Chapter 1: Ordinary People
This ain't no movie no
No fairy tale conclusion y'all
It gets more confusing every day
Sometimes it's heaven sent
Then we head back to hell again
Two different white pills to stop the pain, a red pill to make him happy, and some eye drops to make him seem less drugged out. That's how Donghyuk started his morning. Most mornings are started like that before he quietly leaves his house, as not to disturb his mother who was asleep on the couch. As he walked to campus, he smoked the short blunt he found in the back of his underwear drawer. Just a little something to take the edge off to make the day easier. It's been more than a few days since he's smoked properly and he can feel it in his bones. In the way his hands twitched and his heart raced with the lack of smoke to calm him. Or maybe that's just the mix of pills he took this morning. In all honestly, he just pulled a few random pills from the baggy stashed under his mattress and downed them without any thought of what they were and how they would react with each other.
"You look like crap, man." Hanbin told him when he finally reached campus. The older male rose from the bench he was sitting on and handed the other his cardboard cup of coffee.
"And here I was thinking I could enter a beauty pageant." He rolled his eyes and knocked back the scolding hot drink. He cringed at theoverly sweet taste of the artificially flavoured concoction. With another small drink, he handed the cup back. Caffeine wasn't worth the loss of his taste buds.
"Can I borrow your calc notes? Hanbyul used mine as a colouring book last night." He took the cup back and led the way into the crowded building.
"We're not even in the same class."
"Calc is calc no matter the teacher. Can I borrow them or not?"
With another roll of his eyes, he dug out his notebook. It was too early and he was too high to deal with arguing, or even warning Hanbin about his shitty notes. The older would have to figure that out on his own when the time came. By then, he would be across campus and wouldn't have a fuck to give. If he was even still on campus. His body ached and his hands still twitched from too much anxiety. The perfect excuse to skip class today.
As other students made their way into the building, Donghyuk kept walking. Passing by the doors to his building and others, he kept moving until he was crossing the road off campus.
Jiyong hated when he had to wear his uniform to work. It was a constant reminder of how little time he had to do everything in one day. Class in the morning, work right after with barely enough time to make the trip from campus to the superstore, home before Dara got too worried that he would get mugged on his way again. Days like that there simply wasn't any time or energy to spare. Especially not an exceedingly long lecture about things he had learned the year before.
As subtly as he could, he started to pack his notes into his bag before sliding out of his chair. When the professor turned his back, he was out of the lecture hall in record time. Hopefully he hadn't missed the bus. The halls were already emptied from the previous classes being let out on schedule. If he ran fast enough, he would be able to catch the bus before it left. Hopefully. Or not.
The bus stop was deserted when he exited the building. Exactly what he needed today. Another citation on his record. He already had enough marks to get retrained like the fuck up his supervisor thought he was. Truth was, he missed a few more days of work than normal because he had doctor's appointments to go to with Dara. Everything that involved her and their small bump of a child was more important that some shitty throw away job. Even if that shitty throw away job was the only thing keeping him from being a homeless.
"Where's the fire?" a sweet voice teased from behind him.
"Now isn't the time." he growled through clenched teeth.
"Fine then. I'll just take myself over to my car and drive away." Jinhwan laughed, walking slowly past the older. "I was gonna offer you a ride. But since now isn't the time...I'll just be on my way."
"How was I supposed to know you got the Neon fixed?" he jogged to catch up with the smaller man.
"His name is Deon. You know this and I would appreciate it if you addressed him as such."
"Can I get a ride or not?" He tugged on the locked door handle.
Jinhwan nodded and unlocked the doors as he dropped into the driver seat. The car roared to life, sounding more like a lawnmower running over a log than a functioning car.
"There's a packed bowl in the glove box. You look like you could use it." He spoke loudly to be heard over the obnoxious engine.
"This doesn't exactly sound fixed." Jiyong pulled the glass pipe from the pile of napkins and papers from the permanently open compartment.
All Jinhwan did was shrug as he took the side streets across town. He kept his eyes on the road and took the pipe when it was offered to him, taking a long hit before handing it back.
"Thanks for the ride," Jiyong said as they pulled into the lot of the store.
"Don't worry about it. Just pay it forward." The younger shrugged, leaning over to better conceal the pipe in the glovebox.
Quickly, Jiyong made his way into the back of the building, clocking in just barely on time. He took his time putting his things into his locker, wanting to savour the moment before having to deal with stocking shelves and checking out countless items all while being asked if stuff was vegan or gluten-free. The answers were always on the packaging of the product if the customers would simply look. If only he could tell them that. He needed his job to badly to mouth off to customers or his boss like other employees did.
"You look thrilled to be here." A coworker remarked.
"I'm living the dream." He grumbled, shutting his locker.
His smock hung half off his shoulder as he made his way on to the floor. Carts of products that needed shelving were parked already at the end of isles. Taking a breath, he headed for the back of the store, the electronics section, which he knew best. Hopefully there would be enough to keep him busy until his break and he wouldn't have to do the other carts. Two carts half full were no such luck. Even working slowly, the electronics section would be restocked in an hour tops.
He was just barely starting on the first stack of CDs when he felt his phone buzzing in his back pocket. Without bothering to check to see if management was around, he pulled his phone from his pocket.
DARA MISSED CALL
Worried, he tossed the CDs he was holding back into the cart and went to the employee bathroom in the back. He was locking the door when the notification of a new message popped up. Quickly, he opened it.
"Ji...I think something is wrong. There's pain and blood...I'm going to the hospital. The Uber is on the way...I know you're working. But please call me back."
Pressing the call back button, he tore out of the bathroom, past the carts he was supposed to do, and for the staff room in the front of the store. His fingers shook as he punched in the code to get into the staff room.
"Where are you?" He demanded when his fiancé picked up.
"I'm in the Uber now. We're almost at the hospital. I called Bom and she is already working." She sounded like she was crying. "It's probably nothing--"
"I don't care. I'm leaving now. I'll meet you there."
"Jiyong. You're job. You can't miss anymore days. I shouldn't have called you. It's probably nothing."
"Or it could be something. i don't care about my job. I'll talk to my manager. Explain what's happening. He'll let me go." He wished he believe those words to be true. Putting his phone on speaker, he set it on the shelf in his locker and began gathering his things.
"Dara. I'm already leaving. I'll be there soon. Text me updates until I get there. I love you." With that, he hung up the line.
Moving fast, he clocked out and headed for his manager's desk, happy to see him there for once when he needed him. Attempting to speak slowly, he explained the situation and informed him that he was leaving whether he got permission or not. His manager nodded, wishing Jiyong the best, but that he would be written up for walking out again.
"I'll see you on Thursday, boss." He called over his shoulder as he left.
Chapter 2: When You Can't Sleep At Night
Here in this world I'm awake with mistakes
But it's love that keeps fueling me to love you
Miles away I can still feel you lay
You head down on my embrace
Dara was already changed into a hospital gown and sitting on a bed when Jiyong was finally shown to her temporary room. An IV was hooked into her arm and blood pressure cuff around her bicep. She looked much smaller and younger than she actually was lying against the pillows, even with her growing baby bump leaving a mound under the blanket. The moment Jiyong crossed into the room, she held her arms out to him.
"What did they say?" He asked, kneeling beside the bed and wrapping his arms around her.
"Barely anything." She whispered, burying her face in his shoulder. "They come in, take a few reads and don't even say anything to me."
"You're serious? What the fuck." He jumped to his feet so quickly he smashed his knee against the underside of the gurney. "You said Bom was working. Where is she? Why isn't she here? I'm going to find her."
"She's probably up in the maternity ward doing her job. Leave her alone."
"She needs to be here. She'll tell us what's really going on. Something could be really wrong with you or the baby and we're sitting here being ignored."
"Pitching a fit won't get anything except security called on your stupid ass."
Reluctantly, Jiyong pulled a chair over and sat down beside Dara, holding her hand gently, despite the anger that still boiled just below the surface. Sitting idle in the room made him feel completely helpless, especially seeing his fiancé so calm about the whole situation. Taking a breath, he rested his forehead against their intertwined fingers and attempted to accept the circumstances for what they were. Horrible. Moments later, he felt Dara's fingers through his hair. The simple gesture helped rather well in the ways of getting him to relax. Not to much later, he was calmed down enough to accept that they would simply have to wait until the doctor had time to see them. That making a scene wouldn't actually be any help. And that the longer they had to wait, the less urgent their situation was. Or at least that's what he told himself.
Nearly an hour later, two nurses entered, acting as if the young couple hadn't just been asleep in the bed. One of the nurses was pushing a wheelchair while the other explained that Dara was being moved up to the Labour and Delivery Ward. Jiyong watched, feeling as if he was in a dream, as the nurses helped his fiancé off the bed and into the wheelchair. He could see his own fear and confusion mirrored on her face as they wheeled her away. Quickly, he grabbed their belongings and ran to catch up.
As they rode the elevator up to the proper floor, the nurses explained that the bleeding and cramping that Dara was experiencing was her going into premature labour. There was still a possibility of the doctors being able to stop the birth for a few weeks, in hopes of giving the baby a high survival rate, they were told, but preterm labour was tricky, even more so when the cause seemed to be unknown.
Hanbin should have been studying, instead he was sleeping, when someone started pounding on the door. Kicking the covers off, he exited his room and stumbled to the door, cursing yet again having the room right beside the front door.
"Who is it?" He called out, trying to make his voice loud enough to be heard.
"Minzy. Open up."
With a sigh, he unlocked the door and started to open it, only to have it pushed open, knocking him back against the wall as his cousin pushed her way in. He shut the door against the cold night and locked it before following the angry blonde into the living room, where his grandparents sat with his little sister, watching some game show. Minzy was already yelling by the time he crossed into the room.
"Slow down, take a deep breath, and tell us calmly what happened." His grandmother said gently.
How Minzy managed to hear her was surprising, that she actually did as she was told was even more surprising.
"I'm stuck as the bad guy, again." She sat down on the couch and held her face in her hands. With the way her shoulders shook, it was clear she was crying.
"Binnie, take your sister upstairs and tuck her in." His grandfather told him with a stern look.
"Come on, kiddo." He scooped his little sister up off the carpet and climbed around the couch to get to the stairwell.
"Why is Minzy sad?"
"Who knows this time." He mumbled, closing the door to the small bedroom behind him as he entered.
As he gathered the toddler's pajamas, he tried to think to what the drama could be about this time. It was almost a weekly occurrence for Minzy or another one of his cousins to come knocking on the door, complaining about something, or looking for a place to stay for the night until whatever happened settled down. At times it was hard to keep straight what was happening. Who was pregnant, who was arrested, who was moving in with who and for what reason this time. The whole family was like a bad TV drama.
"Story?" the little girl asked as Hanbin tucked the faded pink sheets in around her.
"Tomorrow night." He promised, dropping a kiss on her forehead.
He made it downstairs just in time to hear Minzy yelling that she wasn't going back home as long as he was still living there. Hanbin wasn't entirely sure who he was. But he assumed that it was probably one of her sister's boyfriends.
"Please, grandma. Please can I stay here? I'll help with the housework and with Hanbin and Hanbyul."
Before he could stop himself, Hanbin scoffed. He was more than aware of what would happen if his cousin moved in. She would barely help around the house. She would do the bare minimum in the ways of caring for his little sister, and attempt to boss him around like she was his mother.
"What was that?" His grandfather gave him a pointed look.
"Sorry. Allergies." He lied quickly, wiping under his nose to make his lie more believable, not that he cared too much.
"You can sleep in your grandfather's room right now. We'll figure this out, sweetie. I promise. Go wash your face now, it'll help." His grandmother told Minzy.
As she left the room, his grandmother motioned him over to her. Gingerly, he made his way over and knelt in front of the elderly woman.
"Be nice." She told him, gently flicking his nose. "Remember how it was when you and Hanbyul moved in with us."
"That was completely different than this." He started to argue.
"How do you know? There are different ways to look at everything, Binnie."
Hanbin nodded like the good grandson he tried to be for her. With a small sigh, he rested his head on her lap in thought. Whenever she reminded him of that, he tried to see the situation from a different perspective. Right now, he was struggling to do so. All he could see was the downsides of having another person living in the already small house. If he tried hard enough, he could pretend that Minzy was actually going to follow through with the promise she had made. But no matter how hard he tried, at that moment, he didn't see it happening.
Chapter 3: Roger Rabbit
Some wanna see you crash and burn and criticize your every word
I'm trying to keep from going insane
Ain't that the way of this whole damn thing
Just trying to be something more
To say Bobby's apartment was nice would be a stretch. It was small and usually messy. His neighbors fought constantly and in the cold months a mouse always took up residence in his kitchen cupboards. His couch was falling apart at the seams, his bed never had sheets on it, and the only food he ever kept on hand was cup ramen. But it was his home nonetheless. The young male had worked his ass off to move out on his own and he was proud of his crappy apartment. The best thing about it was that he lived alone. No more having to share a bedroom with his younger brother, or sharing a single bathroom with four other people. Although, more often than not, he would come home to one of the twins waiting outside his door, complaining that Mom wasn't home and there was nothing to eat in the house. A sad reality that he tended to live in, even living alone he was the one responsible for taking care of his two younger siblings.
It was late when he was finally climbing the steps to his apartment. His backpack, stuffed with study aids, hung heavy on his back, making every step he took twice as strenuous. But the plus side of his closing shift at the restaurant, a bag of left over food in his hand. More than enough was stuffed into the plastic to go containers for a weeks worth of meals. Not surprisingly, Chanwoo was curled up in the corner beside his door, using his backpack as a pillow and his sweatshirt as a blanket.
