What was he even doing? Quite honestly, was this even happening right now? The flower boy was here, and from what the whispers around Seoul were saying, Kang Daesung had made a disappearance, and no one had seen head or tails of the smiley ball of sunshine. God forbid he was— No. Jaehyo never wanted to think of Daesung being alive and well somewhere. Daesung always did what he wanted for everyone, and their antics together were priceless. How could just one day, someone so wonderful just— poofs and doesn’t seem to exist anymore? No way. He was crying, he felt the wet droplets start rolling down his cheeks. He quickly wiped at them. When was it ever serious, if it was about Daesung? He knew he had gone off to be with his love— but— he just.
Maybe he didn’t get it. Jaehyo didn’t want to understand why this was happening, and why he felt he had to say good bye to someone that no one even knew was really gone or not? Jaehyo didn’t want to say good bye to Daesung, and from the looks of everyone around, he believed that god was playing a cruel joke on these poor souls who were missing their friend, brother and whatever else Daesung meant to them. This wasn’t a good joke. He believed in the lord, and hoped this just was some big mean prank. Because well in all honesty, if God wants to throw jokes around like this.
Then God just wasn’t funny anymore.
He sort jumped feeling the woman who was leading the vigil tap at his shoulder— it was his turn to light the candle and say a prayer for his lost friend. What was even going to say? Come back? Too typical. Please be okay? Too worrisome. Their relationship had always been fun, and funny. Always up to something, hell he saved him from a hangover back at Seongnam. What was going to say to him? He cleared his throat trying to give a small smile as he walked, but he quickly let it fade as he placed the candle among the others. He looked at the picture of his friend then glanced at the ground, Jaehyo let a few more tears slip from his eyes. Then as he started to walk on, glancing over at Daesung’s parents and seeing all of his friends trying to deal with this in their own way—-
It was heart breaking, and Jaehyo felt the heaviness weigh onto him, and he needed to get out. He wanted to go, and leave. He gave a quiet bow and good bye, to the Kang’s and a nod of understanding to the other people that were around for to see him off.
Kang Daesung, wherever you are. Don’t drink, brodie, you know you get crazy. Another thing, don’t even try replacing me with someone more handsome.
And.. Daesung.. we—
Come back to us. Heaven doesn’t need you.
Not yet, tell God to stop being so damn selfish.
Eunji didn’t know exactly why she’d been contacted about this whole vigil… thing. It’d been, what, a year since she’d even seen him? If not a whole year, nearly so. Had Daesung ever explained to his parents that her brief stint as his wife was a complete joke? Or did he just tell them he got a divorce and ran off into the sunset with his roommate? She wasn’t sure what happened exactly- all she knew was that Daesung was missing, and for some reason, his family thought she’d want to be at the vigil.
It wasn’t until she boarded the bus that she realized it was the same route she took with him the day she met his family. Obviously it was the same one, of course it was, it was the only bus that went that route- but Eunji didn’t like change and it was weird to board the bus without Daesung next to her, coaching her on how to be his fake wife for the day. Every once in a while, she wondered what Daesung would have thought if he knew she was playing a fake girlfriend these days. Or that she’d played one before, for that matter. But he didn’t know because she never told him. She never told him anything, except maybe to simmer down and stop hugging her.
Eunji hadn’t been to a church since… well, since she left home. Thankfully, she didn’t get struck by lightning or smited by the hand of God on her way through the door- though, perhaps that would have been easier than facing Daesung’s parents. They looked tired, as if they’d aged far more than they should have than the year since Eunji had last seen them. Her heart clunked like a rock caught in a lawn mower at the sight of them- is this what her parents looked like when she left?
She bowed politely and opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Given the amount of people in the room and the amount of silence in the room, this seemed like a common affliction, and his parents just nodded knowingly before turning to the next person behind her in line.
She wasn’t sure where to go from there, so she just found a spot at an empty pew toward the back of the room. Some guy came from the front of the room and sat at the other end of the pew, leaning his elbows on his knees and running his hands through his brown hair with a sigh. He and Eunji happened to look over at the same moment, and she thought something about him looked familiar. She nodded to him- it seemed like the polite thing to do- and he returned the gesture before they both turned away. Must be some kid from school. There would probably be a lot of them in and out of the room today. Daesung had way too many friends.
Eunji had never been to a vigil before. What was she supposed to do? She watched as people slowly took turns walking up to the front of the room with candles. She always thought candles in church were so weird- weren’t they supposed to be prayers or something? Eunji didn’t really believe in God or prayer anymore, was she even allowed to light one?
The question was answered for her when someone tapped her on the shoulder and pointed to the front of the room. She tried to shake her head- no, she was fine where she was, she didn’t really belong here and she’d leave soon- but the person must have mistook her reddening eyes to mean that she was just too grief-stricken to go alone. The woman guided Eunji, who still couldn’t seem to find her voice anywhere in her tightening throat, to the front of the room. She tried to hand Eunji a candle and a matchbook, but Eunji held up her hands in refusal, shaking her head and trying to smile politely even though her face didn’t want to cooperate, the corners of her mouth refusing to rise very far.
