Summary: Eli forgets Korean on a Thursday.
A/N: Not sure how I feel about this one yet, but here's 5k+ words of Elvin! \o/
Eli forgets Korean on a Thursday.
He had woken up as normal that morning, bright and early, and had gotten ready in a sleepy haze. The writing on things in his apartment and their manager's cheerful greeting was always muddled at best in the mornings and thus, Eli thought nothing of it. He slept the entire way to their company, the Korean songs on his ipod giving him a headache.
When they arrive at their studio, Soohyun immediately leads them through their vocal warm-ups without saying anything and when they're finished, he looks directly at Eli and says, "Fsdieogtv, dfjs odhr saughwetkc."
Eli stares at him blankly for a moment. "What?"
"Fsdieogtv, dfjs odhr saughwetkc," he repeats, slower this time. Eli looks around and notices everyone is staring at him expectantly.
His heart picks up speed as he nervously responds, "I have no idea what you're saying."
Kevin frowns at him, translating Soohyun's statement into English. "He says you're recording first today."
"Oh," Eli glares at their leader. "Why didn't you just say that?"
The other boys start to laugh at that, Eli cracking a smile and calming down when Soohyun starts shouting, "Oh! So sorry! Do you like kimchi?!"
They play around for awhile, yelling broken English at the top of their lungs and pushing each other around. Eli is almost certain that he was just tired before, and that he really should listen better when the others talk to him. Their manager suddenly enters at that point and all humor leaves Eli's face when he announces, "Kfvvkeos. Slcergjsne shjer ks oegpdx."
Eli looks around suspiciously. "Is this a hidden camera? Why are you guys talking like that?"
"Like what?" AJ asks.
"Tdixzowenl," chimes in Hoon.
"Like that!" Eli points accusingly at Hoon. The other boy looks startled and mutters weakly to himself as he shuffles behind Soohyun.
There's a pause before Kevin questions cautiously, "In Korean?"
"That's not Korean!" Eli insists, verging on frantic now. None of them were dressed for a camera… this can't be a prank, right? "It's gibberish! I know Korean! See, here—"
Eli opens his mouth and nothing comes out. He racks his brain frantically for something, anything to say. He tries to remember things his mother used to say to his father, the things written on his shampoo bottle, even their lyrics, but nothing comes up. He can't remember anything.
Swiftly he turns towards Kevin and whispers, "I don't remember."
"What do you—"
"I don't remember. Nothing; none of it. It's all gone. All I have is English."
"Eli, stop fucking around," AJ snaps. "Drjpwoxwntgkie."
"Cdejrgjib, dswio dnasng gthd. Wdfgdolh sdf k etfresx fhe dgheagt," Soohyun says seriously, giving Eli a disappointed stare. It was his leader voice, Eli knew, and the fact that everyone thought he would joke about this was making him annoyed.
Eli looks at Kevin once again, pleading, "You believe me, right?"
Kevin eyes him warily, sending a nervous glance over to where Soohyun is standing with his arms crossed. That's all the answer Eli needs, storming out and making his way down the hall, planning to cool off at home and sleep this off.
Eli takes steady steps to the elevator at the end of the hallway, each step filling his head with more doubts and worries. What was he supposed to do now? He'd have to leave the country, maybe go home, go to college.
Kevin catches up to Eli just as the elevator dings open, slipping in as Eli frantically pushes the close door button. Kevin watches him and Eli watches the floors tick down. Seven, six, five…
Finally Kevin opens his mouth and says cautiously, "You really don't remember?"
"Kevin, why would I joke about this? When we're supposed to be recording? How could I make this up?" Eli looks desperately at Kevin, begging him to understand. "I've completely forgotten everything. I can't read it, I can't speak it and I can't understand it."
They reach the bottom floor in silence and Kevin gently touches Eli's arm. "Maybe," he clears his throat. "Maybe we should see a doctor."
They visit the doctor on a Friday—and then Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Eli sits each day in a haze of fear, everyone around him speaking to Kevin, about him, in gibberish. They look past him, never meeting his eyes as they poke and prod and test every part of him. They start with his lungs, his throat, his vocal cords—all things that had nothing to do with his problem, and he would have been livid had Kevin not been clasping his hand supportively as he stands next to him.
