out, but when he refused to let go of the volume, she looked up at him in question, “When you’re around me, you can mess up and trip over your words all you want. You never have to worry about what you say because I’ll never feel that you’re wrong.” He leaned in, brushing a light kiss to her cheek, “And that’s what I’ve thought since I first met you.”
“Ah, I’ve finally figured out a way to make you stop talking,” Kyuhyun smiled brilliantly at her,
“Actually, I’ve been wondering if you always kiss people who are engaged,” Sungmin stated. Kyuhyun pulled away immediately and Sungmin sighed heavily, “I think I can say something wrong, after all.”
The soft knock on the door barely broke through his thoughts. He glanced over at his bedroom door from his stance by his balcony doors. Arms crossed, a shoulder propped against the frame, he turned his face back towards the glass doors. He had no intention of inviting anyone in, indeed, he had no intention of speaking to anyone at all as he was wont to do for the past few weeks.
As the door opened, he sighed heavily and kept his stance.
The sound of his youngest sister relieved him – for the first time. Sooyoung had been quite absent lately since she was getting more and more requests for her to be a stylist. Despite not seeing his sister as often as usual, it meant that she didn’t meet Sungmin. Which meant that she wasn’t present to witness the silent, shocked state in which Kyuhyun had emerged when he watched the town car drive her away that even two weeks ago.
“I haven’t seen you in so long I’ve forgotten what you look like,” his sister’s bubbly voice announced as she walked across the plush carpet towards him, standing at the balcony doors as he did. “So… Why the seclusion?” She inquired bluntly.
For a moment, he was silent. He contemplated what to say and what not to say. For years now, indeed since they were children, he, Taeyeon and Eunhyuk had some unspoken agreement to tailor what they said to Sooyoung. She was too blunt, too forthright to say everything to. Besides, they realized early on that she was too perceptive and would find out on her own anyway.
Finally, he sighed, “I’m twenty-four and I have finally fallen in love.”
“Oh Kyuhyun that’s –”
Kyuhyun glanced at her, to silence her as he continued, “But I cannot have her.”
Sooyoung’s bright, open expression crumbled, “Why not?”
“I found out that she’s engaged to someone else,” Kyuhyun replied, “So you see, I seclude myself because I don’t know what to do… because I don’t want people to know that I don’t know what to do.”
Sooyoung chewed on her lip a moment before placing her hands on her hips and turning to full face her brother, “Well why the hell don’t you fight for her?” When Kyuhyun merely blinked at her, she continued on passionately, “If you love her – fight for her! For all you know she could be the one you’re supposed to end up with! For all you know you’ll never experience this again with anyone else!”
“But… what if she isn’t the one? What if I can experience this again?” Kyuhyun asked tentatively, not accustomed to asking his youngest sister for advice.
“Well, if you do everything you can with her and still you fail, at least you know you’ve exhausted all the possibilities. At least you have the answers to the questions concerning her,” Sooyoung answered with a wisdom beyond her twenty-two years.
“But… I don’t even know why I feel this way about her,” Kyuhyun admitted, “I saw her and the first thing I thought of was ‘I could spend the rest of my life with her’… I mean, that’s not enough to base a love on, is it? Isn’t love supposed to be more… tangible than that?”
“Yes… no… it really depends,” Sooyoung said with a shrug of her slight shoulders. She loosely folded her arms and leaned a shoulder against a glass pane, “Donghae-oppa insists that he was attracted to Eunhyuk when the two of you first hid in his grocery store but Eunhyuk says it took him longer to fall for Donghae-oppa. Junsu-oppa says he first felt a protectiveness towards Unni when he realized how mistreated she was at school. Unni, however, says she didn’t trust Junsu-oppa until he stayed with her in the hospital. It’s different for everyone, I suppose.”
“But… love at first sight? That’s a bit intense for a first meeting isn’t it?” Kyuhyun prompted,
“Perhaps… or perhaps that’s just how you are. Perhaps that’s how you’re meant to be,” Sooyoung stated, “You yourself claim you’ve never fallen in love before and it’s not like you grew up secluded in the Royal House like Eunhyuk was, so you’ve seen your share of the female populace. Maybe you’re heart saw something in her that it never saw in anyone else.” She quirked her lips, “Or maybe you’re just weird like that.”
“Brat,” Kyuhyun murmured as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders, squeezing affectionately before walking towards the door,
“Where are you going?” Sooyoung inquired as she promptly fell into step with him,
“If I’m right, the driver will be leaving soon to pick up Taeyeon and I’ll be there too,” Kyuhyun said. When Sooyoung threw him a questioning glance, he explained, “I first met her when I went to pick up Taeyeon.”
“Oh! I want to come too,” Sooyoung exclaimed, practically bouncing down the hall with him,
Kyuhyun shot her a look, “No.”
“Why not?” Sooyoung demanded,
“You’ll scare her off,” Kyuhyun stated,
“Not if I don’t bring Joon!” Sooyoung insisted, referring to the very large man the family had hired as her personal body guard. Considering Taeyeon had spent years being bullied at school, they didn’t want to take anymore chances. “Oh, please Kyuhyun? Oppa? I haven’t met her yet!” He stopped abruptly to look at her; “Don’t think I don’t know about that dinner and she came!”
Kyuhyun narrowed his gaze at her, “Even if I said no, you’d probably convince Joon and another driver to follow to Taeyeon’s school anyway, wouldn’t you?”
Sooyoung nodded violently.
Kyuhyun sighed as he continued walking to the main staircase, “Fine, but you’re staying in the car!”
