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12yrs . 01mths . 01days . 21hrs . 17mns . 52secs .

 

Park Minhyuk met Moon Bin on a cloudy day, at the young age of six, as he sat outside on the swingset. It wasn't any sort of dream meeting, nothing like destiny, but it was at a necessary time in Minhyuk's life. He needed a friend, someone to sit beside him and offer comforting words, and that was exactly what Bin had come to do.

It was silent at first, the two boys swinging, until Minhyuk sniffed and wiped at his nose. He had tear streaks visible on his chubby cheeks, and his eyes were still shining brightly, sadly, as he stared down at the moving ground beneath his feet.

Bin, mid-air, glanced over at him, then slowed in his swinging until he came to a stop. Minhyuk followed in his stead.

“How old are you?” Bin asked, his voice squeaky, cracking ever so slightly.

“Six,” Minhyuk mumbled.

Bin beamed widely. “I'm seven!” he announced. “And that means I'm older than you! So you have to call me your Hyung, and you also have to listen to whatever I say, got it?”

Minhyuk glanced up at him. Bin giggled and stood from his swing. “Got it?” he repeated, and Minhyuk nodded, mute in the presence of a bigger, smarter, older kid. “Then I order you to stop crying!”

Minhyuk huffed and crossed his arms over his chest. “I'm not crying!” he retorted.

“Then why do you have a bunch of tears coming down your face?”

Minhyuk had no response for that, and so he simply wiped at his cheeks again and hung his head down, refusing to look back up at Bin. He was content to stay that way until Bin suddenly wrapped his small arms around Minhyuk's body and held him close.

“You're from Jeju?” he asked. Minhyuk nodded, and Bin continued, “When did you move here?”

“A-A-A few days ago,” Minhyuk stammered. “How did you know?”

“I heard those kids,” Bin said. “The ones who were making fun of you for the way you talk. For your accent.”

Minhyuk swallowed thickly, resting his head now on Bin's shoulder as he felt hands rubbing up and down his back. “But you shouldn't listen to them. I think you talk just fine!” He pulled back and grinned, lopsided and crooked. “I'm Moon Bin! And we should be friends!”

 

08yrs . 01mths . 01days . 13hrs . 33mns . 16scs .

 

Park Minhyuk learned about soulmates on a windy day, the sort where his house creaked and leaves blew across his front yard. He was content enough to stare outside, to watch the clouds move quickly across the sky, but Bin, sitting right behind him and playing on his Gameboy, suddenly blurted out, “We all have soulmates, Minnie. Did you know that?”

Minhyuk glanced over his shoulder and shook his head. “What does that mean?” he asked.

Bin sat up, Gameboy momentarily forgotten, and he grinned. His hair was getting too long and too shaggy, but it was cool; Minhyuk was growing his out, too, proud to be told that he sometimes looked like Bin. Bin was eleven and he helped Minhyuk with his taekwondo and his homework. Minhyuk had other friends now, too; Sanha, who moved in across the street, and Dongmin, who was quiet and chubby and seemed like he was taking over Minhyuk's position as Bin's Best Friend, until Bin whispered once to Minhyuk that Dongmin could never even come close to how dear Minhyuk was to his heart.

And Minhyuk felt the same way about Bin. Every word he spoke, Minhyuk hung onto, and so when Bin started talking about soulmates, Minhyuk was all ears.

“It means,” Bin said, “that there's someone out in this world that we're all destined to be with! My parents were soulmates, and so were your parents, and all of the other parents in the entire world were soulmates!” He looked excited. “Isn't that so cool? So we all have our own soulmate out there, somewhere, waiting for us!”

His mother had briefly spoken of soulmates before, but Minhyuk had never seemed interested. Now that Bin said it, though, Minhyuk could think of nothing else. “How do we know when we've found our soulmate?” he questioned.

“My dad says that you get a watch on your eighteenth birthday.” Bin pointed to his wrist. “He says it appears right here, and then it counts down until the moment you meet your soulmate. Like, my dad says when he got his, it took him fifteen years until he finally met my mom! Can you imagine that? Fifteen years, Minhyuk!”

Minhyuk, who was only alive for ten years, who couldn't even imagine waiting fifteen years for anything, gasped lightly. “Wow,” he breathed, eyes wide.

Bin seemed pleased with Minhyuk's amazement, and he nodded his head, smiling proudly. “So we might have to wait fifteen years, maybe, to find our soulmate.”

But Minhyuk didn't want to wait fifteen years. Waiting for such a long time seemed very boring. Would it even be worth it, at that point? He frowned and turned fully so he could face his best friend. “I don't want to wait that long,” he said. “Besides, I have you. Why do I need someone else?”