Kevin and a doctor exchange some words quietly (Eli tries to listen in, but he hears, "Idjsgoe afd dib wsrtcx" and "Wdjbvt afob tpere" and gives up.) and then they start the tests on his brain. Eli briefly wonders how much this will cost, or where Kevin found this doctor, but is soon lost in a flurry of wires and machines.
The last test they do is an MRI, the doctor guiding Eli to another room with a gently spoken, "Fogersfl."
After a few minutes, the doctor pulls Kevin to the side and explains something to him, hands him some papers, and leaves.
Kevin looks at Eli, something distinctly different in his eyes and says, "C'mon."
The car ride is chokingly silent until Kevin mutters, "They say it's a mental thing. They gave me a list of psychiatrists—but we'll have to call them to find out which ones can speak English."
Eli doesn't have to look over at Kevin to know he's eying him with ill-masked pity, and something akin to fear.
The next day, NHM announces that U-Kiss are taking a hiatus and their album will be delayed indefinitely. Eli gets calls, text messages and tweets all day but he ignores them all. He spends the day wallowing miserably in his apartment, eating only things that have pictures on the packaging and watching Arirang. Eli thinks this must be what it feels like to be an international fan.
Eli spends three days like this before Kevin shows up, easily getting past the lock on his door that requires a security code. The man in question is sitting on the floor, alternating between eating ice cream and playing a video game. Eli is startled when Kevin arrives and exclaims, "How the fuck did you get in here?"
Kevin eyes him with ill-masked disgust, ignoring the question to say, "You look like shit. And smell like it too."
"How did you know the code?"
"Your little sister's birthday, Eli?" Kevin scoffs. "You're too easy. Now get up, go shower and get dressed. We're going out."
They stare each other down for a few seconds before Eli turns back to his game, muttering, "Fuck off."
"Eli, I swear to god," Kevin starts, but seeing that Eli is ignoring him, he cuts himself off. He made a damn psychiatrist appointment that he paid for and Eli is going to go to it if it's the last thing he does.
Fed up with being ignored, Kevin goes to the game system and pulls out all the cords he can find, effectively shutting the system down. Eli shouts at him, but Kevin is too busy trying to drag the boy to his feet and push him towards his bathroom. Eventually Eli stops struggling and does what he's told, not without angry grumbles, and the boy refuses to speak to Kevin the entire way to the psychiatrist's office.
It isn't until twenty minutes into his first hour-long appointment that Eli cannot take the silence any longer and says, "Are you ever going to ask me something?"
The woman lifts her eyes from the notepad where she had been writing something before, glancing at Eli and saying, "I was waiting for you to feel comfortable enough to talk."
"Isn't your job to figure out what's wrong with me?" Eli snaps. "So figure it out and let me go."
"You seem angry," the woman says, and Eli is certain she's smirking condescendingly at him. "You should let that out. It's not every day that someone forgets a language, it's okay to be upset."
"The only thing I'm fucking upset about is having to be here. Just get me a goddamn tutor, there's nothing fucking wrong with me." The woman simply hums in response and Eli determinedly keeps his mouth shut for the rest of the appointment, the two sitting in uncomfortable silence for the next half hour.
Kevin wisely doesn't say anything when he comes to pick Eli up—in Eli's car, the boy notices—and takes them back to the apartment. Eli slams around his house for about ten minutes; aggressively kicking his shoes off, balling up his shirt and throwing it at his lamp, slamming doors wherever he goes.
When Eli finally calms down enough to stop trying to destroy all his possessions, he comes back out of his bedroom and heads to the kitchen for a drink. When he gets to his kitchen, Kevin is surprisingly still there, back turned towards Eli. He hears the sound of the skillet and sees the small light on the rice cooker. He's cooking dinner, Eli realizes. He sits down and watches Kevin cook for a while, as the other boy watches him out of the corner of his eye.
When Kevin sets a bowl down in front of Eli, he mumbles a "thank you" and quickly eats.
After Eli finishes, he rinses his dish and turns determinedly to Kevin, stating, "I think instead of the shrink, we should get me a Korean teacher."
Kevin frowns at the suggestion. "But you completely forgot," Eli winces at the reminder. "That's not normal. We should have someone make sure you're okay."
"There's nothing fucking wrong with me!" Eli snaps, slamming his hand down on the counter.
