Donghae could see the light with his eyes closed, creating an itchy, uncomfortable feeling that had him squeezing his eyelids before blinking rapidly awake. At first he didn’t recognize where he was, sitting up in the large, plush bed and looking around at the room he woke up in. The covers on the other side of the bed next to him were turned down, the deep burgundy sheets rumpled and the pillow a wrinkled lump. Hae slid his hand across it, ran his palm downward to trace the outline of whoever had slept there last.
When had Donghae fallen asleep? He thought he’d have been too on edge to give himself up to his exhaustion, constantly aware of the foreign presence next to him, always afraid of contact. He’d kept far to his side of the bed to the point where half of his body had been hanging off, and he was careful in trying not to fall. At some point he must have relaxed enough to sleep. Donghae just hoped he hadn’t rolled or kicked or thrashed unknowingly while unconscious. The thought of it humiliated him. What if Eunhyuk decided he didn’t want Hae to sleep with him anymore? Would he be forced onto the sofa in the sitting room? On the floor? Would Sungmin move back into his place?
Shaking his head, Donghae realized it was best not to get upset over things that didn’t concern him. He stood and quickly made up not only his side of the bed, but Eunhyuk’s as well. As he was heading toward the door, the sound of his name in conversation stopped him from exiting.
“What about him?”
It was Eunhyuk’s voice coming from beyond the room. The knowledge that he shouldn’t eavesdrop didn’t stop Hae from doing so. Slowly, he cracked open the door. There were too many things at risk for Donghae, too many questions left unanswered. He was surrounded by strangers in foreign surroundings. He needed as much information as he could get and if no one was going to be forthright with him, he’d have to find other ways of obtaining it. So Hae listened.
“I thought you were gone.”
That was Sungmin. Donghae opened the door just enough to see. They were standing in the sitting room, barely in view of the hallway where Eunhyuk’s room was. The taller of the two had his arms crossed in what was quickly becoming a signature defensive stance for him, while Sungmin was leaning with his hands against the sofa, an intently concerned look on his face.
“I will be,” Eunhyuk said.
“So you’re just going to abandon him? Hyuk, you can’t be serious.”
“It’s not abandonment, Minnie. He’ll have you.”
“He doesn’t want me!” Sungmin pushed off from the sofa in a display of emotion, disappearing from view. Eunhyuk kept his eyes down somewhere near his feet, while Donghae battled with the awareness that he was slowly beginning to feel sick. “You’re the one he wants! You’re the one he trusts!”
“He doesn’t trust me, he doesn’t even like me! I took him from his family, or have you forgotten?”
Sungmin reappeared, coming to stand in front of Eunhyuk. His head was down, but his fists were clenched tight in long sleeves. His entire body seemed tense, ready to pounce. Donghae swallowed.
“Yes, you did,” his voice was so quiet Donghae had to strain to hear it. “That was your decision that you made without informing any of us. He is your responsibility. I will not let you walk out on him.”
The room fell to silence. Hae considered making an appearance, weighing the pros and cons of facing them without taking time to think about what he’d heard. Then, Eunhyuk spoke again, his voice the same gentle, kind tone he’d used last night. Once again, it was directed towards Sungmin, but Donghae didn’t mind. Just the sound of it stirred his emotions and Donghae craved the feeling.
“I want you to promise me that when it comes time for his quing-hebia, it will be you.”
The look Eunhyuk gave Sungmin could freeze water it was so cold and Donghae felt shivers tear up his arms. But Sungmin stood firm and didn’t appear phased. In fact, when next he spoke, his tone was equally as icy.
“I made that connection once, Hyuk, I won’t do it again.”
Defeated, Eunhyuk uncrossed his arms and his shoulders slouched. It was the least defensive Donghae had seen him and more than anything the young boy wanted to wrap him in his arms.
Sungmin shook his head, no. “You know who it has to be.”
“I won’t do it.”
“Why not? Shisus, Hyukjae—“
“Why did you take him if you don't like him? If you don't want him? I don’t understand.”
“It’s not that,” Eunhyuk’s right hand came up to rub at his left elbow, his weight shifting legs once, twice. “You should have seen him, Minnie. In the Gutter. He was dying. He’s still dying.”
“They’re all dying.”
“He was so…”
Donghae couldn’t think. He couldn’t hear anything. His eyes seemed to be spinning around in their sockets, the room refusing to stop moving. His body felt weightless, as if he was being sucked off the floor by some invisible pull above him. Down the hall, Eunhyuk and Sungmin were still arguing, but Donghae couldn’t process the conversation. Some part of him lingered in that sitting room, outside that door, though. Some part of him remained, hanging desperately on Eunhyuk’s every word as he spoke.
