Jaemin took a deep, centering breath, before promptly bursting into laughter. He cut the video to him after he’d calmed, eyes trained on the floor as tears dripped down his bare face. It was his first video he’d ever filmed without makeup, and already he was grateful for his forward-thinking.
“Hold on, my eyes are burning,” Jaemin said, pressing hard against his left eye. He stayed there for a long moment before pulling in another breath, shaking himself until he was sat up straight. “Now, everyone, there’s something I’m going to do today. Something that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.”
Jaemin added in videos of him and Renjun as he spoke, the first an old video of them, young and newly dating, back in their junior year. “Today, I’m going to ask my best friend to marry me.”
The next video was of Renjun and Chenle, pushing each other on a set of swings at the park. Jaemin and Jisung were laughing in the background, Chenle shouting for Renjun to slow down. “Huang Renjun was something of an enigma when I first met him. He and Chenle were foster babies, and when we met, they were in the process of being moved again.”
The footage shifted to Jaemin and Renjun at one of Chenle’s drama performances, Renjun smiling so wide and proud. “They were placed together when Chenle was eight. They were moved again when Chenle was ten. That’s when Chenle and Jisung met, actually.” Jaemin laughed, thinking about how tiny they were when they’d first met.
“Renjun is so full of love,” Jaemin said, switching to a clip of him and Renjun hugging. “For all of the shit he went through as a child, he still sees the best in everyone. He’s still the first to sit by someone upset. He’s still artistic and flamboyant and happy.”
Jaemin put the video of Renjun and Donghyuck in from their prank, both of them laughing and messing around.
“A lot of people can’t seem to understand his sense of humor. A lot of people don’t like that he doesn’t take anyone’s shit,” Jaemin said, showing Renjun glaring at the camera and shoving Jaemin away, albeit with his playful smile to go with it. “He’s learned through lots of pain how to care for himself. I’m blessed to be one of the few people he trusts.”
The video cuts to Jaemin and Renjun kissing, overlooking the Han river on their first date. Jisung and Chenle had filmed it, and Renjun had screen capped it and had it as his phone background for years. It had only recently changed, and Jaemin made sure to add that as well. A photo of him and Renjun with their associate’s degrees at their graduation, both held up proudly.
“We’ve been together through so much, and I know that I want to be with him through everything. Every bad, nasty, horrible thing. Every good, beautiful, amazing thing. I want to be there through it all.” Jaemin had the video turn back on him, eyes finally looking up from the floor to stare into the camera.
“I love him with everything in me. Today, I’m going to make a promise to him that I am his until death do we part,” Jaemin chuckled.
“Renjun-ah,” Jaemin said, addressing Renjun. “I love you. Let us be together forever, by each other’s sides, for all of eternity. You are my soulmate, the one I want to wake up to and fall asleep with. The one I want to come home to. The one who I want waiting for me at the start of each new life.”
“Let us begin the most important video on my entire channel. Of my entire life. Thank you for being with us, even when our content lacked. Even when it seemed too mean, or too sell-outish. We truly appreciate each and every one of you. I am so glad to be able to share this with you.” Jaemin put his hand over the camera lens, the screen going dark.
“Vlog day!” Jaemin said, pulling his camera back. Chenle jumped excitedly in the background, showing off their picnic basket. It was pushed open on both sides, too much stuff filling it up to close correctly. Jisung, panicking a little, made sure to hold the flaps down to keep all their hard work from tumbling to the ground.
“It’s been so long since you’ve done a vlog,” Renjun commented, allowing Jaemin to give him a quick peck on the temple.
“I want to show off my wonderful family today,” Jaemin said, arm out to frame Renjun, Jisung, and Chenle.
“We’re family now?” Jisung teased, and Jaemin was quick to run back and tase Jisung in the side.
“I basically gave birth to you! How could you say that?” Jaemin whined, shoving Jisung away. The youngest popped back into frame, hand pushing his messy hair back down. “I’ve known this kid since he was six years old, and he still has the audacity.” Jaemin complained dramatically, shaking his head.
“Wait,” Renjun said, scrunching his face up. “I see so many problems with what you just said.”
“Quit thinking,” Jaemin said, accepting the slap to his shoulder with a smile. “So, we are going to three different places today. All of them are a surprise.” Chenle cheered happily at the idea of a surprise visit to somewhere exciting, while Jisung and Renjun looked far more apprehensive.
“I’m ready,” Chenle said, giving the camera a thumbs up.
