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Catch the Stars

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 Trailer made by @mimimiruku_

 

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The bus hits a pothole and Mingyu stirs, bangs his head against the window from where he was trying to take a nap. He lets out a sigh of frustration; it isn’t like he would’ve been able to fall asleep, anyway.

A few other people in the bus grumble in annoyance and the old driver from the front shouts “Don’t complain to me. Learn to vote for the right man next time!”

Another debate about their current president not taking care of the roads in this area because of political reasons arises and Mingyu sighs, tilting his head back and closing his eyes in hopes of getting a few more minutes of sleep in before they arrive.

The sun filters through the leaves and branches of the trees, shadows dancing across Mingyu’s face, his skin altering between cooling off and warming up. He brings a hand up to rub at his stinging eyes, raw and burning from the lack of rest they received in the past few nights.

Mingyu almost feels like he’s six again.

Back when there was nothing more exciting than spending his summer at the place they’re driving towards now.

But it’s different now, isn’t it? His parents are back at home because of their work and someone will not be there to greet him like he did last time.

Something lodges itself in his throat and he yanks his earphones out, gulping as he directs his gaze outside instead.

The fields around them seem endless, mostly just huge spaces of nothing but grass with the occasional cluster of sparse trees and bushes, followed by yellow cornfields, or a sea of rainbow colors where flowers are blooming on the untouched lands.

If he wasn’t seeing this with his own eyes, he’d almost think it was a scenery right out of a movie, the ones where Hayao Miyazaki was at work.

The sky is blue, a few harmless clouds sticking around and a droplet of sweat runs over Mingyu’s temple in the sweltering heat inside of the bus.

He remembers all of this, remembers sticking his head out of the window and touching the flowers to pluck them, while his dad was driving the car up these hills.

It smells like chocolate and orange cookies in the bus because the mother behind him opened up a pack for her toddler who’s happily munching on them and scattering crumbs all over the place while he’s eyeing his surroundings with wide eyes.

The bus is filled with what Mingyu doesn’t want to call villagers, but one look at their calloused hands from manual labour, probably, and their clothing is enough to confirm where they are from and where they’re going.

And here he is, a twenty-one year old boy from the city, listening to his Spotify playlist on the newest iPhone model, his Macbook and sleeping pills stored securely in his bag, wearing a Tommy Hilfiger shirt and jeans he bought for 70’000 Won when they were on sale.

He doesn’t miss the curious looks the mostly older people in the bus keep shooting him, doesn’t miss the hushed discussions about who he might be and what business he has up here in the mountains in a village that has a population count of about 100.

His mom warned him about this; that his visit might attract some attention since it’s not every day that the villagers get to see a new face. So Mingyu doesn’t let himself be bothered by it and shoots them polite smiles whenever he catches them staring.

It would be different if he'd bothered to drive up here from time to time. Like, he hasn't stepped a foot in that village in fifteen years. And why? 

Yeah, Mingyu would like to ask his past self the same question. 

The sun starts to fade little by little as sudden fog settles down around them, thick enough to block Mingyu’s view from everything outside. He shoots a mildly concerned look to the front where the old driver is sitting but the man is still generally speeding up the narrow road like he doesn’t give a single shit, like there isn’t a dangerous slope on the side, and Mingyu thinks he might not even get to see his grandmother after all.

The woman next to him chuckles at the obvious distress on his face. “Don’t worry, son. Uncle Changho has been driving these roads for thirty years. He knows them like the back of his hand.”

Mingyu gives her a smile. “Is it always so foggy up here?”

She hums, her face full of wrinkles even though she doesn’t seem to be that old yet. “The weather does what it wants up here. Once we’ve passed Cheumsan the sun will be back out again. That’s why we tell newcomers to bring some winter clothes, too, when they visit during summer.”

Mingyu blinks at her like an idiot. He didn’t bring any winter clothes. His mom didn’t say anything about that.

She chuckles. “There are a few clothes shops in Cheumsan if you want to get yourself a jacket.”

“Okay. Thank you.” He mumbles awkwardly, nodding his head.

The bus comes to a stop after another ten minutes and Mingyu realizes that they’ve arrived in what has to be Cheumsan. It’s very small but seems to be quite busy since there are people and cars everywhere despite the heavy fog lingering in the air.