“…innocent. When I saw him, I just knew I needed to bring him here. It felt right.”
Somehow, Donghae made it back to the bed. All thoughts of interrupting the Ipsuren’s conversation disappeared as he braced himself against the bed post, trying to breathe deeply.
No, he couldn’t think about it. The bed. He needed to lie down.
What did he mean, dying?
Where were the covers, the blankets? There, he’d found them. Now to turn them down and hide in them, pull them over his head and shut his eyes and—
“They’re all dying.”
Maybe, if he managed to fall back asleep, he’d wake up back at home in the Gutter, where he belonged.
When Hae woke again it was to a new voice, one he didn't recognize. A hand was shaking his shoulder and he pushed away, turning onto his back to stare into a round, pale face. When his sleepy eyes focused, the ripples of disappointment forming in the pool of his stomach reminded him nothing had changed. He was still in Eunhyuk's room, still in Eunhyuk's bed. But there was someone knew smiling at him, so Donghae sat up.
Another Ipsuren, but wider in girth and softer in body. Where Eunhyuk was hard and lean, this new stranger was pudgy and round. Where Sungmin was small and feminine, this one was large and masculine.
"I'm Shindong!" He stuck his hand out and Donghae looked at it curiously, noticing a collection of several engraved silver rings decorating five thick fingers.
Eventually, Shindong dropped his hand. "I thought that was a well-known human custom. Nevermind. You're Donghae, right?"
For the first time, Hae realized he hadn't spoken. Remembering himself, he forced a smile and nodded.
"I'm sorry," he tried. "I guess I'm still kind of in shock. All of this is so overwhelming."
Shindong made a noise of recognition before nodding. "But you like it so far, right?"
Did he like it? No one had asked Donghae that. After such a long night of "go here," "go there," "don't touch this," "don't say that," no one had stopped to ask what Hae felt or even thought about his entire situation. He hadn't even asked himself. Pensively, he looked around at the room, the deep colored sheets and pillows that contrasted with the white of Eunhyuk's comforter. A tubular lamp stood alone in the top left corner of the room and looked almost like a pipe. For the first time, Donghae noticed a mirror on the far wall and Shindong, forgotten, said nothing as Hae stood up to walk towards it.
For the first time in a long time, he was able to see his appearance clearly. If he looked like Donghwa, he couldn't tell. His hands, with wide palms and short fingers, came up to rub at the dirt on his face. His hair was a tangled mess on his shoulders, faintly grey and wavy with abandonment. His lips were hard-set and his mouth seemed sad, his cheeks hollowed out from starvation beneath prominent cheekbones. He felt hideous and ashamed, even more so when Shindong appeared behind him, seeming to glow with trademark Ipsuren radiance.
"You're such a cute little boy," he said, placing his hands on Hae's shoulders. "We'll get you cleaned up and see how attractive you are under all that dirt."
The house was empty apart from the two of them, but when Hae asked where Sungmin and Eunhyuk were, Shindong said they'd left him in charge.
"Tulana-Minnie told me to make you shine, so that's what I'm going to do!"
By the time he'd dropped Donghae off in their spacious bathroom, the human boy was holding a basket full of all kinds of things he'd never seen before. Labeled bottles and bars of sweet smelling soaps with chunks of scratchy things in them, cloths and long-handled brushes and heavy sponges. The bathroom was white with a soft, pink floor mat and matching towels with lacy fringe that Donghae thought was kind of girly. On the edges of the deep-set tub were even more bottles that smelled fruity and sweet when Hae opened them and in the corner, next to two bottles full of a gel the same color as the drink Eunhyuk seemed to like so much, was a vial of scented perfume. The cap opened with a musical pop and immediately Donghae recognized the scent. Mischievously, feeling almost dirty, he slipped it into the basket Shindong had given him.
After he was done, the bath water was black with grey foam and he spent almost as much time as he had getting himself clean on his hands and knees outside the tub, scrubbing it down. Shindong hadn't replaced the rags Donghae had worn, so he wrapped himself in one of the pink, lacy towels before exiting. Shindong was waiting in the sitting room, smoking a glass pipe that sent rings of deep blue smoke swirling towards the ceiling. When he saw Hae in his naked awkwardness and such a girly towel, his shoulders shook with laughter and the remaining dregs of thin, blue smoke seeped out from his nostrils. Feeling his entire body heat up in a red flush, Donghae wished he could melt into the carpet.
