Word count: 4,546
Word count: 4,546
Summary: "Yah!" Kibum shrieked, shaking the sand out of his raven hair. The bumbling idiot landing straight into his perfect sand castle, the best one on the playground if he could say so himself.
"Yah!" Kibum shrieked, shaking the sand out of his raven hair. The bumbling idiot landing straight into his perfect sand castle, the best one on the playground if he could say so himself. He glared at the boy who landed face first into what was now just a pile of sand. Earlier in the year, he got in trouble for pulling the hair of another boy for ruining his sand castle. In his defense, it was a truly amazing sand castle— his mother had even complimented him on it before it was promptly destroyed. That incident gave him the outcast status on the playground, maybe it was better that way. This way he wouldn't be able to hurt anyone.
"I'm sorry." The boy apologized dusting himself off in the process. Kibum had never seen the other boy on the playground before. Normally, the six year old kept to himself at the sandbox while everyone else evaded the area. This boys looked like he played in the dirt for a living. His parents emphasized cleanliness as a way to make up for appearances of a crumbling family, so Kibum would never be caught dead in the dirt.
"Yah, watch where you're going!" Kibum snapped, "Are you blind?"
"I said that I was sorry already, stop being a big baby." The boy threw the biggest insult you could possibly say on the playground. Being called a big baby at six was the equivalent of insulting one's honor and pride. There was no way that Kibum would let this boy walk away without repaying the favor.
"A big baby?" Kibum scoffed crossing his arms across his chest. He would not let the boy get the best of him just because he had seniority over the playground. "After least I can run without getting a face full of sand, unlike you, you big idiot."
“Idiot? At least say my name. It's Jonghyun."
"Hey Jonghyun," Kibum leaned in to whisper into the boy’s ear, peaking his interest. "You suck." Kibum stuck his tongue out before running away giggling.
"Yah!" Jonghyun yelled after the small figure moving farther away with each passing second. "What's your name?!"
"Hey Jonghyun," Jonghyun decided to sleep over at Kibum's house for the first time in months, and a movie seemed like a perfect way to pass some time. Sixteen Candles was way more interesting than Jonghyun would ever admit, he was too absorbed to realize that the younger was not paying attention to film. Not only because he had watched the movie multiple times in the past, but because his mind was preoccupied.
"Hm?" Jonghyun hummed around a handful of popcorn.
"Do you find girls pretty?" Kibum had a knack for absentmindedly asking questions. After becoming best friends since that day on that on the playground, Jonghyun had become accustom to Kibum's quirks like his unabashed love for cartoons and Western films . It seemed that with puberty these habits became more apparent to Jonghyun.
"Uh sure." Jonghyun's throat suddenly felt like a desert. "Why do you ask?"
"No reason really." Kibum evaded Jonghyun's curious gaze and fiddled with his thumbs in his lap. "Hye Jin noona asked me out...."
"Oh…." Jonghyun sunk into himself. "What are you going to say?"
"I don't know." Kibum shrugged. The boyfriend-girlfriend thing was a foreign concept to Kibum that was introduced in middle school. Growing up brought various changes that Kibum personally did not like. "What do you think I should do?"
"My noona would say follow your heart or something mushy like that."
"Well, that's a load of crap." He expressed with a huff. In Kibum's opinion, things should not be this complicated at thirteen. He would give anything to go back to those days on the playground. Instead of living up to expectations, he could just live to the best of his abilities. "My heart isn't saying or doing anything."
"Well then, I think that that's your answer."
"Are you trying to be philosophical or something hyung?"
“I’m as philosophical as those blockheads in our phys-ed class.” He shook his head. "This is from years of eavesdropping on my sister while she's on the phone with her friends."
"Being thirteen is so weird. Teenagers are so weird." The younger crossed his arms with a pout. “Where do I sign up to stop growing up?”
"Alas, young grasshopper life does not work in such a fashion."
"Like I said before, teenagers are so weird and dumb, and you're a prime example of that." He did not comprehend why everything teenagers said was the contrary. She's ugly meant that she was pretty and I hate you meant that I like you. It just made things more difficult than he cared for. Everything was starting to transform, and if there was one thing he detested, it was change.
"Hey Jonghyun, we should go camping." Jonghyun visibly gulped. Of course to Jonghyun's misfortune Kibum notice, the younger always managed to notice stuff that the other did not want him to. "What's wrong hyung? The great outdoors makes you shake in your boots? Afraid of the dark or something?"
