“I want to touch them.”
“I want to touch them. The baby seals.” Taeyong said with his face between his hands, resting his elbows on the wooden railing of the dock. They could see the entire lake from there but most important, the seals.
“Oh, yeah, they are pretty cute.” Yuta answered while scrolling through his phone. “So? What do we do next?”
“Well, Haechan went to check if the line wasn’t long anymore.” Said Johnny sitting on a bench in front of them.
“I’m hungry though.” Said Taeil next to him.
“Well, I guess we can eat before going there.” Johnny shrugged.
“No, no. You are crazy if you think that I’m riding that with a full stomach.” Said Yuta.
“Awww!” A bunch of people cried when the baby seals reached the shore, where a keeper started feeding them. Instantly, Taeyong ran there and started taking pictures.
The weather was pretty good, a warm day announcing the beginning of summer with a few clouds floating in the sky. After having tons of work, these boys managed to sync their schedules to go out and celebrate Taeyong’s 25th birthday. Him and his best friends having fun, that’s all he wanted.
The story is pretty short, Taeyong met Taeil when he moved to the same neighborhood as him. Johnny, Yuta and Taeyong studied together at Uni. And Haechan, who is the youngest, grew up with Johnny, so he took him everywhere. Somehow they started hanging out together and never stopped.
“Okay so who wants to help a little bit? You! You wanna feed them?” The keeper pointed at Taeyong. Not even thinking it twice, he got closer and helped feed the babies.
“Guys, guys! Look! I– Guys?” Taeyong realized that none of them followed him.
“I can take a picture for you if you want.” Another keeper told him.
“Oh… Yes. Thank you.” Taeyong handed his phone to her and smiled at the camera.
When he finished, Taeyong went back to the place where they were sitting before, nobody was there anymore. He called Taeil who after a few beeps, answered.
“Yes?!” Taeil raised his voice to speak over the roller coaster noise in the background.
“Where are you?”
“… We forgot Taeyong!” He could hear everybody laughing about it too.
“Ha. Ha. So funny. Where are you?”
“At French Revolution . Haechan called Johnny and told him that it was kind of empty. So…”
“So, you left me. I don’t know where that is.”
“We’re sorry!” Everybody screamed at the same time. “I’ll send you a picture. Hurry up.”
A minute later, Taeil sent him a picture of the entrance of the roller coaster where they were waiting in line.
“That’s literally on the other side of the park.” Taeyong texted.
“Run then.” Taeil replied.
‘Yes, Taeyong! We are gonna spend the whole day with you Taeyong!’ He mimicked their voices. Feeling how their promise turned into betrayal after they left him behind. He started walking in circles, after a few minutes he found a big map on a wall.
“French Revolution… French Revolution…” He traced on it with his finger.
“French Revolution is right here.” A tall blonde boy appeared next to him and put his finger on the drawing of the roller coaster he was looking for.
“Thank you.” Taeyong smiled at him and turned back to the map.
“So... A friend of mine, that is standing right there, thinks that you are cute so he wanted to know your name and your phone number.”
“And why doesn't he come instead of you?” Taeyong asked.
“Not interested, thank you.” Said Taeyong coldly.
“You haven't even seen him yet.”
“What’s your name?”
“Oh, my name is Jungwoo!” The tall boy answered with a big smile.
“Okay, Jungwoo,'' Taeyong turned and looked at him. His face went serious, even his eyes looked darker. “tell him that I am not interested, thank you.” He tapped his shoulder. Jungwoo’s face went completely blank, he turned around and left without saying a word.
Taeyong studied the map for a few minutes, stepped back, took a picture of it and started walking, phone in hand. It didn’t make a big difference, just like before, he was lost. He went back to the seals’ lake, he found the arcade game zone, then the fast food area and back at the lake. Probably at this point the other boys were about to ride the roller coaster or already came out.
As the time passed by, the wind blew colder, the clouds got bigger and darker. When he sat down and tried to call Taeil again, a pair of jeans with navy blue converse interrupted him.
“You’ve been going the wrong way, you know?” Said the person standing in front of him.
“How do you know where I am going?” Taeyong barely looked up to ask.
“I just overheard. French Revolution is in the entrance of the park. You are going to the parking lot, in the back.”
“You over hea— Ohhh…” Taeyong stood up. “Are you the ‘ friend’?” He remembered that the only one that knew what he was looking for was him and that weird guy Jungwoo.
“You asked why I didn’t come instead of Jungwoo so, you encourage me to say hi… Hi.” He was around Taeyong’s height, black messy hair almost touching a pair of almond shaped eyes. Wearing a varsity jacket that matched his shoes.
“Yeah, I wasn’t encouraging you.” Taeyong smiled at him sarcastically, turned around and started walking.
“That’s not the way either.”
“What if I’m not looking for that place anymore?” Said Taeyong annoyed.
“Like if you knew how to get anywhere.” He reached Taeyong and started walking next to him. “I’ve followed you for the past few minutes and you look pretty lost, also you already asked two people for that place.”
“A stalker, wow.” Taeyong turned around.
“Hey, I’m just trying to help.” The guy in blue stood up in front of him blocking his way.
“No need, thank you.” Taeyong took out his phone again and suddenly a big drop of water fell on the screen. As he looked up, a humongous lightning went across the sky, a very loud thunder broke the silence and in seconds a heavy storm fell over them. The buzz mixed with the laughs and screams of people running away.
“Yup, looks like summer.” Said the stranger covering his eyes, then calmly followed everybody else.
“Please, god. What did I do to you?” Taeyong fake-cried with his face still looking up, like he was accepting his destiny of dying under the rain.
“For real? Let’s go!” The other guy came back running and grabbed Taeyong’s hand before dragging him with him. They managed to get into a hamburger restaurant where there were more people taking shelter.
“Well, I don’t think it is stopping anytime soon.” Said the boy standing behind Taeyong who was looking through the door. “Are you hungry?”
“I’m not. Also, I’m eating with my friends, thanks.”
“Your friends are stuck in the roller coaster thanks to the storm or doing the same as us, running away from it.” He took his hand again and led him inside the restaurant. “Come on, let’s get something to eat. I’ll pay.”
It was 50’s themed, white and aqua booths, neon signs on the walls, black and white checked floor and a bar in the middle. They sat at the back, where it was a lot warmer and you could barely hear the mess from outside. Leaving his wet jacket on the back of his seat, the stranger that now had only a white shirt on, went to the bar to order.
“I didn’t ask what kind of hamburger you wanted so I bought two different types, you pick.” He came back after a few minutes with two large plastic trays. “You like pink lemonade right? I brought you one. Eat, before it gets cold.” He demanded.
Both ate in awkward silence for a while. The other boy never took his eyes away from Taeyong who was holding his hamburger with one hand and sending messages with the other, also making calls that were never answered.
"Do you do your taxes?” The guy in white asked randomly.
“What… What kind of question is that?” Taeyong rolled his eyes at him.
“Here’s the ticket.” He handed the white paper to him.
“Thank you?” Taeyong took it and put it in the pocket of his denim jacket without looking at it. The boy leaned towards Taeyong and tried to get his hand through his hair, which was still soaking wet from the rain, instantly Taeyong slapped his hand away.
“Why are you so upset? There’s nothing you can do right now.”
“Oh, I'm not upset. I’m also annoyed.”
“Well, sorry if my polite-self annoyed you.” He sheeshed.
“It’s not only because of you. Look, I hardly go out, hang out with my friends or see my family. I really needed some free time cuz my job is killing me. So, I planned this day for weeks. My friends know how important it’s for me to celebrate my birthday and everything went wrong. They abandoned me, I got lost, and? It’s started raining! All I wanted was to have fun with them and what I got was getting stuck with a stranger!” Taeyong put his face between his hands in frustration. “Also, I’m cold.” He cried.
“You really don’t remember me, huh?” The black haired boy started laughing. Taeyong looked at him and froze instantly. The way the sound matched his face, how his upper lip disappeared and showed his perfect aligned teeth, how loud he was.
About 10 years ago, Taeyong woke up alone in his house, only with a note from his sister on his night table ‘Call me when you wake up’.
“Can I go see her?” Said Taeyong later, sitting in the back seat of the car.
“But you have to go to school.” His dad said, looking at him through the mirror.
“That’s in the morning… I can do both things.” Taeyong looked at the floor.
“I’ll tell your sister to drive you there before her football practice. Just… Don’t push yourself, okay?”
That afternoon Taeyong stood in front of a white building with large windows. A big garden surrounded it with tall trees and benches under them. People in purple hospital gowns, reading alone, accompanied by a nurse or by people wearing regular clothes.
