re-posting anything kpop, jpop and SEOUL..

리즈’S FAVE FANFIC

A BREATH OF SNOW AND LOVE

Written by: ShadowHelix and Phantom Peach of SJ-World.Net

(사랑해요 친구야~~!!! I had to post this because I love it so so much… By the way, if you repost this one, credit them and not me. Okay? They made this and loving it more cause I was in the story. Isn’t it great!!!  I love them both… If anyone ask, my name there is Reese for the obvious reason. ^^)

Prologue

Summary: Find out the relationships between the characters as they come to a decision to go on a graduation holiday together.

Song: Our Lives by The Calling

A boy snatched his bag from under his chair and hollered a quick goodbye to his band mates before rushing out of the practice room. Running down 4 flights of stairs and across the grassy field of Lee Soo Man’s Academy for the Gifted, Henry’s face broke into a large grin as he caught sight of the clique he belonged to. Their bodies were haphazardly sprawled on the ground beneath the old oak tree. Even though he was still quite a distance away from them, Henry could already hear the loud ruckus they were making.

Initially a high school, LSM Academy had expanded to include a middle school as well. An exclusive school for the rich, every different grade comprised of only 2 classes, where each class consisted of 30 students. Classes from grade 6-8 were mixed, where the students took general subjects while the high school split the cohort into 2 – one class was dedicated to the arts and the other, for the sciences.

It was a well known fact that whoever passed through the doors of the Academy would emerge as someone powerful and successful in the future; universities and companies even fought over the graduates. But the group that Henry belonged to was special. It was made up of almost all the top students, who excelled in both their academic studies as well as their after school activities.

There were even some who had attained leadership positions in their clubs and societies, though they were not in their last year of high school. Their families were among the richest in society and ran large global empires. The close bond between the children allowed the families to gain even more power as they dominated the economy and hence, such friendships were encouraged.

It was a typical Friday afternoon for the gang of friends, as they gathered at their normal spot to hang out after their extra school activities. After a quick scan over the mass of bodies, Henry realised that he was the last to arrive.

“Hey guys!” Henry voiced out, and a number of greetings were chorused back at him.

Flinging his bag on top of the massive pile of belongings, Henry made his way to his closest buddies within the group. Donghae and Ryeowook did not even flinch, as he dropped onto the ground and leaned his body against the trunk of the tree beside them – they simply continued arguing about who had the better taste in music.

Henry closed his eyes in fatigue. The day had been a horrible one for him! Returning from his short lunch break, Henry had found the strings on his violin broken. Trying to replace them minutes before his band practice had drained him of all his energy. Feeling someone poking him in the arm, he opened his eyes and tilted his head to the left, only to see his fellow classmate, Dian.

“You okay? You kinda look like you’re gonna drop dead” she asked, peering at him in concern.

Too tired to even speak, Henry gave a small smile before flapping his hand in an attempt to wave off her worries. It apparently worked, as she quickly turned back to Crystal and Ruzanna to continue gossiping about the latest movie – New Moon. Lifting his head slightly, Henry surveyed the scene before him, a constant buzz of conversation reaching his ear.

Somehow, the sound comforted him a little. Thinking about the complex dynamics of the group he belonged too, Henry, as one of the youngest, could not help but feel content. How a group of 23 people got along so well, he would never know. But he was glad that they did. A leadership camp organised by the school had brought together the majority of the group, as it was mandatory for every leader of a club or society to attend it.

There was Leeteuk, the oldest of them all and the unofficial leader of their little gang. He was always there to help smooth out the petty fights that occurred and he cared for everyone under him. He was extremely approachable, which gave the younger students the courage to find him in times of trouble. It was not much of a surprise, when he was elected the President of the Student Council.

His right hand man, or in this case, woman, was Reese, a cheerful girl who helped him out as the Vice-President. She ran the administrative side of the Council as she had an eye for details that Leeteuk did not possess. Henry suspected that his hyung liked Reese, but the school forbade members of the Council to engage in relationships. So unable to do anything else, Leeteuk had dragged Reese into their group to spend more time with her. No one objected, as the soft-spoken girl was extremely hard to dislike.

Yesung and Kangin were both from Leeteuk’s class, and were the Presidents of the Shooting Club and the Taekwondo Academy respectively. Yesung had dragged his girlfriend, Valerie, into their clique as the two were almost inseparable. It was a well-known fact that when Yesung was to graduate, Valerie would take over as the new President; she was just a grade below him.

As the Vice-President, she ran the Club with a tighter hand, stepping in when Yesung was too nice. Her discipline brought the Club to greater heights and her skill was unquestionable. The group had accepted her with no qualms, as she was a fiercely loyal girlfriend and friend to Yesung and the others, though albeit insane at times.

Henry could not agree more with how the others viewed her. But he thought it kind of sucked to have your older sister in the group, yes, Valerie was his older sister. But what made it worse was to have your younger sister as well.

Beverly, his twin sister who was younger than him by exactly 5 seconds thank you very much, was the leader of her Tennis Team. She was one of the few girls who made it as the leader of a club and Kangin had taken an instant liking to the playful girl. He saw her as the younger sister he never had and felt extremely protective of her. The two had instantly hit off and sometimes, Henry felt that Kangin was more like a brother to her than he was.

Henry also knew that Sungmin, Zhou Mi and Donghae were his older sister’s classmates. Sungmin was the leader of the Archery Club and Henry was aware of the close bond his older sister shared with him. The elder boy had a strong love for the colour pink, which had caused some malicious gossip to spread around the school during his first week. But his sister had ignored everyone and befriended him, resulting in them becoming best friends.

Zhou Mi was the captain of the Flying Club, which Henry thought was beyond awesome. The tales that the older boy shared with him left him breathless at times and he wondered what it would be like if he could fly too. Henry had overheard his older sister demand a flight from Zhou Mi once, and he swore that when the time was right, he would demand for one as well.

Donghae was the captain of his Soccer Team and he was one of Henry’s best friends. Though he was a year older, Donghae acted like he had a constant sugar rush and at times, Henry felt like he was the older one instead. Henry always felt that Donghae had a thing for his twin, the sneaky glances and longing eyes nearly drove him mad with exasperation.

But he admired Donghae’s devotion to matters of the soccer team. His respect for his hyung grew, when he saw Donghae managing the rowdy boys of the soccer team. It was tough and Henry understood that well enough. Donghae, he knew, was also close friends with Eunhyuk, the Leader of the Dance Club.

Though the two older boys were from different classes, he found out that Donghae liked to dance as well and sometimes, he would help Eunhyuk choreograph various dance routines. He finally met Eunhyuk in the leadership camp as well as Siwon and Shindong, Eunhyuk’s classmates.

Siwon was the President of the Adventure Club in the Academy and he was huge! Constant, tough training from the harsh circuits he had put his members and himself through had slowly built up the muscles in his body. His good looks and height could have easily placed Siwon in a modelling agency if he wanted to. But it was not his dream. He was attracted by the challenge of scaling a high rock wall, or paddling through rushing waters and of course his girlfriend, Ayame, also kept him more attached to the Academy.

Also a member in the Adventure Club, her love for risks and intense physical activities kept her wanting for more. He introduced her to the group one day, and Ayame was warmly welcomed by the other girls, who were happy to befriend another gossiping buddy. She was also Beverly’s classmate.

Shindong headed the Cooking Club in the Academy, where his love for eating had nurtured his love for cooking, mainly to feed his appetite. He was an easy going guy, who was able to draw loud peals of laughter from the group when he joked around. Henry loved the days when Shindong could not finish what he had cooked by himself and brought the leftovers for the group to share. He was by far, the best cook out of the group with maybe the exception of Ruzanna.

Like Shindong, Ruzanna was a member of the Cooking Club as well as a student in the Junior grade. Her main link through the group however, was through Heechul, the Captain of the Debate Team. He became notorious after a huge controversy involving his answer in the last National Debate Competition. Feeling bored and in no mood to argue, he simply rebutted his opponent with a ‘Because I said so.’ when his turn came up, and promptly sauntered off the stage. The school would have done something against him, but Henry was certain that even the teachers were afraid of his explosive temper. Heechul was also a fellow senior, in the same class as Reese and Hankyung.

Hankyung was the school’s Basketball star. Having trained from young, the senior was lean and quick and it was always amazing to see him weaving in and out on the court. Henry could only wish he was that capable, but his aim had always been horrible. He supposed the genes must have skipped him and his sisters got it instead, what with having a shooter and a tennis player in the family. As Captain of the Basketball Team, Hankyung had led his team to victory in every game he played. It was thus not shocking that he was one of the most sought after guys in school, but Henry really could not understand his choice in girlfriends.

Anne, Hankyung’s newest girlfriend, was simply a pain in the ass. Henry believed he had quite a good tolerance level and he was also pretty easy going. But God – when it came to that little, whiny, spoilt brat, sometimes all Henry wanted to do was to wrap his hands around her throat and squeeze – as tightly as possible – and he was sure that the others felt the same way too.

He could not figure out how Kibum tolerated her in the Drama Club. He was aware the girls had never fully accepted Anne and hence, she constantly draped herself over Hankyung. More often than not, Henry had heard Ruzanna complain about her annoying classmate to his older sister as she comforted the poor girl. Henry thought Hankyung was the most patient person in the whole world.

“Oh, Henry! I forgot to tell you,” Ryeowook’s voice suddenly broke through Henry’s thoughts.

Shaking his head slightly to clear his mind, he stared at Ryeowook with a look of curiosity on his face.

“You found your violin strings broken just now right? I saw Anne try to play your instrument during the break and I think she did something wrong because your strings snapped…”

Henry’s mind was taken over by a cloud of red fog. Inside his head, the only word reverberating around was a big “WHAT?!”. Unconsciously, his hands had started to grab at the air in front of him, as if he was choking something, and his lips pulled back to release a vicious snarl.

“Henry? Henry!” Ryeowook called out at him, trying to distract him from his murderous thoughts.

“Hey buddy. It’s okay man. We all know she’s a bitch. Come on. Relax man. One day she’ll have it coming to her and then we’ll be free of her okay? Breathe man, breathe.” Donghae added, seeing as how the snarling did not stop. Even Ayame, who was sitting a distance away with Siwon, Yesung and Valerie, had taken to staring at him.

Henry had to take several calming breaths before he could think clearly. Plotting carefully, he swore to get Yesung to teach him how to use a gun. He knew his sister would never let him near one, but he was sure he could manipulate Yesung successfully. Then he would get his revenge. Giving a terse nod to Ryeowook and Donghae, he settled back against the tree trunk and let his mind wander once more.

He was glad that he had Ryeowook as a friend and a classmate. It made him feel better going for the leadership camp knowing that Ryeowook, being the President of Choir, would be there too. Henry heard his friend sing countless of times before, but it always amazed him how angelic Ryeowook sounded. He had a remarkably strong voice for someone so small in stature. One day, he would get Ryeowook and the Choir to hold a duet with his Orchestra.

His other classmates, Dian and Crystal, also hung out in the group. Dian was a member of the Debate Club, who kept the Club going more than the president. Henry had heard her speak before and had seen her written work from time to time. The standard that she was at left him stunned, and to be honest, slightly jealous. He wondered if he would ever match up to her skills. Maybe he should ask her for tuition.

He knew Dian was dating Kibum, a quiet guy who was the president of the Drama Club. They met in middle school, as they were classmates for a year before separating into different classes in high school. It was pretty surprising when Henry first met Kibum, because he could not, for the life of him, understand how someone so quiet could act. Then he went to his first play and he saw how the Kibum on stage exuded so much confidence and power. He finally understood why Kibum was the President and why he was always given the male leads.

Crystal belonged to the Photography Club, which was led by Kyuhyun, Kibum’s classmate. Henry knew that the pair was dating through their subtle glances and comfortable exchanges. Henry rather liked the snarky boy when they met at the camp. His knowledge about almost everything was astounding and when he saw the pictures Kyuhyun took, they took his breath away. They looked so good, looked so real. Henry was certain that Kyuhyun did magic with cameras.

Then there was Henry himself, Concert Master of the Academy’s Orchestra. He had learnt the art of playing the violin from a tender age and as he grew, his experience and skills grew along with him. Upon entering high school, the teacher-in-charge had immediately asked him to take over the position of the Concert Master and he eagerly accepted – his love for music was too strong for him to refuse.

“I’ll miss being here,” a sad voice near him suddenly called out, breaking his train of thought once again.

Turning, he saw Leeteuk smiling sadly at the rest of the group as he leaned against Reese. Having completed their Finals, the graduating cohort would be leaving the Academy to pursue their respective degrees. Henry’s heart sank in dismay when he realised that the clique he had become so accustomed to would no longer be the same when he returned to school next year. Although they came from three different levels and from various classes, it somehow did not affect the bonds within the group. They were all extremely close to each other.

“We should go on a trip!” He suddenly blurted out, and 22 pairs of eyes simultaneously turned towards him.

“Well… like to a ski lodge maybe? Our own holiday… Just the few of us!” He continued.

Chaos broke out with multiple people, mostly the girls, shouting “I WANT TO GO!”.

Henry could not help but shake his head as he heard the shrill voices of his sisters screaming about snow. A smile played about his lips as a unanimous decision was quickly reached…

“It’s on!” announced the two Council leaders.

Man, was it great being rich.

‘Cause these are the days worth living

These are the years we’re given

And these are the moments

These are the times

Let’s make the best out of our lives…’

Chapter 1: And So It Begins…

Summary: The group settles into their lodgings for the next 13 days and they explore their surroundings.

Song: The Chipmunk Song [This is a tribute to Kangin, Heechul and Shindong who were the voices of Alvin and the Chipmunks, Korean version. We love this song and we hope you do too! XD Everyone should watch Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakqual!!]

Henry could feel his heart beating rapidly against his rib cage. The anticipation of going on a private trip with the rest of the gang had nearly driven him mad with frenzy. He never heard the end of it at home either; his sisters were on a constant shopping spree, all the while screaming in excitement.

At the private hanger, Henry looked around at his surroundings. Everyone was in a fluster, each towing an enormous trolley luggage behind them, big enough to hold 13 days worth of clothes. Kyuhyun was carrying Crystal’s bag, acting as the perfect gentleman. As were many of his hyungs it seemed – Yesung suavely tugged along Valerie’s baggage while Leeteuk laughingly helped Reese along and Heechul hyung… well, he was looking in a hand mirror, touching up his hair. Not everyone could be perfect it seemed. His poor girlfriend lugged two suitcases behind her – infuriation, an understatement.

Henry could not help but laugh. Siwon had already accosted the staff to help with his belongings, as well as Ayame’s. It was his private jet that they were taking after all – bringing them to France’s Mont Blanc for their skiing trip. Henry grinned to himself; he just knew this trip was going to be perfect… or maybe not. A loud whine broke through his thoughts. Oh, he recognized that voice alright. She had managed to stick around long enough for Hankyung to insist on letting her come.

Yet she had continuously complained about how Hankyung was not able to keep up with her. Looking at the humongous carrier that she had brought – her bag was no doubt the largest – Henry could not help but feel pity for Hankyung. Apparently Sungmin shared the same sentiments, as he hurried over to help Hankyung transport the huge trunk. Another scream ripped though his thoughts again. Anne had just broken a nail carrying her LV. Rolling his eyes, Henry resigned himself to his fate as he boarded the plane.

“Haha, tell me about it,” he heard Shindong snicker as he walked past, having caught Henry’s -God, she’s such a bimbo- look.

Upon entering the plane, Henry caught sight of his older sister curling into Yesung’s side. It was an early flight and the sun had only just risen. He knew she was not a morning person, so it made sense that she would fall straight back to sleep once everything was settled. His gaze strayed further into the cabin, and he saw some of the others playing poker. Shindong acted as the dealer as he entertained Siwon, Ayame, Donghae, Eunhyuk and Kyuhyun, who had Crystal lying on his shoulder, which restricted his movements quite a bit.

He scanned the plane and saw Anne settling daintily into her seat. Locating one as far away from her as possible, Henry too, sat down. Zhou Mi had already reclined his chair, deep in slumber and oblivious to the outbursts of Ruzanna an aisle away. She was livid, her curled up fists frantically trying to mess up Heechul’s carefully primed hair. Sungmin too, was ignoring the whole fiasco behind him, deeply absorbed in his book.

Dian and Kibum on the other hand, had slunk away to some remote corner of the private jet, possibly discussing philosophical questions that Henry had never been able to answer, nor understand. Leeteuk and Reese were all smiles as they sat looking out the windows, fingers intertwined.

As Henry settled into his seat, he looked across to face his twin. Her face was deathly pale as she breathed in deeply, her hands clutching desperately onto Kangin’s forearms. Henry laughed as he thought of all the quirks his sister had. Fear of flying, fainting spells, night blindness, sleepwalking… she even ate bananas with a spoon!

He saw Kangin, steady as a rock, calming her down as the plane lifted off and when it was finally time to land, he soothed her fears as well. Henry almost felt like he was being an incompetent brother, but he did offer her some champagne during mid-flight he argued indignantly to himself. Well, she has Kangin anyway…

~*~

Henry turned around in his seat – they were in the bus now. Although it was less comfortable than Siwon’s jet, which was equipped with plushy seats, everyone seemed content. The long flight, despite the luxurious food and splendor, was still tiring and everyone seemed exhausted. He saw Leeteuk and Reese, huddled together at the back of the bus whispering softly to each other, her head on his shoulder. Henry could not help but smile at their actions. Now that they were no longer in school, they could freely publicize their relationship. They seemed perfect for each other.

He could also see a few couples in the group at one glance – Siwon and Ayame had dozed off to sleep with their hands held together while Hankyung and Anne were cuddling. Henry could not help but think that she did not seem that irritating when he was unable to hear her…

One would think that the bus would be deathly quiet, what with all the sleeping people. But it was quite the opposite as Donghae, Eunhyuk and Ryeowook were blatantly throwing half eaten marshmallows into a sleeping Shindong’s mouth, yelling every time they missed. Three grown men were every bit as noisy as a classroom full of excited kids, if not noisier. Henry could not bring himself to admit that these were people who were older than him.

Zhou Mi and Sungmin were sitting together, in the midst of a noisy Chinese game. It was something that Zhou Mi had just taught Sungmin and it apparently involved a lot of shouting and violent slapping. With a triumphant cry, Sungmin had finally won one round which resulted in him blindsiding Zhou Mi, who in turn, yelped from the sharp sting.

His eyes trailed further down the bus and Henry saw his older sister feeding Yesung chocolates. While he was appalled at the fact that his own sister was doing that, he could not help but feel a tiny bit jealous over the attention Yesung was receiving. He wanted some chocolates too! As if she could read his mind, Henry saw his sister turn towards him before raising an eyebrow and chucking him the remaining chocolates. But the flying box caught the attention of Ruzanna, who started to turn an ugly shade of purple.

“Shooters are NOT supposed to steal the chocolates I made! You’re not even allowed to EAT them!” Henry heard a voice huff.

He knew in that instant, Ruzanna was about to make a lot of noise. She was loud, for a person so short.

“Val! Yesung! I made them for Chulie!” she roared. “Aishhhh! Will you keep quiet?” Henry heard his hyung exclaim, tired of the noise.

Henry could only stare as Heechul smashed his lips onto his girlfriend’s to stop her from talking. It certainly worked – Ruzanna turned a violent shade of red before sitting back into her seat, resigned. Henry saw the corners of her mouth turning upwards, and could only marvel at the relationship that the two shared as both had extremely explosive personalities.

Next to him were Kyuhyun and Crystal, each focused on the blinking lights of the PSP in their hands. What impressed Henry was the fact that they were singing a duet while seemingly concentrating on their game. Henry watched in fascination as Kyuhyun looked up from his game and smiled cheekily at his girlfriend. “You lose,” Kyuhyun half sang, hugging Crystal as she began to pout.

Henry saw her mouth start to curve into a smile as well and he was overwhelmed by the close bond they shared – it made him smile. Behind them he saw his twin, sleeping on Kangin’s shoulder with her mouth wide open. Kangin had a comical look on his face, trying hard not to laugh at either how ridiculous she looked, or at the antics of Donghae and company. Whichever it was, Kangin looked like he was about to burst from laughter any moment but he struggled to keep it in so that he would not wake Beverly up.

At the very back of the bus sat Kibum and Dian, quiet, as they had been the whole flight, sharing the headphones of an iPod. Looking over the whole scene, Henry caught their eye and watched as Kibum gave a miniscule roll of his eyes. A silent agreement was passed between them.

We have the weirdest friends ever.

~*~

“Twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-thr…. WHERE IS TWENTY THREE!?” Leeteuk screamed hysterically, frantic at the idea of having left someone behind in a foreign country. Reese reached up to her boyfriend and slowly patted his back to calm him down. At this moment, a sleepy Shindong came trudging down the bus, rubbing his eyes slowly. Everyone turned to stare at him, especially Leeteuk, who was nearly mad with relief. He ran towards the “twenty-three” that he had recovered, and promptly hit him on the head. Henry looked on with amusement, before setting his sights on the snowy landscape before him.

Chamonix was located in the French Mountains, smack in the middle of a never ending region of untouched, powdery snow. A chain of chalet cabins were built for those who could afford it and the group had booked the ‘Chamonix Chateau’. It was a quaint lodge, separate from the main hotel, to give an extra touch of privacy and it contained 11 rooms. There was even a common area with an individual fireplace. These features were merely some things that Henry had overheard the girls exclaiming over. He was eager to settle in!

Henry’s thoughts were broken as Leeteuk started to shepherd them into the main lobby. Pushing Reese and himself to the front of the group, he started conversing with the receptionist. Loud exclamations were heard as everyone surveyed the huge space and its abnormally large Christmas tree. The hotel lobby was heated via an enormous fireplace and furnished with inviting sofas and sleek tables. Everyone could hear the crackling of the fireplace and smell the scent of the humongous pine.

Henry then caught sight of the girls huddled in one corner, whispering secretively and jabbing repeatedly in the direction of the tree. He stared at them in confusion, as they scurried towards Reese before swarming around her. A short while later, Henry observed Reese as she doubled back, heading towards the receptionist again. Henry shook his head. Girls – he would never understand them. Leeteuk’s voice resounded over the grand lobby as he tried to assemble the whole team.

“OK! We have uneven numbers so three of you will have to share a room,” he pointed un-courteously at Shindong, Eunhyuk and Ryeowook.

“Please?” he added.