“You two don’t seem as excited,” Jaemin said, pointing to Jisung and Renjun. They both smiled with a bit of a grimace but gave a thumbs up anyway. “Let’s go! I will be driving, obviously.”
“Just don’t kill us, okay?” Renjun said, kissing Jaemin once on the lips before hopping into the passenger seat. Jaemin took a moment to calm his speeding heart. He was really going to do it.
My heart was pounding here. I thought I was going to cry again, so I pretended to be looking for directions. Jaemin added as a text caption.
Jaemin set the camera up on the dash before they left, allowing it to roll as they drove the thirty minutes to their first destination. In the backseat, Jisung and Chenle were sharing a pair of AirPods, Chenle periodically bashing his head as he sang to whatever song they were listening to. Jaemin was sure to zoom in on Jisung’s fond smile each time.
Renjun was talking to Jaemin about his new project, going through each of his ideas. He was to write a paper on technology in modern medicine and how it mimicked inequalities in real life, and with Jaemin’s biology degree and minor in sociology, he had plenty of ideas to help his boyfriend.
Jaemin widened his eyes and clenched his hands on the wheel.
I was thinking about Renjun here. I realized I may not be calling him my boyfriend for much longer. Another text caption said.
“You okay, darling?” Renjun asked, looking up from where he was jotting down ideas. He looked so small, knees up and upper body bent over his notebook.
“Yes, and stop sitting like that,” Jaemin said, smacking Renjun’s legs down. “I don’t want you getting hurt.”
“Then drive like a normal human,” Renjun teased but complied regardless.
Renjun, Chenle, and Jisung’s faces all showed their wonder as they pulled into the parking lot of their destination.
“Oh my God, it’s been years!” Chenle said, hopping out of the car the second Jaemin had stopped.
The first destination Jaemin picked was their high school, the first place Jaemin ever laid eyes on Renjun.
Jisung and Renjun unbuckled and got out a bit slower, eyeing the building with wide-eyes and open mouths. Jisung and Chenle had already been out of high school for almost three years, making the return fun for even them. Renjun and Jaemin, however, having been gone for nearly six, were amazed by all the changes.
The football field that Jaemin had run track on was newly paved, fewer cracks and dips with the potential to trip. The actual field in itself looked freshly painted, the giant yellow and blue mascot standing out bright and beautiful. It had been so old when they’d been there; faded and a bit poorly done.
Renjun ran forward, grabbing Jaemin’s hand and pulling him along. Jaemin made sure to keep the camera on Renjun’s excited face as they ran, only stopping when they reached one of the most familiar places on the entire grounds.
Jaemin met Renjun when he’d just finished band practice, red-faced, and overheated in his uniform. Jaemin himself had just finished track practice with Jeno and Jisung, Jaemin in lousy shape himself. It had been blistering and humid enough that it took Chenle coaxing two bottles of water down Jisung’s throat before they’d been ready to leave.
Jaemin could see in his mind’s eye the tiny, snaggle-toothed Renjun as he was pushed around by his band members. How they made fun of him for his mistake and told him he didn’t deserve the first chair position. He could see the way Renjun wiped the sweat away and steeled himself, not letting the words hurt him.
“You told me I sounded wonderful,” Renjun said, a bit breathless. “I didn’t think you actually knew who I was. You were Na Jaemin, after all. I thought you wanted to make fun of me, too, so I ignored you. And then you started watching me play.” Renjun smiled, looking up at him.
“I watched you every day from then on,” Jaemin chuckled, leaning down to give Renjun a kiss. The late autumn breeze ruffled their hair, the setting sun casting a golden glow over their skin. Jaemin, for once, found no reason to color correct. It looked beautiful already.
“Why are we here?” Renjun asked, looking up at Jaemin curiously. They turned as Jisung and Chenle shouted out, both of them reminiscing their days in the school as well. Jaemin remembered a little baby faced Jisung and Chenle playing tag in the parking lot as they waited for Sicheng to come pick them up. “They grew up so much.” Renjun sighed.
“They did,” Jaemin nodded, hoping to be around long enough to see both grow even older. He could hardly imagine life without those three.
“You told me you loved me for the first time on the bleachers,” Renjun said, grabbing Jaemin’s hand and pulling him forward again. They settled down on the same seat they occupied for hours each night, both anxiously waiting to see if anyone would indeed come to retrieve Renjun and his brother.
It had been one night when the sun had long set, and Jisung’s mom had taken Chenle home with her, that Jaemin had decided to say it. Renjun looked so lost, so empty, that Jaemin wanted to mend that broken heart and fill all the cracks left by so much loss. He’d pulled Renjun close and pecked him once, both of their eyes-catching and refusing to part.
