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Nothing More Than A Memory

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Jaehyun is woken up from his sleep by his alarm clock going off. Without looking he reaches over and manages to turn it off before it continues obnoxiously blaring. He reaches over to the left side of the bed in search of his lover, but his touch is met with soft blankets. He opens his eyes and traces the bed around and just as he suspected, he’s alone in bed.

He looks over at the clock and sees that it’s seven in the morning, Renjun rarely wakes up before Jaehyun does. He gets out of bed and heads towards the bathroom to brush his teeth, after that he walks downstairs looking for Renjun. He finds him sitting on the window nook of their apartment. He doesn’t notice Jaehyun walk into the living room as he has his back towards him. Jaehyun calls for him, but the smaller boy doesn’t respond.

Renjun was so lost in his thoughts right now. His gaze locked to the beautify of the city before him. His eyes and body are here in the present, but his mind in somewhere else. He doesn’t notice the snow softly falling, coating the streets and people walking around. Painting the roof tops of nearby building and the dozens of military vehicles patrolling the streets.

Jaehyun walks closer to Renjun and slowly places his arms around the boy, consuming him in his warmth. Renjun is startled by the sudden contact, didn’t notice the stronger boy come up behind him. The younger turns and looks up to his lover with a warm expression.

“Morning.” Renjun says softly.

Jaehyun kisses him on the head. “Morning. What are you doing out of bed so early?” he asks.

Jaehyun can see the sadness in the boys’ eyes. He must have been crying a few minutes prior. “I couldn’t sleep.” Renjun lies. “And I like the morning view from here.” Jaehyun hugs his boyfriend a little tighter than usual. He could only imagine the kind of pain he’s currently going through.

You see, years ago the world fell into chaos. An outer human colony had declared war on the Empire. The ruling houses of the Empire had been sending soldiers off into space to search and destroy their enemies. And if you were given an order by the crown, there was no denying their request. So Jaehyun was one of the many individuals requested to take heavier training up on the Empire’s capital ship and defend the throne and their colony. Jaehyun’s family had served the houses for years, it was obvious they’d request his help to defend their home.

The older boy sighs. “Let’s have breakfast.” He suggests.

When breakfast is served, they both eat in silence. Both scared to break the quietness as they might shatter each other just by speaking. Jaehyun’s afraid he’ll turn Renjun into an emotional mess if he spoke. Meanwhile Renjun is afraid he’d make Jaehyun leave feeling guilty over his selfish desires. They’re both walking on eggshells around each other. Both silently hurting over things that are now out of their control.

“What time did Taeyong want us over for dinner?” Renjun asks as he finishes putting the dishes away.

“He said he wanted us there by three.” Jaehyun responds. “We got time to go grocery shopping and run some errands before that.”

Renjun looks over at Jaehyun and couldn’t help but notice how perfect he was. From the first moment he laid his eyes on Jaehyun back during one of the ceremonies held at the noble houses he knew he was perfect. And he doesn’t mean the taller boy’s godlike physique, that was a bonus. It was his personality that kept him interested, locked in a trance. They fell in love instantly. He was currently against the kitchen counter drinking the last bit of water he had in his glass cup. The older man was shirtless, looking ethereal as ever. Jaehyun notices him staring and sends him a wink teasing, trying to uplift the mood.

“Can we stay home a little while longer?” Renjun asks. “I’ll do everything else tomorrow. We could just stay in bed and head over to Taeyong’s after.”

“I don’t want you to do everything alone though.” Jaehyun responds.

“I don’t either, but I just want to spend more time with you before-” Renjun doesn’t finish the sentence. He feels that familiar pain shoot up in his throat as he speaks. The idea of Jaehyun leaving his side destroys him. Jaehyun places the cup in the sink and nods at the boy. Renjun leads them back to their bedroom and they both lay in their bed. They get under the covers trying to shield themselves from the cold. Renjun rests his head on Jaehyun’s bare chest and extends his arm around the taller boy’s waist.

“Set an alarm, so we won’t be late.” Renjun tells him.

Jaehyun leans over to grab his phone, sets an alarm, and returns back to his comfortable position. They lay like that for a few minutes; Renjun hugging Jaehyun tightly, like if he’d disappear from him in an instant. Jaehyun is running his hands through Renjun’s hair slowly massaging his scalp. He doesn’t say anything be he feels his naked chest get cold. He can’t see but he’s pretty sure Renjun is crying again. A teardrop gently landing on his skin, his body noticing immediately. He feels so terrible by the way Renjun is silently hurting and theirs nothing he can do about it. He’s been there for Renjun throughout their entire relationship. Both men have grown and matured together. And after years of getting to know Renjun and being able see his most beautiful and frightening parts, he should be an expert when it comes to dealing with him. But right now, there’s nothing he can say or do to make him feel better.