"Obviously there is!" Kevin yells back, anger making his face red. "You used to be fluent, now you know nothing. You'd need a tutor to be here for hours every day."
"So? It's like riding a bicycle, I'll remember it all once I start again."
"Stop taking this so lightly!" Kevin screams, hitting his own hand on the counter and panting from how worked up he is. "How the fuck are you going to pay for a tutor to be here, like, forty hours a week? With all the money you're not making with U-Kiss right now? Just try the damn shrink for a month; that's only eight appointments—two a week."
Eli sighs heavily and weighs his options. He agrees with Kevin that something must be wrong, but he doesn't want to admit to it, and besides, he feels fine. Maybe the psychiatrist can unlock some hidden secret and he'll remember Korean again. Besides, he's not too keen on having to do lessons and homework again.
"Fine." Eli grumbles, pushing past Kevin to go to the living room.
"Wait!" Kevin calls out to him, grabbing his arm as he passes. Eli looks at him questioningly and he continues, "In the mean time, I can teach you the alphabet and some phrases. If you want."
Eli looks more relieved at that and says, "Yeah, that'd be good."
They eventually decide that it would be easier for Kevin to live with Eli temporarily so that he can teach him and drive him to his appointments. Despite Eli's earlier resistance, the two quickly settle into a comfortable routine. Eli goes to appointments on Tuesdays and Fridays and Kevin teaches him Korean all the other days. Eli assumes that while he's at his appointments, Kevin goes to his place to see his parents and get more of his stuff because as time goes on, Kevin's things start filling his apartment. Everywhere Eli looks, there is traces of the other boy.
His table is covered with notebooks and worksheets printed from the internet; his laundry basket full of Kevin's smaller clothes. There's an extra pair of shoes at the door and another toothbrush sitting innocently beside Eli's. It's all very domestic, and Eli catches himself thinking sometimes that this must be what it's like to have a girlfriend.
Kevin seems to think Eli is prone to break at any moment and thus he takes care of him as well as he can—cooking him all three meals every day and doing his laundry and checking the mail. It's not that he has to, Eli never asked him to do those things, but Kevin feels an odd sense of purpose when he takes care of Eli. He's always babied at home, so it's nice being needed for once.
Eli still remains bitter and silent on the drives to the appointments, but generally their relationship is just as it always was. They joke, they horse around, they flirt a little too. The dynamic would be exactly the same if not for the lack of schedules and the amount of English they speak. Yet, despite the differences, it's comfortable. They forget the bigger troubles facing them and the others right now, and instead focus on the minor problems of daily life with each other—like who ate the last of the kimchi (Kevin) or who drew a crude drawing of male genitalia on the worksheets (Eli).
The routine calms Eli down enough that he's willing to talk during his appointments, though he's still certain they're a waste of time. How can this woman solve his problem if all she asks is about is what he used to do with U-Kiss and what he's been doing now? The conversations are arbitrary to the point of frustration, but sometimes Eli is sure she has an ulterior motive. He has yet to figure out what it is.
It's a sunny Friday afternoon when Eli sits down on the couch across from his psychiatrist, mentally counting back the amount of appointments he's done. This is the sixth one, and he only has two more to go before he can stop. The thought brightens Eli's mood a bit, and he decides to humor the woman more than usual today.
Eli starts the conversation without hesitation, saying, "My Korean is already getting really good. I'll be back to normal in no time."
The woman eyes him and sounds nothing short of disbelieving when she responds with, "Really? That's wonderful."
"Yeah," Eli explains. "Kevin's been teaching me like, every day so I'm getting really good. He's an awesome teacher."
She perks up almost undetectably at that. "Oh? How so?"
"I don't know," Eli begins, already wary of where this conversation is going. The woman normally seems bored at best, so for her to be interested in Kevin all of a sudden is suspicious. "He just… makes it understandable. He got notebooks and worksheets and it's like school again but not really because none of my teachers were nice or made me food."
She chuckles at that, and gestures for him to continue. Eli doesn't really know what she wants, but he keeps talking anyways.
"He doesn't treat me like I'm stupid either, even though I'm basically like a little kid with Korean. Even when he was teaching me the alphabet, he did it with flashcards and they had stupid little pictures on them and it was, it was really cute—he's cute."