"Get up." He gave the boy a gentle kick as he slid the key into the lock. "Where's Rosé?"
"Dunno. Junhoe's maybe." He scrambled to his feet, following his older brother into the apartment.
"Why didn't you go?" He tried not to sound too annoyed as he toed off his shoes and headed for the kitchen to put the food away.
"Wasn't invited." Chanwoo remarked, dropping his possessions into a heap on the floor before curling up on the sofa.
Bobby sighed, stuffing the bag of food into his shamefully empty fridge. Knowing his teen brother hadn't eaten yet, he grabbed a few things and began cooking. Nowhere near as nice as anything he had to cook at the restaurant, nothing even hard to cook. A quick stir-fry of meat, a few vegetables, and left over rice. Something anybody could cook for themselves. Or perhaps for their own children. Not that their mother did much of taking of the twins, even before Bobby moved out. Bobby had all been but raising his younger siblings since their father walked out and his mom started working more than she already did.
By the time he was finished cooking, he wasn't even hungry himself anymore he had worked himself into such a bad mood thinking about his parents. Stabbing a set of chopsticks into the bowl, he carried it into the living room and set it in front of his brother. The younger sat up and began eating without being told to. A question floated around in Bobby's mind, to worrisome for him to vocalize. At least the twins got fed at school; twice if they stayed over for extra activities.
Taking his phone from his pocket, he retreated to his bedroom and dialed Hanbin's number. It seemed like weeks since Bobby had seen his boyfriend, despite the blowjob that happened in the bathroom before Bobby went to work. When the younger finally answered, all that could be heard was telling in the background.
"What's up?" Hanbin's voice finally broke through the speaker after a door had been slammed shut.
"What's happening down there?" He asked, his own annoyance stifled by the sudden noise.
"Don't worry about it." He sighed loudly. "What's up? How was work?"
For a moment, Bobby hesitated, debating bitching about the shitty shift he was stuck working and the unexpected arrival of his brother or insisting that Hanbin talk about his problems.
"Do you need to come over?" He asked en lieu of giving a proper response. "You can yell if you need to. Or we can just get high and fuck."
"I don't know." He sighed again.
"Hanbin, what's going on?" He demanding, finding some authority left in his voice.
"Family stuff. It doesn't matter."
"Dumbass, how many times do I have to tell you, it matters to me. Everything about you matters to me. What's going on?" Knowing Hanbin couldn't see him, he rolled his eyes.
"You wouldn't understand."
"It's just....family drama."
"And I don't understand family drama?" He couldn't keep the bitter laugh from leaving his lips. "Come over and I'll prove you wrong."
"Yah! I don't wanna do this right now. I've got enough bullshit going on without you adding to it." The younger snapped. Even from his tone, Bobby could tell that his boyfriend was redfaced in anger.
"I'm...never mind. Forget I said anything. Take a breath. Everything is fine." He ran his hand through his dark hair, disgusted with the amount of grease he felt, and giving it a sharp tug. "Just come over. It'll help to be out of that house for a bit."
"I don't know."
"What's not to know? Get on your broad and come over. No grandparents, no Hanbyul, no whoever the fuck else is there. I've got weed and alcohol and a big dick that could use your ass on it right now. I'll even rub your shoulders like you like." He felt a little pathetic offering up bribes, but he knew both of them would benefit from the time spent together.
"...Yeah, I'll be right there Grandma!" the younger hollered. "I gotta go. I'll text you or something."
"Don't bother." Again, Bobby couldn't hide the bitterness in his voice.
"Yah! I just said I have enough bullshit without you piling on top. I don't have time for this."
"No. You never have time for me. It's obvious where I fall in your list of priorities." He snapped before he could stop himself.
"Is that really what you think?"
"It's hard not to when I rarely see you."
"I saw you earlier today."
"Because me dropping to my knees and you not even kissing me after is such amazing quality time."
"Fuck you. I'm done." Hanbin growled, before the line went dead.
"Fuck!" Bobby screamed, throwing his phone on to his bed and ramming his fist into the nearest wall. The paneling caved in around his hand, splintering the synthetic wood and scraping his hand in multiple places.
Pulling his hand out of the newly formed hole, he swore again. A few drops of blood fell from his hand, staining the carpet. Not that he cared at this point anymore. He knew for a fact that he wasn't getting his security deposit back.There were stains on the living room carpet from spilled food and multiple vomiting incidences from him and his siblings. There were a few other minor holes in his walls, the most notable was from Hanbin's shoulder when they were having drunk sex against the wall beside the front door. The bathroom door didn't even shut right anymore because he had to kick it in after his little sister locked herself in there crying for reasons he is still unsure about.
"Are you okay, hyung?" The meek voice of his little brother actually startling him out of his mad.
"I'm fine." He quickly hid his bloodied hand behind his back.
"Why is your hand bleeding then?" Even though Chanwoo stood a few inches taller than Bobby, he still looked so much younger standing in the doorway to the bedroom.
"Did you finish your food?" He asked in lieu of answering, not wanting to involve the teenager in his drama.
The younger's face didn't change from the look of concern as he nodded.
"Good. Finish your homework?"
"Good. Find something to change into and lie down. I'm gonna shower."
"Is Hanbin coming over or can I sleep in the bed with you?"
"I don't know if Hanbin is even mine anymore." He mumbled, walking into the bathroom.
Jiyong sat outside the hospital for hours, trying to get up the courage to go back inside. But inside the looming building was his wife and his premature child, relying on him to take care of them. How was he supposed to tell them that he had gotten fired earlier that day? No, not fired. He had been "let go due to excessive absences". A bullshit excuse if there ever was one. He was one of the hardest workers at that damn store and everybody knew it. Ever absence he had against him was documented properly and for a legitimate reason.
Lighting up yet another cigarette from his dwindling pack, he tried to convince himself that it was a good thing that he didn't work there anymore. No more jackass boss on his ass with every step he took while in the building, whether he was on the clock or not. No more crappy hours working from the second he was out of class to close so he hardly ever saw Dara. No more busting his ass for crap paychecks that barely paid the bills. No more paychecks period. At least now he would have the chance to get a real job. A job that he actually wanted. Something he would be good at. Or just a job would be good. Preferably before he had to go up to the infantile intensive care unit to see his daughter.
Far too quickly he felt the heat of the ember of his cigarette licking at his fingers and he knew he was out of time. Dara was probably growing worried waiting for him. Stubbing the ember out on the side of his shoe, he flicked the butt towards the gutter and headed inside.
Dara was sitting in a rocking chair beside the incubator their daughter lived in for the past week. Tubes and wires connected the small infant to various machines and monitors. Seeing his little girl fighting so hard broke his heart even more as he crossed the room.
"How's she doing?" He forced a smile as he knelt down in front of his fiance.
"The doctors say she is doing well. Her heartbeat is a lot stronger than it was. Look." She gestured to one of the monitors. Jiyong smiled, nodding as if he knew what the green lines on the monitor actually meant other than his child was in fact alive. At least Dara knew about all of this stuff. "I got to hold her for a few minutes today. I had one of the nurses take a picture." As she talked, she pulled her phone out of her sweatshirt pocket. "They had me change into a gown so they could lay her on my chest, apparently skin to skin contact is beneficial."
"Can I hold her?" He shifted his gaze to the incubator. The diaper his daughter wore, even thought it was made for premature infants, swallowed his fragile frame. She looked so breakable, he wondering if he touching her would cause damage.
"I'll ask a nurse when she comes back. How was work?" Reaching out, she began carding her fingers through his hair in a simple, yet loving gesture.
"Ask me again later." He sighed. "Have you thought any more on names?"
"I came up with Jirin earlier while I was holding her. I want her to grow up like you, smart and brave and never giving up, no matter what."
"So instead of G-Dragon, she'll be G-Unicorn." He laughed loudly at the thought of his daughter taking a similar nickname to his.
"What do you suggest then?"
"Chaerin. It sounds prettier and you can still have your little unicorn." He teased with a wide smile.
"Chaerin." Dara whispered, staring into the incubator. "A big name for such a small one to live up to."
"I think she'll wear it well." He smiled, feeling like a proud father at the thought of all she could become. "How are you feeling?"
"I've eased off the pain medication a lot. Going to the restroom hurts. Standing hurts. Sitting hurts. I still haven't found a comfortable position to sleep in. Not that I have really left this chair much today. Jiyong, I'm so scared to leave her alone. Even just to use the restroom. What if something happens while I'm gone and she isn't here when I get back?"
Jiyong looked up to see tears clinging to her lashes. "Listen to me and listen well. She is our daughter. She is a fighter. It is in her blood. There is no way she couldn't be fine with you and I as parents. I promise you." He rose to his feet, wrapping his arms tightly around her shoulders, holding her close.
The pair stayed like that until a nurse came in, checking on the infants. While she checked on their daughter, Jiyong asked if he could hold her. The nurse nodded and told him to have a seat and unbutton his shirt. Carefully, the nurse opened the incubator and lifted the sleeping infant into her hands, barely needing both hands to hold her properly. Easily, she situated the baby into Jiyong's arms and wrapped a blanket around her.
The second the small child was placed into his arms for the first time, his heart skipped a beat. She was as light as air and softer than he expected. He felt the wires and tubes and tape rub against his bare skin, but focused on the way Chaerin's fingers scraped at chest, tiny nails barely making a feeling. Dropping his head, he gently kissed the top of her head, her hair soft as down and smelling of baby lotion.
"She's...so..." He wasn't sure where the rest of that sentence was meant to be.
"I know she is." Dara whispered, smiling as she rose slowly from her chair.
Slowly, the female shuffled around to standing beside his hair.
"Dara...I got fired today." He mumbled, tears rolling down his cheeks before he could stop them.
"Please don't make me say it again." He kept his head down and his voice low, ashamed to look his fiance in the face.
"What are we gonna do now? How much do we have in our savings? Enough until you get another job? I can't go back to work now, Ji. Not with her like this. She needs me here."
"We have some. I'll make it work until I get a new job. Don't worry about anything but taking care of Chaerin and getting yourself healthy again. I'll worry about everything else. It'll be okay. I promise."
"You better be right. We're already on government support."
"We'll be fine. I'll get unemployment for a while if I have to. Anything to take care of my girls." He felt his pride shatter a little more at the thought of getting more help from the government. He had to remind himself that it was for the better of his family, that his pride would need to take the hit to make sure the people he cared for were okay.
Chapter 4: Dollhouse
Picture, picture, smile for the picture
Pose with your brother, won't you be a good sister
Everyone thinks that we're perfect
Please, don't let them look through the curtains
June was used to being alone. Far too used to it. He was an only child of an only parent who was hardly ever around. Alone was nothing new to him. Most of his childhood, he spent trying to convince his father to let him get some kind of pet, simply something to keep him company so he wouldn't be alone all the time. But every time he brought it up, his father said that their apartment didn't allow pets. It wasn't until high school that he finally had friends he could spend time with. Now, most of his day, when he wasn't at school, was spent with one of his limited number of friends. Either Jinhwan, a senior he met in choir his freshman year that he grew very close with, and the twins, Rose and Chanwoo, also choir friends, but they were his age. He had a few other people he saw in the hallways, but most of the people he sat with at lunch had graduated and gone on with their lives, too busy to be stuck babysitting a high school kid who had abandonment issues. That was why he was so grateful that he had Jinhwan. The elder always seemed to be there for him when he needed him. Even to the point of feeding him and letting him sleep on his couch.
As he showered off the stink of having to run laps in gym class, he debated calling Jinhwan, even just to hang out for a few hours. The silence in the small apartment was already beginning to get to him. By the time he finished showering, he had convinced himself that it was a bad idea, that he had bugged his hyung far too much already in the past week, spending nearly every night over at his apartment. The last thing that June ever wanted to be, especially to the few people he had, was a burden. If that meant he had to spend time by himself, then that's what he would do.
After he was dressed, he searched though the kitchen, disappointed, yet not surprised, to find that it was basically empty. His father was a minimalist eater, surviving mostly off of things he bought at the convicence store on his way to work and leaving a few 1000 KWR on the counter every few days so June could fend for himself. Sadly, the counter was void of all money, forcing him to eat whatever was left in the house. In the back of the cupboard, he found a package of questionably old ramen and put a pot of water on the stove for his meager supper. In the freezer, he found a few fishcakes covered in ice and in the fridge was an almost empty jar of kimchi and a bottle of beer. He took all of those things, figuring he'd need the drink to help choke down the meal.
The television provides background noise of some old cartoon he used to watch, as he stood on the small balcony overlooking the city. His bowl of ramen and bottle of beer are balanced on the metal railing. Steam wafted from the bowl, making his stomach growl and beg for him to eat. Instead he picked up the bottle and took a long drink. He couldn't help the face he made as he swallowed. The boy only ever drank with Jinhwan and the older always mixed their beers with soju. The taste of beer alone wasn't something that June had really ever tasted before. Taking another drink, he decided that he only liked to drink beer when it was mixed with soju. Even without the soju, he would finish the beer in hopes of getting a little bit of a buzz for the loneliness wouldn't be so gut wrenching. Eventually, he picked up his chopsticks and began eating.
