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the complexities of a s'more

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The campfire smoke is stifling when he’s squatting down right next to it, arms outstretched holding the perfect stick he’d spent half an hour looking for and another half hour ridding it of its bark. A single marshmallow is skewered at the pointy end and Jeongguk struggles with keeping his quickly tiring arms up while monitoring the progress of his marshmallow at the same time. It’s a pretty difficult feat for any six-year-old to roast marshmallows without burning themselves, but Jeongguk isn’t just any six-year-old.

“Jeongguk-ah, come back and finish your punch!” His mother calls from the patio, where the other parents are gathered, but Jeongguk just shakes his head.

He doesn’t really like punch anyways, he prefers apple juice.

The fire crackles a bit and Jeongguk looks down at his plate nestled in the grass for a moment to make sure his arrangement of graham crackers broken into uniform halves and three slabs of chocolate are still there. The heat of the flames make his bangs stick to his forehead and perspiration bead on his upper lip, but Jeongguk perseveres.

“Jeongguk!”

“Just a minute,” Jeongguk mutters, wiping the sweat from his forehead with a clammy hand and readjusting his grip on the stick.

The fire snaps again, sending up a few bits of ash, and Jeongguk finally retracts his arms, eyes drawing immediately to the marshmallow he’s been diligently cooking for the last ten minutes. He scowls yet again when he realizes it’s burnt black, the outer shell swelled up and a small flame still licking at the top where Jeongguk had held it too close to the blaze.

He puffs at the flame until it goes out and then deposits the ruined marshmallow in the grass beside a growing pile of equally charred ones.

Another marshmallow is jammed onto the end of the stick and Jeongguk plunges it ruthlessly into the depths of the fire, as if daring it to come out blackened again.

“Jeonggukie?”

He jumps in surprise and the fire spits. His palms have become so slick that the skewer almost slips out of his grip. Luckily it doesn’t. Jeongguk can hardly think of another person he’d rather not embarrass himself in front of.

“Yes?” Jeongguk answers. He hopes Jimin doesn’t notice the pyramid of mutilated marshmallows at their feet.

“What are you doing?” Jimin demands in that weirdly high-pitched voice of his. “Come play with us.”

Jeongguk considers this, the back of his shirt damp and a pool of sweat above his lip. The offer is tempting, especially since it’s Jimin, but the marshmallow… Jeongguk looks adamantly into the fire pit, less Jimin’s sweetly curved eyes convince him otherwise.

“Not right now,” he says, and Jimin looks half-hurt and half-annoyed.

“Fine,” Jimin makes a face that Jeongguk can’t see. “Your hair is sticking up in the front, by the way.” And then he runs off again to rejoin his game of tag with the others.

Jeongguk flattens his bangs in distress. He probably looks like a sticky, pathetic mess, and Jimin had noticed! Jeongguk always makes sure he looks presentable, after all, Jimin always looks great. And you can’t be best friends if you aren’t on the same level. Jeongguk’s debating on whether he should make his mother take him home for a shower when he remembers the marshmallow. He jerks it out of the fire to reveal its burnt and scorched skin.

He plops himself down in the grass in frustration, belatedly recalling the heap of discarded marshmallows, and almost bursts into tears when he realizes he’s sat down right on top of them.

How is he supposed to make Jimin a s’more if he can’t even roast one marshmallow right?