The Breath of Life in Me (or, 10 People Who Loved Lee Donghae)
Super Junior, Donghae/everyone, PG, 2525 words
It's true that everyone loves Donghae, but they each do so a little differently.
She falls in love with him, hard and fast, because he is everything a seventeen-year-old girl could want. He's charming and sweet and thoughtful - and he clearly adores her. He makes her feel like the center of his world. No matter her own unsurety, her own awkwardness, he is always there with a smile, a little flushed with his excitement. She loves that she excites him, that she makes him nervous, makes him worry, makes him unsettled. It's a heady kind of power that every girl secretly wishes she has, the power to make a guy go crazy over her.
Their first kisses are stolen and tentative. Jessica's fingers are light on his arm; his lips are gentle against hers. Her heart skips a beat, like every cliché romance she's ever seen, and she finally feels like the princess everyone jokes she is.
Donghae is her first love and her first dream come true. Even after they end things, even after they go their separate ways and wind up friends, fellow commiserators in this crazy entertainment industry, she never quite stops loving him. Their eyes meet across the dazzle of the stage, half-blinded by the spotlight, celebration loud in their ears, and she smiles at him, mouthing, Congratulations, and meaning, I will never forget you.
Donghae clings to Yunho because they are from the same hometown; Yunho allows it at first because Donghae is a pretty good kid and he feels kind of obligated. Yunho's parents have always raised him to act responsibly, and the least he can do is be a good hyung to the new wide-eyed trainee at SM, still a trace of his Mokpo accent and a hint of wonder in his words when he speaks.
Love happens gradually for him, building up inexorably over the years, as Donghae makes a permanent space for himself in Yunho's heart, like waves can shape mountains and winds can carve canyons. No longer is Donghae the kid who tagged, puppy-like, after him and Heechul, always smiling like the world couldn't bring him down. Now, Donghae is older, his eyes shadowed with knowledge that the world is not always fair, his face bereft of its baby fat and lean with the years of hard work.
He still reminds Yunho of home, when he is spending months in Japan, when he is listening to Yoochun playing out a new song on the keyboard. Sometimes he'll get a text or a phone call, just a few words of encouragement and a happy ^^ to punctuate, and he finds himself smiling, nostalgic.
Donghae's a good kid, has always been and will always be. But he makes a better friend, Yunho thinks, as he sends his own text back. Donghae, hwaiting! Hyung will always support you.
For Hyukjae, the crush develops a few months into their training period, after they have gotten to know each other and have become fast friends. Donghae is cheerful and always up for anything, even if he does tear up too easily. Hyukjae and Junsu team up to make him cry, because they're boys and they think it's funny. Hyukjae never quite admits to himself that part of his reason for doing it is that he just wants Donghae's attention.
He spends a few weeks with his heart speeding up whenever Donghae is around, his palms sweating uncomfortably whenever he sees Donghae grin. The thought I like you never fully forms in his head, but for those few weeks, Sungmin says, "What's the matter with you?" and Junsu complains, "God, you're, like, attached at the hip to Donghae."
Hyukjae more or less gets over it with time, because he realizes Donghae smiles at everyone like that, like he means it, like you are the sun he revolves around. His feelings flag, his heart sinks, and he resigns himself to just being another friend.
When he confesses his crush to Donghae, impulsively, during the filming of their mini-drama, Hyukjae's not quite sure what he wants. Maybe he just wants to see how Donghae will react.
There's shock in his eyes, and he dogs Hyukjae off-camera, persistent. "Really, Hyukkie?" he asks, all curious wonder and encroaching hands.
With Donghae draped over his back, Hyukjae mutters an embarrassed, "Yeah, well, I got over it."
And he did, mostly. But that doesn't mean he stops feeling warm whenever Donghae turns to him, seeking to share a conspiratorial grin or a hug.
Years later, Hyukjae occasionally still gets that sort of warm glow in the pit of his stomach when Donghae crawls into his bed and sleeps beside him (or on top of him, squashing him flat). Everyone loves Donghae, and Donghae loves everyone, but there's something satisfying about knowing he's Donghae's best friend.
Especially since Donghae is his.