Bin looked thoughtful. “I don't know,” he said. “I guess it'd be nice to have someone you can kiss, though, like my mom and dad do.”

“Ew!” Minhyuk wrinkled his nose. “I don't wanna kiss girls! That's gross!”

His friend laughed and moved closer to him. “How about,” he said, “we can be soulmates until we each find our own?” When he noticed Minhyuk watching him warily, he waved a hand and giggled. “But without the kissing.”

Minhyuk decided that he could probably handle that just fine, and so he nodded his head, matching Bin's smile. He'd wait with Bin.

 

03yrs . 01mths . 01days . 01hr . 12mns . 59scs .

 

Park Minhyuk experienced a first kiss on a bright and sunny day, out in his backyard. He had never really thought about kissing someone before, until Lee Dongmin started to tease him for it.

“I can't believe you're fifteen and you've never even kissed a girl,” Dongmin said, tapping a finger against his knee. “You have virgin lips.”

Minhyuk decided it was probably a bad idea to talk about such things with Dongmin and Bin. Bin was just scowling, and Dongmin had a little smirk on his face that Minhyuk desperately wanted to wipe off.

“It's not that big of a deal,” Minhyuk responded, taking another sip of the beer he had stolen from his parents' fridge. They were both gone for the day, and Minhyuk was excited at the prospect of finally drinking without their knowledge. He had given cans to both Bin and Dongmin, too. Their cans remained untouched. Minhyuk only drank his to seem cool – he hated the taste, though. “Besides,” he added, grimacing and setting the beer can down, “shouldn't we be waiting for our soulmates?”

“Mine won't come for another four years,” Dongmin complained, holding up his wrist. He was the oldest out of the group; he was the only one who had the watch. Bin glanced up at it warily, then back down at his unopened beer can. “So I'm just going on a few dates here and there, nothing serious, until I can finally meet my soulmate.”

“Yeah, well, I'd rather wait for my soulmate,” Minhyuk retorted.

Dongmin just snorted. “Even Bin's kissed people before.”

Minhyuk hadn't really heard that information. He blinked in surprise, then glanced over at his friend, who was disregarding his eye contact and instead continuing his staring contest with his can of beer.

Minhyuk thought Bin told him everything. After all, they were fake soulmates, until they found their real soulmates, and Minhyuk thought that they wouldn't keep secrets from one another. However, from Bin's reluctance to meet his gaze, and from Dongmin's little giggle, Minhyuk assumed that it was the truth; Bin had apparently been kissing other people while waiting out his soulmate.

“Oh,” Minhyuk said. He took a large swig of his beer. It tasted disgusting, but he couldn't find it in himself to care very much at the moment.

“You're allowed to have fun until your soulmates come,” Dongmin explained. “You can't just sit around forever, after all. So Bin's taking advantage of his time as a single man. Right, Bin?”

Bin finally spoke. “It was just once,” he argued with Dongmin. “And you initiated it!”

“Wait.” Minhyuk wrinkled his nose and pointed at Dongmin. “You two kissed?”

Bin looked embarrassed, but Dongmin simply nodded. “I wanted to see what it was like,” he said. “And Bin also wanted to see what it was like.” When he noticed Minhyuk's shocked stare, he just scoffed and continued, “It isn't like it's weird, Minhyuk. It was just a kiss. It meant nothing. I've kissed other people before, during parties or-or dates or stuff. I have time before I meet my soulmate. And once I meet my soulmate, I won't kiss anyone else.”

For some reason, jealousy burned within Minhyuk's entire being. All he could imagine was Bin and Dongmin, leaning up to each other, lips touching, hands holding tightly, little doves flying around them and love hearts hanging above them. It was unrealistic; then again, so was this entire situation.

Maybe they decided to be soulmates at a young, idealistic time in their lives. Maybe it meant nothing at all to Bin. But it sure meant something to Minhyuk, who had carefully rejected all date requests, all other temptations, in order to stay true to his fake soulmate until his real soulmate would appear.

It was the jealousy, then, that spurred his next action.

He pressed a finger up to his lips and faced Dongmin, his cheeks red but his eyes alight with determination. “Kiss me,” he demanded.

“What?” Both Bin and Dongmin spoke, and both looked equally surprised.

“Kiss me,” Minhyuk repeated. “As I'm the only one in this group that hasn't been kissed, I want you to kiss me. Right now.”

Dongmin blinked. “Are...are you sure?” he questioned.

“Positive.” Minhyuk puckered his lips and closed his eyes, hands gesturing for Dongmin to come closer.

