Donghae had his bike, but not Yuri's helmet. He gave her his and had her sit behind him as he drove. It felt good to have her familiar figure behind him. And now that she wasn't hiding who she was anymore, Yuri didn't have to worry about the fact that when Donghae kicked the bike up to speed with an impressive roar of acceleration, she wrapped her arms around his chest so snugly that she could grab her own elbows. Having not been subject to the terrors of the bike in so long, getting back on was all the more frightening, and Donghae didn't take it easy on her. He liked the feel of her against him, though breathing would have been easier if she loosened her grip a bit.
She did eventually let Donghae breathe, but by then the singer was slowing the bike down as their destination came into sight. Yuri didn't recognize it, though she could tell that it was a park in the darkness. She took Donghae's helmet off in a rush to get a better look of the place. She didn't see too many other people around, but the area was far from deserted.
Donghae's laugh caught her attention. "Your hair is much longer now," he mentioned as she tipped her head in confusion. It took a moment for her to figure out what he meant. When she did she flushed pink and turned away from him, combing furiously through the long, tangled, tendrils with her fingers. Her hair was in the horrid condition produced by the combo of the helmet and the wind acting against her hope of good looks.
"Don't worry about it," Donghae said, adding wickedly, "It matches the sweatshirt."
Yuri stuck her tongue out at him and continued her preening. She was so focused on carefully getting the knots out of her extensions that she didn't notice as Donghae disappeared. She noticed a moment later though, suddenly feeling very alone. "Donghae-hyungnim?" she called into the dark.
"Over here," he called back with a chuckle. Yuri hadn't even noticed the honorific she'd used. "Come on, you'll miss it."
"Miss what?" Yuri asked, carefully making her way through the dark at Donghae's urgings. He refused to answer her question as he coaxed her though the shadows.
Then suddenly he appeared at her side, making her jump. She hit his shoulder. "No fair, I don't know my way around here like you do!"
"I know," Donghae said with a grin. "Here."
He proffered up a cone of ice-cream. "He was out of chocolate, but I know you like chocolate chip."
"Where did you . . . ?"
"I know my way around here," Donghae said with a shrug and a casual lick of his own cone. "Come on, it's just over here."
"What?" Yuri asked, her curiosity bubbling up to nearly unbearable levels.
Having mastered the reveal early on in life, Donghae let the suspense build just long enough before he turned Yuri and guided her around the corner. "This."
Yuri caught sight of Banpo Bridge just as the show began. Colorful lights and intricate weavings of water made for a fantastic display just across the river Han. Yuri was awestruck. Donghae too was made to pause.
After a moment though, he came to his senses enough to lead Yuri over to a park bench. Together they watched the show and ate their ice cream in comfortable silence.
Then as the lights faded and the streams of water dwindled, Yuri swallowed the last bite of her ice cream cone, stared out across the river at the city lights, and said, "I still haven't told you everything. Not the way it really happened at least."
"Do you want me to?"
"No," Donghae replied, surprising even himself. "I don't think the details really matter for the most part. Just in a few things."
Worried a bit, Yuri kept her eyes on the water. "Like what?"
"Why didn't you say anything?"
Yuri had expected this question, it was the inevitable one.
"At first it was because there was actually a reason to keep the secret," Yuri said. "Even when Dara and Jaebi and SeungMi figured it out, it was still pretty much a secret."
Donghae didn't say anything when she paused, letting her form her thoughts into something articulate. "And even once the other girls learned, it was still because of the secret part of the secret, I wanted to keep everyone from the stress of it. It wasn't until the end that I actively didn't tell you. I . . . I knew you'd be disappointed in me, and I didn't think I could take that."
When she'd fallen silent for along moment, Donghae said quietly, "You didn't trust me to hear you out?" He was hurt by the statement. At that point, Donghae probably would have trusted her with his life, with all his secrets, with every skeleton in his closet. That she didn't even believe in him enough to let her speak up brought back some of the pain he'd been feeling over the past few weeks.
"It wasn't that, it was never that," Yuri said quietly, looking to Donghae with serious eyes as she tried to reassure him. "It was just that I'd already broken up one family, and having to face the disappointment from someone else I cared about and ended up hurting. . . I just couldn't do it . . . I'm sorry."
"Your family . . . ?"
"That story I told you about my family wasn't a lie, and it didn't really happen that way to Jay," Yuri explained. "Jay had gotten in trouble again for something. I tried to get him off the hook and ended up giving my mother and father more to fight about. The vacation was their last effort to stay together. It failed. My dad walked out on my birthday because of me too. I'd been whining at him all week about the cake, I loved cake and wanted to have two at the party. He just couldn't take it anymore."
Yuri had to look away now, she'd never confessed this to anyone, not even a diary.
"It was my fault, all of it. Jay never blamed me, but I'm sure he wanted to. He was suddenly saddled with a home-wrecking baby sister to take care of and no one to help him do it." After a pause she continued, "It's one of the reasons he ran off to be a singer, to get away from the responsibility. The moment I got a job and could support myself without him, he left. I did little less to you, and knowingly so. Even if you had heard me out, I don't think I could have lived with myself."
"I don't know. It still doesn't feel like I've actually told you, I was just protecting Jay again . . . so it feels . . . justified? I don't know. This is the first time I've stopped to think about it since the stage," Yuri admitted.
"Me too," Donghae replied. He'd managed to convince her that he didn't hate her on stage, that he'd forgiven her. He'd convinced himself that he truly loved her and that nothing could change his feelings. But since then, he hadn't really thought about what her thing with Jay had done to their relationship.
"I am mad at you, and disappointed in you," he said, causing her to close her eyes. She didn't cry, as she'd expected nothing less. What Donghae said next, however, made her look hard at him, searchingly. "And regardless, I love you."
Yuri wasn't sure, despite his kisses on stage. An act in the rush of adrenalin and emotion was something entirely different than a sober proclamation, particularly in the face of shortcomings rather than an admirable defense of family.
"I haven't told you everything either," Donghae went on. "On the night before you left, I broke up with MinYeon because I realized that I was in love with you. A few weeks later, Z.J. helped me figure out that I didn't know who I was in love with . . . I hated you for lying. Or, I thought I did. Really, I hated you for leaving; hated that you could."