The three of them looked resigned – no one could ever deny the leader anything – it must be a Council thing, Henry thought to himself.

Leeteuk started pairing everyone off. Needless to say, he and Reese were sharing a room. The other couples – Valerie and Yesung, Heechul and Ruzanna, Hankyung and Anne, Kibum and Dian, Siwon and Ayame, Kyuhyun and Crystal – were sharing as well. The remaining guys were paired up as Donghae decided to bunk with Sungmin, leaving Kangin and Zhou Mi together. As fate would have it, Henry got his twin. Not that he minded, he was used to it by now, but he thought that she would have wanted to be paired with Kangin.

As he marched up to get the set of keys from Leeteuk and Reese, he heard the same phrase that the Student Council heads had been repeating for the past 5 minutes…

“Please don’t lose your keys! Have you got everything?” the two of them said everything in unison.

“Haha! You’re exactly like our Appa and Omma!” Henry blurted out before he could control himself.

Laughter erupted instantaneously as everyone shouted their agreement. While this thought had never occurred to them before, with Henry voicing out his opinion, everyone else could not help but nod vehemently, agreeing with his statement.

“Yeah! Especially with the constant headcounts and continuous nagging!” Eunhyuk yelled out.

This brought on a fresh wave of laughter as the couple stood there, beet red and shell shocked.

Groaning, the group heard the pair mutter to each other.

“Are we that old?”

“But that’s why we love you” Ryeowook quickly added kindly.

Maniacal laughter subsided to soft smiles. In his mind, Henry knew that there was no doubt the two of them would make fantastic parents… even if their children turned out cheeky like Valerie and Yesung, who were still holding hands and giggling.

They finally made it to the chateau, amidst all the teasing and complaints about how the luggage was turning wet from the snow, which came solely from Anne. But everyone found the courtesy to gasp at the size of the chateau they we about to settle into. Its wooden frame towered over them, windows frosty and roof snowy. It looked just as cosy as it was back home. But the real prize lay inside.

Shrieks from the girls were heard as the company rushed into the chateau. To the right of the immense fireplace located in one of the walls was an undecorated Christmas tree, with its decor placed neatly in boxes, like presents, underneath the huge pine.

“It’s just like we asked for!” Henry heard Ayame exclaim, “Reese, you’re fantastic!”

Realization dawned on Henry as he recalled the scene back in the hotel lobby where he saw the girls behaving sneakily.

“We are going to decorate our own tree!” Beverly yelled as the girls whirled around with a playful yet slightly crazy glint in their eyes.

Pushing the boys hurriedly, the girls ordered them to dump the bags in their respective rooms, before demanding that the whole group reassemble in the living room. When they adjoined, most of the Sophomores and Juniors were jumping around in excitement, unable to keep still while waiting to start. The male Seniors, along with Shindong, Kibum, Kyuhyun and Dian surveyed the hyperactive group warily. Before the tree toppled over and fell on someone, Leeteuk decided that they had better start.

“Alright alright, stop bouncing around. Let’s start now… And that includes the two of you!” Leeteuk shouted at the duo who was trying to silently sneak away.

Kibum and Dian would undoubtedly prefer sitting in front of the fireplace, reading, than to be hanging baubles off a Christmas tree. But obedient to the leader’s orders, both returned back to join in the decorations with sheepish grins on their faces.

Split seconds later, there was instantaneous chaos. Loud clatters were heard when boxes of baubles were emptied onto the floor. Tinsel flew everywhere while laughter and delighted screams of the company reverberated throughout the chateau. Suddenly, Henry heard Kangin, Heechul and Shindong break out into a Christmas song, and soon, the infectious mood got them all singing along.

‘Christmas, Christmas time is near

Time for toys and time for cheer

We’ve been good, but we can’t last

Hurry Christmas, hurry fast

Want a plane that loops the loop

Me, I want a hula hoop

We can hardly stand the wait

Please Christmas, don’t be late.’

But little fights erupted as everyone was pulling at the Christmas lights and shiny decorations, arguing over the placement of ornaments on the tree. Heechul wanted a lot of baubles but Beverly wanted to put fake snowflakes. Zhou Mi wanted to turn on the Christmas lights, even though Kibum told him “No hyung, plug that in now and you’ll electrocute all of us.” as the wires were tangled up in the mess of limbs.

As Kibum struggled to wrestle the plug from Zhou Mi, behind him, Siwon held up a multitude of crosses, wanting to hang every last one on the tree. But with all the people and the flurry of activity, almost the whole tree had been quickly covered in the short span of ten minutes and very few empty spots were left. Seeing the small pout on Siwon’s lips, Dian promptly slapped Heechul across his head and ripped off a few baubles for Siwon to place the crosses at.

Chaos would have been a gross understatement. It was almost as if a tornado had spat out a pep rally and littered Christmas tinsel all over it. In the end however, despite the stupid fights, everyone knew that they wanted Leeteuk to put the Christmas star at the top of the tree. Leeteuk of course, offered the job to his girlfriend, but she gently declined and urged him to do it. Slowly climbing to the top of the ladder, Leeteuk steadied himself before leaning forward and firmly planted the glittering star at the top of the tree – it was a perfect fit.

Henry leaned back to take it all in. The floor was strewn with bits of tinsel and discarded ornaments. The tree looked oddly over-decorated with a mismatch of ornaments and everyone had stray pieces of pine leaves stuck in their hair. But somehow, Henry never felt happier.

When he looked at the shining star at the top of the tree, and the way the blinking Christmas lights blended with the flickering glow of the fire, Henry could not help but feel that this was a great way to start off their holiday. Surrounded by loving friends, and family, it was like heaven on earth. Until the noise started again, as Ryeowook and Zhou Mi grew hungry.

“Who wants supper?” Zhou Mi bellowed out as Ryeowook’s stomach gave a large growl.

Chaos started once again, as everyone yelled out their consent to find food. The level of noise grew as people started to demand for certain dishes and Henry saw Leeteuk groan in annoyance, rubbing the bridge of his nose. Living with 22 other people during this holiday was surely going to be noisy, fun, but noisy.

2009: The best days of our lives. And so it begins…

Chapter 2: Take A Breath And Close Your Eyes.

Summary: Donghae finally gets the courage to do what he’s wanted to for a very long time.

Song: Say You Love Me by MYMP

Henry shook his head again as he saw Donghae sneak yet another glance at his twin. It was the 5th, in the span of 10 minutes. He could not blame him, after all, Henry and Beverly shared the same impressive genes as their parents and sister, thank you very much. Donghae never had a problem when it came to confessing to the girls he liked before, and Henry was sure that his friend liked Beverly.

So why – why for all the lychees in the world – was Donghae still harbouring this secret obsession he had over Beverly? When on earth would he confess? Miffed, Henry made a move towards the older male as he thought of nudging the poor guy in the right direction. But a high-pitched whine stabbed at his ear drums causing him to stop in mid-step.

“Again.” He muttered to himself.

Anne had been complaining ever since this morning when Leeteuk suggested that the group should explore the grounds before splitting up. Apparently, she did not get up until noon. It still did not explain why her voice sounded like someone skinning a cat, Henry grumbled to himself, as Anne insisted on going to the toilet to touch up her hair.

“I can’t walk in the snow with heels… the colour of the walls make me look fat…I can’t dance to this music!”

Henry could hear Shindong and Eunhyuk mimic Anne’s shrill voice, to the amusement of Dian and Kibum. Henry recalled the time when the group had found a small club in the hotel and Eunhyuk had shown off his moves to the admiration of many. Watching the other girls having fun on the dance floor, receiving whistles as they danced to the beat, Anne had immediately retorted that she had no interest in such “grinding”.

Pfft, what a load of bull.

“YES!” Henry heard a victorious exclamation to the right of him, and he laughed as he saw Kyuhyun and Crystal staring, entranced, into a room.

Hands firmly gripped onto the door handle, Kyuhyun turned around with a large grin, announcing that they had just found their heaven – The Game Room. This earned a large whoop from Zhou Mi as he and Eunhyuk rushed into the room that Kyuhyun and Crystal had just entered. Henry laughed as he glanced into the room – Crystal was already settled on the couch, her shoulder slightly touching Kyuhyun’s, both staring intently at the screen that was slowly coming to life.

He had always admired how fiercely loyal Crystal was to Kyuhyun, and she was the only one who ever came close to beating him in games. Both stubbornly competitive, their constant gaming was only interrupted by their love for singing. They were strangely guarded about public displays of affection, but the few tender moments between them that Henry was fortunate enough to see always left him starved for a relationship just as sweet.

As the exploration continued, without the four who had obstinately insisted on staying in the Game Room, the crowd chanced upon the Billiards Room. This drew the attention of the exceptionally good players, who gathered excitedly around the tables. Ayame and Valerie were already betting that their boyfriends would win the game. Chalking up their cues, Yesung and Siwon gladly indulged them as the girls dragged Sungmin along to judge the game.

“I want to go skiing! We came to the mountains to ski right?” Henry looked at his twin as she tugged at Kangin’s sleeve like an impatient child. Sometimes, he could not help but wonder why God made him only 5 seconds older.

Henry laughed as Leeteuk and Reese violently shook their heads, opting instead to proceed back to the cosy café that they had discovered earlier. Citing excuses of not wanting to mess up their hair, Anne and Heechul followed, Heechul dragging, for once, a willing Ruzanna behind him. Watching the group walk off, Shindong shrugged and trailed behind them.

Doing anything to be rid of Anne, Henry decided to hit the slopes. It was, he decided, the lesser of two evils. Trudging behind Ryeowook and Hankyung, he was again reminded of his earlier musings. Donghae was blatantly staring at his clueless twin again, who was pushing Kangin in a futile effort to get him to move faster. The guy is an idiot… Henry thought to himself, as he exasperatedly shook his head.

~*~

There she was.

Donghae’s eyes followed Beverly’s form as she swished down the mountain, her turns graceful and sharp. He was sure that he was the only one who could recognize her from this distance. He had studied her silhouette for so long, ever since the first day he saw her in school. Unable to keep up with the speed and steep angle of the run, Donghae had stayed at the baby slopes with Ryeowook, Henry and Hankyung while Beverly had dragged Kangin onto the higher ski lifts.

Now looking at her making sharp turns on the steep slope, Donghae’s heart nearly stopped when he saw her suddenly jerk and fall. Panic coursed through him as his first instinct made him lunge in the direction of the ski lift. But before he could even reach the ski lifts halfway, he saw Kangin laughingly pick her up, saw her laughing along as he brushed the powdery snow off her clothes. Another emotion gripped his heart as he seethed in silent jealousy and anger.

She used to be his to save.

Donghae could still remember that faithful soccer practice. He had watched her day after day while he played soccer. Her tennis strokes amazed him, and when she was promoted to the position of the Tennis Captain, he was fascinated by the way she playfully ordered everyone on the team around. He could memorize every action she did, every detail of her face and all of her many quirks. That was how much time Donghae spent looking across the soccer field at the babyish looking Tennis Captain.

It was no surprise then, that when she fainted on the tennis court on a particularly hot day, Donghae was the first to reach her. Even before her team mates managed to get to her, Donghae had dashed across the field and rushed her off to the infirmary.

It was very much to his delight when Donghae discovered Beverly too, was attending the Leadership camp. He had hoped to extend their interactions from a mere “thanks” to something more. But to his dismay, the hyper-active girl had formed a close bond with Kangin, and they were inseparable throughout the camp.

Beverly grew more and more attached to Kangin, even after the camp ended. Donghae felt the protector status that he earned from the fainting incident slowly fade away and he could feel her slipping through his fingers.

Donghae could see Beverly reach the bottom of the slope, her cheeks flushed a rosy pink. Donghae stared as he promised himself; she had to be the one. Beverly flashed him a smile and waved cheerfully at him before turning on her heels, pulling Kangin in tow, for another run. It seemed like he was just merely her brother’s best friend now.

~*~

Henry sighed as he yet again caught Donghae looking at his twin and Kangin as they headed back to the ski lift. They were walking past him now, neither seemed to have noticed him, deep in conversation.

“Aren’t you ever going to tell Donghae you like him?” Henry caught snippets of what Kangin was rapidly whispering. His twin only answered with a firm shake of the head.

“You still don’t think he likes you?” Henry felt almost certain of his sister’s answer. Beverly nodded her head.

“Both of them are idiots…” Henry muttered to himself as he shuffled towards Donghae who was still standing in the same position, dumbly staring after Beverly. Henry almost felt like slapping him so that he would snap out of it.

“We have good genes don’t we?” Henry casually remarked, almost laughing as confusion morphed into a horrified expression on Donghae’s face.

The older male tried taking a step back, fumbling with his long skis.

“You like her don’t you?” Henry took another step towards the panicking Donghae, whose eyes seem to be shifting everywhere else except on the one who was cornering him.

“W-what? Wh-who? W-who told you? I mean… N-no I don’t!” Donghae stammered out as he tried to climb a little higher up the slope, slipping a little.

Henry was almost laughing now as he saw his hyung start to pout, trying in vain to set his features into a look of insolent denial. Henry edged closer to Donghae, eyebrows raised questioningly, deviously sliding the top of his skis over his hyungs’. Tethering on terror, Donghae had tried to run. But with his skis trapped under Henry’s, it only resulted in Donghae losing his balance, landing clumsily on his bottom. Henry exploded in peals of laughter, something he had wanted to do ever since he saw Donghae’s rising panic.

“I’m your best friend, Hae,” Henry emphasised, “I know everything about you.”

“Let me tell you a secret,” chuckled Henry, as he bent down to whisper in Donghae’s ears.

“Kangin and my sister are not together. She likes you. Twins always know.” Henry winked, with a big grin on his face, enjoying Donghae’s stunned reaction before walking away mumbling “Boy, does she owe me now”.

‘Don’t you know that I want to be more that just your friend

Holding hands is fine

But I’ve got better things on my mind

You know it could happen

If you’d only see me in a different light

but baby when we finally get together

You will see that I was right’

Donghae picked himself up, not even bothering to dust the snow off him. He gripped his ski poles tightly as he pondered over his choices. Henry was Beverly’s twin, he should know right? There was something called twin telepathy wasn’t there? Donghae gritted his teeth and pushed himself off towards the announcement area, determination written all over his face.

Donghae took a deep breath and closed his eyes, willing his voice and brain not to fail him now. He gripped the microphone as though his life depended upon it, and started to shout.

“This is Lee Donghae. I am looking for the girl I like, no, love. She has long hair that glows in the sun, a smile that lights up my life, a voice that I want to wake up to… and her name is Beverly” he paused, the usual noise of hotel activities had died to complete silence. Taking another deep breath, he continued.

“If you like me then please, be my girlfriend and make me happy. If you don’t want to accept me, then I will stay as far away from you as you want and as I can” Donghae breathed into the microphone, heart sinking as he uttered the last few words. A deathly silence had settled over the lodge and the chilly air only made him feel uncomfortably alone.

It was then that he heard a blood-curling scream as Beverly zoomed past him in a blur, arms flailing as she landed with a loud thud, sending powdery snow flying into the air as she crashed unceremoniously into a snow bank. Having skied at full speed down the steep slope, Beverly was unable to stop on time, choosing instead to crash into a ditch full of soft snow.

Donghae turned around in shock, half staggering towards the laughing, snow-covered girl. He plucked Beverly out of the ditch, checking her for possible injuries and brain damage, appalled at how she could think it was funny.

“Hey Donghae, close your eyes” Beverly suddenly said softly, her tone serious and free from giggles.

Confused and still recovering from the shock of Beverly barrelling down the slope at 120 miles per hour, Donghae found it hard to comply, only doing what she asked of him after staring at her intently for 5 seconds.

Beverly looked at Donghae, smiling to herself as she traced his features with her eyes. He had asked her to be his girlfriend and now she was going to answer. Valerie had told her how kissing the one you love was pure bliss – like your own personal heaven. Leaning forward, Beverly gently touched her lips to his.

So this was what heaven felt like.

Chapter 3: Freedom.

Summary: Valerie and Henry ensures their little sister will never get hurt, Hankyung finally sees the light and Leeteuk and Reese share a special moment between them.

Song: The Great Escape by Boys Like Girls

Henry caught his older sister’s eye as they spotted Donghae walking along the corridor, on his own. She gave an imperceptible nod and the two glanced around to make sure they were alone, before coming out of their hiding spot. They had been waiting for this. Startled by their sudden appearance, Donghae gave a slight jump before waving cheerfully at them. He was too happy to notice the dangerous glint in the eyes of the siblings of his new girlfriend.

“Sorry, man,” Henry announced to Donghae, before quickly slipping past his hyung to grab on to his arms, holding him in place.

The sudden change in atmosphere finally got through to Donghae and he struggled to free himself as he nervously eyed Valerie, who had started circling them. He thought she could not have looked more intimidating than she did at that moment, decked in Yesung’s leather jacket and a pair of black denims. Then she spoke, and Donghae changed his mind.

“Donghae. Donghae. Donghae. You’ve been such a wonderful classmate. I really liked having you around you know.” Valerie said sweetly, as she came to a stop in front of him, twirling a lock of hair around her finger.

“Um, I… I like you too? And I’m not er… I’m not going anywhere?” Donghae stammered out, unable to decide who was a bigger problem at the moment – Henry, who was pressing tightly into his forearm, or Valerie, who had cocked her head at him and started to grin evilly.

Then moving so fast he barely saw it, Valerie’s arm had struck out and she grabbed a fistful of Donghae’s shirt, before pulling him closer. Henry grinned, liking this side of his sister more and more, but he sort of pitied his best friend, who had started to tremble slightly.

“If you hurt my sister, in anyway what so ever, I am going to shoot you in the balls, before I shoot you in the head. Am I clear?” she stated, still using her sweetest voice which contradicted greatly with the words pouring out of her mouth.

Both Donghae and Henry winced at her words, while Donghae grew more afraid than ever. He had seen his classmate shoot, and hell, she was deadly. But he wondered how she knew about his relationship with Beverly, considering he had only just asked her out yesterday evening.

“Oh Donghae, I know everything when it comes to my siblings.” Valerie told him, as she released her grip on him.

He had unknowingly voiced his question out loud. Donghae did not doubt her, taken in by her serious tone. As he looked away from Valerie, he missed the slight shake of her head in response to Henry’s questioning look. Henry finally let him go and he saw Donghae’s hands move to unconsciously rub his sore arms, where Henry had kept a tight grip on.

“Oh, and let’s make sure this stays between us, yes?” Valerie added sweetly.

Gulping, Donghae promised he would not hurt Beverly and that he would keep his mouth shut before shuffling away, not turning around in fear of what the siblings might do to him with his back facing them. It was only until he reached the corner, did he then turn and break into a run. Chuckling, Henry turned to his sister.

“Didn’t he ask Bev out over the announcement system? I’d think the whole lodge would be aware of their relationship by now.” Henry asked his sister.

As she slipped her arm into his and they walked towards the dining hall for breakfast, she sighed and gave a roll of her eyes.

“Looks like our sister is dating an idiot.”

~*~

Breakfast had already been laid out on the table when most of the group arrived, Leeteuk having called for room service the night before. Henry exchanged a short laugh with his sister when Donghae had entered the room, spotted them, and gave a small squeak before scrambling to the other end of the table. He pushed Zhou Mi away for the seat furthest from them and his odd behaviour resulted in many strange looks being directed at him.

Breakfast was a huge, loud affair, as the group was in high spirits. Everyone talked at the top of their voices and many scuffles for food took place along the dining table, as people fought for the last piece of ham or for the better sausage. Henry felt it could not have been a better breakfast, if not for the fact that Anne had been complaining throughout the meal.

First it was the bacon, that she whined had too much fat and was too oily, which would probably make her put on 5 kilograms just by staring at it. He saw Ayame gawk at her, before shoving 2 streaks of bacon into her mouth and chomping on them quite loudly. Hankyung had painstakingly cut away all the fatty parts for her, and tried to soak up the oil before giving it to Anne.

Then it was the butter, as Anne complained that there was no margarine, which was less likely to make her gain weight. She refused to touch the croissants and butter and sat pouting at Hankyung. Unable to do anything, he merely reassured her that he would remember to ask for margarine the next time. Henry caught a look of disgust flash across Crystal’s face and watched as she slathered butter over her croissant before chewing on it, a look of bliss on her face. Henry agreed wholeheartedly with her.

The next issue had been the milk, as Leeteuk had only called for fresh milk. He did not know that Anne only drank skim milk, so Henry thought it really was not fair to blame him. But Anne had screeched when she tasted the milk and she promptly spat out the white fluid into Hankyung’s plate and moaned about how she would not be able to fit into her clothes anymore. But Hankyung had merely sighed and cleaned up the mess before Ryeowook passed him a new plate. Throwing him a tired smile, Hankyung resumed his breakfast.

The meal was coming to an end, when the final straw took place. A basket of fruits was delivered as a complimentary gift, and the girls had taken to peeling them for their guys. Anne had, of course, refused, as she was afraid to break another nail. Henry was eating his banana as he saw Ryeowook peel a number of fruits for the guys who were incapable of holding a knife without stabbing themselves. His quick hands made fast work of a number of apples before he handed them around. Zhou Mi, Sungmin and Hankyung had eagerly attacked the plate, when a whisper from Anne brought silence to the whole table.

“Urgh, he’s so gay” Anne had muttered under her breath, as she looked at Ryeowook with a sneer on her face.

But she was not as soft as she thought she was. Growing bolder with her complaints, Anne had now moved on to bitch about the people themselves. As Henry caught sight of Ryeowook, who had started biting his lower lip and whose eyes had become watery, he knew she had crossed the line. What was wrong with peeling fruits for people anyway?

What Anne did not know, too caught up in thinking that the world revolved around her, was that Hankyung saw Ryeowook as his little brother and he was rather protective of the smaller boy. He was a sweet, sensitive guy who was kind to everyone which often led to him being taken advantage of. Ryeowook had rather soft features but Henry never thought him to be lacking in any way.

Henry knew Hankyung was also trying to get Ryeowook to stand up for himself, and to some extent, there was progress. But it was still a touchy subject when people gossiped about his sexual orientation and Ryeowook always felt hurt when people thought he was queer. Henry watched as Hankyung’s eyes grew hard as he stared at Anne with distaste.

It was his first time hearing Anne verbally insulting someone else, as she was usually careful around him – the little hypocrite. Now, Hankyung finally understood why the others were not as fond of her. Dropping the slice of half-eaten apple onto his plate, he grabbed Anne’s wrist and dragged her out of the Chateau. Not even aware of what she did wrong, she went out screaming at Hankyung for acting like a barbarian.

