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quack quack (that's "i love you" in duck)

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five.

 

Sanha loves ducks.  Everything about them, the way they waddle, the way they quack, the way they eat their food.  Sanha wants to grow up and be a duck with his own feathers and have little ducklings following him forever and ever.

His dad and his daddy take him to the pond for picnics and let him feed the ducks with the crusts of his sandwiches.  It makes him squeal in delight when his favorite animals in the whole wide world bob for pieces of bread that he tosses to them under the supervision of his parents.

He looks up to his daddy and asks what seems to be the most important question that a little boy who plans on being a duck one day could ask: "How do you say 'I love you' in duck?"

His daddy's face contorts into his thinking expression; he rakes his fingernails over the length of his neck.  "Uh, the rough translation would, uh, be 'quack quack'."

"What does translation mean?" Sanha asks curiously, chucking a long strip of bread crust to his brethren.  The ducks squabble in loud honks as their beaks clash to nab a piece of the slowly sinking food.

"It means that a word or phrase equals something else in another language.  I translated 'I love you' into duck for you.  It's 'quack quack', my little duckling," his father says, softly patting Sanha's hair.

"Daddy, quack quack," he grins, turning his hand into a little beak so that he can pretend to be a duck while he tells his father that he loves him in duck.

His father offers a gummy smile and replies with, "Quack quack."

Sanha's other father, whom he lovingly calls Dad, strolls over to where Sanha and his daddy are watching the ducks float along, only ruffled by the small waves on the surface of the pond.  He holds the picnic basket in one hand and sighs, "I know how pro-duck we are in this family, but we need to get going."  He offers his free hand to Sanha, wiggling his fingers.

Sanha looks at his daddy with a tortured pout.  He doesn't want to leave the ducks.

"Which love of my life should I listen to?" Daddy says, looking between Sanha and Dad with a furrowed brow.

"Park Jinwoo, we need to go."

Sanha wonders who this "Park Jinwoo" is.  His daddy sighs and pushes off of the ground, "Sanha, Dad wins this one."

Sanha crosses his arms with an exaggerated frown on his face.  He will fight this; his ducks need him to stay and keep them company.

Daddy, however, is a professional Sanha temper tantrum-diffuser.  He has a sixth sense or something like that and always manages to turn his frown upside down before the meltdown has a chance to start.  He scoops Sanha and makes a high pitched noise.  Dad laughs and covers his mouth making a walkie-talkie static sound, "Sanha Airline flight 005 taking off.  Daddy will be the captain today."

Just like that, Sanha forgets that he is supposed to be mad that he doesn't get to spend more time with his ducks.  He giggles and makes airplane noises as his Daddy runs and swings him around on their brief journey back to the car.

The car is a silver minivan, and Sanha is proud to say that he himself is responsible for all of the duck window stickers.  (Well, actually, his dad stuck all of the stickers on while Sanha supervised.)

Dad announces, "Sanha Airlines has safely landed at the terminal."  He opens Sanha's door and Daddy places Sanha in his car seat.  Dad goes around to the trunk to put away their picnic basket.

Daddy's hands move to fasten Sanha's seatbelt for him, but Sanha proudly boasts, "I can do it myself."

"Oh ho ho, I raised a show-off," he laughs.  "Show me what you've got hot stuff."

Sanha slowly and deliberately buckles himself in.  His daddy tugs on the belt to make sure that it's secure before grinning, "Wow, you're a super star."

Daddy closes the door and rounds the car in order to hop into the driver's seat.  The car starts, and Sanha's dad slides into the passenger seat and looks back at Sanha with a smile.  His daddy begins the drive home, and Sanha watches his dad play with the hair on the back of Daddy's head.

Sanha looks out the window, looking at semi-familiar sights pass by quickly.  He listens to his parents talk, the soft lull of soothing voices nudging Sanha towards a quick nap in the back of the car.

"You had blond hair when we met," Dad quietly says with fondness lacing his voice.

"And you loved wearing headbands, Myungjun."

Sanha wonders who Myungjun is.  His parents are so weird, calling each other random names.  The rest of their words are muddled by the sudden wave exhaustion that washes over Sanha.  The sounds are relegated to a low buzz in his ears, and Sanha fights to keep his head upright.

They arrive home before Sanha falls under sleep's sweet enchantment.  He blinks his eyes open for long enough to see his parents get out of the car.  Another long blink and his dad is unbuckling his car seat and pulling him into his arms.  He instinctively clings to his father, as he hears a soft, "Jinwoo, could you get the picnic basket?"

Sanha nestles into his dad's neck when a foreign voice shouts, "Minhyuk!"

He peeks his eyes open to see a boy biking in the middle of the street.  He pulls over into the driveway and proceeds to stare at Sanha's dad.

Another adult slows his jog and laughs awkwardly, "Sorry."

Dad shakes his head, "That's okay.  Kids have an agenda of their own."

"Well, we're new to the neighborhood.  This is Minhyuk, and I am Lee Dongmin."

"I'm Kim Myungjun.  That's my husband, Jinwoo, and this sleepyhead is Sanha," Dad replies.  If Sanha had the energy, he would've lifted his head to correct his dad regarding his name.  In his mind, he chides his father for forgetting his own name.  Being an adult must be hard if it's possible to forget your own name, Sanha thinks.

"How old is he?"

"He's five," Dad says, and the indignation strikes Sanha with just enough energy to correct his misspoken father.

He mumbles,"and three-eighths," into his dad's ear.

A chuckle erupts from his father's chest, shaking Sanha in his precarious position.   He apologizes, "I'm sorry; he's five and three-eighths."

"I'm six and three-eighths," A higher, quieter voice remarks with a hint of excitement.

Sanha squints at Minhyuk, who is six and three-eighths. He wonders what wisdom he must have about the world.  Six and three-eighths, Sanha can only dream about the day that he reaches six years old, and Minhyuk already has an extra three-eighths under his belt.

Sanha has to know this wise, surely brilliant, six and three-eighth year old.  He promises himself that he will.  He just needs a nap first.

 

//

 

Sanha watches as Minhyuk regards him with distrust.

One of Minhyuk's dads is in the middle of speaking with him about "playing nice".  Sanha is too distracted to care about the implications of a behavioral issues because he just has so many questions for Minhyuk, and almost all of them center on him between six and three-eighths. 

Also, in a small corner of Sanha's mind, Minhyuk is normal.  They both have two dads, so Minhyuk won't look at him funny when he asks where his other father is.  (Sanha's very first fight was over the fact that a little girl said that he should have a mother and a father rather than two dads.  Sanha yanked her hair and was issued a time-out.  Dad ended up lecturing him about using his words rather than actions, and that girl's parents looked at his with mild disgust.)

Minhyuk saunters over under the wary gaze of his father and asks, "Do you like airplanes?"

Sanha answers quickly and concisely, "Yes."

"Let's be best friends," Minhyuk sticks his hand out toward with a neutral expression.  His toothless smile doesn't bloom until Sanha grips it and vigorously shakes his hard enough to jostle the boy's entire arm.

 

 

six. 

 

Sanha grips the hem of his father's shirt as they make their ways through the aisles of the supermarket.  Normally, Dad holds his hand or sets him in the little seat for young ones while Daddy fetches items from their grocery list, but today Daddy didn't come with them. 