This time it was Yuri that held her quiet as she waited for Donghae to collect his thoughts. Seeing him unsure of what he wanted to say was new for her, and despite the fact that his words cut her to the bone, she was intensely curious as to what he was thinking about. Being unsure of what he wanted to say was something new for Donghae, and it took him longer to articulate his thoughts than it had Yuri.
"That you could just walk away from everything like nothing had happened . . . Like nothing that had happened had meant anything," he said. His hand moved to his pocket and a thin silver chain caught the lights of the city as it trailed from his fist when it came away from the cache. "That hurt more than any lie you could have told."
He held the necklace up so that she could see what it was and heard her quiet gasp. Donghae couldn't look at her as he asked, "Why did you leave it?"
Their conversation on the stage had cleared the water between them as people, had presented the option of being a couple, and displayed his feelings on the matter. It had shown Yuri's as well, but it hadn't quite cleared everything about the state of their mutual regard. Donghae was still harboring the doubts that had made Yuri's disappearance so unbearable in the first place.
"I couldn't not," Yuri whispered. "I'd worn it so often . . . if I'd stopped, the secret would have been out in an instant . . . I can't tell you how hard it was to let Jay have it."
"Really?" Donghae's voice was drawn with yearning and disbelief.
Yuri replied with a girlish giddiness in her heart that turned the gravity in her voice into a neutral calm. "I first got a crush on you the first time you sang Beautiful, when Jay should have debuted . . . I'm not sure when I fell in love, when it changed from crush to whatever it is now, but by the time I first got kicked out of the dorms, you were the most important person in my world, aside from Jay. I didn't take that necklace off for even a second until I left my brother at the dorms."
Donghae stayed silent, unsure of what he wanted to say. Yuri figured out fairly easily what he'd been thinking for the past few weeks. "You can think me cold and callous; you can think I'm a terrible person. You're more than justified to hate me. But if you for one second think that I'm going to let you pretend that I don't care about you, you are sorely mistaken," she said seriously, focused intently on his face as the city lights reflecting off the river caused colorful moving shadows along its contours.
Holding a silence only for the space of taking a deep breath, Yuri placed on hand on the side of Donghae's face, turning it towards her. She was determined that he believed her in this, if nothing else. "Even Jay, whose well-being is the most important thing of all to me, has never once been able to make me question the worth of doing the right thing. But I was so scared of making you hate me that I actually decided to maintain a lie, even when I knew that none of the consequences the secret had been initially kept for applied. Not telling you was the easy way out, and one of the hardest things I've ever done."
"Really? The point of acting more effectively than anyone ever has to make me hate you was to keep me from hating you?" Donghae said, with something of chagrined humor. The irony would probably end up seeming hilarious in the next few years, and this fact was not lost on him at all.
It would either be hilarious, or tragic; depending on how this night turned out.
Yuri answered the question of how things would go, taking a leap of faith that she never would have dared for anyone less important than the man she was in love with, in a single, calmly spoken phrase, "Hwan Donghae, Saranghae."
Having said what she'd hardly even admitted fully to herself, Yuri kept her hand on Donghae's cheek, light and unrestraining, and pressed her lips to his just firmly enough to hide the fact that they were quivering with anxiety.
Donghae only processed what was happening for half a second, marveling in the notion of his shy little dongsaeng's temerity, before he responded by pulling her into a tight hug and deepening the kiss. At some point, the Banpo Bridge had sparked to life again, the dazzling lights and intricate streams of water replaying the show they had seen earlier. This time, the pair only caught the end of it, curling together on the park bench. Yuri was using Donghae's shoulder as a pillow and he had tucked her under his arm as he had the night before he'd realized just how in love with her he was.
They were perfectly comfortable.
Neither of them knew how long they sat that way, staring out over the river and discussing the crazier points of Yuri's time as Jay. Now that Donghae had been assured of Yuri's regard, he could see it more easily in the interactions they'd had during that time. And he could laugh openly at her for all the little failings he'd never mentioned when he'd been worried about harming Jay's self-esteem. And she could laugh at him for all the ridiculous stunts he'd pulled to avoid harming Jay's self –esteem, and some of what he'd done for SeungMi as well.
By the time they got back to the dorm, it was later than they had ever voluntarily stayed out before. Donghae had stayed out longer a few times with MinYeon, but then he always returned home with a horrific headache. Tonight there was nothing but a happy buzz to bother his thoughts.
In the parking garage, Donghae collected the helmet he'd thrown; the one that belonged to Yuri. It was scratched a bit on one side, but the black visor was fine and there weren't any real chips in the sleek silver plastic. Donghae was almost hesitant to explain why it had made its way into the far corner of QuaszauR's allotted space. Yuri touched the silver heart hanging at her throat as he explained, aware that it had a similar story.
The dents and scratches weren't things Yuri blamed Donghae for, she didn't blame herself either. Rather than placing blame or regretting, Yuri chose to see them as reminders; that Donghae cared enough about to lash out like that, and that lying to protect either of them never would.
Upstairs, they tiptoed into the front room of the dorm, only to be surprised by the fact that not one of QuaszauR's members had gone to bed. They did all have pajamas on, but aside from that, it could have been the middle of the afternoon. With Marmy on her stomach, Dara was lying on her back over the counter between the kitchen and the common room with SeungMi and MinJi. They were using their feet to annoy Kihun and SooHyun as the pair buzzed about creating some sort of chocolate concoction. JiEun was watching from the doorway. Behind her, Chansung, Jinki, Jaebi, and JongHyun were playing with a hacky-sack. They weren't very coordinated about it and the hall with the bedrooms was the only place in the dorm without something breakable in it, meaning it was the only area SooHyun wouldn't kill them for playing in.
YeongSaeng and KyuJeon were on the computer, watching QuaszauR forums and message boards for the fan reaction to everything that had happened. They were even trolling a bit with their puppet accounts to make sure that MinYeon and the anonymous fan with the water bottle were officially enemies of their fan-base. They were.
Everyone else was on the couch, yelling at the TV and shoving each other as they battled it out in some videogame. The dorm was so full of activity when Yuri and Donghae made their careful way inside, that no one noticed their arrival for nearly a minute of their dumbfounded staring.
Then Marmy gave a happy meow, and Dara spotted the couple at the door.