“Alright, breakfast is over,” Reese called out, “go out and have fun, Leeteuk and I will clear up the place.

The scrapping of chairs against the wooden floor could be heard as Henry saw everyone rush to leave the room. There was an uncomfortable silence after Anne’s declaration. Henry saw his twin tug Ryeowook out of his chair and Donghae, Zhou Mi, Sungmin, Kibum and Dian followed them. Henry knew that they would be comforting and distracting him, who was on the verge of tears.

He then overheard Yesung say that he felt like playing a round of billiards, and Henry watched as he walked off with an arm around Valerie, followed by Siwon, Ayame, Kangin, Heechul and Ruzanna. Kyuhyun and Crystal were no doubt going to take over the Games Room once more, and they were quickly followed by Shindong and Eunhyuk. Henry decided to follow the gaming group, as he was certain he did not want to see his older sister swap spit with Yesung.

What Henry did not know, was that away from the lodge, Hankyung was breaking up with a screeching Anne. It seemed like Hankyung had finally reached his limit. Leaving a furious Anne, Hankyung spared her no thought as he searched for Ryeowook to make sure that he was alright. Somehow, Hankyung felt a lot better after the break up. It was as if a large burden was taken off his shoulder, and in a way, it was true. He was free from the clutches of Anne at last.

‘Throw it away

Forget yesterday

We’ll make the great escape

We won’t hear a word they say

They don’t know us anyway

Watch it burn

Let it die

Cause we are finally free tonight’

Sighing in contentment and slight worry, Leeteuk took a sip from the mug of coffee he was sharing with Reese. They had made their way to the café after cleaning up, and selected an inconspicuous booth near the back. Snuggling up to each other on the plush seats, the delicious coffee and the shawl that covered them warmed their bodies from the cold.

“Do you think Ryeowook is okay? Maybe we should check up on him.” Leeteuk worriedly asked Reese.

“I’m sure he’s fine. He’s got a great bunch of friends to take care of him. I know they’ll be able to ensure he’s okay. Relax will you, he’s in good hands.” Reese tried to soothe her boyfriend’s worries.

“How about Hankyung? Do you think he and Anne will be fine?” Leeteuk continued to voice out his worries.

Reese debated with herself before giving a reply. She really did not like Anne’s attitude, but she also knew that she had to respect Hankyung’s decision of wanting to date her. Though for the life of her, she could not understand why. The urge to speak her mind was overwhelming however, and in the end she decided to be as honest as possible.

“I really don’t know what’s going on. But to be completely honest I don’t quite care. You know how I feel about Anne. You know how the others feel about her too. But we shouldn’t interfere as long as Hankyung is happy because that’s the most important thing. We can put up with… the unpleasantness.” Reese replied and Leeteuk nodded in agreement.

“You’re always so logical,” he smiled up at her, “What would I do without you?”

“Worry yourself to death I presume,” Reese jokingly said and the two burst into laughter.

Comfortable silence followed as the couple simply enjoyed being in each other’s presence. Words were never a problem between the two, but there were times when all they wanted to do was to spend time with each other. Passing the mug of coffee back and forth, Reese took the last sip before placing the mug on the table. Looking at his girlfriend, Leeteuk laughed as a bit of foam was left on her upper lip.

Leaning down slightly, he pressed his lips against hers, effectively removing the froth at the same time. Grinning as he saw a pink flush spread across his girlfriend’s cheek, he wrapped his free arm around her and drew her in closer.

“You know, while I’m sad to leave the Academy, I can’t help but feel glad that we can finally be together. All the rules with the Student Council… it’s been horrible, seeing you so close yet unable to do anything. At least now, we’re free to express our love for each other. The future is filled with so much uncertainty though. Sometimes it scares me.” Leeteuk voiced out his thoughts, speculating about the future.

“Aw, come on, we’ve got a plan don’t we?” Reese laughed and she continued to paint a picture of the future – of their future.

“You’re going to do medicine while I’m going to do graphic design and we’ll attend the same university together. It’ll be a dream, our dream, come true when you become a doctor and I take the advertisement world by storm.” She reassured Leeteuk as she snuggled deeper into his side, giggling slightly.

Leeteuk smiled at the thought of them being together even in the future. Resting his cheek on Reese’s head, he murmured in her ear…

“I want to spend forever with you.”

~*~

The boisterous group tumbled into the Chateau after their heavy dinner, giddy with laughter and happiness. Realising that he had not seen Anne for the whole day, Hankyung made his way to the room he shared with her, thinking that she might have holed herself inside. Although he knew he could no longer be together with her, he still wanted to make sure she was alright. But Hankyung returned soon after, and as Henry eyed a small piece of paper clutched in his hand, he felt an unexplainable bubble of joy rising within him.

“Hey guys, Anne left a note. Apparently I’m a heartless bastard and she’s heading back to Korea first,” Hankyung announced, grinning as he waved the slip of paper in the air.

Silence met the revelation, before someone sang “Ding dong the witch is dead!”

Hysterical laughter broke out and as Henry swept his eyes across the group, he realised it came from Ryeowook, who had his hands clasped over his mouth, eyes wide in horror. While everyone agreed with him, Ryeowook was afraid that he offended Hankyung. Henry saw Ryeowook rush to Hankyung before hearing Ryeowook gush out his apologies.

But Hankyung brushed them off and instead, gave the smaller boy a brotherly hug, slinging one arm over his shoulders. Henry was glad that Hankyung chose his friends over the brat. It was good to know that the bonds between them were that strong. He heard Hankyung tell Ryeowook to move into his room, since sharing a room with Eunhyuk and Shindong meant that Ryeowook was living in something akin to a closet.

That night, everyone slept better knowing that they were finally free from Anne’s whiny voice.

Chapter 4: Because I Said So.

Summary: Heechul and Ruzanna’s relationship may not seem perfect, but the two understand each other more than anyone else can.

Song: I love you so by Natalie

Henry laughed along with the group as he watched Zhou Mi chase Shindong around, who had jokingly dropped snow down the back of his shirt. Giving a large yelp, Zhou Mi had desperately tried to shake off the snow before running after a laughing Shindong. The group had decided to go to the city that morning; they had Christmas shopping to do. With Anne gone, everyone was in high spirits.

During breakfast the girls had gathered, whispering secretly before announcing that they wanted to shop for presents together. Shop for their boyfriends no doubt, Henry thought enviously to himself. His sisters had better get him a fantastic gift – each. Henry heard mayhem behind him. It seemed like Zhoumi finally caught up with Shindong, and was now playfully kicking his behind.

“Hey, hey listen!” Leeteuk shouted, trying to get everyone’s attention.

After a very rowdy discussion, everyone decided to re-gather in two hours, meeting at the bench under a huge leafless tree in front of The Ice Cream Shoppe. The girls immediately rushed off, excited and loudly chattering. Henry followed the guys, half of whom were scratching their heads and shouting loudly, as they tried to cross the street. Looking at the disappearing backs of his sisters, Henry could see a stark contrast between the two groups.

The girls were enjoying themselves; Henry could hear them from where he stood. His twin and Crystal were holding hands, swinging them to and fro as they sang, ever so often interrupting their song to laugh at something they thought was funny. His older sister on the other hand, had linked arms with Ayame and both were shrieking and squealing over things that they saw in shop windows and wanted for themselves. Dian had formed an alliance with Ruzanna and Reese as the trio peered into shops, firmly determined to find the presents that they wanted to get.

Henry looked back at his own group – they were just a bunch of rowdy boys! Having no idea of what to get the girls at all, they were simply shouting out random suggestions. Kibum, Donghae, Eunhyuk and Ryeowook were stuck in the small door of a shop, as each stubbornly fought to enter first. Impatiently pushing them from behind were Kangin and Leeteuk, irritated with the boisterous boys that were trying to crowd into the shop all at the same time. It did not help that Sungmin, Heechul, Shindong, Zhoumi and Hankyung were having what seems to equal a shouting competition.

“You should get them matching earrings!” Henry could hear Hankyung shouting his suggestion to the group, sounding much happier now without the burden of Anne.

“Matching socks more likely,” Heechul retorted back.

Shindong, Sungmin and Zhoumi were also randomly yelling, each trying to drown out the voices of the others. Yesung, Kyuhyun and Siwon on the other hand, were standing around, surveying the noisy group, looking contemplative and flustered. It was times like this when Henry was glad that he did not have a girlfriend.

~*~

Henry watched, almost on the verge of hysterical laughter, as Beverly hiccupped uncontrollably. They had just finished lunch, having assembled an hour ago – the girls holding an army of bags, the boys fingering tiny packages with awkward grimaces on their faces.

As he trudged out of the restaurant, Henry could see the group split up again to search for more presents. This time, the couples waltzed off arm in arm. Reese and Leeteuk were whispering sweet nothings to each other while Yesung and Valerie, on the other hand, had suspicious glints in their eyes as they slunk off, having already prepared their presents for the others. Siwon and Ayame had also pranced off, both a bundle of pure energy.

Henry heard a strangled sound from behind him, and looked on in amusement as Donghae thumped his girlfriend on her back. Crystal insisted on making sure that Beverly’s hiccups had passed before leaving hand in hand with Kyuhyun. Henry chuckled when he saw Heechul dragging Ruzanna out of the shop, insistent on getting the shopping done and over with. How they ever tolerated each other, Henry felt that he would never understand.

He remembered the first time he saw Heechul’s infamous temper, during the National Debate Championship. Henry had tagged along with the group, excited to see his explosive, and what he felt to be slightly crazy, hyung’s suave side. Carrying a tin of cookies, Ruzanna had rushed backstage to see Heechul, as fast as her short legs could carry her.

The security did not allow her to pass however, claiming that the debate was just about to start. Ruzanna returned with a worried face, and it was then that Henry learnt about how Heechul always insisted on eating her cookies before his competition started. True enough, forced on stage without having eaten any of Ruzanna’s cookies, Heechul was in a foul mood.

As his opponent rambled on for 10 minutes, everyone in the group watched as Heechul fumed, getting more and more pissed with every passing minute, his mounting irritation evident by the growing scowl on his face. Henry watched with bated breath as Heechul stalked up to the microphone to deliver his rebuttal. After glaring at his opponent for 3 seconds, Heechul merely sneered and said four words before sauntering off stage. Heechul proceeded to grab Ruzanna, and pulled her out of the hall, cookies in hand.

“Because I said so.”

Heechul’s words of pure unadulterated mockery and contempt still rang in Henry’s head.

It seemed that the only person who could control Heechul’s temper was Ruzanna, and man did Henry admire her for it.

~*~

Heechul glared menacingly at his girlfriend, drilling two holes into the back of her skull. Clenching his jaw, he fumed silently as Ruzanna scurried to yet another shelf, and carefully scrutinized the tiny item that had caught her eye.

“If looks could kill,” Heechul muttered under his breath, “the little squirt would be six feet under.”

Ruzanna had already dragged him through twenty-odd stores, insisting on comparing the prices of all the items before making a purchase. It annoyed him that despite being rich, the girl still persisted in her ahjumma-like ways, valuing practical presents over Heechul’s frivolous choices. Looking at her peering closely at another item, Heechul felt inclined to lock her away in a dingy cellar while he did the Christmas shopping – alone.

It was just taking too long.

“Just get the most expensive one! Hankyung is FINALLY free of Anne; he did a service to us all! I would buy him the whole shop if he wanted it!” Heechul finally exploded.

Ruzanna turned around, a look of disdain on her face.

“The most expensive one is not always the best one you know,” she primly said, trailing off as she turned her attention back to the item before her.

Heechul swore under his breath as he mimicked choking her neck. As Heechul followed his girlfriend to the next shelf, Heechul caught sight of his hair in the glass display and pouted, letting out a huff. It was messy.

“Aishhhhhh! We can always buy him more than one present, just get something already!” irritated and unable to wait a minute longer, Heechul reached forward and snatched the most expensive looking thing he could see.

It was still a beautiful watch though, Heechul’s excellent taste in fashion never failing him. Turning on his heels and stalking in the direction of the counter, Heechul ignored the horrified expression on his girlfriend’s face. Dashing after him, Ruzanna grabbed the back of his shirt, yelling incessantly.

“Wait! Why that one? ” Ruzanna shrilled, her voice rising even louder than usual.

“Because I said so,” Heechul retorted with a smug look as he wrestled his way towards the cashier to pay.

With her mouth half open, Ruzanna stood there speechless, choosing instead to smack her boyfriend over the head with her purse as he signed the bill. She proceeded to wait outside the shop, narrowing her eyes at Heechul as he sauntered towards her, the last present they had to buy in hand.

“Come on, let’s go back,” Heechul took the rest of the shopping bags from her and started to walk off, stopping only when he realized that Ruzanna was still stubbornly standing where he left her.

Turning around, Heechul strode towards Ruzanna. With a fierce glare, Heechul swung her over his shoulder with a large heave. Heechul carted his girlfriend off, kicking and screaming, towards the meeting point. Seeing that no one else had reached yet, Heechul gently settled Ruzanna onto the bench.

Kneeling before her, he brushed a lock of stray hair off her face, patting her head in an attempt to soothe her. Seeing her furious face, red from the sheer exertion of screaming her head off, Heechul could not help but feel a tiny bit frightened. Heechul flinched as he saw her eyes narrowing again, bracing himself for an outburst from his tiny girlfriend.

“You will listen to me right… no matter what? Just because I tell you to? It’s important to me…” Heechul interrupted before Ruzanna could start on her rant.

The tone of Heechul’s voice surprised even himself; it came out barely a whisper, as though Heechul was truly afraid that Ruzanna could no longer put up with him. An expression of brief confusion flitted across Ruzanna’s face before her features softened.

“Of-of course,” Ruzanna could feel her anger melting away, even though she still felt like hitting him over the head with a frying pan for carrying her so unceremoniously down the streets of France.

She placed a kiss on his forehead before cheekily ruffling his hair, enjoying the loud yell that the action provoked. Watching Heechul trying to touch up his hair using the reflection of the shop window, Ruzanna wondered if she could ever bring herself to deny him something.

The rest of the group were slowly streaming back; Dian and Kibum arriving first, immediately sitting onto the remaining space on the bench and taking out an iPod, sharing a pair of earphones between them. Siwon and Ayame came next, and headed for The Ice Cream Shoppe as they waited for the rest to arrive. Donghae, Beverly, Kyuhyun and Crystal arrived together, looking exhausted from carrying the massive amount of bags that they had collected.

The rest of the boys quietly filed in, looking exhausted – Henry especially – from the sheer amount of walking that they did. Yesung and Valerie were the last to arrive, giggling suspiciously, and as soon as they did, Leeteuk and Reese immediately shepherd the group back to the Chateau.

Henry looked up at the darkening sky; it was about to snow.

“I want cookies,” Henry looked to his left as Heechul’s voice pulled him from his thoughts.

“What…now? Why?” Henry could hear Ruzanna reply, bewildered at Heechul’s random request.

“Because I said so!”

Henry laughed as he saw Ruzanna’s hand shoot up to pull at Heechul’s hair.

Yes, Henry affirmed to himself, he admired her a lot.

‘You can say anything you want to

No stress ’cause I understand you

We got a vibe you can’t define

Want everyone know that boy is mine

We won’t fight and stop and stare at the way you hold me

You take me there at times

I feel I lose control

Forget everyone but the hand I’m holding’

Henry stared at his twin snoozing silently on the couch in the living room. She had collapsed on the sofa after they had returned to the lodge, falling asleep almost instantaneously. Henry had always admired how she could sleep anywhere.

He had once found his twin wearing her pajamas, asleep in the bathtub, neck craned at an impossible angle; she must have been sleep walking again. As he clicked his tongue at her atrocious habits, Henry made a move to carry his twin back to the room. This was the part he hated – when Beverly was asleep, she was deadweight.

“Can she switch rooms with Sungmin?” Henry stopped in mid-step as he heard Donghae call out.

He was already gathering the sleeping girl into his arms, and true to her nature, his shockingly childish twin put her thumb into her mouth and nuzzled her face into Donghae’s chest. Speechless, all Henry could do was nod tentatively at his best friend. He dragged his sister’s trolley bag out of his room, after carefully emptying out anything that he deemed as “too sexy” from her luggage, before towing it into Donghae’s.

Henry returned back into his room which he now shared with Sungmin, his new roommate, who made no protest to the changes. This was not before Henry saw his older sister stalking towards Donghae, tagging Yesung along. Beverly was still cradled in his arms, as Donghae started towards his room.

Valerie reached the room before Donghae did, planting herself firmly in front of the door.

“Remember our talk?” Valerie spoke slowly, her voice low and positively threatening.

As though her words were laced with venom, Donghae froze, jaw clenched, as his arms curled tighter around the dreaming girl that he was carrying.

“She’s only a kid. Don’t forget that.” Valerie nodded at her sister, sleeping obliviously in Donghae’s arms.

“Just don’t break her,” Valerie whispered, her tone softening as Yesung slipped an arm around her waist, as if to remind her of something.

She looked Donghae squarely in the eyes before walking off with Yesung, giving her consent to them sharing a room.

There are moments in time, when older sisters just have to let go.

Chapter 5: Christmas

Summary: It’s Christmas Day! What else is there to say?

Song: The Llama Song! (dedicated to our favourite llama who’s also our favourite beta!)

It was 7 in the morning when Kangin and Zhou Mi snuck into the room Eunhyuk shared with Shindong, the sun barely crossing the horizon. Padding over to the beds quietly, when the boys located the correct lump, Kangin slammed his hand over Eunhyuk’s mouth to muffle the scream which would surely come as Zhou Mi jabbed him violently in the ribs. Waking up in a great deal of pain, Eunhyuk blinked rapidly before identifying his attackers.

“Oh, is it time already?” he whispered, stifling a yawn.

“Yeah, Siwon and Ayame are up too. They’ve gone after Hankyung and Ryeowook. Deal with him,” Zhou Mi muttered, pointing at the bigger lump across the room, before chasing after Kangin who had already left.

Getting out of bed, Eunhyuk stretched slightly before he took off in a short jog and jumped onto Shindong. The louder boy choked in mid snore, before flailing around in his bed, shocked beyond belief. Noticing someone seated on his stomach, Shindong groaned and pushed the little shit to the floor. Peering over the side of the bed, he stared down at Eunhyuk and groaned even more.

“This is not how I want to wake up on Christmas day,” he glared at the laughing boy.

Joining the others out in the corridor, Siwon and Ayame bounced over while Hankyung and Ryeowook dragged their feet behind them. Siwon had deprived Hankyung of his oxygen by squeezing his nose till the older boy woke up, gulping down as much air as possible. Ayame had miraculously found a feather somewhere, and had tickled Ryeowook on the soles of his feet, teasing the poor boy till he shot out of bed.

The group then heard a loud scream and a thump coming from Donghae’s room, which he now shared with Beverly. The couple exited the room followed closely by a laughing Kangin and a sniggering Zhou Mi. The others peered curiously at a blushing Beverly and a moaning Donghae, who was rubbing his stomach.

Kangin had yanked on Beverly’s hair, effectively waking the girl and pulling out several strands of hair as well. The startled girl did not scream out in pain, but in confusion as she eyed the unfamiliar room she was in. Turning to her side, she saw Donghae’s sleeping form and immediately punched him in the stomach and kicked him off the bed. Zhou Mi did not even need to do anything to wake Donghae, as he rolled about on the floor clutching his stomach in pain.

“Everyone clear on what to do?” Zhou Mi voiced out as he reached the group, the mastermind behind this elaborate plan.

Satisfied with the nods he got in return, he ignored the confused looks upon Hankyung’s and Ryeowook’s faces. Turning to Kangin, he saw that Beverly had already been briefed and he decided he liked the impish smile plastered on her face.

“Spread out,” he ordered, and he moved towards the room that Kyuhyun and Crystal shared, Kangin following him as he dragged Ryeowook along.

Siwon and Ayame grabbed onto Hankyung as they ran towards their next assignment, Heechul and Ruzanna, while Eunhyuk motioned to Shindong to follow him. Tugging a still moaning Donghae along, they made their way to their pair – Kibum and Dian. Beverly, single-handedly went for Henry and Sungmin.

Opening the door to her previous room, Beverly peered at the sleeping forms of her twin and Sungmin. Deciding to be kinder to her senior, she covered his mouth before pinching him – hard – in the arm. The older boy, who was a light sleeper, gave a huge yelp that Beverly managed to cover. She whispered what was going on to Sungmin, and he laughed quietly as she released her grip on his mouth.

Watching her enter the bathroom and return with a glass of icy cold water, he turned to a sleeping Henry, feeling sorry for the boy. Yanking his quilt down, Beverly put the glass of cold water to good use.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Henry yelled, as he woke up on Christmas day with cold water splashed into his face.

Hair dripping wet, he looked up to see his twin doubled over in laughter, an empty glass in her hand while Sungmin giggled on his bed.

“God, I hate you, you twerp.” He grunted at his sister as he tried to wipe his face with his soaked shirt, realising it was actually making things worse.

His actions stopped short when he heard two piercing shrieks fill the air, which sounded a lot like Heechul and Ruzanna. They reminded him of banshees at times. He winced as another shriek followed shortly. What on earth was going on?

Apparently, Siwon, Ayame and Hankyung met with success in their mission. Knowing his friend well, Hankyung had joined in the fun as he suggested telling Heechul his hair was on fire. Siwon proceeded to whisper the exact words into Heechul’s ear, and the vain peacock had woke up screeching about his precious hair. While swinging his arms about wildly, one hand had hit Ruzanna in the face and she too, woke up with a shriek.

By then, Ayame and Siwon were rolling on the floor in laughter and Hankyung had sunk into the nearest chair, unable to support himself. Heechul, having realised his hair was perfectly alright, glared at them with murderous intent. He did not realise his own girlfriend, who was over the initial shock, was baring her teeth as she reached out to grab a fistful of his hair.

“MY HAIR!!” he screamed again, ignoring Ruzanna’s teeth which had sunk into his shoulder.

In the room next door, where Kibum and Dian slept, Eunhyuk and Shindong stared at the sleeping couple, debating on the method to wake them up. Donghae sat on the floor, near the door, still clutching his stomach. His girlfriend definitely packed a powerful punch. Unable to take the bickering anymore, he snapped at the other two.

“Will you just shut up and blast some music from their speakers? I am in PAIN!” he groaned out.