"Of course not." The older scoffed trying to keep face in front of Kibum. "I'm fifteen, I'm not scared of anything."
"Says the guy who cries watching Disney movies."
"I'll have you know that if you don't cry watching Disney movies, you're pretty much heartless."
"You're such a big softie," Kibum commented, punching the other in the arm. "I don't know why girls are always fawning over you." Somewhere between fourteen and fifteen, Jonghyun began to attract the opposite sex. Personally, Kibum could not see what they saw. If only they knew how loud Jonghyun sang in the shower and how bad of a dancer he was.
"That's exactly what the ladies love." The older grinned.
"So camping, let's go." Entertaining Jonghyun further would only lead to more banter. Kibum had Jonghyun figured out to a T; whenever he wanted to evade something he became verbose as a means to distract the person.
"Fine," Jonghyun agreed rubbing the nape of his neck. Kibum wrapped his arms around the older boy in a cheer, although he knew that he would get his way. Over the years, Jonghyun had never acquired the ability to say no to Kibum or quite frankly anyone. That is where the pair contrasted, Jonghyun was selfless whereas Kibum was more selfish. The characteristics rarely hindered the boys; however, it left room for growth when they were together. "But we'll need equipment and that'll take some time."
"No need," Kibum hopped off the couch. "My dad recently bought equipment. We can go in my backyard."
"Kibum wait," Jonghyun said nervously.
"Nope, you can't back out now. You've already agreed." Kibum scurried away.
"Kibum did you hear that?" Kibum was greeted with Jonghyun's doe eyes and terrified voice from his sleep.
"Hear what?" He rubbed the sleep from his eyes, groggily sitting up. "Jonghyun, why are you awake?"
"They're everywhere!" Jonghyun shrieked cowering behind his sleeping bag. "Can't you hear them?!"
"The bugs!" The older boy shrieked behind the sleeping bag.
"Wait, are you serious?" Kibum choked down his laughter.
"Laugh all you want Key, it isn't funny." His voice was muffled by the sleeping bag. Key shuffled towards his best friend and moved the plush bag from his face. Water clumped at the corners of the older’s eyes and snot dripped from his nose.
"Hyung, why didn't you just tell me that you're afraid of bugs?" Kibum sighed. Yet again he had hurt the one person he cared about as much as himself due to his selfishness. It was like that day on the playground again where he smacked Jonghyun's ice cream cone on the ground due to the fact that he did not had one himself. Growing up as an only child in a broken home did not do him very good in terms of learning how to share. He's improved since then because of Jonghyun.
"I didn't want you to make fun of me." He explained avoiding Kibum's gaze.
"I'm not that big of an asshole okay." Kibum glanced at Jonghyun's tear stained face, he felt like an asshole. "Let's go inside."
"Kibum?!" Jonghyun ran towards the motionless body on the ground. Jonghyun couldn't have ran faster to Kibum after he received his call asking for help. Panic and a sense of urgency settled in quickly. Ever since Kibum started high school, a group of boys had been picking in him; but, Kibum could handle himself well and nothing had gotten out of hand. The second he got the call from Kibum, a frightened feeling washed over him. "Oh my god, what happened?"
"It's not as bad as it looks." The younger managed to smile even with a bloody lip.
"Do you have any idea how bad you look?" The beginnings of a bruise were showing up on his arm. The blood from his busted lip started to crust. That was the only physical damage that could be seen, but he wouldn't be surprised if there were more.
The smirk on his face was peaceful. "Like shit probably, but at least I got a punch or two in."
"God, you're such a dumb ass."
"But you came anyways."
"Of course I came. I'll always come running." From that day forward, it was decided for Jonghyun. He would never let this sort of thing occur again. He'd double his size so that the bullies wouldn't stand a chance. If he had anything to do with it, he'd never see a bloodied and beaten Kibum again. "Let's go get you cleaned up." He hoisted Kibum up on his shoulders.
"Hey Jonghyun, do you believe in soulmates?"
"I believe that you should stop talking, you're only hurting yourself more."
"Answer my question and I'll stop."
"Well I do," He admitted. Kibum did not seem like the type to believe in such a thing. He was a factual kind of guy. Things that couldn’t be felt, seen, or heard just didn’t exist in Kibum’s universe. “and when I find mine, things like this won’t matter to me anymore”
“Hey Jonghyun,” Kibum spoke, after moments of watching his best friend flip through the pages of his textbook in silence.