And Dongmin did. Dongmin scooted forward and pushed his lips up against Minhyuk's. It was quick and chaste, and Minhyuk wiped his lips the moment Dongmin pulled away. Both boys were flushed and Dongmin cleared his throat awkwardly. “W-Was that what you wanted?” he asked.

Minhyuk didn't like it very much, not at all, but he still nodded his head. “Perfect,” he responded.

Bin stormed inside. None of them talked for a week after that. Lee Dongmin was never close to Bin, either, after that.

 

01yr . 01mths . 01days . 10hrs . 41mns . 18scs .

 

Park Minhyuk discovered true anguish on a stormy day, where the rain pounded against the windows and the lightning flashed across the sky. He was supposed to go camping with Bin and one of their other classmates, Jinwoo, but the weather took a turn for the worst, and they postponed their camping trip. Jinwoo had been a little sad about it all, claiming that the cake he baked for Bin's eighteenth birthday wouldn't be as tasty if it sat in wait.

Bin told him to bake a new one. Jinwoo lectured him about money and time management and do you think cakes grow on trees, Moon Bin?

But Minhyuk had sent him a text, anyway, in their little group chat: happy birthday, bin. Jinwoo told him to be more enthusiastic while typing, but Minhyuk couldn't bother with that. Not when, hours before, Bin had posted a picture up on the chat, displaying his new soulmate watch proudly, with the time 01yr, 01mths, 01days, 10hrs, 41mns, 18scs right in the center. Minhyuk had felt sick to his stomach staring at it.

Bin seemed excited, though. It keeps counting down! he had written. It's at 11 seconds now!

Jinwoo was equally excited. Congratulations! he said. You're so lucky that you only have to wait a year. I'm at two years :(

Minhyuk hadn't answered until Bin singled him out specifically: Minhyuk is still my unofficial soulmate until the time I meet my real soulmate, though!

Unofficial soulmate. That was what he had become. He supposed it sounded better than being a fake soulmate, but he didn't like the word unofficial. He wanted it to be real, he decided. He wanted it to be official.

It was a sudden realization, too. It made him discover why he felt jealousy in his stomach when Bin flirted with other people. It made him discover why he felt sadness in his heart when Bin sent the image. And it made him discover why anxiety brewed in his chest the more he thought about Bin finally meeting his special someone, his real soulmate, the person with whom he would spend the rest of his life beside.

It wouldn't be Minhyuk – and that's what hurt the most.

Bin called him later that day, after Minhyuk refused to answer anything more in the group chat. Minhyuk was tempted to let it ring; his mood was as melancholy as the weather outside. But it was Bin's birthday, and he refused to be a jerk just because he was a little jealous and a little sad and a little in love with Bin.

He answered the call and cleared his throat. “Hello?”

“Minhyuk!” Bin sounded happy to talk to him, at least.

“Hey.” Minhyuk couldn't quite garner enough enthusiasm in his voice, not when he felt so heartbroken.

“What did you get me for my birthday?” Bin asked, in a sing-song voice. “Because you know it's today.”

“I know. I wished you happy birthday in the chat.”

Bin fell silent for a second, then sighed. “What's with you today? You're...just blah. You don't sound like your normal self. And you should be happy on my birthday! What's up? Did Dongmin do something stupid again?”

Minhyuk snorted. “No. No, it wasn't Dongmin.”

“Sanha, then. You know, he sent me a gag gift. He asked what I wanted and I said I wanted a car, and he sent me this stupid matchbox car.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah! And it probably came from his old collection. The paint is chipped and everything. I mean, I'm eighteen! What am I supposed to do with a child's toy?”

Minhyuk shrugged his shoulders, but when he remembered he wasn't face-to-face with Bin, he said, “Maybe you take it and enact revenge on him. Like, for his birthday, get him a pacifier for still being a big baby.”

Bin laughed. Minhyuk always liked Bin's laugh. It was light and squeaky and it didn't fit the image Bin portrayed of some manly, strong guy. It fit a soft, warm, sweet boy; it fit the boy Minhyuk had fallen for.

“Hey, Bin.” Minhyuk was quieter now, fiddling with the book he was reading. “What...what do you think about having a soulmate?”

Bin hesitated before asking, “What do you mean?”

“I mean.” Minhyuk sat up and tried to collect his thoughts. “It must be weird now, you know, suddenly having a specific time set for when you're going to meet the person who will be with you for the rest of your life. Aren't you worried about it? Or nervous? Do you even want it to happen?”

“I...” Bin swallowed thickly; Minhyuk could hear him over the phone. “I don't know, Minnie. Everyone else with a soulmate is fine now, aren't they? Our parents, our older friends – all of them found their soulmates and fell in love instantly. So I guess I'll fall in love with my soulmate whenever I see them.”

