Side pairing: Yekyu (very minimal)
Warnings: Alternative universe & fantasy
Word count: 8.097
Summary: Sungmin made a promise when he was a child that he would think for a thousand days about a certain spirit raccoon called Youngwoon, but childhood promises are hard to keep when there's an ocean between the two.
A/N: so this is my tribute to the kangmin day ^^ i'm posting this nov. 17th Seoul time XD i always read Sungmin as a mythical fox or something to the likes so this time i decided to make Youngwoon the supernatural creature i was craving for some angst so yeah XD enjoy? happy kangmin day! <3
“Hyung! Do you want that pink bunny?” Kyuhyun asked pointing at a vitrine to their left. Sungmin looked over and cooed. “That is absolutely cute!” he walked closer with all the intention to look at the round pink plushie, but then his eyes were attracted by a plushie beside the bunny. It had the same style, the body was just a round face, yet while the bunny had just the ears and a fluffy tail, the one beside had big round eyes into dark brown circles, small round ears and a long big tail striped in two shades of brown.
“Kyuhyunnie, buy me the raccoon instead of the bunny.” Sungmin said with a tone that had surprised Kyuhyun, it was a mixture of emotions the younger couldn’t really define, Sungmin had a small smile and his eyes were fixed on the toy, somehow Kyuhyun thought that the older was sorry for something.
“I didn’t know you like raccoons too, hyung.” The younger probed because he wanted to know what exactly had caused his hyung to have such turn on his mood.
“It just made me remember someone…” Sungmin replied and his expression became somehow sadder.
Think of me for a thousand days.
Sungmin had promised he would, but he doubted he ever got to fulfill that promise.
“If you keep that sad face I will buy the bunny, I don’t want you to stare sadly at a gift I gave you.” Kyuhyun pouted after a while and it made Sungmin snap out of his daze. He punched Kyuhyun’s arm and ordered the younger to go buy the raccoon, getting back into his usual self.
They walked into the shop without another care in the world then. Kyuhyun bought the plushie raccoon for Sungmin, while the older bought other toys to his youngest cousins. After getting their paper bags and walking out of the shop, Kyuhyun sighed unhappy. “Hyung, let’s go home. I think we bought enough Christmas presents for today, I can’t carry more stuff than this.” The younger mumbled raising his hands to show off the fifteen paper bags he was carrying. Sungmin made a face looking down at his own hands full of bags as well. “Agreed. Let’s go home.” The older mumbled back and the two of them made their way out of the shopping mall.
Sungmin sneaked a glance at the bright pink wrapping paper Kyuhyun had ordered for his raccoon and he wondered if it was alright to just think about the other by that time of the year. When he looked up again, he stopped dead in his tracks staring at a male that was helping an old lady inside a bus.
It couldn’t be Youngwoon. Youngwoon was in Japan living with Sungmin’s grandfather, he couldn’t be there in Korea. Or he could? Since November Sungmin had seen that guy helping people in his way, the resemblance was big, the actions made him waver on his strong belief Youngwoon would never set foot in Korea. But there he was seeing the guy again.
Sungmin kept staring to make sure his eyes were not deceiving him and he felt his heart miss a beat when the young male climbed down the bus, after making sure the old lady had found a seat. The guy bowed to the bus driver and then walked away, without looking in Sungmin’s direction. It was Youngwoon. It had to be him, only Youngwoon would completely go out of his way to help a human like that. Sungmin was about to call over when Kyuhyun pulled his bags from his hands startling him. Kyuhyun frowned worried. “Hyung, the cab is here, why were you spacing out?”
“Nothing.” Sungmin replied looking back in hopes of still spotting Youngwoon but the other was nowhere in sight.
I’ll miss you, Min. but if you think of me for a thousand days I’ll go find you.
Did he managed it? Did he think about Youngwoon for that long and that’s why he was there in Seoul?
“Lee residence.” The old husky voice of his grandfather answered his call and Sungmin smiled at the grumpy tone.
“Grandpa, It’s me!” Sungmin answered not really sure how to start the conversation, solely because he had never called his grandfather out of the blue like that. Nevertheless the old man seemed to know how to start it.
“What took Youngwoon so long to find you?! Há! I knew you were going to call me first thing.” The old man said completely confusing Sungmin further, specially because the old man’s tone became grumpier.
“What do you mean, grandpa? Youngwoon is really here?! How can that be? I thought he couldn’t leave Japan!” Sungmin retorted suddenly feeling worried. The silence on his grandfather’s side of the line didn’t help sooth him, when the old man spoke again he knew something was really wrong.
“Sungmin. Where is the leaf?” he asked with a solemn tone and the younger frowned because the question didn’t make much sense at first but then he recalled. Youngwoon had given him a leaf when he first transformed into a human.
if you keep it with you, I’ll know where to find you right away.