He finds it weird when they don't go places as a unit.  Dad makes Daddy laugh, which in turn makes Sanha laugh and Daddy loves Sanha's laugh.  Sanha has proudly assumed the role of "Dad's helper" because his daddy isn't around.

"Why isn't Daddy here?" Sanha asks, curiosity too out of control for him to hold back his question.

His dad glances at him with a small smile, "Papa Bear is still hibernating after last night's BBQ."

"What's hibernating?" Sanha inquires innocently.

"When bears sleep for a really long time," Dad says.  "Honey bun, could you pick out which kind of bacon you want?"

Sanha lets go of his dad's shirt and peers over the low lip of the refrigerated meats display.  His dad reaches out to play with the tips of Sanha's hair.  His dad does that; Sanha doesn't know whether or not he knows that he always plays with his hair and Daddy's hair, but he does.  It generally means that Dad is comfortable; his hands naturally seek out the hair of his cherished ones whenever he's at peace.  Sanha knows that he should worry whenever Dad needs to hold his hand.

Sanha sees the outline of a pig on the package of bacon and happily thinks of Minhyuk.  He should tell Minhyuk to buy this kind of bacon; clearly, they share his love of pigs.  It doesn't stop his natural inquisitiveness from bubbling up and wondering aloud, "Why does it have a pig on it?"

"Bacon comes from pigs, babydoll," his dad replies in a low hum.

Horror washes over Sanha.  This entire time he has been eating Minhyuk's favorite animal.  He slaps a hand over his mouth and looks up at his father, shaking his head.

"Well, if you can't decide, do you want me to?" Dad asks, reaching for a random package of bacon.

Sanha must stop this.  He must.  His best-est best friendship with his best friend ever depends on it.  He can never, will never, eat bacon again.  He takes the bacon from his father's hand and throws it back.  He looks up at his father and pours his entire heart into the next few sentences.  "Minhyuk's favorite animal is pigs.  We can't just eat it! It's his favorite animal.  He won't ever talk to me ever again if we do.  I hate bacon.  Bacon is the worst and you and Daddy can't eat it any more."

Dad looks at him and processes the statement.  He nods, "No more pork until we get your say-so."

"Pork?" Sanha asks, vaguely horrified at the familiar meat name.

Dad makes a face but quickly covers, "We will not eat anything with even a little bit of pig until you give us permission."

Sanha offers a firm and determined nod.  Crisis adverted.

They wander the aisles, and sometimes Sanha is given a command from on high to select an item from the lowest shelf.  Whenever his dad bends over, he makes an overly exaggerated painful sound that embarrasses Sanha to no end.  He checks every single item that gets put into their cart to ensure that no pigs on are on the packaging.  He no longer trusts that they put pictures on boxes and bags because they are fond of certain animals.

"Dad?" Sanha asks as they wait in line for the checkout.

"Yes, sweet pea?"

"Why did you and Daddy get married?"  Sanha asks, unable to truly justify why he wants to know.  He just asks questions when they pop up in his head; his parents have answers for everything.

He watches as his father thinks about the answers.  He starts with, "Well, I mean, he asked me to marry him, and I love him."

"Why did Daddy ask?"

Dad scoops Sanha up, "You're just going to have to ask him."

(Sanha does and discovers that he can marry Minhyuk.  The only stipulation is that Minhyuk has to want to marry him, and Sanha can't imagine that Minhyuk wouldn't want to marry him too.)

 

  

seven.

 

Uncle Bin knocks on the door before opening it to look in on Minhyuk and Sanha.  He does it every once in a while when Sanha sleeps over.  They've broken his trust one too many times for him to leave them alone for longer than an hour. 

He looks between his son and Sanha.  Sanha pretends like he doesn't have a bright red mark on his cheek because he definitely didn't insist on having Minhyuk practice taekwondo on him.  Definitely not that.  Uncle Bin shakes his head, deciding to let it go.  He leans against the door frame, "How do you guys feel about pizza for dinner?"

Minhyuk pumps his fist in the air and shouts, "Ah yeah!"

His father largely ignores Minhyuk's enthusiasm and focuses his attention on their guest, "Sanha?"

Minhyuk whips around to shoot his best friend an expectant look.  Sanha smiles, "Pizza would be great."

Uncle Bin smiles, "Do you guys want chicken too, or are we just going to stick with pizza?"

The mention of chicken gets Sanha up in a tizzy, "Chicken!  Chicken!  Chicken!"

With a laugh, he nods, "I'll go order.  When I come get you for dinner, Sanha better not have any new bruises, cuts, or pigmentation on his skin."

Minhyuk tightens up, and as soon as his father leaves the room, he shoves Sanha.  "I told you that it would leave a mark."

Sanha scoffs, "Well how was I supposed to know that you could actually reach my face with your foot?"

He crosses his arms and regards Sanha with a look of arrogance, "I'm older than you.  Obviously, I know more."

Sanha nods and bows his head, "I'm sorry for not trusting you."

"Sanha."

"Minhyuk?" He tentatively volleys back.  His best friend does a horrific job at naturally moving the conversation in a direction that he wants, so normally he just restarts it with Sanha's name.  Since there is no transition, Sanha has no clue what this could possibly be about.

"Will you come to my taekwondo competition?" Minhyuk asks quietly, looking at the patch of carpet between them rather than at his best friend.

Sanha blinks in confusion, "Why?"

"All the good athletes have fans.  I want to be good at taekwondo," Minhyuk confesses quietly.

"I have to ask my dads," he replies.  He watches as Minhyuk slouches in disappointment.  A primal need to brighten up the mood surges through Sanha and he makes a bold promise, "But I'm sure that they'll say yes.  I'm already your number one fan."

"You're already my fan?" He perks right up with his trademark Cheshire grin.

Sanha nods, "You're the coolest person I know.  I'll be the president of your fan club when you become famous for being awesome."

Uncle Dongmin is the one that comes to get them for dinner.  He slouches in resignation when he sees that Minhyuk has Sanha in a head lock.  He doesn't look particularly surprised, just disappointed.  He even announces dinner with a sullen tone as he runs a hand through his hair.

Sanha loves sleeping over at Minhyuk's house.

 

 

eight.

 

Sanha grits his teeth and tries to refocus on his classwork.  It doesn't stop Jung Hana's words from ringing in his ears.  You can't have two dads.  My mom says it's unnatural.

He angrily mutters to himself.  What does Jung Hana know about the world?  She's the weird one; having two fathers is completely normal.  His parents are the best, ten times better than hers.

What Sanha doesn't understand is why it gets under his skin.  That's a lie; one comment that Jung Hana spat out at him has lodged itself in his brain and plays itself over on a loop in his head.

They're not your real parents.

They're not your real parents.

They're not your real parents.

Sanha despises the sentence.  It feels wrong, and his brain can't wrap around the idea that it might be a true sentence.  Kim Myungjun and Park Jinwoo are Sanha's fathers, and that fact has never ever been challenged before.

As much as he despises the sentence, the way that it's an accusation meant to demean him in some weird elementary schooler way, there's something about it that he despises more.

His last name is Yoon.

For the first time, he has had to consider that the rest of his classmates share the same last name as their parents.  Something about that niggles around in Sanha's brain, preventing him from whole-heartedly devoting his focus to the math worksheet in front of him.

It bothers Sanha.  It bothers and bothers him, all the way until dismissal when his dad, Kim Myungjun, not Yoon Myungjun, picks him up from school.