After a few hours the alarm goes off and Renjun heads into the shower first. A few minutes in and Jaehyun joins him. They both stand under the hot water for what seems likes forever. They’re in each other’s embrace, wanting to be close for as long as possible. They exit and get dressed and leave their home. Taeyong’s apartment isn’t far from Jeyhuns’ so they decide to walk. The taller boy has his right arm over Renjun’s shoulder, which makes the smaller silently laugh. It reminds him of the time he was completing his mandated military training hours. Renjun had gotten really close with one of the cadets, who constantly flirted with Renjun. The younger was oblivious at first, thanks to one of Jaehyun’s friends, Renjun finally caught on but couldn’t find a way to turn the boy down. He was so nice, there wasn’t a nice way to reject him, according to Renjun. One day Jaehyun came to pick him up from the shooting range, he gave him a simple hello before going in for a kiss. Right next to the boy who was getting on Jaehyun’s nerves without him even knowing. He backs up and leaves Renjun to awkwardly introduce his boyfriend to his then to be former friend. They give each other their awkward goodbyes before Jaehyun places his arm on Renjun’s shoulders and get into the car. The ride back home resulted in a brief argument, but Jaehyun thought it was worth it.

They arrive at their friend apartment building and head up to his floor. When the doors open, they’re both greeted by a cheerful Wendy. They give their greetings and head inside. The apartment is full of Jaehyun’s friends. He met most of them during his training at the academy. The Empire makes all men and woman take military training before a certain age. They do provide a timeframe in which one is able to complete all hours, but they must be completed before the given deadline. The team Jaehyun was a part of performed with high scores in different categories. It’s probably why they were all called to be deployed into battle. They find Taeyong in the kitchen pouring some wine in some glasses.

“Oh, hey you guys arrived.” He says with a smile.

“I thought we were early.” Jaehyun says as he noticed the apartment was already occupied with most of the people that composed their group of friends.

“Everyone came early today. I think Joy, Johnny and Yeri are the only ones missing.” He says as he pours Jaehyun a glass.

“I’m going to find Shotaro.” Renjun says as he exits the kitchen.

As Renjun walks out Taeil, Seulgi, Yuta and Irene walk in. “It’s one hundred and twenty-seven years! Where is the wine?” Taeil asks jokingly. Taeyong points at the full glasses on the counter and each grab one. They stand there in silent, tasting. “Not bad.” Jaehyun says shrugging. Taeyong sarcastically scoffs. “Not bad?” he asks pretending to be offended. “This is the best of the best.”

Taeil finishes his glass in under a minute leaving everyone in the room shocked. “No more for you then.” He says before grabbing his friends’ still full wine glass and exits the kitchen. They all lightly chuckle at their friend’s childish antics. Irene is the first to break the silence, mentioning the subject Jaehyun wanted so much to just forget.

“How’s Renjun, Jae?” she asks calmly.

“He didn’t sleep last night. I think he was crying this morning.” He responds. Seulgi gives him a qualifier smile. Feeling bad for his friend’s predicament.

“I don’t know what to do. Ever since I was given the call, he’s been so quiet at home. We haven’t talked about it once.” He says frustrated. This makes Taeyong look at Jaehyun suddenly, shocked by his statement. “You guys haven’t talked about it? Dude we were given the news nearly a month ago.”

Jaehyun sighs. “I tried. I’ve tried several times but every time I open my mouth, I see that look on his face and– I– I think he’s just going to break if I speak. He just has this sad face on all the time.”

“He’s hurting.” Seulgi says mostly to herself.

“And you don’t think im not? You think I want to go? That I want any of us to go?” Jaehyun says a little hurt by her comment. Taeyong steps in to clarify. “She’s not saying that. We know you’re hurting too. But this past month we’ve all seen that look on Renjun’s face. Haechan told me Giselle’s been the same way. And we are all hurting really. Ima be honest I don’t want to go either but, what can we fucking do.”

Jaehyun’s begin to tear up, but he quickly rubs his eyes with his hands. He averts his gaze to the floor, slightly embarrassed. “Talk to him Jae.” Irene says trying to comfort him. “We leave tomorrow afternoon, so please just talk to him. I’ll never forgive either of you if we leave and you two don’t at least give each other proper goodbyes. And tell each other what you probably haven’t been able to say.” Jaehyun nods but doesn’t respond.

