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September 25th, 2006 (03:57 am)

in the shadows of tall buildings.
pg-13; 1,885 words.

in the shadows of tall buildings
by Becs

For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.

--Rainer Maria Rilke

Kangin's first thought is that things should be different. The plastic of the phone should be colder, harder under his fingers, maybe, or the afternoon sun streaming through the blinds should be harsher. His voice should crack when he argues with his boss that he can't stay late; his vending machine dinner should be a little more tasteless.

But it's not. Everything is the same, and Kangin doesn't understand why.

Eeteuk is already asleep when he gets home, curled on the bed in a pair of loose-fitting sweatpants with his face half-hidden in the pillow. Dim lamplight is playing over his cheekbone, catching on the curves of ribs down his side; Kangin doesn't touch him, but walks quietly past to the bathroom to brush his teeth and check his eyes for answers in the mirror.

He doesn't find any, so he takes a shower instead.

He's as quiet as possible, but Eeteuk is sitting up when he comes back to the bedroom, shoulders slumped with elbows on his knees. Kangin can see the gentle lumps of his spine starting from the base of his neck; he almost starts to count them before the other man looks up, dark brown eyes glinting almost amber from under sleepy lashes.

"Sorry I woke you," Kangin murmurs, his voice dry and gravelly on his tongue. Eeteuk shrugs and stands, meets Kangin halfway across the room and lets the other man fold him into his arms.

"It's all right," Eeteuk says softly, and Kangin can't help but remember a time when they would stay up talking until every sentence was split by yawns, and in the morning when Kangin traced the dark circles under Eeteuk's eyes with gentle fingertips, he would just smile and say that he'd rather stay up with Kangin than sleep, anyway.

In the years as trainees and Super Junior, it was always unspoken that Kangin was a little biased toward Eeteuk, that Eeteuk liked Kangin just a little bit more than everyone else, no matter how much he claimed that a leader was supposed to love each group member equally. It was a soft intimacy, expressed in gentle touches and kisses sneaked to cheeks, but it wasn't until Heechul walked in on them curled on the couch and drawled fucking newlyweds with a smirk that Kangin had realized that he could spend the rest of his life like this.

"I love you," he had said in Eeteuk's ear, and again in the van, and again and again, the words rolling off his tongue with a thousand promises. Those words made him invincible, untouchable - alive.

In the morning, he stares at the ceiling and mouths it, over and over: I love you. I love you. Eeteuk's head is heavy on his chest.

Every Sunday, Sungmin comes over with dinner and a smile, but this time it's Thursday and he's shoving Donghae in the door ahead of him - still, Kangin catches the way he scrubs at his eyes before stepping into the apartment. The grin he puts on is reminiscent of the masks he used to put on for performances he wasn't quite up to, but it's better than the wobbly one Kangin manages as he makes excuses to retreat to the bedroom. He lays on the bed and listens to the murmur of voices in the living room: Sungmin's is careful, a little higher than usual; Donghae varies between quick babbling and lulls of silence. Eeteuk's is so soft that Kangin can't make out the words most of the time.

But then, he has never needed words with Eeteuk.

Kangin comes home from the office for lunch and finds Eeteuk stretched on the couch in old jeans and Kangin's favorite sweatshirt, eyes cloudy as he watches drama reruns. The remains of breakfast are still on the table; Kangin wrinkles his nose at the smell of souring milk.

"Don't you have work today?" he asks, leaning over the couch to run his fingers through Eeteuk's hair.

"Didn't feel like it," Eeteuk murmurs. He catches Kangin's hand and kisses each knuckle, presses its palm to his warm cheek. His eyes flicker up to Kangin, clear again, and Kangin decides that he doesn't feel like working, either; instead, he carries Eeteuk to the bedroom and lays him down gently on the bed, makes love to him and lays still the rest of the afternoon, memorizing the sound of Eeteuk's breathing.

