Survivability Interlude: Graduation Day, Yay! [Bleach / KPop]
Fandom: Super Junior / Bleach
Featuring: HyukJae, DongHae. Cameo by JunSu and Rain.
Pairings: Bestfriends!EunHae. Squint and it might be something else.
Warnings: Erm. Mild swearing?
Genre: Gen, Alternate Universe: Bleach
Summary: This is the story of the day HyukJae and DongHae graduated from the Shinigami Academy. Set years before the current story arc.
A/N: (at the end of the fic)
Word Count: 3,784
"I can probably hit him from here," DongHae whispered.
HyukJae squinted and tried to make out the bright, excited, possibly wrinkled face of the Commander General seated among the background of similarly dressed Captains. It took quite a bit of effort, what with the bright sunlight, the crowd, the bright sunlight, the general restlessness, the glare, the sweat forming droplet by droplet on his forehead, the very bright sunlight, the imagined scenario of DongHae trying to lob a spitbomb at the Commander General and hitting instead the innocent head station in front of him, the bright sunlight, the imagined scenario of DongHae succeeding and being eviscerated on the spot by all twelve Captains seated behind the Commander (not to mention that their soul cutters would have all been released even before the... projectile was halfway through its trajectory), never mind that they were standing about seventy-four feet away from the stage (give or take half an inch, according to HyukJae's estimate)... and oh yeah, was it bright enough?!
DongHae glanced at HyukJae's expression and tried to keep his face straight. "If they court martial me, you'll have my back, right?" he muttered out of the corner of his mouth.
"Technically, we'd have to be shinigami to get court-martialed, and we'll only be recognized as such after the ceremony ends," HyukJae pointed out while moving the bare minimum of facial muscles required. He fought the urge to wipe his forehead. He bore the unbearable sunlight head on, but he didn't know how long he'd last. "Also, if that happens, I'll magically forget everything we did together for the past four years."
DongHae almost pouted in indignation but fortunately remembered where they were. "Geez, he's certainly taking his time, isn't he?"
HyukJae chose to follow decorum by not responding. On stage, Lieutenant JiYong of the 5th Division was prattling on about how he felt during his own graduation held several years ago, then his post-graduation excitement, his bright hopefulness about upcoming adventures, and the assurance that he was going to have the time of his life whichever Division he may have entered. To his credit, it wasn't the usual crap that commencement speakers spouted. On the other hand, he may have failed to realize that none among his audience had his particular brand of self-assurance brought about by knowing with absolute confidence of his genius. (Some people were meant to chase dreams, some to live dreams, and some to inadvertently cause nausea and mild depression when talking about dreams. Such was fate.)
Because that was where they were, even though they could hardly believe it. After four years of training at the Academy, DongHae and HyukJae – along with about a hundred other hopeful souls standing rigidly around them – were finally about to receive their badges and all the honor and responsibilities it entailed. Though honestly they never thought about the last one: the badge and honor were enough to occupy their minds. Responsibility was something that happened to other people.
DongHae frowned. "Maybe I should aim for him instead. It won't be quite as irreverent but the Captains may let me live since he's just a Lieutenant."
The Commander General's head moved a fraction of an inch towards their direction. Even from that distance it was enough for DongHae to shut up and conduct himself into a military, if somewhat princely, discipline. The wind chime tied casually to his belt tinkled merrily at the movement.
"Coward," HyukJae muttered under his breath. DongHae puffed his chest haughtily and tried to communicate by sheer absence of body language that they were not at all associated in any relevant manner. They heard muffled snickering behind them. HyukJae chanced a very subtle glance out of the corner of his vision and saw the class clown SeungHyun trying his ultimate to control his laughter. HyukJae considered shushing him in indignation, but he and SeungHyun had never really interacted in any way before.
There was mild, polite cough from one of the Captains. HyukJae's eyes snapped back to position in time to see Lieutenant JiYong blink, grin, and finish his speech in style.
DongHae exhaled audibly. "Finally."
There were a lot of congratulatory handshakes. There were plenty of people to shake hands with. One could form the somewhat errant conclusion that shaking hands was the primary goal of the event. It would have been a wholly justified error.