“Surname?” A nurse behind the reception desk asked him. He lied, he wasn't ready, he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but the words of his dad and his sister went around his head, over and over again ‘She’s been asking for you’ ‘She said that she misses you’ and the worst one ‘We don’t know what is going to happen, I don’t want you to regret it later’ .
It’s been almost a month since he saw her and the truth was that he couldn’t think of anything else. It didn’t matter if he was at school, doing homework, out with his friends or in his dance practice, the only thing he wanted to do, was being with his mom.
“Oh, sorry. Lee.” Taeyong answered.
“Down the hall take the elevator. 3rd floor, on your left, room 327”.
He took his time. His slow walking seemed calm but actually was powered by how afraid he was. He didn’t know what he was going to see, he didn’t know what to expect but he knew it wasn’t good.
The hall was silent and the door was closed. He slid it open to the back, a doctor and a nurse talking in a low voice in front of a bed. The smell of antiseptic and a constant beep sound filled the air. He kept walking slowly until he reached the end of the bed.
“Oh, you scared me.” The nurse stated, slightly raising her voice. “You must be her son. Nice to meet you.”
Taeyong’s eyes went from the nurse, to the doctor, to the unrecognizable woman on the bed: Eyes drawn in dark circles, nose and cracked lips covered with an oxygen mask. Her pale skin looked like it was about to break from the pressure over her sharped bones. Her body was so thin that it looked minuscule compared to the size of the bed.
Taeyong’s eyesight went blurry, he felt dizzy and out of breath, like the room was out of oxygen, all he could do was run out from it. He wanted to escape, to run away from what he just saw, like that was gonna make it disappear. He went through the emergency exit and as the fresh air from the outside hit his face, he lost control of his legs and fell on the stairs.
“It’s not her, It’s not her. I’m wrong I— It can’t be her.” He cried his heart out, pulling his hair and hitting his face until he ended hugging his legs, out of strength.
This was what his dad meant by ‘don’t push yourself’ . Taeyong was the kind of kid that looked like he didn’t care at all, but it was a way to protect himself because he cared too much. He was tender and caring, too aware of his emotions, always trying to take full control of them, no matter how messed up he was. He always had control of everything, until now.
“Hello.” Said a soft voice next to him. Taeyong looked up, showing his eyes that were extremely red just like his cheeks. It was a boy around his age, soft and round features, dark hair and defined lips. “God, look at your face, take this.” He gave him a tissue and carefully moved a few strings of hair that were stuck on his face by the tears.
“Thank you.” Taeyong sobbed.
“Do you feel better? Can I help you with something?” The other boy cleaned the tears left on Taeyong’s face with the sleeves of his cream colored jumper.
“I don’t think you can… Maybe nobody can, honestly.” Taeyong cleared his throat. “How much of my drama did you see?”
“Well, you scared the shit out of me, I was taking some air on the stairs too. And don’t worry, I don’t think there’s enough drama in a hospital.” He giggled. “You need to walk a little bit, come with me.” He offered his hand and helped him to stand up.
They went down to the cafeteria that was on the back of the hospital and ordered something to drink, then sat on some tables in the garden.
“Who—” Said the boy sitting in front of him after a long silence.
“Oh… I’m sorry.” The boy looked at his hand and then back at him, his eyes a little more hard than before. “Look, maybe I’m gonna sound like an asshole but the sooner you face it, the sooner is going to be easier for you. Trust me.”
“Thank you.” Said Taeyong to the waitress who left two strawberry milkshakes on the table. “You did sound like an asshole. How do you know?”
“My dad is on the 4th floor. We’ve been here for almost 4 months already and it’s not getting any better, honestly. I’m not saying that you are going through the same thing. What I mean is that you need to face that this is her reality now, and it’s also yours. Did she tell you something?”
“I think she was asleep, I wasn’t even able to talk. I just came out running. I’m such a coward.” Taeyong’s voice broke again and his eyes started filling with tears.
“Hey, you are not a coward. This, the whole thing is too complicated. But no matter how hard it is, you need to be next to her. You never really know when this is gonna end or how it’s gonna happen. When my dad got sick my mom told me that I needed to be ready for every scenario. It’s sad, but I guess she is right.” The other guy shrugged before taking a sip of his milkshake.
After talking for a while about his problems and why their parents were there, and also making sure that Taeyong was calmer, they went back to the 3rd floor.
“Do you feel better?” The guy in the jumper asked.
“Yes, thank you.” Taeyong shared a small smile.
“You can do it.” He smiled back.
“What’s your name?” Said Taeyong before sliding the door open.
“I’m Doyoung. Nice to meet you?” He stopped, waiting for the other’s name.
“Taeyong. I’m Taeyong.”
“Nice to meet you, Taeyong.” Doyoung gave him a big smile. “I have to leave but see you around, okay?”
“Yes, see you around.” Taeyong entered the room and closed the door behind him.
Maybe it wasn’t in Taeyong’s plan but he found himself going to the hospital more and more often. Once or twice a week and sometimes on weekends.
After a few months his mom started getting better, she said that it was because he wasn’t around that took him so long to recover, that he was her best medicine and with him by her side, she didn’t need more. With that being said in front of his dad, he didn’t oppose to Taeyong spending so much time in the hospital with her.
“Every Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.” Taeyong said after two weeks of looking through the window that faced the street, while Doyoung was jumping out a blue car. Coincidence or not, Taeyong managed to go out early from school those days, so of course they did see each other around.
After crashing with him in the reception or in the elevator more than once or twice, they started establishing a little routine. They usually met before the visiting hours to play video games or to take lunch together in the cafeteria. Most of the time they need it to be outside because Doyoung’s laugh was way too loud to be in the halls.
“I wanna show you something!” Doyoung took Taeyong’s hand and ran out of the building.
“What is this?” Said Taeyong looking at a small abandoned garden that was hidden behind some bushes that surrounded the backyard of the hospital. The field was pretty clean with a falling tree in the middle, flowers popped out coloring the green grass. “Looks so creepy.”
“I know!” Doyoung said with excitement in his voice. “But look, it’s pretty quiet. You hardly hear the hospital drama.” He winked.
“Can we be here?” Said Taeyong looking around.
“I don’t know. But I claim it as ours now.” He walked and sat down on the tree.
“Well, at least nobody is gonna kick us out thanks to your laugh.” Taeyong shrugged.
And they indeed claimed it as theirs. They really loved the place, or maybe they loved being with each other. Their playground, cafeteria and even homework club moved to that garden. Doyoung spent a lot of afternoons helping Taeyong with his arts appreciation homework and Taeyong helping him with literature.
Weeks, perhaps months went by, and their afternoons started and ended there. Even though they tried, they couldn’t escape their reality. Relapses, bad news, pain and tears were also part of the schedule. Taeyong’s laying his head on Doyoung’s lap while Doyoung hummed something to calm his tears. On the contrary, Doyoung preferred long talks explaining things to understand them himself. Yes, they laughed together a lot, but also they cried the same amount of times.
“Are you excited to see mom? Or to see him?” Said onTaeyong’ sister behind the wheel.
“Him? I— I don’t know what you are talking about.” Stuttered Taeyong putting his jacket inside his backpack.
“Him.” She pointed her finger at Doyoung, who was sitting on a bench with a Nintendo in his hands.
“I— It’s just—” Taeyong’s eyes went more big than usual, he could feel his face getting red.
“I don’t know how, but dad found out that you come early and leave late. Also that you are not with mom all the time.”
“I… Look I— Him— I—” Taeyong stuttered.
“So it’s true!” She laughed. “I won’t say anything, don’t worry. Just try not to be so obvious.” She winked at him and pinched his cheek. “Go, go. Tell mom I say hi.”
Later that afternoon, they meet at their garden again. Doyoung was sitting on the tree playing like before.
“Sorry, the doctor came and he wanted me to give my dad a message.” Said Taeyong.
“It’s okay, sit down.” Doyoung put his Nintendo inside his backpack laying on the floor while Taeyong sat down next to him. “Close your eyes.”
“Last time I closed my eyes I ended up in the emergency room bleeding. Only because you decided to ‘check my reflexes’ throwing a rock at my head.”
“It’s not a rock. I swear.” He raised his pinky finger as a promise. Taeyong sighed and closed his eyes. “Okay, I know that you don’t really care about this stuff but I feel really bad for not being here yesterday. The past few months I learned to not take anything for granted and that includes living and treasuring every day. Taking the best out of them. Maybe this isn't much or is too corny or whatever. But I wanted to make it special for you. Happy birthday.” Taeyong opened his eyes to a colorful cupcake with a blue lighted candle on the top. One of the biggest smiles that he ever saw filled Taeyong’s face. “Come on, make a wish and blow.” Doyoung smiled back.