There are just some people you feel naturally comfortable around, some people who are easier to be with than others. Siwon has always been physically affectionate and good-natured. He is polite and charming and very rarely encounters someone he doesn't get along with...but even for him, there are people whose sleepy smiles make chilly mornings a little warmer, whose laughter sets off his own, whose bodies fit just right in his arms for a hug.
Siwon doesn't try to explain it. He's got a nice face, he knows without false modesty, but he's also smart enough to know that when things are right, when they feel close to perfect, there is no need to question them too hard. Just be thankful for the blessings in your life. So he laughs and cuddles with Donghae, feeds off the returning sparkle in those mischievous eyes, and is content - happy - with just this.
Donghae's like a brother to Kangin, and not just because their parents know each other and are good friends and not just because Donghae talks more frequently to Kangin's mother than Kangin does. It's also in the way Donghae will laugh at him and tattle on him, the way he'll pull pranks and grin unrepentantly, like the most obnoxious younger sibling. Sometimes Kangin doesn't know why he likes Donghae at all.
"Lee Donghae," Kangin groans, when he discovers that precisely half his socks have been stolen, so he is left with a number of singles and no matching pairs.
"What's up, hyung?" He leans against the doorframe, grinning and shameless, like he has no idea why Kangin is glaring at him. Oh, the kid does have nerve.
Kangin ends up flinging socks at him, and they are both shaking with laughter as he chases Donghae down the hall and pins him to the bed by sitting on top of him triumphantly.
"Hyuuuunng," Donghae whines breathlessly, face buried into his pillow.
"That's what you get for messing with me," Kangin tells him, swatting his backside with a grin. "From now on, prank the others, okay?"
Donghae deflates with a sigh. "Fine, fine." He squirms and shoves fruitlessly at Kangin. "Now get off me!" Kangin laughs and slides off him, finding a seat on the bed and Donghae's arms wrapped around him. A chin rests on his shoulder, pointy and sharp; he doesn't comment on it and fondly lets Donghae play koala bear, latching to his back. He really is such a kid sometimes.
He pulls pranks, whines childishly, and comes to Kangin for advice. He pours out his heart when he's worried or homesick, struggling to hold himself up alone but finding that, sometimes, you really need someone else. Kangin's always been a little prone to overprotectiveness, always happy to play big brother to his younger bandmates, and Donghae is no exception. He rubs his knuckles over Donghae's head, smiles back at him, and lets his heartstrings be tugged. These are the times that remind him that, yeah, he loves Donghae. "Hey, kid," he says, "you'll be okay."
Kibum falls in love when he is fourteen and Donghae greets him with a smile, a hug, and a whispered, "Welcome home." He never looks back. He never regrets it.
He never stops.
Donghae has always been Kyuhyun's hero and, for someone who is typically few on words when it comes to the press, he is not shy about telling the world.
No matter how I say it, Donghae hyung holds a very high place in my heart. I remember when I first joined SJ as the 13th member, I felt very uneasy, but hyung would always give me strength, whenever I got depressed, he was always there to encourage me, I really love this kind of hyung.¹
After the magazine is published, Donghae corrals Kyuhyun with an arm around the waist and a wide, expectant smile. "Tell me what you said about me!" he demands.
"Why don't you ask Hankyung-hyung to translate for you?" Kyuhyun returns.
Donghae pouts. "I did. He read it to himself and started smiling all mysterious-like and told me I should ask you directly." He drops his arm from around Kyuhyun and flips the magazine open again, glossy pages sliding against each other until he finds Kyuhyun's article about Donghae. "Tell me?" he asks softly, looking at Kyuhyun again with a pleading expression, his eyes dark and warm.Hyung has very beautiful, expressive eyes, his emotions always shows through his pure eyes, with nothing concealed. Donghae hyung really makes other people like him because of his child-like innocence.
Kyuhyun can't help his smile as he reverses their positions from earlier, draping his own arm around Donghae's shoulders and leaning against him. He recalls how he found Donghae earlier that day, curled up on the sofa with his headphones on, lost to the world as he flipped through his ever-present notebook of Chinese phrases. He remembers the surprised look Donghae gave him, wide-eyed and startled, when he first sat down, and then the smile that followed on its heels.