Cursing themselves for not thinking of that sooner, the two quickly made their way to the portable speakers Kibum had brought along. The iPod lay next to it, plugged in but turned off. Detaching it from the speakers, Shindong scrolled through the music list before finding a song that made him laugh.

Showing the title to Eunhyuk, wondering why on earth such a song was in Kibum’s iPod, he watched as the other boy nodded eagerly. Ensuring that the volume was at maximum, Shindong then proceeded to plug the iPod back in, and the song blared out.

‘HERE’S A LLAMA

THERE’S A LLAMA

AND ANOTHER LITTLE LLAMA

FUZZY LLAMA

FUNNY LLAMA

LLAMA LLAMA DUCK’

Jerking awake, Kibum and Dian looked around wildly from their bed until they spotted the two wheezing boys, out of breath from laughing too hard. Mouth open in shock, they could only watch as the two boys high-fived each other, congratulating themselves on a job well done. It was not every day that you could see the quiet pair ruffled.

On the floor, Donghae groaned as his free hand moved up to massage his head, muttering about the couple’s disgusting taste in music.

The bigger group gathered back in the corridor, where Zhou Mi was waiting for them again. His team was also successful in waking up Kyuhyun and Crystal, though Henry noticed Kangin sporting a bruise on his arm while it looked like there were some scratches running along Zhou Mi’s neck. Ryeowook though, seemed relatively unharmed.

The new injuries were attained, when Zhou Mi woke the couple up with the only way he knew how after Ryeowook’s prodding had failed to work. He asked Ryeowook to step away from the bed, as he motioned Kangin forward and told him of his plan. Bending down, he whispered into Kyuhyun’s ear.

“Hey, I accidentally broke the disc of your new game, Starcraft 3.”

The results were instantaneous, as Kyuhyun gave a start and his eyes flew open. Reaching out to grab at the person who dared to touch his games, he clawed at anything and everything. Zhou Mi, who had not expected such a violent reaction, was unable to move away in time as Kyuhyun’s hands wrapped around his throat and fingernails had scratched at his delicate skin.

Kangin did not fare much better, as he ripped the pillow from under Crystal’s head and proceeded to slam it over her stomach, again and again. She woke up with a fright, and had kicked out. If someone was attacking her, she sure as hell would not go down without a fight. Her legs struck out repeatedly, and somehow her aim was spot on even though she was still half asleep. A purple bruise started to appear on Kangin’s arm, being kicked in the same spot for more than 7 times.

Clearing his throat, Zhou Mi motioned at the second last door in which Beverly proceeded to enter, dragging her reluctant twin along with Sungmin. The two shooters were inside, and everyone else did not dare to wake them up. Donghae even twitched, as he remembered Valerie’s threat. But Beverly knew her older sister would never hurt her, so she pranced in without a fear.

Too excited over Christmas and all the presents waiting for her, Beverly did not even notice Sungmin and Henry proceed to stand at the furthest corner of the room, away from the bed. Wanting to speed things up so she could get to her presents, Beverly flung herself onto the bed and started bouncing up and down, screaming her head off.

“IT’S CHRISTMAS! GET UP YOU LAZY BUMS! PRESENTS! CHRISTMAS! COME ON! UP! UP! UP!” Beverly continued to rant, all the while jumping on the bed.

If anything, it seemed like she had increased the speed and intensity of her jumps. Henry winced and made a move to pull her off, but Sungmin grabbed on to him as they held their breaths. The shooters had woken up.

Beverly had managed to accidentally jump onto Yesung’s stomach before her next jump brought her onto Valerie’s leg. Yesung had curled up into a feeble position and Henry saw his older sister clutch her leg in pain, whipping her head around as she tried to locate the source of her troubles. The movement caught Beverly’s eye as she stopped jumping and giggled, before pushing Yesung away and plopping down onto the bed.

“Merry Christmas, sis!” she said, before hugging the older girl.

Henry heard Sungmin let out the breath he was holding and he too, relaxed as he saw his older sister calm down upon seeing Beverly and return the hug. Beverly got off the bed as she chided them to hurry. Before she grabbed hold of him and Sungmin as she bounded out the room, Henry saw his older sister push away Yesung’s hands before pecking his stomach. Moving to peck him on the lips, trying to soothe away his anger and annoyance, her hands took over Yesung’s hands in rubbing the sore spot that had turned purple. Henry hoped Yesung’s stomach would be fine.

Now the whole group was up, with the exception of Leeteuk and Reese. The group headed to the last room, Zhou Mi leading the way, before flinging the door open and rushing in. But to their disappointment, the couple was sitting upright in their bed. Their smug looks directed at them caused the group to groan. They were expecting them.

“Did you honestly think that we wouldn’t know what you all would do?” Reese asked, eyes dancing with mirth.

“Plus, even if we didn’t know, the amount of noise you all made sounded as if there were elephants stampeding through the Chateau.” Leeteuk continued, as he got off the bed.

Helping Reese off the bed too, the couple maneuvered their way out of the room, still chuckling at being able to outwit the others. Slightly put off, the group trooped behind them as they gathered in the common area. After fighting for the best spots around the fireplace, everyone gazed at the tree in pure happiness as they settled down.

The Christmas tree stood tall and colorful, with the massive amount of decorations on it. But since last night, there was an added bonus beneath the tree. Presents. They had been placed underneath the tree before the group turned in, once they had been wrapped up. The piles of identically wrapped presents, with only a single name upon each one to show who it belonged to, lay waiting to be unwrapped.

It was time for the game.

It had been the group’s tradition, ever since Zhou Mi’s last birthday. They had decided to tease Zhou Mi, as they wrapped all the presents in the same type of wrapping paper. Making Zhou Mi guess the person whom the present came from before he was allowed to open the next one brought about some hilarious results. Thinking back, Henry’s lips curved into a smile when he remembered Heechul throwing his shoe at Zhou Mi’s head when the birthday boy had guessed wrongly.

This time, as they were so many people involved, Leeteuk ordered the piles of presents to be sorted. Drawing lots, they awaited with baited breath as everyone wanted the chance to go first. Looking down at his slip of paper, Henry grinned triumphantly as he saw the number ‘1’. Making his way to his pile of presents, Henry grabbed the nearest one, which happened to be an envelope, and tore it open. As he eyed the gift voucher to Silent Melody, a store that specialized in violins back home, he managed to correctly guess who gave it to him.

“Ryeowook! Thanks so much!” Henry smiled as Ryeowook nodded to show he had guessed correctly.

The next present proved to be a challenge, as he stared at the book in his hands: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. As he glanced around the room, he could see Sungmin stifling giggles as a smirking Heechul immediately pointed at his girlfriend. Biting his lip, Henry narrowed it down to the either the very animated Heechul or Sungmin. He decided to pick Heechul as he was more certain Sungmin would not throw a shoe at his head.

But he got it wrong. Heechul shook his head while Kibum and Dian both laughed, pointing at themselves as they shared the gift. Scowling, Henry walked back to his spot on the rug. God, he sucked at this. Wondering who the next person to have a go at their presents was, he saw his twin stand up.

His irritation grew as she managed to reach her 5th present before getting it wrong, but soon, the hilarious reactions from the others had him laughing along. The game proceeded on smoothly, with very few violent reactions much to the disappointment of the group whereas Leeteuk breathed a sigh of relief. He laughed as Ayame whacked Siwon when he guessed wrongly on the present she gave him. Chuckled to himself, when Donghae received a book on self-protection that Sungmin gave, who was staring pointedly at Valerie.

The whole group had roared with laughter when Ruzanna received a framed photograph of Heechul, and upon finding out it was from her very own boyfriend, threw it at him. Henry thought Heechul was lucky to have fast reflexes, as the frame sailed across the room straight at his face. He gagged when his sister opened a present that was so obviously from Yesung, a bracelet engraved with his initials, and averted his eyes as Yesung placed it around her wrist.

It was now Reese’s turn, and she was already on her second last present. If she got this right, she would win the game as everyone else was unable to identify all the presents they had received. His twin, as well as Kangin, Zhou Mi, Kyuhyun, Crystal, Ayame, Siwon and Shindong were not able to make it pass their 5th present. Fairing slightly better, Ruzanna, Heechul, Hankyung, Ryeowook, Donghae, Eunhyuk and Yesung made it past more than half their pile of presents before failing.

His older sister, along with Sungmin, Dian, Kibum and Leeteuk, were among those who could actually guess the majority of their presents. Trying not to think too much about the fact that he was only able to correctly guess one present, Henry watched as Reese held the thick photo album, filled with their pictures, in her hands. Mulling over her last two choices, everyone wondered if she would get it right. The faces of Yesung and his sister along with Kyuhyun and Crystal, the last two pairs whose presents had not been opened yet, gave nothing away as they waited patiently.

“Yesung and Val?” Reese tentatively called out and 2o pairs of eyes turned to the couple.

Beaming up at Reese, Henry saw his sister nod before everyone called out their congratulations. But seconds later, he watched as everyone stood up and rushed at their pile of presents, eager to find out what else they had received for Christmas. Presents that were previously unopened, were now scattered around their new owner.

Sitting on the rug, surrounded by the sounds of ripping paper and delighted squeals as the floor became more and more littered with rubbish, Henry wished that time could stop in that moment forever. With everyone smiling happily, Henry finally moved towards his own pile of presents. Henry smirked to himself- 10 more presents.

Maybe losing this game was not as bad as he thought.

Chapter 6: I’ll Always Wait For You.

Summary: Kyuhyun doesn’t hold back in games when it comes to Crystal, because he respects her enough not to make it easy. But his love for her runs deeper than many can possibly imagine.

Song: Way Back Into Love by Hugh Grant & Drew Barrymore

Henry rubbed his eyes, still dreary from last night. Having talked into the wee hours of the morning, the group had only just woken up. Slipping into the last remaining seat next to Sungmin, Henry surveyed the others gathered around the breakfast table. It was two hours past noon and everyone was flustered – Reese and Leeteuk especially – trying to cram as many activities as they could into the remaining hours of the day.

Ayame and Siwon had already left the table in favor of snow trekking, dragging Hankyung and Kangin along with them. Eunhyuk, Shindong and Ryeowook were having a heated discussion over whether to ski or laze around. Henry’s stomach grumbled as he saw his sister feeding Yesung some hash browns before chastely pecking her boyfriend on the lips. Kibum and Dian each had a newspaper in their hands and were slowly savoring their toast and hot chocolate.

Henry groaned as he reached for the croissants. He was starving! Chewing the delicious pastry, he saw his twin digging into a banana with a spoon before settling her head onto Donghae’s shoulder, her eyelids droopy. Ruzanna was spreading butter and maple syrup on Heechul’s pancake, the only one cheery despite her lack of sleep.

Henry stared across the table at Zhoumi, amazed at the way his hyung was shoving spoonful after spoonful of cereal into his mouth. They way that Zhoumi, Kyuhyun and Crystal were eating made Henry think that they did not need to swallow. Kyuhyun was shoving forkfuls of bacon into his mouth, spitting food all over the table as he rushed his girlfriend to finish up her eggs. Pulling her to her feet, the couple and Zhoumi rushed out of the dining hall, evidently headed in the direction of the Game Room.

Henry groaned as he ruffled his hair.

He was sleepy and hungry.

Bugger.

~*~

Kyuhyun, Crystal and Zhoumi rushed into the Game Room. Having stood at the door for 15 minutes glaring at its previous occupants, they had finally managed to make the increasingly uncomfortable gamers desert their game in search for a place without the maniacal glowers of the trio.

Commandeering the room, Kyuhyun had planted himself in front of the PlayStation, controller firmly in hand as he watched the screen flicker to life. Next to him was his girlfriend, the only avid female gamer in the group. Crystal, equally excited as her boyfriend, was looking at Zhoumi flipping through the available games.

“That one!” Crystal yelled her insistence as she bounced animatedly up and down the couch.

Slipping the game disc in, Zhoumi hopped to his feet only to be accosted by Sungmin who had just entered the room, and was adamant on making Zhou Mi accompany him for a round of snooker. With a loud groan, the younger boy trailed after Sungmin, upset with not being able to play his game but unable to deny his hyung anything.

Already engaged in choosing avatars for their game, the exit of their friend barely drew a grunt from the duo. As the Chocobo Racing jingle filled the game room, Crystal let out a loud sigh.

“They should have a Karaoke Room here too,” she seemed to speak to no one in particular.

With a laugh Kyuhyun turned to his girlfriend, commenting that they could sing even without a Karaoke machine. Sharing a smile between them, the couple turned back to the screen, eyes focused on the blinking lights before them.

But before their game could start, another interruption came in the form of a soft knock on the door, drawing their attention away from the screen and the couple pressed the pause button at the same time. Simultaneously turning their heads to the entrance of their heaven, they glared fiercely at the two girls who entered the room.

“Hey there! Could we join you in a few games?” One of the girls asked merrily, either too stupid to notice the identical glares from the couple sitting on the floor or successfully ignoring it.

But they received no replies and instead, the glare on Kyuhyun’s and Crystal’s faces intensified. Their stares would fit the saying of – if looks could kill, they would be six feet under – perfectly. The heavy silence continued until the smiles on the faces of the two girls faltered.

“Um… I… I… g… gu… guess not then… Have fun playing… Heh…” the other girl had the brains to stutter out before hightailing out of the room, followed closely by her friend.

Snorting, the couple then turned back to face the screens with looks of pure rapture now that the annoyances were gone. Un-pausing the game, the rabid gamers let their natural instincts take over as the braced themselves for the heavy competition that would soon ensue.

Kyuhyun’s fiercely competitive nature never allowed him to back down from a challenge and he was confident that Crystal could hold her own. Hence, Kyuhyun rarely held back when it came to trashing his girlfriend at games, even if it meant being at the receiving end of her infamous tongue lashings. Eyes glued to the screen before them, Crystal and Kyuhyun were bickering and making fun jabs at each other.

With Crystal on the left and Kyuhyun on the right, they looked like two children engaged in a squabble at the dinner table. Kyuhyun and Crystal were nudging each other as they pressed desperately on their controller, the avatars on screen mimicking their childish pushing. The tiny characters were crashing into each other as each tried to race ahead and in the mist of the blinking lights on screen, the bickering of the couple had risen to a jumble of excited cries.

“My dragon is going to beat your stupid magician!” Crystal was shouting now, excited that her avatar had raced ahead of Kyuhyun’s.

“Your character is a fish! With the head of an elephant! It’s an elephish! EH…LI…FISH!” Kyuhyun yelled back, his competitive side kicking into full gear as his character neared the finishing line.

“Let me win!” Crystal was screaming now as she leapt to her feet, her eyebrows furrowing as Kyuhyun’s avatar crossed the finishing line mere seconds before hers.

PLAYER 2 WINS.

Crystal threw her controller down onto the couch, upset that she had lost yet again. She could beat everyone else in the gang but when it came to her boyfriend, she always fell a few points short. The flashing lights from the screen could not conceal the tears threatening to leak from her eyes.

“Will you just let me win once” Crystal jabbed Kyuhyun in the chest, emphasizing every word that fell from her lips.

With a laugh, Kyuhyun hugged his girlfriend before releasing her.

“I’ll always wait for you to catch up,” he grinned.

It was not exactly a promise to let her win, but Crystal felt that there was a deeper meaning the words conveyed, surpassing mere competition in games. Switching off the PlayStation, Kyuhyun started singing, his voice enchanting Crystal. Watching the corner of her lips turn upwards at his song, Kyuhyun launched into the last chorus.

‘All I wanna do it find a way back into love,

I can’t make it through without a way back into love,

And if I open my heart again

I guess I’m hoping you’ll be there for me in the end.’

Still glowing from his words, Crystal wrapped her arms around Kyuhyun’s neck, pulling him into a bone-crushing hug, nearly choking the poor guy with her strangle hold.

~*~

Henry tapped quietly at the door, peeking around the edge just in time to see Kyuhyun gently peck Crystal on the cheek. The couple, too engrossed in their own world, was oblivious to the intruder who was growing redder and redder by the minute. Coughing, Henry apologetically interrupted, his voice nearly breaking from the embarrassment of having intruded upon their private moment.

“It… it is erm… Leeteuk told me to call you guys. Dinner is ready,” Henry managed to awkwardly choke out before scurrying away.

Scrambling off the floor in a hurry, Kyuhyun left his girlfriend on the floor in a daze as she blinked slowly at the spot where her boyfriend was previously at. His rush to the door made her think that he had once again, left her behind, but upon reaching the door, Kyuhyun turned around to look at Crystal. Extending his hand towards her, as he gestured for her to come to him, he chuckled.

“Come on babe,” Kyuhyun grabbed her hand as she made her way towards him, pulling her towards him.

“I told you I’ll always wait for you. Always.”

Chapter 7: Why Do I Love The Bad Ones?

Summary: Yesung and Valerie’s relationship falls apart with the arrival of a new character.

Warning: Stronger language, so we’ve shifted the rating of this chapter up to PG-13 just in case.

Song: Tick Tock by Kesha ft. P. Diddy

The group of friends could be found draped over the various couches in the lobby of the main hotel. In the afternoon, they had followed a hiking path that swore to bring them to one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and Henry could not help but agree as he recalled the vast expanse of untainted white.

Snow-capped mountains stretched as far as the eye could see, while luscious pine trees filled the air with a refreshing, woody scent. But the climb to the top of the lookout had left even Siwon out of breath. Too tired to do anything more, after dinner, the group scattered themselves around the lobby as they entertained themselves with various things.

Henry saw Yesung near the fireplace, scribbling onto pieces of paper, while Leeteuk, Reese, Zhou Mi, Ryeowook and Hankyung were playing with a deck of cards near him. Kibum and Dian had snagged the love seat and were sharing a book between them, while the familiar headphones could be seen extending from their ears.

Over by the glass windows, Henry suspiciously eyed a group consisting of Eunhyuk, Shindong, Kyuhyun, Crystal, Siwon and Ayame, as they whispered softly among their huddled forms while casting sly looks at Kibum and Dian. Heechul and Ruzanna were curled up against each other on a couch while Kangin, Donghae and Beverly were on a fluffy rug chattering with each other in front of the fireplace.

Then there were the three of them, occupying one of the longer couches. His older sister had used him as her own portable heater, slipping her feet under his lap while resting her head upon Sungmin’s thigh, her new personal pillow. It was honestly getting slightly uncomfortable sitting on two lumps.

The three of them were chatting comfortably, until her responses died down and she appeared to become more and more distracted. Sungmin seemed to notice this at the same time as Henry did, and both the boys turned to look in the direction where Valerie’s gaze was fixed upon. His line of sight landed on Yesung, but the older boy was no longer alone.

There was a girl sitting across him now.

~*~

From the corner of her eye, Valerie had observed a familiar looking girl approach Yesung. It soon clicked in her mind that it was one of the girls from the group of four who had climbed up to the scenic lookout with them. Valerie had noticed the glances the girl gave Yesung, but thought nothing of it – until now.

Yesung was concentrating on composing a new song, a small hobby of his, and she knew that he hated to be disturbed during such moments. Yet she looked upon in shock as the girl interrupted Yesung, who gave a large smile instead of looking irritated. Jealousy nipped at Valerie as the girl sat down and she watched as they struck up a conversation.

Her jealousy turned to rage, as Yesung handed the sheets of paper he was working on to the stranger. He had never allowed her to sneak a peek at his work before it was finished. Granted, Valerie knew that she was musically challenged, but still!

Lips parted in disbelief, as she saw the girl lean forward and whisper something into his ear, before placing a hand on Yesung’s thigh and he had made no move to remove it. Did she just see his smile grow bigger?

Snarling quietly, she reached her breaking point and she yanked her feet from beneath Henry’s lap before shoving her boots on. Telling Sungmin that she was heading to the club, which they had discovered on the day that they explored the grounds, she stormed off in anger, forgetting her jacket in her haste.

Hell, she knew Yesung was quite the flirt before they got together, but now that he had her, had he not changed? Well fuck. Cursing the attraction boys like him had on her, she shoved all images of Yesung in his leather jacket out of her mind before entering the club.

~*~

Seeing his sister upset, Henry glared at Yesung before heading over to Beverly to inform her of the latest development. Outraged and busy plotting the downfall of Yesung with his twin, Henry did not realise Sungmin had gone over to Yesung.

“Hey, Val went to the club but she left her jacket here. You should go after her and give this to her before she catches a cold,” he told Yesung, while he studiously ignored the girl’s presence.

Unaware of the trouble he was in, Yesung nodded his thanks and took the jacket before excusing himself and walking in the same direction Valerie had just left in.

Entering the club, the heavy beat of the music pounded through him while the lyrics of the current song playing washed over him. Yesung spotted his girlfriend just in time to see her down a shot of alcohol. His eyes followed her movements as she allowed herself to be dragged onto the dance floor by a random guy.

Watching as she moved her body to the beat of the pounding music, he growled when the boy placed his hands on her hips and his frown deepened when she seemed to accept the gesture.

‘Don’t stop, make it pop

DJ, blow my speakers up

Tonight, Imma fight

Till we see the sunlight’

Weaving through the crowd, Yesung ripped the other male away from Valerie upon reaching the pair before snapping at him to get lost. But Valerie had promptly marched off when she saw him. By the time Yesung turned around, she had already exited the club.

Rushing after her, he only managed to catch up to her when they were outside the hotel. Grabbing her arm roughly, he pulled her back and dragged her to the side of the hotel where it was quiet, before pinning her against the wall.

“What the hell was that all about?” he yelled at her.

“What was what?” Valerie asked, staring at him with a look of defiance on her face.

“That! That dancing, that guy grabbing your hips and you allowing him to, you running away from me… Everything!” he spat at her.

“What’s wrong? If you can do it, why can’t I?” she questioned him, the amount of hurt she felt was beginning to betray her cool exterior and she struggled to keep her emotions in check.

“You’re mine for starters, and what the hell do you mean? I never touched any girl since I’ve been with you!” Yesung shouted in frustration, never seeing this obstinate side of his girlfriend before – or at least, not directed at him.

“Well I’m sure letting strangers touch you for no reason is pretty much the same thing. At least I was doing something. It’s called dancing. Maybe you should try it some time,” she replied, her gaze shifting slightly out of focus.

“What? Wait, are you drunk? How much did you drink?” Yesung peered at his girlfriend as she started to sway slightly.

“And what on earth are you talking about?” Yesung said, confused, not understanding what his girlfriend was getting at.