“You guys are assuming we’re going to die on that battlefield. That’s not very comforting.” Yuta says.

“I don’t doubt any of our abilities. But those same capabilities are going to score us a beautiful spot on the frontlines. And I think that’s what truly has us all on edge. We’ll be facing them head on.” Irene explains.

The remaining guests arrive at the apartment, and they all spread out around the table. Jaehyun and Taeyong had their training with Irene, Seulgi, and some others. The rest he met them through mutual friends, or because they were neighbors. There were a few others who didn’t train with Jaehyun and his crew but did with Renjun. And since Renjun and Jaehyun had a mutual friend who eventually introduced those cadets to Jaehyun, their group of friends grew.
They exchanged smiles, laughs and conversations to the best to their abilities. Kind of difficult having a conversation in a room with 32 people.

As the night went on Jaehyun kept glancing over at Renjun, unnoticed. He sees him laughing and smiling at a joke their friend Johnny had made. Despite the fact, Jaehyun knows his boyfriend well enough that although he’s laughing at the genuinely funny joke, he looks so depressed. He sees him interacting with those he’s a lot closer with and sees how he’ll zone out in the middle of a conversation. Continuously getting distracted by his own thoughts. At some point Renjun catches him staring for the first time of the night. Renjun gives him a forced smile, silently trying to tell his boyfriend that he’s okay. Jaehyun softly smiles back before Renjun averts his gaze and continues his conversation.

The clock hits 9pm and everyone simultaneously begins to leave to their respective homes to rest up for tomorrow’s departure. On their way back to their apartment the couple decide to walk slowly, wanting to delay the dreadful conversation that was waiting for them back home. They walk side by side, Renjun’s arm locked with Jaehyun’s as the smaller boy leans his head on his boyfriend’s shoulder.

They finally arrive home. Renjun goes to take a shower while Jaehyun double checks everything he packed the day before. Making sure he wouldn’t run into any trouble when boarding the transport ship that would eventually take him to the capital ship. After he’s done Renjun heads into the living room to watch tv while Jaehyun showers. While he’s in there letting the hot water drench him, his mind runs wild thinking of Renjun.

He thinks about the first day they met, when they first got together, their first kiss, when they made love for the first time. He reminisces about his friends’ reactions when he told them they were dating. He internally chuckles at their first argument and how childish and petty they could both be sometimes. If only he could change the way things played out in the last few months, maybe he wouldn’t have to say goodbye to the guy he wanted to buy a ring for.

He steps out of the bathroom and into his bedroom, changes into his pajamas and mentally prepares himself as he walks towards his lover. He sits next to him and Renjun leans on him. They both sit there in silence, Jaehyun unsure on how to start the conversation.

“Babe.” He manages to say.

Renjun looks over at him. The conversation hasn’t even started, and his eyes are shining from the kitchen light reflecting off Renjun’s accumulated tears. Jaehyun pauses for a second, he takes a heavy breath. Preparing himself to break his one true loves heart to a million pieces. And to leave him just like that; shattered and broken, unable to make him whole again.

“We should talk.” Jaehyun isn’t able to continue as Renjun sucks his teeth and quickly gets off the couch and walks into the kitchen. Jaehyun huffs out a breath and follows after him. He speaks to him gently, knowing how sensitive the younger could be sometimes. He’s doing his best to take his feelings into consideration. “Babe please can we just talk about it?” he asks softly.

“Talk about what?” Renjun says as he turns around and leans on the refrigerator. “I don’t want you to go! I want you here! With me! When I wake up in the morning, I want it to be you by my side. When I come back home from work, I want it to be you who greets me and asks about my day. I want it to be you and only you.” Jaehyun heart aches at the sight of Renjun. The shorter boy’s eyes are filled with tears, staining his cheeks. His face is red, he sees the veins almost popping from his neck from yelling. His voice horse, breaking at all the emotions he’s spitting out at Jaehyun.

“You don’t think that that’s what I want as well? That im happy at the fact that I have to go? And leave you here?” Jaehyun says back raising his voice. His own set of emotions overpowering the calmness he momentarily tried to project. “The situation fucking sucks Renjun trust me I know. But there’s nothing we can do.”