“I’m not a dog!” Sooyoung said, affronted,
Kyuhyun glanced at her, “You certainly yap like one.”
He was cold.
And there she was. Running. Books in her arms.
The window at his back rolled down, “Is that her?” Sooyoung asked excitedly.
Kyuhyun reached behind him to push his sister’s face back into the car as he stepped forward. He made it to the gates when she finally saw him, stopping before she could fall. Again.
“I… haven’t seen you in awhile,” Sungmin said as she slowly closed the distance between them, “I thought perhaps what I told you had scared you away.”
“It did,” Kyuhyun said bluntly, “But I realized that I don’t care.”
“So, we can be friends?” Sungmin looked at him brightly, hopefully,
“No,” Kyuhyun replied and added, “I don’t think I can be just friends with you. I knew from the first that I wanted you and you being engaged doesn’t change that for me.”
“But… I’m engaged to someone else,” Sungmin argued,
“Do you still want to be?” Kyuhyun asked, “Or have I changed your mind? Even just a little? If meeting me hasn’t changed your mind, then I’ll stop and leave you to your happiness with another man… but if meeting me has changed your mind even just the tiniest bit, then I cannot stop – will not stop – until I show you, prove to you, that I’m the one you’re meant to be with.”
“I don’t even know you,” Sungmin practically whispered, finding it hard to speak, to breathe,
“Then get to know me,” Kyuhyun persisted, stepping closer to her, cupping her shoulders with his warm hands,
“I haven’t even said if you’ve changed my mind,” Sungmin said, pulling away from his touch. She shifted the books in her arms, “Don’t be so presumptuous with me. Just because you’re a prince doesn’t mean you can just assume anything and just take control like that.”
“Then tell me to leave,” Kyuhyun dared, “Tell me to leave, tell me to never see you again… tell me that I haven’t changed your mind.”
Sungmin stared at him, her fox-like eyes wide with wariness. She swallowed hard, taking another step back, “I… I can’t.” She clutched her books like a shield, “You know I can’t.”
“Then give me a chance to change your mind completely,” Kyuhyun said, taking another step towards her,
“What if… what if I don’t want you to change my mind?” Sungmin asked, as if half-afraid of the words she said,
“I… I promised another man to marry him… to be with him forever,” Sungmin stated, “I cannot renege on that promise –”
“Even if you fall in love with someone else? Even if someone else falls in love with you?” Kyuhyun challenged, “Because that’s what I’m offering, Sungmin… I’m offering you a choice to be with someone else who loves you.”
“You don’t even know me,” Sungmin stated, eyes wide with surprised at the sudden declaration,
“That doesn’t matter to me,” Kyuhyun said, “It sounds foolish and crazy and I don’t even understand it… but it doesn’t matter because that’s how I feel.”
“I’m… I’m not promising anything,” Sungmin stammered as Kyuhyun took another step towards her. He reached for her hand and she promptly dropped her books to the ground as she stared up at him, “No… No more kisses. I won’t be labelled a cheater… we’re… we’re just friends.”
“I was just going to shake your hand,” Kyuhyun quirked his lips, “That’s what friends do right? That’s how friends agree right?”
Sungmin stood still, silent when Kyuhyun dropped her hand and then got to his knees and began collecting her fallen books. She stared at his bent head as she murmured resentfully, “Why couldn’t you be like everyone else?”
Somehow, Kyuhyun caught her words and froze, looking up at her. He smiled brilliantly at her as he stood to his full height, her books in his clutches, “Because maybe I’m not meant to be like everyone else… not to you anyways.”
He smiled her way and she forgot it was cold.
Kyuhyun became the most attentive brother. Everyday without complaint and without having to be asked, he dutifully picked up Taeyeon from school. Granted, she knew almost immediately that it was because Sungmin attended her school and everyday they drove Sungmin home as well. Taeyeon, appreciative that her brother picked her up since that meant they didn’t have to hire another bodyguard, decided to stop teasing him, despite seeing quite well that her brother was in love with Sungmin.
She was walking through the Royal House one day when she heard music coming from the ballroom. She changed her direction and headed towards the ballroom. It had been years since either her cousin or brother had lessons there, indeed, it had been years since she last heard the piano being used despite the family having three balls a year. She was startled to find Sooyoung standing outside the ballroom, one of the double doors slightly ajar.
“What are you doing?” Taeyeon asked,
“Shh,” Sooyoung replied, her eyes alight, “Kyuhyun’s in there with Sungmin.”
“Is he giving her dance lessons or something?” Taeyeon asked, confused as she drew closer,
Sooyoung shook her head, “He’s playing… and singing.”
Taeyeon blinked, “Singing? Are you serious?” Sooyoung nodded as Taeyeon tried to peer through the open space of the doors; “He’s never sung for any of us.”
“Well, apparently none of us are Sungmin-sshi because he’s definitely singing for her!” Sooyoung whispered excitedly, “Wow… who knew that Oppa sang so good?”
“I did.” Taeyeon and Sooyoung almost collapsed out of fright. They turned to find Eunhyuk standing nearby, trying to see over them into the room. “Sometimes when we were waiting for the music tutor, he’d hum or sing softly to himself. I don’t think he ever realized how much the ballroom echoes despite how quiet one sings.”
The three grew silent, allowing themselves to be saturated in Kyuhyun’s voice. It was deep and soothing, warm and thick like delicious honey but fluid and easy like warm milk. As he sang, not a single beat was missed as his fingers played across the black and white piano keys. What they heard, however, was only half the story.