Mingyu stretches his back and shivers, still completely baffled by how cold the weather’s gotten in a matter of minutes the higher up they drove.

“It’s the only town in this area that has a hospital, or proper shops. That’s why all the people from surrounding villages come here.” The woman from before explains. “You should really consider buying a jacket. It’s cold out there.”

Mingyu nods his head and picks up his bag, waiting for the elderly to get off the bus so he can get out too. He shivers when he’s outside, his bare arms prickling with goosebumps.

It isn’t just a little chilly; it’s absolutely freezing, full on winter mode when it was practically thirty degrees a few hours ago when he boarded the bus.

Most people from the bus have already rushed inside the grocery store while Mingyu is eyeing the buildings for a shop that might sell clothes. Once he spots once, he rushes inside to get away from the cold.

There’s a young girl sitting behind the counter, tapping away on her phone which she quickly puts away to shoot Mingyu a curious look.

“Hey,” Mingyu greets awkwardly. “I need a jacket and uh, a hoodie or something.”

The girl nods her head and gets up to show him a few options and Mingyu doesn’t even bother trying them on before he takes the jacket and two sweaters.

He grabs his wallet and hands her a couple of notes once she puts the items inside a bag. The girl stares at the notes, her face falling a bit. She grabs half of them from his hand and pushes the rest away. “You’re from the city, aren’t you?” She huffs. “It’s 40’000 Won.”

Mingyu’s mouth drops open, and he feels absolutely stupid. “But that’s—“ So cheap.

“It’s what people around here can afford,” She snaps a little, before sitting back down behind the desk, picking her phone up, her interest in Mingyu having diminished rather quickly.

Mingyu stands there like an idiot, contemplating wether he should say something but figures he already looks like an asshole in her eyes. He sighs and leaves the store feeling like a prick. He didn’t mean to come across like that.

He shakes it off and walks back to the bus where he sees the woman from before carrying a bunch of bags on her own. He hurries to help her and receives a warm, thankful smile.

Mingyu gives a smile of his own and carries the bags inside, sitting down and waiting for a few minutes until everyone is back inside so they can hit the road again.

The weather gets better after that and once they’ve driven through the fog, clear sunset-sky greets them again. Mingyu doesn’t even bother questioning it anymore. This place always felt kind of mystical to him, almost unreal to a certain degree, so it makes sense for the weather to be this crazy.

“Look, uncle Hui’s shop!” The little kid behind exclaims, pointing at a tiny building ahead, the only sign of civilisation around them. “Are we home now?”

“Yes, sweetheart, we’re back,” The mother answers.

Mingyu lets his eyes travel over the yellow-green fields, the setting sun bathing everything into warm shades of orange and pink. He spots a bunch of abandoned train tracks and railroad crossings amidst flowers and growing vegetable fields and other  modern things like high transformation towers and seemingly endlessly long power lines stretching across the sky among all the nature.

They drive past a Canola field, men and women wearing cute white hats working in between the rows of yellow flowers.  

His eyes then catch a skewed and rusted blue sign.

Welcome to Gungsan.

The first thing he sees of the village are cows hanging out at the tiny bus stop where a sad looking red bench is situated. The driver honks to make the cows leave the middle of the road, cursing under his breath when the animals take their sweet time making way. Mingyu grins to himself and the boy in the passenger seat reaches his hand out the window, patting the side of a brown cow that’s chewing on some grass.

There isn’t much to the village. It’s tiny; in fact, it’s so small and insignificant that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, let alone a mark on whatever map you look at. Like the village doesn’t even exist, completely unnoticed and sadly forgotten between the forests and fields and how it’s situated somewhere between the mountains.

The houses are small and look like they desperately need some work done on them, but they’re all very colorful and Mingyu thinks they’re okay considering how little money the people living here have. A middle aged woman wearing one of those comfy looking, flowery pants is taking down laundry in her garden and shoots them a curious look when they pass. Mingyu has no idea who she is, even though he should technically know every person living in this village.  

He spots a group of kids playing on the soccer field in front of the old school of the village, hears them scream and laugh. He distinctly remembers playing there with some other boys whenever he visited as a kid, though he doesn’t remember any faces or names.