“It was my first birthday without mom at home, and you are right, I don’t know what’s gonna happen and it’s been hard, but you made it a lot easier from day one until now. And yes, it's corny, but I love it. Thank you.” Taeyong closed his eyes for a few seconds and blew the candle.
“Good.” Doyoung took out the candle and put it aside. “Now, let’s check your reflexes again.” He threw himself towards Taeyong, threatening him with the cupcake, trying to smash it on his face.
“No, no, no, stop!” Taeyong instantly stopped Doyoung with one hand on his chest while holding the cupcake with the other. Even though they were about the same height and weight, Doyoung was noticeably stronger so Taeyong always lost. At some point in the fight, Doyoung’s hand slipped and, with Taeyong strength, the cupcake finished on his cheek, then fell on the grass.
Doyoung’s face went completely serious, Taeyong knew that he was screwed. Doyoung let go one of Taeyong’s hands and hit him on the ribs making him fall onto the ground, Taeyong pulled him with him. They started pushing, punching and kicking each other. Even though it wasn’t a ‘real fight’ every time this happened they went home with bruises and scratches that ‘didn’t know how appeared’ .
“Calm down!” Taeyong pushed him and held him against the ground. Effortless, Doyoung rolled and sat on the top of him, hands on his wrists, hips between his knees, pinning him on the grass.
“How is that literally the only way I work out is when I go downstairs from my bedroom to the kitchen, and you, with all the sports and the dancing, are so weak?” Said Doyoung, mocking him. Taeyong tried to move and push Doyoung with his legs. Unsuccessfully, he hit the ground again.
“Stop, stop. I give up.” Begged Taeyong almost out of breath.
“Say it. Admit that I’m stronger than you.”
“I’m not gonna say it!” Doyoung pressed his knee against his left hip. “Ah! Okay, okay. You’re stronger than me!”
“And more handsome.”
“What?! Where does that come from? I might be weak but I’m not a liar–” Doyouns then pushed his right hip. “Ahhh! You are more handsome! You are more handsome!”
“You are completely right.” Doyoung got closer and stated on Taeyong’s face.
Taeyong could feel the tips of Doyoung’s hair touching his forehead. They locked eyes. Taeyong’s heart kept racing even though they weren’t moving and he wasn’t trying to escape anymore. His whole body trembling under Doyoung, feeling like he was about to do something stupid, that he shouldn’t do, but he was gonna do it anyway.
Taeyong cut the air between them and kissed him. He lightly touched his lips once, then twice, Doyoung closed his eyes, but didn’t move. With hesitation, Taeyong released one hand from Doyoung’s grip and placed it on the back of his head, bringing him closer. For the first he won, Doyoung gave in.
Doyoung followed and kissed him back. Breathing slowly in sync, Taeyong put his other hand on Doyoung’s waist and pulled him, like they could get any closer, like he was afraid of breaking apart. Doyoung bit Taeyong’s lower lip in response, making him giggle.
For some reason the small sound resonated strident in his head, releasing a rush of panic in Doyoung’s body. Like that, he abruptly opened his eyes and pulled away. Before Taeyong could say or do something, Doyoung was gone.
“About yesterday...” Said Taeyong next to Doyoung, after a long awkward silence waiting for the elevator.
“Don’t.” Doyoung got inside as the door got open, Taeyong followed and pressed the number 3 and 4.
“But I—” Taeyong said again after a few seconds.
“It’s not. I’m sorry. I don’t even know why I did it. I didn’t mean to be rude or to scare you or—” Said Taeyong to Doyoung’s back, who was looking straight to the door.
“You don’t know? Don’t apologize if you don’t know what you are apologizing for, much less if you are not sorry.” Said Doyoung with a firm voice. They hit the 3rd floor and Taeyong stepped out.
“I—” Taeyong turned back and stopped the door from closing, Doyoung took his hand and gave him a little squeeze.
“See you at lunch, okay?” He said with a warm smile. The door closed between them.
What comes next? Does it matter? Taeyong learned to live like that the past months. With Doyoung it didn’t matter what was coming next, but not thinking in the next step got him in this problem in the first place, so maybe it did matter. In some cases it did.
He knew that Doyoung wasn’t angry about what happened the day before, but he noticed that he got irritated about him apologizing for it. Taeyong wasn’t reckless nor ruthless, he wasn’t able to hurt somebody else with his actions, even if he wanted to. Overthinking always took him to dark places, to fill his head with ‘what ifs’, doubt and worry.
Why did he do it? Like that question didn’t keep him awake last night. He meant every word, Doyoung made things easier, but not only that, with him he wasn’t afraid to keep his feelings to himself, his heart didn’t feel heavy, he might feel light but not lost.
In that moment, when he saw him that close, he understood that maybe there was something stronger than just ‘liking’ somebody, something after that. He followed what he felt, not what he thought, Doyoung was all he could think about anyways. Was he sorry? Doyoung was right, he wasn’t.
He kept himself busy that day, talking with his mom, reading the book that was on her night table, helping her with what she needed. He wasn’t sure to come down and meet Doyoung, but he did it anyway. He was waiting for him in the door of the cafeteria, as always.
It definitely went weird for a few days. Taeyong didn’t know how to approach Doyoung, somehow he was afraid to look at him and make him feel uncomfortable or to touch him by mistake. He was too nervous and he was thinking way too much about it, and Doyoung knew it.
“I swear to god Taeyong, if you don’t look at me at least once today, you’re gonna end in that emergency room again.” Said Doyoung to Taeyong who was sitting in silence looking at a rock on the ground. He slowly turned his gaze to him and met his eyes. After a few seconds, both burst into laughter. Doyoung gave him a punch on this arm and then hugged him. Hearing his loud laugh this close again let him know that everything was okay, so things went back to normal after all.
“I’m going out of town with my brother to spend Chuseok with grandma, so I’m not coming next week.” Said Doyoung laying on the grass next to Taeyong. “There’s a famous gift shop near her place, I’ll bring you something!”
“And your dad?
“Mom is staying with him, don’t worry. You can take lunch with her if you want to.”
“Really?” Doyoung turned to him in surprise.
“Of course not!” Taeyong chuckled. “I’m not coming then.”
“It’s not going to be the same without you, my sister can cover me. Also, I know that my mom wants to be alone with her for a few days.” Said Taeyong with a relaxed tone.
“Okay then, I have to go.” Doyoung stood up and shook off his clothes. “Please, don’t miss me.” He extended his hand to help Taeyong standing up. The moment he took it, Doyoung pulled him towards him. The hug was suffocating, as always Doyoung’s arms around his neck, sometimes he didn't know if it was because he wanted to keep him close or because he wanted to strangle him, still he hugged him back.
“Why would I?” Taeyong rolled his eyes and tapped his back. “Be safe.”
“See you next week, Taeyong!” Doyoung ran out of the garden.
“See you next week, Doyoung!”
After a week, Doyoung came back. Weirdly, he didn’t find Taeyong in the entrance nor in the elevator. After staying with his dad the whole day, he went down to the cafeteria, then ran to their garden, Taeyong wasn’t in any of those places. He knew he was coming back today, why wasn’t he anywhere?
He went to the second floor and sat down on the hallway, his eyes never leaving the 327 sign on the room’s door. The silence was so deep that it was inevitable getting worried, because this happened every time Taeyong’s mom suffered a relapse, so the only thing that Doyoung could do was wait outside for him, ‘he will come out in any minute’ , he thought.
In this case, he knew that Taeyong was not going to leave her side until the doctors went in to check her out, only because he didn’t like to see needles or blood. Even when he was starving, he didn’t have to go down because Doyoung was already waiting outside with something for him to eat. Two hours had passed and the door remained closed, nobody went in or out. This couldn’t be a good sign.
Doyoung stood up and approached the door, as he got closer the silence became heavier. He never dared to cross that line, no matter how close they got, they never went inside their parents rooms. Squeezing a small red bag inside his pocket with one hand, he took the cold handle with the other. Everything seemed fine, everything was in its place, the room was clean, the air was fresh, there was just one problem, the door slid open to an empty room.
“I… I didn’t know we were leaving.” Present Taeyong said looking at his feet walking on the wet floor. It was pretty cold outside after the storm. The sky, already darkening, still had a few clouds left. “I didn’t go that week, like I said. A day before you came back, my dad opened the door and screamed ‘I have a surprise!’ When I went down my mom walked in with my sister. I was in shock, I didn’t know how to feel about it.”