From their eighth floor apartment, he could see most of the surrounding neighborhood. Which is his main reason for spending so much time standing on the sad excuse for a balcony. His father may work horrible third shift hours, but he made enough money to keep them living in a decent neighborhood. A lot of people wandered the streets of their neighborhood. A few people went running at night, others walked their pets. Most of the time, he looked into the other apartments could see into, watching others live their lives. Right across the street from them lived two sisters. It was only their living room that he could see into, but they both spent a lot of time dancing the choreography of the top songs of that week. Two doors across from them lived a large, balding man who enjoyed yoga in his underwear in the early hours of the morning. One floor above him lived a couple who never shut their balcony door in the summer and sometimes would get very loud, may it be yelling or having sex. He never saw fully into their apartment, but he could see them on their balcony, which was covered in potted plants. Neighbor watching was his favourite past time. He really enjoyed seeing how other people lived, since he really had nothing to do once he finished his homework. Chanwoo often suggested playing Overwatch or even Elder Scrolls, saying more than once, that they were a great way to pass time. Rose told him to teach himself how to play an instrument. Then there was Jinhwan, who said that his door was always open if he needed it. June even knew where the elder kept his spare key. While the twins suggestions were great for passing time, he sucked at video games, mainly using his Xbox as a fancy way to watch televison as he tired to sleep and he had no desire to play an instrument, or the patience to teach himself. If he had his own way, he would stay at Jinhwan's most nights, if not all night. If he didn't have the irrational thought of being a burden on the older, he would have.
Maybe if he got a job after school things wouldn't be so bad. Then he would be able to move in and help Jinhwan pay rent or something so he wouldn't be completely freeloading.
Smoke filled his small bedroom, making it difficult for him to see whatever he had decided on watching before he lit his large glass pipe. Jinhwan laughed to himself, wishing he had the power to open the door without getting up. Just for the sake of clearing the room enough to see the screen again. He never intended to hotbox his room, but he was never one to leave a piece half packed. So he smoked until it was gone. And when he packed one of his larger bowls, a large amount of smoke was bound to happen. It would settle soon enough and his neighbors never complained about the smell, seeing as he supplied them with the same stuff that he smoked. It took him a few moments to realize that the ringing sound he was hearing wasn't in his head or on the screen, but actually his phone ringing.
"I told you you don't have to call every time you want to come over." He teased, thinking it was June who had called him, wanting to come over.
"I need you to come get me." Hanbin's voice was shaky and full of anger. The unusual combination was enough to bring Jinhwan down a few notches. It wasn't often that Hanbin sounded like he did, even rarer was him calling Jinhwan for help. Usually it was Bobby who dealt with his drama.
"Okay. I'm getting my shoes on now. What happened?"
"Just come get me. Please, hyung. I'm at the elementary school."
"The fuck are you doing there?" He asked, stuffing his feet into a random pair of shoes.
"I needed to get out of there."
"What happened?" He opened his bedroom door, not even stopping to appreciate the small avalanche of smoke that flowed out with him.
"I.....I don't know. There was so much yelling I don't even know what started it. Then everyone was in my face and I think I hit Grandpa and then Seunghyun is threatening to rip my head off, and Hanbyul is crying and hitting on him and Grandma is yelling at all of us. I just had--" The younger's voice broke and suddenly he was choking as sobs filled the line.
"Yo, breath, little one. I'm on my way. I'm in my car now." He slid his key into the ignition, making the beater roar to life. "Just take a deep breath. You're okay...do you hear me?"
He turned on to the main street, relieved when he heard Hanbin attempt to take a proper breath. He still heard sobbing, followed by sounds that he assumed were the younger beating up on presumably a dumpster. He pushed harder on the gas pedal, barely slowing down at stop signs. Hanbin's house was close to his, only a ten minute drive if he happened to stop completely at all the stop signs and red lights. The elementary school was only a few extra minutes away. He hung up the phone when he turned on to the correct street. The second the school was in sight, he began scanning the grounds for his friend. The young was on the far edge of the playground, repeatedly hitting the metal dumpster.
Jinhwan barely had his car in park before he was out of the vehicle and racing across the blacktop. He tugged on the younger's shirt, pulling him away and taking a fist to the jaw in process. A swear fell from his lips and he shoved the larger as hard as he could, sending him tumbling on to the ground.
"What the fuck! You're gonna break your hand!" He screamed, kicking Hanbin in the side.
All the young did in response was open his mouth and let out a scream Jinhwan wasn't aware that Hanbin was capable of making. The sound was so loud and unexpected he almost covered his ears. Soon enough, he ran out of breath, his scream dying with a strangled sound. A string of swears filled the air in less time than it took for Hanbin to be able to catch his breath.
"Are you finished yet?" Jinhwan asked, staring down at the the man on the ground once he was panting for breath.
"Fuck!" He screamed, kicking his feet like a child for a second.
"Okay. Now let me see your hand." He knelt down on the blackstop and picked up Hanbin's dominate hand. Gently he began feeling over the bruising knuckles.
"Shit." He inhaled sharply, jerking his hand away.
All Jinhwan did was nod and grab his hand pack, probing the same area that caused the other to pull away. "I don't think it's broken. Probably just fractured."
"Great. Just fucking great. Like I don't have enough bullshit going on without this too."
"I'll tape it up for you later. Just tell me what the fuck happened that caused this."
"I don't even know, hyung." Hanbin sighed, pulling his hand away to cradle it to his chest. With his uninjured hand, he pushed himself up to a sitting position. "Everyone was over and--"
"Who is everyone?"
"Everyone is everyone. Minzy moved in a few days ago, so she is always there now. A few cousins were over cause Grandma cooked dinner and...just everyone." He sighed, running a hand over his face. "I don't even know. I went to take some plates into the kitchen and when I came back Tae kept insisting that I was sitting in his seat. I put my feet up to keep him from sitting on me and tried to push him off me. That's when Grandpa started yelling at all of us to calm the fuck down and shut the fuck up. Which got Grandma scolding him for yelling when children are around. So I shoved Tae off me and he fell to the floor. And you know how much a diva Tae can be and he started acting like he was really hurt and all this other bullshit. So everyone turns at me and then sudden Auntie is holding on to Seunghyun's arm as he's screaming about ripping my head off. And Hanbyul is beating on his leg, threatening him for threatening me. Then Grandpa steps in and he starts shoving at both of us and I don't know....I think I hit him. The next thing I know, Grandpa is holding on to Seunghyun for balance and I'm pushing past everyone just to get the fuck out of the house. Then I just started running."
"Yo, Bin. Breath. You're seriously worked up over nothing right now. Families fight. You'll be fine soon." Jinhwan sighed, putting a hand on Hanbin's shoulder. "Why'd you call me? Where's Bobby?"
Again, Hanbin opened his mouth and a scream tore through the air. All the older could do was roll his eyes. Whatever happened between the couple wasn't anything he could even attempt to solve. The pair was good when they were good and not when they were not. Something their entire group of friends had come to accept way back in high school, before the two had even got together. Bobby had pined after Hanbin for months before the two finally started dating. After that it seemed like every few weeks the young couple was fighting and threatening to break up.
"Get up." The older ordered, climbing to his feet.
"Just leave me here to die...it's not like I'll be able to go home any time soon. If Seunghyun doesn't kill me, Grandma sure as hell will." He mumbled, lying back down on the ground.
"I didn't say you were going home. Get up. You can stay with me. We'll smoke and figure out what to do in the morning. Now let's go. It's freezing out here and you're not wearing a jacket."
"When did you become my mom?"
"Your mom offers to get you high?"
"Why do you think I live with my grandparents?"
"...Let's go before the cops drive by. I've got two blunts in my pocket and a couple grams back in my car."
Chapter 5: Disasterology
If you come over tonight
We can travel though time
We can sleep on the ceiling
And creep under black lights
Dara was released from the hospital almost a month ago, a mere three days after Chaerin was born. The doctors gave her orders to take it easy while she healed up properly, to drink and get plenty of rest. None of those orders were followed by the new mother. She spent every second she was allowed to beside her daughter's incubator, learning from the nurses what machines did what and why. How to change a premature baby's diaper. How to properly bathe them and feed the ones who could take a bottle, even changing a feeding tube and oxygen tube, seeing as Chaerin had both. More often than not, she fell asleep in the rocking chair beside the incubator until Jiyong came in from whatever he was doing that day.
Every time she woke up to see her wonderful fiance she hoped that he was bringing her good news, just as he was hoping the same from her. Together they would venture down to the cafeteria and share a meal as well as the stories of their days. Dara would talk about what she got to do in the NICU and how well their daughter was doing, even if all she had done was gain the most minuscule amount of weight or gave off what looked like a smile. Jiyong would share how his classes were going and where he put in applications.
"Any luck on jobs?" Dara dared to ask when Jiyong didn't bring it up as they finished their bibimipab.
"I had an interview at WABCO, that factory just outside of town. It looks promising. I've got a follow up scheduled for tomorrow." He sighed, setting his chopsticks down.
"Ji...I know it's not what you want to do but it's a job and we're desperate. We don't know if we got approved for more help from the government, or if it will even be enough to cover what we need--"
"I know!" He shouted, slamming his hand down on the table so hard the trays jumped. "I know." He closed his eyes and took a slow breath, trying to calm himself. "It's a third shift position and I'm already missing enough of our daughter's life between classes and looking for a fucking job. I'll miss everything entirely if I take this position."
"It'll just be until you find a better job. One that will work with you and where you can see us." Tentatively, Dara reached across the table and laced her finger's with his. "It won't be for long. If it'll make you feel better, I can talk to my old boss and see about getting my cashier job back. Chaerin doesn't need me here as often as I am. The nurses do most of the work. All I do really is hold her occasionally."
"No. She needs you here. She needs to know that we care about her and are fighting just as hard as she is. I'll take the WABCO job and keep looking even after I'm hired on."
Dara raised their intertwined hands to her lips and gently kissed his knuckles. "I'm proud of you, Jiyong. Everything you are doing for our little family is more than I could have ever hoped for when we learned we were pregnant."
Jiyong couldn't stop himself from laughing at the memory from simply a few months ago. The little blue lines had changed their lives so much. Suddenly they weren't just two kids fooling around anymore. It would have been different if they had been trying to have a baby, or were at least more prepared than they had been. They were living paycheck to paycheck, spending more money than they probably should have on partying and drinking. For the next few months the two scrambled trying to get their lives together, and worrying if they had caused their baby damage due to their unknown carelessness. They still weren't fully prepared for their daughter when she arrived. The crib still wasn't assembled, they had no diapers and very little in the ways of baby clothes. Just a few cute onesies and footie pajamas Dara had found while shopping with Bom.
"We still have so much we need to do." She sighed with a sad smile, resting their hands on the table. "And so much to get."
"I've got it under control. Don't you worry." He grinned.
"I don't like that look in your eyes, Kwon Jiyong. What are you hiding from me?"
"Nothing too devious. Actually nothing devious. Hanbin brought over a ton of his little sister's clothes. Bobby came over and we built the crib and set up the nursery last night. It may be a little out there, but we were smoking while we did it."
"You decorated without me?" She pouted cutely.
"No. Just painted the walls the colour we picked and put everything together. There are a few surprises, but you'll have to see them for yourself. I think you'll like them."
"How do you live?" Rose teased, slamming the fridge door shut.
"Poorly." June laughed from where he was perched beside the sink.
"I need to take you food shopping. And maybe teach you how do do your laundry." She plucked at his dingy white shirt, right below an unidentified set in stain.
"I can do laundry. My clothes are clean and teacher has never scolded me about the condition of my uniform before." He defended himself, crossing his arms in attempts to hide the stain.
"I'll teach you how to do it properly. Your white clothes are supposed to be white. Not grey." She laughed, taking his hand and tugging him off the counter. "Get your wallet, we're going food shopping and we'll have a proper supper."
June couldn't stop his smile as he was led out of his apartment. The air was growing colder with each passing day, making the two hug their jackets around themselves tightly and hurry towards the bus stop. They took a spot standing beside the door, as the market was only a few blocks away. Easily within walking distance if the wind wasn't so fierce.
June enjoyed when he got to spend time with Rose. Lately she had been preoccupied in her own little world, leaving him out in the cold. What she did was still a mystery to him, but she was always the same perky, bubbly personality he had met on the first day of grade one all those years ago. The complete opposite of her twin brother. Chanwoo was quiet and only got loud around those he knew and liked. It was Rose, who introduced the two boys and kept insisting that they would be friends because they both likes Power Rangers. After many forced interactions on the playground and the trio became good friends and practically inseparable ever since.
Once at the market, June leaned heavily on the cart, pushing while Rose filled the basket with various foods. If he was shopping he would have gotten a bunch of cup ramen and some rice and kimchi and tofu and called it a day. She added so many things he never would have thought of. Fresh veggies, frozen fish cakes, eggs, dried squid, spices and seasonings he was actually grateful for, hot pepper paste, rice cakes, sweet potato noodles instead of any form of cup ramen, and plenty of bottles of water and juice.
"I don't know how to cook." He whined, pushing the cart towards the checkout lanes.
"I got you somple things to make. You need to start eating really foods, Junhwe. You're skin and bones. Look things up online that don't involve naked women sometime." She scolded.
"I don't do that." He defended himself, his cheeks burning red.
"Naked men then. I don't judge." She smirked, lowering her voice as they elderly lady began scanning their items.
"I hate you." He groaned, gathering up the bags.
Rose blew him a kiss, taking a few bags herself. Quickly as he could be without seeming rude, he paid for their items and rushed for the front of the store. From the look on her face, it was clear the checker had heard them and was judging their conversation, no doubt muttering about inappropriate and crude youths like most elderly tended to do.