By now, it's easier to ignore the way Eeteuk's hipbone cuts a little too sharply into Kangin's abdomen when he lays against the other man. Because everything else is the same, it's easy to see the dark smudges under his eyes as everyday fatigue - but when Eeteuk falls asleep and Kangin strokes his cheeks with gentle fingers, he can't pretend that the gesture is out of simple reverence like it used to be.

Eeteuk has never been a fragile person. He has been slender and slim and even gawky at times, but there was always an underlying ripple of dancer's muscle beneath the awkwardness of skinny limbs. This is why, Kangin thinks, when he looks at Eeteuk now and can't keep fragile from his mind, his stomach turns over and bile bubbles up in his throat with the acidic taste of self-loathing; more than once, he pukes into the toilet, rests his forehead on cool porcelain, and wonders how ironic it is that he's not the sick one. Not really.

Kangin suggests, more than once, leaving - moving out of the city to a suburb or a beach somewhere, maybe, somewhere peaceful and restful, but Eeteuk just looks at him with the same heavy eyes he gets whenever he thinks Kangin is treating him like an invalid, and he never pushes the issue. It's not pity, Kangin wants to yell at him; I fucking care about you, remember?

Eeteuk takes to sitting out on the balcony in the evening, accompanied by a large glass of orange juice and the weight of the world. The view makes Kangin's chest ache, though, so he watches him from the living room, smokes a cigarette, wonders if Eeteuk notices. Either way, he doesn't say anything about it. The sun sinks down between the buildings; "Come inside," Kangin says. "It's cold out there."

He tries to wrap him up in blankets, but Eeteuk wraps himself around Kangin, instead, limbs spindly and elbows poking, and he's the most beautiful person Kangin has ever seen.

"Hey," Eeteuk says, smiling up from where he's pillowed in Kangin's lap, "You should sing me something."

"Should I?" Kangin laughs.

Eeteuk prods him in the side, making him jump. "Yes!"

"Hmmmm." Kangin makes a big show of thinking, then leans down and sings softly against Eeteuk's cheek: "I love you, baby, and I'm never gonna stop."

For the first time in months, Eeteuk cries.

Heechul is a person who has not been affected by the years as much as he has skirted around them with all the deft precision of a celebrity. He is still striking with wide eyes and dyed blonde hair, the tight-pulled skin over high cheekbones the only indication of the time that has passed. When Kangin comes home to find the older man perched on a barstool in the kitchen he's almost unsure, for a moment, what year it is. It's Eeteuk sitting across the counter from him, eyes tired and sweatshirt hanging too loosely off thin arms, that reminds him it's the present.

Heechul grins at him over the rim of a dirty martini, lifting the drink in a small toast as Kangin tosses his keys aside. Kangin drapes an arm around his shoulders and kisses his cheek in greeting before he notices a twin drink balanced in Eeteuk's fingers.

"You're drinking?" Kangin asks, a frown tugging the corners of his mouth.

Eeteuk shrugs, his too-big sweatshirt falling over one shoulder. "It won't hurt anything," he says quietly. For the first time he can remember, Kangin feels like hitting him. Instead, he walks back out the door.

Heechul finds him later in the park across the street, balanced on the back of a wooden bench with his feet in the seat. He's on his third cigarette by then, watching the dirty grey smoke bloom up against a glaringly blue sky.

"You're smoking?" Heechul drawls, leaning lazily next to the other man.

Kangin doesn't look at him, just blows another smoke right at the sky. "Shut the fuck up," he says.

Heechul hops up to sit by Kangin; the smirk that's curling his lips seems out of place without the martini hovering in front of it. "You made him cry," he says, plucking the cigarette from Kangin's fingers and tossing it aside. Kangin turns and kisses him, splinters digging into his fingertips as they grip the bench.

"You taste disgusting," Heechul says, and his bitter disappointment lingers on Kangin's tongue.