“Happy?” Said Doyoung, walking next to him.
“Oh, I was happy. But then... I don’t know. It wasn’t easy after she came back. She fell into a really deep depression, I guess it was normal after all she went through. She had nightmares of getting sick again and afraid of coming back to the hospital. My dad said that maybe what she needed was a ‘new start’ so we moved out of the city a month later."
“That’s why you didn’t come back.”
“How much time did you keep—”
“At least for another six months.” Doyoung muttered. Suddenly, Taeyong wrapped his arms around Doyoung’s waist and hugged him tight. He froze with his touch. “Why is that?” he placed his arms around his neck.
“I’m sorry.” Said Taeyong against his neck.
“Come on! You didn’t even remember me.” He chuckled, Taeyong hugged him tighter in response. Doyoung ran his hand through his hair that was almost dry. Early that day, Jungwoo talked to Taeyong mostly because Doyoung almost fainted when he saw him, not because he wanted to play ‘cool’. After so many years, he didn’t know what to say or do, he wasn’t even sure if he was Taeyong and if he was, would he remember him? Looked like he didn’t. “What did I tell you before? Don’t apologize if you don’t know what you are you apologizing for—”
“Don’t you dare to say that I’m not sorry because I am. I did, I did remember you. It's just… It hurt so much, so so much. I couldn’t think about it, didn’t want to think about you.” Taeyong could feel Doyoung’s chin resting on his temple, his hand still stroking his hair. “Also you told me to not miss you.”
“Oh, so it’s my fault now?” Doyoung laughed. “What I mean is that there’s nothing we could do. It wasn’t on you to stay or to go, don’t be sorry about it. And I get it. I guess, sometimes, the feeling of happiness, the memory of it, is the one that hurts the most.”
“It was way more than that. At that time, I felt so selfish because I wanted to come back but I knew that the only way was if my mom got sick again. Why would I want that? Then I got mad at you because you were ‘the reason’ and then to my sister cuz she was the only one that knew about you and I felt like she told something to my parents and that’s why they wanted to move to another city.”
“Tough teenagehood, huh?”
“Shut up.” Taeyong’s voice got small and started cracking. “Our life wasn’t the same since my mom got sick, we changed so many things but it was okay, we learned to live like that. I know she had the hardest time but it was awful for us too. And when everything was back to normal, they had this ‘amazing’ idea. I got only one good thing out of this and I felt like they took it away from me.”
“Took what?” Doyoung moved away his head to look at Taeyong’s face. His eyes were glistening with the tears stuck in his eyes.
“The chance of being with you.” As Taeyong spoke, the tears went down his face. Then, a long silence. Doyoung ran his fingers over his cheekbones taking the tears away, his face blushed under his touch.
“You are super cold, let’s go inside.” Doyoung smiled at him in comfort.
They went indoors and walked through the arcade game zone. Flashing lights of different colors hit their faces, the sound of coins and constant beeping from the games could be heard, different smells from small food carts filled the air. It was in the center of the park, connecting it from every direction.
“Okay, stay here. Be right back.” Doyoung left Taeyong next to a toy claw machine, where a kid was putting all his effort to take something out of it. He took out his phone, on the screen he had already a few missed calls from the boys. Calls that he totally noticed but decided to ignore, it didn’t matter right now. “Here.” Doyoung appeared next to him with a big pink cotton candy that hid his entire face.
“That’s… A lot.”
“You need some sugar.” Doyoung touched Taeyong’s cheek. “You’re still death cold.”
“Thanks.” Taeyong took it off his hands.
“You don’t like it? Do you want something else?” Doyoung looked at him in concern. “Something hotter maybe? Oh, I know! Coffee or hot chocolate with a churro? Do you still like churros?”
“It’s perfect, thank you.” Taeyong took his hand and gave him a little squeeze to calm him down. “But it is a lot, let’s share.” They started walking around.
‘The chance of being with you’ It’s all Doyoung could think. It was funny to see how back then, the one thing that brought them together, was the same thing that broke them apart. But Doyoung was right, there’s nothing they could do. How was Taeyong supposed to make their entire family stay? Just for him?
They never lose sight of what was going on around them, how they met and why they were there, but the truth was that when they were together there was nothing to worry about, and if it was, they had each other to go through it. Even though they never talk about it, they knew that this could end in two possible ways: with them, leaving by the hand of their parents or in a tragic way, alone.
What about them? They studied those two scenarios so much that they never thought about what would happen after that. Say goodbye? Keep in touch? ’Let’s focus on today’ they promised. It made sense, everything was so different back then, that the last time they saw each other, they really thought that more days to focus on would come.
They didn’t say goodbye, they never had the chance to do it. Taeyong didn’t get to see Doyoung excited for showing him the new song that he just learned, for one last time. He didn’t get to tell him that him singing with a hand on his chest was his favorite picture, and that his voice was his favorite sound. Doyoung never got to tell him how cute he looked when he was angry, that’s why he loved teasing him all the time. Why he hated his apologies, because when it comes to him, he didn’t regret any single thing. How inspiring he was when he wrote his pain away and turned it into beautiful lyrics. When he gave them to him saying ‘I think you may like it’ but left the ‘because it is about you.” implicit.
‘The chance of being with you’. A lot of things changed, but sadly there’s something that he couldn’t forget in Taeyong's eyes, and when he said that with tears running down, he saw it again: sadness and pain.
“I was really sad too, you know?” Doyoung broke the silence. “It took me a few weeks to realize and accept that you were not coming back, even though I knew you were gone. Also I was really mad cuz after all we went through I felt like I deserved much more than this. I felt like I wasted my time, that was totally useless spending so much time with you. Because I ended up the same way I was in the beginning, alone.” His tone was totally calm, not a single drop of resentment in his voice.
“I—” Taeyong’s voice trembled.
“When we left, it wasn't pretty either. I was really affected, I was a pain in the ass after that.” Doyoung laughed. “It felt like I went through two different lives in a really short time. One with my dad and family, and one with you. I didn’t know how to handle another change, to start over and over again. I didn’t want to talk about it so I decided to try to forget it, to pretend that it never happened, to try to forget you. So, I don’t blame you if you did the same.” Doyoung turned to Taeyong and gave him a comforting smile.
“So you get it.” Said Taeyong looking down.
“Of course I do.” Doyoung raised Taeyong’s chin, with one hand and cleaned the end of his lips with his thumb, taking off the sugar left on them. They kept walking until they found the main center of the place where a big carousel had his lights turned off. Doyoung sat down on one of the benches that were surrounding it, Taeyong followed in silence. He took a deep breath and continued talking. “When my dad passed away a few years ago I understood a lot of the things that I was running away from. The fact that we are always alone, we come and leave this world like that. But I think that what makes the difference is that, if we are really smart and lucky, we get to decide how we share that path and with who we walk through it.”
“Your dad, I… I’m really sorry.” Taeyong put down the empty cone and took Doyoung’s hand that was lying on his lap.
“He was a prideful person. He didn’t like to waste anything, and when I say that, I mean not a single thing, so he didn’t. Him being sick was the last thing he cared about, it didn’t matter how much time he had left, he focused on being the best father and husband, everyday, every minute, he gave us every breath until there was none. He was really tired, but I guess he left when he was satisfied and still, he left with a smile on his face. See what I mean? If you are lucky and smart enough, you get to decide with who and how you live the time that is given to you. Life sucks, it really does. But all of that happened with you.”
“With me you prove that life sucks?” Said Taeyong confused.
“No, idiot!” Doyoung punched his shoulder. “I felt like I didn’t deserve it. Being happy with you at the same time that my dad was sick didn’t feel right. But it was only me lying to myself… I was afraid.”
“Afraid of what?”
“Look…” Doyoung hesitated. “I had too many feelings going on. I felt like… I wasted that happiness with you instead of being happy with my dad. But actually, the reason I got strong, the reason I was happy, was you. I rather pretend that nothing happened instead of admitting I had everything back then and I ruined it because I was stupid. All I needed was being happy as a whole. The guilt of knowing that maybe I could enjoy more with him, in the way he wanted…” His eyes turned slightly red.
“You should know that no matter how much you try to hide it, your face shows everything.” Taeyong touched his cheek and turned his face to him.” I’m pretty sure that he knew how you felt, that you were happy and that you were doing everything you could to be by his side the way he wanted. So, please don’t take the credit away. You are the strongest person I have ever met, you stood by his side since day one, and even when you didn’t have to… You were by my side too.”