She raises her eyebrow at 'cute' and Eli flushes red as he realizes what he said. She writes something down on her clipboard and then says, "Are you close to Kevin?"
Eli isn't stupid and sees where she is going with this, so he tries to backpedal. "Well, I mean, not really. I'm closer to other members, y'know? It's just that he is the only one who understands me right now—like, like in English not in a deep way. So it made sense for him to move in and help me…"
"He lives with you?"
"I— Only temporarily!" Eli's explanations seem to fall on deaf ears, as the woman is already scribbling on her papers and smiling—as always, condescendingly—at Eli. Great, he thinks. Now she thinks we're dating.
Eli stews in his annoyance the entire car ride home, angry and embarrassed at his sexuality being put into question. This woman knows almost nothing about him, who is she to act like she has him figured out? Actually seeing Kevin manages to continuously remind him of the conversation and of how she pestered him for details about their relationship after Eli had mentioned they were living together. He gets irrationally angry at the younger boy, determinedly ignoring him even as they step inside his apartment and he asks Eli what he wants for dinner.
Eli goes smashing around his house like he did the first time he came back from an appointment, eventually ending up in his room to throw some more things around. This time Kevin isn't as afraid to confront him, the boy knocking at Eli's door after a few minutes.
"Eli?" His voice sounds concerned through the door, all too caring and sweet for Eli's taste. "Are you okay? Do you want to talk?"
"Fuck off!" Eli shouts back, pulling his drawers open angrily to find some pajamas to change into.
There's a moment of silence before Kevin sighs, "Eli. Come on."
Eli ignores him in hopes that the other boy will go away, stripping off his clothes for the day. Kevin contemplates just going to the kitchen to make dinner, but figures that he spent so much time getting Eli to calm down about his situation and he wasn't about to let it all go to waste. He opens the door, surprised it isn't locked, and gasps quietly at the sight of Eli wearing only boxers and pulling on a pair of sweatpants.
Eli hears the other boy and his head snaps to the door, face contorting into a mask of rage.
"Get the fuck out!" He yells, hastily pulling up the sweatpants and holding his shirt in front of his chest. "Stop fucking staring, you freak! Are you interested?"
Kevin jumps slightly at the pure anger in Eli's voice and hastily turns around, slamming the door behind him.
It takes him another hour to calm down, Eli going around his room and cleaning up the mess he made while waiting for his breathing and heart rate to become normal once again. He's not sure what Kevin is doing, but there's minimal noise coming from outside his door. More than anything, Eli is surprised that Kevin didn't leave.
Eli wanted to stay in his room for the rest of the night, already embarrassed at his outburst, but nature calls and he finds himself tip-toeing out of his room towards the bathroom. On his way back to his room, he stops outside his door and listens for Kevin. He isn't sure if he's hearing correctly at first, but—there it was. The soft sound of Kevin singing. The song was slow and sad, but ultimately sounded familiar to Eli. The realization hits him all of a sudden, Eli releasing the breath he didn't notice he was holding.
It was one of their songs.
When Eli had first joined U-Kiss, he barely spoke any Korean and thus, whenever they had a break in their practice he found himself sitting next to Kevin in an attempt to strike up a conversation with the boy in English. Kevin was hard to get alone normally, his Korean being much better and allowing him to converse with the other members with ease, a fact that Eli was infinitely jealous of. But on the rare days when everyone was too tired to think and even Kevin couldn't find the right words in Korean, the boy would come sit next to Eli of his own accord and the two would chat happily. Normally the conversation was light; they would talk about TV shows and movies they watched as a kid or debate whether the East coast or the West coast was better. One day in particular, Eli was feeling especially curious and started up a conversation about how they ended up in U-Kiss. Eli's story was simple, but he was surprised at the details of Kevin's past with a different boy group.
When Eli asked him why he did it, why he wanted to go through the toughness of being an idol so bad that he was willing to do it twice, Kevin went quiet. Eli immediately grew concerned, thinking he offended the boy somehow. He was about to apologize when Kevin spoke up, voice much quieter now, and tried to explain his reasons. Eli sat silently as Kevin told him how much singing meant to him, how he was willing to do anything as long as he could sing and how—more than anything—he'd be completely lost without U-Kiss, without music.
