The next day, Ryeowook slept in until noon, a luxury that he didn't usually have due to their jam-packed schedules. The apartment was quiet that he immediately assumed that everyone had already gone out for the day. That was why he nearly spilled his lunch of instant noodles all over himself when Yesung appeared at the entrance of the kitchen and asked casually, "Want to go to a music store later?"
Ryeowook squeaked and put a hand on his heart to calm it. "Hyung, you scared me," he exclaimed breathlessly, causing Yesung to apologize. He smiled, waved it off and then glanced at the clock hanging above the other man's head on the wall. "I can't," he replied regretfully after doing a few calculations in his head. "I'm going to be studying with Hankyung-hyung this afternoon and won't have enough time."
As Ryeowook was still looking at the clock, he missed the way the older man's left eye twitched. "Again? That's all you've been doing for the past two months. Don't you think you're taking this 'learn Chinese thing' a little too far?"
"What?" Taken by surprise at Yesung's words, Ryeowook looked up to stare at his friend. "What do you mean by that, Hyung? Are you saying that you don't like me learning Chinese?"
Yesung gave a sigh of exasperation. "Of course that's not what I'm saying. Come on, Ryeowook, you should know me better than that." He waved a dismissive hand when Ryeowook looked ashamed and mumbled sorry. "No worries. Anyway, the point is you're acting as if your life depends on learning Chinese. You're always at Hankyung's place. You study there, eat dinner there, hang out there.... I think you practically live there now." He held up his hand in a 'stop' gesture when Ryeowook tried to say something. "Let me finish. At any rate, I've only seen you a few times outside of work these last two months and I live in the same freaking apartment as you. Don't you think there's something wrong with that?"
Ryeowook opened his mouth but no words came out. Yesung was right. He had barely seen any of his roommates since he began his Chinese lessons and that was strange considering he was a homebody who used at the apartment the most. He looked down guiltily as he tried to think of what he could say in response. However, before he could offer any explanation, Yesung beat him to it.
"Ryeowook-ah, since no one else is willing to, I'm going to be the one to just go ahead and ask this." He paused and took a deep breath. "Are you in love with Hankyung-hyung?"
It was somber Ryeowook that greeted Not-Rain that night and while the younger man was never what the dreamgazer would consider a bundle of energy, this was the first time he had actually seen him so depressed.
"What's wrong?" Not-Rain asked, his manner uncharacteristically gentle.
Ryeowook looked up from the spot that he was staring at on his bed and heaved a huge sigh that seemed to resonate throughout his small frame. "Yesung-hyung is upset at me," he said simply.
"Who? Oh. The wannabe rocker?"
"Don't call him that," Ryeowook said sharply, his eyes and tone suddenly fierce, and Not-Rain backed up in surprise, his hands held palm forward in a rare 'I surrender' position.
"I'm sorry," he said quickly. "I didn't mean it that way."
Ryeowook continued to glare for another beat before all the anger flowed out of his body like water and he sagged, the fight draining out of him.
"Why don't you tell me what's wrong, Ryeowook," Not-Rain said after a few seconds of silence.
Ryeowook signed again. "I'm not doing anything right," he explained, "I'm hurting Yesung-hyung, I'm making Siwon-hyung upset… The Chinese lessons are going okay but nothing is going my way and I don't know why. All I wanted was a way for Hankyung-hyung to stay in Super Junior. I really had the best of intentions so why is everything turning out so badly?"
"The road to hell is always paved with good intentions," Not-Rain murmured and then he winced when he caught Ryeowook's miserable expression. "Sorry, I shouldn't have said that. At any rate, don't beat yourself up too much about it. It's not your fault. So that Siwon is upset. So what? They're not dating so it's not like he's got any claim on Hankyung anyway."
"But he likes Hankyung-hyung…"
"And how would you know that?" Not-Rain questioned. His voice was more assertive and he was beginning to sound more like his usual bossy self. "Has this Siwon in this time frame told you so?"
Ryeowook looked surprised at the question before shaking his head mutely.