Eeteuk is still sitting where he was before when Kangin comes back that night, hunched over the counter where one of the martini glasses is broken; tiny glass shards glint up from a mess of sticky-dry alcohol. Kangin meets Eeteuk's eyes carefully and swallows a sigh of relief when he sees that they're dry, now, and bites the inside of his lip as the other man regards him quietly. Eeteuk's fingers leave a smear of pink where they touch the counter; he must have cut himself on the glass, Kangin realizes.

"Sorry," Eeteuk whispers, eyes flickering back down to the counter.

"I love you," Kangin says, but the words that once seemed so powerful just feel dry and hollow in his mouth.

Eeteuk falls asleep early but Kangin lays awake late into the night watching the dull red of the alarm clock pulse against the darkness and the backs of his eyelids. Eeteuk's breathing seems abnormally loud in the too-still nighttime; Kangin brushes bangs back from his forehead and pretends that the years still seep from Eeteuk's sleeping face like they used to.

He's not sure when he falls asleep, but he wakes to the sunrise and a cold breeze from the open door to the balcony. Eeteuk is out there, barefoot in a bathrobe, and Kangin hovers in the doorway until he notices.

"Aren't you cold?" he asks.

Eeteuk walks over, twines icy fingers with Kangin's, and leans up to kiss him. They kiss on the balcony until Eeteuk's fingers are warm and Kangin's cheeks are cold, then they eat breakfast - rice and eggs and orange juice and Eeteuk in Kangin's lap - and go back to bed.

"Let's leave," Eeteuk says, sleepy against Kangin's shoulder.

Kangin strokes his hair, kisses his forehead and murmurs, "Where would we go?"

Eeteuk is quiet for so long that Kangin thinks he has fallen asleep, but just as he is drifting off he hears the soft question: "Does it really matter?"

No, Kangin thinks; it really doesn't.



Page 1 of 2[1][2]
Posted by: Taliana (jinjja)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 08:46 am (UTC)

I think this is the most beautiful thing I've read in ... well, a long long time.

Posted by: ♥ (thirdonebetween)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 02:13 pm (UTC)

thank you so much. ♥

(and, sorry of the other comment - apparently I can't type or sign in correctly. ^^;)

Posted by: Liz, yo (oulan)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 10:11 am (UTC)
woo hyuk green burn

Oh wow. I really liked it.
Very touching and emotional.

Posted by: ♥ (thirdonebetween)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 02:13 pm (UTC)

thank you~ ♥ I'm glad you liked it.

Posted by: ⚜ tempest in a teacup ⚜ (pieces)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 10:56 am (UTC)
Kangteuk ; Destiny

klfhdnoitu3r54tuauwrjgtfnkladsfg. aflidhgad7rt 9ae784tr5aphrsgfbkjadhvgfuatstrgy8osdtugh'lsdfgh.

Omg. I remember this one now. ToT

And and and and you ended it so beautifully and omgggg Becky for all the angst it's so gorgeous and I love it and alhdfitye4r95aqywtriaysrvgabssklfhasoiifhasdf.

How would you like my soul sent to you again?

Posted by: ♥ (thirdonebetween)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 02:14 pm (UTC)

no need. 8] I already have it.

Posted by: ⚜ tempest in a teacup ⚜ (pieces)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 04:57 pm (UTC)

Posted by: ⚜ tempest in a teacup ⚜ (pieces)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 05:06 pm (UTC)

Posted by: ★ A ★ (magnolium)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 11:15 am (UTC)
When you write stories, I write novels in response.
don't let go.

When I first saw this on my flist, I was tentative to click when I first read the pairing, because I hate KangTeuk. But then I saw that it was you who wrote it, so I read it without a second thought. And I didn't regret it one second.

Your stories are always so simply written, but with this level of rawness and reality melting off the edges. You don't ever need to use descriptive words, because the way you use the English language makes up for that. This is definitely the best and most beautiful KangTeuk I've ever read.

I love it. I love you. ♥ If you ever stop writing, I'll stab you.