He briefly wonders what happened to them, if they’re still living here.  

He doubts it.

When he gets off at the bus stop, his grandmother is already waiting for him with a big smile on her face, a straw hat sitting on top of her head to protect her from the sun. Mingyu grins back at her and before he knows it, she’s already trying to squeeze the life out of him, fussing over his height and how handsome he is.

She seems more alive here in the village. Mingyu sees her every year but only during Christmas when she's staying in her other house in the city.

He never visits her up here but it seems like she's in her element here, blooming and vibrant.

Mingyu feels a pang in his chest, because it should be his granddad’s turn next for a hug, but his granddad is somewhere far away now.

His grandmother doesn’t miss the dull look in his eyes and pats his cheek. “Come on, let’s go home and get you settled in.”

When they walk off together Mingyu spots a group of guys hanging around the bus stop, all of them eyeing Mingyu like they’re watching a lion step out of his cage. One of them scoffs and rolls his eyes before turning away and Mingyu just groans in the inside.

Great. All the guys his age already hate him. Usually he gets that kind of reaction after he opened his mouth but this time, he didn’t even get that far.

 

 

If there’s one thing Mingyu knows, it’s that his grandparents belong to the… more wealthy part of the village.

In other words, they owned the most land and consecutively also the largest house.

It made sense, because Mingyu’s granddad used to be the mayor, before he passed away six years ago. 

Mingyu saw him that winter, visited them in their house in the city where they always used to move whenever it got too cold in the mountains to stay there. That's the only thing he's glad about, that he got to see his granddad one last time before they received a call in the middle of the night five weeks later, informing them about his sudden passing. 

Mingyu walks through the metal gate and can already see their garden with the tree he remembers through his grandma’s crops. The house looks very peaceful; painted in a pretty red brick color, surrounded by neatly cut grass (who cuts it, though?) and colourful flowers.

Mainly sunflowers. They’re everywhere, vibrant and in full bloom and it makes Mingyu smile because there’s probably not a single person in this village that doesn’t know about his granddad’s love for sunflowers.

And then there are two tress, where the swing Mingyu used to play on is still hanging.

He remembers it because they have a picture of him swinging on it at home. His granddad put that up for him, probably hoping it would make Mingyu visit him more, but Mingyu never did, because the city was more exciting.

There’s a sudden bark coming from the side and Mingyu whips his head around, heart rate already accelerating at the prospect of meeting a dog.

And sure enough, there is a full grown dog with orange fur at the top that transfers into white fur at the bottom, it’s tail wiggling widely as it looks up at Mingyu from where it’s tied up on a long leash, jumping around in excitement and Mingyu may or may not be tearing up.

“You have a dog?” He squeals and runs over to crouch down and pet it, cooing when the dog gets so excited it’s paws get all tangled up in the leash. “You have an Akita! Why didn't you tell us? Grandma, oh my fuck—“ He trails off at the glare he receives from her and chuckles awkwardly, still hugging the dog.

She chuckles and reaches out to let the dog nuzzle into her palm. “One of the farmers had a litter of puppies last year and since it gets a little lonely here I decided to take one. His name is Pumpkin.”

Mingyu pouts and squeezes the dog’s cheeks and swears the puppy is smiling at Mingyu and Mingyu wants to cry from happiness. “He’s so cute! Grandma, I love him. I’m gonna have to take him home with me when I leave, I’m sorry, it’s not even debatable.”

His grandmother laughs and ruffles his hair. “Come on, you can play with him later. Let’s get your things inside.”

Mingyu reluctantly lets go of Pumpkin and follows his grandma to the front door. He’s careful to walk behind her up the stairs so she doesn’t trip or anything.

There aren’t many rooms inside but they’re all very spacious. There are two floors, two bathrooms, a kitchen, three bedrooms and one large living room. The walls are all painted in a warm shade of yellow, a sort of pastel tone, and he remembers his mom telling him that his granddad chose the color because his grandma wouldn’t let him paint it in the bright yellow sunflower shade he originally wanted.

His grandmother shows him his room and Mingyu can’t stop smiling when he steps inside; it almost looks like they prepared it just for him because it reminds him a lot of his own bedroom back at his parents’ house. There a king sized bed in the middle, a table under the large window with an office chair in front of it.