“Now is really not the time Kibum.” Although Jonghyun was always ecstatic to see his best friend, he did not appreciate unannounced visits to his dorm room. He had a paper that he should not have procrastinated on due in the morning, and Kibum peering over his shoulder only made it harder to concentrate. Unless the younger had anything to say about the calendar effect, Jonghyun didn’t want to hear anything from him.
“Hyung, how would you react if I told you that I was gay?”
“I would say ‘Hey Key that’s great but I kind of have a paper I need to finish.’” Agitated that he was being brushed off, Kibum slammed the textbook that Jonghyun was skimming through shut. “Hey my page!”
“Can you hear me out for a second?” The younger fumed.
“I am!” Jonghyun shouted back.
“No, you’re not hyung! You’re listening but you’re not hearing me.”
“Fine.” He turned his chair to confront the red faced Kibum. “What is is?”
“I’m gay.” He confessed with sagged shoulders. It was not precisely how he planned to tell Jonghyun but it got the job done the same.
“And it took you this long to notice?” He responded. Kibum wasn’t sure what exactly he expected the older man to say, but the response was so Jonghyun that he was ashamed that he expected anything less.
“More like it took me six years to admit it.” From the moment Hye Jin noona asked him out back in middle school something clicked. He didn’t feel anything for her or quite frankly any other girl. Follow your heart, the cliché words that Jonghyun uttered years ago had stuck a chord within him. “I’m tired of being who my parents want me to be instead who I really am. Think about it hyung, when have I ever done anything truly for myself?”
“You did that dance competition once.”
“Against my parents will, but then I won and they were so proud of me.”
“You did the—” Jonghyun paused.
“Exactly, never.” He reaffirmed. “I’ve been molded into exactly what they want me to be and I don’t like what I see. I don’t even know who I am anymore.” He pulled his beanie down to cover the majority of his face.
"You're my best friend if that makes up for anything."
"Honestly, you're probably the only aspect of my life that I've done for myself as opposed to pleasing my parents." Jonghyun couldn't help but feel a tinge of pride at the statement although it was rather sad. "Fuck it, before I end up unhappy for the rest of my life."
"That's an admirable way to live." He hummed. Jonghyun could not risk doing what he loved because the consequence of failure was too grave. That's why he chose the safe route of majoring in business.
"Speaking of which, I've started living for myself..." Kibum trailed off.
"What did you do?"
"Nothing that can't be reversed."
"Key, what did you do?" Jonghyun's jaw could have popped from its hinges after Kibum pulled the beanie off. The back was buzzed and the crown was bleached blonde. "Oh my god."
"Looks great right?" He ran his fingers through his new hair.
"Your parents are going to kill you!" He pointed out. Kibum's step-father was a stickler for the rules whereas Kibum was a natural rule breaker. Only one of the various reasons that they clashed constantly.
"Why do you think that I'm here?" He questioned. "They've already seen it."
"I'm hiding a wanted man."
"Speaking of which, can I sleep over for a couple of nights?"
"Kibum you can't just run away when things look bad." As the older person, Jonghyun had to be the voice of reason. Kibum was rash and rarely thought things through thoroughly enough before he went through with it.
"This time it's different hyung. I ran away after confronting them."
Jonghyun shook his head, this was unbelievable. "You're in high school."
"You'll get expelled."
"I'm graduating in two weeks."
"That's even worse!" He retorted.
"It's not a big deal hyung." He reassured. No amount of reassurance could relieve the anxious feeling. Jonghyun was always worried about Kibum even though he was fully capable of looking after himself. Kibum was more fragile than he let on. He only showed that side of himself ever so often, and when he did it was in the form of puffy red eyes and tear stained cheeks.
"Fine," He settled glancing once over at Kibum. "You looked better as a brunet."
"Your opinion is totally irrelevant."
"Hey Jonghyun," The moving clouds made his head spin. "do you think that it's possible to find true happiness?"
"I don't see why not." Neither of the boys had a paper due in the upcoming few days—although they could take this opportunity to get ahead in work— so when Kibum suggested a picnic Jonghyun jumped at the idea. Happiness was a luxury in the world that Jonghyun lived in. There wasn't much room for happiness when one lived to please others.
"Are you happy?" Jonghyun did not need to verbalize his response for Kibum to know the answer.
"I'm happy with you right now." He answered before adding, "Just watching the clouds, not having a care in the world."
"You know how a few years ago I started living for myself?" Jonghyun hummed. Kibum's mother got over the dramatic change fairly quick—quicker than they expected— however, his step father was exactly how they imagined. Red in the face from spouting nonsense that Kibum did not care for. Nothing he could have changed would have altered how Kibum felt. "I hope that you can do that one day."