"Well, at least you're clean!" Shindong finally managed once he'd composed himself. "Now, let's get you dressed."
Finding clothes for a human boy half their size was impossible, but somehow Shindong managed. They weren't impressive and they didn't fit perfectly, but Donghae had to admit he looked better than he ever had in his life. His hair had been brushed out and fell in soft, shiny waves passed his collarbones. While his chest remained bare, Shindong had uncovered a brown leather vest that fit him well enough and softened the jutting, bony angles of his teenage-boy physique. Finding pants that didn't slide right off of him had been the hardest part, but after a few creative modifications Shindong had been able to adjust a pair of soft pants that seemed to be sewn together entirely of pockets.
"It's not really our style," Shindong admitted, tying a frayed, leather bracelet around one of Hae's thin wrists. "But, it's better than those disgusting towels you'd been wearing when Tulana-Eunhyuk had dragged you up from the underground. I think you need more jewels. If there's one thing that's appreciated around here, it's a varied collection of fine jewelry."
"Shindong," Donghae said. "I never answered you earlier, when you asked if I liked it here."
The Ipsuren was busy digging through Eunhyuk's drawers, but he seemed to be listening, so Hae continued.
"I never even imagined what things were like outside of the Gutter. Even if I wanted to picture everything described to us in the stories we were told, I had no basis to start from. Most of what I've experienced since last night has been completely new to me. To be honest, it's hard to process everything, you know?"
Shindong returned with a handful of metals that shined in the overhead light and began to fasten a thick-linked brass chain to Donghae's leather-adorned wrist. "Trust me, I know more than you think. I was human once too, you know. We all were."
Logically, Hae had known that. The stories had said as much. All the Ipsuren had been converted at one point or another, either willingly or by force. Hearing it said, though, made the reality sink in and when he looked at Shindong's reflection in the mirror as he placed a heavy, ornamented collar around Donghae's neck, Hae saw him in a different light.
"Even Eunhyuk?" He couldn't stop himself from asking.
"Yep," thankfully, Shindong seemed unphased by the question. "Even that guy."
"You don't like him."
The hands holding up Donghae's soft hair fell and Shindong stared, face slack with surprise. "Of course I like him! He's my best friend! Don't say dumb things. Now, I'm hungry; let's get breakfast."
After breakfast, a quiet affair between the two of them in which Shindong heated up leftover rice porridge and eggs that Donghae only found he could eat half of, they decided to go for a walk around Garahim. Sungmin's town looked much more inviting under the fluorescent overheads of the plate than it had in the dark of night. Down every street Hae saw Ipsuren busy at work in groups or individually; not once did he see people loitering or standing idle. Some were painting words or pictures on the sides of buildings in bright, vibrant colors, giving the otherwise boring buildings an almost third dimensional effect. Shirtless Ipsuren with sweat rolling off their backs worked on the roofs of homes, patching up sliding that was crumbling with age.
"Before Tulanas Sungmin and Eunhyuk came, this town was a wasteland," Shindong said as they walked block to block. "It was populated mainly by low-caste Ipsuren gangs who used the warehouses and stores for torture and dumping grounds for the bodies."
"How were Sungmin and Eunhyuk able to take over?" Donghae asked, fighting the unsettling feeling washing over him.
"They were of higher caste," Shindong shrugged, as if it was obvious. "Sungmin especially, he's Jezbenite. It's kind of hard to put up a fight when your opponent can kill you with his mind."
"Sungmin can do that?" Donghae tried to keep his face from betraying his astonishment.
"Donghae, you are a human who has spent his entire life in the dark. You know nothing."
"Then tell me!" Quickly, Hae was losing patience. So much he didn't know, he was tired of playing games.
"I can't. You'll know soon enough."
Moaning in frustration, Donghae was ready to scream. What was he doing there if no one would let him in on anything? Why welcome him into their home, into their world, if only to keep secrets from him? Despite the fact that the light was brighter on the plate, Hae still felt left in the dark. As they walked, Shindong watched him and slowly the human boy began to grow self-conscious.
"What?" He asked nervously, scratching the back of his neck where he felt most exposed.
"You have the opportunity to become a very striking Ipsuren, Donghae. It's no wonder Eunhyuk is crazy about you."
"Shindong, don't say that! He's not crazy about me, he doesn't even like me!"