Valerie stayed silent, but with the pointed glare that she was directing at him, he seemed to come to a realization.

“Just now? Althea? But we were just talking about music! She said I was good at composing stuff!” defending himself.

“Althea, huh? Since I’m such an unsupportive girlfriend who doesn’t compliment you enough, why don’t you go and talk to Althea?” sarcasm dripping from every word that came out of Valerie’s mouth.

“AND LEAVE ME ALONE!” Valerie finally screamed at him, unable to handle much more.

Effortlessly shoving him away, the strength she had gained from shooting aided her. Breathing heavily, both of them stared at each other – Yesung in perplexity, Valerie in disgust.

“Hey, but you’re close to Sungmin too! I’ve never commented on your relationship with him. You guys are pretty touchy with each other and I’m not jealous! Althea’s just a new friend. Why are you so jealous?” Yesung tried to reason.

“One, he’s my friend. He’s been my friend since the day I stepped into my class. I’ve been friends with him longer than I’ve been together with you! I’ve known him longer than I’ve known you! Two, you know we see each other more like siblings anyway, so it’s not like you have anything to worry about. Three, he doesn’t stare at me with lust in his eyes, unlike your pretty new friend, Althea.” she countered.

“Yeah but- ”

“You know what, just shut up alright? God, I did not come all the way here just to see someone else pawing at my boyfriend.” Valerie’s icy voice abruptly cut through his sentence, and it seemed to cut through his heart as well.

“God, I’m such an idiot’ she whispered to herself.

“Huh?” Yesung’s sharp ears had picked up on her soft mumble.

“I said I was an idiot. I’m an idiot to have given up a spot in the national shooting team.” Valerie spoke clearly with a steely voice and as she saw Yesung’s eyes widen in surprise, she continued her rant.

“That’s right, remember coach pulling me aside a few months back? You asked me what he wanted, but I said it was nothing important. It wasn’t nothing important. Coach told me I had been scouted during one of the competitions and he offered to train me to gain a spot in the national team. But it meant that I had to transfer to another school far away, so I rejected his offer. I declined and told him I wanted to stay. But for who, huh?! For what? For an idiot of a boyfriend who smiles at other girls as they place their hand on HIS. FUCKING. THIGH.”

Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes before opening them again. This time, they appeared cold and hard, without any emotion.

“God, why did I stay for you? Don’t you think I’m the biggest idiot?” Valerie gave Yesung a tight, cold smile as her eyes narrowed at him.

Yesung was stunned into silence. He knew how much his girlfriend loved the sport and he knew she was good. The chance to enter the national team was a once in a lifetime opportunity and to think that she had turned it down, for him. Shaking his head to try and clear his muddled thoughts, he blindly reached out for her.

“No, don’t touch me!” she screamed at him, slightly hysterical, as he made a move towards her.

“Don’t ever come near me again. The room is yours alone from now.” she spat out as she backed away slowly.

Then she suddenly spun around and broke into a run, heading back to the Chateau before Yesung could even ask her where she was going to sleep, if not in their room. Standing alone in the middle of the snow covered pavement, Yesung could not help but feel he was the world’s biggest idiot, not Valerie.

When he finally returned to the Chateau, there was no trace of Valerie anywhere and he wondered where she had gone. With a heavy heart, Yesung tried to sleep but found it impossible as he restlessly tossed and turned on the emptier bed. It was colder without Valerie and he missed wrapping his arms around her frame as he fell asleep. Resigning himself to the first sleepless night of many to come, Yesung made his way to the pantry to make himself a cup of coffee.

But as he passed by the common area of the Chateau, the silhouette of a person near the fireplace where dying embers lay caught his eye. Wondering who would be up so late, he approached the chair only to find Valerie sleeping. Curled up into a ball, her body racked with violent shudders from the cold. Rushing back to their bedroom to grab a blanket, Yesung felt like kicking himself.

Covering her with the thick quilt and tucking the corners around her body, he then proceeded to start a new fire in order to keep her warm. Once done, he looked back at her form, satisfied to see that she had stopped shivering. But in the bright glow of the blazing fire, he caught sight of her tear stained cheeks and it killed him to know that he was the cause of her pain.

Chapter 8: Out In The Moonlight.

Summary: Two pairs cunningly escape the mayhem to simply spend time with each other.

Song: Gotta Be Somebody by Nickelback

Henry immediately realised something was wrong between his older sister and Yesung the next morning. Settling into his chair for breakfast, he eyed Yesung, who was staring dejectedly at his sibling, while she merely sipped her hot chocolate, staring at some spot on the wall. Watching several others shift uncomfortably in their seats, their eyes flitting between the two individuals sitting at opposite ends of the table, Henry knew that the group could also sense the heavy tension.

But respecting the couple’s privacy, everyone did not want to pry even if it meant their curiosity was not satisfied. Plus, they were somewhat afraid of the temper of the shooters. Starting on his own breakfast, Henry heard Leeteuk call out to the group.

“Hey guys, since Christmas is over, Reese and I were thinking about putting up some more decorations besides the tree. Different ones. So that’s what we’re going to do today alright?” Leeteuk announced, his last sentence more of a statement than a question.

“Yep, that’s right. That means all of you by the way,” Reese added on, her gaze lingering on Kibum and Dian, who stopped whispering into each other’s ears, separating with sheepish grins on their faces yet again.

Chatter broke out along the breakfast table as the girls grew excited at another prospect of decorating their chateau. The meal quickly ended after that, as many of them started shoving down their food as fast as possible. Some were excited and wanted to start decorating immediately, while others wanted it over and done with as soon as possible so they could do their own thing.

But the chateau was so enormous, the activity took up their whole day and even after dinner, the group was still stringing up some decorations. Leeteuk had dragged Shindong, Eunhyuk, Zhou Mi and Heechul with him to the corridor along the kitchens. The group of noisy and problematic boys were creating more chaos than decorating the common area and Leeteuk grew annoyed with them. He kept a close eye on the boys, whom having been scolded by both Leeteuk and Reese and banished to a quieter area, were more subdued.

Ryeowook, Kangin, Beverly and Ruzanna, who frequented the kitchen the most, took over the decorations of their dominion, afraid that the others would wreck their area. Reese overlooked the decorations of the common area, the biggest most extravagant place which was nowhere near done despite the many people working at it. Henry feared that it would never get done, especially with all the people sneaking away.

First it was the notorious pair, Kibum and Dian. Henry’s sharp eyes caught two figures slinking away towards the staircase. Staring at them intently, the pair finally felt eyes on them and turned quickly, stopping in their tracks like a deer caught in headlights. But Henry jerked his head upwards and nodded his promise to keep his lips sealed, chuckling to himself.

Then barely an hour later, had Henry seen a different, surprising pair attempt to sneak out the back door. Their disappearance had left Reese, Hankyung, Yesung, Valerie, Kangin, Donghae, Kyuhyun, Crystal and himself continuing their immense task. He wondered what they were up to, as Siwon and Ayame were usually quite involved in decorating the chateau. He did not blame them though, as decorating for a whole day was tiring. He too, was not really in the mood as his thoughts lay elsewhere.

His older sister had been acting as if nothing was wrong, but he noticed that she avoided Yesung like the plague, choosing instead to stick to Sungmin. After awhile, Henry noticed that Sungmin was also helping her escape from any interactions with Yesung, much to the older male’s disappointment and irritation. But when he was about the snap at the younger male, a sharp look Sungmin threw at him effectively silenced him. Henry guessed that whatever had happened, Sungmin was definitely in the know.

~*~

Up on the roof top of one wing of the chateau lay Kibum and Dian, cuddling closely on a blanket they had brought up, to share their body warmth. The black velvet over their heads were littered with millions of stars, twinkling brightly in the night sky.

“God, it feels so good to be up here and away from all the chaos,” Kibum huffed out, relieved that they had managed to escape, thanks to, on a large part, Henry.

Laughing in agreement, Dian snuggled closer to Kibum as she tried to draw more warmth from him. Thinking back during the day, she smiled at some of the funnier moments.

“Remember when you had to blow glitter out of Zhou Mi’s eye when he upset the whole bottle over himself? I laughed so hard at that! I feel kinda guilty though,” Dian mentioned, chuckling at the mere thought of it.

Dian smiled to herself as the image of Kibum’s wide grin floated to the front of her mind. His sparkling smile was what attracted her in the first place

“He can be quite the idiot. Kangin too. That hammer nearly hit me!” Kibum exclaimed, remembering how Kangin had managed to accidentally fling a hammer from his hand, scarcely missing Kibum’s head before plunging into the wall and creating a huge dent.

“Come on, you were a meter away! It’s no big deal,” Dian giggled, ruffling Kibum’s hair.

“But Yesung and Valerie seem to have had a fight huh?” she mused.

“Did you see her make an initial move towards him just now?” Dian continued, thinking about the time when Yesung dropped a huge box of decorations on his foot and howled in pain, but Valerie had bit her lip and jerked herself back.

“Yeah, I wonder what it’s about. I’ve got a feeling it was Yesung’s fault though, seeing the way the two of them behave,” Kibum replied, rubbing small circles against Dian’s back in an attempt to further warm her.

Humming, Dian rested her head upon Kibum’s shoulder and comfortable silence followed. The couple enjoyed the quiet atmosphere as they gazed upon the stars, taking in the almost ethereal beauty of their surroundings. Soon, scuffling below them drew their attention and Dian shrugged out of Kibum’s grasp to scramble to the ledge of the roof and peer over.

Snickering in amusement, she made her way back to Kibum’s waiting arms and settled herself back into his warmth.

“Looks like we’re not the only ones who escaped the insanity below! Siwon and Ayame just made their great escape too,” Dian informed Kibum, who also chuckled, finding their friends hilarious.

Nuzzling against her neck, Kibum decided he wanted to have a bit of fun.

“Hey, remember the time when I taught you the different constellations? Do you still remember them?” Kibum sneakily asked Dian, and seeing her nod, a plan started forming in his mind.

“Let’s play a game! I’m going to test you on the constellations and for every one you get wrong… you’ll owe me a kiss!” he continued, grinning widely at his girlfriend.

“Bring it on,” Dian said confidently, sure that her memory would not fail her.

Pointing at different locations in the sky, Kibum’s grin faltered as Dian managed to answer every one smoothly. Orion… Leo… Scorpius… Taurus… Gemini… Hercules… Sagittarius… Polaris… Big Dipper… Canis Major… Ursa Major… Coma Berenices… Corona Borealis…

Seeing Kibum’s pout as she managed to answer everything perfectly, Dian laughed in delight. Her mind was like a sponge when it came to learning new things as she had a love for knowledge. It always came easily to her when it was time to remember the things she had learnt, her brain managing to store every detail with crystal clear clarity.

“Don’t underestimate me,” she chided Kibum, before pecking him on the lips to appease her sulking boyfriend, who turned back to her, satisfied.

“Have I ever told you the story behind Corona Borealis?” Kibum asked Dian and seeing her shake her head, continued on.

“Also called The Crown, it’s been said this constellation belongs to a beautiful lady called Ariadne. Abandoned on foreign shores by someone she loved, she was seen by Dionysus whose heart melted at the sight of the forlorn girl. His love was so deep for her, he married her on the spot and in time she returned his affections. During the wedding, Aphrodite gave the crown to Ariadne as a present and after the wedding, Dionysus joyfully tossed the crown into the sky. The jewels turned into stars to stay in the night sky forever more, signifying the joyous day and the bond between Dionysus and his wife. The brightest star is called Gemma too, Latin for jewel” Kibum explained.

“What a happy ending,” Dian muttered into Kibum’s chest.

Stroking her hair softly, Kibum tilted Dian’s head upwards to meet his gaze.

“I’d buy you a star and name if after you if I could. I’d give you the universe if it were within my means,” he promised, leaning down to kiss her.

“It’d be our very own happy ending,” Kibum murmured against Dian’s smiling lips.

‘Tonight, out on the street out in the moonlight

And dammit this feels too right

It´s just like Déjà Vu

Me standin’ here with you’

Running as fast as they could hand in hand and giggling loudly like a pair of school kids having done something wrong, Siwon and Ayame tried to put as much distance as they could between the chateau and themselves. Hopefully, by the time anyone realised they were gone, they would be far enough so that no one could drag them back.

Talking the path at the back of the lodge, the pair decided to explore what it had to offer them, guided by the soft moonlight streaming down. The glow from the stars was just enough to see their surroundings. Once satisfied that they have put enough distance between them and the chateau, Siwon and Ayame slowed down to a stroll as they enjoyed the fresh night air.

Chattering away about their great escape from Reese’s New Year decorating fiasco, the couple stumbled upon an open meadow, a huge expanse of flat land covered with untainted snow. With the moon hanging above the fir trees in the distance, shining down on the world below, the beauty of the area was simply breathtaking.

Walking to the edge of the meadow, the only sounds that filled the atmosphere were their feet crunching upon the snow. Ayame noticed that the snow was soft, plush and powdery. The top layer had been recently added by the light snow fall that very afternoon. Squealing in delight, Ayame rushed into the clearing, dragging a laughing Siwon behind her. Jumping up and down, Ayame sent a shower of snow into Siwon’s face.

But she did not see the disgruntled look on her boyfriend, as Ayame had promptly turned around and fallen to the ground, intent on making a snow angel. Waving her arms and scissoring her legs on the ground, she soon held out her hands to Siwon.

“Pull me up,” Ayame demanded of him, waving her arms again to gain his distraction.

Ayame did not want to destroy the snow angel she had made, so she carefully eased herself off the ground with Siwon’s help. Once standing upright, she dusted herself down and turned to look at her masterpiece, only to find a pair of horns and a devil’s tail added to the design on the ground. Frowning at Siwon, who stood slightly away from her, grinning like a maniac, she folded her arms across her chest.

“Dude, what is your problem?” she asked, scowling at the chuckling form in front of her.

“It suits you more that way,” Siwon replied, shrugging his broad shoulders.

But his eyes soon widened and he started to back away as he saw Ayame advance on him. Seconds later, Siwon completely turned around and had broke out into a full-fledged run as his girlfriend started to chase him from behind. Screaming ominous threats at him, Ayame swore that if, that when she caught up to him, he was a dead, dead man.

Over confident of his running capabilities, Siwon could not resist turning around to stick out his tongue at his girlfriend who was lagging behind by a bit. But it soon proved to be a mistake, as he tripped over a branch on the ground which he missed when he turned to look behind. The few short seconds in which it took him to get up from the ground gave Ayame a good advantage, as a minute later, she caught up to Siwon and tackled him to the ground.

In a flurry of limbs, Siwon tried to escape while Ayame continuously jabbed her finger into him at any point she could reach. Sounds of hysterical laughter filled the air when she managed to find Siwon’s ticklish spot, and triumphant, Ayame was unrelenting in her revenge.

Mustering all his strength, Siwon finally managed to turn the tables as he flipped their bodies over, now pinning Ayame’s body underneath his. This resulted in a tussle as the two started rolling around in the snow, each trying to get the upper hand. Tired and out of breath, Ayame gave up in the end as Siwon straddled her lower body and held her hands securely, not letting her move an inch.

It was not as if she could complain about the position she was in anyway, a random, betraying thought floated in her head. Seeing that his girlfriend stopped moving, Siwon breathed a sigh of relief and plopped onto the ground next to Ayame. Both of them inhaling deeply, trying to get as much oxygen into their bodies as possible.

Turning over so that Ayame was half on Siwon’s body while half on the ground, she opened her mouth to say something but was abruptly cut off. Slipping a hand around her neck and drawing her close, Siwon drew her into a sweet kiss. Parting, Ayame raised an eyebrow in question and Siwon pointed upwards in reply.

Looking up, Ayame realised that their playful fight had brought them to another edge of the forest and they were under the bough of a tree.

“Mistletoe,” Siwon said simply, drawing her attention to a red clump above their heads which she had not previously seen.

“Well then, I feel obliged to have another,” Ayame smirked before leaning down and capturing Siwon’s lips in another kiss.

“Anyway, before you so nicely interrupted me,” Ayame said when they broke apart, “I was going to ask you whether you wanted to head to the middle of the meadow. Up for it?”

“Anything for you babe,” Siwon replied as he got up and extended a hand towards Ayame to help her up as well.

Dusting the snow off each other, the two headed to the middle of the open meadow before lying down once more, this time curled up in each other’s arms. Looking up at the huge, round moon, the two enjoyed the blissful silence as once again, soft snow started to fall upon them.

Chapter 9: Are You For Real?

Summary: Donghae finally snaps, jealous over Kangin and Beverly’s close relationship.

Song: Again by Faber Drive

Henry noticed that his older sister was still having a cold war with her boyfriend. Valerie constantly ignored Yesung and avoided him whenever she could. Sitting down for breakfast, Henry saw Valerie sitting next to Sungmin, as far away from Yesung as the table would allow her too. He watched as she playfully laughed with Crystal, commenting on Ruzanna’s inability to reach the butter because of her “short arms”.

But as soon as all the others turned their attentions to something else, her smile waned and Henry noticed that slight strain in her emotions. Everyone, even Heechul, could see it. Valerie was still joking around with the rest, but observing her carefully revealed how her smiles were forced and less bright, her mind less focused as she followed the rest of the group around. No one could get accustomed to this change in Valerie, but knowing that she tried her best not to worry the group, everyone just kept quiet.

Henry and his twin had taken to glaring at Yesung, blatantly showing their displeasure by snapping replies to his questions. Taken aback by the slightly neurotic behaviour of the twins, Yesung had turned to Kibum for answers of what he had done wrong, only to be chided by Leeteuk and Reese. And even now as he scanned the breakfast table, he could hear Dian telling Kibum that this was a lesson that Yesung had to learn himself.

Henry could see Ryeowook, Shindong and Eunhyuk bickering over who should get that last piece of bacon. He sighed in relief when Kyuhyun, oblivious of the trio’s debate, speared the bacon and shoved it into his mouth, effectively ending the argument. With the group dynamics already strained from the tension of Valerie’s silent treatment of her boyfriend, the last thing everyone needed was another full blown fight.

~*~

Henry sat silently on the rug in front of the chateau’s fireplace warming his hands. Insisting that they replenish their stock of snacks, Leeteuk and Reese had dragged Shindong, Ruzanna, Heechul, Hankyung, Ryeowook and Eunhyuk to town. Valerie, Sungmin, Ayame and Siwon had left after breakfast to play pool. Yesung on the other hand, had followed Zhoumi, Crystal and Kyuhyun to the Gaming Room. Kibum and Dian had decided to curl up on a love seat across him and were in the midst of quietly reading a book.

The only source of noise in the room was from the couch beside him – his twin was furiously babbling at Kangin. Her gestures were getting increasingly agitated as she complained about “the audacity” of Yesung’s actions. In fact, Beverly had started to poke Kangin adamantly in the arm, insisting that he beat some sense into his classmate.

Henry felt inclined to go over and complain to his hyung as well, if not for the fact that he noticed Donghae staring at his twin’s actions with an expression of mounting fury. Henry watched as Donghae started to bite his lower lip, eyebrows furrowing as he started to glare at Kangin. Henry recognized that expression, he had seen it many times before; his twin’s boyfriend was yet again, jealous.

Everyone knew that even after Donghae and Beverly became a couple, his twin still shared an unbreakable bond with Kangin. Whenever Beverly needed something done, she went to Kangin instead of her boyfriend. So no one could really blame Donghae for getting a tiny bit irritated whenever Kangin so willingly indulged her.

“Ok, ok I’ll go, here, come with me,” Henry watched as Kangin stood up and grabbed Beverly’s hand.

Focused on Beverly’s hand sliding comfortably into Kangin’s, Henry saw Donghae’s eyes widen before they slowly narrowed.

‘Underneath my skin is it just anger just frustration.

Underneath my skin is it decisions or these feelings

That always hurt my mind, that always hurt my mind

That always kill my pride inside

That always waste my time again, again’

“Hey, don’t touch her!” Donghae exploded as he leapt to his feet, angrily swatting Kangin’s hand away.

Shocked at the outburst, Henry ventured toward the trio, wanting to stop the fight before it happened, only to be stopped by an equally alarmed Kibum. Keeping their calm, Dian and Kibum pulled Henry back, telling him that the trio had to settle this argument between themselves. After much protest, Henry was finally forced to sit back down on the rug, heart jumping wildly in his chest.

“Hey chill, she’s just like a little sister to me, don’t get so upset,” with his eyebrows raised, confusion was written all over Kangin’s face as he tried to calm Donghae down.

Still fuming, Donghae merely grabbed his girlfriend’s hand from Kangin’s grasp and pushed his hyung away. Henry watched as Donghae set off to pull Beverly from the room, much to the alarm of Kangin. Starting to yell, the older boy seized Donghae by the shoulder.

“Don’t get so mad!” unable to shrug of Kangin’s grip, Donghae pushed his shocked girlfriend onto the couch, before whirling around to glare stubbornly at Kangin.

“Look here! My girlfriend should be looking only at me! Not you, ME!” Donghae jabbed Kangin as he spoke those words, his voice getting louder as he uttered every word.

“Are you for real?” An incredulous look passed over Kangin’s face as he swatted Donghae’s finger away.

Kangin drew himself to his full height and the two of them looked ready to throw punches. Startled, Henry again tried to lunge forward to stop what seemed to be the brewing of World War III- a war that Henry had always thought would be sparked off by Dian and Heechul.

“Hey, HEY STOP IT!” Henry looked up to see his twin elbowing Donghae in the ribs, before proceeded to kick Kangin in the shin.

Beverly had intercepted him, standing up from the couch and planting herself firmly between the two guys. Despite her strength from tennis training however, Beverly only received glares from the feuding duo, and immediate yells for her to “stay out of it”. Henry sighed exasperatedly; his sister was only a girl after all.

Offended, Beverly plopped back onto the couch with a pout. Henry could see his twin thinking as she watched the two guys, each silently daring each other to make the first move. Her pout turning into a frown – Henry watched as his twin pulled off her shoes, clutching one in each hand. In a bid to ease the tension, Beverly chucked one boot at each boy, nearly tearing her hair out when the shoes merely bounced off them. The staring contest continued; neither of them had even blinked from the “assault”. Henry shook his head yet again, asking himself what in the world was his twin thinking.

“You’re not her boyfriend, why do you always have to be around her?” Donghae’s voice broke into Henry’s thoughts.

“If you could solve her problems, I wouldn’t need to be here!” Kangin retorted, his expression set in that of a challenge.