"What do you mean?" It wasn't that Jonghyun was oblivious, it was just that Kibum so rarely expressed what he felt nowadays. What a stark contrast from how he was before college. He would say what he wanted without a care in the world for how it would hurt the people around him. Truthfully, he preferred that Kibum over the more reserved one. He could deal with that Kibum with the tough exterior not this indifferent one.
"It's just," He hesitated for a few moments, trying to find the correct words before starting up again. "I hate seeing you so unhappy when I can't do anything to help. When we were younger, you did everything to make me happy. Hell, look at your muscles and tell me that you didn't hit the gym constantly in order to protect me."
"Exactly, you can't say it because it'd be a lie. It sucks knowing that I can't help you in any shape or form when all you've ever done was be there for me."
"Then you can repay me by staying by my side."
"I want you to be happy."
"I will be, eventually."
"Key, why did you drink so much?" Incoherent words followed suit as Jonghyun lugged Kibum through their shared apartment. Kibum usually held his alcohol fairly well and was great at identifying his limit.
"Let me go you dumb ass." Kibum slurred, weakly hitting Jonghyun's arm. For anyone who knew Kibum for years, they knew how difficult it was to discern whether he was drunk or not. His mannerisms when he was tipsy or drunk mirrored one another. There was a sway in his step and a laziness in his voice. What made his drunk persona differ was that drunk Kibum got especially sentimental. He got all touchy and liked to cuddle anything relatively soft.
"Let me at least bring you to your room." Kibum groaned in protest before wiggling out of Jonghyun's hold.
"I want to sleep in your room." Kibum whined as he scurried down the hall.
By the time Jonghyun had shuffled into his room, Key had already curled himself up in his comforter with a peaceful smile on his face like a cat that decided to take a nap after conquering the world. "It smells like you." He hummed. The sweet fragrance had become a safe haven for Kibum over the years. When that indescribable smell wrapped around him, Kibum couldn't help but feel comforted.
"Scoot over 'Bum." Jonghyun slid into bed beside his best friend. The taller of the two threw his leg over the other and nuzzled into his neck.
"I'm in love with you." He giggled. Jonghyun couldn't breathe in fear that the slightest movement would destroy the moment. Seconds that felt like eternity past by and the only thing that Jonghyun could hear was the racing of his own heart. Was this the alcohol speaking or was this the last ounce of coherency that Kibum had in his body? In relationships, Kibum threw the words I love you like threw kids pebbles into the pond. What made this different from all the other times?
"Key?" Soft snores escaped the boy’s lips. He wouldn't even recall this in the morning. Maybe it was for the best.
Kibum would ever become accustom to the thumping in his head and the desert in his mouth after a night on the town. He woke up in bed alone. The warm body that was in bed with him the night before was no longer there and the spot where he once was, was cool.
"Jonghyun?" He shuffled out of the room. An empty apartment was the only thing that greeted him. He headed to the bathroom with sagged shoulders, maybe a warm shower would do him some good.
The smell of maple syrup and cinnamon enveloped his senses when he emerged from his room after a refreshing shower. "Jonghyun?"
"Good morning Kibum." He smiled across the counter clad in a 'Kiss the Chef' apron.
"What a treat. You made breakfast for once." The blonde joked. When they first began living together Kibum took the liberty of declaring himself the cook of the house. One, because he was actually a pretty good cook. Two, because if he left Jonghyun in charge of cooking they'd be poisoned in no time. Truthfully, he he did not mind it. It allowed him to showcase the skills he learned in culinary school.
"Okay, you're pushing it. I bought breakfast." He laughed before adding, "Remind me that I owe you twenty bucks."
"You did not you asshole."
"I'm kidding." He smiled and set the plate in front of the younger man. "But I did make the eggs, if that's any consolation." The blond could recognize the french toast from his favorite diner from a miles away. The sight of it alone made him salivate. Perfect hangover food in his opinion.
"What's the occasion?"
"I felt like you'd need it considering how much you drank last night."
"Oh god," he groaned. "I didn't do anything stupid last night did I?" He had a history of doing so. He once threw up on his boss at a company party, he was promptly fired afterwards. Another time he made out with his boss' son at a surprise birthday party for his boss. He was also fired then, but he did get a six month relationship out of that. Two of the multiple reasons why he rarely drink in excess. "I did something stupid didn't I? Ugh."