Jaemin told Renjun he loved him, and Renjun had looked away. He’d been convinced, after a lifetime of being told such words and then given away, that it wasn’t true. But Jaemin had shown him, in all ways possible, that it was.
“I love you, Jaemin,” Renjun said, eyes pulling up from where they’d stared off during his own reminiscing.
“I love you more,” Jaemin cooed. After a while, Jisung and Chenle ran up to them, tired and out of breath, warning them that their food would be uncomfortably warm before they had a chance to eat it.
They lifted themselves up and walked back to the car, camera back in place before Jaemin drove off.
Jaemin was a little worried when Renjun leaned against the window, gaze on the passing scenery outside the car. He grabbed Renjun’s thigh and squeezed, asking silently what was wrong. Renjun just turned and smiled, so small and gentle, before turning back.
“I’m excited to see what’s next,” Renjun said.
Jaemin pulled into a familiar parking lot, both Chenle and Jisung nearly bursting out of the car in excitement. He’d chosen the Han River for their second stop. It was a simple place, one they’d been to plenty of times, but it never failed to be a fun and great memory.
“We had our first date here,” Renjun chuckled in disbelief, pointing at the exact place they’d set up all those years ago. Jaemin grabbed the camera and motioned for him to follow, already having to jog to catch up with their excited youngest.
Jaemin settled a blanket down near the exact, or close to the exact, tree he and Renjun had their first date next to. Chenle and Jisung were diligently laying out the food they made and packed, making sure to let them know precisely what was in each box in case there was something someone didn’t like.
They ate in silence for a while, letting the breeze and the sound of the water cleanse their bodies of residual stress from life. Jaemin couldn’t help but stare at Renjun and the way his boyfriend was so in tune with the world around him -- Ears perking anytime someone laughed in the distance, eyes catching the leaves that fell with the wind. He had an artist’s stare, one that took in all that was around him and channeled it into memory.
Renjun had given him a small painting as his first gift. He’d been so shy as he handed it over, hands fiddling with the sleeves of his only nice sweater as Jaemin took it in.
It was a photo of cherry blossoms, the petals floating in the wind. Jaemin had kept it since, always the first piece of decoration up anytime he moved. It was the painting that sat above their shared bed, still as new looking as when it had first been made.
“We both had our first dates here,” Jisung said with a chuckle. They all nodded happily. “Chenle and I went down a bit farther. Closer to where all the equipment is, but wow. This is still such a nice place.” Chenle leaned over and kissed Jisung gently, their lips sticking with the jam leftover from their food.
“So gross,” Chenle giggled, wiping his lips.
“Where’s my nasty kiss?” Jaemin asked, puckering his lips out for Renjun. The little devil that he is, Renjun smeared jam onto his lips before kissing Jaemin soundly, not letting him pull away until they were both laughing messes.
“So,” Renjun said as Jaemin worked to wipe his face of jam. “Our first meeting and our first date, huh?” Renjun smiled, poking Jaemin in the side.
“Yep, what do you think?” Jaemin asked, taking his time to wipe Renjun’s face as well. Both of their smiles slipped after a while, and Renjun was leaning in to capture Jaemin’s lips. They kissed softly, not stopping even when Chenle and Jisung got up to go visit their own memorable spots.
“What’s going on?” Renjun asked suspiciously. Jaemin chuckled, already feeling the burn of tears behind his eyes again. It wasn’t time yet. They still had one more place to go.
“You’ll just have to wait, angel,” Jaemin said, taking both of Renjun’s hands in his. He ran his finger over the birthmark on the back of Renjun’s hand, bringing it up to plant a gentle kiss to it. Renjun’s eyes followed the movement, a soft sigh escaping his lips.
Jaemin pulled Renjun in for another kiss, using a hand on his boyfriend’s face to hide as he wiped away a stray tear. He felt so overwhelmed and nervous from the thought of only having another hour to wait.
“So, I’m going to be a bit cheesy here, but bear with me, love,” Jaemin said, lifting himself up a little as they broke apart. Renjun smiled and raised an eyebrow. “When I took you out on our first date, I was so nervous. I remember changing my outfit four times and still not being satisfied, and it took me and Jeno two hours to be satisfied with my makeup and hair.”
Renjun chuckled and shook his head. He looked so lovingly into Jaemin’s eyes, teeth barely showing as his smile softened.
“I picked this spot because you told me how much you loved the sound of the water. This is one of the few places that, even with it being a bit crowded, you can still hear it. I came out a week in advance just to test out a few places, and as stupid as it sounds, I’m really glad I did.” Jaemin said, breath hitching.