Eli sat in awe of the other boy's passion, doubting his own reasons for joining as they seemed to lackluster in comparison to Kevin's. He loved music, but not enough to give up everything. It amazed Eli that someone could love something so much, something not someone, and he found himself longing to be able to love so unconditionally.
Eli lays in his bed dejectedly for the rest of the night, keeping still and holding his breath in an effort to hear Kevin from the living room. The boy kept singing the same song a few times over, but no matter how hard Eli tried, he couldn't understand the words. Yet he could understand the feeling, and the longing and depression of the melody were coursing through him, bringing an awareness he didn't have before.
He hadn't heard Kevin sing since before this entire incident. It was something the boy loved to do, something he would do every day; but since Kevin moved in he hadn't done it once. However, Eli had been too selfish to notice, too wrapped up his own problems to care. All he could think about was how this was affecting his life, but he wasn't the only one whose life was changed by this, all the other boys had to deal with it. U-Kiss was their lives and it all had to abruptly stop because of him.
The guilt sits on his chest, making it harder and harder to breath and right before he falls asleep he vaguely realizes that Kevin has stopped singing and that all noise from the living room has stopped.
The next morning Eli feels decidedly more level-headed, ready to face the day and to apologize to Kevin. Maybe even call up the other boys and say sorry to them too. But when Eli goes out into his living room, no one is there. He checks the kitchen, even the closet, before trying the bathroom as a last shot. The boy is nowhere to be found, but as Eli pokes his head in the bathroom he notices the extra toothbrush is missing.
All at once he springs to action, showering and getting dressed quickly. He grabs his Korean notebook as he runs out the door, hoping to god he can figure out the way to Kevin's place by memory alone. Eli gets all the way to the bottom of his building before realizing he didn't take his keys. He decides to brave the subway instead, figuring that trying to drive without being able to read street signs would probably get him killed.
When he gets to the station, he spends a good twenty minutes staring at the map before giving up, texting AJ a frantic "were da fuck does kev live???? in korean plz!!". AJ almost immediately responds with Kevin's entire address, including the postal code, and Eli uses that to figure out, he hopes, the path to his apartment. He buys his ticket mainly by pointing at things and spouting random Korean words. When he finally settles himself on the subway car, he's restless, running through everything he wants to say and praying he chose the right path.
Unsurprisingly, he didn't choose the right route. He gets off at a random stop after an hour and wanders around the station desperately for awhile before spotting a foreigner. He bombards the woman, finding out that she's a teacher and knows the systems very well. With the woman's help he finally arrives outside Kevin's building—three hours later.
Eli hits the buzzer for Kevin's apartment and waits, hoping desperately that the boy was there. There's silence for a moment before a crackly voice calls out, "Hello?"
Eli sighs in relief and says, "Kevin, it's me. Please let me in."
Kevin pauses and Eli can imagine the boy's jaw dropping. "How—how did you get here?"
"It took me three fucking hours and I got lost and spent a lot of money and can you please just let me in!" Eli exclaims, immediately regretting it as his temper was what put the two boys in this situation to begin with. He's certain the boy is just going to ignore him, but another buzzer goes off and he tries the door. Surprisingly it opens, and Eli goes running in, heading for the nearest elevator and rushing to Kevin's apartment as fast as he can.
When he gets there, Kevin is already standing in the doorway and Eli almost knocks him over in his effort to get inside and pull the other boy into a hug. He can feel more than hear Kevin gasp at the sudden contact as he mutters, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
Kevin tries to pull back unsuccessfully as he says, "Eli…"
"No, wait, let me talk," Eli interrupts, wanting to get everything out as soon as possible before he forgets it.
"I'll let you talk if you let me breath first," Kevin says, smiling despite still being hurt because of the other boy. Eli lets him go at that, choosing instead to hold the other boy at arm's length, hands on Kevin's shoulders.
"Look, I—I'm sorry. I was stupid," Eli begins. "I was just really confused and angry all the time and the shrink made it worse and I didn't even realize how hard this was on you and everyone else. I was so, so selfish but understand I was scared too and lost and I never even realized how much you gave up for me and how difficult I was and I—"
"Eli, breathe!" Kevin cuts him off, noticing how Eli's voice was starting to trail off from not stopping to take a breath. Eli acquiesces, Kevin taking this time to speak. "It's okay, Eli, it's okay. This is hard on all of us, but especially you. I understand."