"Finally!" she shouted, shoving Marmy roughly into SeungMi's arms as she leapt off the counter and tumbled in sock-clad feet along the smoothe floor to meet her friends. "I was beginning to think you guys were going to stay out all freaking night!"
Dara immediately grabbed Yuri's hands and towed her off, not letting either of the home-comers get a word in. Marmy mewed again as Yuri was dragged past, and SeungMi used his paw to wave, a huge smile on her pretty face.
Chatting away about a million different subjects, not one of which Yuri caught, Dara dragged her friend to her room and pushed her onto the bed. She then went to her closet and pulled out three hangers set with cute nighttime ensembles. "I think you should wear something cute, but not as cute as SeungMi's nightgown. Something girly, but awesome too. What do you think of these?"
"The middle one looks nice," Yuri replied, perplexed.
It was pink and blue and frilly and since Yuri hadn't the faintest idea of what Dara was talking about it seemed just as good as any of the others. Dara grinned at her choice. Then there was another flurry of movement and fabric and Yuri was being shoved into the bathroom just outside the door of Dara's bedroom, half undressed already with the pajamas clutched in her arms. Before Dara shut the door and gave her privacy, she said, "Give your hair a good conditioning, I want to braid it!"
Yuri stared at the wood of the shut door, pondering what to do, until she began to shiver from the fact that Dara had wrestled her out of her hoodie and t-shirt. Then she decided she had nothing to lose and needed a shower anyway and, folding the pajamas neatly and placing the rest of her clothes beside them on the counter, she stepped into the warm water.
Out in the common room, just as Yuri was starting to really sink into the bliss of taking a hot shower after so long of neglecting herself, Donghae was emerging from his own shower. He'd gone straight to his room and then immediately to the bathroom for purpose of avoiding his bandmates. Unfortunately, he'd never been one to linger in the shower and he was soon subject to the curious questions of his friends. Jay teamed up with Dara to lead the interrogation, but everyone stopped what they were doing to contribute and listen in.
After the initial questioning, the basic 'where did you go?', 'what did you do?', 'is everything completely official now?' kind of thing, Jay transitioned into fraternal over-protectiveness. "You stayed out awfully late with her," he mentioned. "We were beginning to think you weren't coming back tonight."
The minds of the members were on MinYeon, and the times Donghae had stayed over with her rather than coming home.
"I didn't even know she was a girl until last month," Donghae said, the seriousness of Jay's worries settling heavily on his shoulders despite his lighthearted tone.
Jay arched an eyebrow and looked to YeongSaeng with a grin. "And you weren't in love with her at all before that? A guy like you, healthy and strong and whatnot, didn't think of her that way at all?"
Donghae had to defend that his motives were pure at heart for another few minutes before Yuri came storming out into the common room. "Oppa! Will you give it a rest? I can take care of myself!"
She placed her hands firmly on her hips and huffed as everyone in the dorm started at her. Their attention wasn't due to her proclamation. The cute pajamas Dara had dumped her with were of a style none of the people present had seen Yuri wear before. Dara giggled.
Yuri looked like she was dressed in an explosion of lace and cotton candy. The tank-top had lacey not-quite sleeves with cute little bows at the cuffs. The pants puffed out like a 1920's bathing suit, with lacey cuffs flaring out just above her knees. It wasn't a style Yuri would have chosen for herself, but she sort of liked it now that she was wearing it. It fit her personality in a weird, unexpected way.
She was content to stare her brother down indefinitely, but then she heard the beep of a camera behind her and spun to face a chipper SooHyun. "You look adorable!" she proclaimed. "Now come over here and let me braid your hair!"
"Nope, I already called that!" Dara shouted, latching on to Yuri's arm and hauling her over to the little niche in the common room that afforded the best view of the television. The couch had been pushed back, something Yuri hadn't noticed on her way inside, and in its place were dozens of blankets and pillows. SeungMi was putting in a movie.
As Dara wrestled her into a place where she could see the movie clearly and her hair could be easily accessed, Yuri asked, "What's all this?"
"A pajama party!" MinJi chirped, plopping down on the pile of softness next to Yuri with a grin. "We haven't been able to spend any real girl time with you, so we thought we should do it tonight."
SooHyun added, "We can't have practice tomorrow anyway, since our trainers are busy with their baby, our coordinators are busy with the president, and halfway through we leaders will have to leave any way to go see the big guy; so it's the perfect time!"
"Umm, okay," Yuri replied, unsure. However, the way Dara was combing though her hair with strong and delicate fingers felt so amazing that she didn't really care that she still felt like she'd missed something.
Throughout the movie, they chatted more than watched, giggling furiously every few seconds in the general way that occurs because sleepovers make everything seem a hundred times funnier than usual. Yuri's newly long hair was braided around in a complicated arrangement that seemed to magically stay up on its own, as Dara had only used one bobby pin to stick it all into place and somehow it was able to survive the gentle rough-housing it was subject to. Nails were polished, massive amounts of sweets were consumed, and everyone had their hair done at least once.
By the time the movie was over, the girls were more hyper than ever and videogames were hauled out. At some point, Dara headed to the kitchen to get more snacks and discovered that the girls hadn't been the only ones enjoying the night. YeongSaeng, KyuJeon, Jay, Donghae, Jaebi, Jinki, Kihun, and Chansung were up as well. In fact YoungJae and JongHyun had been up until about five minutes before Dara discovered that the guys were camped out in the kitchen.
They'd been chatting away themselves, and rough-housing, and goofing-off, and playing video games on Z.J.'s borrowed laptop, and snacking; and most entertainingly, they had been listening to the seemingly random giggles of the girls. Dara found it most amusing. But she immediately ordered them all to go to bed, this wasn't their party to be a part of; besides, they'd eaten most of the snack foods in the dorm.
Kihun volunteered to cook something that was snackable for the girls as an apology. He however declared that to make enough he would need help. Dara just rolled her eyes and snatched the last of the shrimp-flavored crackers from Jay's hands and stalked back to the common room.
She was followed by Jaebi, KyuJeon, and Jinki, who promptly found places to sit where they could yell at the screen in support on one of their bandmates as the little CG characters they were controlling tried to smash each other to pieces.