“Oh, Nana. You worked so hard for me,” Renjun said, kissing Jaemin again.
“I will always work hard for you. You’re worth all the little wonders that a bit of extra work can give. Our first date was one of the best nights of my life. I want to remember it forever, and if it means bringing you here, again and again, I will. I never want to forget those new, wonderful moments with you.” Jaemin said, wiping at his eyes. Renjun shot up to his knees and wiped the tears away with his thumbs, face pulled down in a frown.
“You are so good to me,” Renjun said. “I don’t deserve you.” Jaemin shook his head and pulled Renjun close, rocking them side to side.
“You deserve everything,” Jaemin whispered.
“I still remember it, you know?” Renjun began with a smile. “Donghyuck and I spent a lot of time on my outfit too. I didn’t really have much, but we managed to find something in his closet that didn’t look too big on me. It had to be all tucked in, and my jeans were so old, but we still managed to make it look nice.” Jaemin leaned forward, both hands in Renjun’s as he spoke.
“I had never worn makeup, but Donghyuck worked so hard on it. I felt good about myself for the first time,” Renjun looked down and took a deep breath. “You really punched the breath out of me that day. You looked like a fucking model or something.” Renjun chuckled, shaking his head. “You still looked at me like I was the most beautiful thing you’d ever seen.”
“Because you were, and you still are,” Jaemin said. “I don’t care if you’re barefaced, just woke up with drool all over your puffy lips. You’re my pretty, pretty baby.” Renjun groaned and slapped Jaemin in the chest, face burning red.
Jaemin realized with a shock that it was ticking ever closer to eight o’clock, meaning they had to get ready to go to be on time for their next destination. Jaemin sighed sadly and pulled his phone up, shooting off a text to Jisung and Chenle to tell them it was time to go. With a jolt, Jaemin read the text he’d received from his group chat with their friends.
“Are you ready to go, baby?” Jaemin asked. Renjun pouted a bit but nodded, helping him pack up all the leftover food and throw away any trash. Chenle and Jisung came running back, sweaty and flushed, gushing about how someone had let them borrow a basketball and play a few games with them.
“Our Chenle, so outgoing,” Jaemin cooed, pinching Chenle’s cheeks. Chenle beamed at the praise.
Everyone picked up on where they were going only a few minutes into the drive. It was a familiar route, one that he and Renjun took daily while the other two happened upon a few times a week. Renjun looked back at him, confused eyes shining with the streetlights.
“You’ll see,” Jaemin said.
“Why are we going home?” Renjun asked as they made the final turn to their complex. Jaemin smiled and tried to breathe, his whole body alight with nervous energy. He couldn’t get a word out to respond, and both Chenle and Jisung weren’t helping with their chaotic energy.
Chenle and Jisung were in the group chat, and ever since Donghyuck had sent a photo of the finished arrangements, the two youngests had been off their chain. Luckily, Chenle was acting quite regularly, and Jisung seemed to naturally feed off his boyfriend regardless, so Renjun hadn’t yet noticed anything.
They pulled into the parking lot, and Jaemin watched as Renjun tried to school his disappointed expression. He bent over to pick up the basket with all their leftover food, but Jaemin put a hand on his wrist to stop him. “Leave it, we’ll come back.” Jaemin said, unbuckling his seatbelt.
“Okay?” Renjun said, moving to unbuckle his own seatbelt. Before he had the chance, Jaemin had rounded the car, opening the door to the passenger seat. He leaned over and unbuckled Renjun’s seatbelt for him, holding a hand out to help his boyfriend out of his seat. Renjun looked back at Chenle and Jisung with a confused stare, both smiling widely at the sight.
Jaemin took a big, hitching breath in, his lips already wobbling dangerously.
“What’s going on? What happened?” Renjun asked, already rubbing at Jaemin’s eyes to stop the tears. Jaemin shook his head and laughed.
“Let’s go inside,” Jaemin said, grabbing Renjun’s hand in his. Jisung took the role of cameraman as they made it to their front door, Jaemin’s hands shaking wildly as he moved to unlock it.
I was so overwhelmed. I don’t think I’d ever felt so shaky in my life. Was another text caption.
Jaemin pushed the door open, and instantly Renjun was gasping at his side.
The lights were dimmed, allowing the orange fairy lights to shine beautifully. They were all along the living room wall, framing the couch and door out to the back patio. Renjun flicked the lights on, hand coming to cover his mouth as he took in the rest of the decorations.