He has never treated his father's smile with such suspicion before as he climbs into his seat in the back of the minivan.  Myungjun looks at his glare through the rearview mirror as he pulls away from the pickup zone of the school.

"Was your day okay, baby?" He asks in a concerned tone.

Sanha lets out an angry sigh and looks out the window.  The words that he wants to say in an accusatory tone are stuck in his throat.  The more that he thinks about it, the more he needs the answer to be no.  His dads have to be his real parents; he isn't sure exactly why it's so important to him.  He wants to prove to Jung Hana that she really doesn't know anything, but with each second that passes, Sanha just isn't sure anymore.

His dad (should Sanha even call him that?) clicks his tongue, "Do you want to talk about it?"

Sanha maintains his silence, stewing in all of the negative emotions and suspicions, while his unassuming "father" decides to leave his "son" alone for the time being.  He looks at the glimmer of his reflection in the window and can't help but notice how much he doesn't look like either of his fathers.

The minivan pulls into the driveway, and his dad announces, "We're here."

Sanha gets out and stomps toward his house.  It even irks him that he has to wait for Kim Myungjun to open the door.  Once his dad spots the attitude blowing off of Sanha, he gets in front of his child.

He grips Sanha's shoulders and looks him in the eye, "What's wrong?  We communicate in this house."

"Are you my real dad?" Sanha asks soullessly.

His dad's hands fall off his shoulders, and a look of hurt replaces the one of worry on his face.  He doesn't say anything, and it basically confirms Sanha's worst fears.  He pushes his father, the imposter, away and runs to his room.

The room spins around him and all that he can think is that his life to this point has been a lie.  He can't be here.  He can't be in this house, in this room that is built on lie after lie.  Sanha shoves his stuffed duck into his bag and his drawing pad and coloring things.  There's a picture of him and his parents, his fake parents, on his nightstand, and Sanha turns it around to face the wall.

Sanha opens his window, and the breeze that wafts in enlightens him to the fact that he is crying.  He sniffles as he scribbles out his note about how he's running away because Myungjun and Jinwoo aren't his real parents.

He tosses his bag out of the window before he climbs out of the window.  He doesn't even know where he's going to run away to until he's halfway down the street.  He goes straight to Minhyuk's house, roughly wiping away tears with the sleeves of his uniform.  The discovery permeates into his memories retroactively; every single 'I love you' and 'quack quack' that his fathers have ever uttered feels insincere.  Since he isn't theirs, they can't possibly love him in the way that they claim they do.  And what of his real parents?  What is so wrong with him that they pawned him off onto Jinwoo and Myungjun?

Sanha arrives at Minhyuk's house and incessantly rings the doorbell until someone answers.

Uncle Dongmin turns up at the door and offers Sanha a smile, "Hey kiddo."

Sanha hiccups, "Good afternoon, Uncle Dongmin.  Is Minhyuk home?"

"Um, no, honey, he's practice right now." Uncle Dongmin says lightly, "I can tell something is bothering you.  Do you want to wait for him inside?"

"Yes please," Sanha replies, choking back a loud sob.

"Well, come in.  Want me to get you some chocolate milk?" He guides Sanha with a gentle hand on his back, steering him toward the kitchen table.

Sanha nods sadly and slides into his designated seat at the table.  It takes a few moments, but Uncle Dongmin eventually sets a tall glass of chocolate milk in front of Sanha, complete with its own crazy straw.  He rubs Sanha's back with soothing circles while Sanha drains the cup of the milk.

The kitchen phone rings and Minhyuk's father gets up to answer it.  He picks up the receiver and answers the phone with a quiet, "Hello?"

Sanha focuses on his chocolate milk as listens to half of a phone conversation, "Yeah, he's here... Oh, are you going to be okay?  I know that you were going to wait a little longer to tell him... Do you want to come get him?  He's waiting for Minhyuk... No that's fine.  Have him call me when he's on his way... Okay, bye."

Uncle Dongmin hangs up the phone and directs a question at Sanha, "Sanha, do you want to wait in Minhyuk's room?  Do you want something to draw on?"

"I have my drawing things," Sanha murmurs.  "I'll wait in Minhyuk's room.  Thank you."  He grabs his bag and walks up the stairs with his shoulders slouched.

"Tell me if you need anything, okay?" He calls out after Sanha.

Sanha pulls his duck out of his bag and leaves it by the door before he crawls under the covers of Minhyuk's bed.  He cries quietly, clutching the stuffed duck that his daddy won for him at an amusement park.  He hates and loves his fathers at the same time.  A thousand emotions are pulling at him from all sides, and Sanha feels like he's being torn apart.

He doesn't know how long he stays there before Minhyuk joins him under the covers.  Minhyuk doesn't say anything and just wraps his arms around Sanha.  He rubs Sanha's back and whispers, "It will be okay.  I swear."

"How do you know?" Sanha asks through soft sobs.

"I know everything," Minhyuk lies. "And I know that you'll be okay."

There's a knock on the door and Sanha hears Uncle Bin say, "Minhyuk, come here please."

Minhyuk scrunches his nose and quickly presses a kiss on Sanha's forehead before answering his father's call.  Sanha remains under the covers as he feels the bed dip under the weight of someone much heavier than a nine-year-old.  The person pulls the covers down over Sanha's head, and Sanha sees his daddy, correction, Park Jinwoo.

Sanha turns over, unable to look him in the eye as he says, "Why are you here?"

Daddy sighs, "Because I'm your father, and you left Dad a note saying that you were running away.  Let's go back home."

"No." Sanha gripes, clinging the strength that his ducky gives him.

Another sigh, "Why not?"

"You're not my real father," He murmurs sadly.  At the end of his freak out, he has decided that it's the worst feeling ever that his parents aren't his real parents.

"And who said that?"

"Jung Hana.  And she's right."

Daddy rounds the bed and looks directly at Sanha, "What does Jung Hana know about being a parent?  Why are your dad and I any less real because we didn't give birth to you?"

Sanha feels the tears leaking out his eyes again.  Daddy wipes them away with gentle fingers, "Do you know how thankful I am every day that your birth mother exists?  That she gave you to me and Dad?  Blood doesn't define family, duckling, love does.  And I love you the most in the entire world.  I wouldn't want anyone else to be my baby."  Daddy is crying too.

Sanha sits up and pushes away his father's tears and whispers, "Quack quack."

Daddy lets a half-sob-half-laugh, "Quack quack, Yoon Sanha."

Sanha wraps his arms around Park Jinwoo's neck, and his father hugs him back.  He buries his face in his daddy's neck, and his daddy stands up to let Sanha wrap his legs around him too.  He walks around the room to collect Sanha's things and begins to carry Sanha out of Minhyuk's house.

Minhyuk stands in the doorway of his house and waves at Sanha as he is carried back home by his father.

His father sets him down when they cross the threshold of their home.  Sanha looks down; Dad is probably mad at him.

He watches as his dad comes out of the kitchen and sighs in relief.  Even though he looks like he has been put through the ringer, he walks up, falls to his knees, and hugs Sanha.  He mumbles out a sorry into his dad's chest and ends up getting shushed as his father repeats, "it's okay," over and over.

Minhyuk ends up being right; everything turns out to be okay.

 

 

eleven.

 

Minhyuk walks into Sanha's bedroom and plops onto the bed.  Sanha continues working on the drawing in front of him.  Minhyuk has a competition next week and, as per their good luck tradition, Sanha has to draw him a picture.  Sanha has been fixated on drawing hands as of late, so he is drawing Minhyuk's fighting stance with a focus on the fists.