"God, my hand feels like it's about to fall off," DongHae complained, secure that the general non-directed cheering and merriment of the crowd around them allowed him a semblance of anonymity.
HyukJae flexed his biceps. "I could go for a few more shakes, I think."
DongHae rolled his eyes. "Yeah, well, not all of us got to do some shaking nightly."
"Hey!" HyukJae said, full of righteous indignation. "I wasn't shaking anything. It's more of a series of strokes, really."
"Every night," DongHae dead-panned.
"My needs justify it."
"Glad to hear that HyukJae hasn't changed a bit," a new, somewhat wheezy, voice cut in. "Nightly, huh?"
"JunSu!" DongHae cheered.
HyukJae indignantly stuck his tongue out. "We were talking about polishing my soul cutter and you know it."
"Yes. Polishing your sword. Right. Exactly that," JunSu said, saying more than his words. It was a mark of their deep brotherhood and friendship that they could afford to skip the congratulations and proceed straight to sniping at and teasing each other without worries of hurt feelings and burning bridges. It was friendship, as it were, approached from the other side.
"Every night," DongHae repeated. "Because of his needs."
"Oh, shut up."
JunSu punched him on the arm. "Is that any way to act in front of a superior officer?"
HyukJae took a deep breath and began to build momentum. "First of all, you're not an officer yet, you just graduated a year ahead of me. Second of all-" he took a split-second glance at JunSu's and DongHae's expressions and changed tactics at light speed. "-proper maintenance of field equipment is basic military behavior, and even more so when soul cutters are involved."
"Nice save," said a mildly amused voice behind him.
JunSu and DongHae bowed immediately while HyukJae cursed his luck as he overcoordinated trying to turn with grace, lost his balance, teetered precariously on one foot and fought the instinct to grab on to the nearest stable figure in order to reestablish firm footing.
Because the nearest stable figure happened to be someone draped in a white robe. Someone tall, utterly confident, and built like the warrior he was.
Someone like Captain JiHoon of the 11th Division. The Captain who was so impressive and intimidating and accomplished and cool that he could get away with signing his battle name even on formal military codices. The Captain whose very presence caused everyone around him to stand respectfully even if they didn't exactly know why he deserved it. The Captain whose exploits were so legendary that actual legends failed to match. The captain who earned his name due to the rain of hollow blood that drenched all his fields of battle.
Rain. Yes, that Captain.
And during the split-second eternity of thought during which he fought for balance, HyukJae cursed his role as the butt monkey of the universe. This kind of stuff always happened to him.
Rain- Captain JiHoon tactfully ignored HyukJae's attempts at piecing back together his dignity.
"Congratulations are in order, yes?" he said cheerfully. DongHae and HyukJae uttered a small prayer of thanks that their bowed position hid the fact that they were blushing and giggling like little schoolgirls, and a small grumbling from JunSu's direction may have been a complaint that life was so unfair. "At ease, troops," he said with a wink and extended a calloused hand.
HyukJae almost fell over again as he rushed to grab- shake the Captain's hand with both of his. DongHae fidgeted as he mightily struggled against squealing at being called "troop" by probably the coolest Captain ever – despite reminding himself that he was not a school girl, thankyouverymuch, no matter what HyukJae had to say on the matter... but he couldn't help it. JunSu faired marginally better, having been personally exposed to high officers sometime during his first year in the 2nd Division. ("Marginally better" defined as still completely overwhelmed but being graceful about it. Because holy fuck, it's Captain Rain!)
Belatedly did they notice the crowd gathering around them, as Captains were wont to bait whenever they were around.
Captain JiHoon withdrew his hand, nodded at HyukJae, laid an arm across DongHae's shoulders and, with a soft tinkling from waist level... vanished. With DongHae. Somehow.
"Ah, flash steps," JunSu said knowingly.
HyukJae knew that he was still grinning like an idiot, but at the moment he just couldn't bring himself to care. "I'll learn how to do that one day, right? They'll teach me at the Division – any Division, right?" He stared at the spot where, not even a minute ago, his Other Heterosexual Life Partner™ stood.