“It’s back home, in my room.” Sungmin replied quite absently minded, wondering why his grandfather would be worried with the leaf. “Why are you asking about the leaf? Why is Youngwoon here and not there with you? When we were kids I asked so many times for him to come with me, but he always said he couldn’t leave his homeland for as long as he was a raccoon.” he asked getting a bit grumpy himself.
“Those are the reasons why he went to Korea. Youngwoon is still a raccoon and needs to get the leaf back. Sungmin… did you really only see Youngwoon by chance? Have you really not spoken with him yet?” his grandfather retorted with a disappointed tone.
Sungmin hesitated for a moment. He couldn’t understand why his grandfather liked Youngwoon so much and why he even kind of forced him to stay at his house. Youngwoon was a spirit raccoon, he was not human, why would his grandfather always be so out of character when it involved Youngwoon? “I have seen a guy that reminds me of Youngwoon hyung a few times since November, I saw the guy at the mall today and I really got the feeling it was him, but I was not sure, so I called you.” Sungmin replied as he looked at the window. It had started to rain and his window was open.
“My grandson, listen carefully. You have to get the leaf and call for Youngwoon. I can’t explain further but if anything is to happen with that leaf now, Youngwoon might die.” The old man replied with a serious tone.
Sungmin had just reached the window and was going to close it when his eyes landed on a male standing on the side walk. He was holding the street lamp post with one hand and with the other his shirt, in the middle of his chest, as if he was in extreme pain. When his grandfather said Youngwoon might die Sungmin could swear on his life that he saw the guy get translucent for a small moment.
“I’ll call you later, grandpa!” he shot in panic as he ended the call, threw the phone on his bed and rushed out of his room, bypassing Kyuhyun who was watching TV and fetching an umbrella on his way outside. “Where are you going, hyung?” the younger asked as he kept on munching on his junkie food.
“I won’t be long.” Sungmin replied shutting the door behind himself and rushing down through the staircase, not feeling up to wait till the lift was there, it was just four flights so he believed running would be faster.
Once he got on the sidewalk he looked around in hopes of still seeing Youngwoon. He spotted him walking down the street, so he shouted, but his voice didn’t reach the other, so he ran. He felt like he was running out of time and he didn’t know why.
Think of me.
Youngwoon’s childish voice kept saying in his head. How old were they back then? Sungmin was ten, Youngwoon was twelve. They had known each other for four years by then, but after that day at the airport they had never seen each other again.
Think of me.
Why that voice wouldn’t go away?
Something seemed to break inside Sungmin then. Something he had felt was there since the moment Youngwoon turned into a human in front of him for the first time. He called again, because at the very moment he felt that, he saw Youngwoon turning into a raccoon and getting into an alleyway. Something was terribly wrong.
When he reached the alley, the small raccoon was on the floor curled in itself in a corner. “Youngwoon hyung.” Sungmin called again and then breathed a sigh of relief when the little head turned to him slightly. Sungmin kneeled in front of his friend holding the umbrella to shelter both of them. “Youngwoon.” Sungmin reached with a caring, worried tone and caressed the wet fur, but then his heart beat a note of pain as he felt his friend was cold. He called one more time worried as their eyes locked into each other.
With some difficulty the raccoon moved, standing up on his back paws and then slumping against Sungmin’s chest in a weak embrace. ‘I missed you.’ He heard a voice in his head. A voice he had never heard before but he knew it was Youngwoon’s matured voice. When Sungmin was about to return the embrace his hand didn’t touch the fur, it landed on his shirt, right up his heart.
Youngwoon had disappeared.
Youngwoon might die.
“Young… Youngwoon.” Sungmin called feeling an empty spot inside of him. He didn’t know anymore what was going on or what he had to do. Then something sparkled in him. The leaf. If he wanted to know what was going on he had to get the leaf.
Bracing himself Sungmin ran to the nearest street where he could hail a cab and made his way back home. Back to his parents home. It wasn’t raining there but there was also no sun.
His mother had opened up the door for him, dressed in her cleaning outfit. “Sungmin dear, what brings you home so suddenly?” she opened the door and beckoned him in. Sungmin looked around shortly before taking off his shoes and putting his umbrella aside.
“I have to get something I left in my room. It’s nothing much. Is anyone else home?” he asked trying not to alarm his mother. She had no clue what was going on. He had no clue of what was going on, but Youngwoon's true identity was a secret he only shared with his grandfather, so she wouldn’t understand anyway.
“No. Your father is working and Sungjin is out with his friends. He is planning to go to Japan in January with his friend, did he tell you?” his mother replied and Sungmin stared at her in a surprised wonder. Sungjin had not told him anything about that.
“He didn’t. But it’s good he is going to visit grandpa.” Sungmin replied turning to the staircase. “I’m in a bit of a rush, mom, so I’ll just go pick up what I need and go back home.”
“I doubt he is going to visit grandpa.” His mother replied good-natured as she turned back to go clean the living room. She thought nothing wrong about Sungmin’s behavior, he would often come back home to pick up something he had forgotten to pack when he moved out.