“You have your own bathroom,” His grandmother explains, pointing at the door inside the room. “I tried to make it as comfortable for you as I could—“

“Grandma.” Mingyu’s bottom lip almost quivers. He just feels so bad. Where is his granddad? It’s been years since his death but coming back here rips open old wounds and bring memories of his grandfathers’ warm laughter back. “It’s perfect. I love it, I promise.”

She smiles at him, relieved. “Good, I’m glad. Now I’ll leave you to sort your things out. I’ll be in the kitchen if you need anything.”

“Okay, thank you,” Mingyu says, waiting for her to leave the room before he walks to the bed and falls down on it face first. The sheets smell… like home. Like childhood. Like careless days spent outside in the sun, his granddad pushing him on the swing and his grandma bringing cut up fruit and banana milk outside for him.

But he’s an adult now; an adult whose doctor advised him to take a break from school before his insomnia can do too much damage on his body, he was too busy growing up and chasing after popularity and wealth in the city to spend more time with his granddad before he passed away, and he’s not even a fraction as happy as he was back in those days.

He can’t help but feel like little Mingyu and his grandfather would be really disappointed to see what he turned into.

 

 

When Mingyu joins his grandmother in the kitchen half an hour later after taking a shower, she’s busy cooking dinner and gently singing along to the radio playing somewhere in the house.

“Can I help you with something?”

She says no, of course. “I’m sorry but dinner isn’t ready yet. I had a lot of work to do on the field today and I—“

“Grandma, please. It’s okay. I won’t starve.” Mingyu smiles at her reassuringly.

“It will be ready in an hour. Why don’t you go outside and explore a little?”

“Explore?” Mingyu juts his lower lip out. “I don’t think I remember my way around.”

She gives him a long look before nodding her head. “Let me call Wonwoo, he can show you around,” She says, drying her hands to pick up her phone.

Mingyu squirms around a little, feeling uncomfortable. He’s not that good with strangers, and so far he’s been met with mixed reactions for being from the city, so he can only imagine that other guys his age won’t be welcoming him with open arms.

“Grandma, it’s really okay—“

“Oh, nonsense.” She shakes her head. “Wonwoo is a good kid. He’s a bit closed off but he’s been helping me out on the farm a lot since your grandfather passed away. I already told him you were going to visit—Oh, yes, Wonwoo!”

Mingyu sighs and sags against the wall, looking out of the open window to see a truck driving through the village. The back is filled with people and it looks like they’re coming back from work.

“Yes, Mingyu just got here. Are you busy right now?” She asks and Mingyu stops listening in order to go and use the toilet again. He just went but he tends to pee a lot when he’s nervous or stressed, which he basically is every hour of the day, anyway.

Mingyu takes his sweet time washing his hands and freezes a little, wondering if he can be as wasteful with water as he is in the city. He decides not to take any chances and turns the faucet off quickly before leaving the bathroom.

“He’s waiting downstairs for you,” His grandmother says, back at the stove. She hasn’t sat down once ever since Mingyu got here. “Be back for dinner, will you?”

“Yeah, okay," Mingyu mumbles, nibbling on his lower lip. Should he go hug her? Who cares. He goes and hugs her, feeling her relax in his hold. “Bye, grandma.”

She gives him a warm, loving smile, that makes some of Mingyu’s anxiety ebb away. He might feel a bit distant to her but every word from her is filled with so much love that Mingyu can’t help but feel at home already.

Mingyu puts on his shoes and grabs his phone before walking down the stairs, opening the door and stepping outside into the setting sun to find a boy crouched down in front of Pumpkin, petting him.

He looks like any other guy from the back; a pair of dirty sneakers, worn out jeans, a brown plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His hair looks like a light brown, but not dyed, more like bleached by the sun.

Mingyu clears his throat and the guy turns around and gets up to reveal his face, his eyes quickly scanning Mingyu from head to toe.

He has a handsome face; full lips, sharp eyes, bronzed skin. Mingyu can’t help but notice those things about him, and a dark voice in the back of his head scolds him for it. It sounds a lot like his dad, but Mingyu blanks it out before it can give him the jitters and chase away any chances of sleep tonight.

Pumpkin barks, making them both flinch and stop staring at each other.