“LIAR!” Renjun says back. “A month ago, I wanted to volunteer to go with the rest of you and you didn’t even let me send in the paperwork.” It’s true, when Jaehyun got the call Renjun filled out the paperwork to volunteer as a cadet. The unthought through decision was done running on a mixture of emotions. As long as it meant that he could be with Jaehyun every step of the way, it was a risk worth taking. Fortunately, for Jaehyun’s sake, he found the papers and confronted Renjun about it. It caused probably the ugliest argument they’ve ever had in their entire relationship. Jaehyun ripped the papers into pieces right in front of Renjun that day, they didn’t speak to each other once during that weekend.

“Renjun this isn’t some fucking romantic getaway.” He says rolling his eyes.

“And that’s precisely why I want to go. We’ve seen the numbers, Jae; we know how our side has been doing throughout this war. I don’t want you to die out there.” Renjun tries reasoning.

“What’s done is done Renjun. I can’t change what’s been decided or what’s going to happen. Baby im sorry.” It’s now Jaehyun’s eyes that are filled with tears. He walks forward to hug the smaller boy, so desperately trying to comfort him. But the younger pushes his hands away, frustrated.

“Your family has served the crown for ages; can’t they skip a fucking generation?” Renjun asks mostly to himself. Angry at the fact that the royal families govern everyone in every way they desire.

“You know it doesn’t work like that Renjun. When the noble houses give you and order-“ Jaehyun tries to explain but Renjun just refuses to listen.

“SCREW THE NOBLE HOUSES!” he says at the top of his lungs.

Jaehyun eyes widen in shock and fear. He lowers his voice as he speaks to Renjun. “Renjun! Be careful what you say. You know what they do to people who speak ill upon the crown.”

“I don’t care. It’s not right that they’re just sending people off to die for them while their rich spoiled asses sit on their golden thrones.” Renjun pauses, not because he’s exhausted, which he is. Or even the god-awful headache he’s experiencing. He’s contemplating, quickly deciding if he should spill out the words that are on the tip of his tongue. “I want to spend the rest of my life with you Jae.”

And with that Jaehyun starts to fully cry. The tears and emotions are so overwhelming he isn’t able to respond immediately. The fact that they’re both on the same page in their relationship hurts him so much. Their love and bond are so strength they were both willing to spend their rest of their lives together. This is an odd way to propose to your lover, sucks that Renjun beat him to it, but he doesn’t respond. His yes would cause more harm than good. Unfortunately, as of now their dream was unobtainable.

“Can’t we like make them see you’re unfit for battle. So, they don’t take you.” Renjun asks softly this time. Coming down from all the emotions and thoughts building up over the past month.

“You know the law babe.” Jaehyun says awkwardly, too emotional to properly speak in between his heavy intakes of breaths.

“We could like,” Renjun stops, thinking of ideas “I don’t know break your leg or something.” Jaehyun lightly chuckles. “You know the consequences if we get caught.” Renjun huffs out a sigh. “We could say it was domestic violence.” Renjun suggests.

Jaehyun punches the fridge several times, hurting his wrist and knuckles in the process. He punched it with such a force that without looking they both know it caused a dent. Jaehyun leans forward and cups the side of Renjun’s face with his hands.

“Babe please I don’t want to spend my last night with you arguing.” He says softly. “And I don’t want you to leave me, here, alone.” Renjun says as he hugs Jaehyun tightly. His face buried in Jaehyun’s muscular chest. Staining his shirt with his tears.

They stand there for about a minute, both just crying, holding each other tightly. “Come on, let’s go to bed.” Jaehyun says softly. Renjun follows Jaehyun into the bedroom, he closes the door and turns the light off. They stand there in the dark in each other’s arms, so desperate for each other. Jaehyun leans in for a soft kiss. Renjun responds gently. The kiss heats up, still slow and soft, but with more spark. They make love that night. Renjun can’t quite put his finger on it, but this time was different from any previous times they’ve slept together. The drive, the craving, the desire was all still there, but this time was gentle, sweet. The sex wasn’t lust motivated, he made Renjun feel truly loved and desired, that night Jaehyun was driven by passion.

When morning came Jaehyun found Renjun in his arms, face on his chest, his leg in between the taller boys’. Stuck to him like a moth drawn to a flame. They shower that morning together; they eat breakfast in silence and snuggle up to one another before the time to leave. When that inevitable hour came, Jaehyun got into his uniform while Renjun wore a simple outfit with Jaehyun’s favorite jacket. They leave the building, and a military truck was waiting for them outside. Jaehyun loads up his luggage in the back.

“We have to go through this briefing thing before leaving. Jaemin is still picking you up, right? So we can say goodbye at the base.” Jaehyun asks.

“Yeah, I’m heading over to Giselle’s house first and he’s picking us up there.” Renjun responds.