Meanwhile Sungmin walked directly to his bedroom, directly to his study table, directly to the upper drawer on the left. But when he opened it the leaf was not there up his book. Sungmin panicked.
“Mom! Did you clean my room?! Please tell me you didn’t throw away the leaf that was in my drawer!” Sungmin called as he rushed back downstairs. His mother was taken aback by the desperation in her son’s tone so she stammered as she replied. “I thought it was trash, why would you keep a dried leaf in your drawer? It’s in that plastic bag over there, I had just finished cleaning your room.”
“Dried?” Sungmin asked in barely a whisper, feeling another surge of panic run through him as once again he heard Youngwoon’s voice in his head, no longer the childish one, but the mature deep velvety one.
Think of me for a thousand days.
Sungmin was six when Youngwoon gave him that leaf, two months ago, when he moved out of his parent’s house, it was still green as if fourteen years had not passed. Why would it get dry in two months?
Sungmin rummaged through the papers and other stuff his mother had wisely tagged as trash, no doubt, but when he found the leaf he felt his heart breaking at the sight. It was a grey-ish shade of brown, it had cracked in three and the pieces were scattered apart. Sungmin picked them up with cold hands. Could it be that somehow he had really killed Youngwoon?
His mother put a hand on his shoulder calling for his attention. Sungmin snapped out of his daze, picking up the three pieces and smiling up at his mother to reassure her everything was alright. Everything was supposed to be alright. After all Youngwoon only existed to him and his grandfather. “I’m going up to make a phone call.” he told his mother who nodded still not very convinced with Sungmin’s sudden calmness. Yet she didn’t pressure. Sungmin would explain himself later, she was sure.
Sungmin went back to his bedroom, picked up the phone and called his grandfather again. The only person that could explain what was going on was him. He was somehow sure about that. When the old man picked the call up, Sungmin knew his grandfather already could tell things didn’t go the way he had hoped it would. “Youngwoon… was a good kid.” He said after Sungmin dejectedly replied to his grandfather answering the phone.
Sungmin felt like crying upon hearing the old man saying that. “Why? What happened?” he asked with a small confused voice. “Is he really?” he couldn’t use the word, saying it felt like it would become true. He was so lost he didn’t know anymore what he was feeling.
“He is gone.” The old man said with sadness. “Sungmin… Youngwoon was supposed to tell you this when you would meet again as two humans… he was trying to become human for you.”
The young male had to sit down as he heard that. He couldn’t comprehend what was being said to him. How could Youngwoon become human?
His grandfather continued talking as Sungmin didn’t reply. “You had not been the only one in the family to meet a spirit raccoon, Sungmin. When I was your age I had met one too. That’s why I had tried to help Youngwoon. The last time you came here, before you left, he had asked you, right? To think of him for thousand days.” His grandfather revealed and Sungmin felt his heart drop to his stomach, he had managed an affirmative hum and thus his grandfather continued talking. “spirit raccoons are meant to choose between two paths: help humans or prank them. You know Youngwoon had chosen the first, but what you don’t know is that the first time you met was not when you were six, but when you were a newborn. When your parents had brought you here for the first time, it had been the first time I had seen him. Your mother had left you sleeping on the sofa, you had woken up before she was back and without knowing any better you started to wriggle out of the blanket upon you and almost fell from the sofa. Youngwoon had saved you. He was two years old back then, but you know for a spirit animal age is just something they count. Back then you were not important for him, but when you met again Youngwoon understood why he had saved you countless of times after you met, it was because he felt a connection between your spirits. You were the human that could turn him human.”
Sungmin was listening, but those words just made him feel more lost, just made him feel his heart cold and his head in pain. “Grandpa… what are you saying? I can’t follow what you’re trying to tell me.” Sungmin retorted, but he was not ready for what he heard next.
“Youngwoon fell in love with you, that is why you could turn him human. The leaf he used when he first transformed was the bond between you two, through it you could pass on to him the essence of a human.” Sungmin’s grandfather tried to explain calmly, he knew he was overflowing Sungmin with information he could have never dreamt about, but living without really knowing what happened was something he didn’t want the kid to go through.
“Humans can live with unrequited love, spirit animals can’t. If you were to think about him for a thousand days it meant he could have a chance of having you to love him back, if you were not to, then two things could happen: you could forget about him and get rid of the leaf, breaking the bond and unintentionally killing him, or he could accept to give up his feelings and his memories about you by asking you to give back the leaf, he wouldn’t be able to turn into a human anymore, but he would still be alive.” Sungmin’s grandfather continued explaining and Sungmin felt himself getting colder and number with each new information, he didn’t even notice the tears pooling in his eyes, neither when they silently ran through his cheeks.