No response was forthcoming.
"JunSu, come on, tell me you'll teach me that someday. I have to learn that!" He chanced a look at JunSu's carefully blank expression and interpreted it correctly. "You know what? I swear I'm gonna learn how to do flash steps quicker than you. So fuck you, you asshole."
JunSu's façade cracked. "Yeah, fuck you too," he chuckled.
"Reciprocation. Nice," SeungHyun said as he passed by.
There was other stuff to do, which mostly consisted of going around shaking more hands from a wide variety of choices: scouting seated officers, tired yet restless fellow graduates, apprehensive undergrads, amusingly condescending alumni... but all in all, actual reasons to stay behind were somewhat lacking. Parents weren't invited to the Academy graduation since it was, first and foremost, a private military event. Food was served in the mess hall, but the students – having tolerated it every day for four years – were understandably less enthusiastic. Which is why HyukJae agreed to JunSu's offer of a congratulatory meal outside the Academy.
"What about DongHae?" HyukJae asked as they walked under the still bright but more tolerable afternoon sun with take-out boxes in hand. The day was too nice to waste seated under an awning so they headed towards a nice, out-of-the-way brook a short walk away from the Academy. JunSu strode confidently with his soul cutter tied to his belt, while HyukJae was working on getting used to being seen in public with a sword – the mark, as it were, of a death god.
JunSu contrived to look hurt. "Tsk, now you're so close to him that you don't want to spend some time alone with me anymore? Ouch."
"It's not that, you idiot. He might just get offended that we left without him."
"That's possible. But I think Captain Rain's news would keep him preoccupied for a while."
"News?" HyukJae asked, surprised. JunSu's look of incredulous disbelief ranged between amusing and off-putting. "Come on, what news?" HyukJae soldiered on indignantly.
JunSu resignedly shook his head. "It's DongHae's story to tell. And I've been meaning to talk to you alone anyway, so the timing is perfect." They climbed a tree whose branches were sturdy enough to support them and settled down to the nice sound of a gurgling stream accented by bird song.
Some themes were just simply ingrained into the human psyche across the multiverse. HyukJae leaned against the tree trunk and stretched his legs on his branch. "JunSu, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you just took me out on a date."
JunSu straddled a higher branch and set his lunch box before him. "A date... in a certain sense of the word."
HyukJae almost fell off his branch. "JunSu, you know we're best friends, right? And I'll have to insist that even if-"
"This is a business date," JunSu clarified.
HyukJae paused in mid-remonstration. "Oh," he said after a while, followed by silence.
"Excuse me," JunSu said with mild disbelief. "Did you just say something to the tune of 'Besides, DongHae would kill me'?"
"Erm. No?" HyukJae shifted in his seat and wisely decided to start on his lunch instead of facing down JunSu's viper-like stare. "So. Business date. We're here on the date, so what's the business? I'm not blabbering," he said preemptively.
JunSu shook his head. He'd long suspected it, but whatever HyukJae and DongHae did was none of his business. In a sense. Well, the three of them were friends... Heterosexual Life Partners ™ indeed.
But there were serious stuff to talk about. There always were at times like these.
It was a long, lonely walk back to the Academy.
JunSu excused himself after he'd said his piece with claims that he had reports to file and more training to attend. Learning didn't end with graduation, after all. It was still day then. HyukJae spent the next hours huddled on his tree branch and thinking about what he'd just been told, mulling it over and over in an endless inward spiral.
It was night now. The Academy was practically deserted. The crowd had long since dispersed: Captains went off to do their things, the Lieutenants went off to cater to their Captains, the seated offers went back to running their Divisions, the teachers were probably off somewhere celebrating the end of another headache-filled year, and the students seized this bit of freedom they'd been dreaming of since they entered the Academy. They were permitted this one night of liberty to go out and drink and be merry, a brief window of respite before the realization sank in that they should be worrying and fretting about getting into their desired Divisions.
It never even crossed HyukJae's mind that he had to worry about that. And now it seems he'd never have to.
He slid the door to his dorm room open and, accompanied by a pleasant and familiar tinkle, immediately received a smelly sock to the face.