Yuri got up and stretched. Then she wandered over to the kitchen, wondering both why so many of the guys had stayed up this late, and also what kind of food was being made to produce the strange smell wafting out to the common room. The others seemed to recognize it and paid it no mind, but Yuri wanted to know if it had any ingredients she wouldn't want to stomach before she ate it.
Sitting by YeongSaeng at the breakfast bar, Yuri tried to figure out what all was going into this middle of the night snack. She was side-tracked when she noticed YeongSaeng playing absent mindedly with the ring KyuJeon had given him. "How are things going for you two?" Yuri asked. She'd gotten the stories of what had happened with JaeMi and JiSung since she'd left, but KyuSaeng was still an unknown to her.
"Same old, same old," YeongSaeng said with a grin.
Yuri didn't return the feeling. "You still haven't told him anything?" she asked flatly.
His expression was enough of a tell for her and she banged her fist down on the counter, shouting, "That's it! I quit! I don't care anymore, you two crazies aren't going to do anything on your own, so it ends here!"
"What?" YeongSaeng asked, surprised and perplexed. The others in the kitchen and a few of those in the common room shared his confusion.
"You're telling him, now," Yuri declared. She stood up abruptly and grabbed onto YeongSaeng's ear before he knew what was happening. She dragged him, spluttering pained protests the entire way, to the dormitory door, whipped it open, shoved him outside, and slammed it shut and locked it.
Then she marched over to where KyuJeon was now staring fearfully at his bandmates in the common room and repeated the process. Once she'd man-handled them both outside, she stood between them with her back against the door, saying in her best patronizing voice, "Now, isn't there something you'd like to say to each other?"
She felt like a grade school teacher must when telling two small children to apologize and play nice. She was rewarded just as one would be, with shy mumbles and a show of apparently fascinating floor tiles.
With a sigh, Yuri whapped them both on the back of the head.
"Hey!" they shouted in unison.
Yuri was not moved. She crossed her arms as they rubbed the backs of their heads, prompting, "Well?"
When they still held their tongues, Yuri uncrossed her arms threateningly. "Do I have to hit you again?"
The threat had no effect on either singer and Yuri sighed heavily. "Fine, I'll do it," she said, adding with dramatic gestures of introduction, "KyuJeon, this is YeongSaeng, he loves you. YeongSaeng, meet KyuJeon, he loves you too. Get it? You're both gay, you both like each other, and you're both idiots. I'm going inside."
With that, Yuri left the pair standing on the landing outside the QuaszauR dorms and waltzed triumphantly inside. The occupants had obviously heard everything, based on the fact that they were all wearing huge grins when she came in. Donghae met her with a round of applause from the kitchen. She gave a mock bow and headed over to the breakfast bar as she heard Jaebi and SeungMi explaining things to Jinki, he was a little slow when it came to things like this.
As she settled down back at the breakfast bar, Donghae appeared behind her, wrapping her in his arms and pressing his face into the bits of hair that had escaped Dara's braid and were hanging at her neck. "They're going to be terribly miffed at you," he whispered laughingly.
Yuri shrugged as best she could in his embrace, pretending to be blasé in the face of his breathless proximity. "KyuJeon's kicked me out of the dorm before. It wasn't so bad, I've faced worse."
Together, they watched the creation of . . . something Yuri couldn't identify. It was tasty though, she discovered, taking a bite as she transported it over to the common room.
Eventually, YeongSaeng and KyuJeon came back inside.
No one said anything, but Yuri couldn't resist a triumphant grin when she saw that they kept their fingers laced the rest of the night.
She wasn't sure what time it was when she fell asleep, but she was sure that if she hadn't dozed off when she did she would have been able to see the sunrise.
In the morning, because eleven am was still technically morning , Yuri carefully untangled herself from Donghae and Marmy and stepped gingerly over the sleeping forms of her other friends. The cat was not so careful as he followed after his favorite person on a jaunt through the dorm, but somehow no one was forced out of their dreams.
Yuri got dressed, in clothes that flattered her figure for the first time in a while, and headed out to the café. Her Ajussi wasn't there, but very few people were. Even so, it was the first time throwing on a hoodie on top of what she was wearing and pairing it with shades and a hat had ever been necessary.
The limited clientele were all abuzz about what had happened at the concert last night and her name, her real name as opposed to Jay's, was being thrown around more often than Yuri would have thought possible. She didn't linger in the café as she normally did, as she was actually worried about being recognized.
Sweet met her at the door of the dorms.
"We were just coming to get you!" Dara said cheerfully, eyeing Yuri's sweatshirt and hoping that she had worn something nice underneath it.
SeungMi supplied, "Since the boys ruined our sleepover, we're taking you out shopping! YoungJae's threatening them with doing the laundry all alone for a month to get them to stay put this time."
"Yup! So let's go!" SooHyun chirped excitedly. Shopping was her favorite pastime.
Meanwhile, back in the dorms, a disgruntled and chilly Donghae woke to find himself hugging not his precious Yuri, but the pillow she had been using. For half a second he thought it had all been a dream, that'd he'd just woken up after a long week of music video shooting. The panic that flamed to life lasted only as long as it took for him to try to sit up and find Marmy on his chest.
He shoved the cat away and stretched, trying to send his heart-rate down to an acceptable level as he stood. Then he kicked YeongSaeng awake, which also jostled KyuJeon into awareness. The two grumbled, Yuri would have noted that it was cutely in sync, as Donghae grumbled, "Where did you two idiots take her now?"
"What?" they slurred groggily.
"You guys took her out in the mornings before, so where is she now?"
YeongSaeng threw his pillow, actually it had come from MinJi's bed initially, at his best friend and curled back around KyuJeon, trying to get back to sleep as he said, "You're crazy. We haven't done anything."
About to kick the pair again, Donghae noticed that none of the girls were still in the tangle of bandmates. He wasn't the only one who would have to wake up alone this morning. The girls were all gone without a trace.
Dara was responsible, Donghae was sure.
His hand went to his pocket, or where his pocket would have been, were he actually wearing real pants. The pajama bottoms were warm and comfortable, and did not contain his cell phone. Storming to his room he tore the place up searching through the dozen pairs of black jeans, that just had to look exactly the same, that he hadn't put away since he'd stopped caring about anything except how mad he was with Jay and Yuri. "Aish! There you are!" he exclaimed when the small rectangle of black plastic fell to the white carpeting of his bedroom floor.