“You were supposed to think of him for a little less than 3 years straight. He had endured eleven years of knowing you were not thinking about him. I told him you were too young back then, that it would be easier for you to forget him, than to think about him if you could not spend some more time together. If you had at least talked on the phone or something, then he could at least still become human. Sungmin, He was able to leave Japan because he had decided to get back the leaf. Why did you have to lose the leaf?” his grandfather relayed, the last question didn’t make much sense, Sungmin had a whole load of doubts, whole load of strangled feelings about that situation, but at the question the words simply slipped past his mouth.
“I didn’t lose the leaf. I’m holding on to it… but it’s dried and broken.” Sungmin mumbled thinking about the raccoon plushie he was going to get on his birthday. Fate had cruel ways of working. Sungmin had spent years without thinking about Youngwoon, and on the day he finally really thought about the other again all that bullshit happened.
“You… you have the leaf?” his grandfather asked surprised.
A small flame of hope started to burn in Sungmin at the question. If there was one feeling Sungmin was certain he had about that situation was that of not wanting to lose Youngwoon without being able to do anything about it. “I have it.” He said with expectation. “I… was I not supposed to have it?” he questioned then.
“You were not… it was supposed to disappear along with Youngwoon… it may not turn him into a human… but maybe if you think of him for the remaining time he had… maybe he can come back in his animal body.” His grandfather retorted and Sungmin felt slightly disappointed.
“Why wouldn’t it turn him into a human?” Sungmin asked with a dry resented tone. He had failed Youngwoon. He had failed the one that had always done everything to make him smile.
“Because you were not supposed to know about his feelings, you were supposed to think about him through your free will. Now that you know… you’ll think about him more like a duty than think about him because of what he could mean to you.” His grandfather replied and Sungmin understood something not exactly related to his own situation.
“You couldn’t bring him back. The one you met.” Sungmin stated and he felt like his grandfather nodded. “I didn’t have the leaf. I couldn’t think of him for a thousand days. After the leaf disappeared I spent the rest of my life thinking about him in regret, because when the bond broke, I knew I had been the cause of why he disappeared.”
Sungmin thought he understood what his grandfather meant. “I’m sorry, grandpa.” Sungmin mumbled. “But I am not going to fail Youngwoon again, I am not thinking about him as a duty, with regret yes, but not as a duty. I should have never forgotten about him, and I will never forget about him again. I will bring him back. I had not been the one breaking our bond, I have never gotten rid of the leaf, so he shouldn’t have disappeared, he shouldn’t have lost his opportunity to become human. I will bring him back, because this is unfair with both of us.” The words had sounded broken, slightly unsure at first but by the end Sungmin was sure he would succeed. He would bring Youngwoon back.
It was cold, dark and it was raining. Sungmin was running on the sidewalk shouting for Youngwoon, he could feel his feet cold and his jeans were wet down his knees. There was no wind but the night was still very cold. Every time Sungmin would approach an alleyway he would stop and search for Youngwoon there, but they were always empty.
Since the day Youngwoon disappeared Sungmin have been having that same morbid dream, his hope was slowly dying away and his feelings of regret growing. Christmas night came and gone, Sungmin had tried to remain cheerful, but every time no-one was talking with him his eyes would go downcast and his smile would become sad as he would get lost in old childish memories.
“Hyung, do you think Youngwoon hyung will like this?” Sungjin suddenly said taking a seat beside Sungmin in the living room. Kyuhyun, who had been invited for dinner, scooted closer at hearing a name he had never heard before, when he saw the raccoon print on the wristband he frowned, when he looked at Sungmin’s face and saw the sad smile he couldn’t keep his mouth shut. “Who are you talking about, Jin?”
“Ah, you’ve never met him, Kyuhyun hyung, Our grandpa adopted this orphan kid when we were small. Kim Youngwoon. He was a really cool hyung, but it’s been seven years since we last went to Japan to visit, so it had been that long since we spoke with him.” Sungjin started to explain but then he seemed to remember something. “Well seven years since I had last visited, it had been longer since the last time Sungmin hyung had been there.” he corrected before he smiled brightly at the wristband. “Since I’m visiting this January I thought about bringing him some gift, his birthday was in January, right, hyung?” Sungjin explained happily because even though Youngwoon had always been all over Sungmin when they were kids, he had also always protected Sungjin and the three of them had always been inseparable when they were in Japan.
When the two younger males looked at Sungmin and saw his eyes brimming with tears their smiles also vanished. “Hyung, what’s wrong?” Sungjin questioned already guessing something was out of place, Sungmin never cried.
“You won’t be able to meet him, Jin. Youngwoon hyung is not in Japan.” Sungmin mumbled, he didn’t want to lie to his brother but somehow he knew the younger, sooner or later, would bring Youngwoon up. “He… he is sick… he is in America for treatment.”
“That can’t be…” Sungjin mumbled sadly, completely shocked by the news, if Sungjin’s sadness was any evidence, then Kyuhyun could tell the Lee brothers really liked ‘Youngwoon hyung’. That piece of information had made a lot of things make sense to Kyuhyun, such as why Sungmin would ask for a raccoon plushie and why he would wake up every other night from a nightmare.
