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the most touching moments don't have to be till forever.

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最動人時光,未必地老天荒


(the most touching moments,
don't have to be til forever.)

 

i.

"You're impossible," Jaebum groans as he rolls over to his side, pulling the covers up his torso. It's seven twenty four in the morning, too early for any noise and antics. "Just once?" Mark's voice sounds behind him, slender hands coming around his waist as the older male rests his chin upon the crook of his shoulder.

 

"No."

 

"How hard is it for you to call me hyung?"

 

"We're the same age!" He defends himself, the sound of blankets ruffling as he turns around to face the blonde male.

 

"I'm older!" Mark says with a pout, eyes widening. Jaebum doesn't think it's legal to be this cute--let alone at early dawn. He really isn't prepared to have heart palpitations at this time. "Come on, just once~" Mark singsongs, softly grazing his nose against the raven haired male's. His face too close for Jaebum to bear, where he can feel the older male's breath softly warming his skin, eyelashes fluttering right in front of his eyes.

 

"Just once, Jaebum-ie. Please." He whispers, baritone voice tickling his auditory senses. And as the clock ticks onto the half-hour point, Jaebum thinks he's melting within the older male's hold. "I'll think about it," he hums sleepily, pulling the blonde male closer in his arms--bare chests coming in contact, hearts beating in sync.

 

 

 

 

ii. 

The first time Jaebum steps upon the grounds of Los Angeles, Mark’s standing beside him. The soft scent of his cologne invading his senses, and Jaebum wonders how even amidst the crowd of fans—the only thing in focus seems to be Mark. Where the many voices of chatter and calls seem to morph into noise and he can only hears the rhythmic inhale-exhale of the older male. “I’m home,” Mark whispers to him with a smile, and Jaebum tries to reciprocate the expression—lips wavering as anxiety plagues his mind. Adrenaline floods his venules, and Mark has to hold onto his hand in order for him to stop trembling. “It’s okay,” the Taiwanese male says. “It’s okay,” Jaebum repeats.

 

He knows he’s not though.

 

There’s a weird sense of trepidation in him being here, as if he’s finally getting closer to the parts of Mark that he hasn’t been able to figure out for the past five years. “You’re such an enigma,” he had said once to the older male three years ago. His only response had been a soft smile, interrupted by the various lessons they both had to attend.

 

When he was picked to debut together with Jinyoung, he had vaguely thought of the time they filmed Dream High 2. Where he stood beneath the spotlight while Mark was behind him in the shadows. They’re walking further apart, yet when he voices his thoughts, the older male had only chuckled. “Don’t place romance over your dreams,” he said, eyes focused on the floor between them. Jaebum doesn’t think he’ll ever forget the strain in Mark’s voice that day.

 

“I guess I’m running back to romance,” he had said the day he walked back into the practice room, throwing the thoughts of their scrapped album to the back of his mind. “It’s okay,” Mark had told him that day too—and after months of practicing, falling and climbing back up, he’d realize that it truly was okay.

 

So maybe now, as he stands in front of Mark’s porch—two minutes away from meeting the pillars of Mark’s life—everything would be alright as well. “It’s okay,” he mutters, turning to the older male with a smile.

 

“It’s okay, we’re okay.”

 

 

 

 

iii. 

The first time Jaebum met Mark had been a Tuesday, both crossing each other paths in the narrow hallways of the company. It was also the first day Jackson had met Jaebum, overenthusiastic greeting turned down by a simple nod. “Why is he so cold?” Jackson had asked when he and Mark continued down towards the practice room. It’s only months later that Jaebum, tipsy of course, confesses that he was taken aback by Mark—too distracted to hear what Jackson had said properly.

 

Jinyoung had teased him for it after, but Mark had turned to him that night—stars lost in the city sky—and said, “It’s nice being loved.” Jaebum doesn’t need much to know that he actually means “Thank you for loving me.”

 

“It is,” he agrees, resting his head on Mark’s arm as they lay side by side on the living room floor. The alcohol is still running in his veins, and the parts of skin touching Mark sear in an addictive pain. He turns to look at the brunette, studying the way his lashes curl upwards, the way his fringe delicately falls just past his eyes.

 

“How long?” Mark asks.

 

“How long what?”