His first instinct was to call Yuri, he'd bought her a phone after all.
Actually, he'd bought 'Jay' a phone. And Jay was the one who still had it.
And he had sweatpants from Yuri's university on, and they had pockets. The sudden urgent vibration woke him to discover with the same crestfallen bite of realization that the only thing in his arms was a pillow. "What the hell do you want, Donghae?" he asked, answering his phone out of sheer habit rather than conscious decision. He was nowhere near conscious enough for a conscious decision.
"Sorry," Donghae said, hanging up.
Next he called Dara, and thankfully he reached her, "Hey there, sleepy head! What can I do for my almost-brother-in-law?"
"With us, safe and sound," Dara replied. "We left a note, you know. Yuri insisted, we were already all the way outside and she wouldn't leave till we went back and put a note on the door."
"Where are you?"
Dara laughed. "Sorry, I'm not at liberty to discuss that. You'll just have to wallow."
"Check the note," she said with a giggle, and then she hung up.
Frustrated, Donghae almost called back. Instead, he got dressed, shoved his phone in his pocket and went to see if this note actually existed. It did, but it didn't give Donghae news he wanted to have.
Hiya Donghae! We're kidnapping Yuri because you ruined our sleepover! You can't come! We've told YoungJae not to let you leave, he's in the office by the way, if you want to try and get him to tell you where we're going. He knows, but he won't tell you! Kekeke ^.^ - QuaszauR Sweet
Donghae grumbled, but he decided to take Sweet up on their challenge. He went over to where he knew YoungJae would be slaving over paper work and tried to work his magic. Donghae had always been able to get YoungJae to tell him whatever he wanted. Leader was a big softie underneath it all, and Donghae knew how to push all his buttons.
YoungJae said it the moment Donghae walked in the door, he didn't even look up from whatever it was he was working on.
"SooHyun took Yuri and the girls shopping. That's all I know, honestly," YoungJae said, exactly as aware of his inability to hide information from Donghae as the would-be-interrogator was, and equally aware that he hadn't the time for it on this particular morning. "Have fun trying to track them down, be back before dark; SooHyun has something planned."
Donghae grumbled, but relented and went down to the garage where his bike was parked. He was at HeeJin's in ten minutes.
"You missed them," HeeJin said the moment he walked in.
Donghae sighed, this little chase was beginning to get very bothersome. "Do you know where they went?"
"They said something about a blonde guy, and maybe lunch with a Chinese man and a dictator . . . But all I really know is that if they're still out shopping, they'll be avoiding their usual haunts," HeeJin replied. "They know you're out looking for them."
"Isn't that just peachy?" Donghae replied sarcastically.
HeeJin laughed. "My suggestion would be to just go home and wait it out. Play those stupid video games with YeongSaeng and KyuJeon."
Donghae sighed, again.
Before he left, he shared a cup of tea with HeeJin, as she would not be convinced to go get coffee. "Did SooHyun happen to mention what she and Dara are planning?"
"Well, they didn't tell Yuri," HeeJin said as her reply.
She knew it would rile Donghae. "They're all in on it? Oh, come on, tell me!"
"Nope, not gonna happen," HeeJin said with a grin. "Sorry, Hae-ya."
Donghae grumbled and tried for nearly an hour to get her to reveal her knowledge. Seeing as all the tricks he was using, he had learned from her . . . it didn't go successfully. He also tried a few that Yuri'd shown him, but those worked better at getting couples together than getting an individual to reveal a secret.
"Go home, Donghae," HeeJin said sweetly after a while. "And just relax."
Reluctantly, Donghae did so. He played some sort of racing game with YeongSaeng, KyuJeon, and Jay; the slow passing of the hours irritated him, but he didn't let it show, much. Jay poked a bit of fun at him for it, and the KyuSaeng pair did as well; but just a bit, other than that Donghae was allowed to be frustrated in peace.
By the time the sun began to sink, turning the entire city golden with its fading glow, SooHyun, JongHyun, and YoungJae made their way home. They were much worse for wear. President Ahn was furious with them, but as they were the leaders of his most successful money-making scheme, their jobs were safe. Even SooHyun's position as co-leader was unscathed, though she would now be expected to perform a significant number of additional responsibilities.
Though she was by far the one of the three in the most trouble, she was the one in the best mood. She was downright chipper as she waltzed around the dormitory with a suspiciously wrapped box in her hands. The packaging was from HeeJin's shop, Donghae would have known it anywhere. And her smile was just that of the conspiring shopkeeper as well. Donghae tried his best to not be noticed.
YeongSaeng pointed him out right away, with KyuJeon keeping him from running away. SooHyun beamed at the pair and dragged Donghae over to the bathroom with an easy show of force Donghae would never have expected from her. "Get yourself cleaned up, I'm putting this on your bed. If you're not wearing it and picture perfect in an hour, Yuri's eating with the girls."
Donghae smiled ruefully. SooHyun was setting him up on a date with Yuri; that much, he'd guessed long ago. But what exactly would be involved . . . SooHyun could be terribly creative when she put her mind to it. Then again, how bad could it be?
Meanwhile, Yuri was having a blast. Even when SooHyun had to leave suddenly to make her meeting with the President, the others kept the cheer at the highest level it had maintained in a long while.
Yuri was hardly master of her own wardrobe. Throughout the day Yuri'd been coaxed into outfit after outfit, particularly dresses; and each one had been fancier and more luxurious than the last. By the time evening had set in, Yuri felt like she was ready for the prom. Walking down the street in the prettiest dress she'd ever worn, asymmetric, sky blue, and perfectly suited to her shape, with two popstars on each arm, Yuri felt like some sort of movie star.
The impression had been even more deep seated in her mind for the fact that just after SooHyun had left their ranks, the five remaining girls had lunch with three real superstars; true greats. However, as one of them supposedly didn't exist anymore, one wasn't really supposed to be in Korea at all, and the third was definitely not supposed to be talking to either of them, the lunch would be an unspoken of happy memory for the rest of the foreseeable future. Yuri'd gotten a few pictures though.