A candle didn’t seem right. Candles burn down, blow out, fade away until you’ve forgotten they were there in the first place. And maybe that was supposed to be some sort of metaphor for life or prayer or… well, she didn’t really know what, but it seemed wrong. Just a band-aid on a situation to make people feel like they were doing something when they weren’t.
She turned to look at the picture at the center of the little memorial thing- a picture of Daesung laughing and smiling so widely that his eyes disappeared- and she felt like she’d seen it before. Then again, his face was kind of always like that. She felt like she was supposed to say something or do something meaningful, but sentimental gestures had never been Eunji’s forte.
She reached up and touched the edge of the frame for a moment, then turn and walked straight down the center aisle and out the sanctuary doors, right out of the church without stopping. She thought she saw people she recognized along the way, but even at her best she wasn’t one to stop and talk. And today, she was certainly not at her best. She probably should have stopped to say goodbye to his parents, but she couldn’t just stand there mute and intrude on their grief and their time with people who actually had things to say. She should have never come in the first place.
She only had one thought for Daesung as she left- not a prayer, because would be stupid- just a thought.
You’re a better person than I am, Kang Daesung. Prove it and come back.
An envelope delivered to the church, addressed to Daesung and left with the cards and flowers and other small gifts that people either left there or sent along.
I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to your party, you know I’m not great at these big social events. I hope I didn’t miss much.
You promised me you’d invite me to your wedding, remember? I’m not gonna be at Seongnam that much longer, so you better hurry up and get to it before my address changes and you don’t know where to send the invitation. Be sure to count me for a plus-one… I’m pretty sure I’ll have a date to bring along~ I know I said I’d wear a pretty dress, but I think I’ll leave that to her.
That’s all I’m gonna say until you get back, I want to tell you in person! So come home soon.
Lay the flowers on the ground,
whisper a tentative au revoir.
To the one I did not meet,
I humbly give my respects.
His anger was channeled;
his denial a current being.
Her anger was channeled,
the fire that burned down everything
He took up drinking,
Their bodies shaking
as the heat evaporated from their limbs.
I will be the one to watch over them.
I will protect them.
To you in two thousand years,
it is not a matter of “will you hear?”
It is a matter of “when you will hear”
their quiet cries of
Tu me manques, tu me manques.
It was weird, walking in the room full of vaguely familiar strangers. She wouldn’t have even known, except some guy- Dae’s apparent cousin had tracked her down. A not so simple task, considering she’d been living in Thailand for the past several months. She never dealt with endings very well, and like every other time she’d end up running away. But she couldn’t run away from this, it wouldn’t have been fair to Daesung. Not saying this was fair, but she certainly didn’t have to add to it.
Amber turned down the candle offered to her, choosing instead to shove both of her hands in her pockets. Lord knows all she needed to do is make one false move and set the table on fire or something. No, it was safer to just leave her gift.
Pausing momentarily to look at some of the gifts laid out, objects that were supposed to, and yet no way encapsulated the shortest and largest life she’d ever, and would ever had the chance know.
"So we’ll never run out again, even if it’s four in the morning and we’re too drunk to go to the store."
Out of the pockets of her cargo pants, she pulled out a bag of plastic spoons and forks. It’d taken her several trips to a few grocery stores to find one packet with just the two, and no knives. No knives, the plastic versions were useless, but still buy in bulk when you can. Amber tried to give the handful of napkins she’d nicked from a restaurant, one they’d gone to right at close and had been treated horribly by the wait staff, but she found herself in need of them. She was sure Dae wouldn’t mind if she used them to wipe the tears that streaked down the side of her face.
One of the things about Kwon Jiyong that always confused people was that no matter how much he had lived through or how much he had been broken and put back together however many different ways, he was oftentimes a mixture of both strength and weakness. He knew how to fight, physically and mentally, and he knew how to stay resilient in the face of adversity, but he crumbled under the weight of such small things sometimes. Maybe that was his kryptonite: small, insignificant details. He was always willing to push further for the little things, sacrifice more for them. He was willing to stay in abusive relationships for the tiny moments of joy. He could figure out ways to push through mountains, but dig someone’s grave? He’d fall to pieces.
He couldn’t stop shaking just from just putting candles on a table. It seemed like such a simple task when he’d offered to do it before. Light candles. Prop up photo frames. Arrange them like so. Simple. Except his hands wouldn’t stop trembling and his eyes wouldn’t stop blurring and no matter who tried to comfort him or how many supportive texts he got, he couldn’t stop gasping for air. He was a fish out of water.
He didn’t handle these sorts of situations very well. When he was eleven, after his sister had gone missing, only his aunt had wanted a candlelight vigil. He’d never wanted to do anything like this, not for anyone. It was a funeral for the undead, a memorial for people who clung to a hope that should never be said, something that could never be confirmed. Will they ever come back? Is this really goodbye? What will happen to the rest of us now?