"I'm hopelessly behind," Minhyuk whines without offering any context.

Sanha turns to face Minhyuk, who is still in his uniform. He gives his best friend a look, "Will I regret asking?"

Minhyuk rolls over and props himself up on his forearms, "Have you had your first kiss yet?"

If Sanha had been drinking any water, he would have spit it out in spectacular fashion at that question.  There are plenty of words that Sanha wants to say but only stutters out, "N-n-no, I would've... I would have told you."  He holds his tongue on the fact that he has only ever imagined kissing one person in his entire existence, and that person is Minhyuk.

Minhyuk sighs, "Freaking Chan had his first kiss.  Chan.  I am the only one with virgin lips."

"Do I not count?" Sanha asks quietly.  Minhyuk does this, talks about his friends at school as if they're completely different than Sanha.  At this point in his life, Sanha doesn't know if the differentiation should irk him or comfort him.

Minhyuk snaps, "Idea."

Sanha grimaces.  Minhyuk's ideas have been... peculiar as of late.  "Just lay it on me."

"We should kiss."

"What?" Sanha squeaks.

"Think about it.  We've known each other forever, so we can both be terrible at it without any judgment because, at this point, it's mutually assured destruction." Minhyuk has a look of confidence, it's as if he's conned the entire concept of young love.

"You're supposed to kiss a person that you like," Sanha weakly attempts to dissuade Minhyuk from this idea.  He already likes Minhyuk a little more than he likes everyone else.  Plus, Sanha doesn't want to have hope if this is just Minhyuk trying to play his first kiss safe and staying on track with his older friends.

He scoffs and retorts, "I like you just fine."

"That's not how they mean."

He slouches and pleads, "Let's just get it over with.  We will never talk about it again, I swear."

Sanha swallows.  Minhyuk will keep asking and asking until it wears him down, and Sanha doesn't find the idea unappealing.  So, he sighs, "Okay."  (He internally tells himself that he cannot and will not read into this.  He's eleven, which is too young to even dream about dating anyone, let alone his best friend.)

Sanha sits up on his bed and looks at Minhyuk.  "How do we...?"

Minhyuk rolls his eyes and grabs Sanha's face, pulling him until he's an inch away from Minhyuk's lips.  His best friend steels himself and says, "I'm going to kiss you now."

"Okay," Sanha breathes.

Minhyuk nods and slowly closes the distance between their faces.  Sanha's mind short circuits when their lips finally meet.  It isn't a particularly awesome kiss; they sit there with their lips pressed together without so much as breathing.  Yet, somehow, Minhyuk's lips are smooth and soft, and he feels downright giddy.

Minhyuk pulls away quietly and exhales the breath that he was holding.  It takes him a few seconds to say something that, hopefully, offsets the feelings swelling inside of Sanha.  He clicks his tongue and diffuses the tension in a single word, "Underwhelming."

Sanha nods, as if this wasn't a life-changing, world-shaking experience for him.

Minhyuk claps down on his shoulder, "What's your dad making for dinner?"

"Shouldn't you be invited to stay first?"

He snorts, "Already was on my way in."

Just like that, they pretend that they never kissed.  The very first for both of them completely ignored, tucked away in the corner of Sanha's heart, only to be cherished when he's alone and feels a tingling on his lips.  On the outside, it's easy to pretend to be calm and unaffected, but on the inside, Sanha's emotions are rapidly pushing towards full-blown love.

 

 

twelve.

 

Minhyuk grimaces and grips Sanha's hand.  Dongmin stands behind Bin and hides his entire face on the conjunction of his husband's shoulder and neck.  Bin watches through the spaces between his fingers.  The lady with the needle poised against Minhyuk's earlobe looks fairly calm, slightly disinterested even.

"Minhyuk, I want you to take a deep breath and exhale when I say three."

"Okay," Minhyuk whispers, tightening his hold on Sanha even more.

He sucks in a huge breath, and the lady counts down.  As he exhales, she pushes the needle through his earlobe.  Minhyuk squeaks and Dongmin goes, "Oh God."

"Uncle Dongmin, it's not that bad.  You can't even see the blood," Sanha reassures him.  Sanha thinks that Dongmin shouldn't have come.  He loves Dongmin, but he's squeamish and handles surprises poorly.  Halloween with him is an absolute nightmare, every other second he screams his lungs out.  However, Uncle Bin is fairly solid.  His reason for being nervous is that he's sitting in a tattoo parlor waiting for his son to get his ears pierced.

Minhyuk is tense because his fathers are tense.  However, his parents did promise that once he turned thirteen that he could get his ears pierced if he still wanted that, so long as he could pay himself.  So there they sit, in the parlor that Sanha's parents recommended, waiting for Minhyuk to finish getting his ears pierced.  

The lady smiles, "And we'll do the same thing with the other ear, and we'll be all done."

Minhyuk bounces his knee, and Sanha uses his free hand to push it down. He glances at Sanha and offers a quick smile before grimacing again.

Sanha sighs, and as she positions the needle on Minhyuk's other ear, the lady says to him, "You must be the anchor of the unit."

Sanha smiles and nudges MInhyuk, "What would you do without your supportive best friend?"

"Doesn't matter.  Don't have to consider it since you're here."

Sanha snorts, "Just follow her instructions, and you'll survive."

The lady's lips quirk into a smile as she repeats the same instructions, "Same rules, you take a deep breath and exhale on three."

Minhyuk quickly takes another deep breath and exhales once the lady counts to three and pushes the needle through his other ear.  Minhyuk sings out a pained "ah".

"Jesus, take the wheel," Dongmin says, knees caving slightly at the sound.

"Babe." Bin softly murmurs, bringing a hand to Dongmin's head.  "You can look."

"Can't.  Won't." Dongmin shakes head, "Minhyuk, are you okay, sugar pie?"

Minhyuk sighs as the lady secures an earring in his freshly pierced ear, "Aren't I the one who should be freaking out, father dear?"

"Oh, he sassed me.  I have never been so happy to hear that tone.  He's okay."

Sanha giggles.  In the back of his mind, he can't help but notice that Minhyuk is still holding his hand.  Sanha could let go first, but he doesn't.  He waits until Minhyuk absentmindedly lets go because he has to get up and follow the lady in order to make his payment.

Sanha pretends that he doesn't remember their first kiss.  The only kiss in his life so far.  He and Minhyuk have an agreement that it didn't happen.

Sanha thinks about a lot; too often if he's being honest.

 

 

fourteen.

 

Sanha glares at Minhyuk, who is crushing him and his parents at Monopoly.

It's right, what they say, Monopoly ruins families and friendships.  There's small, petty, hate fire raging inside of Sanha's heart.  He'll hold a grudge about this for a while.

Jinwoo gets up and says, "Does anyone want any drinks while I'm in the kitchen?"

"Cola," Myungjun says.

"Water," Sanha and Minhyuk say in unison.

Sanha's father pops his mouth and does cheesy finger guns as he goes into the kitchen.

His dad giggles, "You're so cute."

"Dad," Sanha murmurs in horror.

Myungjun scoffs, "Duckling, that's not even embarrassing.  However, if I were to say, 'Park Jinwoo I love your butt,' that would be embarrassing."

"Oh my god," Sanha slams his face into the table.  He can't believe that his dad is doing this in front of Minhyuk, even if he's practically family.