"Exactly. So how would YOU know that Siwon feels threatened and annoyed by your presence if he hasn't told you himself? It's unreasonable to expect you to know that. Logically speaking, Siwon being in love with Hankyung would be the last thing you would assume."
"Oh, don't be so honest, Ryeowook! Play dumb a bit. And what about this Yesung of yours? Why do you think you're hurting him?"
"I don't think," Ryeowook corrected as he drew his knees up to his chest. "I know. Yesung told me himself."
"He told you you're hurting him?" Not-Rain repeated in disbelief.
"Well, no," Ryeowook admitted. "But I knew what he was trying to say and that makes me feel bad enough." Tking a small breath he then recounted to the dreamgazer the conversation that Yesung and him had shared in the kitchen earlier:
"Ryeowook-ah, since no one else is willing to, I'm going to be the one to just go ahead and ask this." He paused and took a deep breath. "Are you in love with Hankyung-hyung?"
"Wha-! No!" Ryeowook nearly screeched as his eyes widened to the size of saucers. He shook his head violently for emphasis. "That's ridiculous! Why would you think such a thing?"
"Ryeowook, you're learning Chinese. People don't learn other languages unless they're doing it for love or doing it for benefit."
"Siwon-hyung's learning Chinese," Ryeowook said automatically before realizing that Siwon was someone who fit both of Yesung's criteria. He grimaced as his friend gave him a look. "Okay, bad example. What about Kyuhyu then? Kyuhyun's learning Chinese."
"But he's doing it for Zhou Mi, you know…." When Ryeowook's jaw dropped, Yesung winced a little. "Okay, obviously you didn't know. Forget I said anything and don't tell the others. At any rate, my point is that you are always with Hankyung-hyung, learning a language that you have no need for and previously had no interest in. What else am I, or the others, supposed to think except that you're in love with him?"
"But I'm not! Yesung-hyung, you've got it all wrong. Being in love with Hankyung-hyung is the silliest idea - really, nothing can be further from the truth. Please believe me." Ryeowook turned imploring eyes on his friend, begging him silently to believe him, and Yesung sighed.
"Okay, fine, I get it. Then tell me this, Ryeowook. If you're not in love with him then what's your reason for wanting to learn Chinese so much? What makes Chinese so important that you would ignore the rest of us to learn it? Tell me, Ryeowook-ah, why is Chinese or even Hankyung-hyung so special to you?"
"And?" Not-Rain said after Ryeowook ceased to continue further with his story. "What did you say?"
"Nothing. I didn't know what to say after that." He buried his face in his knees and his voice came out a little muffled as he continued, "So I just said I'm sorry."
Not-Rain leaned a little closer to hear Ryeowook better. "And then? What did he say?"
Ryeowook sighed loudly against his knees. "Nothing. He just stared at me for a really long time. Then he said there's nothing to be sorry for and left."
"…Ah," Not-Rain said. For what seemed like a fairly simple task, he couldn't believe how complicated things were getting. "I see."
There was another pregnant pause before Ryeowook turned his head to the side, his face slanted but his eyes trained on the other man as he said, "So, you always have an opinion or thought about everything. How do you think I should get out of this, Hyung? What do you suggest?"
And for once, Not-Rain found himself at a slight loss for words.
It was a week after his conversation with Yesung in the kitchen, and Ryeowook couldn't help but still feel depressed by whenever he thought about it. To the untrained eye, Yesung didn't seem to treat him any differently but Ryeowook couldn't help but notice that he no longer sought him out among the group, choosing to spend more of his time talking to Heechul or Siwon. He also ceased to invite him out anymore. Ryeowook wouldn't lie. It hurt to be so subtly avoided but what could he say or do without making the situation worse?
That was a problem. However, at this current moment, Ryeowook couldn't help but feel distracted by a completely different problem - namely, a Heechul that was standing in the kitchen with him, not stealing food but just making casual chit-chat about everything and yet nothing at all.
Ryeowook gamely replied to whatever Heechul said but after a lull in their conversation, he asked, "Uh…Hyung, is there something you wanted to talk to me about?" He may admittedly be a little naïve but he certainly wasn't stupid and he knew that Heechul was in the kitchen for more than just his company.