“That’s what I mean. We find each other and walk through all of that together. The good and bad things.” Doyoung took Taeyong’s hand between his. “You are always alone but that doesn’t mean that you have to be lonely. With you, I wasn’t lonely anymore. I never got the chance to thank you and I don't even know if back then I would have known how to. Still this proves that it didn’t matter how it ended, we were lucky after all.”
“How so?” Said Taeyong
"We met again.” Doyoung smiled.
“Okay, let’s try again! Turn it on!” A man screamed at the distance. Abruptly the lights on the carousel turned on, dazzling them. The place wasn’t dark before but now with the extra light they could see every detail of each other’s faces. There it was, one of the last things Taeyong could remember of Doyoung. The smile that not only showed his white teeth and gums, but the one that made his face look puffy and filled his cheeks so much that closed his eyes. The one that made Taeyong’s heart run faster and faster, this one was his favorite. Taeyong’s face was glistening, the light reflecting on his eyes like they were mirrors, making them sparkle. Since Doyoung met him he couldn’t understand how his strong features, joined by his rose scar next to his right eye that barely faded after all these years, could frame and hold the softest human being.
“Oh, there it is again.” Said Doyoung letting go his hand and pressing his chest in pain.
“What?! What’s happening. Doyo—” Taeyong instantly went closer, checking on him anxiously.
“The guilt.” Doyoung complained.
“The guilt.” He lowered his voice, then he peeked with one eye to see Taeyong’s expression. It looked like the soul of that man just left his body, his eyes were wide open looking at his face trying to find what was wrong with him. Doyoung burst laughing. “Please, how can you get worried so easily? You haven’t changed a bit.” Doyoung pulled Taeyong’s head into his chest and hugged him. “I’m sorry.”
“Asshole.” Taeyong pushed him away.
“I’m sorry!” He giggled. “I’m kind of joking. You looked like a ghost! Your eyes went big, big, big, like this.” Doyoung opened his eyes miming its size. “How could I forget those? Stupid me.”
“I agree, you are stupid.” Taeyong rolled his eyes. “But what do you mean by ‘kind of joking ’? You just said that you understood and you didn’t feel guilty anymore.”
“You are right. I don’t feel guilty about that.” Doyoung sighed.
“Then?” Taeyong tilted his head. A second later all he could feel was Doyoung’s hands resting on his thighs, leaning on him, his lips pressing his. Taeyong’s soul was really gone this time, he couldn’t move, he didn’t even close his eyes, he froze in total shock.
“Taeyong?” Said Doyoung pulling himself back. Taeyong’s face was pale, eyes lost in the distance, but his ears burning red. “Tae– Okay, you’re broken.” They stayed silent for a few more seconds. Nothing. “If you don’t say or do something I s–” Taeyong pulled him from the shirt and kissed him.
Doyoung taking the first step made him understand how brave Taeyong was. The last time this happened, the only time this happened, they were so different, it's been years, but it didn’t change the fact that even though it looked like both were completely opposite, something that they did have in common was being calculating.
Taeyong’s confidence was built from his fears, he didn’t want to hurt himself or anybody else with his actions, so he analyzed every single thing before doing or saying anything. He ran through all the possible scenarios, so he wouldn’t regret it later. Meanwhile, Doyoung was more critical and objective, he would do a list of pros and cons in his head, if the cons won over the pros or vice versa and it was the opposite of what he really wanted, he would face it and still would take the decision based on that.
That’s why Doyoung said ‘don’t apologize if you are not sorry’ , because he couldn’t imagine a 15 year old Taeyong being impulsive, now neither. He dared to do something that kept Doyoung awake more than once, that blinded him every time they were close because he couldn’t keep his gaze away from Taeyong’s lips. He wanted it too, so badly but never had the guts to. So when Taeyong ‘apologized’ about it, it felt like a punch on the face. Doyoung knew that if Taeyong kissed him that afternoon in the garden was because he thought about doing it as much as he did, why would he regret it?
The two young boys that fell in love without noticing it, the ones that never talked about their feelings. Maybe it was too overwhelming for them, they were too young and with so much going on around them, having each other, whatever that was, worked. Their statement of ‘focus on today’ was more than enough, they didn’t need to talk about it, ‘them’ didn’t need an explanation.
So maybe they weren’t in love, maybe they were just two broken souls glued together by the circumstances. The problem was when they thought about the ‘small things’ that, when it came to make their heart rush, weren’t small at all. How Doyoung felt every time he got to hold Taeyong’s hand, or even touch him slightly. How endering was for Taeyong when he examined every inch of Doyoung’s face when he talked and how his heart stopped every time they locked eyes when Doyoung turned around because he caught him looking.
Taeyong knew that Doyoung always would find a way, maybe sitting way too close so their legs and arms touch or saying that he had something on his hair only so he could run his hand through it, and even when he knew that Doyoung did all of that on purpose, he left him, because he liked it, he loved it. And of course Doyoung noticed too, how Taeyong stared at him, no matter the topic, he could be talking about how he thought that he was about to die that morning because choked on his avocado toast and Taeyong would look at him like he was saying how he discovered how many stars are in the universe or something. Every now and then he liked to lock eyes with him only because he liked to see how Taeyong started glitching and blushing in panic.
They knew, both did. Besides what they felt they could see it in their eyes. So maybe they were in love. And it wasn’t a lie, but it was a truth that was never spoken.
Swift and soft, Doyoung kissed him back. He could taste the sweetness of the cotton candy and feel how Taeyong’s cheek got warmer under his hand touch. This felt unreal.
“What?” Doyoung asked without breaking apart, after feeling how Taeyong started smiling through the kiss.
“You didn’t run this time.” Taeyong said.
“Where are you taking me?” Said Taeyong while Doyoung was pushing him from the back.
“You were just crying and saying ‘I wanted to celebrate my birthday but I’m stuck with a stranger’. ” Doyoung started teasing Taeyong.
“I didn’t say it like that.” Taeyong stopped walking.
“It sounded like that to me. Anyways, guess what? We’re celebrating your birthday, we still have time. Also, you are not with a stranger anymore, huh?” Doyoung gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Pfff, come on!” Doyoung took his hand and started dragging him again.
They indeed had time. Doyoung took him to all the attractions he could, even to a haunted house, totally on purpose, basically because Taeyong hugged him from the moment they stepped in, to the moment they came out. Then a mirror maze where Doyoung almost broke his nose for running onto what clearly wasn’t a hall.
“Mmmm… No.” Said Doyoung standing in front of a big sign that said ‘French Revolution’.
“Let’s go, chicken.” Taeyong tried to pull him.
“No.” Doyoung pulled him back. Taeyong didn’t say anything, he just stared at him and slightly started pouting, making his eyes look bigger. “Come on! Don’t even try it. You are a grown ass man, it’s not going to work.”
“Literally, this is the only one we’re missing, but okay, I’ll go by myself then. Wait here for me.” Taeyong didn’t insist more, he let go Doyoung’s hand and went through the entrance. Groups of friends, kids and a few couples, waited in line, it was shorter than he expected, so it won't take long to get to the front. Honestly he didn’t want to ride it alone, so he really hoped that leaving Doyoung behind like that, worked.
He took out his phone, that it’s been vibrating like crazy for the past hour or more. At least 20 missed calls and a lot of messages popped on the screen.
Did you drown? Where are you?
You really got mad? We’re sorry.
Did you really leave like that, dude? Please answer.
We are a little bit worried… Just let us know if you are okay.
He didn’t know if he was angry anymore, and maybe now he felt a little bit guilty because he knew that his friends really cared and got that easily worried about him. But what should he answer? ‘I’m fine, don’t worry. I can’t meet you right now cuz guess what? I crashed with my childhood sweetheart… Friend… Best friend... And now I’m spending the rest of the day with him. See ya!’ or kind of lie ‘I don’t really wanna be with you right now, but meet me in the car when you’re done.’ Before he could decide whether to answer the texts or not, somebody pushed him on the shoulder.
“Oh, hi.” It worked. Taeyong locked his phone and put it back in his pocket.
“Hi.” Said Doyoung with a small voice and stood next to him.
“You’ll be alright!” Taeyong started massaging his back trying to calm him down. He knew that Doyoung feared heights, and looked like he still does. He rested his chin on Doyoung's shoulder and hugged him from the back, his arms around his waist. He felt how Doyoung’s body, that was completely tense, started relaxing as time passed by, just with the feeling of his warm, close like that.
“You’re really not going to answer?” Doyoung asked, feeling how something kept vibrating behind him.
“Oh… Ammm, it’s nothing.” Said Taeyong with calm in his voice.