Rose laced her arm through one of June's, tucking her chin into her scarf as they walked down the street. They were about half way back to his apartment building when she took a sudden turn and pulled them into a corner shop.
"I want a coffee. It's too cold outside not to have one right now." She shivered as the door chimed, letting everyone know they were there. "Don't worry. They are on me. Americao right?"
He nodded, taking the bags from her hand. He stood awkwardly by the door, wishing he could scroll through his phone or even simply push hid hood off his head as he waited. But if he set the heavy bags down, he wouldn't want to pick them back up. The longer he stood waiting, the more the awkward feeling rose, making his heat pound and him begin to sweat. Alone in public was not something he particularly enjoyed. Small talk and simple interactions between strangers was not something he excelled in. While nobody was talking to him, he felt completely out of place only standing there.
"Don't look so uncomfortable. Someone will think there is a bug biting your bum." Rose teased, walking over with their coffees. "I already added your sugars to it."
Easily, she tucked one of the cups into the crook of her arm and took her bags back. June stretched his fingers before taking the cup and exiting the building.
"What are you gonna cook tonight?"
"I'm teaching you how to make tteokbokki. Chanwoo can even make it, so you'll be fine. And the recipie can be changed just a little bit and you'll be eating a different meal every day. Rice or noodles instead of rice cakes. Pork belly instead of fish cakes. Or tofu instead. Soybean paste instead of hot pepper paste. Ooh, that would be really good." She continued to babble on about variations that could be made as they finished their walk.
June took it upon himself to put the groceries away until his friend began cooking their supper. Mainly he didn't want to have to try to cook for both of them and watch her pretend his failure of an attempt at dinner was good. He would try to remember what she did and save the cooking for when only he had to eat the end result.
"Make sure this doesn't bubble over. I'll be right back." Rose giggled, handing over the spoon as her signature MBLAQ ringtone came from her phone.
He had to admit, the smells wafting out of the pan were making his mouth water more than it had in a long while. Now if only his recreation was half as good he would be set. He chuckled at the thought, stirring the not yet bubbling sauce. He couldn't help but be a somewhat good mood, having one of his best friends over. It had been far too long for his liking since they had spent time just the two of them. Outside of school and choir meetings anyway. But he wasn't exactly sure if that counted. It wasn't the same when they were studying together or even when everyone was playing around in the choir room before the meeting officially started than it was being in an out of school environment.
"June, I gotta go. Something came up." She spoke up as she exited the bathroom. It was clear she was trying to conceal her smile as she grabbed her coat and her backpack.
"But...the food isn't even finished cooking yet...and...I don't know how to make this." He tried to think of an excuse to get her to stay.
"Something came up. The food is ready once it reaches a boil. And look. It's boiling." She took the spoon and pulled a rice cake from the pot, giving it a tentative bite. "Extremely hot, but perfect. Just like a vendors. If you want them softer, let it boil a little longer."
June couldn't keep the pout off his lips.
"You're cute when you pout." She pinched his cheek. "You'll be fine, June. You're here alone all the time. If you really don't wanna be alone that badly, call Chanwoo. Tell him you've got food and he'll be right over." She stepped into her shoes and buttoned her coat. "I'll text you later."
June watched as she closed the door behind her. He switched off the stove and headed to the balcony. He could see on to the street below. It was easy to spot dyed orange hair and baby blue coat as she dashed across the street. He watched her slid into someone's car. He couldn't keep the jealously at bay as he watched the car drive off. He didn't have a clue who could have been behind the wheel of the car. Only a select few people in their year had their drivers licenses and none of them could have had a car that nice. Not that it was brand new car. But it was nicer than anyone at their school would have.
Dejectedly, he served himself a bowl of tteokbokki and sat down on the couch, playing the movie he had already queued up for them to watch. It was some goofy movie they had seen so many times they could quote along with the actors. Part of him thought about calling Chanwoo, but his energy was suddenly gone. It was already enough of an effort to eat his food.
Chapter 6: Drown
CHAPTER WARNINGS: Mentions of abuse
It comes in waves I close my eyes
Hold my breath and let it bury me
I'm not okay and it's not alright
Won't you drag the lake and bring me home again
Jiyong enjoyed the nights the most, after the day had long since been finished and he and Dara were home. Some nights they would make food together, like they used to do when they first moved in together. Other nights they would be too exhausted to do much of anything except fall into bed. Tonight they were upstairs, working on the nursery. Both of their parents had told them that it would be better if they all stayed in the same room, like families used to do in their generation. But the young couple thought that it would be best for their little family for them to adapt the modern setting of separate rooms. Although, a simple fabric crib that could be unzipped into a play mat was already set up in the corner of their room.
Jiyong had moved a few lamps into the room and taken the shades off, casting as much light as possible into the room so Dara could paint the walls how she wanted. He and Bobby had already painted the walls the pale yellow he and Dara had decided on not too long ago. Now he easily sat back in the second hand arm chair they had put in the room, watching Dara paint cute animals and designs on various spots on the walls. A little pink monster above the light switch. A green snake slithering around the window frame. A fluffy white and blue dog beside the crib as well as a fat grey and white cat in a top hat. She even painted chibi versions of Jiyong and herself in one of the corners with enough space in between them to add a painting of Chaerin once she was older.
He had his homework in his lap and his textbook balanced on the arm of the chair, but he couldn't stop staring at the women he fell in love with back in high school. Even with everything they had been though together, he was still floored by everything about her. Her beauty, her strength, her confidence, and courage, how amazing she looked even when she was being lazy. Her hair was tied up in some strange bun on the top of her hair, with strands falling out all over the place. Her leggings were old and faded. The shirt she wore was actually one of his and hung off her frame. Her feet were bare and her toenails needed repainted. She had a few platters of paint on her face and in her hand, as well as all over her hands. As she painted, she bopped along to the music playing quietly from the speakers on top of the small dresser they had got at the same second hand store at the chair he sat in. But that's what he loved most about her. When she didn't try to be anything but herself.
"I love you, noona." He spoke up with an obvious smile.
Dara turned around, a confused smile playing on her lips. "I love you too...weirdo."
"You look really pretty." He set his work aside and stood up. "Even prettier than the day I met you."
"Don't lie to me." She laughed, swiping the small wet paint brush across his cheek, leaving a bright blue streak on his face.
"I would never lie." He laughed, grabbing at her brush.
Dara moved quickly, flitting out of his reach. He chased after her, grabbed her around the waist and easily lifting her off the ground. She laughed loudly, the sound like music to Jiyong's ears. He spun her around, biting gently as her neck. She continued to laughed, attempting to swap him again with her paintbrush. She managed to get him a few times, putting blue blobs into his hair.
"Ji, put me down. I'm still a little sore." She told him, still giggling as she was returned to the carpeted floor.
He apologized, giving the mark he left on her neck a tender kiss.
"Don't start what you can't finish." She held the paintbrush at him in a threatening manner, but the smile on her lips said otherwise.
Before Jiyong could answer, a pounding sounded from their front door.
"Is that is the ahjushi from next door complaining that we're too loud again, I swear I'm throwing a brick through his window." Dara growled, following Jiyong to the stairs.
"Wait here." He told her, just in case. It was late after all and nobody ever came knocking in the middle of the night for a good reason. "Who is it?" He called, keeping the door shut and locked.
"Oppa!" An all too familiar voice cried.
"Jennie?" He mumbled, unlocking the door. What was she doing at his door so late?
The second the door was open, his younger sister was flying into his arms, holding tightly to him as she sobbed into his shoulder. He wrapped his arms protectively around her, pulling her further into the house so he could shut and re-lock the door. The small girl sank to the ground as her sobs grew worse.
"Jennie-ah. What happened?" He asked, kneeling down beside her. He gathered her into his arms again, getting a look at her.
Half of her face was swollen and beginning to bruise dark purple and red around her eye. Her nose had blood dried under it down to her chin.
"I'm gonna kill him. I'm going to rip his throat out for ever laying a hand on you." He seethed, his hands clenching into fists at his side. "Where the hell is Umma when all this is happening?!"
Jennie couldn't answer, just breaking down into another round of sobbing, covering her face with her hands.
Dara flew down the stairs and dropped to her knees beside the distressed girl. "You're okay now. We've got you. You're safe here." She whispered into the younger's ear, giving Jiyong a look to tell him to calm down.
He took a deep breath, wrapping his arms around both of them. "You're staying here tonight."
"Come on, little one. I'll help you clean up." Dara rose to her feet, helping Jennie up as well.
Jiyong stood at the door, trying to keep himself at bay while he listened to his fiance draw his little sister a bath. He could her hear singing and shushing the distressed girl. The thought soothed him slightly, knowing that someone could care for his sister, cause clearly it wouldn't be their mother. Who preferred to hide behind alcohol while her husband beat her children. That abusive bastard was the reason Jiyong moved out once he was legally old enough to, despite still being in high school. He tired his best to care for his little sister while she stayed at home, and for a while things seemed good. Their stepfather for whatever reason had calmed down and Jennie didn't have any more bruises. Their mom even stopped drinking for a while. He prayed that this was a rare occurrence and things wouldn't get to the way they used to be.
"I don't care, Ma. They are your kids not mine." Bobby said as calmly as he could muster.
"You've never minded when they stayed with you before." His mother retorted, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
"I'm not gonna turn them away. They are seventeen and someone needs to take care of them. It needs to be you. You're their mother." He pointed out, picking at his food, despite his lack of appetite. It wasn't often that his mother invited him back home for dinner. Although, the new man at the table was clearly the reason for it.
"You've always done such a good job with them." She praised with a smile.
"Because Dad walked out and you were always working or getting drunk." He snapped, his patience almost completely gone. The woman always asked too much of him, money because she was short, a ride places because she missed the bus, the countless times she had left the twins with him growing up, even after he moved out they were always around because she wasn't.
"That's no way to talk to your mother." Boyfriend Number Whatever spoke up. This one was clean shaven, nicely dressed, and had all his teeth and a hair cut that fit his age. Ma must have been with him for the money he made. And judging by the quality of his watch, was a nice amount.
"Who do you think you are?" He growled, turning to the older man, not caring that he was being rude. He had been through this same situation too many times to count. "You think you're here to fix us? Play nice with the pretty lady and her family? Gonna be our new Daddy? Get in line. You're not the first suit to walk into this house and try to boss me around."
"Bobby, I'm not here to try to be anything but a friend to you and the twins."
He couldn't stop rolling his eyes. He had heard that before, from the guy who tried to sneak into Rose's half of their shared bedroom.
"More like my moms friends." Chanwoo snorted, making a crude gesture.
"Yah. Knock it off." He smacked his little brother in the head, no where near as hard as he would have if he didn't agree.
"Can't we just have a nice family supper?" His mother spoke up as Boyfriend scolded Bobby for hitting Chanwoo and Chanwoo for being crude.
"Fuck you. He's my brother. You have no authority to tell him or me what to do." He snapped, stabbing his bamboo chopsticks into his bowl so hard one of them cracked.
Rose jumped, grabbing Chanwoo's hand for comfort.
"Bobby!" His mother gasped.
"Fuck you too." He turned to his mother. "More worried about getting off than taking care of your kids."
"I'm gonna have to ask you to leave." The man said, standing up from the table. Bobby stood up as well, glaring at the man.
"Now, sweetie. Bobby has his father's temper. No need to be rash. Let's just sit down and finish out supper." His mother sounded desperate.
Boyfriend reached out, putting a hand on Bobby's shoulder, presumably to escort him to the door. Instantly, Bobby knocked the hand away and punched the man in the stomach.
"Bobby! Stop it! You're ruining this!"
"What? You're new bank account? Or this family? Oh, wait. That was already fucked." He snapped, turning on his heel to face his family. He would have continued shouting everything that he had been holding in for years, if his gaze hadn't falling on his little sister, cowering in her twin's arms as tears rolled down her cheeks. His anger didn't leave, simply the urge to protect his siblings became stronger. He crossed over to them, dropping a kiss on both of their heads before telling them quickly that they knew where he was before leaving the house all together.
Halfway down the block he pulled his coat on and retrieved the pack of cigarettes from his pocket. His hands were still shaking from anger as he lit up and took a long drag. The urge to call Hanbin and take comfort in the younger's bed was almost unbearable. Only the thought of their own argument still lingered in the back of his mind, and the way the younger avoided him on campus, were enough to keep him from reaching for his phone. Instead he began the walk towards Jinhwan's apartment. He needed a blunt.
Chapter 7: Dial Tones
So take your caution or take your chances
I'll mend your heart and break it in the same breath
All we ever share is dial tones
Hanbin liked his job. Four six hours a day after class most days he was away from the bullshit that was his family. He got to interact with other people and they actually listened to him, most of the time...when they asked him a question like where the rice cakes were. Most of the time he worked at the registers, where he preferred to be. He didn't have many responsibilities there, which is why he enjoyed it so much. At home, he had a list of chores like a child parents tried to keep out of trouble. Maybe that's what his grandparents were trying to do, so he wouldn't turn out like either of his parents. Dad was in jail and had been since Mom was pregnant with Hanbyul and Mom was a bit of a drunk who wasn't grown up enough to take care of her own children.
Even though Hanbin made it his goal in life to not end up like his parents, the seemingly endless his of chores that his grandparents had for him didn't keep him from having a life of his own. He had been sneaking out, drinking and smoking--both pot and cigarettes--since he was in high school. When Bobby moved out, he stay the night over there so often his grandparents assumed he was moving out for a while. When he finally became of age and got a job, those things just became easier for him to do. He had a large group of friends who all had endless worries they wanted to escape from with various questionable means of doing so.