Heechul smirked. "Why Ryeowook-ah, I'm so glad you brought it up," he crooned sweetly. "In fact, there is something Hyung wants to talk to you about."
"And…what would that be?"
"I can't help but notice that you're here every single day, Ryeowook-ah," Heechul stated. "Those Chinese lessons must be quite interesting, huh?"
"Well…yes, I guess they are?" Ryeowook had an idea of where this conversation was heading and he inwardly cringed.
"Because of you Siwonnie's here almost every day too."
"Uh…" Well that was unexpected. "Yes?"
"Why do you think that is?" Heechul asked in what Ryeowook assumed was supposed to be an innocent tone.
Ryeowook blinked twice, not quite knowing where the older man was going with this line of questioning. "I guess he likes Chinese?"
"Chinese people or Chinese language?" Heechul asked, his head tilting as he learned closer, causing Ryeowook to instinctively back away a little, his hip against the counter of the kitchen top.
"Probably…" he wasn't sure what would be the best answer to this question, "both?"
"And what about you, Ryeowook-ah? Do you like Chinese people or Chinese language?"
"I like both too, I guess," Ryeowook said hesitantly. Could it be possible that Heechul also knew about Siwon? It was hard to gauge so he decided to test the waters by adding, "But definitely not as much as Siwon-hyung does."
As if satisfied with his reply, Heechul drew away from Ryeowook and straightened to his full height. "No. No one likes Chinese things quite as much as Siwonnie." He smirked and then waved a casual hand in the air as he made his way out of the kitchen. "Well, I'm glad to know that we agree. Good to have had this little talk with you, Ryeowook-ah. Call me when dinner is ready."
Ryeowook could only stare at the other's retreating back and wonder what that was all about.
Being hit by a snowstorm in mid-December was surprising to everyone as usually weather like this came around January.
"Look!" Siwon exclaimed in a clearly excited voice as he drew open the blue curtains in Hankyung's living room. Even in the dark of the night, they could see swirls of white rapidly falling across the window pane.
"The snow is so strong," Hankyung said joining Siwon at the window. Siwon smiled and slung an arm around the Chinese man, drawing him to his side. After exchanging a smile, they both turned their attention back to the window and Ryeowook, who was standing a little bit behind the two, couldn't help but marvel at how nicely they fit against each other.
"The snow is so heavy," Heechul corrected as he waltzed into the living room, Heebum cradled in his arms. He stood behind Hankyung and Siwon and the two parted immediately to let him move in front of the window, the smaller man's presence naturally commanding despite the height difference. He turned to glare a little at Hankyung. "I say you stop this 'Study Chinese' nonsense with Ryeowook and Siwon, and study some Korean instead. Your Korean still sucks."
"Heechul, why do you always make my heart feel so bad?"
Heechul unwrapped one arm around Heebum just briefly enough to smack Hankyung and everyone, including Hankyung himself, laughed. There was a small silence before they turned to look out the window again.
"It is coming down heavily," Ryeowook said absently, more to himself than anyone else, "It's going to be hard to get home tonight."
"What are you talking about?" Hankyung replied. "You're not going home tonight."
"What?" Ryeowook tore his gaze from the window to look at his Hyung, blinking owlishly.
Heechul gave a mock-suffering sigh. "Let me translate. What Hankyung means is you and Siwon should sleep over tonight because it's too hard for you to go home." He snorted and gave the Chinese man an arch look. "See? Told you your Korean is awful."
Hankyung uncharacteristically stuck his tongue out at Heechul amd Siwon laughed.
"That sounds like a good idea, Hyung." Siwon's arm crept around Hankyung again, this time around his waist, and the Chinese man instinctively leaned back into the other's clasp. "But are you sure it's okay?"
To Ryeowook, the question had been directed at Hankyung but Heechul seemed to take it for his own as he answered rather queenishly, "It's fine. But you're not sleeping in my room."
Hankyung laughed. "I don't think they'll fit in any of our rooms anyway. We'll spread out some futons in the living room for them. But maybe you can lend Ryeowook some sleepwear? I don't think he'll be able to wear any of my clothes."