"Where'd you been all day?" DongHae asked with a semblance of his usual cheer as he continued dressing out of his uniform.
HyukJae shrugged. "Out."
"Oh. I thought you went drinking or something." He threw himself on his bed and stretched until his joints popped. "I just got back a few minutes ago."
HyukJae pointedly glanced at the rumpled uniform left on the floor. "I noticed. Where'd you been all day?" He placed his sword ceremoniously at the head of his bed, peeled off his own uniform and tossed it – along with DongHae's – in the clothes hamper.
DongHae shrugged. "Out."
"Oh? With whom?" HyukJae sat on his bed and rested his elbows on his knees. Hunched over, he watched the moonlight paint his roommate's face silver.
DongHae was staring at the ceiling. "With no one. I just went out and walked around."
"I'm surprised your continuous need for company didn't turn you insane." HyukJae grinned.
"Yeah, I'm surprised, too. And glad, mostly. Be a shame to go mad now." DongHae barked a short laugh and picked at a spot on his chin. "Time flew fast, huh? One day we were learning basic kendo, next day we're expected to get into the Divisions and own up to our responsibilities."
"It wasn't that fast," said HyukJae. "I confess that your constant farting inspired a few thoughts about murdering you in your sleep. Repeatedly. Sometimes during the same night."
DongHae resolutely stared at the ceiling. "Yeah? Well, apart from the pervasive foot odor that I never once complained about-"
"Not to my face, anyway. But I appreciate the thought."
"Can you really blame me? Ha. Well, apart from the fact that I had to get used to our room smelling like potato paste whenever you took your socks off, I also tolerated your using my underwear without asking for permission first." DongHae scowled in remembered disgust. "Sometimes you even borrowed used ones."
"They were cleaner than mine! Mostly."
They lapsed into silence. HyukJae continued watching his other best friend while DongHae scrutinized the ceiling. Someone had to give in first. It was, as always, HyukJae.
"Oh. I may have said something that led JunSu to believe that we're... y'know. More than friends." HyukJae scrunched his eyes at the relived embarrassment.
"Best friends?" DongHae inquired.
"Erm. More like... sleeping together. Like that."
DongHae almost looked at him then, but then directed his laugh towards the ceiling instead. "He can join the club."
HyukJae closed his eyes and prepared himself for possible horrendous humiliation. "Please tell me you're referring to a metaphorical club."
"It never hurts to be sure." HyukJae stood up and, after a brief moment of hesitation, decided that rumors should never get in the way of closeness. DongHae scooted over to one side of his bed and HyukJae took to offered space, even if it was slightly cramped. "I think I'm heading for the 2nd Division. Special Ops should be fun, right?"
DongHae looked at him for the first time that night, but it was a brief glimpse. The moonlight, had HyukJae bothered to look, would have shown guarded relief in DongHae's eyes. "When are you going to enlist?"
"Early tomorrow, I guess. Best to beat the crowd, right?"
HyukJae talked on. "JunSu thinks he can pull a few strings to get me in quickly. I mean, he knows I'm a good enough fighter to get in on my own merits but he said it would be best to make sure. I could probably skip some of the easier tests. And I think I could get some of the shunpo teachers to give me a recommendation since it's my best subject."
"And by 'best', you mean it was the only subject where you were never in any danger of failing?"
DongHae punched him very softly on the cheek. "As long as we're clear on that."
HyukJae used DongHae's arm as a pillow. "Want to enlist with me?" he asked.
DongHae didn't answer.
"I think I can ask JunSu to get you in as well," HyukJae continued, but even as he spoke the positivity drained from his voice. "And even if he can't, your swordsmanship is a lot better than mine so you're sure to get in anyway."
A night breeze blew in, carrying the scent of dew and grass. DongHae still didn't answer.
HyukJae sighed and turned his gaze toward his friend, and he kept looking hard until DongHae looked back at him. HyukJae nodded at the confirmation in DongHae's expression. "So you're going to the 11th, huh?"