“If this guy means so much to you, why have I never heard about him before?” Kyuhyun asked tentatively, not really wanting to unintentionally hurt his friends. That was a good question though, Sungmin and Sungjin made a sad face. “Hyung was someone… we probably took for granted… at least I had never considered there could be a day Youngwoon hyung wouldn’t be there.” Sungjin replied as Sungmin seemed unable to.
“Hyung, do you know in which condition he is in?” Sungjin questioned holding the wristband in a tighter grip.
Sungmin bit his lip to force the tears away. “He may not make it to my birthday, even less his birthday.” Sungmin said letting his head falls backwards to better fight his tears.
“That’s so unfair!” Sungjin thundered, tensing up and frowning at no-one in particular.
“What’s unfair dear?” their mother came to the living room to call them for dinner, when she heard the explanation she seemed very surprised, but somehow she understood why Sungmin had acted so out of his cool a few days back, he had told her that day the leaf had been a gift Youngwoon had given him when they hard first met.
“Poor child. He really doesn’t deserve such a fate.” Their mother said and that had been the last Sungmin could take. He excused himself saying he was not hungry and running to hide in his room. Kyuhyun watched him go worriedly.
“What kind of person is this hyung of yours?” He asked Sungjin, because he needed to know how to deal with Sungmin when they would go back to their shared apartment.
“Hyung is the kind of person that helps whoever whenever wherever. He had always protected me and Sungmin hyung from anything, everything and anyone.” Sungjin replied still frowning, but then he looked at Kyuhyun in the eyes and added with a firm but sort of angry tone. “The last time we went to Japan, we were playing in front of the house when a lady passed by, she had two paper bags full of fruits and other things she bought at the market, one of the bags broke off and fruits went running down the street, hyung had been the first to run and help. That day the three of us accompanied the lady to her house because she had no means of carrying the fruits alone. When we got there we got awarded a freshly made juice and cookies. Sungmin hyung and I, we had helped get the fruits, we were not planning to follow the woman, but when hyung said he would go with her we just decided to tag along. Hyung is this kind of person. He doesn’t deserve to be so sick, even less to die.” Sungjin relayed, his tone changing from angry to nostalgic, to admiring and then back to angry. Kyuhyun felt like meeting this person.
Sungmin celebrated his birthday with a kind of forced smile, he was not in the spirit to celebrate anything, not when he couldn’t be sure if his efforts to bring Youngwoon back would pay off. When he finally got back home with Kyuhyun, he didn’t bother washing up, he just changed his clothes and threw himself into bed to once again walk around his dream in pursuit of Youngwoon.
When he was almost dozing off Kyuhyun got in with a pink package. His birthday present. Sungmin had completely forgotten about it. With a small smile Kyuhyun handed the pretty wrapping to Sungmin.
“Don’t be so sad, hyung. I’m sure your friend will get better. Good night.” The younger said quickly retreating so he wouldn’t intrude his friend’s personal feelings.
Methodically Sungmin unwrapped the gift and tightly held on to the plushie. “I’m so sorry, hyung. Please come back.” He cried out, strongly wishing to receive that as his birthday gift. That night Sungmin had fallen asleep with Youngwoon as his last thought of the day.
The dream had started the same as usual, the deserted street, the rain, Sungmin tightly holding on to his umbrella. The first alleyway came, then the second and then third, but when Sungmin reached the fourth something wonderful happened. Sungmin saw a raccoon wrapped in itself, drenched to the bone and shivering with cold.
“Youngwoon!” Sungmin shouted in a mixture of elation and fear. The raccoon looked back at him upon hearing his name. Sungmin smiled as he crouched down protecting his friend from the rain. “Youngwoon hyung… I’m so sorry… I’m so sorry…” Sungmin mumbled as he caressed the damp cold fur with a shaky hand.
Trembling, the raccoon stood on its back paws and slumped on Sungmin’s chest in an attempt of a hug. For a fraction of seconds Sungmin had expected to touch himself or to wake up when his hand automatically moved to hold Youngwoon back. But his hand actually landed back on the damp cold fur. Sungmin held the spirit animal tightly, feeling relieved even as the tears fell from his eyes.
“Happy birthday, Sungmin.” He heard Youngwoon saying and only then did he wake up.
In the following days Sungmin gradually became happier. Kyuhyun couldn’t really understand the mood swing but he was more than thankful for seeing his hyung smiling for real again, even though sometimes he still stared sadly on thin air.
As the days had passed Sungmin kept on dreaming with Youngwoon, even if it was just his friend’s raccoon form. The dreams didn’t take place in the alleyway thought, every dream it was a different place and somehow Sungmin felt like he was re-living all of his most precious memories he shared with Youngwoon. Such as the first dream after his birthday, Sungmin was sitting in front of the lake his grandfather had in his garden, he was cross-legged watching the carps swimming when something crawled on his back and then stepped on his head. Sungmin had reacted exactly like he did when he was six, he lowered his head and jumped on his feet cursing whatever the thing was.