When things got slow at the grocery store, Hanbin would study. His boss hated when he would stand around doing nothing, and since the register always had to have someone behind it during business hours, studying was the best thing to do. His boss actually approved of it, praising Hanbin more than once at his good work ethic, both on the job and in the classroom. He was halfway through his literature assignment when someone approached his counter.
"You've got a personal call. Make it quick." His manager told him.
Hanbin rolled his eyes and headed for the office. The manager was his age and the boss's daughter. Ever since she learned that Hanbin preferred guys to girls she had been trying to act more and more superior towards him to cover up for the fact that before she got promoted she used to flirt with him like it was an Olympic sport.
"Hello?" He picked up the old fashioned corded phone on the desk in the office.
"What time are you off tonight?" Minzy asked, sounded a little frantic.
"You seriously called me at work to ask when I'm off?" He tried to keep his voice down as he snapped at his cousin. "I'm not supposed to be taking personal calls. You could have just texted me and I would have answered you on--"
"Hush up. Grandma is in the hospital." She spoke over him. "Grandfather went with her in the ambulance. I'm going to be taking the car down there in a minute and I need to drop Hanbyul off with you. She can't come right now. She's too little."
"Wait...what?" He sat on the edge of the desk as his head started spinning. Grandma. Hospital. Ambulance.
"I already spoke to your boss. She said Hanbyul could stay behind your register with you as long as she is quiet."
"What happened with Grandma? Is she okay? Do I need to leave work?"
"She said she was having trouble breathing and that cough of hers sounds a lot worse than it normally does. Grandfather had been keeping an eye on her for a while and when she said her chest was hurting he dialed 119 and they came to take her to the hospital."
"I'll keep you updated with texts. I promise. I'll be down in a few minutes with Hanbyul."
"Okay." Was all he could say, despite the dial tone already sounding in his ear.
He sat on the edge of the desk for another moment, phone still to his ear as he tired to process everything that was just said. The woman who spent the better part of his life caring for him was...on her way to the hospital for some greater reason that even his cousin couldn't say for sure. For all they knew she could be dying or worse. And he was expected to sit at work and ring up people groceries while watching his little sister. What gave Minzy the right to go with them to the hospital? Because she was older? That didn't matter. He was old enough to go now. He had his identification card. He was legally an adult.
"I'll keep you updated. I promise." Minzy promised as she handed Hanbyul's Totoro backpack to Hanbin over the counter.
He was still a little unsure of how he ended up behind his register again or when he actually hung up the phone. But that didn't really seem to matter. His manager kept walking by giving him concerned looks as he stood there, holding his toddler sister on his hip, watching his cousin leave in a hasty manner. Everything nerve in his body told him to talk to his manager and convince her to let him leave early for family emergency. The only thing stopping him was one of his Grandma's endless sayings.
What would you be doing now if this hadn't happened?
A phrase she often spoke after something bad or unexpected came up. It was what she told his aunt when she was waiting for her husband to get out of surgery. It was what she told Habin been so many times over the years. When his father left, the first time he and Bobby broke up, when Hanbyul was ill and in the hospital with a bad fever. It made him stop and think and set things in order before doing something irresponsible. Anybody else and he would have rushed off. But his grandma was already stressed about enough worry about herself without scolding him for being rash. All he would be doing was sitting in the waiting room with Grandfather and Minzy anyway.
He bent down, setting Hanbyul on the ground and began setting her up for the next few hours until his shift was over. He was actually a little surprised that Minzy had packed the young girl's backpack so well. Colouring books, picture books, a few dolls, and a verity of snacks filled the knapsack. He spread out her blanket and gave her a juice box and told her to play as someone approached the counter. Forcing a smile, he attempted to focus on work. When nobody was at his register, he would go back to his homework, but not before checking his phone for updated messages.
By the time his shift ended, he was relaxed a little, reassured that Grandma was now settled in a room and had been checked out by a few doctors who thought she had pneumonia. Along with all the normal notifications from his SNS and other friends. Donghyuk had sent a few photos to the group chat, probably just of him smoking a fat blunt or of a new glass piece he got, based on Jinhwan and June's responses of mainly laughing emojis. He was going to check it out and make some comment, but seeing Bobby's groupchat nickname stirred up a longing in his chest and he ignored the group entirely. Let Bobby have them right now. He had more important things to deal with. The first being his sister asleep on the floor. He gathered up her and her things, as well as his own and headed for the bus stop.
Instead of transferring buses to go home, he boosted Hanbyul up in his arms and headed across the street. The hospital Grandma was staying at was only a few city blocks away. He wouldn't be able to sleep tonight until he saw her.
"Binne. What do you think you are doing here?" His grandma scolded when he stepped into her room. "It is far too late for you to be visiting."
"I needed to see you." He whispered, as not to wake his sister.
Minzy stood up from the chair she was sitting in and gently took her from him. "Be quick." She told him with a small smile. "Then I'm taking you both home."
He couldn't help the confused look on his face as she walked from the room.
"I told you she would step up." Grandma spoke up with a knowing grin. "Come sit."
He made himself comfortable in the chair his cousin had left, resting his head on the side of the bed and taking his grandma's hand.
"How was work?" She asked as if she wasn't lying in a hospital bed.
"Are you okay?" He asked instead of answering.
"Nothing I can't handle. These doctors are trying to say I'm a lot worse than I am. I tell you what, I'll be home by the end of the week. You are going to get sicker than I am if you worry about me."
"Grandma, they're doctors. They're just doing their job."
"You forget I was a nurse for a long time before I retired." She scolded with a smile. "I know what's wrong and it's nothing to really worry about. Now tell me about what's been happening with you. You look tired, baby."
"A lot of late nights at work." Came his attempt to brush her off so she wouldn't worry about him.
"What's really on your mind, Binne? You haven't been yourself the past few weeks."
"Bobby and I are on a break....I kinda snapped at him over dumb stuff."
"Aish. You need to stop getting in your own way. That explains why you've been so moody lately. Go talk to him soon if you miss him so badly."
"I didn't say I miss him." He argued.
"You eyes do. And so does that frown on your face. Bobby is good for you. He is your best friend and so much more. You're lucky to have him. Don't mess that up by being foolish."
"Okay, Grandma." He said simply, unsure if he would actually be talking to the older man any time soon or not.
Jennie woke up with an ache in her whole body, making it near impossible to sit up. The smell of cooking food was the only thing that gave her enough strength to push her eyemask off.
"Morning, kiddo. Did you sleep okay?" Dara smiled sweetly. The older woman stood at the stove, pushing food around in a fry pan.
Yawning, Jennie pushed herself up into a sitting position. Her whole body still ached from the previous night. "Is Jiyong still here?" She asked quickly, hugging her legs to her chest.
"Upstairs finishing up in the nursery. You can go up. I'll have breakfast ready shortly if you're hungry."
The younger nodded and waited until the other turned back to the stove before pushing the blankets off herself and standing up. The shirt she had borrowed from her brother to sleep in went down to just above her knees, covering another series of dark bruises that made it hurt to walk. She took the stairs much like a toddler, holding tightly to the rail and planting both feet on one step before moving on to the next one. It was a slow going and annoying process.
"Is breakfast ready?" Jiyong asked, coming out of the nursery. "Oh, hey, little one. How are you feeling?"
The look of concern on her brother's face was enough to get her to start crying all over again. Bowing her head, she shook her hair to cover her face as tears dripped from her eyes. Barely a few seconds later, she felt strong arms encircling her and guiding her to sit on the floor.
"Jennie...please come live with us. It's not safe for you at home anymore." He held her close as she cried silently into his chest.
"I can't...not with the baby coming home soon." She argued.
"You'll be a big help around the house. Dara could really use the company during the night once I start working at the factory. And Chaerin is gonna need all the help and support she can get. What better place to get support from her favourite aunt. We've got the space up here. Little one, I just want you to be safe."
"Jisoo and I are looking to move into a place together once her lease is up." She kept arguing, not wanting to be anymore of a burden on her family.
"You can move in with her once her lease is up. But until then, please, Jennie. Move in here. If only to get you away from him."
Jennie looked into the open space beside the space they were sitting at the top of the stairs. It was actually larger than the bedroom she had now with her abusive step father and the mother who ignored the whole situation. While it didn't have a door, the only people she would be living with were her brother, his fiancé, and their infintile daughter. No need for locked doors anymore. Unless she was having company of some kind, which was unlikely with her busy schedule of school and work and now helping with a premature baby.
Living with Jiyong and Dara would be a good thing. Jiyong was always her protector from a young age. He taught her how to tie her shoes and ride a skateboard and a bike. He took care of her when she was sick and cooked for her all the time. He walked her to school and helped her with her homework. Dara was a good influence in her life too when she started dating Jiyong. She taught Jennie how to treat blisters caused by heels and how to get her hair to hold curls properly. She acted like the big sister she always wanted. She was even the one who helped her her the job at the bookstore she loved so much.
"I can't thank you and unnie enough, oppa. I promise I'll help out around the house and I'll be gone soon." She told him, hugging him tightly. "You won't regret this."
"Stay as long as you need and don't worry about being a burden. I love you and you're my sister. I want you here. So does Dara. We just want you safe."
Chapter 8: Too Much
Too much of a bad ass bitch
Too much of a boss
Baby it's your loss
Now you gotta live with it
Jisoo could complain about her life if she tried to. She had some gaps in her education from going to a public school in one of the bad areas of town where she grew up. But she had friends she made there that she still kept in touch with, even after graduation. She didn't really see much of her parents because they both worked so much. Not that she really minded. Being alone gave her more freedom to do what she wanted. To hangout with her friends and have them over whenever she wanted. Her parents pretty much elft her alone too because she got good grades in high school and did extra curricular activities such as choir and dance team. Those activities got her into a partial scholarship at university. But she was never really one to complain about her life. She knew she had it a lot better than some people.
One of those people may have been her best friend, Jennie. The two grew up together and spent most of their weekends and vacation times at Jisoo's house. The younger stayed the night so often that her parents eventually invested in a trundle bed so Jisoo wouldn't have to share anymore. A fact that really came in handy when Jisoo met Rose. A first year high schooler when Jisoo was a senior. A spunky little thing with long dyed red hair who blew away the choir teacher at her audition. The two stood beside each other during practices and rehearsals, making it only natural for them to talk and become friends. It wasn't long before Rose stayed after school every day, even when there wasn't choir and watched Jisoo dance with the dance team.
The romantic relationship followed quietly and soon after. A trip to a coffee shop followed by giggling as they walked through clothing stores and picked out outfits for each other to try on without any intentions of purchasing the items of clothing. The two shared a dressing room and the first kiss came before either of them truly realized it was happening. They kept their relationship a secret, despite Rose old brother being in an openly gay relationship. It wasn't a common occurrence where they were from and it made both girls very nervous. So they kept things so underground it would have taken a backhoe for someone to dig up their secret. If anyone looked at their relationship, they only looked like close friends. Like Jisoo was with Jennie.
"You look cute when you make that face, but if you make it too long you'll get wrinkles." Jisoo teased, nudging Rose's leg with her foot.
"I don't care right now. Geometry is so confusions I can't help but make faces." Rose exclaimed, dramatically falling back against Jisoo's pile of pillows.
"You really should have tried out for drama. You would have been the stair of every school production. Maybe even gotten the chance to be an idol."
"Don't tease me, unnie. I won't be able to move up a year if I fail this class." The younger cried.
"Relax, my love. You'll do fine if you just relax. You're putting too much pressure on everything." She leaned over and looked over the notebook Rose had been scribbling in. "You're almost at the right answer, and you're on the right track. Finish what you were doing and I'll check your work."
Reluctantly, Rose sat up and hunched back over her book. While she worked, she chewed on the edge of her pen, distorting the plastic. Jisoo ran her fingers up and down the younger's back, hoping to relax the knots of tension she felt.
"You're doing well, my well. Look. You got the right answer." She praised, kissing the younger's cheek.
"I get a reward now right?" She pouted cutely.
Jisoo rolled her eyes but turned her head to kiss Rose properly. All too quickly, homework is forgotten. Books and papers get pushed aside as Rose moved closer to the other. A stray study guide got crushed under Jisoo's knee as she leaned forward to deepen the kiss. Rose's hands traced nervous patterns on the older's legging clad thigh, not quite bold enough to make a proper move. Jisoo on the other hand had more experience and had no shame in sliding her manicured fingers up Rose's sweater, cupping her breasts through her bra.
The bedroom door opened without warning. Jisoo's mother stood in the doorway, hand frozen on the knob, mouth half ajar in preparation to say something that never came. Jisoo pushed Rose away with too much force. Rose shank back just as quickly, pressing her back against the wall. For a few tense moments nobody said anything.
"Dinner will be ready soon, Jisoo. Rose should probably head home before her parents worry." Her mother said finally. She smiled tightly at the girls before shutting the door behind her as she left.
"I--" Rose tried to form any sentence, but her brain couldn't get the words to her mouth.
"I'll text you later. Be safe on your way home and let me know when you get there." Jisoo began helping gather up the younger's homework.
"Will you be safe here tonight?" Rose finally asked, grabbing her girlfriend's hand.
After a brief second of hesitation, the older nods. "My parents may not be understanding, but they aren't like that."
"I just...I want to be sure."