“Uh,” The guy awkwardly starts. “You’re Mingyu?” He asks, his face still mostly blank. His voice is deep but warm and he doesn’t sound too hostile.

Yet.

"I sure am." Mingyu nods his head. “And I'm guessing you’re Wonwoo?”

Wonwoo blinks at him, and smiles a bit, even though it looks painfully forced. “Yeah. Uhm. I’m supposed to show you around. Because our village has many exciting things to see, apparently.” He has a very strong accent, one Mingyu already knows from his grandparents (and sometimes from his mom, whenever she gets angry), but it sounds rather strange when it’s a young person like him talking.

Mingyu chuckles awkwardly and Wonwoo starts turning away, motioning for Mingyu to follow him.

Pumpkin gives Mingyu actual puppy eyes and Mingyu can’t resist. He doesn’t even try.

“Can we take Pumpkin with us?”

Wonwoo stops and looks at the dog, shrugging his shoulders. “Sure.” He walks over to the dog and gets the leash off of him.

“Doesn’t he need a leash?”

“He doesn’t run off.” Wonwoo says. “He follows you around wherever you go, so don’t worry.”

Which turns out to be true; Pumpkin walks ahead of them but he stops and waits for them to catch up every now and then and Mingyu’s already making actual plans on how to take Pumpkin back with him and if Seungcheol will be okay keeping a dog at their apartment.

There aren’t many people out and about; just a couple of elderly couples that stop them to ask who Mingyu is. Mingyu does a lot of bows in the next few minutes, introducing himself to all of them, letting himself be hugged and welcomed warmly by all of them once they hear that he’s the late Kim Jungho’s grandson.

Wonwoo smiles next to him and it’s apparent by the way he gets patted on the back or hugged by everyone that the people around here seem to love Wonwoo.

They pass a sad looking playground that looks like it’s in desperate need of some color and just renovation in general and Wonwoo catches the look in his eyes.

“There aren’t any kids around to play on there,” Wonwoo says. “The youngest kids are fourteen so they never bothered to maintain it.”

Mingyu nods his head. “It's kind of sad.”

Wonwoo sighs and nods his head but doesn't say anything else, so they start walking again.  “What do you do back in the city?” He asks a moment late.

Mingyu purses his lips. “I’m in college. Or… I was.”

“You dropped out?”

“No, I’m taking a break,” Mingyu explains. “It’s… health related.”

“I see.” Wonwoo nods his head and Mingyu can’t tell if he’s genuinely interested or just asking to fill the silence.

“What about you?”

“Me?” Wonwoo looks at him, an amused grin tugging at his lips. “Are you asking if I’m in school?”

“… Yes?”

“I’m not,” Wonwoo snorts, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “I graduated from high school and that’s it.”

“What do you do, then?” Mingyu asks. He knows there’s no college in this area but he also knows for a fact that a lot of young people from the village move out to pursue a university degree.

“I work,” Wonwoo begins, sounding a little more reserved now. He’s clamming up. “Don’t have time for school.”

Mingyu decides to drop the subject, seeing as it’s obviously something Wonwoo doesn’t like talking about. “So, why are being so nice to me?”

“What?”

“Most guys I met so far looked at me like they wanted to whoop my ass.” Mingyu scoffs, almost tripping over a stone that’s lodged into the ground if Wonwoo didn’t grip his arm to steady him.

“Who looked at you like that?” Wonwoo chuckles in amusement.

“Dunno.” Mingyu shrugs. “A bunch of guys were at the bus stop when I got here. It was really weird.”

“Oh. That was probably Seokmin and the others,” Wonwoo sighs. “Don’t mind them. They’re not mean or anything, it’s just not every day that someone new gets here. Also, people from the city kind of tend to have an attitude when they come here, so.”

“Attitude?”

“You know,” Wonwoo shrugs. “Acting all high and mighty around here, like we’re a bunch of hillbillies who’ve got no idea how the real world works.”

“Well, those are assholes.” Mingyu huffs, his eyebrows twitching in irritation at the thought.

“Yeah, you don’t strike me as the type,” Wonwoo hums. “You’re also uncle Jungho’s grandson, so you can’t be that bad.”

Mingyu sighs and kicks at a pebble on the ground. Everyone speaks so highly of his granddad.