“So, you’re telling me” Doyoung turned around without breaking the embrace to look at Taeyong’s face. “you whined for hours and now you don’t wanna answer to your friends?” He started shaking his head in disapproval. “You should though, maybe they are worried.”
“They can wait. We came in my car and I have the keys, so? They can’t go anywhere. Also, it’s their fault for leaving me, in the first place.”
“So, you are mad at them.”
“Yes.” Said Taeyong trying to sound convinced.
“That... Or it’s because you still wanna be with me.” Doyoung raised his eyebrows and smirked at him in the most annoying way possible.
“I– Anyways,” Taeyong cleared his throat and took a step back breaking their hug. “Did you know that this ride–”
“Cute.” Doyoung planted a kiss on the corner of his mouth.
“That this ride is actu–” He tried to continue, ignoring Doyoung, but he interrupted him with another kiss. “Stop doing that!”
“Doing what?” Doyoung pulled him from the jacket and kissed him harder, making Taeyong blackout for a moment.
“That!” Taeyong’s face was burning red.
“Why would I?” And then another one.
“Becau– Because… It makes me nervous! And I can’t think straight.”
“I… Don't know if that's actually a joke or... Also, if you think I'm missing the chance of kissing you everytime I can, think again.” Doyoung barely ended talking when he was kissing Taeyong again.
It was like those two teenagers, the ones with questionable fashion choices, had a day off from their hospital drama, to have fun and enjoy themselves, to be together, alone. In the hospital people looked at them like ‘Look, they are really good friends, how cute.’ And it wasn’t like they were hiding something, they just didn’t have idea of what was going on with them.
Doyoung wasn’t what you would call clingy, until Taeyong; or maybe only with Taeyong. And Taeyong was always pretty awkward when it came to physical touch, until Doyoung; or maybe only with Doyoung. This dream-like situation also felt like an adventure, an affair, like they were running away together, walking side by side, holding hands, kissing here and there, hiding but now really at all, so proud of each other.
The pair shared a slender and broad figure, Doyoung more natural but still graceful while Taeyong’ shape was steady and flamboyant, both claiming a spot in the handsome specter in their own way. They totally make you take a second look and ask yourself how those two could be together, so weirdly complementary, like they were made to match like a puzzle piece, ‘So unfair’.
They ended up in a cafeteria, drinking some hot chocolate with churros. As the night passed by, they felt they were running out of time, more and more memories popped up, plus all the things they needed to catch up.
Taeyong studied Audio Engineering and went abroad for a few years, now he was working as an intern in a really famous music label. He was willing to work extra hours, help his boss whenever he needed to and even do stuff that wasn't from his area. He barely had time to go out and meet his friends and family, he said that sometimes didn’t even have time to eat.
Working like that ‘to gain experience’ was partially a truth. When he graduated, his dad spent almost all of his retirement funds to help him to build his own studio. Taeyong felt guilty accepting something that big as a gift, so after fighting a lot about the topic, his dad accepted that Taeyong paid him only half of it. So basically he worked to pay his dad and to invest in the studio with the money he had left.
At the moment, he already had the chance to produce for two small bands, and he was more than proud when he saw that the result was pretty successful. But in all honesty, the highest point was when he got to record his own songs, when he listened to them for the first time and sounded like everything he always dreamed, he knew that all the sacrifices were worth it.
Doyoung majored in Creative Arts, he just graduated last month and now he was fighting to get a scholarship in Direction & Arrangement. They discovered that his Conservatory was pretty close to where Taeyong worked, so he didn't understand how they didn't crash before.
Music was always part of his life, so him dedicating fully to it wasn't a surprise either. His parents were into arts too, so at a very young age, he and his brother learned different artistic disciplines, from acting to dancing or how to play multiple instruments, not to mention Doyoung’s gifted voice, he was a natural. Maybe something that was imposed at the beginning but it turned into his favorite hobby, then into his passion.
He thanked his parents that, everytime they traveled, it was a must to go to a local orchestra concert, or to see a play or a musical at least once or twice a year. That’s how the dream of becoming a mastermind like the people that created all the things he grew up listening and watching became his biggest goal in life. He got to do an early audition at the Conservatory and won a place immediately. It wasn’t easy, but his competitive-self helped him to survive the harsh environment, he was pretty sure of his dreams and talent, so being the youngest in his class never bothered nor affected him, he even graduated with the highest gpa of his generation.
Unlike Taeyong, he was a little bit more chill about work, maybe he was more focused on studying. He started working in writing for local productions, and even freelancing anywhere he could. The jingle for a commercial? Easy. What about collaborating in the soundtrack for a movie? Call it done. What about a musical? Let's do it.
He didn’t have much free time either, but he knew that his brain worked better if he took a break every now and then. Playing the piano freely, chilling and going out with his friends for a while or not doing anything at all will do. The only days he was forbidden to use, and that established by his brother, were Sundays, when he gave singing lessons to his nephew.
‘Him singing…’ Taeyong got dizzy when memories struck him. If he used to sound like that back then, like 10 years ago… How would he sound now? He could see how passionate Doyoung was, he really loved what he was doing and where he was going. ‘He hasn't changed at all ’ he thought, and looked like Taeyong neither, because he couldn’t help but be lost in him while he was talking.
“So, these men created all those different worlds just through music? I dream of doing that one day. I will do it.” Doyoung stated pretty convinced with his chin up. Of course he noticed, quickly he turned his gaze down and locked eyes with Taeyong.
“Uhmmm.” Taeyong looked away instantly.
“Your eyes.” Doyoung carefully took his chin and turned his face to him.
“What’s wrong with them?” Said Taeyong.
“Nothing. Nothing is wrong with them.” Doyoung smiled at him.
“Can I ask you something?” Taeyong looked down at his hands.
“What did you buy?”
“... Churros?” Said Doyoung confused.
“No, no.” Taeyong giggled. “The last time we saw each other, you said that you were going to buy something from a gift shop. Did you buy it?”
“Wow, you remember. Okay,” Doyoung took out his wallet and started looking for something inside of it. Doyoung showed a ring between his fingers. “One of these.” It had a blue stone in the middle, now was pretty small to fit on his fingers. You could tell it was imitation jewelry, by how the time turned, what supposed to be silver, into green.
"Is that… A mood ring?” Taeyong squinted his eyes, and took it.
“It is. I was so proud because I bought them with money that I saved for weeks.” He started checking it in Taeyong’s hands, looking very proud. “Now that I think about it, that old lady scammed me. ‘They're of great quality, they're gonna last forever’ she said. One day my finger started turning green, I swear I thought they would have to cut it, but turns out that it was just because I never took it off so it got rusted on it.” Doyoung laughed. “She also said that you were gonna love it.” He shrugged.
“Well, I love it now so I'm pretty sure I would have loved it back then too.” Taeyong smiled. “Wait… You said ‘them’ ?”
“Yes. I said I bought ‘one of these’ .” Doyoung took it. “This one is mine.”
“And mine?” Taeyong took it back.
“I don’t know, I lost it. It’s been too long.”
“Who’d say, so young and you already wanted to put the ring on it.” Taeyong grinned. Doyoung just stared at him, his eyebrows making a straight line, with that face that tells you that he is strangling you in his head. “Why a mood ring?” Taeyong added.
“Just because.” Said Doyoung fixing into his seat, trying to sound chill.
“Liar.” Taeyong raised an eyebrow.
“Look, I knew that even though you trusted me, you still found it hard to talk. Usually, I did the talking and you did the crying.”
“Hey!” Taeyong said, offended.
“You know what I mean.” Doyoung offered his hand on the table, Taeyong took it right away. “I wanted to know what was going on without asking you. I felt like I could do more. I hated to see you crying, even though I have to admit that you looked super cute.” Said Doyoung looking at their hands, the last part more to himself than to Taeyong. “I wanted to take care of you and see you smile all the time, so for me it was like ‘if I know how he feels I’ll know what he needs’. Of course when I grew up I understood that it was way more complicated than that.”
“Only because of that?” Taeyong searched Doyoung’s eyes. He didn't doubt that all he was saying was truth but he also knew that Doyoung was corny as fuck.
“I thought you would look super cool with it.”
“And I wanted to know how you felt when you were with me.” Doyoung muttered.
“So, you are telling me that you thought” Taeyong raised the ring. “that a stone turning red would tell you more than the fact that I kissed you? That wasn't enough?”
“I– I– You know what? Fuck you.” Doyoung snatched the ring from Taeyong's fingers and put it back inside his wallet. Taeyong started laughing.