"WHY?" Myungjun exclaims incredulously, "He's my husband.  I can think that he has a nice butt."

"Please stop."

Minhyuk stifles laughter.  Myungjun continues his parade of embarrassment, "Park Jinwoo! You have the best butt!"

The aforementioned Jinwoo comes back into the dining room with a light pink dusting his cheeks and sets down everyone drinks.  He bends down to his husband and cutely says, "I'ma kiss you."

He puckers his lips and lays one on Myungjun, and Sanha groans in frustrated embarrassment.  Minhyuk busts out laughing as Sanha covers his face.

The worst and best part is how natural it feels.  Minhyuk belongs here, at the table with Sanha and his parents, enjoying the tortured cries of a child being embarrassed by his parents.

 

 

fifteen.

 

Sanha chokes on his water and ends up coughing so hard that he has to hit his chest to get his throat calm enough to handle more water. "What did you just say?" He manages to rasp out between wheezes.

"I'm going on a date with Choi Yoojung," Minhyuk repeats, giving Sanha a mildly concerned look.

Sanha takes another gulp of water before asking incredulously, "Why?"  This is coming from left field, and Sanha is never blindsided by anything that Minhyuk does.  This is a first, and it's uncomfortable, not in the least because Sanha has been in love with Minhyuk for as long as he can remember.

"Because she asked me to," Minhyuk replies, as though that's the most obvious thing in the world.

"But, do you like her?" Sanha asks, trying to ignore the jealous fire brewing in his stomach.  He realizes that they've never had that conversation about the relative status in relationship to the closet.  Has Minhyuk ever mentioned being attracted to girls to him before?  Maybe he tuned it out, but it's alarming to think that there is a part of Minhyuk he doesn't know about.

"What does that have to do with anything?" Minhyuk shrugs, taking another bite from his slice of pizza.

Sanha stares at him, completely and utterly dumbfounded.  He rests his forearms on the table and says, "The entire point of going on date with the intention of dating is because you like a person."

Minhyuk sighs and rolls his eyes, "I'm sixteen.  I'm not dating seriously."

Sanha frowns and murmurs, "I just don't think it's a good idea if you don't like her."

"What if I grow to like her?  Would that make you happy?" He says in his puppy dog voice.

Sanha glares.  He knows that he can't very well say that it would make him unhappy.  He looks at the clock and internally breathes a sigh of relief.  "I should go home.  I promised my dad that I'd be home by midnight."

"Don't be like that," Minhyuk says.  As always, Minhyuk sees right through his excuse to get out.  Sometimes, Sanha truly believes that it would be easier to be in love with Minhyuk if they weren't so close.  He wouldn't have to work so hard to hide his feelings, and being in love with him wouldn't risk a lifelong friendship.

"I'm not 'being like that'; you know that my pops is on business trip and Dad gets lonely."

"Tell Myungjun I say hi then."

Sanha rolls his eyes and leaves Minhyuk's house.  His walk home is riddled with emotions surrounding the fact that Minhyuk might be dating, a girl at that.  He tries to tell himself that a date doesn't instantly equate to a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.

He looks at his hands and realizes that he's shaking.  He has never once thought about the possibility that Minhyuk might be unattainable.  Yes, he has squashed down his feelings for a while now, but not because Minhyuk might be straight.   That part of him says that Minhyuk is just double checking by dating a girl that he doesn't care about.  Another part quietly reminds him that Minhyuk's happiness is all that matters, regardless of gender and who is lighting up his life.

Sanha quietly enters his house and locks the door behind him.  He pulls himself up the stairs and winds up in his parents' room.  His dad sits on top of the covers in his pajamas with his glasses on, reading a cheesy romance novel.

Sanha flops onto the bed and crawls over to his father and rests his face on his dad's stomach, wrapping his arm around his waist.

His dad brings a hand down to stroke Sanha's hair, "Hi baby."

"What do you do when the person that you like starts dating someone else?" He mumbles the question into Myungjun's stomach.

Dad sets the book on the bedside table and focuses his attention on his needy son, "You don't do anything.  You can't force someone into loving you, and if you do anything to actively disrupt someone else's potential happiness, you become the worse person."

Sanha presses his face against the cotton fabric of his father's shirt, willing the tears to go away.

"Do you want to talk about it?" He asks softly, continuing to pet Sanha's hair.

Sanha inhales deeply and shakes his head.  "Can you please tell me how you and Daddy met again?" Sanha whispers quietly.  He likes the story, and Kim Myungjun has very a soothing voice. 

Myungjun snorts, "Well, back in my day, I was what the kids call 'a hot commodity'.  And Jinwoo..."

Sanha tunes out the actual words and listens to the pattern of his dad swooning over his husband after all these years.  He already knows the story backward and forward anyhow.  Sanha ends up falling asleep on his parents' bed for the first time in a long time.  All in the name of trying not to be shattered by the fact that Minhyuk is on his way to falling in love with Choi Yoojung.

 

//

 

If Sanha looks miserable, that would be because he is.  Somehow, Yoojung has become a fixture in Minhyuk's life.  Sanha tries not to hate her; he really tries.  Not only has it become difficult to hang out with Minhyuk in general, but one-on-one, best friend-only time has been reduced to practically zero.

Yoojung is always there, and she looks at Sanha like he is supposed to bow out every time that she wants Minhyuk's attention.  Minhyuk doesn't notice, or if he does, he doesn't say anything about it.

Even now, her posture implies that Sanha doesn't belong here.  Sanha, who has been to every single one of Minhyuk's competitions for years, is somehow unwelcome.  She has a placard with Minhyuk's name on it with a cutesy encouragement blocked out in bubble letters.

Sanha feels like he's slowly being pushed out by someone who has no claim to Minhyuk.  Sanha has been in love with Minhyuk for eons longer than Yoojung, and suddenly, he is playing second fiddle someone who has asked Minhyuk to buy her pork belly.  Pork belly.

Then again, Minhyuk has never held his hand, and they haven't ever talked about what Sanha has dubbed "the kiss".  Maybe Sanha is the outsider.

That thought terrifies him.

 

//

 

Sanha stretches as he makes his way to Minhyuk's classroom. They walk home together. Period.  It is the only time that Sanha knows that Yoojung is the outsider.  Some days, Yoojung doesn't even bother tagging along.  Sanha looks forward to those days, not that he can ever tell Minhyuk about that.

He arrives at the rear entrance of the classroom and physically has to hold in the sigh that wants to escape when he sees Yoojung.  He bears it and over compensates with a wide smile, "Ready to go?"

For the first time in his life, Minhyuk rolls his eyes at Sanha without a hint of happiness or humor on his face.  Sanha's stomach churns as his brain screams how wrong it seems.  He tries to laugh, but it comes off as inauthentic, "What was that?"

Yoojung nudges Minhyuk's shoulder and juts out her chin, goading Minhyuk into saying something.  Communication has never been a problem before.  Sanha furrows his brow and tries to stomp about the indignation rising in his core, "What does Yoojung want you to say?"  He accidentally spits out Yoojung's name like it's acid, possibly because he can already see betrayal coming at him with chilling speed.

"Yoojung doesn't want me to say anything," Minhyuk seethes.  Anger, genuine anger from Minhyuk is being directed at him.

"Then what?" The tone of this conversation takes on an alien feeing.