And Mingyu gets it, because you know that saying about someone having a heart of gold?

Mingyu’s granddad had a golden heart, even if it stopped beating way too soon.

His grandfather was that kind of person that valued honesty and justice over anything else. He remembers his mom telling him that the villagers used to seek him out whenever they failed to solve an issue or come to an agreement in an argument.

His granddad, despite his age, fought for the rights of the villagers to get as simple things as running water or electricity and no one could ever really say no to him because he was that kind.

Mingyu thinks it’s a nice way to be remembered; when people talk so highly of you and remember you for your good heart and the great things you’ve done in your life.

Wonwoo shows him around some more but the thing is; it’s just a village.

There isn’t much to it except for the abundance of nature and bugs and cows and a few odd adorable little huts here and there.

“I can show you the waterfall tomorrow, if you want.” Wonwoo shrugs. “It’s too late today and I got work to do.”

“Work?” Mingyu pulls out his phone to check the time. “But it’s almost eight.”

“I have to go and bring back our cattle,” Wonwoo explains and snorts at the dumbfounded look on Mingyu’s face. “We take them out to our field every morning. We gotta bring them back before the sun sets, otherwise the wolves are gonna get them.”

“Wait, there are wolves here?”

Wonwoo shoots him a smirk, pulling down a string of wire so Mingyu can step over it without ruining his jeans. Pumpkin crawls through underneath, watching Mingyu climb over it almost like he’s concerned he’s going to get hurt. “Foxes, wolves, mountain lions. You name it.”

“You’re just messing with me.”

“You can ask your grandma if you don’t believe me.” Wonwoo rolls his eyes. “But I really have to go now. You’ll find your way back on your own, yeah?”

“Sure.” Mingyu nods his head, even though he has no idea how to get back, but he’s not going to embarrass himself like that in front of Wonwoo. He’s also pretty sure Pumpkin will lead the way for him, so he’s not too worried. “Thanks for showing me around.”

“Sure thing.” Wonwoo snuffles, something he seems to be doing quite a lot. He kind of scrunches his nose up when he does it, and it makes him look like a rabbit. “Uhm, I’m working the whole day tomorrow but I’ve got time after five or so. If you… Uh, if you want to…”

Mingyu starts smiling at Wonwoo’s sudden shyness. He doesn’t seem like the type to get embarrassed but it’s kind of cute—it’s kind of nice to see that Mingyu isn’t the only one kind of lost here. “If it’s not too much of a bother for you. I don’t really know anyone else yet.”

“Yeah, no, sure.” Wonwoo shrugs. “I don’t mind showing you around.”

“Okay, cool.”

“Okay.” Wonwoo clears his throat and starts to back away. “It, uh, was nice to meet you." 

Mingyu blinks at him, his lips tugging up into a smile. "Yeah, it was."

Wonwoo nods. "Bye."

“Bye.” Mingyu says and watches Wonwoo turn around, walk off with his head ducked and he doesn’t realize he’s still kind of smiling until Wonwoo is out of sight.

Pumpkin tilts his head at him curiously, staring at Mingyu.

“What?”

Pumpkin stares at him for another second before turning around and waiting for Mingyu to move before he starts walking.

In the end, Pumpkin does take him home, because Mingyu has absolutely no sense of orientation and would’ve probably wandered around for half an hour before finding his grandmother’s house again.

 

 

His grandma is still in the kitchen when he gets back and Mingyu leans against the doorframe, silently watching her move around like a tiny whirlwind with a smile on his face.

She turns around and shrieks when she sees Mingyu standing there, holding her heart. “Jesus, Mingyu!”

“Hey grandma.” He smiles and laughs when she throws a towel at him.

“That’s not funny. You could’ve given me a heart attack.”

Mingyu walks over to hang the towel on the little hooks on the wall, his stomach grumbling at all the delicious smells attacking his nose. “I’m starving.”

“Of course! Go sit down, I’ll make it ready for you.”

“I can do it myself—“

“I said go sit down.”

And Mingyu knows better than fighting his grandma when it comes to him eating food as she usually tries to see how far Mingyu’s stomach can be stretched before he falls into a food coma. So he goes and sits down in the living room, listening to the radio playing in the background and checking the few messages he has received from his friends, mainly Seungcheol, who happens to be his best friend slash roommate and who also happens to be very pressed about Mingyu spending his summer up in the mountains in a barely there village.