"We should probably head home soon," Yuri mentioned reluctantly as the drips of yellow light slipping along the glass around them began to turn first to pink and then to a deep purple.
The others agreed, but before they'd made much progress in heading back, Dara exclaimed, "Oh! That's MinWoo oppa's hotel! We should go say hi, seeing as we hardly ever come to this side of town."
SeungMi agreed vehemently, and MinJi and JiEun were no less enthusiastic; Yuri was always up for meeting someone else in the magical world her popstar friends lived in, so no protests were raised from anyone on the short trip across the street.
She didn't suspect a thing.
Back at the dorms, Donghae had lingered in the shower for the first time he could recall, taking care in every detail. Mostly, it was to waste time. From SooHyun's usual style of arranging things, he could guess that he wouldn't be able to met up with Yuri until it actually got dark, and he wasn't sure how long he would want to hang around propped up in whatever ridiculous get-up the girl had set out for him.
Slipping back to his room, Donghae was met with surprise.
Inside the box wasn't some preposterous costume, like the giant teddy bear suit she'd gotten him into for SeungMi's birthday a few years ago. Instead was one of the nicest three-piece suits he'd ever seen, pale tans and off-whites, tailored to perfection. How HeeJin had gotten it to fit him so exactly without any sort of fitting was one of the many mysteries of her craft. She'd even included a hat to match.
The only source of real color in the ensemble was the tie and pocket square, which were each a pale blue satin.
What it meant in terms of the evening teased Donghae more than not knowing anything. Yuri would be wearing a dress, presumably a blue one.
He walked out into the common room with almost insufferable a smile as SooHyun was wearing. The others gave wolf whistles and the like at his arrival. "Don't you look nice," YeongSaeng mentioned with an arched eyebrow as he handed over his BMW's keys to his best friend.
SooHyun sniffed. "Not as good as Yuri does."
"And where is she?"
She clucked disapprovingly. "You can't know yet, just go to the address in the GPS and she'll be there soon enough."
The GPS, yelling at him in a horrifically impossible to understand accent of English that was labeled 'SnoopDogg', eventually brought him to a five-star hotel in the very center of Seoul. It was a very familiar hotel. It was MinWoo's hotel, the very first of the grand chain.
The bartender businessman didn't meet him at the door, but as the valet took YeongSaeng's car off his hands Donghae spotted his Sunbae loitering about in the center of his lobby. MinWoo grinned when he saw Donghae come inside.
"Don't you look spiffy?"
"Well, this is a five-star establishment," Donghae replied with a shrug. "I couldn't just come in sweats."
"Like you ever just wear sweats," MinWoo countered, slinging an arm around his dongsaeng and resisting the strong urge to ruin his hair. He even managed to hold himself from the temptation that was stealing Donghae's hat. "Come on, I bet you're wondering what those crazy things we call girls have gotten you into."
MinWoo led Donghae through the main lobby and took him to one of the highest floors via the nearest elevator. Not five minutes later, the girls of Sweet, sans leader, were coaxing Yuri though the significantly less ornate back lobby and into another elevator. They took her up to the highest floor, a level with nothing on it but a piano, a dance floor and a 360 view of the brightest city on earth.
Yuri was absolutely stunned by the sight and gravitated towards the windows the moment the elevator doors opened. It was the single most amazing cityscape she'd ever seen. Living in this city for the rest of her life not only seemed like a good option at this moment, it seemed like the only one she could bear to live with at all.
When she managed to catch her breath she looked around to ask Dara how on earth something so breathtaking could possibly exist.
But Dara wasn't anywhere in the room. For that matter, neither was MinJi, JiEun, or SeungMi. Instead, Yuri caught sight of a tall young man in a tailored black suit climbing the stairs. He was quite handsome, and looked to be about HeeJin unnie's age. Yuri had to smile at the suave air he carried, correctly thinking that Donghae had learned more than a few life lessons from him.
"MinWoo-ssi?" she guessed.
He grinned, and said with a throaty chuckle, "Little mind reader, HeeJin wasn't lying when she said you were a quick one. Where's Dara?"
"I don't know."
"She was never a patient one," MinWoo said with a sigh. "I'll go look for her, since she probably went looking for me already."
MinWoo gave her a bow, saying, "It was nice to meet you, Yuri. I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more of each other in the future." With that he disappeared back down the stairs, as if he had never been there at all.
Yuri bowed her head in response and stared after him. Then she turned back to the view laid out before her. Strangely, she found that she couldn't concentrate on the spread of lights weaving intricate patterns out in the blackness below her.
Looking back towards the stairs, Yuri noted how MinWoo had said that he was going to go look for Dara. He'd never said that she ought to just wait for him to come back.
Meanwhile, Donghae was leaning up against the polished counter of a mini bar. It was in one of MinWoo's reception rooms, the huge expanses of space that rarely contained more than a few tables, space for dancing, a grand old piano, and an amazing view. Donghae had to grin at the setting, Yuri would love it. Of course, seeing as his friend had left him completely alone in the room to randomly go do something, Donghae was left trying to reign in his frustration, and anticipation.
When he saw MinWoo coming down a staircase he was moderately sure the man hadn't gone up, Donghae called, "It's about time you got back here! Where have you been?"
"Here and there, running a hotel is serious work you know," he said mysteriously.
"You should tell HeeJin that."
"I did," MinWoo said proudly. "My girlfriend is going to help me run this crazy chain in her free time starting next week."
Donghae just grinned in response, a smugness in his attitude that would have been unmistakable a mile out.
Completely unphased, MinWoo adopted his own grin. One that was perhaps even more smug and self-satisfied than Donghae's. "That Yuri of yours is a pretty little thing, a bit less than observant, but certainly a charmer."
Attitude completely gone, Donghae asked, "Where is she?"
"I would say 'lost', but I think that might be too plausible to joke about," MinWoo replied, reveling in his dongsaeng's discomfort. It was fun to watch him squirm, so long as there was nothing really wrong.
"Is she –"
"Actually, I think she's right there," MinWoo interrupted, gesturing to the staircase.
Donghae looked to where his Sunbae was pointing, a biting reply on his tongue. He froze, completely forgetting what he was going to say, or that he'd intended to reply at all, when he caught sight of a perplexed Yuri on the stairs.