Yet different from his reaction back then – stare dumbfounded at the raccoon – Sungmin smiled and greeted his friend. “Youngwoon hyung, don’t scare me like that.”
“You are just the cutest thing to prank.” Youngwoon replied and Sungmin still felt nervous at hearing that velvety mature voice, he still expected to hear the childish one.
“I thought it was illegal for you to prank humans.” Sungmin pouted sitting back in front of the lake. Youngwoon nestled himself on the human’s lap and he felt glad Sungmin didn’t shove him away like little Sungmin did that first time so many years ago.
“I can’t play mean pranks on strangers, you are my friend, so I can play with you this much.” Youngwoon retorted with a chuckle to his voice.
Youngwoon reached his paw to the lake surface and scared the carps that were swimming nearby. Sungmin watched him play with the water for a while before he gathered his courage to ask. “You had so many chances, hyung, why didn’t you just approach and talked to me?” Sungmin didn’t want to blame Youngwoon for what happened, but his resented tone had sounded like he was, even in his own ears.
“I didn’t want to forget you.” Youngwoon replied simply. “When I was in Japan I could hardly feel the bond after you moved out and left the leaf behind. It had taken a lot of persuasion from your grandfather to convince me to at least keep my existence, but when I got here the bond became clearer and I could tell that even though you were not keeping the leaf close, you kept it somewhere you considered it was safe, I could feel you had not completely forgotten the promise, whenever you would spot me on the streets and would wonder if it was me, it counted to my days to become human, so I decided to wait.” The raccoon explained still playing with the water.
“If it was counting why didn’t you talk with me? Why did you keep me in doubt?” Sungmin asked with a small voice, somehow fearing the answer because he felt he already knew it.
“We’re not in Japan, I could only fully reveal myself to you if we were in my homeland. In Korea I could only talk with you to request the leaf back.” Youngwoon replied.
The raccoon rolled over himself to stare at Sungmin. “Despite how our bond had been broken, I was still happy that day, because you didn’t want to break the bond, because you were worried about me, because you still want me in your life.” Youngwoon added with a caring tone strained by tears he wanted to shed, but was bravely fighting.
“Of course I want you in my life, hyung, you are a very important friend.” Sungmin replied picking up the raccoon and holding him affectionately, feeling sad that a friendship was all he could offer. Youngwoon deserved someone much better than Sungmin in the human’s opinion.
Nevertheless Sungmin was happy that his continuous thinking about Youngwoon was slowly bringing his friend back. He was the happiest when ten days into January Youngwoon appeared in his dream not as a raccoon, but as a human again. Sungmin became even more hopeful that he could still grant his hyung’s wish to become human. They were talking about this ability of his to turn human when Youngwoon suddenly changed the subject.
“I think you should wake up. Your boyfriend is trashing your wardrobe.” Youngwoon said completely changing the topic they were talking about.
Sungmin stared at him as if he had suddenly gone crazy. “Hyung, I don’t have a girlfriend even less a boyfriend.”
Youngwoon blinked at the younger in an adorable way. “Well, your roommate that probably wants to be your boyfriend is trashing your wardrobe.” The older tried to rephrase but Sungmin kept staring at him weirdly.
“Where did you get this idea Kyuhyun is remotely interested in me?” Sungmin asked, thinking that Youngwoon’s red face was adorable.
“You live together… and well… I have been watching you before that day… you were always going out and he was always looking out for you…” Youngwoon tried to explain himself, unable to hide how jealous that had left him.
Some part of Sungmin had gotten angry with Youngwoon for spying on him, another part had gotten angry because Youngwoon couldn’t come talk with him, preventing that whole big mess from happening – he definitely didn’t want to imagine Youngwoon suddenly approaching him to ask the leaf back - another part thought his hyung couldn’t become more adorable.
“We are high school friends, hyung, Kyuhyun had always been like that. And I know he definitely is not interested in me, because he actually has a boyfriend. You say he is trashing my wardrobe? He is probably looking for a nice shirt to wear. He has a date today.” Sungmin replied patiently, feeling like he was trying to appease his jealous boyfriend. The human shook his head. “So you keep track of everything that happens around me?” Sungmin asked not one bit interested in waking up. A lovesick Youngwoon was better company than a lovesick Kyuhyun.
“It can’t be helped, I’m currently living in your subconscious and willing you or not the amount of noise he is making is slowly waking you up. If fact you will wake up now.” Youngwoon replied and right at the end of his words a loud noise did wake Sungmin up.
Kyuhyun had managed to knock a wine bottle from Sungmin’s window sill on the floor. “Cho Kyuhyun, if you don’t get out in three seconds you are dead.” Sungmin hissed much less because of the bottle and the mess in his wardrobe than because he had been awaken from his precious nap.