 

“How long do you think we’ll be in love?” He clarifies and with inebriated courage, Jaebum lifts himself up from Mark’s arm, maneuvering himself to straddle the older male. Their faces almost touching, breath ghosting upon warm skin, Jaebum asks a question back. “Is forever long enough?” Mark’s arm come up to wrap around his neck, pulling them closer. The brunette gives an affirmative hum, and Jaebum presses their lips together, eyes closing. Jaebum tastes like alcohol and toxic—bitter acidity burning Mark’s tongue and soul. “You’re bringing me to hell,” the older boy says.

 

 

 

 

 iv.

Mark pulls him aside after dinner, away from the crowd of friends and family that came to welcome them. “Where are we going?” He asks. “Running away,” is his answer. And beneath the obsidian sky, Jaebum finds himself following Mark down the empty streets. Maybe love is such a thing, blindly following someone with interlocked hands. Maybe love isn’t such a thing, but Jaebum doesn’t want to dwell on it much. He’d rather focus on the fact that he’s now walking together with Mark in the same direction. He had taken a detour and finally found his way back to him.

 

“This was my old school,” Mark tells him, pulling Jaebum onto the grass. “And where I was scouted,” he says, sitting down on the ground. The scent of soil blending in with remnants of the barbeque party earlier as well as Mark’s cologne. The night wind dances around them and Jaebum pulls the sleeves of his—Mark’s—hoodie further down. Mark turns his head towards the younger male, shifting closer towards the other. “This was where I was before I realized how big the world was.” Jaebum hums in response, as the other continues to speak.

 

There isn’t much conversation after, the occasional sound of passing cars and random chatter breaking the silence between them. Jaebum likes this quiet: comfortable and soothing in the way that he’s there with Mark reminiscing his childhood. It was always the other way around—Jaebum bringing Mark down to Ilsan, showing him the places he frequented as a child. Whether it was the corner store that he spent most of his allowance in, or the busy train station where he first started dancing in public. But now it’s him entering Mark’s world, surveying all that the older male surrounded himself for so many years of his life. He tries to take in as much as he can, studying the cracks in the sidewalk on the way back to  Mark’s house. Illuminated by the many street lamps, Jaebum finds themselves drenched in sepia thoughts.

 

“Are you walking down the memory lane?” He asks with a chuckle, kicking at the ground with the sole of his sneakers.

 

“Yeah. This was my entire world before I met you.”

 

“Your world?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Do you miss it a lot?” Jaebum asks, hand reaching out for the other’s, interlocking their fingers.

 

“I do,” Mark says idly, eyes focused on the distant skies, “but you’re a part of my world now too.”

 

 

 

 

v. 

It’s Mark who finds Jaebum in the alleyway two blocks down from the company. Jaebum doesn’t hear him coming, mind clouded by red, only turning when he feels a hand on his shoulder. He turns abruptly to find the other trainee looking at him with a concerned look on his face. There’s something about the worry etched in Mark’s eyes that makes Jaebum hide his hands behind his back—ashamed of the vermillion splayed across his knuckles, ashamed of the way his ego overtakes his rationality.

 

“It was only a prank, are you okay?” The other male asks with accented Korean. Jaebum doesn’t respond, gaze fixated on the asphalt below. He knows very well that it was only prank, and that his wounded pride shouldn’t have been a trigger for his reaction. But with Mark in front of him, he feels even more like a kid having thrown a temper tantrum in public—immature, vulnerable. The pit in his stomach seems endless, anxiety causing his heartbeat to race as his body is at standstill. It’s Mark who moves first, lightly tugging his arm from behind him. “Let’s disinfect this first.”

 

‘How’d you find me?” He asks as they sit within a 7-11, Mark dabbing alcohol at his wound with a cotton swab. He’s genuinely curious, seeing as he hasn’t said more than five sentences to the other boy since they’ve met. He doesn’t see a reason for the other to even come out to seek him. If anything, he’d reckon it was Jinyoung—or even Jackson, but that’s only because the Hong Kong male was nosy. Mark reaches for the bandage on the counter, wrapping it around Jaebum’s knuckles. “I’m four months older than you.” He says, disregarding Jaebum’s question.

 

“You’re not answering my question.”

 

“You can act like a kid to me.” Mark says with a smile, still not answering Jaebum. But with the way his smile engrains into the other male’s mind, Jaebum figures he doesn’t need an answer this one time.

 

 

 

 

vi. 