Kyuhyun sat at the piano, unaware that his body slightly swayed to the music as he poured all his effort and emotion into the song he sang. As he did so, his eyes were open, locked with Sungmin’s in an unwavering connection. He sang to her, about her, for her. He sang everything he felt and prayed that she understood what this meant. He had never sung for anyone – save his mother’s gravestone – and the fact that he sung for her meant so much to him. Singing left him vulnerable, open to criticism, emotionally exposed to vultures. He prayed he wasn’t wrong about her; prayed that what he did was right.
His fingers softly played the last notes of the piece and then he grew still as the remnants of his song dissipated against the ballroom’s solid walls. He sat still, eyes still locked with Sungmin’s. He silently asked her to say something – anything – and begged for it to be what he wanted.
For two weeks he spent at least half an hour by her side; fifteen minutes waiting for Taeyeon to finally reach the car, another fifteen to drive Sungmin home. For two weeks he listened to her soft voice, her bright laugh and watched her sparkling, fox-like eyes. For two weeks he learned more about her and hoped he told her enough about himself. For two weeks he held out his heart for her and waited for her to either accept it or break it.
“I’ve known him for years,” Sungmin said softly, quietly, “I’ve been with him for years… engaged for almost two… but why is after one month with you I’m ready to give it all away?”
Kyuhyun held out a hand to her and she automatically laid her slender hand in his. He pulled her towards the piano bench, but he knew she was also walking of her own accord. She sat down and he clasped her hand tightly as he stared directly into her eyes,
“I’ve lived my life being rational and yet from the first moment I saw you, I gave up on being rational. After one month with you I know that I never want to be rational again if it means not having you, Sungmin,” Kyuhyun replied slowly, steadily, placing emphasis and meaning into each word he spoke.
“I… I don’t know what I want,” Sungmin admitted, slowly tugging her hand from his, “But I do know I need to break off the engagement… I know that much.”
“Does that mean I get a chance?” Kyuhyun asked softly,
Sungmin sighed, giving him a small, rueful smile, “You always had a chance… since the beginning.”
Eunhyuk effectively pulled his two youngest cousins away from the door, “You two should be ashamed, eavesdropping like that.” Two sets of eyes glared at him. He rolled his eyes, “It’s not like I was listening to their conversation just now.”
“Oh really?” Sooyoung crossed her arms, “You were gripping my arm so tightly with anticipation I’m pretty sure I’ll bruise!”
“I was merely making sure that you wouldn’t fall through the door and interrupt them,” Eunhyuk scoffed,
“Ah, loving as always,” a voice stated. The three of them turned to find a young man approaching. Dressed in black slacks and a black vest over a white button-up, he stopped before them, another man standing just a few steps behind him, “I thought I’d have a problem locating any of you and all I had to do was listen for bickering.”
“Donghae,” Eunhyuk narrowed his eyes at him before turning his attention to the stranger, “A friend of yours?”
Donghae shook his head, “This young man came to the door and no one was nearby but me. He’s looking for a Lee Sungmin-sshi,” he explained, his gaze sharpening on Eunhyuk ever-so-slightly.
“Is there a reason you’d be looking for this person here?” Eunhyuk asked with all the solemnity of the King he was and a bit of the hauteur of the Princess he once was. With a hand behind his back, he gestured to his cousins to slip into the ballroom.
“I… um… have reason to believe that she’s been spending time with… erm… the Prince Kyuhyun,” the young man explained, his hands fisted at his sides, “So I thought the best place to look for her was at the Royal House… erm… Your Highness.”
“And how are you associated to Lee Sungmin-sshi?” Eunhyuk inquired, his arms folding over his chest in an intimidating stance, Donghae subtly stepping to the side to convey a neutrality between the parties which was not truly there.
Eunhyuk looked over his shoulder to the ballroom doors where one was now opened, Sungmin standing there. The young man, supposedly Sungjin, attempted to get to the doors then stopped when he was a foot before Eunhyuk. He stood there, silent, head bowed. Eunhyuk glanced at Donghae who nodded at him, seemingly understanding the silent question in the King’s eyes. Eunhyuk stepped aside and Sungjin strode over to Sungmin,
“What are you doing here?” Sungmin questioned, crossing her arms over her chest,
“Me? What are you doing here? Have you forgotten the promise you made two years ago?” Sungjin demanded, eyes narrowed and seemingly forgotten about the royalty around him.
“I haven’t and in all actuality I have decided to break the engagement,” Sungmin replied coldly.
She opened her mouth to continue when she looked back over her shoulder at Kyuhyun. The prince stood with his back to her, beside the piano. His sister stood on either side of him, watching her curiously. She wished he was beside her then, or at least looking at her, giving her some kind of silent support. However, she knew that if she was ever to prove to him – and herself – that she was serious about breaking her engagement, she had to do it alone.
Inhaling deeply, she looked back at Sungjin, “I know he’s your best friend… and that you feel loyalty to him, but damn it, I’m your sister! You had no right to come here looking for me!”
“Loyalty to him? You think that’s why I’m here? I’m here because of my loyalty to you!” Sungjin exclaimed, “I’m here to make sure that you don’t make a fool of yourself!” He grabbed her arm and pulled her aside, suddenly aware that the King stood at his back; “Sungmin, you were with him for five years, engaged for two of those years. Now you’re breaking the engagement? He’s returning in a few months from the army and now… NOW you decide to break the engagement?”