He would rather have been putting bullets in his head than candles on this table, decorating a shrine to a guy who’s smile was brighter than all this—this was practically an insult. Candles? These were too small. Jiyong wanted to pull the stars down and light up the entire hemisphere, something that would really show: Kang Daesung would be missed.
He hadn’t realized how hard he’d been crying until a hand rested on his shoulder, making him blink and look up. “Noona,” he sniffled. Kiko nodded, offering him a handkerchief. He pressed his lips together and nodded back to her, accepting the offering and stepping away from the shrine. Putting distance between him and the table felt like opening up his chest and losing his innards in the grass, but he knew he had to. Kiko was right, he had to move away, look away. His wet eyes were burning.
He let her lead him over to where everyone else was getting personal candles, something for them to hold, something to connect them to the shrine. Jiyong accepted his and watched the flame dance. He was a dragonblood, which gave him a unique connection to fire and made him a beacon of heat, but Daesung had always been light. Daesung was always the sun, constant and steady and bright, bright white. He could be blinding if you looked at him too close.
He stood next to Kiko, consciously aware that he should not lean on her or touch her at all. She was dressed in an all-white gown with a hood and long sleeves. She looked ethereal in the dimness but Jiyong knew better—she was nowhere near peaceful. Her face was calm and serene, a well-constructed mask, hiding whatever turmoil she didn’t want him or any of them to see. She was over 800 years old, so he was sure she’d seen a few funerals before. He wondered how affected she really was.
The first person to approach the shrine after Jiyong was an older man with a creased face and jet black hair. He had a little girl with him, her hair up in pigtails, who seemed to be struggling with the candle, trying not to burn herself. “Come on, Haru…” the man said gently, setting his candle on the table in front of one of the pictures of Daesung laughing hysterically. Once the little girl copied her daddy, they both took a step backwards and bowed 90 degrees to the shrine. The man stared at the table for just a little while longer, taking in the images, and then pulled away quickly.
Jiyong turned his head when he heard quiet whispering, watched as a young man with brown hair stepped up and bowed to the shrine before leaning forward to see the photos better. He looked familiar and Jiyong recognized him from a few of the pictures he himself had set up on the table. Cho Kyuhyun. “Hey Daesungie,” the guy whispered. “Been a while. This really isn’t fair, you were supposed to stick around for my comeback, damn it. We were gonna be DaeKyu again, remember? Asshole.” He chuckled. “You’re really unfair. You still owe me like 5 bucks and a karaoke night, so hull ass back here soon… Night night, Brodie.” He set his candle down and turned away.
After that, a young girl came up to the table and there was a frailness about her, a tension, like she was constantly waiting for the proverbial ball to drop on her. There was something about her that looked so unfinished and Jiyong thought that if he were to draw her portrait, he would leave it half-finished, and it would be a tragedy. But she had kind eyes. She didn’t say anything but she left more than just her candle at the table. She took a necklace with a big heart medallion out of her pocket, letting it dangle for a minute before setting it down next to her candle.
Jiyong swallowed hard when the guy that he regarded as his little brother stepped up to the plate. Like the girl before him, he didn’t say anything, but he bowed and gently touched every picture as though he were blessing them. Knowing him though, it was more like he was trying to feel a connection to Daesung, like a dog picking up a scent.
“Are you going to go up?” Kiko asked and Jiyong turned towards her, only to realize she wasn’t talking to him. Her head was turned away, looking over at a taller, dark-haired boy standing on the other side of her. Jiyong hadn’t seen him before, not that that was surprising. There were quite a few people here that Jiyong didn’t know.
The guy looked at a loss for words, his eyes darting around nervously, before mumbling, “I didn’t really know him… I wouldn’t know what to say or do…”
Kiko seemed to understand that, nodding somberly and turning away. “Well… I am his successor, so I must pay my due like the rest.” She walked up to the shrine, the thudding of her heels muffled by the earth, and for a moment, Jiyong was fascinated by the dreamlike delicacy of her movements. It was probably some genie enchantment she had casted on herself though, so he shook himself out of it. “Daesnuggle,” she whispered to the shrine. “I knew you in your other form, the archangel version. I suppose that was something of your last reincarnation. I don’t want to meet your next. I liked this version. Go you safe and keep you safe, and come safe home to us.” She curtseyed slowly and placed her candle on the table.
Jiyong didn’t know if it was his turn or not. He didn’t know the procedure of these sorts of things. He didn’t know if it was over or if someone else would step up and pay respects to the missing person. Most of him hoped so, but if not, that would be okay too. Small gatherings were fine and he shouldn’t expect anyone else to come. But would they? Would anyone else say goodbye?
He smiled sadly to himself. Probably not. Still though… Everyone here and he himself got to say goodbye. That would be enough.
I just have to blink, right?
“I ruined us.”