Jaehyun softly smiles and kisses Renjun getting in the truck. Renjun walks over to Giselle’s apartment and is greeted with the same conditions he was in last night. Out of everyone in their group of friends, she was the one who understood what he was going through the most. Haechan would be leaving her too. They sit and watch tv for a while, both quietly crying until Jaemin would give them the call that he was outside waiting.

They arrive at the base pretty early and the place is packed with other people saying goodbye to their loved ones. They meet up with their group of friends and Renjun walks over to Jaehyun. “How’d it go?” Renjun asks. “Boring meeting really.” Jaehyun says with a forced laugh.

Taeyong comes up to them and places his arm around Jaehyun. He looks at Renjun with a sad facial expression. “You good Ren?” he asks. Renjun just shrugs. Not sure what to say. Anything other than ‘im dying on the inside slowly but surely’ would be a complete lie. The boys laugh at him. They stand around for a while, exchanging small talk while the time to leave approaches. Once the 2nd boarding call was announced Jaehyun ran back to Renjun.

“I’ll call you as many times as I can.” He says trying his best to uplift his mood.

“You should focus on training. I don’t want you distracted.” Renjun replies.

“We have to take advantage of all the technological advances. I read somewhere that back then people had to wait months, sometimes years for a message to be sent from outer space and be received here. Now we can talk in real time.” Jaehyun says.

They’re both distracted by a loud voice. They turn towards the source of said voice and see that it’s Doyoung calling everyone to huddle up for a photo. He takes a group shot of the girls first, then Jaehyun and his group of friends. They then all huddle up together for a family photo of sorts. They separate, give their final goodbyes, this time their last. Jaehyun holds onto Renjun once more, tightly, like if he was afraid, he’d lose him the second he’d let go. He kisses his lips softly. The kiss isn’t brief, but not extensive. The sensation has sparks running through every part of Renjun’s body, reminding him of the first fiery kissed they shared. Whatever emotion Jaehyun’s aura is radiating is the same as last night. Crave, drive, passion, love.

They depart slowly, Jaehyun’s hands still cupping Renjun’s face. “I’ll come back for you. I promise.” Renjun can’t find the words to respond. He isn’t sure how to respond. He knows the desire is there, but they both know the probabilities of his return. Jaehyun softly let’s go, turns, and heads out to board his flight to uncertainty. The younger members of the group decide to stay until the ship is fully out of view from where they’re standing. Jaemin takes Giselle and Renjun back home.

He enters his now solo apartment. He heads straight to bed and lays on Jaehyun’s side of the bed and cries. He cries and cries so hard for so long he feels like his head might explode. He doesn’t have the power to silence his overwhelming worries.

He can’t stop himself from thinking of the awful scenarios that could occur. He wonders how their conversations would be like in the next few months. Brief? Awkward in a way? Both too afraid to bring up wounds they so desperately want to burry and suppress. He wonders how’d his training would go. Would he not perform well because Renjun was constantly on his mind? Would he dream of him? Would he cry because he misses him?

He thinks on what kind of missions they would be sent on. What part he would play in his squad. Would they be successful in executing every objective that was set out for them? Would they protect each other at all costs? To put their love and bond before the mission, before the crown.

His mind goes to dark places as well that night. He prays that they’d be there for each other. In the presence of any danger, they’d be able to make decisions that would get them out of any predicament they would encounter. That during phase four of their mission, when approaching a base where the leader of the enemy colony was rumored to be hiding, they’d eliminate every opponent in their way. And when exiting through the back entrance of the base, running through the woods they’d kill their foes without hesitation. That Kun would notice the enemies camouflaged in ghillie suits. And he’d eliminate them before they’d fire their rifles. That his efforts would’ve stopped the bullet from piercing Jaehyun. So that he wouldn’t fall to the ground with a loud thump. And as he’d lay there slowly bleeding out, unable to receive help due to him being locked in the middle of crossfire, he wouldn’t silently cry. That Jaehyun’s thoughts wouldn’t run immediately back to Renjun. And think of all the times they had laughed and cried together. The times they made love. The times they shared a fiery kiss. He wouldn’t internally laugh at the situation at hand. And silently curse the world for being too cruel and unfair to his twin flame. And that just before he’d lose consciousness and he’d depart to the next world; he wouldn’t think of how much this would hurt Renjun. How in a way he had let him down despite continuously reassuring him he’d return home to him. And that from that moment on, everything they knew about each other and held onto so dearly would evidently turn into nothing more than a memory.