DongHae closed his eyes and pressed his forehead against HyukJae's. It was intimate – much more intimate than their usual closeness. But tonight, they needed the intimacy. There were so many things he wanted to say, so many thoughts to share, so many apprehensions to talk through. But every time he tried to form words around them, they choked before they even got to his mouth.
HyukJae whistled in the shadow of a passing cloud. "Wow. Recruited by the Captain himself." His face broke into a manic grin and hugged DongHae tight. "When do you have to show up?"
"Tomorrow. At dawn. Captain said he wanted to personally introduce me to the officers before they began their daily ceremonies."
"Wow," HyukJae repeated. He gave himself a moment to understand what he was feeling. But then, there was only one thing to feel at times like this and he said it with complete honesty. "I'm really happy for you, Hae."
The tension drained from DongHae's body as he finally hugged back. "I really needed to hear that," DongHae confessed. "I dunno why."
They kept the tightness longer than strictly needed. They didn't mind.
It was a while before DongHae decided it was time to make his patented gagging noises, which was HyukJae's cue to laugh and let go.
"So where does this leave us?" DongHae asked after a while.
"You're making this sound like a break-up."
DongHae just shrugged and cracked a smile. "Better to give our fans closure, huh?" And he chuckled at his own words.
"Well... The 2nd Division and 11th Division headquarters are so distant. I'll be busy learning covert ops techniques and advanced shunpo while you learn higher swordsmanship and frontal combat."
"With completely different schedules."
"And completely different assignments." They both nodded. HyukJae went on. "And my activities will be classified since... y'know. It's covert ops."
DongHae sighed deeply. "But we're not gonna stop being friends, right? I mean, the occasional bar crawl or maybe some sparring sessions? We'll still have those, right?" he asked hopefully.
HyukJae tousled DongHae's hair and grinned full of reassurance. "Of course! We'll break some rules if we have to. Or maybe we could get court martialed together or something."
"Knew I could count on you. And at least you can finally catch up on your closeness with JunSu." DongHae returned to watching the ceiling, but this time with peace instead of worry.
"Hae, promise me one thing?" HyukJae asked lightly, but the tones of seriousness were present underneath.
DongHae put a finger to his lips in thought. "Anything that doesn't involve your foot odor."
HyukJae laughed, caught off-guard. "Then you'll be glad to hear this one. One day, when we're both seated officers of our own Divisions..." He trailed to a stop, unsure of whether to continue.
"Yeah?" DongHae egged on, eyes bright and wide open.
HyukJae released a breath he didn't know he was holding. "Nevermind. It's stupid, anyway."
"C'mon, say it!"
"When we're both officers of our Divisions," HyukJae picked up, "and we have time to ourselves again, we'll work on bringing our closeness back to this level. This kind where it's not weird that we're sharing a bed and we're talking about stuff that the guy code just doesn't allow. Just that." HyukJae laughed self-consciously. "I told you it was stupid."
"I expected nothing more," DongHae teased, but already their laughter was weaker. "But sure. I promise. One day, when we're both officers."
HyukJae wondered when that would be.
He hoped like hell, with every power in his body, that it would be soon.
The bright sunlight woke HyukJae on DongHae's bed. Alone.
He looked around and fought the oncoming sadness of seeing DongHae's side of the room completely barren. He had things to do, people to meet. A Division to enlist in. A friend to catch up with.
And a promise to keep.
A breeze blew in from the window, followed by a merry tinkling he'd heard every day for years. HyukJae's eyes were drawn to his soul cutter, propped up against the wall.
With a very familiar wind chime tied to the hilt.
HyukJae grinned, bittersweet, and began to get on with his life.
[Continue to Chapter 8]
A/N: So. Just let me get the graduation excitement out of my system and we can return to the regular Survivability stories :D I hope you still enjoyed this!
I was aiming for a fluffy comedic piece about celebrating graduation, but I don't know what happened because it turned into this. I'm still glad, though ;) I was worried that I'd lost the inspiration to write fics, but I was still able to produce something at least. Short compared to my usual ones, sure… but we'll build up slowly to my usual lengths. :D
Also, if you could spare an eardrum or two, I sang during my graduation's Baccalaureate Mass. Well, one of the singers, anyway. ;)