With that, Donghae leapt at Kangin, who easily avoided him, his taekwondo training kicking in. Henry was feeling afraid now, seeing this scary side of Kangin was one thing – he had seen it before. But to see an equally terrifying side of the easy-going Donghae chilled Henry to the bone.

This, Henry told himself, was bad.

“Stop. hic. Fighting! hic” Henry saw his younger sister, sitting like a lost kid, bawling her eyes out. Her cheeks were red now, her childish features streaked with tears. Turning his attention to his hyungs, Henry saw that they had stopped dead.

Henry could tell that Kangin knew Donghae was the most important person to her after her family. Having heard his twin rambling on about how Donghae “saved her” when she fainted, Henry was sure that Kangin had also been attacked by the same onslaught of girlie confessions. Ever since he saw his sister childish dependence on Kangin during the Leadership camp, Henry could tell that a silent agreement had been passed between them.

The relationship that Beverly and Kangin shared was and always would be purely of brotherly and sisterly love and Henry was sure than Donghae knew this more than anyone else in the group. Henry remembered how Donghae had spoken to him two days ago when everyone else had fallen asleep.

Henry knew that his best friend had always thought he wanted a girlfriend who would mother him, but after meeting Beverly, his perspective changed. Donghae told Henry that Beverly was special; he always wanted to protect her and her childlike innocence. It was then that Henry knew he had entrusted his twin to the right person.

“I’m sorry,” Donghae apologized as he headed towards the couch, picking up his girlfriend’s discarded shoes along the way.

“Yeah me too, hey sweetie, give me a smile,” Kangin reached the sobbing girl and started to mess up her hair.

The sobbing subsided and Henry could see Beverly peek out from under her fringe.

“I love you both, just differently…in all seriousness” she meekly whispered, her voice hoarse from crying.

Both guys looked at each other and nodded.

“We know.”

Henry breathed a sigh of relief.

~*~

Gathered around the fireplace, everyone had just returned from dinner. Having gotten wind of the earlier argument, Leeteuk had chided the two boys, giving them fierce glares before letting them go. But now, looking at his twin nestled comfortably between Kangin and Donghae, it seemed as though the fight had never happened.

Sungmin had produced a guitar and everyone was singing along as the harmonics struck up a melody. That was, with the exception of Valerie and Yesung…

‘Again I burn to take it all, but inside my head I hit the wall

Because I don’t know, I don’t know

I let go again, again’

Henry could see his twin singing, but looking as worried as he probably did as she glanced at Valerie looking sadly at the guitar in Sungmin’s hands. Opposite her, Yesung was staring at her, his lips unmoving, his face jaded. Henry hoped that, like the fight between Kangin and Donghae, the cold war between the two would resolve itself soon. Neither party seemed to be able to take it much longer, everyone could see them slowly wasting.

Love, Henry asked himself, is it supposed to hurt so much?

Chapter 10: Tell Me I’m Still The One.

Summary: Yesung and Valerie realise that they can’t survive without each other.

Song: Have You Ever by Brandy

The next day brought immense relief to the group as the heavy tension between Donghae and Kangin had completely dissipated. If anything, the two seemed closer than ever, tied by a common link – Beverly. Seeing the two playfully joke around each other was extremely refreshing compared to the hostile glares Donghae used to throw at the older male.

But the simmering tension between Valerie and Yesung was still present, as the cold war continued. Henry never knew his sister could be so stubborn, or persistent, some could say. He hoped that the fight would resolve soon – he did not like seeing his sister so lifeless. Plus, he missed Sungmin’s company in the room they shared.

Henry remembered when his older sister had approached him two nights ago.

—————

“Hey, Henry,” she had called out to him as the group dispersed back to their own rooms after the tiring day of decorating the chateau had ended.

Pointing at the main entrance, Valerie had signalled him to follow her and Sungmin outside. Tired and wondering what she wanted with him, Henry had trailed behind.

“Do you mind if I borrow your roommate for a few nights? I’ve got a room booked up at the main hotel. I’m sorry, but I just… I can’t stay here for the time being. Not with him around. I really need Sungmin’s company for awhile,” she had pleaded with him when they were far enough to prevent eavesdropping.

“Come on, it’ll be alright, yeah? You get the whole big room to yourself that way!” Sungmin cheekily smiled at him, trying to bring out the advantages of him moving up to the main hotel with Valerie.

Nodding, Henry had waved them off and watched as the two made their way to the main hotel through the thick snow on the ground.

Honestly, how could he have said no when he saw his sister so broken? So Henry lost his roommate that night, and the big room he stayed in was quieter. It felt too empty for him. Henry missed all the small talk that he and Sungmin shared before turning in each night.

—————

There was no fixed program for the day, so the group decided to laze around, going off in clumps to partake in their favourite activity. Leeteuk and Reese went back to the café to enjoy a spot of coffee, claiming their favourite spot in the lodge once again. This time, Heechul and Ruzanna followed them.

Taking off to commandeer the games room for the 3rd day in a row, Kyuhyun, Crystal, Eunhyuk, Shindong and Zhou Mi rushed out straight after breakfast. Henry saw Dian, Kibum and Hankyung drag a reluctant and sullen Yesung out of the door, overhearing them mention how a game of billiards could help take Yesung’s mind off things.

Scoffing, Henry hoped that Yesung was as miserable as his sister, if not more, and decided to join the group who were hitting the slopes again – Beverly, Kangin, Donghae, Ryeowook, Siwon and Ayame. Tagging behind the skiing gang, Henry realised his older sister and Sungmin were not present in any of the groups. Turning around, Henry was just in time to see the two of them walk out the back door, onto the path leading away from the chateau.

~*~

Walking along the dirt path with their arms linked, Sungmin and Valerie took in the beautiful surroundings around them. 15 minutes later, their short walk brought them to a small opening in the trees on either side of them, and Valerie spotted a large rock outcrop on the left.

Tugging Sungmin towards it, both of them settled down on the rock and Sungmin watched as his best friend traced invisible patterns on the rock. Then he saw a lone tear trail down her cheek, and he braced himself for what was to come.

“I still love him. It hurts so much because I still love him.” Valerie confided in her best friend.

‘Have you ever loved somebody so much it makes you cry?

Have you ever needed something so bad you can’t sleep at night

Have you ever tried to find the words but they don’t come out right?’

Sungmin dragged Valerie into his arms as he breathed soothing noises into her ear, trying to comfort her, whose body racked with sobs. He felt helpless as he was unable to do anything, knowing that they had to work this out on their own. So all he could do for now, he promised himself, was to support Valerie and to keep her company.

Thinking back, he realised this would be the last stage of her feelings – despair and agony.

He was there from the very beginning, as he was the first and only one Valerie had told about the fight she and Yesung had. He sat through the initial shock and doubts as he listened to her continuously question herself. Was she good enough? What did she do wrong? He hated that she kept blaming herself, hated the fact that it was Yesung who caused all of the self doubts.

He knew Valerie was a great girlfriend, always supporting and encouraging, always loyal and steadfast in her love for her Yesung.

Then he witnessed her phase of anger, where she nearly drank herself to death by finishing a whole bottle of vodka. The burn of her throat as the alcohol ran down in mouthfuls she said, was nothing compared to what she currently felt. Then when the bottle was finished and she realised that there was no more, she flung the bottle at the wall of the hotel room in annoyance.

Sungmin did not even blink. As her best friend, he knew Valerie had quite the temper.

Staring at the shards of glass on the floor, Valerie quickly sobered up and apologised to him for her behavior and made to clean up the mess she had created. It made him wince however, when she casually remarked it felt like she was cleaning up pieces of her broken heart.

Then Sungmin waited for the breakdown… and now it arrived.

As her sobs died down and she lay curled in his arms, Sungmin caught her last whisper before she fell silent.

“I don’t know how much longer I can take this.”

~*~

Over in the billiards room, Yesung was having a horrible time. His shots were all disasters, fumbling over even the simplest ones. What pushed him over the edge however was when he saw Kibum help Dian lay a shot, both of them smiling lovingly at each other as Dian seemed to fit so perfectly into Kibum’s arms. He wanted, needed Valerie back in his arms. It had been too long.

Opting to simply return to the chateau, Yesung called out a goodbye before quickly leaving the room so that the others could not drag him back. But upon reaching the chateau, Yesung still felt restless so he decided to explore the path at the back of the chateau, something he had noticed on the first day.

Thinking that there was no other time better than the present, he set off in that direction, wondering where it would bring him too.

15 minutes later, he realized it brought him to Valerie.

Hearing a set of footsteps, Valerie and Sungmin had turned to see Yesung emerging from the corner. Seeing them too, he had stopped short.

“Please, no,” Yesung cried out, as he saw Valerie make a move to leave.

Hopping off the rock, Valerie tugged on Sungmin’s arm as she wanted to escape and when he did not budge, she started walking away herself. But Sungmin’s arm shot out and grabbed her wrist, stopping her in her tracks. Pulling her into a hug, he whispered into her ear.

“Maybe you should just hear him out,” he mumbled softly, before placing a quick kiss on her temple.

Walking back in the direction of the chateau, Sungmin stopped in front of Yesung to whisper a threat in his ear not to hurt Valerie again, before softening and patting him on the shoulder. Walking off, Sungmin left the pair alone, and in awkward silence.

Sitting back down on the flat rock surface, Valerie drew her legs up as she hugged her knees, keeping her eyes locked onto the floor.

The deafening silence continued as Valerie refused to talk and Yesung was unsure of what exactly to say. Words failed him and he was at a loss.

“I… I really missed you,” Yesung tried, making a small move towards her.

It was like approaching a wild animal who felt threatened, where any sudden movements would scare it away. Yesung was afraid that she would shrink away from him like she did that night. But there was only silence.

Yesung winced, almost drawing back to retreat. He had never been so nervous, so afraid to speak, in fear of saying the wrong thing. This was worse than shouting and supervising 30 people who had guns in their hands, of which could easily be pointed at him. But it was different with her, she was special… that special.

The sunlight streaming down upon the small opening reflected off the shiny surface of a bracelet on Valerie’s left wrist and seeing his present, which she had never taken off since Christmas, Yesung tried again with more hope in him.

“You’re still wearing my present! Does it mean that I still have a chance? Do you still love me?” he questioned, hoping for the best.

Yesung was not privy to the conflict in Valerie’s head as she flicked her eyes to the slim bracelet adorning her wrist. All he saw was a tear escaping out of the corner of an eye and her sucking in her bottom lip as she bit it, before she made a move to take it off. He was not aware how much it killed her to do it.

But he panicked and rushed forward, grabbing hold of her right hand and enveloping her into a tight hug. Valerie found it impossible to move and she could scarcely breathe through the tight embrace, her head stretched above Yesung’s left shoulder. Stubbornly, she refused to say a word though, so Yesung did not relax his grip on her.

“No! No, please. Don’t.” Valerie heard him plead.

“Please. Are you really never going to speak to me again? I’m sorry. Please, I really am. Please forgive me. Don’t leave me. Please.” Yesung’s voice turned hoarse, as he continued to beg.

“When you left, it’s like you took a part of me away too… I can’t take this any longer…” Yesung continued and Valerie could hear the desperation in his voice.

“What can I say to make you come back? To me… Please, I’d do anything…” Yesung swore, nearing his wits end.

Silence still met his words though, and Yesung thought that it was all over. Close to giving up, he was about to release his hold on Valerie.

If it made her happier to be away from him, he would grant Valerie her desire. It was the least he could do, though it did not mean that he was happy about it. But he felt her head shift slightly, and hope blossomed in his chest once more.

‘What do I gotta do to get you in my arms, baby?

What do I gotta say to get to your heart?

To make you understand how I need you next to me

Gotta get you in my world ‘cuz baby I can’t sleep’

“Tell me I’m still the one,” Yesung heard her breathe into his ear, her voice barely a whisper.

“You are. You’re still the one. The only one,” Yesung rushed out, overjoyed with the fact that he finally gained a response from Valerie.

Releasing his hold on her right hand, Yesung wrapped both his arms around Valerie in a bone-crushing hug. When he felt her arms creep round his back and return the hug, it seemed like Yesung’s world was finally righted, like a balance had returned. Valerie was back… was his once more. Remaining in that position, Yesung did not see a final tear roll down her cheek. This time, it was one of happiness, as Valerie was relieved that everything was over.

Yesung panicked slightly when he felt Valerie pulling away from him, thinking that she had changed her mind. But Valerie cupped his face and drew him to her, first placing a soft kiss upon his forehead, before placing a lingering one on his lips.

Valerie knew that she could not survive without Yesung too.

~*~

Returning back to the chateau, Valerie and Yesung were the last ones to make it back in and Henry immediately noticed the change in them. The most obvious one would definitely be their joined hands, besides the fact that Yesung was grinning like a fool and his older sister had a soft smile on her face.

Henry saw her blush when Kangin and Zhou Mi simultaneously whistled a catcall at them. He was happy for her though. Already she looked livelier with Yesung by her side. Plus, this meant he would get his roommate back! Slapping a high five with Sungmin who was on the same sofa, the two boys grinned at each other.

The group was once again, whole.

Chapter 11: New Year’s Eve.

Summary: Beverly makes a fail teacher and the group ushers in the New Year together.

Song: Moment of truth by FM Static

“No! No! No! In a wedge! V-shape! V-shape! V!!!”

Henry looked at the ludicrous scene before him and felt like falling to the ground in laughter.

His twin was red in the face, screaming at Ruzanna as the older girl crashed into Dian, for the third time in the span of 10 minutes. As a ski instructor, Beverly was an epic fail. Crystal had obstinately planted her skis into the snow and refused to slide down the slope. Valerie too, had completely ignored her younger sister, choosing instead to listen to the more patient Yesung. Reese and Ayame had followed Valerie’s lead and opted for a more romantic lesson with their respective boyfriends.

This left Ruzanna and Dian at the mercy of his deceptively docile twin.

Dian, ever the thrill seeker, had completely disregarded Beverly’s yelling and proceeded to barrel down the hill after Kibum, making no attempt to even slow down. Ruzanna, on the other hand, had painstakingly wedged her way down the slope, her stance tense and hunched over. With a roll of her eyes, Beverly gave an irritated growl before shoving Ruzanna into Heechul’s arms.

“You teach her,” she huffed, before heading to the ski lifts after Donghae and Kangin.

With a laugh, Henry jumped onto the gondola, wanting to make another run before it got dark. After a whole day of skiing, everyone had become better, with the exception of Ruzanna. Dian had perfected the style of zooming all the way down the hill, racing alongside Kibum, laughing as she stumbled to an abrupt stop at the foot of the slope. Crystal too, had finally successfully made it to the bottom of the slope; owing solely to the fact that Kyuhyun resorted to making her lean on him, before easing them both down the hill.

Henry caught sight of his older sister, arms flailing as Yesung momentarily let go of her. But as soon as her boyfriend grabbed hold of her hand again, Valerie was as steady a skier as he was. How this was possible, Henry did not know. Ayame and Siwon were gracefully skiing down the slope, looking every bit the lovers they were. Henry could see Siwon turning his head back every few seconds to check if his girlfriend was keeping up. Reese and Leeteuk had long retired to the resort, citing reasons of wanting to book a table for dinner at the nearby restaurant.

Dinner – Henry’s tummy rumbled at the word.

Man, was he hungry.

~*~

“Pass the bread!” Henry heard Shindong shout across the table at Eunhyuk.

“Tell Ryeowook to give me the butter dish first!” Eunhyuk screamed back as he lunged across the table with a ravenous look in his eyes as he nearly jabbed Hankyung in the eye.

Zhoumi on the other hand, had started to engage in a condiments war with Heechul.

“Pass the salt!” Zhoumi had yelled at his hyung.

“Pass me the pepper first!” Heechul had screamed back.

“Why do you drink soup with pepper?”

“Why do you drink soup with salt??”

“Because it tastes better!”

“Who says so?”

“I said so!”

“Well, I don’t care!”

Henry shook his head as he started on his main course; the fight between the two was like verbal tennis. Henry moaned inwardly, they just had to sit at opposite ends of the table.

The noise at the table was deafening, amplified even, by the private room in which the group was having their dinner in. The girls were engaged in noisy banter over their romantic escapades with their boyfriends this afternoon, gushing over the pure heaven of having ski lessons with the guys. Their boyfriends on the other hand, were sniggering over who made the best progress. That is, with the exception of Donghae and Kibum – whose girlfriends recklessly sped down the slopes the whole day through – and Heechul who was fighting over seasonings.

As the desserts and coffee arrived, everyone managed to settle down – for a while at least… Crystal was feeding Kyuhyun Chocolate Mint Ice Cream. Dian and Valerie were eying the chocolate fondue in front of them, as well as the last piece of marshmallow. Their boyfriends were slowly inching away from them, afraid of the identical, insane glint that simultaneously appeared in their girlfriend’s eyes.

Beverly had started coughing, probably having choked on a piece of fruit again, and Kangin was forcefully thumping her back. Donghae was squabbling with Ruzanna and Shindong over the last waffle, before Eunhyuk had absent-mindedly speared it and shoved it into his mouth. Gulping at the sudden intensity of three furious pairs of eyes locked onto him, the poor boy yelped before hiding behind Zhou Mi.

Siwon and Ayame were sharing a plate of brownies with hot fudge dribbled generously over it, and Heechul was staring at it sullenly. He wanted one, but the couple had glared menacingly at him the first time he tried stealing one from the plate. Siwon had threatened to snip of locks of his hair and Heechul was too afraid to try again.

Hankyung was serenely blowing at his hot tea, trying to cool it down as he successfully ignored the chaos around him. He was used to tuning it out by now. Reese and Leeteuk were at the head of the table, and looking around; Henry felt that they resembled a real family. It was the first time since Henry got here that the thought passed through his mind: he was really going to miss the seniors next year.

Sipping on his root beer float, Henry suddenly saw Sungmin sneakily reach for the sugar, at the exact same time that Ryeowook did. Looking at the maniacal gleams in both their eyes, Henry breathed a sigh of resignation.

Here we go again.

~*~

Gathered around the common area, in front of the massive fireplace, everyone was comfortably lazing about. Holding a mug of hot chocolate, one of the many that Ruzanna had made for the whole group, Henry found himself talking to Ryeowook about their New Year wishes. Henry wished that time would stop where it was right now; everyone was together, just enjoying each other’s company.

There was comfortable murmuring, everyone was chatting with friends or snuggling. Reese and Leeteuk were nestled in a loveseat, exchanging sweet, soft kisses. Valerie lay curled up into Yesung in the far corner of the room, as he nuzzled against the side of her neck. Randomly whispering into Valerie’s ear, Yesung drew soft smiles from the blushing girl. Everyone was glad that the chilly war between them was over; the group now seemed closer than ever.

Kibum had his arms slung comfortably around Dian, who was talking animatedly to Kyuhyun and Crystal. Henry watched as Kyuhyun sipped a bit of hot chocolate from a mug before passing it to his girlfriend to share. Ayame was leaning her head against Siwon’s muscular shoulders as they talked in soft whispers over by the fireplace, as Ruzanna played with Heechul’s hair near them.

Donghae had his arms around Beverly’s shoulders as they sat staring at the fire. This serenity was only interrupted by several explosive shouts of Snap! by a loud Kangin or accusations of cheating by the other boys. Shindong got up to refill his mug, only to fall back down in utter fright as an alarm started blaring from Zhoumi’s laptop. Henry looked up at the clock in the living room.

It was 11:55pm.

Eunhyuk started to shout out New Year Resolutions while Hankyung grabbing handfuls of party poppers and noise makers, intent on setting them off as soon as the clock struck midnight. The couples on the other hand, started buzzing about New Year kisses and group hugs.

It was 11:57pm now.

The chatter started growing incessantly louder as the group huddled closer to the clock. Beverly was practically jumping up and down now, pulling Donghae along with her. Sungmin too, looked like he was about to burst from excitement.

11:59pm and the group fell silent as they anxiously held their breath.

Twenty-two pairs of eyes were trained on the electronic clock above the fireplace as the number started the countdown.

11:59:50pm.

Henry heard a sharp intake of breath from behind him. He listened as Ryeowook and Hankyung starting the verbal countdown, muttering the numbers under their breath.

10…9…8…

The counting grew louder now as other members of the group started to chime in.

7…6…5…

The chant echoed though the stillness of the night, building tension with every dissipating second.

4…3…

The clock seemed to slow as the last few seconds of 2009 persistently refused to fade.

2…1!

“HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

The cheerful greeting resounded off the walls of the chateau as the couples shared their New Year kisses. The single men in the group exchanged friendly embraces before Leeteuk bounded up and initiated a massive group hug. This was followed by several minutes of mindless screaming, the joy stemming from being able to welcome in the New Year with each other. The girls started jumping excitedly together before returning to cuddle with their boyfriends.

Everyone was beyond ecstatic, the screams and laughter, even roars of joy continued on for minutes. The chaos that erupted was deafening and Henry feared that their explosive and zealous celebration might spark off an avalanche. Trying to quiet down the group with loud shushing sounds, Henry flailed his arms at his noisy friends.

At this point however, he was cornered by his screaming sisters who attacked him to the floor. Running towards him from both directions, their double tackle made Henry fall flat on his back as his two siblings piled up on him. With his breath knocked out of him, as his two sisters lay on top of him chattering to the nine about whatever nonsense they were sprouting, Henry only had one thought in his mind.

Man, his sisters should have played rugby.

~*~

Henry felt his heart ache as he smiled at his friends. They had stayed up until 3am to talk about their New Year resolutions and dreams. He never knew that they had so many goals and so many things to achieve. It saddened him that their dreams were all different, yet he whole-heartedly wished that they would succeed in all that they dreamed of becoming and believed that they would still remain friends even in the distant future.

Leeteuk and Reese dreamed of going to the same university – Leeteuk pursuing a degree in Doctoring and Reese a degree in Design. Hankyung wanted to be a teacher while Yesung planned to take over his father’s empire. Kangin resolved to be less impulsive and violent, while choosing to pursue and Accounting degree.

Heechul, in a move that surprised everyone, opted to take up Law. This, of course, provoked the simultaneous shaking of the heads of Kibum and Dian. The couples made promises to stay together even many years from now. Valerie made a promise to try and be less stubborn, sheepishly looking at Yesung while he pecked her on the lips. Donghae and Beverly resolved to “grow up and be more mature”, which only sparked off bouts of hysterical laughter.