In the back of his mind, Hae heard Sungmin's voice as it had been that morning while speaking to Eunhyuk. Why did you take him if you don't like him? If you don't want him?
"What did I just say? Didn't I say that you know nothing?" Shindong's tone was light, the force behind his hand gentle as he playfully pushed at Donghae's shoulder.
But Hae couldn't keep the sadness from his voice when next he spoke, no matter how hard he tried.
"Eunhyuk and Sungmin,"
Shindong made a sound of irritation and Hae continued through it.
"Don't be rubbing your nose in other people's business, Human. That's not how things work, here." Seeing the grief that possessed and turned the expression on Donghae's face, his voice softened. "Look, just because he's getting it from one doesn't mean he can't dip into another. Ipsuren customs don't include the silly restrictions humans have. Although he probably won't want to touch you in your current state. It would kill you."
Donghae was too distraught, too lost in his emotions for those words to sink in. Uncabled and untethered, his mind lost itself, adrift. The sea of human emotion he found himself in was too wide and deep, a single push off the raft he'd created for himself and he'd drown. That was the first lesson he'd have to learn, and soon. That in order to begin to understand the vibrant, terrifying world he'd found himself in and the ethereal creatures that inhabited it, not only would he need to learn to swim, but he'd need to make it to more forgiving shores.
That night, the sitting room of Sungmin's house was full of multi-colored smoke and the spicy scents from herbed meat and drowned noodles. Plumes of green, pink, purple and blue trailed upwards from the ends of long, glass pipes that Sungmin and his guests puffed on. Donghae had been told that Ipsuren didn't suffer from drug-induced ailments the way humans did. They were immune to cancer and other diseases, so cigarettes, alcohol and other, harder drugs held no consequences and, as such, no real appeal. While the Ipsuren gangs dealt with human drugs such as heroine and methamphetamines and other evils, most Ipsuren (at least the classier ones), created their own forms of chemical entertainment. The colored smoke was a variation of tobacco, marijuana, and potions and powders completely foreign to Donghae, filtered down through a hookah. Sungmin and Shindong didn't seem any different when they smoked it, but when Hae asked if he could try, they told him it would make him extremely sick.
"And no one wants to mop up your brains after they've dribbled out of your nostrils," Shindong had joked with a wink.
At least, Hae thought he had been joking.
The only one who seemed disinterested in the pipes was Eunhyuk, who had spread out on the floor at Sungmin's feet and was sipping another glass of that same pink liquid. Finally, Donghae had gathered the courage to ask him what it was and Hyuk had laughed, something rarely seen before and absolutely breathtaking, before passing it to Hae to try.
Tentatively, Donghae took a sip. Thick, cold and sweet, it was refreshing when mixed with the heavy spice of their dinner and Hae found himself swallowing mouthfuls before Eunhyuk grabbed it from him in irritation.
"It's Ipsuren strawberry milk," Sungmin called from his high perch on the sofa. "Our Hyukkie is a child."
Donghae wasn't sure what the difference was between human milk and Ipsuren milk.
"We never had milk in the Gutter," he found himself saying outloud before he realized he wasn't really supposed to be talking. When he finally did come to this realization, the only person who seemed to be paying any attention to him at all was Eunhyuk, who gave him a soft smile before turning back to the story a strange, unintroduced Ipsuren was telling across the room.
Hours later, after Eunhyuk had taken their dishes back to the kitchen and the guests had left, Sungmin motioned for Donghae to rise from his seat in the corner and sit next to him on the sofa.
"We need to talk, you know," the kind Ipsuren said to him as he took a seat. "It's time you made a decision about whether or not you want to become one of us."
"I didn't think I had a choice," Donghae confessed.
"Oh, Hae baby," Sungmin's voice was gentle, his face sympathetic. "There is always a choice. But there is only one right one."
Carefully, Sungmin took one of Hae's wrists and started to undo his bracelets, one by one. It reminded him of the way his mother would undress him before bed when he was a child and Donghae felt tears starting to gather in the tangles of his eyelashes.
"I know we've all been very secretive with you and I apologize, but it is the way. Things must be done in a very specific manner, you see. There is a ritual to all of this, steps that must be taken. You must make your decision tonight."
"What happens if I decide to...convert?"
"Then your kani will begin. In the morning you will be woken as soon as the lights turn on to hear your answer. Should it be in your favour, you will begin a three-day fast."
"And," Donghae forced his voice to stay on pitch. "If I decide not to?"
Sungmin's large, doe-like eyes lifted and met his. "Let's just hope you make the right decision, okay?"