Posted by: ♥ (thirdonebetween)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 02:16 pm (UTC)
Re: When you write stories, I write novels in response.

is that a threat? D;

naw, I'm kidding. I'm so glad you gave it a chance even though you're not a fan of the pairing - it means that much more that you liked it, then. :] it's been so long since I've written (well, finished) something; I wasn't sure if anyone would even remember me. XD

I'm so glad you liked it. ♥ thanks so much for the wonderful comment, too.

Posted by: beneath_the_sky (beneath_the_sky)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 11:26 am (UTC)

honey, you broke my heart.

Posted by: ♥ (thirdonebetween)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 02:17 pm (UTC)

I'm sorry. :/ I didn't mean to.

I have some superglue if you'd like it? ♥

Posted by: beneath_the_sky (beneath_the_sky)
Posted at: September 26th, 2006 02:51 pm (UTC)

Posted by: { ha . to . ri ||| マブ達の三人 } (coyotecolored)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 01:23 pm (UTC)

Oh man. This is beautiful, and heartbreaking. ._. Chronic illness can be such a difficult subject to handle with sensitivity, but you did an amazing job of it.

Posted by: ♥ (thirdonebetween)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 02:19 pm (UTC)

thank you so much. ♥ it was a bit of a struggle to write, because there's always the danger of crossing over into the cliche or the tactless, but I'm glad it came out okay.

Posted by: ... (s7nluv)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 01:44 pm (UTC)

is eeteuk sick?...the whole time i was reading i kept expecting someone to die or something. This whole thing is so depressing but so beautiful...

Posted by: ... (s7nluv)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 01:48 pm (UTC)

nvm...i know he's sick now...i juss clicked the other link...

Posted by: ♥ (thirdonebetween)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 02:20 pm (UTC)

Posted by: scylladakylla (scylladakylla)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 02:25 pm (UTC)

Oh my fucking god. This was amazing. I will leave a more coherent comment, since I have to be in class in half an hour, but god, this was amazing.

Posted by: ♥ (thirdonebetween)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 05:51 pm (UTC)

thank you so much. ♥ I'm glad you liked it. and I hope your class went well~~ :]

Posted by: scylladakylla (scylladakylla)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 06:41 pm (UTC)

Posted by: ♥ (thirdonebetween)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 07:11 pm (UTC)

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: ♥ (thirdonebetween)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 05:53 pm (UTC)

haha, I'm glad. ♥ it's angst, but I tried to make the ending a little hopeful, at least. or something. XD;

thank you. :] I'm glad you like it and it could make your day better. ♥

Posted by: . (kelseypaige)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 07:27 pm (UTC)

Uhm, hi ♥

"Hmmmm." Kangin makes a big show of thinking, then leans down and sings softly against Eeteuk's cheek: "I love you, baby, and I'm never gonna stop." That, I think, sums this entire thing up in one sentence. I don't want to ramble but I think I might.

I don't like Kangin. Or, I mean, I don't like KangTeuk. I have banners about how much I dislike it. I don't read KangTeuk. I have such a large KangTeuk-itis, that I'll read a fic with it in it and skip over the parts that are touchy feely. And guess what? I read this entire thing. Every. Single. Word. And I even re-read a few of them.

This makes me sad. But really, it makes me happy, because it's so ... real. Eeteuk is sick and Kangin goes off to mack with Heechul - that may have been my absolute favorite part, and not because it ruins the KT! ...really.

But I lie, because For the first time in months, Eeteuk cries. that is my fav part. Mmm, and I dont think I need to clarify myself.

I'll shut up now. :) But this really is one of the loveliest things I've read in quite a while. ♥

Posted by: ♥ (thirdonebetween)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 08:58 pm (UTC)

ohgoodess. ♥ thank you!

I'm so glad you gave this fic a chancde even though you're not a fan of the pairing; to me, it means even more that you liked it then. I think I would rather someone like my work despite the pairing instead of because of the pairing any day. ♥

if I may confess, the heechul scene was my favorite part to write. XD I'm just a sucker for dysfunction. I'm glad it seems real to you; it's based off real things. ♥

thank you so much for the wonderful comment. ♥ you made me smile so much.