“Yes,” Sungmin replied swiftly with all the conviction she could muster,
“What is the prince even offering you? Is he offering you a future? Is he offering you protection? Is he offering you anything that your fiancé offered you?” Sungjin questioned, desperately trying to reason with his sister, “Once you break the engagement, there’s no going back, Sungmin. He’s a prince, Sungmin – once there’s a public declaration, it’ll be too difficult to go back… to escape. If you’re going to break off your engagement for the prince, you need to understand the consequences!”
“If I break the engagement, does that mean losing you, too?” Sungmin inquired simply, her gaze locked with her brother’s,
Sungjin’s eyes narrowed immediately, “Of course not! How could you even ask such a thing?”
“Then that’s the only consequence that matters,” Sungmin replied easily, “If I can break the engagement and still have your support, then that’s all there is to it.”
“Will this prince stay with you? Will he stay by your side?” He ran his fingers through his thick, dark hair, “Damn it Sungmin, what do you even know about the prince?”
“Enough to know that I cannot go through with my engagement,” Sungmin answered, “There is no promise of a future, or indeed that we’ll be together… but I know enough that I cannot remain engaged when my heart is engaged elsewhere now.”
“Is your heart so weak that it switches sides so easily?” Sungjin asked quietly, hesitantly,
Sungmin looked at him with sad, pitying eyes, “Haven’t you realized it by now? I kept my promise to marry because of you. I didn’t allow my heart to get entangled elsewhere because of you and your friendship with him.” She paused, looking back into the ballroom where Princess Taeyeon now had her hand on her brother’s arm; “I didn’t allow my heart to get entangled with the prince either… but it did anyway.”
Sungjin watched his sister a moment before lowering his crossed arms, shoving his fists into his pockets, “Then let’s go and break this engagement of yours before it gets even more complicated.”
Sungmin’s gaze swung to her brother, wide with surprise, “Really?”
“If you’re sure you know the consequences?”
Sungmin nodded. Without a backwards glance, she followed her brother.
“Where the hell is my brother?”
The study’s doors burst open and Taeyeon strode in glaring at the three men in the room.
“Taeyeon, I believed I raised you to have better language than that,” her father scolded, standing from his chair before the desk.
Eunhyuk, who sat behind the desk merely raised an eyebrow at his cousin before turning it to the third male in the room: Kyuhyun.
He twisted in his seat to look at his sister, “What is it?”
“Where were you today? Better yet, where have you been the past week?” She scowled at him as she grabbed his arm and dragged him out of the study
He blinked at his sister, “Discussing a bill congress wants to pass with Eunhyuk and Father. What’s wrong, have you been bullied again?”
“Not me, Sungmin,” Taeyeon hissed when they were in the corridor.
Kyuhyun stiffened immediately, eyes narrowing, “What about her? What happened?”
“At first it was just one… and then two… today there was practically a mob of them!” Taeyeon exclaimed,
Kyuhyun placed his hands on his sister’s shoulders to focus her attention, “A mob of what Taeyeon?”
“Vultures! The press! The paparazzi!” Taeyeon answered, “All standing outside every gate at the university. They haven’t bothered with me because all it ever has been was me walking to the car, nothing impressive with that. But today they practically swarmed Sungmin.”
“Where is she?” Kyuhyun demanded immediately,
“I think Donghae took her to the kitchen for some ice,” Taeyeon answered. She yelped when Kyuhyun immediately strode off. She sprinted to catch up to him, grabbing his arm to stop him, “Wait, wait!”
“What is it now?” Kyuhyun practically growled as he glared down at his sister,
“I never pay attention to the tabloids, you know how stupid they can be. But when I realized they were starting to gather at the university earlier this week, I began picking up some papers… they’ve been saying the most terrible of things about Sungmin, Oppa,” Taeyeon said softly, “We’re used to it… we’ve grown up being the centre of attention. She’s… spirited and lively… I honestly don’t know how she’s taking it.”
They walked the rest of the way to the kitchen in silence. Upon entering it, Kyuhyun leashed onto his temper immediately. Sungmin sat on a stool by the kitchen island as Donghae handed her a bag of peas. She pressed it to the side of her forehead before pulling it away, flinching.
“Put it back on,” Donghae instructed, crossing his arms over his chest,
“It’s not as bad as it looks,” Sungmin insisted as she put the bag on the tiled surface, “Truly.”
“Put it back on,” Kyuhyun said, stepping forward, “And that’s a royal command.” With one grateful look at Donghae and his sister, he dismissed them both. He came to Sungmin, raising his hands to cradle her face. He tilted her face away, his eyes focusing on the red welt forming over her right temple, “How the hell did this happen?”
“You know how clumsy I am,” Sungmin shrugged,
Kyuhyun turned her face back to his own, “Don’t lie. You’re clumsy enough that you keep band-aids on you, but you’re not this clumsy… it was the damn paparazzi wasn’t it?”
“One hit me with their camera. Accidentally… I think… I would’ve taken them all on,” Sungmin muttered, flinching when Kyuhyun brushed his finger tips over the welt, “But your sister grabbed me and hauled me into the town car and – stop touching it!”
Kyuhyun twisted his lips in a rueful smile, “At least I know they didn’t bring you down.”
“I’d like to bring them down,” Sungmin replied, “I swear, if I didn’t have my backpack and all my books I would’ve knocked them all down!”
“Ever the violent one,” Kyuhyun noted solemnly. He took her chin between thumb and forefinger, “But how are you?”
Kyuhyun raised an eyebrow as he repeated, “How are you?”
Sungmin sighed, “I wish I could just… shut them all up.”