"Oh my god, you're so suffocating.  Don't you have any friends?!" Minhyuk ends up yelling, and Sanha doesn't even have time to cover the shock and hurt. 

He counts to five in his head with the hopes that Minhyuk will walk it back, or even soften the abhorrence in his eyes.  However, by the time that Sanha spends ten seconds counting to five, Minhyuk hasn't changed his face.

"I guess not," he spits out, backing out the room while maintaining eye contact.  He finally sees the doorframe and turns on his heel.  Sanha wants to cry.  He wants to curl up in a ball and sob for a really long time.

He briskly hurries home, thoughts muddied by the look that Minhyuk shot at him.  Best friends forever apparently expires much sooner than Sanha thought possible.

When he gets home, he takes down every single photo and drawing of Minhyuk.  He even has to cover the pig memorabilia.   He is angry and hurt, even thinking about Minhyuk twists his gut.

 

//

 

Jinwoo opens the door to Sanha's room, "You gonna come with us to Minhyuk's thing?"

Sanha hugs his stuffed duck and rolls over so that he doesn't have to face his father as he says, "I'm not friends with anyone named Minhyuk."

He hears his father close the door quietly.

He's too busy trying to fall out of love with Minhyuk to support him right now.  Falling out of love with Minhyuk will change something. Right?

 

//

 

Sanha surfs the web in his duck onesie.  He knows that it's pathetic, but he isn't quite sure how to cope without having a best friend.  He hasn't seen Minhyuk in over two weeks, including a minor meet that if they weren't mid-fight, Sanha would have attended.  He likes to believe that he would have sucked it up for a competition that mattered.

His stupid laptop background distracts him though.  It's picture of him and Minhyuk when they went bowling with both of their parents.  Sanha and Minhyuk obliterated, and Jinwoo, Myungjun, Bin, and Dongmin got into a competition of who could compliment their spouse the most.  It was a good day, aside from the second-hand embarrassment.  He sits at his desk, staring at the photo and listening to power ballads.

Is this really the end of their friendship?

Someone knocks on his door quietly, and Sanha heaves himself out of his chair and waddles to the door.  He opens the door slowly; whichever dad it is, they'll lecture him if they see the state of his room.  He opens it a crack and nearly dies from the shock of seeing Minhyuk peering back at him.  He slams the door shut and engages the lock.

Minhyuk knocks again, this time, he adds, "Sanha?  Sanha, let me in."

He panics and replies with: "Sanha isn't here right now."

He hears Minhyuk hit his head against the door with a quiet thud, "Then with whom am I speaking?"

Sanha directs his answers at the crack between his door and its frame, "Not Sanha."

"Not Sanha, do you know when Sanha will be available for civil conversation?" Minhyuk asks in an exhausted voice.

Sanha sits himself down and faces the door, "Sanha wants to know what you want to talk about before he agrees to civil conversation."

"A lot," Minhyuk replies, and Sanha can tell that he has chosen to take a seat as well.  Minhyuk continues, "It's about my recent behavior."

"You can talk, and I'll relay the information to Sanha," he says, fully aware of the childishness of this interaction.

"Can't I say it to his face?"

"You have his picture."

A laugh from Minhyuk, "You're very right, Not Sanha.  He actually interferes with my phone's storage, but I, um, can't really ever figure out which pictures I'm willing to delete.  Give me a second."

Sanha leans over and picks up the bedside photo that has Minhyuk in it.  He hasn't looked it since Minhyuk metaphorically stabbed him and twisted the knife.  He stares at it because he wants to remember who the words are coming from.

"Uhm," Minhyuk clears his throat, "You're listening right, Not Sanha?  You need to tell all of this to Sanha when I finish."

Sanha softly replies, "Mm-hm."

"So, this weekend you didn't come, and I know that it wasn't a big thing.  I was thinking about it and you haven't missed anything, the big stuff, the small stuff, and everything in between since I asked to come a competition when I was eight. But um, I looked for you," Minhyuk's voice wobbles.

"I expected you to be there because you've never not been there.  I forgot, for like, two seconds that you were mad at me, so when I took my competitor down, I looked for you."

Sanha's eyes burn.  Minhyuk sounds so sad, speaking in a low voice.  He has to blink away the tears before they actually escape from his eyes.  "When we got home, I was really mad.  I couldn't believe that someone who I have called my best friend for a decade would do that to me.  Then my dad asked why your parents came, but you didn't."

Minhyuk pauses to take in a shaky breath, "And I realized that they've never see us fight before. I've never seen us fight before, not about anything serious enough to actually be called fighting.  So I sat in my room and thought about it, really thought about it the first time.  I..."  Minhyuk stalls again, "I'm a jerk, and I'm sorry."

Sanha stares at the door, as tears drip off of his face.  He sniffles and sets the photograph aside, "Do you want me to say that verbatim to Sanha?"

"Yes please."

Sanha gets on his knees and reaches up to unlock the door and opens it.  He leans his body against the door frame as Minhyuk repositions himself to face Sanha.  Sanha looks over his best friend for the first time in a while, "It's me, Sanha."

"Did Not Sanha tell you what I said?" Minhyuk asks, looking at Sanha's onesie.

"Yes."

"I'm really sorry that I've been acting like a tool."

Sanha sighs, "I've been thinking about it, and I've decided to forgive you."

"Thank you," Minhyuk whispers.  "Also, Yoojung and I broke up."

"Because of me?" Sanha will feel bad if he ruined something that makes Minhyuk happy.

Minhyuk snorts and smiles; he pushes Sanha's forehead with a single finger, "As if you have that kind of power.  Nah, she just didn't make me a better person.  She somehow convinced me to push you away, and I'm just a really terrible human being when you're not around.  You might be my better half or something corny like that."

All of the tension in his muscles goes slack.  He doesn't have to relinquish his best friend to Yoojung anymore.  Their biggest fight ever has finally finished, and Sanha just hopes that it causes no major shifts in their relationship.

"Sanha."

Sanha begins to get up, "What?'

Minhyuk grins, "Oink oink."

"What?"  Sanha's heart stutters. 

"It's how pigs say 'I missed you'," Minhyuk whispers, as if this is the most, valuable secret that he has ever told Sanha.

He pretends that he didn't just hope that Minhyuk quietly said 'I love you' in his own way.  He clicks his tongue, "Well I'm a duck, and we say 'quack quack quack'."

"Why not 'quack quack'?" He retorts as he moves to plop onto Sanha's bed.

"I'll have you know that 'quack quack' means I love you."

Minhyuk settles in and pouts, "Are you saying that you don't love me?"

Sanha's heart trips again. He has to play it cool, even though, his soul knows that Minhyuk doesn't mean it in that way.  He bounces onto his bed and hits Minhyuk, "When did I ever say that?"

"Pigs say oink oink oink."

Sanha giggles, "What a backward language."

Minhyuk hits his shoulder.  Just like that, they're back to their usual routine.  Minhyuk is Sanha's best friend.  Sanha is secretly in love with him.  The usual.

 

 

sixteen.

 

"When I turn eighteen, I want to get a tattoo," Minhyuk says, splashing his feet from his place at the edge of the pool.

Sanha sits down next to his best friend, handing him a glass of lemonade.  His face scrunches in confusion, "Why would you want a tattoo?"

He accepts the drink, "What's your opposition?  Both of your parents have tattoos, and Jinwoo has more than just the wedding ring."