"I wouldn't exactly call it stupid." The shorter man bounced on the heels of his foot and evaded Kibum's gaze. Anything seemed to call his attention at this moment. The stain on the floor that Kibum had been nagging him to get clean, the leaky faucet that he had been meaning to fix himself, and the picture hanging on the nearby wall that was slightly tilted.
"Hyung, spit it out."
"You said that you were in love with me." The blonde's eyes went wide and he broke away from Jonghyun gaze to look down at his life.
"I say a lot of things when I'm drunk, what's new?" He laughed it off.
"Key, you can't just brush it off." He had the habit of doing that, pushing people away when things got too serious. It was long term damage caused his parents divorce during his childhood.
"I was drunk, what else do you want me to say?" The blush that dusted his cheeks said the opposite.
"I want you to say the truth." He wanted him to admit that it was fear that was holding him back from reaching his full potential.
"Well then, I'm sorry that I'm not." He huffed in frustration. "I'm not sorry for being in love with you."
"I-I...." The blond stuttered.
"But you know what, I am sorry for one thing." He laughed bitterly. "I'm sorry for not being able to tell you earlier. I'm kind of an oblivious dumb ass, like you always say."
"I don't want to hurt you." The younger muttered through a sniffle. This was one of the rare moments that Kibum decided to show his vulnerable side.
"Why would you ever hurt me?"
"If you haven't noticed, I'm kind of an inconsiderate ass. That's what I do. I hurt people and then they leave."
"Why would I ever leave you?" The shorter man breathily laughed. The concept itself seemed inconceivable. He had several opportunities over the last thirteen to bail out when things got tough. Like that time Kibum didn't talk to him for a week because he was angry at the older man about something that was idiotic in the end. Or maybe that time the blonde became distant for a month during high school because of a jealous boyfriend. The only reason he stuck around was because he knew how flighty Kibum was when it came to relationships. Like always, Kibum came back and Jonghyun was there to welcome him. "I've stuck around this long haven't I?"
"Can you believe that I'm finally an official firefighter?" The smile on the older man's face was similar to that of a child in a candy store. He was so excited that he didn't even want to take it off. Stuck in a dead end job in a standstill life, Jonghyun was fed up. He couldn't stand sitting at a desk or he'd suffer a mental break down. He made the decision to quit his job on a whim, which Kibum was not happy about, and enrolled into the fire academy. Fifteen months and countless hours of training later, he could actually say with conviction that he was content with what he was doing.
"Hey Jonghyun," The blonde spoke with a playful grin on his face pulling the older man closer. Jonghyun could recognize the glint in the younger's eyes from a mile away. "you make one hot firefighter. You better not leave me for one of those beef cakes, okay?"
"You don't need to worry about that babe. I've only ever had my eye on you." He smiled. "Anyways, I'm sure that you'd be the first to back out."
"Is that a challenge?" He spoke through a trail of kisses up the older mans neck.
"Is this a reward?" The older challenged.
"No, this is true happiness." It only took twenty-five years for Jonghyun to get there.
"Hey Jonghyun," He bitterly smiled trying to force by the tears that were threatening to overflow. People had told him that it gets easier with time; however, that statement wasn't proving to be true. "Can you believe that it's been two years?" He dusted fallen leaves away before placing the white gladioluses down near the headstone. The granite tombstone had begun to show marks of wear and tear from the harsh winter and the periods of rain. Weeds were beginning to grow around the headstone, he would have to complain about that later. The older man had always mentioned that Kibum would be the first to leave him. The bitter irony, Kibum thought.
"I dyed my hair back to black. You had always liked it better this way." He paused. "I met someone, hyung. And thanks to you, I'm not afraid to stick around anymore. He treats me well, unlike my other exes."
"Hyung, is everything okay?" Taemin called from a couple of feet away.
"Yeah, everything's fine Taemin. Give me a few more seconds." Kibum called back. "His name is Taemin, and he's the second best thing that has ever happened to me, Second to you of course." He smiled to himself before glancing down at his watch, 12:14. The couple had reservations for lunch in sixteen minutes. If there was one thing Kibum learned from the older man it was to not hold onto the past, so Kibum took steps toward his future. He paused in his stride before turning back to whisper, "I miss you, hyung."
"Are you ready to go hyung?" His future smiled at him extending a hand towards the older man. Intertwining their fingers, he nodded with a smile. That very hand was his new safe haven, warm and comforting.
Hey Jonghyun, is it selfish to find happiness without you?