“Taeyeon said the tabloids have been saying things about you,” Kyuhyun commented lightly,
“None of it’s true!” Sungmin exclaimed, “None of it, I swear! They make me so mad sometimes! All their lies and –”
Sungmin let out a frustrated yell and Kyuhyun enveloped her in his arms immediately, her slight frame shaking like a leaf in a windstorm. She softened immediately in his embrace and he realized how much she had been hiding.
“They’re saying so many lies about me…” Sungmin said quietly, her voice breaking almost instantly. “Somehow they found out I was engaged when we first met and they’ve been saying that… that I… that I gave up everything because… because you’re a prince.” She looked up suddenly, clutching at the front of Kyuhyun’s shirt, “But it’s not true, I swear it’s not!”
Kyuhyun was startled to see the unshed tears in her fox-like eyes. He raised his hands to her face, brushing the tears away with the pads of his thumbs, “I know it’s not. If anything, I stole you away.”
“And then they said I jumped from one bed to another and how I… how I… I spread my l-legs so easily because… because of royalty,” she buried her face into his chest, clutching him to her. “But I never… we never…”
He wrapped his arms around her tightly, fiercely, protectively, “They’re vultures,” Kyuhyun said quietly, soothingly, “They’ll stop at nothing until they tear everyone down. Ever since my cousin revealed himself to be a prince, they’ve been commenting about his relationship with Donghae. They’re sole purpose in life, Sungmin, is to make everyone miserable… but we know the truth, right?”
“But it still… hurts to think that people will read and… oh God! What if my parents read these lies?” Sungmin shook even more violently in his arms,
Kyuhyun held her tighter, pressing his lips to her crown, “Do you want me to talk to them?”
Sungmin shook her head, “No… I just… I wish they would stop.”
“That’s the price of being connected to me,” Kyuhyun said softly, apologetically; “Do you… do you ever wish I had never approached you? That everything had remained as they were?”
He stilled, completely stopped breathing as he waited. Five heartbeats passed, perhaps even an eternity. Then, he felt her arms move from where they were crushed between them. They slipped around his waist, pulling him more firmly against her as she held him back. Immediately, he adjusted his footing to accommodate the stool she still sat on. He looked down into her fox-like eyes as she gazed up at him through a veil of hot, thick tears,
“No, never. If I let such petty things stop me, then I would never have been able to feel this way… to meet you…” Sungmin insisted, her voice soft yet stern. She turned and leaned her cheek against where his heart was, “Besides… if it wasn’t for your image as a prince, I would have beat up all those damn paparazzi.”
“Well, I’ll make sure they don’t hurt you anymore,” Kyuhyun promised as he hugged her tightly, “I’ll be there to pick you up everyday.”
“I don’t need you to protect me,” Sungmin insisted as she pulled form his embrace to glare up at him, “I need you to let me beat them up!”
“Ah, there’s my girl. As lively as the day and with a bite worse than a fox,” he chuckled softly as he wiped the last remnants of her tears away.
She scowled at him, “You’re lucky I lo-… like have you around.”
Kyuhyun raised an eyebrow, “Otherwise?”
She narrowed her fox-like eyes mischievously, “I’d have to beat you up, too!”
“The last time you glared at me so much was during my wedding. What did I do now?”
Kyuhyun blinked before straightening in his seat in the town car, “I didn’t realizing I was glaring. I thought I was merely staring.”
“Glaring, staring… it surmounts to the same thing to the brother-in-law,” Junsu scoffed as he crossed his arms, “So, what is it? What did I do wrong this time?”
“When you married Taeyeon… no, no… even before that, when you were just courting her –”
“Courting? Have we reverted back to the eighteenth century?”
“Damn it, she is a princess and it is courting if I,” Kyuhyun shook his head as if dispelling the excessive words. He inhaled deeply and continued on his main vein, “When you first started courting my sister… how did you handle the press? The paparazzi?”
“Those vultures?” Junsu scoffed, using the term he and his wife fondly used; “We were fortunate. When we began seeing each other, it was when Eunhyuk had just revealed himself and was trying to reinstate himself as King… I’m not saying no vultures were around, but most of the attention was on Eunhyuk… and even after he ascended to the throne, it was all that horrible speculation about Donghae.”
“So after three years of being with my sister that’s all you have to say about the paparazzi?” Kyuhyun slanted him a look, “Considering you both go to public schools, I highly doubt that.”
“Nothing too extreme,” Junsu shrugged, “It’s annoying when I’m outdoors, but how often is that? I’m sure Taeyeon has more trouble with the damn vultures, but she’s never complained… much.”
Kyuhyun shook his head, “No, she has me pick her up so late simply because she knows if she waits long enough the paparazzi will clear the gates… most of them anyway.”
Junsu nodded thoughtfully before glancing at his brother-in-law, “Why the questions? Is this about that Sungmin person Taeyeon’s always telling me about?”
Kyuhyun nodded, “She’s been slandered and torn down by the paparazzi this past week and I was completely oblivious because I was busy with Eunhyuk… I wasn’t even able to pick up her and Taeyeon from school and Sungmin ended up getting hurt.”
Junsu suddenly sat straighter in his seat, his hands fisted in his lap, “It’s a damn good thing I decided to skip classes today to pick up Taeyeon.”
As if on cue, the car slowed down by the curb of the school gates as always. Immediately, the car was swarmed with bodies. The driver glanced into the rear-view mirror, catching Kyuhyun’s eye, “Prince, the vultures seem more today than yesterday. If I may be bold… perhaps we should have availed Princess Sooyoung of her offer and taken Joon with us.”