“Sorry, Sungmin hyung!” Kyuhyun shot as he ran for his life, closing the bedroom door behind him as he left, yet not a minute after the door was closed Kyuhyun asked. “Hyung, did you see that violet and white shirt Jongwoon gave me? I was going to use it, but I can’t find it.”
Sungmin grumbled something, but tried to locate the item in his head. “It was one of the pieces you sent to that professional washer, if I’m not mistaken you should have gone take the clothes back yesterday.”
Not two minutes later Sungmin heard the front door being opened and closed.
On the seventeenth day into January, Sungmin had managed to kick Kyuhyun out of their shared apartment - bribing Jongwoon to take Kyuhyun away for the whole day had been extremely easy - and he spent the afternoon baking a cake to celebrate Youngwoon’s birthday. Even though he was physically alone, he knew Youngwoon was living that moment with him.
Sungmin had wished to be able to fall asleep while sitting in front of the cake, so he could dream with it, have Youngwoon blow the candles and party with him, even if just in his dreams. He had expected his wish to come true, because in previous dreams stuff like that had happened. Yet the moment he found himself inside a dream he was standing over a black polished floor that reached the horizon, the sky was also pitch black.
He had felt scared of being in such a gloomy place on a day that had been supposed to be joyous. The only thing that reassured him was the fact that Youngwoon was standing right in front of him.
“What’s going on? Where are we?” Sungmin asked with a wavering tone.
“Today is the last day, Sungmin. The thousandth day ended up being my birthday.” Youngwoon replied with a chuckle, but Sungmin knew he was forcing the sound out. He was not feeling amused or happy.
“What do you mean by last day?” Sungmin asked closing his hands into fists. His heart was beating erratically and slowly he felt himself being filled with the fear of having failed Youngwoon after all.
“You thought about me for a thousand days, Sungmin. I don’t know what will happen now, I don’t know if I’ll be able to stand beside you or if I’ll disappear. But regardless, Sungmin, I had never regretted falling in love with you. I’m sorry I had entertained the thought of giving up my feelings and my memories so I could stay alive, but I had only chosen that because I believed it would be better than to have you live like your grandfather did. Regardless, Sungmin, you have loved me enough, so even if I disappear, don’t blame yourself, ok?” Youngwoon said with a smile, sad and filled with love.
Sungmin felt his throat dry. “You won’t disappear. We’ve come this far. Why would you disappear?” the human mumbled frowning angrily. “I know this is utterly selfish, but I want you beside me, hyung, even if I can’t truly return your feelings. You are precious to me, hyung.”
Youngwoon chuckled for real, smiling down at Sungmin as he reached to caress the hair behind Sungmin’s ear. “I want to remain beside you even if it’s to be only your friend. And the cake really made me happy, but there is another birthday gift that I want from you, would you allow me to be utterly selfish, Sungmin? Can I kiss you?”
The question had gotten Sungmin out of guard. “Hyung, that’s not selfish, that’s unfair. If I let you kiss me, I’ll be allowing you to deceive yourself. I don’t want that, Youngwoon hyung.” Sungmin replied tightly holding the hand that had been caressing him, he didn’t push it away, he held it in place and Youngwoon smiled at the feeling of how cold the human’s fingers were, Sungmin was so afraid to lose him it actually made Youngwoon happy in a twisted way.
“You won’t deceive me Sungmin, and I won’t deceive myself. But I want it, a kiss as a goodbye if I am to disappear after you wake up.” Youngwoon practically pleaded.
Sungmin tightened his grip staring at Youngwoon’s chest. He looked good wearing that pink shirt with the leather jacket over it. Sungmin closed his eyes pondering his options, pondering how much he had already hurt the other, he couldn’t help himself to think that if he would allow that kiss he wouldn’t be giving Youngwoon a birthday gift, but a farewell one. As the seconds tickled Sungmin made his decision, when he looked back at the spirit animal, he didn’t need words, Youngwoon instantly leaned in, closing his eyes before their lips met.
There was a dull ache in Sungmin’s heart, he had focused so much in that pain he didn’t actually notice when the innocent brush of lips became wetter, nor when Youngwoon’s tongue had first touched his in an exploring move, he only noticed what he was doing when he felt his own tongue inside Youngwoon’s mouth, when he felt he was holding Youngwoon painfully close even with fingers tangled in his friend’s hair. He had thought about breaking the kiss, but his heart ached again at the thought he could hurt Youngwoon further if he did so. Instead Sungmin kept on kissing back as passionately as Youngwoon was kissing him, allowing the moment to end only when Youngwoon had felt satisfied.
When the lips parted Youngwoon kept trailing kisses along Sungmin’s jaw line until he reached under the ear. Sungmin closed his eyes not daring to push Youngwoon away, slightly fearing that he had done something horribly wrong by giving Youngwoon a little bit more than what he had asked for.
“Thank you, Min.” Youngwoon mumbled under Sungmin’s ear. “Let me keep on holding you until you wake up, ok?” he questioned ending the kisses and really just holding Sungmin close.