Hae swallowed. His throat felt very dry.
"I will tell you, Donghae, it won't be easy. Kani is hard. It is the hardest thing you will ever go through. There will be time for doubt. Let's not let it be now."
In the doorway, Eunhyuk cleared his throat.
"Your prince is here!" Sungmin's lips, soft and full, briefly touched the skin of Hae's forehead peeking out from behind his bangs. "Go to him."
And Donghae did.
Lying in the dark next to Eunhyuk, not touching, there was a lot on Donghae's mind. Hypersensitive and always alert, he was aware of every breath the Ipsuren took; the rise and fall of his heavy, muscular chest playing in his peripheral vision. Struggling to breathe, his heart about to explode and his body on fire, Hae somehow found himself rolled over on his stomach, his face pillowed on his arms as he stared right at his bedmate. For a while, Eunhyuk pretended not to notice that the human boy was looking at him, but eventually his head turned and his eyes opened, glittering in the dark. Just the mere act of those eyes meeting his made Hae's breath catch in his throat. The Ipsuren's lips were dark and when Eunhyuk stuck out his tongue to wet them they glistened with saliva.
"Are you going to say anything?" Eunhyuk asked, eventually, his voice breaking through the silence and shattering Donghae's trance.
"I overheard you talking with Sungmin, earlier."
He hadn't meant to say that and why he had he'd never know. The words had come out on their own and Hae couldn't react fast enough to catch them. Eunhyuk looked at him for a while, without reacting, and then one of his large hands reached out to touch Donghae's face. If the teenage boy had been breathing at all, he stopped then. The Ipsuren's fingers were warm and as they trailed towards Hae's ear, then back further to sink into the root of hair on the back of his neck, sparks popped beneath them and brought goosebumps to the surface of his skin.
"I know," Eunhyuk said his voice quiet and sweet. "I also know you're afraid of me."
That hand had distracted Donghae, interrupted his thoughts and stolen his common sense. It slid from Hae's neck down the expanse of his bare back, smoothing the bumps of his spine and making him shudder and mewl like a kitten. Cursing his hormones, cursing his weaknesses, Donghae wanted more than anything to be strong and confident. If only he could have been powerful and dominant, if only he could have had Eunhyuk shaking beneath his touch. Then, maybe he wouldn't have to worry about the day Sungmin would return to his rightful place in that bed.
"I have to leave, Donghae. I'm going up. Sungmin wants me to stay for you. He says I should wait until after your kani."
"You're going up? Why?"
Hae wasn't entirely sure what "up" meant exactly, but he assumed it meant he was planning on moving up the Ladder.
"I can't stay here. I've spent too much time here already. I want to reach Aethere."
"Eunhyuk, no one reaches Aethere. It's forbidden!"
Aethere, the Holy City at the top of the Ladder, the Sacred Ground where fire burned bright in a blue sky and plants grew without artificial help. Donghae didn't even really believe it existed, his brother had always said it was just a story their parents made up. How could Eunhyuk actually believe in it? And enough to think he could go there?
"I'm going," Eunhyuk’s voice was thick and strong with resolve. "We have a friend from Higher City, he's Isai'i. He says it exists. I'm going to see it one day."
"Will you take me with you?"
The hand resting on Hae's lower back pressed hard, the fingers fanning out in surprise. "You can't be serious? Why would I want to take a kid like you, who knows nothing?"
You know nothing, Donghae.
"I know that I'm dying. That everyone in the Gutter is."
Eunhyuk exhaled and Donghae felt his breath against his cheeks, rustling his hair.
"It doesn't have to be that way," he said. "I brought you here to save you."
It was as if sense pressed its precious lips against Donghae's and exhaled a breath of life into his mouth, inflating his spirit and making his pulse race. Suddenly, he no longer felt afraid. Suddenly, he understood what he needed to do. Confidence burst like fireworks exploding in his veins, jump-starting his heart and pressing him on with fierce determination. When he lurched forward and pressed his lips against Eunhyuk's, it was a knee-jerk reaction to a surge of excitement. When he pulled away with a beaming smile, the Ipsuren seemed to be in shock. His eyes were glazed with surprise and his entire body seemed tense beneath Hae's small one.
"I won't be a kid much longer!" The tone of his voice as bright as his smile. "You'll see! Once I finish kani, I'll force you to take me with you to Aethere!"
It wasn't until he'd rolled over and forced his eyes shut that the embarrassment and shocking realization of exactly what he'd just done kicked in. Heart thumping against the comforter, fingers pressed to his lips, Donghae couldn't stop his thoughts from racing.