“Then who would protect Princess Sooyoung?” Kyuhyun shook his head, gently dismissing the driver’s suggestion, “No, no… I’d rather be here myself and know Joon is protecting my sister.” He looked at his brother-in-law, “If we can make it inside the gates, the school security won’t allow the paparazzi in. Up for a quick run?”
Junsu cracked his knuckles, “I hope some of them get in my way,” he inched closer as Kyuhyun placed a hand on the door handle. Kyuhyun pushed the door open and slipped out, Junsu behind him immediately, “I have your back, Kyuhyun.”
Kyuhyun threw him a quick glance as he murmured, “Thanks… hyu… Junsu.”
Junsu quirked his lips as they began shielding their faces and pushing through the crowd, “One of these days, I’ll here you say the word, Kyuhyun.”
The rest of the journey to the gates was in silence as they tried to make quick work of the paparazzi. At one point, Kyuhyun had to grab Junsu’s arm away from pummelling a photographer.
Once within the safety of the gates, Junsu sagged his back against the inside-surface of the tall walls; “And we have to go through that again?” At the younger man’s nod, Junsu sighed, “Damn… ‘for better or for worse’ suddenly has new meaning to me.”
Kyuhyun threw him a wry look when he was suddenly grabbed by the collar, stumbling back a few steps before regaining his balance and steadying himself against the onslaught. He looked down into the eyes of Sungjin, “What the he –”
“Where’s my sister?” Sungjin demanded,
Kyuhyun’s eyes widened immediately as he pulled off the younger man’s hands from his clothes, “What are you going on about? She’s in school.”
“She’s not, damn it! She left her books at home and I’ve called all her friends – no one’s seen her today,” Sungjin hissed as he began to pace before the prince, spiking his fingers through his thick, dark locks, “Damn it… if you don’t know either… no… no, she’s clumsy, she’s not reckless.”
Suddenly, Kyuhyun felt a prickling sensation at the back of his neck. His hand clamped down on Sungjin’s shoulder, his fingers digging into the other man’s shoulder, “What are you talking about? What are you thinking?”
Sungjin linked gazes, “I found out that all the rumours… the main ones… the most hideous ones… came from the same source… that damn best friend of mine she was engaged to,” he practically spat the words, eyes narrowed, “If he had been anywhere else… if he wasn’t in... I would worry that she… but no… she wouldn’t because he’s –”
Kyuhyun’s grip tightened considerably, his voice a growl that even Junsu had never heard before, “Tell me.”
“The reason my sister was engaged was because the bastard asked her to marry him before he left for the army. They agreed to marry when he was done conscription. Any other time, I’d think she went after him because of the rumours… but considering he’s in the army she,” Sungjin shook his head vehemently, “No, she wouldn’t… she wouldn’t travel to the training camp –”
“Are you that fucking stupid?” Kyuhyun roared just as his sister appeared, Junsu immediately going to her side, “I’ve only known your sister for five weeks but even I know she would travel down to a training camp just to give him a piece of her mind!”
Kyuhyun swirled away as he went back to the gates, back to the vultures. He paused just before the gates, his eyes narrowed on the flashing bulbs. He raised his hand for some calm, some quiet as he inhaled deeply before his usual soft, deep voice boomed darkly, “Either step away or pray you don’t get in my way because I’ll take you all on if I have to and as my mother as my witness I will make you all meet her!”
The bodies parted like the proverbial red sea and Kyuhyun looked back at his companions, gesturing for them to precede him to the town car. As Sungjin walked ahead of him, Kyuhyun fought the urge to smile dryly when he heard him comment:
“I don’t know who that bastard should worry about more… my sister or the prince.”
When they arrived at the training camp Sungjin knew his best friend (“Ex-best friend!” He swore furiously several times in the ride there. ) had been located, Kyuhyun didn’t know what to expect. He half-hoped that Sungmin was there and half-feared they wouldn’t find her. What they came upon, however, in an open area of the training camp, was far from anything Kyuhyun ever expected.
Sungmin stood with her feet together, her hands supine and fisted at her waist. She inhaled deeply and her entire body relaxed, a wave of tension seemingly seeped from her. Around her was a circle of collapsed soldiers-in-training. She approached one, hands on her hips as she began talking to him, her fox-like eyes narrowed.
Kyuhyun and Sungjin immediately walked over to an older man who stood on the sidelines, arms crossed over his muscled chest. “What happened here?” Kyuhyun asked, startled,
“The little miss took on ten of my best soldiers,” the man, a captain Kyuhyun now identified, stated, “First the blighter she’s talking to now, and then one after another, they came at her. I swear, if I could, I’d sign her up immediately.”
“She took on… ten soldiers!?” Kyuhyun gaped,
The man nudged Kyuhyun, the older man’s gaze never leaving Sungmin, “And you see that circle around her? The pattern in the dirt? That wasn’t there when she came.”
“What… is it?”
“When she fought, she only moved one foot, continuously pivoting only on her left foot. I’ve seen some martial arts in my life, but that was damn skilled… and on her left, too!” The captain whistled low in appreciation, “Usually, in anything, you pivot around your dominant foot because it’s stronger, more steady, more balanced… but she was pivoting on her left foot.”
“That’s because Sungmin doesn’t have a dominant foot,” Sungjin spoke up finally. The captain and Kyuhyun looked at him in silent askance, but his gaze remained on his sister, “Sungmin’s strong on both sides of her body when it comes to her martial arts. She trained so she’d have no weaknesses.”
“That’s quite the little miss,” the captain chuckled softly, “I’m guessing you young gents know the little miss? You’ll take her before she beats up the rest of my trainees?”