Sungmin didn’t reply, he didn’t trust his voice, he simply stood there holding Youngwoon back as if by doing that he would anchor Youngwoon there forever. Sungmin didn’t know how long they had been like that, neither how long they had kissed, dreams were imprecise like that. But one thing was certain: Youngwoon always knew when Sungmin was about to wake up.
“I’ve prepared a gift for you, a leaf that will never dry and that I hope you’ll keep with you. I hope it will bring you only the good memories. Thank you for thinking of me, Sungmin.”
Kyuhyun woke Sungmin up asking why he had baked a cake and why he had had fallen asleep on the table like that in the middle of the afternoon.
“Today is Youngwoon’s birthday. Could you celebrate it with me, Kyu?” Sungmin asked dazedly, picking up plates and a small candle without really looking at the younger but moving as if only his body was there, not his soul.
Kyuhyun didn’t question his hyung, he simply went along detesting the tear that rolled Sungmin’s cheek when he blew the candle wishing Youngwoon a happy birthday. That night Kyuhyun prayed hard for Youngwoon to be cured.
After Sungmin locked himself in his bedroom the first thing he did was open the jewel box he had put the broken pieces of the leaf Youngwoon had given him. The pieces were there, but they were no longer just a dry leaf, they became a beautiful silver pendant, the pieces had half joined back into one.
Sungmin picked up the item wondering how much spiritual energy Youngwoon had used to craft that, wondering if that gift was actually the reason why the spirit raccoon didn’t know what would happen next, but knowing that silver leaf was equal to Youngwoon’s heart.
From that day onwards Sungmin always wore it on his neck, refusing to take it off for whatever reason. Every time he looked at it he felt like slapping himself for being so stupid, for being so stubborn. He had never been able to forget that last dream, forget that kiss, because only after days without Youngwoon in his dreams did Sungmin accept that the spirit animal’s feelings were not unrequited after all.
Seventeen days into November something marvelous happened though. His doorbell had rang, he opened it up distractedly, thinking it was Jongwoon who had forgotten something in Kyuhyun’s bedroom again. He was about to tell Jongwoon to move in already, yet when he opened the door Youngwoon was the one there smiling at him, dressed in that nice pink shirt with the black leather jacket.
When Sungmin’s lips landed on Youngwoon’s he knew it was no dream. That reaction had been pure instinct, a necessity to confirm he was not hallucinating, a necessity to redeem himself and finally let Youngwoon know, feel, how much Sungmin had been a fool trying to deceive himself.
“Hyung, who’s at the… door…” Kyuhyun had tried to question, exiting his room because there had been no sounds after he heard the door being opened. The younger couldn’t believe his eyes, but he was seeing Sungmin kissing a complete stranger – to him that is – as if there was no tomorrow, not even registering his roommate was witnessing everything.
Kyuhyun had felt tempted to really disturb their moment because Sungmin had always fiercely stated he was not gay, he really felt like teasing his friend, yet there was some kind of vibe in the air that prevented him from contemplating those evil thoughts further, there was something on the way Sungmin was clinging to the guy that told Kyuhyun that his hyung was afraid to let go.
When the younger had finally managed to turn around new sounds filled the apartment. “You are not going to disappear again, right, Youngwoon hyung?” Sungmin asked as he kept on holding the taller male. At hearing the name Kyuhyun abruptly turned around again.
He couldn’t help himself but smile as he saw the two hugging, the amount of love on Youngwoon’s face had been a very good first impression to Kyuhyun. Feeling strangely reassured Kyuhyun went back inside his room as to not bother the love birds.
“I didn’t really disappear, Min. I woke up at the forest I had been born, but I couldn’t remember you, I woke up only knowing I had lost something important.” Youngwoon replied in a whisper.
At hearing that Sungmin pulled away to look into Youngwoon’s eyes. “You couldn’t remember me?” he asked with a strained voice, afraid it meant he was still being punished for fighting against his feelings, afraid he would have to keep on pinning after Youngwoon.
The older male reached for Sungmin’s necklace, playing with the pendent as he spoke. “I couldn’t remember you because I had put all of my memories and feelings into this leaf, I really didn’t know what was to happen so I crafted this hoping you could keep it beside you as my replacement, hoping you could keep my heart safe with you. A few days after I woke up flashes of memories appeared, as the months passed I could remember my whole life again. A few days back I understood why that was happening.” Youngwoon said all that while looking at the silver leaf, but when the words died he looked up back into Sungmin’s eyes. “You were sending back my memories, because you were thinking about me, longing about me, loving me. I couldn’t become human after all, but I was allowed to stay beside you for as long as you keep thinking about me, as long as you keep on loving me.”
Sungmin had frowned when he heard Youngwoon was not human, but then smiled at the requirement to have Youngwoon beside him. “I will think of you, I will love you for the rest of my life, hyung. I promise.”
Think of me for a thousand days, so I can love you for a lifetime.