Kibum and Dian, sharing secret smiles, only let on that they were resolute in keeping the group under control. Crystal had tried to make the resolution of beating Kyuhyun at video games, only to be met with a grimace and a new mug of hot chocolate that the boy offered. Kyuhyun had cheekily made the resolution of “making Crystal fall deeper in love” with him, only to be punched playfully in the arm.

Siwon and Ayame had made their resolution at the same time; to organize another ski trip just like this one. Slowly, the resolutions shifted focus to the group. They wanted to be together forever. Ryeowook wished that they could rewind time. It was only when everyone agreed that this winter ski trip would become a yearly tradition that their spirits lifted.

Tired but content from the heart-warming talk, each couple slowly trudged back to their rooms.

Before entering the corridor which led back to his room, Henry looked back at the empty living area once more. The dying embers glowed forlornly in the fireplace and the New Year decorations glinted softly in the warm radiance of the disappearing fire.

‘Here we are, in the best years of our lives

With no way of knowing

When the wheel stops spinning

‘Cause we don’t know where we’re going, and

Here we are, on the best day of our lives

And it’s a go, let’s make it last

And cheers you all to that

‘Cause this moment’s never comin’ back’

“Thank goodness for memories,” Henry whispered to himself, before making his way back to his bed.

Chapter 12: When Things Fall…

Summary: Revenge is a dish best served cold, baby!

Song: Yule Shoot Your Eye Out by Fall Out Boy

“Look outside!”

Henry looked out the window following Ayame’s exclamation. Everyone had just finished breakfast and they were lazing around the hotel lounge – many were still glowing from the aftermath of the New Year countdown.

It was the first day of 2010, and the year had greeted them with a huge snowfall the prior night. Now what lay beyond the frosty window of the hotel was a large expanse of untainted snow. Everything was white, covered in powdery, soft snow crystals. The trees, the ground, roofs of cars… it seemed almost surreal – the pureness of such sheer white.

“It’s still snowing…” gasped Ryeowook, who was captivated by the scenery he had been presented with, as were many of the others.

In a scramble, the girls rushed forward, straining to see the tiny, gently descending snowflakes which appeared to have fallen from out of nowhere. A murmur of excitement started to grow louder and louder before the group of buzzing females turned simultaneously and shouted.

“Snowball fight!”

Exchanging a quick set of hi-fives and evil smirks, Zhoumi, Sungmin, Eunhyuk and Hankyung made a mad dash for the exit. With loud yells, Ryeowook, Shindong, Kangin, Donghae and Beverly bounded after them, bouncing excitedly like little children. Yesung and Valerie linked their arms together and started discussing aims and war plans; it seemed to Henry that they were even closer now because of the fight.

With wide grins on their faces, Crystal and Ayame chattered excitedly as they dragged their boyfriends outside. Even Dian, Kibum, Leeteuk and Reese – the two couples that objected the strongest to freezing their butts off in pursuit of childish snowball fights – rushed after the group.

After watching Ruzanna forcefully push Heechul out the doors, Henry finally laughed and chased after the rest of his friends.

Snow was falling and landing on Henry’s head now…

A snowball fight during a snowfall.

This was going to be fun!

~*~

Laughter pervaded the grounds and resounded off the icy walls of the hotel. Yesung and Valerie had insisted on dividing the group into two teams, themselves commandeering one team and Siwon in charge of the other. Caught by surprise from the sudden appointment, Siwon had relinquished his power to the slightly more competitive members of his team – Ayame, Kyuhyun and Crystal were shouting commands that were scarily threatening. In fact, Henry thought they bordered on death threats.

Siwon, Ayame, Kyuhyun, Crystal, Henry, Ryeowook, Shindong, Beverly, Donghae and Kangin were on the same team. On the other hand, Valerie and Yesung led Heechul, Ruzanna, Dian, Kibum, Sungmin, Zhoumi, Eunhyuk, Hankyung, Reese and Leeteuk. Despite Valerie crying foul – at the fact that she had gotten a very disinterested Heechul and a majority of the non-sports group members, which was why their group had two more people – Yesung had managed to convince her that they themselves, the two shooters, would be able to thrash the other team all the same.

And he was right.

Hankyung, Valerie and Yesung were deadly accurate, in comparison to Henry who had missed every snowball that he had thrown so far and the strength behind each throw was only rivaled by Siwon, whose aim was not that good anyhow. No one had the heart to attack their Appa and Omma, and the shooters used this to their advantage, using the Council Leaders as body shields.

The other members, excluding Heechul, were either deceptively strong or extremely sneaky, Kibum and Dian in particular, had somehow managed to sneak into the enemy’s team fort and had proceeded to pelt at a poor Ryeowook with a large amount of snowballs. The snow was becoming heavier now, the falling snowflakes intensifying.

Dian had taken to attacking Heechul, throwing clumps of snow in his direction, aiming especially for his head and hair. With a laugh, everyone had started to join in, deserting their original snowball fight to corner a madly screaming Heechul. It was then that Henry noticed a stray snowball whizzing inches past his face, towards the direction of Yesung and Valerie.

It did not hit the intended target however, landing a meter away. His sister still was clueless to the cowardly attack, laughing at her hopping boyfriend as she managed to shove a handful of snow down Yesung’s back. Turning in confusion, he stared distastefully at the unwelcomed intruder. From what he had heard from Sungmin, her name was Althea, the so-called alpha female of a group of three girls.

She was the one who had caused the conflict between his sister and hyung.

Filled with immense dislike, Henry gathered a pile of snow in his hand and made his biggest snowball of the day, before lobbing it at the incoming figure. Standing in front of her other equally obnoxious friends, Althea stumbled backwards – causing a pileup – as Henry’s snowball landed smack dab on Althea’s face.

For the first time, Henry was right on target.

He nearly choked on his laughter when his saw her spluttering, her eye starting to stain a blackish-blue. Looking up in fury, Althea screeched as she gathered more snow, staring bitterly at Henry. But before she could launch her newly made snowball, Beverly took two steps forwards and launched a chunk of ice at her.

Using her tennis aim and strength to her brother’s defense, Beverly grinned and started to laugh maniacally as her snowball punched Althea in the gut with brute force, causing the seething girl to fall ungraciously on her backside. Hell would freeze over before she would let someone bully her older brother.

Upon hearing the loud crash and cat-skinning shriek – Henry swore that his balls jumped back into his body for a split second – everyone turned to look at the spectacle that was Althea. Looking at Beverly cackling crazily, Sungmin, Dian and Kibum managed to piece together the puzzle and started to snicker.

Upon hearing Zhoumi and Shindong comment on how she must be laying eggs, they doubled up in laughter and soon the whole group was in hysterics. Eunhyuk had even gone to the extreme of replaying Althea getting hit in slow motion, before he fell down in the snow hooting with laughter.

With an ugly cry, Althea turned a surprising shade of purple. Snarling as she cried out for Yesung to help her up, her expression curdled as she saw him focusing on dusting snow off Valerie’s head as he held her securely in his arms. In fact, the couple only noticed the insane bitch was there after her friends had hauled her back to her feet.

Unceremoniously knocking into Valerie while she shambled back to the hotel to recover from her shock of being laughed at by so many people, she only failed but to push Valerie deeper into Yesung’s embrace. Startled, Valerie took one look at Althea’s retreating back before she chuckled into Yesung’s chest. Having fallen down onto the snow on her butt, the melted snow caused Althea to look like she had just wet her pants.

It was colder now, and despite the snow falling at a lighter rate, the temperature seemed to have dropped by 10 degrees. Henry shivered as a chilly wind whipped against his skin, and Leeteuk had obviously felt it too, as he stiffened before pushing Reese towards the Chateau, insisting that she put on more clothes. He then turned back to the group and ordered everyone to put on their warmest clothing, shepherding them inside.

“I want to go ice-skating” protested Eunhyuk before he let out a serious of big sneezes.

“Later,” Leeteuk stated as he chased a red-nosed Eunhyuk into his room.

~*~

“Wait!” Leeteuk scrutinized everyone closely before he let them step back out into the chilly air.

This time, he felt that Ryeowook was not sufficiently dressed and was in the midst of tucking Ryeowook’s scarf tightly into his jacket, before pulling another one over the younger boy. This effectively suffocated the poor guy.

“Can’t…breathe…” Ryeowook had managed to choke out before a flustered Zhoumi stepped in to loosen Leeteuk’s overzealous “wrapping” of his friend.

“Why do I have to wear so much? Dressed like this… I won’t even be able to ice-skate properly!” Ryeowook wheezed as he rubbed his throat.

Henry laughed as Shindong disregarded the younger boy’s complaints and pulled him off towards the frozen lake, chanting about how everyone should participate in group activities.

“Ice skate huh” a nasty voice spat out from behind Henry, and as he whirled around to locate the horrible face that he knew came attached to it, all he could see was her and the two bimbos she called friends sauntering away.

With a sinking feeling, Henry trudged past Kyuhyun and Crystal who were unhurriedly strolling to the frozen lake, singing a new song as they moved along.

What was that thing… no, Althea, up to now?

~*~

“One, two, three… GO!” Eunhyuk yelled as six people sped past him, only to fall on his butt as Sungmin shoved him away, taking this challenge seriously.

Hankyung, Ayame, Sungmin, Beverly, Donghae and Kangin had taken to racing across the huge lake. Henry watched them whiz, without any sense of self-preservation, across the surface of the ice. Kangin tripped just as he was about to reach the finishing point, his skate scratching the top layer of uneven ice as he landed with a bump on the hard floor. With a chuckle, he picked himself up again and chased after Hankyung whom had emitted a loud burst of laughter when Kangin fell.

“Don’t come so close!” a startled Leeteuk managed to shout out as the two sped past him.

The Council President had already fallen twice, due to him not being able to skate properly despite Reese slowly coaching him.

Equally frustrated with falling down was Shindong, who had managed to fall the minute he stepped onto the slippery surface. In fact, Ryeowook- who had eventually wisely chosen to sit out and sip a mug of hot chocolate with Zhou Mi, Crystal and Kyuhyun – had called his lack of balance on ice “alarmingly frightening”.

Proceeding cautiously on the ice were Kibum and Dian, their eyes trained on their feet as they surveyed potential threats – of which Henry assumed were the terrifying, accelerating racers – around them. Kibum’s attention momentarily strayed as Hankyung stuck his tongue out at him when he raced past. With a fumble, Kibum lost his footing and shouted what suspiciously sounded like expletives as his legs slipped out from beneath him.

“AHAHHHHHAHAHAHHHAHA!” Dian exploded in laughter as she pointed at her boyfriend who was sprawled awkwardly on the ice.

Almost doubled over in laughter, Dian could only utter a loud “ooof” before Kibum, in a swift motion, caught hold of her wrist and yanked her down onto the cold surface with him.

“Hey wait, wait, WAIT! MOVE RIGHT!” Heechul screamed at his girlfriend when he caught sight of Kibum and Dian planted on the floor in front of him.

Henry watched amused as Heechul and Ruzanna, having tried to support each other while both wobbled feebly on the ice, turned pallid and started to bicker as they tried to change direction.

“No, NO! MY FACE! I CAN’T FALL ON MY FACE!” with a loud screech, Heechul pushed his girlfriend in front of him, in an effort to cushion his fall.

With a loud scream Ruzanna fell forward, largely due to the fact that Heechul had just shoved her un-courteously onto the ice. Heechul managed to stay upright, but his relief was short lived when he felt a body hitting him – a heavy, well muscled body.

Siwon, caught off guard by the abrupt stop of Heechul and Ruzanna, whom which he had been skating closely behind, was unable to avoid crashing into the momentarily victorious Heechul. Henry guffawed at the massive pile-up and silently prayed that the wide-eyed and slightly dazed Siwon, who was looking down incredulously at the pile of bodies, would be the last of Kibum’s chain reaction.

As the unfortunate victims of Murphy’s Law picked themselves up, Henry looked towards the other side of the lake as he skated smoothly. Beverly was skating while she held Donghae’s hand and concurrently waved at Crystal – who seemed to be equally enthusiastic at simply enjoying her hot chocolate with Kyuhyun’s arm around her shoulder – away from all the falling.

His twin suddenly stopped in mid-wave, her features hardening; she was staring- no, glaring at something next to Crystal.

Henry followed her line of sight, and his eyes settled on two of Althea’s friends. Joy and Audrea, Henry had managed to deduce from the loud conversation they were having, were pointing at Donghae and girlishly squealing at how unbearably cute he was. With every bat of their eyelashes, Henry could see his twin’s anger building, her mouth starting to pout as her eyebrows furrowed.

“Never them in a million years, always you,” Henry could hear Donghae laugh as he pecked Beverly on the forehead.

But his twin’s anger returned with full force when the chaste kiss was cut short by Joy’s and Audrea’s disturbingly vulgar wolf whistling. They even had the audacity to wink at Donghae when he turned to stare disbelievingly at them, crudely tapping on their lips as they smirked at the disgusted couple.

“If Bev had her tennis racket, those two would have had matching criss-cross imprints on their faces by now,” Henry muttered under his breath, secretly wishing that his sister did indeed have her racket.

It was at this point when Henry saw Kangin speeding towards the oblivious girls; almost as though he was prepared to head butt the duo. He must have been observing their obscene display of mating calls as well. Henry was almost certain that Kangin intended to crash into the pair, when his hyung expertly did a hockey stop inches from them. Digging the edges of his blades into the ice, Kangin managed to produce a huge spray of slush and snow that flew onto their clothes and into their faces.

Henry hoped that some of it managed to get into their eyes and open mouths.

Joy and Audrea shrieked at the assault, and Henry could swear all of Althea’s bimbos (Althea included) attended the same class to produce that ball-shrinking pitch. The pair scuttled away, throwing Kangin dirty looks, only to be met with a shrug from the blasé looking male. With a wide smirk, Kangin winked at Beverly and hi-fived a laughing Donghae as he skated past them.

Her boyfriend pulling her along, Henry heard his twin murmur darkly as she glided past him.

“If only I had my tennis racket.”

~*~

It had been two hours since the group arrived at the frozen lake, and the friends had slowly retired; settling on sitting at the edge of the ice with those who had sat out, watching the remaining few perform some ice-skating tricks. There were only four people left on the ice: Reese and Valerie – who were undoubtedly the group’s best skaters, having taken lessons since young. Yesung, who seemed to be joined at the hip to his girlfriend, and Althea, who was just being plain annoying and she did not even constitute part of the group.

Reese and Valerie were skating figure of eights now, Yesung looking on appreciatively before locking Valerie into a spontaneous hug. Seething, Althea had begun to perform spins and jumps, snarling menacingly at the shooters. Henry thought that she looked like she was a recent escapee from the loony bin, hissing and twirling like an insane chit.

With a giggle, Reese and Valerie too started to practice their tricks, leaping gracefully into the air, and landing with poise before curling into spins. The duo performed much better than Althea, especially so without the hissing, much to appreciation to the crowd. Whispering as they planned their next moves, the two started on an identical routine as they went through the tricks they knew.

As a last finale move, Reese had started with a Salchow jump before ending off in a Camel Spin. She did the sequence in perfection, much to the delight of an admiring Leeteuk who had braved the ice once more to hug his girlfriend. Valerie on the other hand, had started off with a Layback spin only to pull out into an outside edge before completing a Triple-Axle.

Managing to pull off her last sequence, she turned three and a half revolutions before landing and skating towards Yesung who was in awe, gawking at her. When he saw her warm up for her stunt, Yesung feared for her safety as it was a difficult maneuver. But her attempt was successful and Yesung decided to reward her.

“For doing it safely,” he smiled as he softly kissed her on the lips.

Foreheads pressed together, their sweet moment was once again, interrupted. With yet another avalanche-causing screech, Althea attempted to perform the same trick.

“If I can do better, I get tongue,” she whispered smugly to a startled Yesung, satisfied when the quizzical look on their faces slowly morphed into absolute fury and alarm.

With a conceited look, Althea haughtily initiated the warm up for the sequence, leapt and started to do the turns midair.

One turn, two turns, thr-

Henry’s heart dropped as it started to seem that the crazy woman would really succeed in facially raping his older sister’s boyfriend.

Then she landed.

Like a bull in an antique china shop.

Everyone could only watch as the ridiculous scene unfolded. Althea had landed too soon, her jump off balance as her momentum was unable to bring her past even two full turns. She had done more turns than her leap could support. Gravity pulling her down quickly, it had caused the tip of the skates to get caught in the ice; with the blade stuck, Althea had fallen flat on her face, her leg twisted at a strange and almost impossible angle.

Everyone was silent as they rushed forward to help her. Laughing at her and her unfortunate incidents were one thing, laughing at her while she dies would be a whole other ball game.

“ARGHHHHHHHHHHHH! GET ROST!1” the woman on the floor screamed as Reese reached forward to touch her shoulder.

As Althea turned around, everyone retreated two steps back. Her nose was crooked and bleeding – having already been unusually large, being broken just made it look even more enormous and grotesques.

“Hey, I think your leg is broken,” Ryeowook started towards the bleeding girl, pointing at the bone that was jutting out from its socket.

“Yah dink?! Roy! Ordea! Come!2” Althea sneered as best as she could as she called to her friends.

Joy and Audrea ran clumsily into the ice, their heels slipping slightly as the duo slowly made their way to their shouting friend. With loud gasps they started to prod Althea’s bruised leg like it was a dead animal, stopping only when she screamed and slapped their hands away.

“Juz elp me ud!3” Althea spluttered, only to be cut off by Beverly – who had been blatantly making “you look like something my dog spat out” faces at the three girls in front of her.

“Don’t touch her stupids. I’ve already called for the ambulance; move and you’ll just make it worst,” Henry nodded in agreement with his twin’s flat statement, relieved when he heard the siren of the arriving paramedics behind him.

“We need to airlift you to the hospital,” the medic reported, causing Althea to turn an ugly shade of green beneath the drying blood. Looking at her expression – and one would think that she had just been told she was a turkey – Henry could hear stifled giggles from behind him.

‘Happy New Years, baby

You owe me

The best gift I will ever ask for

Don’t call me up, when the snow comes down

It’s the only thing I want this year

One awkward silence

And two hopes you cry yourself to sleep

Staying up, waiting by the phone

And all I want this year is for you to dedicate your last breath to me

Before you bury yourself alive’

“Yuu uined my ho olida,4’ the injured girl spat out as she was carted past Valerie and Yesung.

“Yeah?” the shooter replied back with a grin as she locked fingers with her boyfriend before pecking him on the lips.

Exchanging quick looks with Ayame, Dian and Crystal, who were still snickering, Valerie spoke the last words she would ever speak to Althea again.

“Well, you just made mine.”

1: “ARGHHHHHHHHHHHH! GET LOST!”

2: “Yah think?! Joy! Audrea! Come!”

3: “Just help me up!”

4: “You ruined my whole holiday’

Chapter 13: We’re Never Saying Goodbye.

Summary: It’s the last day so the girls cook breakfast for the guys, they take loads of pictures to remember the happy times, and packing is as usual, chaos.

Song: Photograph by Nickelback

The large clock on the landing started to chime as the last girl made her way to the waiting group. It was seven in the morning, and as Dian finally joined the other impatient girls, the seventh strike of the clock dissipated into the atmosphere.

“You’re late,” snapped Valerie, who was definitely not a morning person.

“I’m on time, you’re early,” retorted Dian, equally as snippy as she was not as enthusiastic in participating in the idea.

Unlike the two sullen girls, all the others were either bouncing up and down in excitement or smiling to themselves. Though the others were excited about their new venture, Ruzanna especially, happy to finally be back in her element, Valerie and Dian were not. All they wanted to do was to snuggle back into their boyfriend’s warm arms, instead of having to wake up at an ungodly hour, cold and bitchy.

Since it was their last day on holiday, the girls had decided to surprise the boys, determined to create a feast for the day’s breakfast. However, waking up this early in the morning, trying to untangle themselves from their boyfriend’s bodies, proved to be a challenge. Making their way to the pantry, to grab the ingredients they required, the soft footsteps of the girls padded on the wooden floor.

The kitchen was soon filled with the sounds of chopping and clanking of metal dishes. Beverly had declared that the making of the pancakes and waffles would be left to her, and only her. Reese and Crystal had taken to overseeing the eggs, making them in a variety of ways; soft-boiled, hard-boiled, fried, scrambled, poached – you name it, you got it.

Valerie oversaw the slicing up of the fruits and vegetables, chopping up the healthy snacks to create a yummy salad for everyone to share. But in Valerie’s sleep-hazed mind, the knife slipped and she had somehow managed to slice herself on the back of her hand.

Screaming bloody murder, she managed to draw the attention of the others. Reese, alarmed by the ear deafening yelp, rushed to her to see how she could help. After bandaging up Valerie’s injured hand, Reese banished her to the dining room, where Crystal was sent to mere minutes ago.

Crystal had volunteered to fry the eggs in the sunny-side up method while Reese started on the poached eggs. But cracking eggs was apparently not her specialty- she had the knack of slamming the eggs onto the face of the frying pan to break the eggs before picking up the shells. Using her method, Crystal had left egg shells in three of her fried eggs before Reese noticed. So Crystal had been made to set the table, along with Valerie.

Dian busied herself with the loaves of bread, slicing them thinly before toasting every single one to crispy perfection. Separating the butter into little dishes to be placed along the table so as to prevent fights, especially between Eunhyuk and Zhoumi, she scurried in and out of the kitchen, carrying out her finished work. With a mischievous glint in her eyes, she removed one plate of butter; she was going to make Ruzanna sit there later.

Ayame had taken charge of the drinks, pouring out pitchers of milk before making fresh juices from a variety of fruits, especially oranges, apples and strawberries. Joining Valerie and Crystal out in the dining hall, Ayame started to set out the jugs of refreshing drinks.

Back in the kitchen, Ruzanna had taken over one full side, pans of sizzling meat cooking on the stove. She took on the hardest job, frying up all sausages, bacon and hash browns as food started piling up around her.

It was a miracle that she did not drown in the thick haze of smoke around her.

The clock struck 9, indicating that it had been 2 hours since the girls started their quest. Soon, the slamming open of doors upstairs and the heavy thumping of feet on the floor could be heard as the boys made their way to the dining room. Looking at the massive amount of food on the table, the guys looked on in shock as the girls stood by, grinning at their achievement.

They were messy, covered in flour and syrup, but when their boyfriends rushed to them to give them a kiss of appreciation, they felt that it was all worth it. Henry took in Yesung frowning at Valerie’s bandaged hand before placing a soft kiss on the top, as he softly chided at her to be more careful.