"I will be fine. I'll walk out with you."
Jisoo straightened Rose's sweater before pulling her bedroom door open and leading the way down to the front door. Her father was standing behind the stove, stirring something steaming in a large pan. Her mother appeared to be doing a crossword puzzle from the newspaper, but Jisoo saw her eyes move to them as they came downstairs. Purposely, Jisoo kept her distance as Rose stepped into her boots and pulled on her jacket.
"Let me know when you're home." She said quickly, shutting the door behind her no so secret girlfriend.
Hanbin wasn't who Bobby expected to be knocking on his door in the middle of the night. He really had no idea who to expect, seeing as Chanwoo was already passed out asleep on his couch and Rose was staying with some friend.
"What are you doing here?" He didn't intend to sound as cold as he did. He hadn't realized how mad he was still with the younger.
"Grandma is in the hospital. I'm scared and I only wanted to tell you." Hanbin stumbled over his words, tears building rapidly in his eyes.
"Is she gonna be okay?" The anger drained out of him and is quickly replaced by worry for Grandma and sympathy for his boyf--Hanbin.
"I don't know yet." His voice broke as the tears poured down his cheeks.
Bobby reached out and put a hand on the back of Hanbin's neck, pulling him in for a tight hug. With one arm, he closed and locked the door before pulling the younger to his room. The younger clung tightly to him, letting himself be dragged into the room and guided on to the bed. He didn't protest when Bobby started pushing his coat off.
"Take a deep breath." The older instructed. "Everything will be fine. She's probably just sick."
"What if she isn't? What is it's something serious? They're keeping her overnight." He started crying all over again, crumpling forward into Bobby's lap.
"Calm down. It's okay." He murmured, rubbing his back. His heart ached seeing the younger in such distress. "Nothing bad is going to happen. The doctors know what they are doing." His hand worked up and down Hanbin's back, gentle where needed and pressing at tight muscles around his shoulders. The rhythm was so natural, Bobby barely realized he was doing it at first. But as always, it calmed the younger down until his breathing returned to normal.
"I'm sorry for what I said the other day." Hanbin said so so quietly Bobby barely heard him.
"You should be." Bobby laughed, trying to make light of the situation.
"I'm being serious, hyung." From the tone of his voice, Bobby can tell the other is smiling. "I don't mean to cause so much drama...I just...I want you to be happy...and you can't be happy is my family is causing problems again."
The older snorted out a laugh. "I'm happy with you, drama or not. Have you seen my family lately? It's all drama, all the time. Hell, my kid brother is in my living room right now and I punched my mom's boyfriend the other night."
"You what?" Hanbin finally sat up to look the other in the eye.
"It's not important." He sighed, shaking his head and looking down at the ground.
"You can be so stupid sometimes." He shook his head.
"Look who's talking." The older snapped back with more animosity than he expected.
"You got a problem with me?" His tone was harsh, challenging as he stared right into Bobby's eyes.
"I got a problem with you breaking up with me."
"Any chance I can take that decision back?" His tone faltered, but he held the other's gaze.
Bobby surged forward, crashing his mouth against Hanbin's in a messy kiss. One hand braced them on the bed, the other held the smaller's hip in a grip so possessive he could already feel the beginnings of bruises forming. The kiss quickly became a mess of tongues and clashing teeth as Bobby moved to straddle Hanbin's thighs.
The younger pulled away first, pushing at Bobby's chest as he panted for breath. He took this opportunity to attack the exposed flesh of his neck, pulling the neck of Hanbin's sweater down to leave various bite marks and hickeys wherever he could put his mouth. In a matter of seconds, Hanbin was a moaning mess, blunt nails raking across the back of Bobby's shirt, tugging him closer.
"You gotta be quiet. Chanwoo is in the living room." Bobby growled, biting hard on Hanbin's collar bone.
All the younger did was move his hand to cover his mouth, his sounds of pleasure now muffled enough for their satisfaction. Bobby pulled away enough to tug the majority of his clothes off. Hanbin's sweater was tossed across the room, his tight jeans tangled and dangling from one ankle. Bobby only stripped of his own shirt before pushing Hanbin's leg's apart and dropping to his knees on the floor. In a swift motion, he had his boxers pushed up enough to expose his perfect ass and had moved him at the right angle to lean in and lick at his awaiting hole.
Bobby heard a surprised sound fall from the other as he tried to squirm. It was rare that Bobby ate Hanbin out. He pushed Habin's legs up higher, giving him better access to push his tongue into him. Each muffled moan went straight to his ego, making him push his tongue deeper, suck hard, anything to see the charismatic Kim Hanbin quivering under his touch.
As quickly as he started, Bobby stopped. He stood up and opened his jeans. Lying before him on the bed, the younger was a mess. Sweat shone on his face, the front of his undershirt was lodged in his mouth and soaked in drool, his eyes focused barely on the man standing between his legs.
"Fuck, you look so good." He moaned, leaning down to bite one of Hanbin's exposed nipples.
He bite down purposely hard, chuckling when he felt a hand collide with the side of his head.
"Sensitive?" He teased, pressing a finger into the other.
He didn't waste much time, pumping his fingers in quick ministrations while gently kissing and sucking on his nipples. With his free hand, he rubbed himself through his jeans, attempting to relieve some pressure as he worked the other open. Two fingers would have to be enough. Bobby leaned back and pushed his jeans and boxers down just enough to pull his member out. Spitting generously into his palm, he stoked himself, making a mental note to get more lube.
Slowly, he pushed into Hanbin's warmth, not stopping until he was completely in. Looking down, he noticed a slight look of pain behind his lover's eyes. He waited a few beats, letting everything adjust before he began his thrusts, being more aggressive than he intended too. His fingers dug into Hanbin's thigh, pulling him in to meet each of his thrusts. The sound of sink on sink was drowned out by Hanbin's muffled moans and Bobby's grunts.
As his thrusts increased, in both speed and roughness, Hanbin's moans grew louder, making Bobby wonder only slightly if he was moaning in more than just pleasure. After all, he was still tight around Bobby's dick. Part of him told him to slow down. But another part told him that the younger deserved some of the pain that he was in. That it would do him some good and maybe snap him out of the mood he had been in the past few weeks.
Hanbin's eyes met Bobby's as his fingers scratched at his thigh, waiting to see if the older would stop him from touching himself. A quick nod was enough for Hanbin to wrap his fingers around him dick, stroking vigorously. Just a few flicks of his wrist and he reached climax, cum spilling over his chest. His shirt felt from his mouth as he let out a string of porn star quality moans.
Quickly, he released one of Hanbin's thighs and clamped it over his mouth. He slowed his pace, just enough to give Hanbin a chance to catch his breath, before ramming into him again. It was only a few more hard thrusts before he was reaching his own orgasm, filling the other with his release.
Panting heavily, he leaned forward, resting over Hanbin, who shook and twitched below him.
"Deep breaths. You're okay." He murmured sweetly, moving his hand to gently stroke his cheek.
He reached up, wrapping his arms around Bobby's neck and pulling him down into his chest. Kisses were pressed to every inch of sweaty skin he could reach.
"I've missed you, hyung." He admitted quietly.
"I've missed you too."
Chapter 9: Props & Mayhem
Maybe it seems so strange
But we don't even stress at all
Cause we've got poison in our wall
No matter how hard he tried, Jiyong could not get accustomed to working third shifts at the factory. Maybe if he didn't go to school as well, or have a family at home, or a life he wanted to live while he was still young enough to live it. Ten at night until seven in the morning shifts, followed immediately by classes at eight until one most days, was slowly killing him. While he had weekends free from classes, it was hard for his days off from the factory to coincide with his off from school days. As time ticked by, he felt his body growing stronger, but his morale growing weaker. He was missing everything.
Even though he managed to have the day off when Chaerin came home from the hospital, that was the only thing he didn't miss. The first time she laughed at Jennie rapping, he was in class. He missed so many of her smiles and laughs, as well as her tantrums and dirty diapers. But he would gladly take the bad if it meant he got the good as well. He missed sleeping next to his Dara and marathoning old TV shows with his sister after dinner. No more did he get to go out with his friends after classes or work to drink, or even just to hang out. Most of them still came over to hang out, but he had to shut himself in his room, with the blankets hung over the windows to block all the light out and earplugs to block out the sound so he wouldn't hurt himself anymore than he already was at the factory.
The work was taking a large toll on his body. The first few weeks, he came home with dark bruises and cuts daily, covered in metal shavings and dust of all kinds. While he was doing better and knew what he was doing, it didn't stop the brutality of his job. His muscles ached as the grew larger and more defined. Soon he would be able to lift all of his girls at once without any struggle. Maybe it wasn't so bad. The muscle was nice and so was the pay. But it didn't pay enough for him to be missing out on his own life.
Sadly though, it was the only place that gave him an interview. Ever chance he got he was putting in job application after job application and calling to check for interviews, always getting the same responses. The position has been filled or we aren't currently hiring for you allotted schedule. It was exhausting.
"Hyung." The voice sounded far away, like it was at the end of a long tunnel.
"Hyung?" The voice was closer, jerking him from his catatonic state.
The world shifted back into focus, colours and edges sharpening to make the shapes of the library stacks and students studying at tables. He must have fallen asleep while studying. Standing beside him was a confused looking Song Yunhyeong, one of his newer friends, thanks to Bobby.
"What's up?" He stretched his shoulders subtly, trying to shake off the fact that he had been asleeping.
"Jinhwan said you were looking for a job. Is that still true?" He asked, squatting down so he could speak in a hushed tone.
"Kind of. I've got a shitty job and I'm trying to find a new one."
"My parents own a restaurant and our main dish washer just quit. You would be working night and weekends most of the time, but your pay will be pretty good. And free food at the end of the night. I know it's crappy, but we're a little desperate right now. I could even talk to my dad to see about training you too cook too. That's how Bobby ended up as a cook."
"Yun, you're trying to convenience me of something I've already agreed to in my head. When can I start?"
"Come by tonight, around five and we'll give you a trial shift. If my dad likes you, you've got the job...also, the library is closing soon. You better get a move on before you get scolded." He smiled sweetly before standing up.
After another quick stretch, Jiyong gathered up his things and followed the soft male out of the library. The younger was talking idly about his parents restaurant and what the job was like. Though he found it hard to concentrate. He was practically high on the idea not working third shifts anymore. Granted, the job wasn't officially his yet. But this was the closest thing he had to an interview since he got hired on at the factory. It took everything in him to not call the factory on the bus ride home and quit.
He called a quick goodbye to Yunhyeong as he exited the bus and headed down the street to his house. Hopefully the buses would still be running when he got finished with the trail shift. Walking home in the cold would be brutal after the sun set.
"I'm home." He announced quickly in case his daughter was still sleeping.
He found Dara lying in bed with Jennie studying beside her, some animated movie playing on the television. Their daughter lay between them, fingers stuffed in her mouth.
"I've got good news." He said proudly, standing in front of the television with his arms spread wide.
"You bought milk like I asked?" Dara asked.
"You brought home jjajangmyeon so I don't have to cook?" Jennie looked up hopefully.
"No. I got a job lined up for tonight." He dropped his arms dramatically before lying down on the bed. He crawled up between his the two women and kissed his daughter's tiny belly. "You hear that Chae? Daddy will be around more. You'll actually know who I am."
"I'm proud of you, Ji. Where is it?" His fiance asked.
"I would be happier if you had brought home jjajangmyeon." Jennie faked a pout.
"If I find a place still open when I get off, I'll bring you home all the jjajanmyeon you can stomach. Even some mandu and hotteok. Anything to make you happy, little sister." He grinned before relaying the information that Yunhyeong told him earlier.
June knew that his dad worked nights. It was normal for him to go a few days without seeing his dad, the only proof that his father was still around was a few bills left on the counter and the shower running when June was trying to sleep earlier in the morning. Which was why it took the teenager so long to notice that his dad hadn't been home in a over a week. The fridge was empty of all food and alcoholic beverages. The counter provided no money to replace either. The towel that his father used hung dry and stiff on the hook in the bathroom.
It took June three days to work up the courage to even knock on his father's bedroom door when he got home from school. The number one rule in the apartment was shut the fuck up while I'm sleeping. Disturbing his father was acceptable only if there was excessive blood, exposed bone, or the police were pounding at the door. For nearly five minutes, he stood in front of the door, raising and lowering his hand before he got over himself and knocked four quick times on the door. Then he waited.
The longer he waited, the more he wished for his father to snatch the door open and smack him upside the head, swearing at him for waking him up. But that didn't happen. So he knocked again, a little louder this time.
And waited. Still nothing happened.
With nervous hands, he turned the doorknob to the room and pushed it slowly open. Long ago his father had hung blackout curtains, making it almost impossible to see in the room. The only light coming in came from the now cracked door. Pushing the door open, he let in more light and surveyed the room. The bed was unmade and empty, when it should have been filled by his father's sleeping form.
Even with the blatant emptiness of the apartment, he was still scared to step into his father's room. He hadn't been in there since he was eight, crawling into bed with his father before he started working over night shifts. Tentatively, he walked around the room, looking for any proof that his father had been there. Even if he saw something, he wouldn't know, it had been that long since he had seen behind the door.
A few loose bills and coins sat on top of the dresser beside a stick of deodorant. Without caring about consequences, he pocketed the money, telling himself he needed it for food. Part of him had been thinking that maybe he would find a note saying that he was going out of time or something like that. But even he knew that wasn't going to be true.