Sanha exhales, "I'm not opposed to tattoos.  What would you even get a tattoo of?"

Minhyuk almost answers; his lips even begin to move to answer.  However, a look flickers across his face, and Sanha watches as Minhyuk internally walks back the words, "I don't know.  I'd have to find something that I really care about, I guess.  Would you come with me, if I got one?"

Sanha slouches, "This is going to be piercing your ears all over again.  Uncle Dongmin will stand there squirming while Uncle Bin gives him the play by play."

"I wouldn't bring my parents," Minhyuk sighs, lying down and pressing his back against the sun baked bricks that surround his pool.

Sanha squints against the sun in order to look at Minhyuk.  "Don't you think that you should love something enough to get a tattoo in tribute to it before you start selecting your support squad for the tattoo?"

"I have something that I love enough to get a tattoo of," Minhyuk replies quietly, almost low enough to be a whisper.

This piques Sanha's curiosity.  He matches Minhyuk's posture, "Spill."

Minhyuk takes a little to long to answer, "Taekwondo."

"What happens if you wash up later on and come to hate taekwondo?" Sanha posits, though he thinks that scenario is unlikely to ever pass.

Minhyuk softly says, "I could never hate... taekwondo."

Sanha sighs, "Let's just not talk about anything and enjoy the sun."

"Deal."

Sanha lies next to Minhyuk, calves half-submerged in water, letting the sun beat down on them and listening to the sounds of the pool slapping against its walls.  He briefly wonders what he holds close enough to his heart to consider getting a tattoo.

 

 

seventeen.

 

"Park Minhyuk!"

Sanha, his parents, and Minhyuk's parents stand up and scream.  A few of Minhyuk's friends whoop as well, as the man himself walks across the stage to accept his diploma.  He pumps his fist in the air, acknowledging all of his supporters.

Sanha intercuts his clap with the occasional shout until Minhyuk has accepted his diploma, shaken the hand of the principal, and gotten off of the stage to join the resting of the graduating class.

Sanha can feel his eyes stinging, pride swelling in his chest and trying to compete with the sadness of knowing that Minhyuk is about to leave Sanha for college.

"Are you crying?" His dad asks quietly in his ear.

Sanha sniffles, swiping the tears away from his eyes "No, someone must be chopping onions in here."

Myungjun wraps an arm around Sanha's waist, "My bad."

Sanha giggles, exhaling shakily, which makes his tears all the more noticeable, "Why would you chop onions here?"

"So Jinwoo could cry without anyone noticing.  I can't really do anything about Bin and Dongmin; they're such obvious messes."

Sanha elbows him, "That's a look at your future."

"I know."

 

//

 

Sanha turns the frame over in his hands repeatedly.

Today is the end of an era.  As of tomorrow, Sanha will not have constant access to Park Minhyuk for the first time in twelve years.

He watches Minhyuk and his parents finish packing up their car from their front step, gripping his going away present for Minhyuk in his hands.  Uncle Bin and Dongmin look at Sanha and say something inaudible to Minhyuk, and Uncle Bin motions toward him with the jerk of his chin. Minhyuk nods and strolls over to his best friend.

"Are you going to cry?" Minhyuk asks once he is stopped in front of Sanha.

"Over you?  Please, you're not that important," Sanha laughs, blatantly lying.  "I won't until you're gone, or at least, not until you're in the car."

Minhyuk clicks his tongue, "Are you ever going to give that to me, or are you going to mail it to me?"

Sanha takes a deep breath, extends his arm with the gift facing down, and exhales as Minhyuk's fingers wrap around the frame. 

Minhyuk raises his eyebrows, "Oh.  A photograph.  I have none of those."  Minhyuk's sparkling laugh dies when he flips it over.  He looks between Sanha and the gift and back at Sanha again.

"You drew me and you as a pig and a duck," he states quietly.

"I know."  A pig in a taekwondo uniform and a duck with cliched artiste accessories, that's them in a nutshell.

"I'm not supposed to cry until I get in the car.  Why are you doing this?"

Sanha stands up and wraps his arms around Minhyuk, resting his chin on Minhyuk's shoulder.  Minhyuk returns the hug, gripping onto Sanha as though he's all that's real, "You're going call me every day right?"

"Of course," Sanha says through clenched teeth, trying to keep the tidal wave of tears at bay for a little while longer.  "You'll eat well.  Three square a day and no skipping?"

"Obviously," Minhyuk's voice cracks.  They stand there holding each other for a few moments longer before a short beep comes from Bin's car.

Minhyuk steps away, hastily brushing away tears, "You're my best friend."

"I'm about to ugly cry," Sanha rasps out, hitting Minhyuk's arm.  "I love you, so leave."

Minhyuk nods, "Love you too, best friend."  He scrambles to his parents' car and hops in.  They wave at a crying Sanha as Minhyuk leaves to start the first chapter of adult life without Sanha.

Sanha feels like he should let go of the feelings that he has been harboring all this time.  He waves at the car until it's no longer in sight.  He'll keep his feelings for just a moment longer.  Give him until he's eighteen.  When he becomes an adult, he'll fall in love with someone new.

 

 

eighteen.

 

"You didn't watch this without me right?" Minhyuk asks while Sanha sets the popcorn on the coffee table.

Sanha plops down on the couch next to Minhyuk and glares at him, "You made me promise a million times over.  I waited to watch it with you because I am a great friend."

"I don't know if I believe you," he replies, distrust lacing his voice.

"Then do you want me to go home so that you can watch it by yourself?"

Minhyuk grips his hand and shakes his head, "No.  Watching it is no fun if you're not there."

Sanha swings his legs up onto the couch and selects play on the DVD's menu.

"Sanha?" Minhyuk asks.

Sanha is slightly annoyed, "Whatever it is better be achievable within the run of the regulatory warnings and opening credits."

Minhyuk leans close and whispers, "Do you like anyone?"

Sanha stiffens.  He has been working on the same crush for the better part of two decades and now is the first time that Minhyuk has ever bothered to ask if he likes anyone.  Sanha looks at the bowl of popcorn; he lets sadness slip into response, "No one attainable."  He's been in love with Minhyuk for so long that he doesn't know how not to be.  He has failed several times to let the feelings for him go.

"Who wouldn't want you?  Should I fight them?"

Sanha almost laughs out loud.  The idea of fighting himself is ridiculous, but he appreciates the sentiment.  At least at this age, Sanha knows that he'll always be a little brother to Minhyuk.

"If he even remotely liked me back, he would have said something by now," Sanha deliberately lets the pronoun slip.  Minhyuk should already know that he's gay, but again, they still haven't directly had a conversation about their orientations.  Mainly because it wouldn't change anything for them either way.

He hears Minhyuk takes a breath to preface asking another question, but Sanha presses a finger against his best friend's lips and says, "The movie is starting.  Hush."

Minhyuk remains uncharacteristically quiet through the rest of the movie.  Normally, he talks non-stop during comic book movies, but this time, Sanha is the one making exclamations about faithfulness to source material and well done CGI effects.

The movie ends, and Sanha doesn't even have to look at the clock to know that he should get home.

Minhyuk bounces up and says, "I'll walk you home."

Sanha furrows his brow.  He can count the number of times on one hand that Minhyuk has offered to do that.  Sanha scratches his neck, "I still live in the same house.  It has only been one semester, and you've already forgotten?"