“Doyoung, look at me.” Taeyong softened his voice to draw his attention, lips slightly curved into a smile, his doe glossy eyes putting all his attention on Doyoung’s face. “You didn’t need a mood ring to know how I felt or to know that what I needed, all I needed, was you. And yes I did the crying, most of the time, but the only reason I could do it was because you were the one holding me. You said it before I– We weren't lonely, we got each other.”
“It was… Stronger than we thought, I guess.” Doyoung took his hand again and giggled. “But, come on. We were kids, how would I know all of that?”
“I know, I know. But for the record,” Taeyong changed his voice into a husky tone. “It would have turned red, I was into you, anyways.” He looked at him in the eyes, after a few seconds both burst out laughing.
“Now, can I ask you something?” Said Doyoung, catching his breath.
“Close your eyes.” Said Doyoung flattening his voice.
“Number one, that's not even a question, and number two, no.” Taeyong didn't even hesitate to answer.
“You really think I'm gonna jump on you in front of all these people?” The place wasn't big so even with a few people it looked crowded. They were sitting on opposite sides of a rectangular table, so the barrier between them was pretty small. “Fair.” Doyoung crossed his arms on his chest and stared at Taeyong in silence.
“Ugh.” Taeyong rolled his eyes and ended up covering them with his hands. “Okay, what?” He heard Doyoung standing up and coming back a minute later.
“Open.” Said Doyoung. On the table there was a small chocolate cupcake with a candle in the middle. So small that it barely could hold the candle. “I–”
“Shhhh.” Taeyong raised his finger, not taking his eyes away from the muffin.
“I wan–” Doyoung tried to lean on the table, to get closer to him.
“No, no. Do not move.” Taeyong warned him, finger still up.
“What? Why?” He sat back.
“Stay away from me and my tiny cupcake.” Taeyong cupped the small cake and brought it closer to him, protecting it from whatever Doyoung was planning.
“Okay, okay. I won't move.” Doyoung raised his hands. “Make a wish tho, it's about to burn.”
“Good. I will.” Taeyong closed his eyes. Somehow he went back to that day, him holding a birthday cupcake from Doyoung, in their garden. He could have wished for a lot of stuff, but the only thing he could think about was the dark haired boy sitting in front of him ‘I wish… This. I want this. I want him.’ . Everything was gone in the blink of an eye, ‘Maybe I didn't wish hard enough’ he repeated to himself for uncountable sleepless nights.
Now, tonight he could wish for a lot of stuff, but what this day gave him was much more than he expected. ‘Well, I guess I didn't specify when or how’ he smiled. He blew the candle and opened his eyes slowly.
There it was, Doyoung leaning on his forearms so their faces could be close. He dipped his finger in the frosting and then spread it on Taeyong's bottom lip, covering the mole he had on his left side. He gently pulled him from his chin, their lips almost touching.
“Happy birthday, Taeyong.” Doyoung smiled warmly and kissed him slowly, Taeyong followed, like they could make it last forever. And once again, just like in those days, they didn’t know what was going but ‘them’ felt perfect and that was more than enough.
“Doyoung?” Said Taeyong against his neck, eyes closed. They were sitting on a bench on the dock where Taeyong was ‘abandoned’ like he liked to say. Shimmering on the lake, the moon and the few stars that sprinkled the heavy night sky. It lit smoothly the place, along with the lamps and the glancing lights from the attractions that were still open behind them.
“Mmhm.” Doyoung hugged him, as tight as he could, caressing his back, protecting him from the cold air running around them.
“It’s late, we should go.” Taeyong looked up to him.
“Now you are the one who wants to leave.” He wanted to sound dramatic on purpose, but deep down he knew that they had to leave soon, and he didn't want to think about that, not right now with him in his arms. The only answer he got from Taeyong was a poke on his ribs. “Ah!”
“Literally the park is about to close.” Taeyong rolled his eyes and hugged him again.
“I know. But I'm waiting for something else to happen.”
“For somebody to throw us out.”
“Ha. Ha. Of course.” He said sarcastically, placed a kiss on his temple and stood up. “Come.” He took Taeyong’s hand and walked to the railing in front of them.
“Ohhh, so you were waiting for us to be alone so you could throw me to the lake. I know how to swim, you know?” Taeyong laughed.
“Still, that would be fun to watch…” Said Doyoung, stroking his chin. Like he was seriously considering doing it.
“What?!” Abruptly, Taeyong went out of breath by how Doyoung hit him with his entire body, then he grabbed him by the neck.
“After all these years, I'm still stronger than you.” Said Doyoung with a breathy voice while they struggled.
“Wait, wait, let me go!” He staggered back carrying most of Doyoung's weight.
“I'm joking, I'm joking!” Doyoung stopped when he heard actual desperation in his voice and brought his head closer to his chest trying to calm him down. Still he tried to break out from his arms. “God, Taeyong. I was waiting for that.” Doyoung took him from the shoulders and turned him over as he spoke, facing the lake. In the distance two thin lines of light went up to the sky.
“What's th–'' Taeyong got startled by a spark explosion and took a step back tripping over Doyoung, he held him with one arm around his waist. Thousands of blue and red lights started falling, illuminating all over the place. As more fireworks filled the sky, a bigger smile was drawn on his face, bringing his cheekbones higher and higher.
“It's so... Beautiful.” Taeyong said.
“It is.” Doyoung sighted.
“You are not even looking at them.” Taeyong snorted, looking from the corner of his eye how Doyoung was looking at his face and not at the fireworks at all.
“You are not.” Taeyong moved his head to the lake.
“I rather look at them, through you.”
“Come on!” Taeyong covered Doyoung's eyes and started laughing. He slipped them down, holding his cheeks between his hands. “Stop looking at me and let's watch them together, okay?”
“Not as beautiful,” Doyoung hugged him from behind, arms on his shoulders also holding his hands. “but okay.” Taeyong giggled and gave him a little kick. They stayed silent until the show was over.
“Now I think they can really throw us out.” Smoke still floated in the air, they could hear people walking in different directions behind them.
“Yes…” Taeyong didn't move.
“Yup.” Doyoung neither. “Uhmm where do you–”
“Oh, true. You brought your car.” Doyoung took a step back but kept holding one of Taeyong's hands. “Well, Jungwoo brought his car too so… I just have to text him.” He took out his cellphone with his free hand and tapped on it quickly. Then started walking to the parking lot.
“Jungwoo and you, did you come alone? Like, only the two of you?”
“So… You left him alone. All this time.”
“I– I think I did?” They looked at each other and cracked up laughing. “God, he’s gonna hate me so much. Or maybe he's gonna hate you, I don't know.”
“Excuse me? You sent him!”
“Yes but then, you scared him back.”
“That… Yes, I'm sorry about that. Hey, if somebody knew that I didn't want nothing to do with you, was him. I know he told you and still, you followed me. What kind of friend are you?” Taeyong shook his head.
“You're welcome.” Doyoung smiled at him. “I'm the kind of friend that, maybe leaves its friends alone, but let's them know where and with who I’m with, unlike you. Trust me, I've been trying to ignore your phone just as much as you but couldn't you just answer? Or turn it off?” Said Doyoung with a bit of exasperation in his voice.
“I wanted them to get worried because I got mad at them, not make them think that I was dead. Or worse! Kidnapped by a psycho.”
“A psycho?” Doyoung gasped, offended. He turned to him and pulled him by the jacket.
“A psycho.” Taeyong raised his eyebrows and spat on Doyoung’s face. When he was about to fight back he saw that Taeyong's face suddenly changed, he turned around and realized that they were already in the parking lot. Not many cars were left.
“So…” Doyoung took a step back and scratched his head.
“So…” Taeyong looked at his feet.
“I hope that,” Doyoung started with a soft voice. “besides everything, the betrayal and abandonment, the rain… Me… You had a good day and a good birthday.” He giggled and looked for Taeyong's face that was still looking down. “And that you let me follow you.”
“Remember that I told you that they knew how important it was for me to celebrate?” Not looking up, he got closer and took one of Doyoung's hands. He trailed his knuckles with his thumb. “I learned that from you. I never got the chance to thank you. For all the time that you held me and made me strong, for giving me the courage I was missing.” Taeyong looked up with welled eyes. A smile enveloped his face, pushing his tears out. “You gave me so many reasons to not regret anything… And I don't. Not then, not now. Thank you. For those days, and for today too.”
As Taeyong’s eyes cleaned, Doyoung's face revealed, cheeks stained with tears, swollen lips framing his gummy smile, beaming. He let out a heavy sigh and took Taeyong’s face between his hands and kissed him. He felt helpless, more than before, more than ever. Who needed fireworks when Taeyong existed? Brighter, flawless and perfect, between his lips.