Their little group of friends were standing in the corner of the living room, smiling widely as Renjun took in their work.
Each string of lights was adorned with six polaroids, all spanning from when Renjun and Jaemin had first met to that morning. Renjun took his time, running his fingers over each photo, taking them in with so much care. Jaemin had saved them for that exact purpose, meaning Renjun had never seen a single one of them. Each photo, on top of being new, also had something written on it.
Jaemin wrote a note to Renjun on each, all dated and signed. Renjun spent extra long on the messages from when they’d first met, chuckling wetly at the one from that night they’d spent together at the high school. The night Jaemin first said I love you.
You are my heart, my lungs, my life. You are the air and the water and the earth and the fire in my soul. You are it. You are everything. I love you, I want to be with you only. It has to be you. Forever.
Renjun covered his face and cried into his hands. He fanned himself to calm down and continued on, not stopping until he got to the very last line of polaroids. It was off, only five polaroids instead of the normal six. There were photos of them on the final day of their fall semester, of them mussed up and watching tv on the couch, of Renjun with hotteok batter smeared on his face, of Jaemin spraying Renjun and Jisung with sink water, and finally, from that morning, Renjun and Jaemin getting ready for their outing.
“Why is this one off?” Renjun asked, looking up at Jaemin. He’d long ago come to stand by Renjun, eyes shining as he watched Renjun take in each of the photos.
“This photo hasn’t been taken yet,” Jaemin said, taking both of Renjun’s hands in his. He sighed, looking up and willing himself to calm down.
“Renjun, you are, undoubtedly, my best friend. You are the only person I have ever felt completely attached to, in all the ways our human existence allows. I could look at you for a second and find a million things to love.” Jaemin began, and Renjun had already started crying, fat tears rolling down his cheeks and splashing on the hardwood floors.
“When we first met, it was crazy. We didn’t know how we would survive sometimes. I had no money, no close family, no friends. Yet I was still, somehow, the Na Jaemin. The one everyone wanted, the one everyone fought to get to, and yet once they knew me? They didn’t much care for that. It was you, only you, that saw all the broken, awful shit in my life and loved me anyway.
“Me, the rich bastard child. The one who had no idea how to love. You took every broken piece of me and put it back where it belonged. You made me a new, better person. Our song says it perfectly. Can I sing you our part?” Jaemin asked, and Renjun nodded.
Jaemin took in a deep breath and allowed his voice to flow.
You’re my saving grace, you’re my secret place.
When I was lost in space, you made a way.
Took this broken soul, made him something more.
Couldn’t do this on my own, you took this heart, gave it a home.
As Jaemin finished, he bent down to one knee. Renjun sobbed out a laugh, his whole body bending forward on itself. Jaemin pulled the ring box out of his jacket pocket and held it up, pulling it open.
“I want to spend every minute of the rest of my life with you,” Jaemin said, his sentence broken by his hitching breath. “I want to continue working on making the best version of me with you. Will you make me the luckiest man in the world and marry me?” Renjun dropped to his knees, throwing his arms around Jaemin.
“Yes, of course, I’ll marry you,” Renjun sobbed. He pulled back enough Jaemin could take his left hand, lifting it up gently. He pulled the ring out of the box and slid it onto Renjun’s ring finger, the click of a polaroid the next thing that was heard. Jeno pulled it up and walked forward, clipping the last photo to the lights.
“It’s finished,” Jaemin chuckled wetly. All of their friends erupted into screaming applause, Chenle undeniably the loudest. He ran forward, tackling his older brother and Jaemin down to the ground in a hug.
“I’m so happy for you!” Chenle nearly shouted in their ears. All three of them were pulled to their feet, but Renjun was instantly back in Jaemin’s arms, blotchy red face hidden in the lapel of Jaemin’s jacket.
“I love you,” Renjun sobbed violently. Jaemin rocked him, pressing kiss after kiss to his boyfriend’s -- his fiance’s -- head. All the pain and abandonment Renjun had gone through, and there he was. In the arms of one of the few people who’d ever shown him the meaning of unconditional love.
“I love you. Forever,” Jaemin said, always making sure to include the last part. His love for Renjun was without an expiration date. Even after they were gone, long-buried, Jaemin would still love Renjun. He’d still be waiting, no matter what form one takes in death, for his soulmate to return to him.
Jaemin allowed the video to fade slowly to black, their favorite song playing quietly in the background as the video ended .
Thank you for following our journey from the start. We hope you will continue to stick with us as we move onto this new chapter.
- Jaemin and Renjun