Minhyuk laughs it off awkwardly, "Your parents will be mad at me if I let you walk home alone this late at night.  Besides, I'm starved for your company, humor me."

"O-okay..." Sanha yields, moving to the foyer to slip into his shoes.

Minhyuk begins to walk Sanha home, and it starts out in silence.  Sanha figures that Minhyuk wants to talk about something, given the way that he's swinging his hands.  It takes another ten seconds before Minhyuk asks, "Do you remember your first kiss?"

Sanha instantly brings his hands to his lips, "Is that a trick question?"

Minhyuk clicks his tongue, "No."

Sanha swallows; he doesn't know why Minhyuk is bringing it up, but he chooses to stick with the official party line, "Technically, it never happened.  I'm not supposed to talk about it.  Ever."

Minhyuk nods, "Have there, uh, been any since then?"

"No."

Sanha does not know where this conversation is heading.  It's an uncomfortable feeling to know that he isn't in control of the moment.  Minhyuk doesn't ask anymore questions.  The silence is awkward, but Minhyuk grabs him just before they reach the gate into Sanha's front yard, "The person, the unattainable one, how long have you liked him for?"

Sanha can't see Minhyuk's face well.  The streetlight casts an odd shadow that impedes his ability to read the expression on his best friend's face.

Sanha licks his lips that have suddenly become dry. "For forever," he answers weakly.

"I think this entire time I've been oinking when I should've been quacking," Minhyuk says in one quick breath.

"What?"  Sanha can't breathe.  He can't here anything over the rapid pulse echoing in his ears.

Minhyuk grabs his face and plants a soft kiss on Sanha's lips.

Sanha's knees give out.  The only thing that keeps him from hitting the concrete sidewalk is Minhyuk's grip on his cheeks.

Minhyuk ends up pulling away in surprise, "I should have asked before I kissed you.  I'm so sorry."

Sanha tries to pull together coherent thoughts from the geyser of emotions spewing in his head.  He blinks deliberately, "Are you saying sorry for the kissing or the not asking?"

"The not asking," Minhyuk volleys back quickly, "I very much do not regret the kissing part."

"I, um, I don't quite understand," Sanha manages to articulate.

Minhyuk looks him dead in the eye and says, "Quack quack."

Sanha gulps and notes the pleasant squeeze on his heart.  "You can't just say that.  Not if you don't mean it."

"I mean it," Minhyuk promises.  "Is it cool if I kiss you again?  Now or in the near future when your parents aren't at the window watching us."

"What?" Sanha whips around in time to see his parents unsuccessfully duck out of sight. "Unbelievable," he breathes and turns back to Minhyuk, "Call me."

Sanha pulls away and takes a few steps before Minhyuk says, "Wait!"

"What?" He whispers from where he stands.

"Are we boyfriends now?" Minhyuk asks in a whisper-yell.

"We haven't even been on a date!" Sanha hisses.

Minhyuk scoffs in indignation, "I've known you for over ten years.  Do you not have a good sense of whether or not we'll click as a couple?"

"Ugh, yes, we're boyfriends, now let me go kill my parents for ruining our moment."

"Good luck!" Minhyuk shouts sweetly, "Quack quack."

Sanha waves and smiles, "Oink oink oink."

Minhyuk blows a kiss before he starts to skip away.  Sanha has never been happier that his heart has been unable to let go of Park Minhyuk.

When Yoon Sanha enters his house, Park Jinwoo is dusting an armchair and Kim Myungjun is reading an upside down dictionary.

"Oh, duckling, you're home!" Jinwoo exclaims in an obviously-trying-to-hide-something tone.

"You're the worst," he says flatly.

Myungjun sets down his phony excuse of a book and does a darling pose, "So, is Minhyuk your boyfriend?" He asks, dragging out the 'boy' in boyfriend.

"I hate you so much."

Myungjun stands up, "Minhyuk and Sanha sitting in a tree!  K-I-S-S-I-N-G."

Sanha stalks up stairs as his parents finish out their taunt, screaming it from the living room with enough volume that the neighbor might file a noise complaint.

 

 

twenty-three.

 

Sanha stares at the tattoo on his left wrist.  A minimalist interpretation of a pig rests just below his wrist joint.  His thumb caresses the small handle of the latte cup.

He frowns; Minhyuk's tea will be cold by the time that he gets to the cafe for the date that he planned.  Sanha sighs, after all, he certainly didn't fall in love with him for his punctuality.

A sudden peck hits his cheek, prompting a smile from Sanha.   He glances at the outline of a duck on Minhyuk's right wrist before saying, "You're late."

"I was talking to Jinwoo," he replies smoothly, taking large gulp from the drink that his boyfriend ordered for him.

"It will never cease to weird me out that you call my parents by their first names without any modifiers," Sanha mumbles, taking a small sip of his sugared-up latte.  "What, pray-tell, got you and my father so involved that you forgot what time you scheduled our date for?"

"You."

"Well, you both have me in common," Sanha hums, drinking down some more coffee.

Minhyuk takes another gigantic gulp of tea, "He was telling me about how you decided to marry me when you were six."

"Babe, slow down, you're going to burn your tongue or throat," he warns.  "And how did you get him onto that subject?"

Minhyuk pulls something out of his pocket and slides a small drawstring pouch toward Sanha.  Sanha knows.  Something tugs on his gut and notifies him that he should under no circumstances freak out.  He picks it up and and pulls out a thin black ring.

"I was telling him that I wanted to marry you, and asking if he was okay with having me around for a while."

Sanha can feel his eyes burning as he looks between the ring and Minhyuk.

Minhyuk continues with his story, "So, Jinwoo goes, 'Sanha has been ready to marry you since kindergarten, so I've been prepared for almost two decades'.  And so, what I'm asking is have you changed your mind?"

"No," Sanha murmurs, shaking his head.

"So, if it's cool with you, do you want to get married and see me every morning and every night for the rest of our lives?" Minhyuk asks in a shaky voice.

Sanha slips the ring on his fourth finger, "Well since you bought me ring, how can I say anything but yes?"

 

 

twenty-four.

 

"Hi, everyone.  I'm groom A, Park Minhyuk.  So my wonderful new father-in-law, Kim Myungjun, somehow talked me and Sanha into writing each other letters that we would read to each other at our reception in front of everyone that we know.  So, here we go.

"When I was six, I asked a kid in my new neighborhood if he liked airplanes.  He said yes, and my soul knew that I should befriend someone with a semi-comparable affinity for airplanes.  Lucky for me, he agreed.

"Fast forward six years later to when my best man, Lee Chan, lied to me and said that he had his first kiss. As a twelve year-old, it was devastating to find out that I was the 'last' amongst my friends to have un-kissed lips.  So I asked Yoon Sanha to help me get over my first kiss with, and we would never have to talk about it ever again.  He tried to convince me that it was a bad idea, but I was twelve and a moron.  And like a good friend, he agreed to help me out.

"From that point, I have spent my life hung up on firsts, a lot of which by the way, Sanha participated in.  First kiss, first significant other, first car, first everything.  It took me until my first real fight with Sanha to realize that firsts aren't really all that they seem to be.  So the point of this letter thing is that I don't care about firsts anymore.  I have realized that I only care about lasts.  And I want all of them to be with you, Yoon Sanha.  I want you to be my last kiss, my last love, my last everything.

"So to cap off this embarrassing mess of a letter, I love you, and I look forward to keeping up the tradition of spending all of my time being in love with you."