Dejectedly, he sat down on the edge of his father's bed. He's unsure how long he sat there. The curtains block out all light and the light streaming in from the half open door is coming from the kitchen light. Eventually, his growling stomach pulled his back to reality.
As he stepped into his shoes and pulled his coat on, he tried to tell himself that his father would be home eventually. But an unsettling feeling had made home in the pit of his stomach, making him think that his father had left just like his mother had. The thought scared him, making him his down on the front steps of his building. The sun was setting and the air was cold and hurting his cheeks and nose. Suddenly, he didn't want to be alone. Pulling out his phone, he called the first person he could think of.
"Hyung...are you busy?" He said before Jinhwan could even get a proper hello out.
"A little. I'm...out on business right now." He said with slight inflection in his voice.
"Okay....will you be home any time soon?" He asked, feeling beyond dejected.
"I've still got a long drive back. I'll be home before morning, I know that much. Is everything okay, kiddo?"
"I'll be fine." He hung up before the older stared to worry.
Climbing to his feet, he started wandering. Down the street, passing by the convenience store he always shopped at. Hunger was no longer in the forefront of his mind. Burying his hands in his pockets for warmth, he kept walking, unsure of where to go. Most of his friends worked, so calling them would be pointless. Rose came to mind, but he was still a little bitter about being ditched the last time they hung out. Calling or going to hang out with Chanwoo would probably mean he would see Rose too, so he was out of the question.
After a few blocks of walking, he found himself pushing open the gate to a house it had been years since he had been to. Kim Donghyuk was two years ahead of June in school. They never would have even met each other if it weren't for the hip hop dance club. June had joined his first day of high school and Donghyuk was one of the main choreographers. The two had grown close and began hanging out socially outside of school. But they had drifted apart when Donghyuk graduated. As he knocked, he was worried that the older wouldn't even let him in.
"June? I haven't seen you in forever." The older smiled easily as he stood in the doorway. "What's up?"
"I think my dad left." He managed to say before he started crying. He didn't even realize how hard he was holding back his tears before they started flowing freely down his cheeks.
"Come in. What do you mean he left?" Donghyuk stepped again, letting him come in the house. He glanced at a woman asleep on the couch and gestured for June to follow him down the hall.
Stepping out of his shoes, he followed, wiping at his cheeks only to have more tears take their place.
"What happened?" The older asks, shutting the door to the same messy bedroom that June remembered.
Sitting beside the older on the bed, he said what he thought. Starting from the first day he noticed the emptiness of the house and somehow working back to the day his mother left when he was four. How she hadn't left a note or anything, just how she was there when he went to day care and wasn't when he got home. During his talking, Donghyk had moved closer, putting a comforting arm around June's shoulder.
"I'm glad you came here instead of wandering the streets some more. You can stay here if you want tonight. So you don't have to go home." He offered sweetly. "I'll help you figure out what to do in the morning."
Chapter 10: A Match Into Water
CHAPTER WARNINGS: Drug usage, pot and popping pills
How does it feel?
Well it feels like I'm on fire
Wake up I know you can hear me
Yunhyeong had been one edge for days and he couldn't figure out why. He had too much energy and didn't know what to do with it all. Practically every day for nearly two weeks, he was up early for classes and making his family breakfast. By the time they were up and eating, he had already cleaned up the kitchen and was changing to literally run to campus for his classes for the day. The cold felt good in the morning, plus it wasn't a far run to campus. He had some troubles focusing in his classes. Sitting in his desk, his fingers twitches and tapped on the desk top, or he twirled and chewed on his pen, or his leg shook uncontrollably on the floor. His mind drifted as his teachers lectured on, no matter how enthusiastic they were about the subject they were talking about. Everything else just seemed to grab his attention more. Like what he would be making for special at the restaurant that night. He had plenty of ideas. A new combination for a possibly bibimbap to add to the menu. A new marinate for pork. New fillings for mandu. Speaking of filled things, he passed by a hotteok stand on the way to class. It smelled amazing. He would really have to get some before the day was over. Just thinking about it was making his mouth water. No, his mouth wasn't watering. It was dry. He needed a drink. Now. He shouldered his backpack and walked out of the classroom, not even stopping to think about the teacher calling his name. His only focus was the vending machine a few meters down the hall.
Once at the vending machine, he stared at the options of sodas and drinks for a sold minute before putting his change in and making a selection. The soda drink was strawberry flavoured, not his favourite. But the melon flavour was out of order when he tried to buy it. He still had two classes scheduled before his classes are done for the day, but he left the building anyway and started making his way across campus, drinking the soda down in one long drink until it's gone. At least his mouth wasn't dry anymore.
He walked off campus with the intentions of going to the restaurant to work on the new recipe ideas he's got in his head. But the second he spotted a pet show, he opened the door and went inside. The shop was new and smelled of a mixture of fresh paint and animals. There was a small fenced in area by the door where small puppies chase each other around and one one wall cats meowed in their cages. Dropping his backpack to the ground, Yunhyeong climbed over the fence and into the pen with the puppies. All of them run towards him, jumping in his lap and on his back, barking excitedly as he sits down. He laughed loudly, letting himself be swarmed by little puppy paws.
"Excuse me. Can't you read?" A lady snapped at him, smacking his head with a newspaper as if he were one of the puppies. She points at a sign on the wall above his head. "Don't get in the cage."
He looked down at the puppies and made a face, trying to tell them he was sorry that he broke the rules and had to leave. It take a minute for him to get out of the cage without stepping on an overly excited puppy. The owner of the shop glared at him the entire time, hands on her hips, newspaper still held tightly in her hand, ready to smack him again if he disobeyed. Snatching his backpack off the ground, he made a crude gesture at her before dashing out of the shop. He ran down the street, laughing loudly as he heard her leave behind him, shouting at him angrily in her native dialect.
After a few blocks of aimless running and turning corners, Yunhyeong slowed down to a walk, putting his arms over his head in an attempt to catch his breath. He was supposed to be doing something. If only he could remember what. For a moment, he bent over, resting his hands on his knees, taking a deep breath. A weight on his back sent him tumbling forward. The world spun around in a blur of colours around him and he was flat on his back, staring up at the sky with a painful ache in his back from landing on his backpack.
"Cocksucking whore." He groaned out, continuing to lie in place, more surprised than anything else.
Once the ache starts to fade, Yunhyeong pushed himself up and started walking again. In no time, he was pushing open the door to his family's restaurant. A few patrons sat around at the tables, but most were empty. He could see his mom sitting at one of the tables in the back, eating lunch on her break and his sister standing in the doorway of the kitchen, scrolling through her phone. At least it wasn't busy, so he could focus on the new food he was going to be making for tonight.
"Yunnie. What are you doing here?" His mother asked as he passed by on his way into the kitchen.
"I wanna cook. So I'm gonna go cook." He told her without stopping.
He dropped his backpack off in the office, said a quick hello to his father, and grabbed an apron on his way back to the open kitchen area. He always loved the open kitchen. A large glass window making every step of the meal preparation an experience for their guests. That and he could see who was in the restaurant at all times and how busy they were.
Only one of the lunch rush chefs was still on duty, standing at his station, chopping up veggies for the expected dinner rush. The chef was one who had been with them for a while, Youngbae. He was almost like the big brother that Yunghyeong always wanted, instead of the big sister he had. Not that Yuna was a bad big sister, he just always wanted a brother.
Putting in his headphones and starting one of his favourite work playlists, Yunhyeong began cooking. Pans filled a few burners on the industrial stove top as he played with new flavours and new combinations of ingredients. A few cuts of meat sat on the grill, with a few different seasons blends on them. His knife board was a mess of chopped veggies and plates waiting to be assembled. He worked quickly, completely focused on what he was doing, paying no mind to the heat coming off the burners and stove making him sweat, or the mess he was making around him. All that mattered was if the food tasted good.
Half an hour later, the area around him was a complete disaster, but he had eight new plates of food sitting in the window for everyone to try. Two new combinations for bibimbap bowls, one new preparation of steak, and four veggie and three meat jeons plates with two new sauces on the sides, one sweet and one spicy.
"I'm not cleaning your mess up." Youngbae told him, looking over the plates sitting in the window. "It looks good though. We redoing the menu?"
"I just had some ideas that I thought would be good." He said with a proud smile.
"You went a little crazy, kiddo." Yuna giggled, grabbing down one of the jeon plates to try. "Did you ask Appa if this was okay?"
Yunhyeong shrugged, beginning to stack of his dirty pans and plates. Why did every decision have to be approved by his father? Last time he checked, the restaurant was a family business and they all worked there. What's the big deal about making some food they they could add to the menu? With his arms full of dirty dishes, he pushed open the swinging door into the back kitchen, slipping on the wet floor and dropping everything he was holding. Pans clattered to the ground, splattering bits of food all over the freshly mopped floor. Plates crashed and broken, sending shards of ceramic mingling with the bits of food.
"Fuck." He muttered, dropping to his knees.
Water soaked through the knees of his jeans as he picked up pans and utensils, putting them on the counter for the dish washer. He grabbed the broken plates, tossing them into the small bucket under the handwashing sink.
"Yah! What the fuck are you doing?" Youngbae's yelling made him jump, dropping what he was holding.
"Cleaning up my mess." He responded confused.
"You're slicing your hands to bits." The older gaped, squatting down beside the younger and wrapped a towel around the cut on his hand. Blood slowly started to stain the white towel as Yunhyeong was led back to the office.
Youngbae pushed him into one of the office chairs and grabbed the first aid kit. His father crossed quickly over to him, unwrapping his hand and examining the cut. His mouth moved as he said something, but Yunhyeong was too preoccupied by the design of his father's paisley shirt. Intricate orange designs swirled around on the navy fabric.
"I like your shirt, Appa. Can I borrow it som--ow! Shit!" He jerked his hand away from his father's touch.
"Hold still, you have a piece of glass in your hand." His father pulled his arm roughly back and used a pair of tweezers to pull the piece out. How had he not noticed that? "You don't need stitches, thank god. But you're not working tonight. You're gonna go home and rest. You only make mistakes like this when you're overly tired."
"But I wanna cook tonight. I need to cook tonight. You'll be down a person if I'm not here." He tried to argue as his father wrapped his hand in gauze.
"I'll call Bobby, see if he can work." Youngbae informed him, reaching for the phone. "And you cooked enough earlier to satisfy your need to cook."
"How much did you cook, Yun?" His father looked up to meet his eyes.
Quickly, he listed off the things he cooked, going into a little detail about each one and why he thought they would be a good addition to the menu.
"No, Yun. We don't need anything new right now. Things are going well. Just, go home and rest, yeah. You need it."
Donghyuk purposely avoided getting high after classes had let out, wanting to be completely sober for what he had planned for his evening. The shower he took was hot, making him sweat out of the smell of pot and the groggy feeling from his pills. Once clean and dry, he took his time getting dressed, towel wrapped around his waist as he dug through his clothes until he found the nicest and cleanest garments he owned. Even though his best clothes were a pair of jeans that had no rips in them and a yellow flannel shirt. After he was dressed, he combed his hair and pulled on his cleanest sneakers.
As he walked down the street. he kept his headphones blaring loud music in his ears and his hands stuffed deep in his pockets. Whatever pills he had been taking so many of lately, the lack of them was getting to him already. His thoughts were racing and his hands were shaking. But he was adement about being sober, even if that meant dealing with the early symptoms of withdrawal for a few hours. Once he was back home, he would smoke and pop pills until he was welcomed by the sweet embrace of a drug-induced sleep.
Along the way, he stopped at a florist shop on the corner and picked up a bouquet of pretty purple flowers. The longer he walked, the more he wished he had grabbed his jacket. But at least he would be able to blame the shakes on the cold and not the drugs that he wasn't going to bring up.
The building was quiet when he arrived. He made his way up the stairs, a small smile playing on his lips as he got closer. The hallway is brightly lit and smells of fresh flowers and incense. The door to the room was already open when he arrived. Glass cubbies lined the walls, brimming with colour flowers, handwritten notes and drawn artwork, crosses and rosaries, as well as beautifully crafted ceramic urns.
"Hi, Dad." He smiled, pulling a bench over from the middle of the room to the cubbie where his father's ashes sat. "I brought your favourite flowers." He held up the bouquet to show the picture of his father, before lying them down in the small open area of the shelf.
The shelf wasn't as well stuffed as the others in the room, seeing as it had been a while since he had visited his father. A small stone statue with the Lord's Prayer sat between the simple, yet gorgeous, green and white urn and the picture of his father, bright and smiling in his military uniform. It was an old picture, taken far before Donghyuk was born. Probably around the time that his father met his mother and they fell in love. His mother insisted on using that picture for the shrine, so he kept it. He did enjoy that picture a lot. He could see a lot of similarities of his own features mirrored in his father's image. A few pictures and letters from when he was younger also adorned the area.
"I'm sorry I haven't come to see you in a while. I've been busy." He said, hoping that that wasn't too much of a lie. His classes took up a lot of his time. As did his quality time with Jinhwan and their mutual love of Mary Jane and horror movies. "I'm doing well in my classes. I'm keeping a near perfect GPA. Not as well as I could, but Mama hasn't been doing to well...she really misses you lately. I'm not sure why it's hitting her so hard lately."
He purposely left out the parts about coming home late at night, high himself, seeing his mother passed out on the couch, an empty wine bottle on the floor, still dressed in her nursing uniform. He always did his best to take care of her. Getting her a bucket, in case she threw up, some water and crackers and aspirin for when she wakes up, before he covered her with a blanket and retreats up to his room to stuff his headphones in his ears and hopefully fall asleep.