He looked at Donghae, who had leaned down to lick a drop of maple syrup off Beverly’s nose. Henry thought that it was slightly disturbing, reminding him of their dogs back home. Laughing as Heechul reached out to pat Ruzanna on the head, Henry smiled as Leeteuk kissed Reese on the cheek. Siwon and Kyuhyun both gave their girlfriends a huge hug, when Henry noticed Reese sneakily adding three eggs onto Kyuhyun’s plate.

They still had some eggshells in it.

Pushing Ruzzana into her “special seat” Dian rushed everyone to sit down. The single guys thanked the girls before starting to dig in, signalling the start of the lively breakfast. The girls had piled food onto their boyfriend’s plate, and Henry’s sisters had even come round to help him. When they were finally satisfied that Henry had enough to eat, the plate in front of him was overflowing.

“Hey where’s my butter!” Heechul turned around to question his girlfriend as he settled into the last remaining seat at the table.

Faced with shrugs, Heechul resigned himself to eating bread without butter, unsuccessful in his quest to steal butter from Hankyung. Henry snorted with laughter when Kyuhyun choked on one of the eggshells in his eggs. An apologetic Crystal uttered a soft “Oops”, letting the group know that she was the one who had made them. As the laughter died down, Henry finally started on his own meal.

‘Yum,’ Henry thought to himself.

God, did he want this treatment every day.

‘Look at this photograph

Every time I do it makes me laugh

How did our eyes get so red?

And what the hell is on Joey’s head?’

“Alright people! 1! 2! 3! Say cheese!” Henry heard the photographer call out to them.

Immediately after breakfast, the guys had chatted among themselves as they waited for the girls to bathe and change. It had been a unanimous decision among the group to hire a professional photographer on the last day. Though Kyuhyun was more than able to take beautiful pictures, it was a definite necessity for him to be in the photos as well. Hence, Kyuhyun was sent to choose one whom he thought was worthy enough.

The group had spent the last two and a half hours walking from place to place, intent on capturing moments at the most scenic areas of the whole ski lodge. They had already spent half an hour too long on this activity, as they were due back in the chateau to pack up their belongings.

But with the notorious cam whores in the group – Valerie, Beverly, Ayame, Sungmin, Yesung and Zhou Mi – the shoot had taken longer than expected as a million different pictures were demanded to be taken. Group photos, all the girls, all the guys, formal pictures, informal pictures, couples, closer friends in the group – numerous ways of pairing people up were undertaken.

Now, as the gang of friends took over the small meadow behind their chateau, that Siwon and Ayame had first found, Henry relaxed on the ground as he watched the couples wait for their turn to get their picture taken. It was now his older sister’s turn, the last couple, as he watched Yesung piggyback her.

Kangin, Zhou Mi and Eunhyuk went next, sending everyone into peals of laughter as the three had miraculously produced an assortment of hats. In their first picture, Kangin donned a raccoon head band while Zhou Mi placed an antler hat on his head and Eunhyuk a jester hat. Henry clutched his stomach and rolled on the ground in laughter as Shindong joined in, finding a pig’s snout somewhere in the pile of accessories.

The group rushed to find something that could be of use to them, as they all wanted to take part in dressing silly. In the midst of all the shouting, Henry saw a smirking Kibum whisper suspiciously to Dian before pointing to Heechul. The vain twerp had put on what seemed to be cat ears and was proudly strutting around.

Henry watched as the duo crept silently behind his hyung before yanking the ears from Heechul’s head, shoving a hat that resembled a lump of turd in its place. It reduced everyone to hysterics as Heechul turned red, then drained of all colour when he touched the squishy cap on his head.

As Henry snatched a nice pair of bunny ears from Sungmin, he caught sight of the photographer changing his memory card for the third time and a worried Leeteuk standing next to him, constantly checking his watch.

It would be funny, Henry thought to himself, if they missed their bus, and hence flight, because they were too caught up in taking pictures.

Secretly, part of Henry wished that they could prolong their holiday.

Damn school.

‘Every memory of looking out the back door

I have the photo album spread out on my bedroom floor

It’s hard to say it, time to say it

Goodbye, goodbye

Every memory of walking out the front door

I found the photo of the friend that I was looking for

It’s hard to say it, time to say it

Goodbye, goodbye’

“Where’s my socks?! MY SOCKS?!?!” Henry heard Zhou Mi scream into the air frantically, before seeing a colourful blob run past him, followed by another colourful blob.

“GET BACK HERE YOU LITTLE SHIT!” Shindong screamed at a laughing Eunhyuk, who had hijacked the bigger boy’s underwear before streaking through the chateau, waving it around like a flag.

“Who took my beanie?!” Heechul yelled, thundering through the chateau until he saw Hankyung.

“Gimme that,” he snarled before stomping off, ripping the black beanie off his classmate’s head.

Henry made his way to Valerie’s room, scavenging for an extra bag to stuff his dirty shoes in. His sister always had extra things with her, and this was the time to exploit it…

Walking past the rooms of the other members of the group, Henry saw that once again, chaos had ensued. Beverly was on top of her gigantic bag, bouncing up and down as Donghae tried to zip it close to no avail.

Siwon and Ayame, who were done with their packing already, were currently with Ruzanna under the pretence of keeping her company. However, Henry realised that the couple were sneakily throwing out things from her bag as soon as she turned her back. As she lay her eyes on the items she thought she had packed, a puzzled look soon started to grow on her face.

Chuckling, Henry continued down the hallway only to be pushed away by a running Eunhyuk, who still had not returned Shindong his underwear. Kyuhyun appeared in the corridor as well, trying to tug not only his bag, but Crystal’s bag as well behind him. But what Kyuhyun made up for in his intelligence, he lacked in physical strength. Pushing and grunting, the poor boy gave up, settling instead on sitting resignedly on one of the bags as Crystal raised an eyebrow at him.

As Henry passed by Leeteuk’s room, he could hear the worried leading almost hyperventilating inside while Reese tried to calm him down. The Appa and Omma of the group were the first to have finished packing, completing their task in half an hour after they reached the chateau. But Leeteuk had been overwhelmed by anxiety and had wanted to help everyone pack, before Reese had dragged him back to the room and made him stay still. With the flurry of activity going on, Leeteuk was even worried that someone would knock over the Christmas tree.

Ryeowook, being the efficient person that he was, had gone over to Kangin’s room to help the older man pack. His suitcase was like a war zone, showing his inability to fold even the simplest clothing item – a scarf. Knocking on the door before he entered his older sister’s room, Henry realised that not only had she and Yesung finished packing, Sungmin was there chatting with the couple as well.

“Hey sis, I need another bag. Do you have one?” he asked.

“Yeah sure, front pocket, black bag.” She pointed over to the small pile of bags in the corner of the room.

Making his way there, Henry really wondered how his sister could shop so much.

“By the way,” Henry said as he was leaving the room, “You guys might want to help the others move their bags out to the front porch. God knows the weaklings need your help in carrying their bags. You’re among the strongest in our group.”

Giggling, Valerie jerked her head towards the door before leaving after Henry. As she walked down the hallway, she grabbed the bag that Kyuhyun was not sitting on before towing it out of the chateau. Yesung grabbed the other, while Sungmin went over to help Beverly. He met with success, only after forcing Donghae on top of the bag as well.

The three of them grabbed Siwon and Ayame away from Ruzanna, before the poor girl died from repeatedly packing the same things over and over again. Together, they carried all the luggage out of the chateau as everyone slowly finished their packing. Kangin had caught hold of Eunhyuk, returning the stolen underwear to Shindong.

The bags had been loaded onto the bus and the whole group, with the exception of Leeteuk – who had insisted on a last minute sweep of the chateau in case anyone had forgotten something – and Reese – who had accompanied him – was in the common area for the last time. They looked upon the decorations that everyone had helped to string up sadly, wishing that they did not have to leave the area.

But accompanied by good memories and the thought of returning again sometime in the future, they group grew happier as some members began to settle down onto the sofas. But as soon as their butts touched the soft material of the furniture, Leeteuk had returned.

“Alright people! Evacuation! NOW!” The councillor screamed out in panic.

Considering their flight was in four hours time, and it took two and a half hours to reach the airport while they had to be there two hours before, it was no wonder Leeteuk was in a fluster. It did not help matters that the bus was rented only for a certain period of time, and he was afraid that if they did not make a move immediately, the bus driver would simply drive off without them.

Lumbering out the chateau and up the bus, excited chatter broke out among the group. The noise level once again grew to deafening decibels, as everyone talked at the same time, each trying to drown out another voice.

“Hey! We’ve got to watch the new movies coming out!” Henry heard Dian call out.

“Yeah, yeah! Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” Heechul demanded.

“No! No! Avatar!” Crystal shouted.

“Oh hell, why don’t we just watch ALL of them?!” Kibum mentioned, earning looks of surprise as everyone wondered why they did not think of that earlier.

As the eager nods of the others died down, another conversation was struck up.

“Hey grasshoppers, heard you’re going to have a new homeroom teacher! Heard she’s hot too!” Kangin informed Eunhyuk.

“OO~” chorused three boys, Siwon and Shindong having overheard their conversation as well.

This only brought about a slap to Siwon’s head as Ayame heard the interest in his tone. Sheepishly looking at his girlfriend, Siwon swore that she was the only one for him, ever.

“Hey babes, how about a round of shopping when we get back home?” Valerie yelled out to all the girls.

Henry only shook his head as the bus was immediately filled with shrill shrieks of the excited girls, whereas the boys groaned. The boyfriends especially, resigned themselves to a day of horror as they knew they would be dragged around, simply to carry the bags for their girls.

Listening to the conversations that took place around him, Henry realised that no one was saying goodbye. Instead, plans were being made for the next outing and conversations revolved around ‘see you in class’ or ‘let’s go out together again’. Henry felt a warm feeling spread through him, as he understood that this parting is not permanent.

Thinking that the holiday was an extravagant excuse simply to say goodbye to his seniors, Henry was undoubtedly wrong.

Looking around at his friends, all special in their own way, Henry knew that they will never say goodbye to each other.

If I could I relive those days

I know the one thing that would never change

Look at this photograph

Every time I do it makes me laugh

Every time I do it makes me…

Epilogue

Summary: The group re-gathers with an extra member back at Chamonix. Read on to find out what they had been doing during the year apart!

Song: The Promise by Anberlin

Watching the familiar scenery pass by him, Henry felt a shiver of excitement run through his body. It was currently exactly one year, since the gang last gathered for a ski trip to France. Recollections of his time in Chamonix still remained fresh in his mind, and Henry was pretty sure he would never forget the first ever trip he ever took only with his closest friends.

Hearing the sound of the familiar babble around him soothed his mind. The year had been a stressful one, what with the many concerts his orchestra had been chosen to perform in. Furthermore, meeting up with everyone was extremely difficult, as they all had their own agendas. Yet Henry could not deny the fact that he felt extremely proud of all his friends’ achievements.

As the bumpy bus ride continued on its journey to Chamonix Chateau, their lodgings again for this year, Henry let his mind wander. Securing his arm firmly around the slumbering body next to him, Henry’s thoughts brought him to the activities of his friends during the year.

~*~

Leeteuk and Reese managed to get into the same university, something that did not surprise the others. Their grades for their Finals were so good, they had the choice of any university in the world. Following their dreams, Leeteuk did pursue medicine while Reese took up graphic design. It came as a surprise to her, when a company found her work amazing and were offering to pay her for her services. The couple were still going strong, always meeting up during their breaks in their curriculum time.

Yesung went on to do a double degree in business Marketing and Management, preparing himself to take over his father’s company in the future. While he is rich, handsome and all-round eligible in his new campus, he had never strayed from Valerie. Henry was thankful for that, because if he had to see his sister miserable again, he may just have to kill his hyung.

His older sister became the President of the shooting club, a title that was so obviously hers the minute Yesung left, no one made any fuss over her promotion. Even before, she had already helped Yesung run the club in certain areas. Happily dating, she was even happier when she found a freshman who was a natural at shooting. Henry knew she was keeping a close eye on him, hoping to train him to take over her position when she left the school.

Heechul entered the law faculty – in which Henry suspected a personal visit by said boy convinced the university that not letting him in would cause even heavier consequences – much to the disdain of the professors in charge of him and the entertainment of his friends. His famous line “Because I Said So.” was still frequently used, much to the chagrin of Dian, but nobody could deny his skill in law. Heechul was still together with Ruzanna, probably the only girl who would ever be able to put up with his explosive temper.

Hankyung signed a contract with LSM Academy, taking up an internship to teach the middle school to gain experience, as well as further his studies in foreign languages. His reputation was already established due to his basketball career, and his popularity had made his job extremely easy. Hankyung was able to interact well with his students, and they got along together because he could understand them. There, Hankyung met Jenny, another intern who eventually became his girlfriend. Much to the relief of the others, she was the complete opposite of Anne.

Kangin had proceeded to do Accounting in the same university as Yesung, and the two boys regularly met up in school as they belonged to the same faculty. It was common to bump into each other in the hallways during transitions between classes or lectures. Kangin had a strong tie to LSM Academy, and he often returned to not only help out his former club, but also to check up on Beverly from time to time. This caused some petty arguments springing up between her and Donghae, but their love was strong enough to withstand their childish arguments.

With the most mature couple gone, Kibum and Dian took over the job of restraining and managing the hyperactive, explosive group though they were only juniors. The quiet duo was very much like Leeteuk and Reese, minus the nagging. Dian had perfected her glare which could cause anyone to wither where they stood, while Kibum had this particular voice, soft and calm, but also with a hidden layer of danger beneath the tranquilly. Even the seniors could not fight against the effect it had on them.

Kyuhyun and Crystal were still the most avid gamers, until Henry thought it had become part of their nature already. They could be found constantly holding hands, and true to his words, Kyuhyun was always waiting for her. Before school, after class, during breaks, after school – they were even more inseparable than Yesung and Valerie.

Siwon and Ayame acted as if they were joined at the hips. The two could always be found together, and if one was missing, a simply shout of the name of the missing person would result in him or her running back. They were never more than a shouting distance away, which Henry found extremely convenient. Helping Siwon run the Adventure Club, she was now the Vice-President as the previous owner of that title graduated.

Sungmin and Valerie were still the best of friends, and Henry had one day overheard a conversation between his older sister and her friend. Valerie had poked and prodded at Sungmin till the poor boy finally confessed that he was interested in his newly found Vice-President, Kristin. The girl was a Sophomore who had transferred over from another school, and to his delight, she was a trained archer as well. Sungmin was currently working up the nerve to ask her out, as he was pretty certain that she returned his feelings. Henry hoped his hyung managed to get his happy ending – he definitely deserved it.

Eunhyuk was still devoted to his dance club, and could always be found training in the studio during his spare time. His talent improved over time with all the hours of practice, and there were rumours that several entertainment agencies were fighting over him. Eunhyuk confessed that they were true, and that he was still in the midst of deciding which one he wanted to join. But for now, all he wanted to do was to dance, and dance he did.

Shindong never changed much, as he continued to run the cooking club with Ruzanna at his side. He had however, decided to undergo a diet much to the delight of Henry. This meant that Shindong brought more food for the group to share, and Henry was always present at such gatherings. He was also always the first to attack the food once the covers were lifted. Henry was beyond excited when he found out that Shindong was accepted into one of the most prestigious culinary schools in Korea. Once again, he was the first to volunteer to be Shindong’s food testing guinea pig.

Zhou Mi was still happily flying, and Henry had learnt that the older male was aiming to become a future pilot. This goal of his materialised just after his Finals had ended, as there were several airlines that had offered him a contract. These companies were willing to put him through their training, and to Henry’s knowledge, Zhou Mi was about to come to his final decision.

Ryeowook was still one of Henry’s best friends, but lately, he had been meeting Hankyung during their lunch breaks as he kept a close bond with the older male. Hankyung would walk over from the middle school during such times. Henry could not blame Ryeowook for wanting to spend more time with Hankyung, but part of him felt a bit sad that he was seeing much less of the quiet yet funny boy. He was proud of his friend though, as Ryeowook was approached to be a guest in a performance of some big production.

~*~

The bus jerked to a stop, as the huge chateau loomed over them once more. The noise from the group rose again, as everyone rushed to clamber out of the bus. Softly shaking the person next to him, Henry whispered for her to get up. As he helped her down the bus, he breathed in the fresh chilly air and felt as if he was returning to his second home.

~*~

His story?

Henry had finally persuaded Ryeowook to hold a duet, and his choir and Henry’s orchestra collaborated to create a performance which took everyone’s breath away. His very own happy ending finally came true too, as the perfection that he saw in the couples around him came in the form of the girl who was currently holding on to him, as she took in the beauty of her surroundings.

Her name: Amber.

She was a freshman, whose violin skills could rival his at times. Meeting her on the first day of school was pretty much a disaster, as he had accidentally bumped into her and sent all her books flying. Picking them up for her, he had embarrassingly stuttered out an apology before hightailing it out of the hallway. Something about her eyes had captivated him.

Then on the second day, during the orientation for the freshman to choose a club or society they would like to be in, she had walked into the practice room with a violin case. Something in Henry’s heart twinged. But his sisters had bounded in at the exact same time, and had tried to steal the new girl away. Though, Henry supposed that he had to thank his sisters for asking her what her name was. He would never have summoned up the courage.

Sprouting out stories about how their clubs were better and how Henry was a mean old coot, each sister tried to win Amber over. But the girl had blushed and politely declined their invitations.

“No, it’s okay. Thank you, but I think I belong here,” she had mumbled, before flicking her eyes up to Henry’s face.

If he could pinpoint the exact moment he fell, Henry probably would have chosen that particular moment.

Henry felt his face turn red. His older sister had caught them blushing with her sharp eyes and had taken one look at the matching colour on both their faces before leaning down to whisper in Beverly’s face. With identical grins plastered on their faces and suggestive looks, both of them had quickly chorused out a good bye and scampered from the room. Henry thought that he probably looked like the world’s biggest fool, and heavy silence ensued.

But Amber had broken the silence as she asked him about the orchestra and told him a bit of herself and the standard that she was at in regards to violin. The two slowly struck up a strong friendship and Henry continued to fall further. Yet he never dared to make a move until a few months later when his sisters had threatened to ask Amber out for him over the PA system.

With a determined stride, Henry walked to the music room where he knew Amber was practicing. Bow in one hand and violin in the other, Henry slid the door shut behind him, silently slipping into the room. Amber had fallen asleep on the floor, her head softly resting against the wall as she slept, musical scores spread out around her.

His older sister once told him that he looked the most suave while playing his violin – Henry sure as hell hoped that she was right as he raised his bow arm and tucked the violin under his chin. As the first few notes of Concerto No.3 in F major, Op.8, RV 293, “L’autunno” (Autumn) resonated around the empty room, Amber stirred. Waking up to the melodious tune felt extremely refreshing, every note resounded perfection.

What made it better however, was the sight of Henry in front of her – face taut in full concentration while he pulled the bow expertly along the strings of the violin. The way he played made her wish she could be exactly like him, as the tune soothed her frazzled nerves. He was so close, she could scarcely breathe. He looked ethereal, bathed in soft white light as moon dust flew around him. He looked like an angel.

When the last few notes died down, Amber peered up at Henry with curiosity etched across her face.

“Ilikeyoualotandiwannaknowifyoumaywanttogooutwithmeandbemygirlfriend?” Henry blurted out after a prolonged bout of silence.

Seconds ticked by as Amber tried to sort out what Henry had just said, but as soon as she did, her eyes widened in surprise. Flinging herself into Henry’s arms – he had just managed to put down his violin before catching the overwhelmed girl – she breathed a soft “yes” into his waiting ear before squeezing him tightly into a hug.

Smiling softly, Henry never felt happier than in that moment.

~*~

Henry felt someone roughly push him away while another pair of hands grabbed onto Amber’s left arm. Buzzing with shrieks and screams of excitement, the girls rushed into the familiar chateau, only seconds before the guys made a dash to push themselves in.

“Look! The dent in the wood is still there!” Kangin roared in laughter, remembering how, in a bid to put up New Year decorations last year, his hammer had struck the wall, nearly decapitating someone mid-flight – not that it was anything funny as Kibum started to snarl.

“I CLAIM THAT ROOM THIS TIME!” Heechul screamed as he shot into what was Dian’s and Kibum’s room last year.

As he made a move to throw his bag onto the bed, he caught sight of Dian sitting in a corner of the room, pointing at a smirking Kibum, who had just finished hanging the last piece of clothing in the closet. Yelling loudly, he stomped back out into the chaos in the living room.

Luggage bags were being abandoned in the hallways as couples made a mad rush for rooms with the nicest views. Henry could hear giggles and shrieks of laughter as the girls flopped around on their new beds. He laughed as he saw Beverly and Donghae jumping childishly on their beds, and smiled even wider as he saw his twin drag his girlfriend up onto the bed before continuing their destruction of hotel property.

Valerie and Yesung were standing threateningly in front of their old room, a room that no one dared to claim. Reese and Leeteuk too had an easy time claiming the most luxurious room in the chateau; after all, no one could disrespect the Appa and Omma.

Henry looked around and felt that everything was right again. It was almost as if the seniors never left. Despite meeting them at least once a month outside school, everyone still felt an extreme sense of loss. Now, everything was perfect, no, more than perfect.

Everyone had agreed that this would become a tradition, and here they were again.

Thank God.

The girls were still screaming, pushing Amber around the Chateaux. Each girl proudly pointed to different spots in the lodge, calling back past memories with excited smiles and abashed lip-biting.

Finally, Henry turned back to survey the living room. Taking in the Christmas tree – it was bigger than last year’s – and the familiar lodgings, he felt a tug at his heart. Everyone was slowly streaming back into the living room now, with the exception of Leeteuk whom Henry saw sneaking outside.

Following him, Henry saw Leeteuk standing there, looking up at sky. In his right hand was a small velvet box – Henry’s heart skipped a beat. Leeteuk’s head turned as he heard Henry’s involuntary gasp. With a smile reaching to his eyes, the group’s oldest member beckoned to the youngest male.

As Henry approached his hyung, Leeteuk offered only one explanation.

“This feeling… the love? I need to make it last forever.”

‘If you need a friend,

don’t look to a stranger,

You know in the end,

I’ll always be there.

And when you’re in doubt,

and when you’re in danger,

Take a look all around,

and I’ll be there.’

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