"I'm just really, really sorry for being such an asshole," Eli says, quieter this time. One of the hands on Kevin's shoulders come up to rest where Kevin's jaw meets his neck.
Kevin whispers back a small, "It's okay…" as his holds his breath, the two boys' eyes meeting and locking.
There's a moment of silence as Eli's thumb traces a line back and forth across Kevin's jaw, Eli seemingly unaware of it as he searches Kevin's eyes for forgiveness. When he finds what he's looking for—albeit amidst the confusion and surprise also swimming in the boy's eyes—his gaze drops down to where his hand is almost holding Kevin's face. His eyes trace the line his thumb makes across to the other boy's lips and stays there for a moment. Eli is suddenly struck with the urge to kiss the other boy, the relief flooding through his system making the idea seem logical.
Suddenly, the knowing face of the psychiatrist appears before his mind's eye and he jumps backwards as if burnt. There's a minute of awkward silence, both boys wondering what just happened. Kevin lets out a laugh and flees to the kitchen, saying that he's going to get some water. When he comes back, he has a glass for Eli too, who is sitting on the couch, and they both silently agree to ignore what just happened and just hang out for the day.
As the months fly by, Eli improves enough in his Korean to be able the visit the other members again. The first thing he does is apologize profusely, but they simply punch him in the arm and complain about him using informal language. It's still awkward, reminding Eli of his early days with the boys, but they manage to make it work.
Kevin moves back into Eli's apartment and somehow manages to convince Eli to continue his psychiatrist appointments despite his strong desire to break things whenever he's in her presence. They seem nowhere closer to figuring out what was wrong than they were a couple months ago, but at least Eli finds himself getting along with the woman better, even taking some of her advice. Although, his better relationship with her doesn't stop him from shouting happily when he is told that there won't be any appointment for the next week because of the holidays.
In spite of Eli's insistence that he never decorates for Christmas and he doesn’t need to start now, Kevin still drags him to a store to buy a miniature tree and ornaments. The trip turns into an impromptu Korean lesson as well, and Eli has enough fun that he's willing to buy every little item Kevin puts into their cart.
The following Thursday is Christmas day, a fact which Kevin makes very sure to alert Eli about at promptly seven in the morning. The boy is disgruntled and whiny, but Kevin presents him with a nice American-style breakfast and he finds his mood raising drastically. When he finally showers and gets changed, Eli remembers the gift he prepared for Kevin and suddenly nerves settle in the bottom of his stomach. He had worked on this for weeks in private, stressing over it almost daily.
He brings the item out as he goes to join Kevin in the living room, who has already put on a cheesy Christmas movie and is watching it avidly.
When Kevin notices him he turns and says, "My parents are making dinner tonight, do you want to join them?"
Eli smiles and says, "Of course" in Korean, Kevin beaming proudly at him when he does. Eli then holds out his hand and says, "Merry Christmas."
Kevin takes the item, a simple letter, and looks at it for a moment before glancing at Eli confusedly. "What is this?"
"It's your Christmas present, silly. Open it!" Eli smiles reassuringly at him, but drops the smile and starts to bite at his nails as the boy actually begins to open the letter. He watches Kevin's eyes go across the page, shock in his eyes as seeing the letter written entirely in Korean. Eli's face goes smug for a moment, especially when Kevin laughs at something he wrote.
Kevin's face goes serious once again as he gets towards the bottom of the page. Eli can feel his heart pounding in his ears as Kevin finally reaches the end of the letter. Kevin doesn't react at first, but when he looks up at Eli his eyes are decidedly more shiny than they were before.
"Eli…" He says softly, but doesn’t know what else to say after that. Kevin glances down at the letter one more time before standing up, the letter fluttering to the ground as he launches himself at Eli, wrapping the boy in a tight hug.
Eli lets out a laugh of relief as he holds the other boy, eventually getting up the courage to push Kevin back far enough to join their lips in a kiss. Kevin's body goes slack, the smaller boy holding on to Eli even tighter as they separate for a moment only to kiss again and again, grinning against each other's mouths.
Behind them, the letter sits innocently on the ground, the Korean characters written carefully and precisely across the page.