Kyuhyun threw the captain a proud smile, “She’s mine.”
The captain blinked, jaw slightly dropping. Immediately, his arms dropped to his side and he bowed, “Your Highness! I didn’t realize… I… I’m sorry! If I had known she was with you I’d never let her fight!”
Kyuhyun chuckled softly, “You wouldn’t have been able to stop her, Captain.”
Just then, as if sensing his gaze – their gazes, really – Sungmin straightened and looked right at them. She looked down at the soldier at her feet, throwing one last scathing remark (Kyuhyun could only guess how much punch her words held) and then delicately walked over the fallen soldiers and came up to them.
Kyuhyun immediately stepped forward, holding out a hand. Automatically, she slipped her slender hand into his. His fingers curled around hers, squeezing affectionately, his eyes gazing down into her fox-like eyes full of laughter.
“Apparently you can protect yourself,” Kyuhyun murmured as he drew her close,
Sungmin placed her free hand to his chest, stopping him as she looked around him, “Captain, I’m sorry for the damage!”
“Any time, miss! You come and teach my boys a thing or two,” the Captain laughed softly as he gave another bow to Kyuhyun before walking by and going over to his fallen soldiers.
“Sungmin…” Kyuhyun said, trying to regain her attention,
“Sungjin! Oh and Taeyeon, too!” Sungmin exclaimed as she used her free hand to wave to them,
“Oh! What your sister must think of me after seeing this display!” Sungmin shook her head ruefully,
“Sungmin!” Kyuhyun said exasperatedly,
She looked up at him then, her fox-like eyes narrowed and lips in a slight pout, “When you call me like that I distinctly think of Sungjin.”
Kyuhyun laughed gently as he brought up her hand to his lips, brushing his lips against the unmarred skin, “Then how about I call you Min?”
“Oh, that sounds so much better,” Sungmin smiled up at him, her cheeks pink from her exertion and from Kyuhyun’s kiss, “I shall have to ask everyone to start calling me that!”
Kyuhyun rolled his eyes, “The point is that I’m different from everyone else.”
Sungmin tilted her head slightly, gazing up at him, “But you are, Kyuhyun… you always have been.”
“But if everyone else calls you ‘Min’…”
Sungmin reached up slowly, tentatively, forgetting that they were in the midst of a training camp and her brother, his sister and another male she assumed as his brother-in-law. She forgot about them all, her fox-like eyes concentrated on him and him alone, “But when I hear it, I shall look for you first. When I hear myself being called that, my heart will search for you first and foremost because that is who I truly want to see… who I truly want to be calling my name.”
He gazed down into her bright, fox-like eyes. He saw the sincerity, the honesty, the love. Kyuhyun knew immediately, that he’d never feel cold again.
Seven years later…
Kyuhyun should be happy. As he paced the linoleum floor, he kept thinking that, over and over like a personal mantra. His five-year-old son had been declared heir to the throne just a few months ago at his cousin’s thirty-third birthday ball. Heck, he should be jumping for joy because his wife of six years was having his second child.
Except he was not happy.
Because his wife did not love him.
He always considered himself to be rational. Calm, collected and always thought before acting. However, seven years ago he met his wife and that all went downhill. Now, all he could remember was her words slicing through him. He leaned his back against the wall, slowly sliding down until he was in a deep squat, his hands holding his head.
“Oh pull yourself together!”
Kyuhyun raised his head slightly, peering through the spaces in his fingers at his youngest sister who sat across the waiting room from him. Dressed in black pants and a white blouse that curved to her rounded stomach, she sat in a chair, her tall, foreign husband beside her,
“She didn’t mean those words and you know it!” Sooyoung snapped exasperatedly, waving away her husband’s attempt to calm her with a hand on her arm.
“But… but then why did she said she didn’t love me!?” Kyuhyun questioned, the words practically choking him on the way out,
“Because she’s trying to force a baby out of her – YOU try it some time and we’ll see what nonsensical things spill from your mouth,” Sooyoung exclaimed as she shook her head, “He just falls to pieces.”
“Regardless of what Min said, I still don’t think you should have left the room,” Eunhyuk said from his seat adjacent to Sooyoung’s. Dressed in slacks and a dark-blue button-up, it was the most casual the public had ever seen the King. Donghae sat down next to him, handing the King a cup of coffee, silently agreeing by nodding.
“But… but she told me to leave!” Kyuhyun defended, straightening immediately, no longer able to stand the onslaught from his family as he was down on the floor; “I like to appease the mother of my children by obliging in her requests!”
“When they tell you to leave, they really want you to stay,” Junsu counselled from his stance against the wall, hands in his pockets, “When Taeyeon was giving birth to LiNa she banished me from her sight at least thirteen times… and she meant forever not just for the rest of the day.”
“But Min was never like this when Kyu was born,” Kyuhyun stammered, looking at his family members; he really was falling to pieces,
“She was in too much pain to yell at you,” Sungjin decided from his seat beside Donghae, “And where is the little terror? Back at the Royal House?”
Kyuhyun nodded, “The nannies are there watching Kyu and LiNa.”
“He’s probably talking to the nannies about fornication,” Eunhyuk commented lightly, causing Sooyoung’s husband to nearly choke on the water he had been drinking.
Kyuhyun threw his cousin a scowl when the door to Min’s hospital room opened. Taeyeon peered out, her face flushed, “Oppa? Kyuhyun? Min’s looking for you.”