She was hoping she'd made the right choice in passing up the doors that led off the staircase in at least three places. Somehow it just didn't seem like Dara would look for someone like MinWoo in the staff areas like the laundry room, so she'd stuck to the main staircase as it brought her down into another ballroom of some sort.
Being that Yuri's heels were staggeringly high, and amazingly thin, she'd had to watch her every step very carefully as she descended, allowing for only the most cursory glance around the room in her search for Dara or MinWoo. Donghae on the other hand, was utterly free to drink in the sight. Knowing the pretty face of his most important person belonged to a girl and really seeing her as one were two entirely different things.
"You've got ten minutes," MinWoo whispered in Donghae's ear. "After that I'm bringing out the salad and bread sticks." Then he slipped away into the kitchen area behind the ballroom; Donghae didn't so much as blink at his leaving.
For her part, Yuri was glad she'd been forced to take and keep a careful hold of the railing on the stairway when she reached the bottom. Her eyes found Donghae the moment she looked up for more than a general assessment of the room. He was leaning up against the counter of a mini-bar, perfectly at ease and wearing that signature smile that had made Yuri's knees go weak and her heart go still from the very first time she'd seen him onstage. The railing was all that kept her standing on the stilts SooHyun called shoes as she took in the image of the most amazing guy in the world, and he was waiting there for her.
"Hey," she called shyly when she thought she had enough air in her lungs to say conscious at the action. She'd estimated poorly and her voice came out rather too squeakily to be considered 'confident'.
"Hey," Donghae called back with a chuckle. "You . . . look amazing."
"Thanks, you too," Yuri replied, nervously patting her hair. She hadn't even looked at it since MinJi had swirled her fingers though it in the last shop they had visited that day. There'd been more than an hour of walking around in the Seoul summer breeze between then and now. Yuri wondered just how awful she must look as she noted that the ballroom didn't have a single surface that was shiny enough to be a decent mirror.
Donghae closed the gap between them quickly as she was fussing with her hair. "Really, you look wonderful," he soothed.
Despite the fact that she didn't believe his words, Yuri let Donghae lead her over to the only table that was set with silverware. She figured out that Dara had been planning this all along when MinWoo appeared with a basket of breadsticks, two salads, and a lit candelabrum. Yuri flushed bright red at not having figured it out before.
Smiling at the pretty pink on Yuri's cheeks, Donghae turned to his friend and ordered a spread of foods he knew Yuri would like.
MinWoo replied cheekily, "Anything the pop prince and princess want, they get."
The initial conversation was awkward, seeing as Yuri was horrifically embarrassed that she hadn't guessed anything about the fact that Sweet was setting her up and Donghae was enjoying her expression too much to do anything about it. But once they got past that, their conversation flowed in a constant stream that was half bickering and half soul-bearing. MinWoo didn't listen in, but he watched with Dara from the window of the kitchen for half an hour. Curious, and slightly less scrupulous, than Dara, MinWoo remained after she'd gone home to give them privacy; besides, MinWoo was their waiter, he had a reason to be watching them. Sort of.
The spread Donghae had ordered for the pair had been way more food than they required, but they shared bits of each entrée. It was a scene reminiscent of the breakfast that had marked a turning point in their relationship, only this time, there were no secrets between them.
Yuri got to learn so much about Donghae. He'd lost his dad, the man who was his model of everything it meant to be a good man, just before his debut. But even before that he'd been the one taking care of his mother because of his father's and older brother's busy schedules. He had a thin silver bracelet, that he always had on him somewhere, even if it was just inside his pocket, because his mother had given it to him when he'd debuted, saying his father had picked it out. He was really more of a dog person, which is why Marmy disliked him. At one point he'd wanted to become a baker, but that dream flew out the window when he realized that he had neither the skill, nor the patience, to become a decent cook, least of all of pastries.
Each new detail of his life was a magical discovery for Yuri.
There were so many things she still didn't know about him, and it was fascinating to uncover the tiniest things. Donghae didn't understand her interest in the small things, but Yuri knew it was the details that made a person who they were, and she wanted to know exactly what it was that made Donghae tick.
When MinWoo popped out of nowhere with a large plate with something chocolate on it, Yuri was momentarily distracted from her digging into Donghae's mind. The chocolate thing was amazing, and sort of like a giant peanut butter cup candy. There was a layer of cookie crumbs, then a layer of sweetened peanut butter and tiny dark chocolate chips, then a thick slab of darker-than-milk chocolate, topped off with a scoop of chocolate chip ice cream. It was the single most amazing dessert Yuri had ever seen.
It was the single most amazing dessert Yuri had ever tasted.
Better even than YeongSaeng's creations.
Donghae made a note of it; they would definitely be coming back here, often.
While Yuri was scraping the last of the chocolaty ice-cream melt from the bowl, Donghae took the opportunity to whisper to MinWoo, "You'd better not lose this hotel of yours to the Americans. HeeJin will never forgive you for making Yuri unhappy."
"Let me get you a bottle of wine and the penthouse is yours," MinWoo said saucily. "You can make her happy enough—"
"Shut up, you know it's not about that," Donghae snapped.
"I know. I was just making sure, seeing as that was basically it with MinYeon," MinWoo returned. "Is she even old enough to drink alcohol, legally, I mean?"
"Not quite," Donghae replied, with a soft smile. Then he returned to a semblance of seriousness for a moment, warning, "If you bring that kind of thing up again, I'm telling HeeJin, and then you're going to need that bottle of wine."
"Aish! Kid can't take a joke anymore," MinWoo said, ruefully.
"Not about Yuri," Donghae clarified.
MinWoo laughed, straightening up. "I thought she had an older brother for that over-protective thing."
"Her over-protective older brother got her into this mess to begin with," Donghae retorted as his Sunbae headed out with the empty dessert dish.
The sound of the piano attracted his attention. When Yuri had finished wiping the plate clean of chocolate, she'd noted that Donghae was deeply involved as a conversation with MinWoo. Thinking it was best not to interrupt, she'd wandered over to the gorgeous ivory of the grand piano.
Trilling lightly on the keys, she tried to remember what Jay had taught her. She could play, by way of knowing how to read one note's musical relation to another, and of knowing how notes ought to fit together in terms of pacing. She could read music, mostly. She just didn't know what any of the notes were actually called, and she knew even less which one corresponded to what piano key.