The first time Jaebum sees Mark getting angry is after their monthly evaluations. Mark isn’t like him; while he envelopes anger in a way that destructs everyone around him, Mark takes anger in and lets it consume himself from the inside. He finds him in the practice room two thirty in the morning, doing the same flip over and over, sweat trickling off the ends of his hair.

 

“You’ll get hurt like that,” Jaebum says. There’s no response from the older male, a mere glance being the only acknowledgement of Jaebum’s presence. Jaebum walks closer, wooden floorboards creaking as he reaches the edge of the mat. Toeing off his sneakers, he steps upon the mat. “You haven’t talked to me for a week.”

 

“I’ve been busy.”

 

“Doing what.”

 

“Practicing.” Mark grits, bending forward to prepare for another flip. “You’ll get hu—,” Jaebum means to repeat himself, stopping when Mark does land wrongly, too little strength left in his legs. He rushes forward as the older male attempts to stand, holding onto Mark’s arm as support. “I said you’ll get hurt like th—”

 

“This is all I can do.” The brunette says quietly, “This is all I can do and I still can’t do it correctly.”

 

“What are you saying?”

 

“What am I saying? Of course you won’t understand.” Mark mutters dejectedly, as Jaebum loosens his grasp on Mark’s arm. “What do you mean?” Jaebum asks again, voice sharper—full of jagged edges. Mark pushes away from Jaebum’s hold, “I’m saying you don’t understand—won’t understand—how it feels to not know how to do anything.” There’s noir fire in the way Mark looks at him, burning himself to toxic flames and turning himself into ashes. “Everyone else here is good at something. And then there’s just me.” Jaebum can’t find the light in his eyes.

 

And even when Mark walks away from him out the door, Jaebum still doesn’t reach out. Jaebum wonders if they’re straining their fate—always walking further and further away from each other.

 

 

 

 

 vii.

Jaebum cries first, tears reflecting the multitude of stage lights. It’s only when their eyes meet that Mark can no longer hold back his own, tears falling past his eyelashes. The air escapes his lungs and Mark’s reminded of the way he cried when his pet dog passed away when he was eight—struggling to breathe, chest convulsing and body trembling. The tears don’t stop even when he tries to will it to; only this time he’s not crying because he’s sad. This time around, he’s crying because he’s happy. The other members are in a crowd around him, helping to comfort him—they’ve never seen him like this. The younger ones are more at loss than anything.

 

It’s Jaebum who takes him into his arms, enveloping him into an embrace. It’s ridiculous how the two oldest are the ones to be crying—but then again, Mark doesn’t mind. No one else knows their story after all; how many times they’ve walked apart and how many times they’ve found their way back to each other. Underneath the lights that illuminate like stars, Jaebum whispers to him, voice hoarse from crying, in front of the hundreds of spectators;

 

“Thank you for being by my side.”

 

Mark wants this moment to be at standstill forever, staying within Jaebum’s arms as everyone looks on—and it’s okay, everything is just okay. The world doesn’t collapse, worries thrown away. It’s only love, it’s alright.

 

 

 

 

viii. 

Mark shifts in his blankets, pulling the white sheets under his chin. Jackson isn’t here, off for another filming schedule. He vaguely remembers waking for a moment at the crack of dawn to see the younger leaving the bedroom door. Sighing, he turns to the side, hugging one of the stuffed animals that lines the edge of his bed. Six twenty, he still has time to sleep—they have half a day off after all.

 

He wakes a little later to the creaking of the door opening, soft steps getting louder in minute decibels until Jaebum’s face enters his vision. Peeking up the bunk bed, Jaebum smiles, “Are you sleeping until noon?” Mark nods sleepily, fringe falling past his eyes. The younger male brushes back the soft locks, calloused fingers tickling Mark’s senses.

 

It’s not long before Jaebum makes his way up the bunk bed, mattress dipping from too much weight as he gets on. “The bed’s going to break.” Mark states, but he still shifts over so that Jaebum can slip under the covers—hands snaking around his waist. “It’s okay,” the obsidian haired male responds, placing a small kiss on Mark’s forehead. Lips upturning, Mark looks at the younger male—kohl eyes reflecting himself—hands reaching out to return the embrace. His eyes crease into crescents, and Jaebum’s heart tugs as if he was watching the serene moon on a calming night.

 

Seven o’four and Mark falls into slumber to the scent of Jaebum’s shampoo.