"My friends are really nice. They take care of me. I spend a lot of time at Kim Jinhwan's house. I met him a few years ago, we were in robotics together. He is really smart. He's studying to be an engineer." He boasted proudly of his best friend, leaving out more details he knew his father wouldn't approve of.
Things hadn't been the same since his father died when he was ten. That was when his grades started dropping and his mother started drinking. Depression consumed the both like a violent tidal wave, destined to destroy everything it encountered. For nearly three years, that was their life. Waking only from their sleep to go to work and school, staring blankly at each other over meals, attempting to make conversation when they had the energy to do so, falling asleep cuddled together on the couch as some old movie played mindlessly on the television. Jinhwan was the one who actually helped snap Donghyuk out of everything. He was paired with Donghyuk when he entered high school, a year early because, even depressed and barely participating in class, his grades were spectacular. The older encouraged him him to join robotics and they began hanging out outside of school. Slowly Donghyuk made more friends, like June, Yunhyeong and Hanbin. He was a little unsure of when they went from hanging out and playing video games while drinking soda and munching on seaweed snacks to smoking pot and playing video games. Although, he wasn't complaining. The drugs helped more than he ever could have imagined. But that was something he kept from his father. After every truth he told his father, up until the smoking, he didn't want to bring anymore disappointment upon himself.
For hours, he sat in the room, telling his father everything and anything he could think of. Ranging all the way from what he had been learning in his classes, to funny stories of adventures he had with his friends, to new foods he had tried recently. He stayed until the sun had set and an employee of the building came in to say they were locking the doors for the night. Kissing his fingers, he pressed the kiss to his father's urn before standing to leave, promising not to wait so long to visit again.
Walking home, he felt warm tears staining his cold face. For the first time in a long time, he let himself cry and mourn the loss of his father and the beautiful life he used to have. There was a reason he always waited so long to visit his father. All the memories of everything that happened when he was younger, of the times he liked to pretend that never really happened, came flooding back to him. The life he used to live, with two loving parents and no cares in the world. Then the tragic day his mother told him that Daddy wasn't coming home. And the years of agony and emptiness that followed.
Donghyuk didn't even think twice about where he was going as he left the building, taking the route to Jinhwan's apartment rather than his own home. At home, his mother was either drinking or already passed out drunk. The last thing he wanted to do was take care of her, when he didn't even want to take care of himself. It wasn't until he was walking up the stairs inside the apartment building, did he even think that his hyung might not be home. Good thing he knew where the spare key was hidden.
Unlocking the door, he returned the key to it's hiding spot and let himself in. The strong aroma of marijuana hit him and he inhaled deeply, letting the familiar smell calm him down. Jinhwan was stretched out in the couch, still smoking bong, sitting on the table beside him. June was laid out beside him, fast asleep using the eldest's thigh as a pillow.
"You look like hell." Jinhwan remarked, picking up the bong and holding it out.
Stepping out of his shoes, he locked the door and knelt beside the couch, taking a long hit from the glass pipe. The smoke instantly went to his head, relaxing him enough to get him to stop crying. He situated himself on the floor, shoulder pressed against Jinhwan's leg, desperately needing human contact. The older didn't try to make conversation or ask what was wrong, just gently scratched his nailed through Donghyuk's clean hair.
"You got any pills?" Donghuk's shaky voice eventually broke the thick silence.
Chapter 11: Cold Coffee
Tell me if I'm wrong
Tell me if I'm right
Tell me if you need a loving hand
To help you fall asleep tonight
June's heart dropped out of his chest when he came home from school to find an envelope taped to the front door. All that was written on the front of crisp white paper was the apartment number. Letting himself inside, he tore open the envelope. Inside was a single piece of paper. At the top was the logo of the company that owned their building. With shaky hands, he skimmed the letter.
"Damn it, Dad." He swore, crumpling the late rent notice in his fist.
How was he supposed to come up with over 1,400,000 won by the end of the month? He got a sick feeling in his stomach at the idea, never realizing how much their apartment actually cost his father. Dropping the crumpled paper to the ground, he sat down on the couch, holding his head in his hands and he attempted to figure out what to do. Obviously he would have to come up with the money to pay the rent if he wanted to keep staying there.
Did he even want to continue staying there? The question briefly crossed his mind but was just as quickly dismissed. Of course he did. This apartment was the only home he had ever really known. Everything important happened to him within these walls. It would be okay if he was leaving with his dad, but he didn't even know where the man was. What if he decided to come back and June wasn't there? Then the teen would be completely alone in the world.
You're alone already. The involuntary thought passed through his mind, causing him to curl in on himself in fear.
He didn't want that thought to be true. He had his friends. They were better than his tiny family ever had been. They didn't ignore him like his father did. They never ran off and abandoned him like his mother. They never criticized him, like his grandmother did the few times he saw her before she died. They were always there for him. How many countless times had he crashed on their couches and in their beds, ate their food, gone on vacations with them. He just needed to keep reminding himself that he wasn't alone. That family didn't need to be blood.
But at the end of the day, blood is thicker than water. What if his dad was just away on a business trip or visiting a relative and simply forgot to tell June? He would be furious to come home to an empty apartment or worse, another family living there. June would just have to find a way to pay the rent himself. Besides, he was eighteen. It was past time that he got a job anyway. Most of the students in his grade already worked part times jobs after school.
It couldn't be that hard to find a job. Cashier at a grocery store or dish washer at a restaurant, like most other students. Maybe he could get lucky and work at a clothing store or a comic book store, an easier job that he would actually enjoy doing while he made rent. That would be easy.
Slowly, June began to relax, thinking of the possibilities of occupations that he would start applying for in the morning. He had worked himself up over nothing. The notice even said that he had until the end of the month to pay the rent. Yes, he would have to turn around and pay next months rent right after it. But by then, he would be settled into his job and it would be no problem to come up with next month's rent.
Yet, no matter how hard he tried to focus on the seemingly positive possibilities, the thought of his father being gone sat heavily in the back of his mind. What happened to the man? Why had he left? Why hadn't he taken June? Or at the very least had the decency to tell him he was leaving? Wasn't it bad enough that they never truly interacted anymore? Or that his mother had already abandoned them when he was younger? Was it something he had done?
Without realizing it, June was double over, sobbing so hard he felt like he was going to vomit. Years of pent up anger and emotion poured out of him. Tears splashed on to his jeans, leaving Rorschach marks in the denim. Seconds ticked into minutes until the clock across the room was chiming the new hour. The sobs had stopped by then, the rivers of tears drying on his face. His body ached like it did when he had a fever and his head felt as if it were full of concrete. He should have got up. Gone to the bathroom, showered and washed the sadness off. Instead, he curled up on his side and let the exhaustion swallow him to the world of dreams.
Bobby usually spent his free days cleaning his apartment or taking care of adult things he needed to do. Paying some form of bill, washing the laundry that had a tendency to overflow on to the floor in the basket in the corner, take the twins grocery shopping or help them in some way. But today, he spent the day at Hanbin's. It had been far too long since he had seen the younger's family and it was strange to say that he missed them.
When he first came over to Hanbin's, the only other person in the house had been Hanbin's grandmother, sitting in her chair in the living room watching her game shows. Bobby hadn't asked where everyone else was, the whole world would be there soon enough. The house was warm and smelled of all the delicious foods that Grandma was cooking. Kimchi jjigae, samgyeopsal, and all kinds of side dishes.
Bobby was sat on the couch, Hanbin lied out beside him, using his thigh as a pillow. He played absently with his hair as he tried fruitlessly to try to solve the riddles of the game show in his head. Every question and riddle that was asked stumped him, while Hanbin's grandmother answered them all easily. It must have been the wisdom that came with growing older.
All too soon the clock was chiming with the new hour, as the credits on the game show rolled, and the front door opened. In came Hanbin's grandfather with his younger sister in tow, still dressed in her school uniform, backpack dragged behind her as if she had a long day. Hanbin didn't sit up, only moved his feet so his grandfather could sit down. His eyes were half shut, looking content with the moment he was in. Grandma asked Hanbyul about her day and the young girl started in on some dramatic rendition of her day starting with the "meanie" boy in her class that tugged on her pigtail, to breaking her favourite colour and not getting the best ball during gym time, finish with the "splendiferous" time she had in dance class after school with her "bestest" friends.
Seeing the younger girl talk to animatedly and excitedly about her day made him wistful for the days when the twins were that young and innocent. Before the harshness of the world got to them and knocked them down. Before the marks showed up on his little sister's wrists and Chanwoo isolated himself from everyone and everything he used to love. While the young girl spread out her homework and workbooks on the floor to start on her homework, he couldn't help but continue to watch her. It made him feel better about everything to watch her express herself so unabashedly. She sat on her feet, hunched over her workbook, top lip caught between her teeth as she worked on her letters.
"It's me!" Minzy yelled, as the door slammed shut.
"I'm here too." Another one of Hanbin's cousin's, Taehyun, called out.
The two walked into the living room, kissed Grandma on the cheek before Taehyun went into the kitchen for food and Minzy disappeared into her room. Music started pumping from behind the closed door. Grandma turned the volume up on the television a few bars. Bobby glanced down at Hanbin. His eyes were completely closed and lines creased his forehead.
"Move. You don't need to take up the whole couch." Taehyun said, standing in front of the couch.
"I'm barely taking up any space." He grumbled, curling up even more on himself, opening up a small space between his feet and Grandfather.
Bobby went back to stroking Hanbin's hair, hoping to get him to relax a little. But even he could feel the tension in the room starting to rise. He couldn't help but wonder what had happened the few weeks that he hadn't been around. Had things really been that bad?
"Binne, can you get the door?" Grandma asked when a loud knock rang through the house.
Obviously reluctantly, Hanbin sat up and trudged over to the door. When he returned three people were behind him. He didn't bother to return to his spot on the couch, only grabbed Bobby's hand, tugging gently. Taking the hint, Bobby rose and followed Hanbin to his room.
"Guess it's a party going on." Bobby tried to joke.
"Yeah." The younger replied halfheartedly. "Find a movie to watch, I'll go make us up some plates before all the food is gone."
"Grandma has been cooking all afternoon, there will be some left later...when we're hungry." He realized he was talking to himself before he finished his thought. Maybe things had changed that significantly in the time he had been away.
Dropping to his knees, he began sifting through their shared movie collection. Back in high school they began unintentionally collection movies. At first they would just stop at the used game and movie store every week or so, pooling what little money they had to buy a new movie to watch while they sacked out in Hanbin's bed, ate pizza, and more often than not played video games. As time went by and they got better jobs, going to the used store became a common thing and their collection grew and grew to the size it was now, consuming two shelves of Hanbin's bookcase. With titles ranging from classics to horror to a few drama and practically every superhero and comic book related movie they could find. He picked out of his favourites--the second X-Men movie--and put it on. The opening credits were already rolling by the time Hanbin returned through the curtain, balancing two plates of food in his hands, four chopsticks caught in his mouth.
He grunted, holding on of the plates out to Bobby. He crawled to the end of the bed and carefully took the plate. The bowl of kimchi jjigae was balanced in a dangerous manor on the edge of the plate.
"You should really be a server at the restaurant." He remarked with a smile, setting his plate down on the bed and taking his chopsticks from his boyfriend.
"I like my job." He smiled back, sitting himself down beside the other. Even though the bed was large enough for them to have enough room to themselves, Hanbin purposely sat close, their thighs pressed together as they started eating.
They tried to focus on the movie, but every few minutes Hanbin would turn the volume up as someone started talking loudly from the living room or Minzy would turn her music up louder. Hanbin didn't bother to mask his annoyance when someone knocked on the door and Grandma called out for him to answer it. He came back grumbling under his breath and the noise in the house increased as more people joined the rest of the family in the living room.
"I hate having my room beside the door. I always gotta answer it." He griped, picking his spoon back up.
"Do you wanna move in with me?" Bobby asked suddenly.
Hanbin choked on his soup. He dropped his spoon into the bowl and started coughing. He hadn't even recovered fully before staring at Bobby, eyes wide, face red from coughing. "What?"
It took the older a moment to come to the realization that made the younger choke. "I don't mean it like let's get married live together. I mean it like it's a crappy living situation here and I really do love you, Bin, and I like when you stay the night and it would be so much better for you to be away from the stress of this house and the constant noise. You don't have to if you don't want to. It was just a suggestion. God, I really could have asked that better. It was just a passing thought. I didn't meant to freak you out. I know we just got back together. But we have been dating for like five years or something like that. And I've known you, it feels like my whole life. Fuck, I'm sorry. I really could have done that better. You know, just forget it. Move in, don't move in. No pressure. You know the twins stay over all the time. It's not like you moving in would be any inconveniences on me. Not that you're like one of the twins."
"Yah! You're rambling. Shut up!" Hanbin yelled over him, his eyes still a little wide and his face still a little red from coughing. "I'd like to move in with you, yes. I hate it here and I've been trying to save to move out for a while. You know this."
"Why have't we thought about this before then?" He pushed his plate aside.
"Don't know. Don't care. Don't wanna talk about it. Don't wanna think about it. I'll pack a bag and come over to yours tonight. Until then, eat your food and let's finish the movie." He brushed it off, his face reddening for a different reason as he returned to his plate.
Bobby leaned over and kissed Hanbin's cheek before turning back to the movie.
"Cheeseball." The younger laughed, nudging him with his shoulder.