Heechul's eyes gleamed as he turned to look at him and Ryeowook gulped in fear.
If it had been anyone but Heechul who had handed him a long-sleeved pale pink shirt with pictures of purple cat faces emblazoned on it and matching pale pink pants with the English words "I'm purr-fect" written on the butt, Ryeowook would have thrown a fit and refused to wear the items. However, as the giver was Heechul who was capable of unspeakable things when he was angered, he merely took the outfit with one mute pleading look in the other's direction (which the older man promptly ignored) before resigning himself to his fate and putting everything on.
Both Hankyung and Siwon snickered when they saw him but didn't dare do much more as Heechul directed glares in their direction. Ryeowook, in the meantime, could only thank God that Kibum was away filming and Jay was on tour. The fewer people bearing witness to his embarrassment, the better.
"How about we play video games?" Hankyung suggested as the four of them stood in the living room, looking at each other.
Heechul's eyes took on a devilish glimmer once again. "I've got a better idea."
"The Disney Drinking Game?" Siwon repeated, his eyebrows disappearing behind his soft bangs as he raised them.
"You bet!" Heechul exclaimed happily as he handed him a bottle of soju and a shot glass. "And a Disney marathon to boot! Am I not a genius or what?"
"But," Siwon protested. "Disney is for kids. Don't you think there's something sacrilegious about drinking to children's movies?"
Heechul gave him a look. "Well, duh. That's why it'll be fun."
"Hyung~" Siwon whined even as Hankyung shook his head and patted him comfortingly on the shoulder.
Ten 'Musafas', eight hyena laughs, six lion nuzzles, and five characters bursting into songs later, Siwon was too drunk to feel horrified at the desecration of 'The Lion King' and instead laughed giddily as Hankyung, who was equally as gone, hummed 'I just Can't Wait to be King' and wiggled his ass in front of the TV in a failed demonstration of how a dance to this song would look like.
Ryeowook, who was more of a sleepy drunk then a happy one, merely watched them with heavy-lidded eyes and a silly smile on his face. He turned to look at Heechul who was sitting next to him on the sofa ande couldn't help but notice amidst his rather hazy state that the older man was still strangely sober.
"Hyung," Ryeowook said, reaching a hand out to the older man. "How come you're not drunk yet?"
Heechul merely smiled and put his finger to his lips in a shushing gesture. He then nodded in a silent gesture for him to look at Siwon, who had joined Hankyung at the front, as he tried to copy the sway of the other's hips and arm movements.
"It's too hard, Hyung," Siwon was saying. "How do you move like that? I swear you've got like rubber bones or something." He put his hands on Hankyung's hips, one on each side, as if he could learn the other's moves through osmosis. Before Ryeowook could watch more Siwon attempt to dance again though, he felt Heechul's hand wrap tightly around his arm and he let out a small yelp as he was yanked out of his seat and dragged down the hall.
"What are you doing, Hyung?" Ryeowook gasped.
"You," Heechul said firmly as he opened the door to Hankyung's room and practically shoved Ryeowook in, "are going to stay in Hankyung's room tonight."
"Wha-but I was supposed to--"
"Just do it and lock the door behind you," Heechul interrupted as he stepped out of Hankyung's room and closed the door behind him. When he didn't hear the younger man move from where he was standing, Heechul said in a low tone that held promises of pain, "'I don't hear a lock, Ryeowook-ah."
Ryeowook gulped and quickly turned the lock on the door.
He could practically hear Heechul's smile as he commanded, "Good, now keep it that way and don't open the door until morning, you hear me?"
Ryeowook nodded before he realized that Heechul couldn't see him through the door and meekly said out-loud, "Yes, Hyung."
"Good." Heechul said again, sounding quite satisfied. "I'm going to bed now. You can thank me in the morning when it's done. Good night."
Thank you for what? What's supposed to be done? Ryeowook wondered before he sat down on Hankyung's bed and promptly passed out.
The next morning, Ryeowook woke up with a parched throat and what he felt was the worst hangover known to man. "Someone shoot me now," he moaned as he clasped a hand to his head. Grimacing, he stumbled out of Hankyung's bed and turned the knob futilely a few times before he realized he had locked it earlier.