"Maybe later," he says, and hugs Donghae closer.
Sungmin is the first to befriend him, and Ryeowook is the one who holds his hand and guides him along in China. Hankyung is the one he turns to when he's unsure about his Chinese, and Kyuhyun is the one he gradually wins respect from after demonstrating his prowess at the Wii.
Donghae is the one who dances with him, though. The one who makes him laugh and blush and goof off after endless hours of practice. The one who will unabashedly take his hand and drag him places, talking excitedly about food and people he's met and making Henry translate, even when Henry fumbles and searches for words. The one who will look wide-eyed at his violin, and applaud loudest after his performance, grinning with pride.
Henry loves all the members, but Donghae is the only one who makes his face heat and his heart stumble.
Heechul's soft spot for Donghae is legendary. Everyone knows he'll let Donghae get away with speaking to him informally, will let him get away with things he won't let anyone else get away with; everyone knows he dotes on him and is sort of helplessly fond of him. With Hankyung, Heechul teases relentlessly; with Kibum, he jokes and gives serious advice. He is abrupt and eccentric and sarcastic, abrasive and short-tempered and impatient with fools, but Heechul's every exception seems to be made for Donghae.
He can't quite explain it either.
It's probably something to do with the way Donghae smiles, the way he tries, driven with good intentions and genuine warmth. Even when tired or irritated or actively annoying, Donghae is, at heart, such a good person that Heechul can't bear to see anyone snap at him and hurt him. Even though he's grown in so many ways and realized so much loss in those newly mature eyes, Donghae still believes in people so sincerely, with such unshakeable faith, that Heechul can't bear to see him disappointed.
It's not that he's a child, innocent and needing protection. It's not that he's clueless or helpless. Heechul is derisive towards anyone who harbors that kind of view about Donghae. But he has never been able to put it to words, his own fierce pride and protectiveness towards Donghae.
From the simple things, like washing the dishes together, or making jokes together about the other members, to the relentless way Donghae will practice his dance over and over again. From the way Donghae tears up every time he's forced to talk about his father to the way he leans into Heechul's shoulder, sleepy and exhausted. The way he laughs, childlike; the way he works his body to build biceps Heechul squeezes with a leer; the way he smiles as the fans scream for him, truly happy to make them happy.
Heechul loves this boy, loves him without words and without explanation and without contention. He might never be able to explain it, but he thinks that that's all right.
Everyone knows of Heechul's soft spot for Donghae.
He doesn't really mind.
In his opinion, there is no shame in loving someone so beautiful.
(10) Donghae's father
Donghae's father loves him from the first sonogram, from the first wail, from the first giggle and burp. He loves him through the first scraped knee, the first soccer game, the first time he runs into the ocean and stares in unabashed delight. He loves him through his first shouting match with Donghwa (and every one after that), the first time he cries over a girl (thirteen), the first rejection from an audition.
He loves him through the hours of practicing dance in front of a television, through the old, familiar songs he'll gamely try to sing with his father, tripping over words. He loves him when his eyes light up, trying to hide his excitement, as he finally confesses that he won the SM Youth Best Contest.
"They offered me a contract! I can be famous!"
And as he gathers Donghae in his arms, he thinks he can never love him more.
He does, though. Every day, he loves him more; every day, he grows more and more proud of him. He doesn't play favorites - Donghwa has every part of his heart as well - but everyone can tell from the smile on his face: Donghae is the light of his life.
He cries as he writes his last letter to Donghae, out of regret that he will miss all the new firsts in his son's life.When my Donghae wins the newcomer award, Dad won’t be able to see it. I won’t be able to see your bride, I won’t be able to see my cute grandchildren…
But as long as it’s what our Donghae believes in, then it will be the best. And I’ll protect all of you from heaven, and become the strength at your back. And my Donghae’s next generation will also be so blessed…²
Despite his heavy heart, he knows Donghae will be okay. In this world of firsts and lasts, of every second and third and countless time in between, he knows that Donghae will always be loved.My son Donghae-yah! I love you.
¹ Kyuhyun's article about Donghae translated by xcloudyx@soompi.
² Donghae's father's last letter to Donghae.
2010/05/11: Now available as podfic!