His grandma walks in a moment later, carrying a gigantic tray full of everything she’s cooked and Mingyu hurries to get up and help her carry it but she gets so angry that Mingyu pulls his hands back with a pout on his lips.

The food though—if he thought his mom was the best cook in the world, then this right here is on another level. She made Japchae for him and fresh vegetable dumplings, and there’s some chicken stew too which Mingyu hasn’t eaten in a while but remembers loving whenever he came here.

Mingyu whines at all the amazing food in front of him, not really knowing where he’s supposed to start. He settles for taking a bite of the Kkakdugi because he knows for a fact that she makes them the best.

“Grandma I could live off of your Dakjjim I swear.” Mingyu moans later through a mouthful.

“Ah, nonsense. Try the noodles,” She urges and starts going full on grandma mode on him, filling up his plate until he feels full just from looking at it.

“So how was it?” She asks after a while of them eating. “Wonwoo’s a nice boy, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, he’s cool.” Mingyu nods his head after a brief moment of hesitation because of her wording. He still doesn’t know if his grandmother actually knows. His dad definitely warned his mom not to tell any of their relatives but his mom tends to not really listen to his dad, so Mingyu can’t be sure.

“He’s been a great help around here. That boy’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders but a heart even bigger than that.”

Mingyu stops chewing for a moment, his eyebrows furrowing. “What do you mean?”

His grandmother sighs and waves him off. “Oh, you know how it is around here. Life isn’t easy, and our Wonwoo could write an entire book about it. Please be nice to him, you hear me? I don’t care that you’re my grandson, I won’t stand it if you’re rude to him.”

“Why would I be rude to him?” Mingyu pouts and stuffs his face with some more rice. “I’m a very nice man.”

“I’m just warning you.” She chuckles. “I know you are. Just be careful.”

Mingyu doesn’t think he really understands what she’s saying, but he doesn’t actually plan on being an asshole to Wonwoo.

Unless he gives him a reason to.

 

 

 

There could not be a better night to catch some peaceful sleep.

Mingyu has the most comfortable mattress on the planet — or in this village, at the very least — under him, the air inside his room is fresh and crisp, the sheets are all new and pressed, there are crickets chirping outside and Mingyu’s body is tired from the whole journey today and the overload of pollution-free air.

But Mingyu’s mind… his mind is more awake than ever before.

He sighs and opens his eyes after another pathetic attempt hoping for his brain to play along for once and succumbing to sleep. How could it, when it’s doing a re-run of his whole life, analysing the shit out of every instance he fucked up somehow, when his feet won’t stop dancing, his fingers tapping against his stomach anxiously.

His body is on edge and far from relaxed. Of course he can’t sleep.

Mingyu rubs at his sore eyes with one hand and picks up his phone with the other.

It’s two thirty.

Everyone in the village must be asleep by now.

Mingyu is the only person awake.

It’s different from the city, where he knows that no matter what time it is, there’s at leat another person that’s going to be awake as well. The thought always provides a sense of comfort whenever his insomnia keeps him awake. It makes him feel less lonely, it makes him feel better about his brain’s inability to function like a normal brain should. 

But right now, as he listens to the crickets outside and his head is starting to feel all light and fuzzy, he feels extremely lonely.

His gaze drifts to his bag, where he knows his box of sleeping pills is waiting for him. It’s so tempting… so tempting—

Mingyu kicks the covers off and grabs his hoodie from the floor, pulling it over his head before sneaking outside.

 

 

When he comes back an hour later, his hoodie is soaked in sweat and his legs are aching from his run. Pumpkin is sleeping in his small hut and looks up at Mingyu, his puppy eyes hopeful and his tail starting to wag once he recognizes him.

Mingyu takes pity on him and takes his leash off and lets him inside the house despite his grandmother telling him not to. He’s careful not to make any noise and wake up his grandmother and pulls his nasty clothes off once he’s back in his bedroom, skipping the shower because he knows it’ll be too loud.

He falls back into bed with a tired groan, his body aching, and falls asleep when the clock strikes four.