Kyuhyun rushed over immediately, entering when Taeyeon stepped aside to allow him entry. Sungmin was still in the bed, her legs propped up, but her torso was flopped against the raised bed, her head lolling on her shoulders in exhaustion. He closed the distance between them, holding out a hand to her. Despite her eyes being closed, she slipped a hand into his waiting one and he clasped it tightly, dearly,
“Min… Min… talk to me.”
“Taeyeon says you’ve been crying out there,” Sungmin managed to open her eyes and attempted a small smile, “You know I love you, Kyuhyun.”
“If I’ve been crying it’s because you’re in so much pain,” Kyuhyun half-lied, bringing her hand to his face, pressing it against his lips, “Min, I swear, we’ll have no more children! I won’t even touch you anymore! We’ll keep separate bedrooms and, and –”
Sungmin narrowed her fox-like eyes, “Are you publicly proclaiming a vow of celibacy, husband of mine?”
Kyuhyun, disregarding the doctors and nurses around, slanted her a look, “Well… maybe not.”
“I hate to interrupt, Your Highness…es…. But we need to start pushing again,” The doctor at the foot of the bed instructed, her voice apologetic but stern.
Sungmin looked up at Kyuhyun, her face flushed and sticky with perspiration, “I can’t do it anymore Kyuhyun… I can’t… I’m not strong enough for this…”
“Min, of course you are! It’s been over thirteen hours since this began – you can, my love!” Kyuhyun insisted as he drew even closer, allowing her to bury her face again his arm.
A cry was wretched from her small frame as pain sliced through her body, the doctor calmly urging her for more. However, as soon as it began, it ended and Sungmin collapsed back against the bed again, her head shaking against the raised mattress, murmuring that she could do no more.
“What if we do this together, Min?” Kyuhyun asked, her hand still clasped securely in his, held against his heart, “Hmm? We’ll do this together… since that day in the training camp, we’ve always done things together, so why not this too?”
“How?” She murmured, barely able to open her eyes as she tried to focus on his image in the bright room.
Kyuhyun looked over at the doctor who nodded at him. “I’ll sit behind you, Min, and I’ll give you my strength.” He pulled her up slightly and slipped in between her and the raised part of the bed. He straddled the bed, his calves hanging off the edges as his arms curved behind hers like armrests. He laced his fingers with hers, holding on tightly, securely, protectively. “Lean against me, Min… we’ll do this together.”
“Now,” the doctor instructed.
Sungmin bared down, clenching her teeth before a yell bubbled forth. She gripped Kyuhyun’s hands as if it were the last things that kept her sane, kept her conscious. She felt his warm, solid body behind her, beneath her arms and she used his strength, his resistance to propel her pushes, force them with what little strength she had left. She screamed and pushed and all the while, Kyuhyun chanted soft, soothing words in her ear, encouraging her, supporting her, loving her.
Her scream was coupled by the high-pitched sound of a baby and Sungmin collapsed into the arms of her husband. He wrapped his arms around her limp body, brushing wet tendrils from her temple with his lips before pressing a kiss to her heated skin,
“We have our daughter, love,” Kyuhyun said softly, reverently, humbled once again at the gifts his wife bestowed upon him, brought to his life.
The couple was silent, Kyuhyun refusing to move as the nurses attended to his wife and child, cleaning her, changing the bed sheets. It was long moments yet until the room was emptied and he was alone with his wife and newborn daughter.
“She’s as feisty as her mother,” Kyuhyun whispered. He had wanted to slip from behind her to just lie beside her, but Sungmin wouldn’t let him, wanting to be in the circle of his arms.
“More like she causes as much trouble as me,” Sungmin corrected affectionately as the small bundle was peaceful in her arms, held securely against her heart. She looked over her shoulder at her husband, “Shall we name her now?”
“Have you decided your part?”
Sungmin nodded, “I want to add ‘Jin’ for my brother. Are you still adding ‘Soo’ for your sister?”
“She did convince me to fight for you,” Kyuhyun nodded. He looked down at the now-peaceful face of his sleeping daughter, “SooJin. Do you think she can live up to the two terrors of our lives?”
“After what I just went through? I think she’ll live up to them just fine,” Sungmin scoffed before laughing softly, her soft, soprano voice slowly regaining its strength.
“I hope she has your eyes,” Kyuhyun said then, “It’s what made me fall in love with you.”
“You mean my ability to take down ten soldiers-in-training wasn’t what stole your heart?” Sungmin asked in mock-shock,
Kyuhyun nuzzled her cheek affectionately, “No, that made me decide that I should marry you. But it was your eyes, as you very well know.”
“Well, you could tell me again. You’ve only told me a few dozen times,” Sungmin stated solemnly,
“More like a few hundred times,” Kyuhyun murmured, his lips against her temple again, “But as you wish… The moment I looked into your eyes, I knew I could never love anyone else… you had stolen my heart in that moment.”
Kyuhyun raised one of his hands, a silent offer. She slipped her hand into his automatically. Always automatically. He curled his fingers around hers, squeezing affectionately. Instead of bringing her hand to his lips however, he curved their arms around the pink bundle in the crook of Sungmin’s left arm and brushed their hands against the soft skin of the daughter’s cheek.
Sungmin turned her head enough to tuck her head against his chin. She allowed her eyes to flutter close, her soft voice floating to his ears like sweet music, “I love you, Kyuhyun.”
He tightened his arms fractionally around his wife, turning his head to press kisses against her closed eyes, “And, since the beginning, you’ve had my heart, Sungmin.”
Thank you to Lily who suffered my tormenting and to Sarah who suggested ways to cause trouble for KyuMin. Although I doubt I'll ever be ready to write that scenario...