“I have to go.” Doyoung broke apart almost out of breath, their foreheads still touching, eyes closed. “Please, Don–”
“Don't.” Taeyong shook his head.
“Please, don't miss me.” Doyoung over his cheek and gave him another kiss, for one last time, and turned around.
“Please,” Taeyong reached his hand as Doyoung took a step away and pulled him back, wrapping his arms around his waist. He wanted to stop the time and stay like that, with his head sunk in his chest, one of his favorite places on earth. “don’t disappear.”
“I won’t.” He placed a kiss on his head and Taeyong let go. He watched him leave, out of his life just like that, again. Doyoung didn't hesitate, he got into a black truck and didn't look back, not even once.
Taeyong stood there alone, eyes lost. He couldn't understand how, after all these years, and even now that they were adults, they didn't learn shit. They didn't talk about what would happen next, like they knew it didn't exist at all, like they knew nothing was gonna happen after that day. ’Let’s focus on today’ he mimicked in his head. ‘Assholes.’
“Why would you?!” A voice behind Taeyong screamed. “I told you not to go there. We survived from the rain and still, you decided that this was a good idea?!” Johnny was screaming at Haechan who was wet from head to toe. The other boys were walking next to them. “And where the hell were you?!” He yelled at Taeyong the moment he saw him.
“I thought you left us.” Taeil approached him with Yuta.
“Maybe I should, but I didn't.” Taeyong laughed.
“Good, because no taxi would have picked us up with Haechan looking like that.” Said Taeil.
“Should I ask?” Taeyong looked at Haechan trying to hug Johnny.
“We said ‘Haechan, no’ which for him means ‘Haechan, yes’. That happened.” Yuta shrugged.
“Don’t you dare.” Johnny walked to them and pushed Haechan away. “Hey, sorry for the yelling.”
“Did you have fun?” Said Taeyong. The boys stiffened and their expression changed, his voice went too rough and face was too serious when he asked.
“We feel terrible about what happened.” Taeil looked down.
“Well, that doesn't change the fact that you literally abandoned me for hours. And that, for what I see, you had a lot of fun without me.” Besides Haechan being wet, whatever was the reason, Johnny was holding a popcorn bucket and Yuta was wearing a weird hat, so he knew they did spend their day in the park, even Taeil had a blue balloon tied to his wrist. He would laugh at the ridiculous picture if he didn't start feeling a little angry when he saw them.
“Dude, the storm made things worse. The signal was gone, our phones were dead.” Johnny explained.
“I hid from the rain and then I searched for you everywhere.” Taeyong said.
“When they worked again, we texted and called you but you never picked up. So we thought that maybe we would crash sooner or later.” Said Taeil a bit anxious.
“I even ran here to see if you were in the car but you weren’t so I went back. Also Taeil hyung thought he saw you in the distance, but then we lost you in the crowd. You really looked for us, all this time?” Said Haechan.
“Wait, that means that you stayed in the park, right?” Yuta said, too grating for Taeyong’s likeness. “At least did you have fun, Taeyong?” He ended with a smirk.
“How would I?” As the conversation developed, Taeyong felt more and more annoyed. He knew that he complained a lot during the day but thinking about it, if it wasn’t because they left him like that, he wouldn’t have met Doyoung. So maybe he was even grateful about it. And Doyoung was right, he ignored the texts and calls because he wanted to be with him, only with him.
More than angry, he felt frustrated and sad, very sad. His eyes could tell, and his friends noticed, but the truth behind that was completely different from what they thought or knew. Doyoung was the one that walked away again, the one that didn’t turn back, and the only one that should deal with the aftermath was Taeyong. So acting up like this and lashing back at them felt unfair, and it was.
“Okay, okay, look.” Johnny put a hand on his shoulder. “We’re telling you that we are sorry and we meant it. We promise that we’re gonna make it up for you, okay? Just give us the chance to do it.”
“We came here for your birthday, and it wasn't the same without you. Do you know how many rides I took alone because these three were too scared?” Said Haechan trying to light up the weird atmosphere.
“We took you everywhere you wanted, we ate what you wanted, you wasted Yuta’s money on those claw machines, where you didn't even win anything,” Johnny enlisted. “and now you said this only because we didn't wanna ride that fucki–”
“We know what it means to you, Taeyong.” Taeil interrupted. “We really do. We stayed, and yes had fun, but also did everything to find you. I proposed calling for you through the speakers but they said it was too exaggerated. And like Haechan said, it wasn’t the same without you.” Taeil gave him a warm smile. “Come on! I promise that we missed you.” Taeyong’s face eased, they really cared.
“We really did.” Yuta suddenly hugged him. Something completely normal coming from him, but considering the bickering, it felt pretty weird, then he whispered in his ear. “Don’t even try to make us feel bad about this. Who was that cute boy you were smooching with, anyways?” Taeyong could feel the diabolical face behind Yuta’s voice, that’s why he didn’t even try to apologize like the others, he saw him with Doyoung and not only that, he saw him smooching with him. When Yuta stepped back, he had the brightest smile, like he didn’t say anything.
“I di– did I–” Taeyong could feel how his blood started creeping on his face, leaving his body frozen.
“What do you want?!” Said Johnny with a dramatic voice. “Ask for it, I’ll give it to you, but please don’t punish us with your contempt.” He grabbed him by the jacket and started shaking him. They were really waiting for an answer, he saw Yuta at the end who just raised an eyebrow to him.
“Come on, guys!” Taeyong broke Johnny’s grip. “I am not mad, I just wanted to know how your day was.” Act natural , he thought. “Hahaha!” He started laughing nervously. Great job, Taeyong. He slapped himself in his mind.
“Okay!” Yuta mimicked the fake tone he was using. “But also we wanna know you–”
“Why don’t we take this to the car?” Taeyong started pushing him on his back. “Look around, we are the only ones left! Also, it’s freezing, Heachan is gonna get sick.”
“Pl– please.” Said Haechan with a wheezy voice, his lips were slightly purple.
“Let’s go then.” Johnny sighed. “Shotgun!” He screamed and started running to the car.
“That’s not fair! You sat there on our way here!” Taeil ran after him.
“You must be tired. Keys.” Yuta demanded. Taeyong rolled his eyes and handed them to him. “You owe me one.” Yuta winked and left them behind. “I’ll drive!”
“We– weird.” Said Haechan, then he sneezed.
“Here.” Taeyong wrapped his jacket around him and started walking.
“Don’t believe them. They didn’t take me to all the places I wanted to go.” He said, still with a shaky voice.
“A lot of lies today, I see.” Taeyong laughed.
“I did spend Yuta’s money, tho.” Haechan added.
“Glad that that one is true.” Taeyong said sincerely.
“At least, you won something.” Said Heachan with disappointment in his voice.
“Me? What do you mean?” Haechan turned to him and opened his hand, a small red bag resting on it. “That...”
“Was in your pocket.”
“Oh, yes, yes.” Taeyong smiled.
“With this ticket of… Hamburgers?! You told me that they didn’t sell–”
“Get in, Elsa.” Johnny said to Haechan, interrupting his tantrum. Taeyong took the things from his hands before he got into the car.
Taeyong sat down and put the things on his lap, he stared at the bag in silence. He was completely sure he didn’t put it there, nor won anything like Haechan thought, therefore it wasn’t his.
“What’s that?” Ask Taeil sitting next to him in the back seat.
“A bag.” He answered without taking his eyes off of it.
“Not that. That.” Taeil asked again.
“No shit, sherlock.” Taeil took the ticket from Taeyong’s lap and pointed with his finger at the back. “This!”
“Numbers?” Taeyong narrowed his eyes. “It looks like a phone number? A PHONE NUM–”
“Hello?!” Yuta yelled at them. “Can you close the door, please?!” Taeyong snatched the ticket from Taeil’s hands and shut the door. Yuta turned on the car and started driving, Haechan started talking to Taeil, so he didn’t ask more.
Maybe he was clueless about the bag, but he remembered the ticket and where it came from so that number can only belong to someone. Did you have to act this extra? He thought. Feeling oddly anxious over the mysterious blue bag, he took it and turned it upside down. An object pretty similar to what he saw just a few hours before fell on the palm of his hand. This one looked different, the silver hoop still reflected the light around it, it looked brand new, like it had been kept in that bag for years.
He shook his head and smiled at the blue stone turning red under his touch. I guess I wished right this time. I’m really seeing you again, Doyoung.