Minhyuk tried not to sigh, and he tried not to let any tears fall from his eyes. “What...what would you want your soulmate to be like.”

Once more, Bin hesitated, then he murmured, “I have one in mind, but...”

“But what?”

“But I'll just accept whoever it actually is. Because that's how things should be, and because a soulmate is someone who will make you happy. We might not be ready for our soulmates right now, but once we meet them, I know it'll all work out fine.”

Minhyuk bit his lip harshly before letting out a choked laugh. “W-We're still unofficial soulmates, though, right?”

He could hear Bin's affectionate smile just with his voice: “We always will be.”

 

00yrs . 00mths . 00days . 00hrs . 08mns . 15scs .

 

Park Minhyuk's eighteenth birthday was on a cloudy day. The sun was just rising and his alarm was blaring. He reached over groggily to shut it off and prepare himself for a long day of school, but he noticed the new addition to his wrist, the little watch that had formed. He blinked the sleep away from his eyes and sat up straighter, looking at the time.

The year was zero. The hour was zero. The minute was eight.

Eight minutes? That didn't seem correct. After all, Bin's watch was the one with the least amount of time he had ever seen, and that was listed for an entire year. Why was his watch, then, for such a small amount of time?

He narrowed his eyes at it, then slowly rose from bed, trying to think who on earth he would meet within the next few minutes. His parents, obviously, were home, and his little brother was home. Maybe he would meet Sanha. Sanha was across the street, after all, and they usually walked to school together. But Sanha was seventeen, and Minhyuk was certain the watch wouldn't account for those younger than eighteen. Or maybe it would be Lee Dongmin, since his watch was ticking down on time. But Dongmin was gross, and Minhyuk never wanted to kiss him again.

He tried to think of more people it could be – Bin's name kept rising in his heart, but Minhyuk would push it away, for that was wistful thinking, too good to actually come true.

He went downstairs, watching as the seconds counted down on his watch. Maybe it was broken. He would ask his mother about it, get her advice, whenever she decided to wake up.

The doorbell rang the moment he entered the kitchen, and Minhyuk's breath was caught in his throat. He glanced down at the watch. Twenty seconds.

Whoever was on the other side of that door would be his soulmate, then. He was about to meet the person he would spend the rest of his life with. He felt regret and pain settle in his stomach as he thought of Bin. They couldn't be unofficial soulmates if they both had partners, could they? It wouldn't be fair to their respective soulmates if they continued with their cute charade.

He looked down at himself, at his pajamas, and his mismatched socks. He brought a hand up to feel his hair; he still had on the headband from last night, when he washed his face and put on a mask and had apparently forgotten to remove the girly band he wore to keep his bangs away. His face, too, had yet to be cleaned, and he knew he was simply a mess.

His soulmate was going to see him at his ugliest. He cursed.

But, still, he couldn't leave his soulmate waiting, and so with determination, he moved forward quickly and opened his door wide.

His clock made a small beep; his soulmate's watch made the same beep, and they stared at each other with wide eyes.

“B-Bin?” Minhyuk stammered.

Bin's look of shock melted away, replaced by pure, unadulterated joy. His smile threatened to take over half of his face, all crooked and lopsided, and his eyes sparkled brilliantly as he said, “I thought – I mean, I had a feeling! I didn't even look at my watch this morning, I was dressing and wanted to be the first person to see you for your birthday, and the closer I got to your house, the more I realized my watch was ticking down time and-”

Minhyuk didn't care to listen to the rest of Bin's rambling. He felt nothing but happiness grasping at him now, chasing away all of his doubts and regrets. He threw his arms around Bin, embracing him tightly, and giggled into his ear. He had to stand up on his toes, but he didn't mind, and Bin didn't seem to mind when he hugged him right back.

“You should kiss me,” Minhyuk ordered.

“Hey!” Bin scoffed, drawing back. “Remember when we became friends, Minnie? I'm older than you, and so I order you around.”

Minhyuk whined. “The only person I've ever kissed was Dongmin, and that was four years ago, and I really need a new kiss to wipe away the old one.”

Bin tried to frown; his lips pulled down forcefully before he gave up on acting and went back to smiling again. “I order you, then, to stand still while I give you the best kiss of your entire life.”

In terms of skill and finesse, it sucked. Minhyuk would receive far better kisses from future Bin, kisses that left him breathless, kisses that made him fall deeper in love, kisses that made his knees go weak. But for the moment, as the watches on their wrists faded away and as Bin's eyes gently closed, Minhyuk decided it was the best kiss of his life.

It was one he would never forget, at least, on such a cloudy day with his soulmate in his arms.