Turning the lock, Ryeowook stumbled out of the dark room, wincing as his shoulder clipped the side of the bedroom door. He groped his way to the kitchen, intent on finding some painkillers to relieve his headache. There seemed to be no one up as the apartment was relatively dark with the curtains drawn and the lights turned off. Flicking on the hallway light, Ryeowook blinked to allow his eyes to adjust to the sudden brightness and then continued on his journey - the light casting the apartment in a semi-gloom. Passing by the living room, he glanced reflexively to the side and then promptly froze as took in the sight before him.
Lying in front of him on the futons were Hankyung and Siwon sleeping in each other's embrace. Considering how touchy-feely they were with each other already, that in itself wouldn't have been all that noteworthy except that they both appeared to be naked, their modesty saved only by a blanket that was draped dangerously low on both their hips.
Ryeowook stared with his mouth open in wordless shock for what seemed like a good five minutes before he heard footsteps approach him and someone come to stand by his side.
"They look pretty hot together, don't you think?" Heechul said appreciatively, his mouth so close to Ryeowook's ear that it made him blush and jerk his head back reflexively.
When he had steadied himself, Ryeowook turned to stare at the older man, his eyes wide. "Hyung…" he croaked outloud. "You--did you--?"
Heechul laughed lowly, a hand coming out to grab Ryeowook's arm as he pulled him toward the kitchen. "I didn't do anything," he said. "You're the one who brought them together. I just gave Siwonnie a much needed push by plying him with alcohol and putting him in the same room as Hankyung." He sat Ryeowook down on the chair, filled a glass of water, and handed it to the younger boy who gulped the cool liquid down gratefully. Opening a cabinet, Heechul then took out a box of ibuprofen and handed it to Ryeowook who mumbled a 'thanks' before fumbling with the opening of the package.
Sitting down on the kitchen chair next to him, Heechul propped a chin against his hand and waited until Ryeowook had washed the pills down with water before he spoke again, "Now that Hankyung and Siwon are together, they're going to want to spend more time together. You know how new couples are. And you've definitely already done your good deed for the year." He lips stretched into a sweet smile but his eyes were slightly threatening as he continued, "So, how about you do Hyung a favour and lay off the Chinese for a little while, hmm? If Hyung has to hear Yesung whine to him one more time about how you only think of Chinese now, he will be a very, very annoyed man. Are we clear?" When Ryeowook gulped and bobbed his head in compliance, Heechul looked satisfied. "Good. I'm glad we had this little talk, Ryeowook-ah." He got up and was just about to exit the kitchen when he suddenly turned back and drawled with a smirk, "And, by the way, you're welcome."
He could only stare as Heechul swept out of the kitchen.
"So, that's it?" Not-Rain asked as he stared the slim man down from his usual seat at Ryeowook's desk. "What happened to your grand plan of learning Chinese so that you can help Hankyung and keep him from leaving?"
"It's still there," he replied with a jerk of head. "But I figure I can start from the beginning once the members of Super Junior M are announced. For now, I'm just going to take a step back and let things run their course. I don't want to know what Heechul-hyung will do if I keep at it and truth by told, I'm just exhausted and miss spending time with my other friends. I seriously need a break."
Not-Rain nodded. "I see. Well, you won't have any more need of me for the time being then. I'll see you in about 2 months then?"
"Looking forward to it."
"No more Chinese lessons?" Yesung asked as he sat next to Ryeowook, who was sitting quietly on their living room couch with a notepad in his lap.
Ryeowook smiled and stilled his hand, letting go of the pen and balancing it on top of the paper. "No more. For now. "
Yesung returned the smile. "Good." He reached out and covered Ryeowook's thin hand with his own. "I missed you."
Ryeowook turned his hand around so that their palms could touch. Their eyes met as Ryeowook curled his fingers around the older's slightly larger hand. "So did I, Hyung. So did I."
A/N: This story did not turn out how I had planned it originally and it's all Heechul's fault. Darn him and his devilish cuteness. >_< I may rewrite it one day but for now, Heenim wins.