Posted by: ☆ flying & freefalling (x_voracity)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 08:11 pm (UTC)

OMG Wow. ♥
I don't usually read Suju fics but this was recc's by kelsey so I was like o0olala~.
It tugged at my heart so badly (or so much? whichever.)
Favorite lines:
1.and wonders how ironic it is that he's not the sick one. Not really.
2.For the first time in months, Eeteuk cries.
3.but the words that once seemed so powerful just feel dry and hollow in his mouth.

This whole thing was just so lovely and such a pleasure to read. It wasn't overly dramatic or overly sad - it was just right. I loved the ending and imagined it with the whole fadeout scene :D.

Posted by: ♥ (thirdonebetween)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 09:05 pm (UTC)

haaaa I'm talking to you in gabbly right now. :] ♥

thanks so much. ♥! I'm glad you liked iiiiit even if you don't read suju fic often. :]

Posted by: luminous being (taylormercury)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 09:10 pm (UTC)
donghae - blond

You ... you ... God, it doesn't matter what pairing you write, I always end up falling completely in love with your stories, and this one is no exception.

This was ... it was such a simple read, nothing particularly flashy or dramatic happened, and yet there was this wealth of emotion underlying it all. I really liked the way you wrote this ... I don't even know what to say actually, you've just made my brain basically go "guuuuh". I loved the characterization, the way you described their relationship together, the things Kangin does/did for Eeteuk, thinks about him, the things he says. I always get this feeling that Kangin takes care of Eeteuk anyway, but you took this a step further by making Eeteuk seem fragile and vulnerable and more in need of the care than usual.

And this wasn't particularly angsty or emo, either, really. Sad, of course, but absolutely beautiful. And I really don't know what else to say now, but if you keep on writing things like this, I'm afraid you'll end up making me change my mind about KangTeuk XD

Posted by: ♥ (thirdonebetween)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 09:44 pm (UTC)

oh, wow. ♥ thanks so much!

I'm not very good at flashy. dramatic, maybe, but flashy not so much - I'm too paranoid of making something sound overdramatic or cliche. so I try to stay low-key and realistic, and I'm glad it apparently worked for you. :] and, it always makes me really happy to get compliments about charactization, because I really feel that characterization is the most important thing in a story. ♥!

I adore kangteuk, as long as it doesn't get boring, so I would certainly not be opposed to pulling a good writer over to my side. >] maybe I'll crank out another one sometime.

thanks so much for such a sweet comment. ♥ I'm glad you liked it!

Posted by: 1/3 of the OTOT3 <3 :D (booshoo)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 09:30 pm (UTC)

hey genius. ♥ you know how much i love this already, but it never hurts to say it again:

ILU, & THIS FIC, & - !!!

...and now i leave for work

Posted by: ♥ (thirdonebetween)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 09:44 pm (UTC)

iluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu ♥♥♥

good luck at work. :// ♥

Posted by: END가 아닌 AND로。 (ی∂ị∂) (kyuppuccino)
Posted at: September 25th, 2006 11:14 pm (UTC)

This was very, very, very beautiful and refreshing. There are many sentences that made me appreciate this story, yet I'm not going to include all of them in this comment or it would look too cluttered; the point is that I definitely enjoy your writing. I especially liked the balcony scenes. Amazing work. :) ♥

Posted by: tokawaii (tokawaii)
Posted at: September 26th, 2006 12:03 am (UTC)

The style of writing that you use is so elegant and beautiful and completely natural. Most people have to try and make their work flow, but the way you do it is like silk. I think it's the emotions a story can make you feel that makes it successful; this one is truly one of the best.

Posted by: ♥ (thirdonebetween)
Posted at: September 26th, 2006 04:36 am (UTC)

wow, thank you. ♥ I'm so glad you liked it. when I'm writing, I get the feeling that I've developed a distinct style without really meaning to... so I'm glad it's a style that works and that people can enjoy. :] thanks so much!

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