I just kissed Eunhyuk. I just kissed him.
But, the Ipsuren said nothing. After a while, the bed creaked as Hae's bedmate rolled over and eventually, to Donghae's relief and disappointment, he began to softly snore.
When Hae was woken up, as promised, Eunhyuk was still fast asleep. He didn't have time to worry about his actions from the night before, didn't have time to even consider the repercussions. Quickly, Shindong dressed him in the clothes he'd been wearing from the Gutter (apparently he'd kept them after all) and, without speaking, ushered him outside the house where Sungmin was waiting with that same, comforting smile on his face.
Donghae didn't feel that it was such a good morning, but he tried to smile anyway. If Sungmin noticed he appeared unphased.
"Did you sleep well?"
Images of Eunhyuk's shining, dark lips snuck to the forefront of Hae's memory and he swore he could still feel the warmth of that hand on his bare skin. Shuddering, he pushed the thoughts away and tried to nod.
"I have to ask, in front of Shindong as witness," Sungmin crossed his hands in front of him, his face transforming to one far more serious. "Donghae, what is your decision? Will you endure the ritual of Sacred Kani and unite with the Ipsuren force? Or, do you choose to remain as you are, a human of no caste, and suffer the consequences?"
That powerful emotion that had overtaken him in the dark, in Eunhyuk's bed, seemed lost to Donghae forever. In its place was stark, naked fear and the realization that he was a little boy surrounded by ruthless, merciless strangers who would probably tear out his heart and eat it should he refuse to join them. In such a situation, was it even possible to deny them anything when they obviously had the upper hand?
"I," Donghae's voice sounded so afraid, so small and insignificant. Could they even hear it? "I want to undergo the ritual. I want to join you."
Shindong whooped and thrust a meaty fist in the air. Sungmin, for all his kindness and consideration, looked terribly sad. Donghae began to wonder if he'd made the right decision when he came forward and knelt before him, tears sparkling in his large eyes.
"Well then," he said, trying to smile through the emotions playing across his face. "We better get you to the Kuwaru House."
Sungmin stopped him by placing a long, slender finger to his lips. "No more questions. I think someone wants to say goodbye." He looked at something over Hae's shoulder, then stood. "Five minutes, then we leave."
When Donghae turned, he found Eunhyuk in the doorway, still rumpled from sleep and half dressed. As if he was blinded by light, the embarrassment from the night before returned and it was hard to meet the Ipsuren's eyes as he came near.
"Hey, I want you to know that you made the right decision," Eunhyuk said, scratching nervously at his arm.
Awkwardly, Donghae nodded.
Eunhyuk moved closer and Hae fought the urge to step back.
"I thought you should know."
The Ipsuren bent down slightly, meeting Hae at eye level and making his breath catch tight in the fist of his throat.
"Last night, you did it wrong."
Even as Eunhyuk's eyes fell upon his lips, Hae stood blinking, unable to react. When next the other spoke, his words were whispered against Donghae's mouth, quivering in anticipation.
"It's like this."
And Eunhyuk kissed him. It was a kiss like nothing Hae had ever dreamt of, not at all the way Donghwa had described kisses to be. Eunhyuk's lips parted and forced Donghae's to as well. The force between their tongues caused the human mind to open like the petals of a flower in sunlight. The outer layers of Hae's consciousness peeled away, allowing heat and oxygen and adrenaline to invade. Power beyond Donghae's understanding encompassed him, shooting through his veins and blinding his mind's eye. He tasted so many things in that kiss, things he knew were taken straight from memories outside of his own. There was strawberry milk, thick and sweet on top of the burning heat of fire. Raindrops that Donghae had never known felt refreshing in his mouth before morphing into the salt of tears. And, just before Eunhyuk pulled away, the metallic taste of blood.
Quietly, so quietly, Eunhyuk turned and walked back into the house. Donghae, with his eyes closed and his body shuddering with shock, never saw him go. Briefly, filling the silence, was Shindong's voice from the day before stark and real in Hae's memory.
"He probably won't want to touch you in your current state. It would kill you."
Those words, while confusing at the time, finally made sense.
From beyond the doorway, Sungmin appeared, a knowing smile on his face and his hands delicately on his hips.
"Let's go. It's time."
A/N: i'm so tired of this chapter i never want to look at it ever again.
also omg eunhae kiss! Two! dkfjlaskfjlasjflasjflas
that is all.