Suddenly, Donghae was behind her, reaching around to flit his fingers over the keys. He knew his way around a keyboard. Without even looking, he was able to perfectly render an instrumental version of Yuri's favorite song. He sang the words directly in her ear, a deep rumbling hum. Yuri harmonized her soprano with it, adding in bits of her own improv on the keyboard to balance the duet out.
When the song finished up, Donghae lifted his hands from the key board to place them on the silky fabric at Yuri's waist. "You really are a good singer," Donghae murmured. "Do you think you want to take President Ahn up on his offer?"
Yuri twisted around to face Donghae and wrap her arms around his neck. "You don't have to, if you want to go back and finish your studies . . ."
"I already have enough credits to graduate," Yuri proclaimed smugly. "I'm just that much of an IB student, over-achiever to the max."
"But this lifestyle—"
"Is the best thing I've ever had in terms of one," Yuri interrupted. "And before you say it, none of the friends I had there were half as amazing as the ones I have here. I won't be leaving anything behind that I'd regret."
Donghae grinned. "Does that mean you're going to do it?"
"Probably, if you think I can hack it for real," Yuri said.
"I don't think you're quite up for it . . . not so long as you keep wearing those hideous sweatshirts," Donghae teased.
Yuri banged her fist against his chest. "Meanie! Bad Hyungnim," Yuri reprimanded.
"Oppa, O~ppa," Donghae said. Girls didn't call the men in their life hyung, that was for little brother figures to use respectfully.
"Pabo, Donghae," Yuri teased. "My Donghae isn't oppa, he's always been my hyungnim. And he will always be my hyungnim."
Yuri reached up on her toes, pulling herself up with her elbows on Donghae's shoulders, and kissed him. It thrilled her to do it; and at the same time, she could think of nothing in the world that could be more natural.
Then she jumped back, snatching up his hand and tugging him out of the ballroom, saying, "Let's go for a walk! Seoul is so pretty at night!"
Donghae allowed himself to be pulled into the nearest elevator. He sang along with Yuri to the elevator music, MinWoo never had his hotels play typical instrumental piece. Instead he used his popstar connections to get the latest hits. The song playing as Donghae and Yuri descended was off the latest, English, album of a subgroup from the one of the original greats.
A medley of that song, Beautiful, and I Must be Crazy kept the pair laughing and dancing through the streets of Seoul. When they wandered past a perfectly round, shallow fountain, with low bubblings of brightly lit water, Yuri paused. She slipped off her heels, slipped out of Donghae's arms, hiked up her skirt a bit, and stepped into the cool water.
With one of the rueful sighs that Donghae was getting very used to heaving, he followed suit; pulling off his shoes and socks and rolling up his pant legs, before stepping into the chilly water. Yuri flicked a bit of water at him with her foot; he returned the favor with a bit more force, though he made sure to be careful of her dress.
Their little game lasted, amazingly enough, for nearly an hour, something they could see easily by a large digital clock hanging on the edge of a billboard just down the street. It was getting late, very late. And chilly.
Being wet from the knees down and dressed in a single layer of silk, Yuri began to shiver. That's when Donghae ended the game, by physically picking her up and carrying her from the fountain's watery bounds. She playfully beat at his chest until he set her down and she pretended to stomp away, offended at his manhandling, though she had clearly enjoyed it quite a bit. Donghae caught up to her after sticking his feet back into his shoes, sans socks. He'd shoved the socks into the pocket of his jacket, rather than bothering to put them back on, and he'd slid his jacket off so that when he caught up to Yuri he could wrap it around her shoulders.
"You're not getting sick on me this time," he mentioned. He took her high heels off her hands, slinging them over his shoulder, and placed his other hand around her waist. Yuri used one hand to pull the fabric of his jacket closer around her, and the other she linked up with his hand on her waist.
"I wouldn't dream of it," Yuri replied.
Together they walked through the streets of Seoul, Yuri barefoot and Donghae fussing about it. He threatened to make her wear his shoes but was persuaded away from the idea when Yuri proclaimed that she wore shoes half his size and would end up tripping over her own feet into traffic if he made her wear them.
Donghae reflected briefly on the fact that he hadn't needed YeongSaeng's car after all as the pair neared the dorms. It was just another thing, though one unexpected, that made her so different from MinYeon. To sweeten the deal that the walk had provided, Yuri hadn't felt the least bit worn out through it; at least until they turned the corner onto the street the dorms were on. She didn't even notice her weariness as they made the turn, but Donghae did. He responded by scooping her up in his arms again, only this time he didn't let her down when she protested. He silenced her initial shouts with a kiss, and then elicited other shouts as he twirled her around while he carried her all the way back home.
Until the contract was signed, and the wall between QuaszauR's dorm and the single unit next door had been knocked down, Yuri would be sleeping with Dara. Nowhere else could serve as home after all, even temporarily.
And this wasn't the night to end all nights, it was simply the beginning of a long line of nights; some more exciting than others, but all good in their way. This was a place in the world that they had needed to find.
This, and everything it entailed, was home.
High above them Dara smiled, and felt Jay chuckle though her back. They were standing at the window of their home, the wide expanse of glass in the common room that overlooked the street leading to the popular side of town. Dara was holding one of Jay's hands at her waist, and the pair was sharing a mug of hot chocolate between them.
"They're perfect for each other," Dara sighed, watching as Donghae danced around the quad with Yuri in his arms. He was happier than Dara could remember him ever being, could have ever imagined him being.
On the couch, KyuJeon and YeongSaeng were lounging as a legitimate couple for the first time. The rest of the dorm's inhabitants had gone to bed, though only after a few jibes at how long it had taken them to finally make things official. The only way the pair had quieted their band mates was to threaten Kihun and SooHyun with the fact that Yuri wasn't going back to the States: they were next.
As Jay and Dara watched the couple below, YeongSaeng wondered aloud, "Do you think we should tell them that SooHyun's set them up for We Got Married?"
After exchanging one of those looks, the kind that communicated volumes worth of information in a fraction of a second, Jay and Dara replied in unison, perfectly together in their scheming, and perfectly in line with SooHyun.
"They'll figure it out soon enough."
A/N: Hope you enjoyed it, thanks so much for reading!