They were just neighbors. They barely knew each other, but their parents were set on them being friends. At first, they tolerated one another, knowing that they would be yelled at if they didn't play nice. But, as the two spent more and more time together, the boys lowered their guards and became friends. From that day forward, you never saw Jinyoung without Jaebum. They were inseparable. They were two peas in a pod. They went everywhere side by side. They did everything together. Until, Jaebum had reached the age to go to school. Jinyoung had pleaded with his parents to let him follow, but they told him he was still too young. Jaebum didn't want to go either, but he also had no choice in the matter. When Jaebum had left that morning for his first day, Jinyoung cried until his other half came home. "Silly, Nyoungie," Jaebum said, wiping at the tears in the younger boy's eyes.
"I'm not s-silly," Jinyoung sniffled and crossed his arms.
"No, you're not...I missed you too," Jaebum said.
Jinyoung pouted, "Do you still have to go tomorrow?"
"Yeah, I do," Jaebum answered.
Jinyoung frowned, "I don't like it."
"I don't either," Jaebum said, "But, I have an idea. What if I teach you everything that I learn at school?"
"Really?" Jinyoung asked.
Jaebum nodded, "You'll learn so much and you'll become really, really smart."
"Then, I can go to school like you! Right, hyung?" Jinyoung said.
Jaebum grinned, "Right, Nyoungie!" Jinyoung beamed and threw his arms around the older. Jaebum laughed and hugged the younger back. It was the perfect plan. Of course, it didn't work, but it comforted Jinyoung at the time. He was just desperate back then to not be separated from Jaebum. Nothing seemed worse to him than being away from Jaebum. Jinyoung never wanted to be apart from Jaebum. Never ever, ever, ever, ever.
Jinyoung stares at the TV in front of him. He doesn't know how to react. On the screen is none other than Jaebum, performing just as an idol should. He is garbed in clothes that Jinyoung can't imagine him ever wearing and fans are cheering at the top of their lungs. They hold signs in the air saying the words I love JB. Jinyoung scoffs as the cameraman zooms in on a fan in tears. What does she have to cry about? She's the one standing right in front of JB. It's not like she isn't seeing him face to face. She gets to be near him. Something Jinyoung hasn't had the privilege to in years. He sighs, not really understanding where this sudden flood of emotions regarding his hyung is coming from. Maybe it's because it has been a long time since they last spoke. It was bound to happen, especially since Jaebum really began to take off and Jinyoung is still in their small hometown waiting for his chance. One day it would be the two of them on that stage, but it isn't today. Jinyoung looks at the screen which has cut to a close up of Jaebum's smile. He eyes the smile and shakes his head. It's so fake. He's seen his hyung smile a million times before. He knows his real smile from his staged one. Jinyoung wonders why Jaebum is faking the smile. He's achieved all he had ever dreamed of, yet he wasn't happy. Jinyoung wishes he could ask him what is going on in his head, but he refused to do it over the phone, not like the famous idol would be able to pick up anyways. Jaebum is busy promoting, so he probably didn't even have access to his cellphone. JB's stage ends and the show transitions to another artist. And even though Jinyoung hated seeing Jaebum on stage, since he never seemed himself, he wanted nothing more than the boy to come back. So, he could see him again for just a second. "I may be older now, but I still don't like being apart from you," Jinyoung says, "It's still the worst feeling ever..."
One day, after school, Jinyoung and Jaebum were amazed by a group of dancers performing on the side of the street. The two made a pledge that same day to become dancers. To perform on stage side by side. That was their dream. Their goal to achieve together. They practiced every single day. They followed videos they found online and even borrowed books to help them out. Slowly, but surely, they improved. Little by little, each and every day. If Jinyoung struggled, Jaebum would be there to help him out. And vice versa, although Jinyoung didn't think that Jaebum ever needed his help. His hyung always seemed like a great dancer to him. He was always more than impressed with the older. He learned twice as quickly as Jinyoung did and seemed to have no problem with tough moves. It inspired Jinyoung to work harder and push himself so that he can still achieve that dream with Jaebum. Jinyoung knew that in the end it would all be worth it. When the two of them got to share a stage in front of a bunch of cheering fans, every aching muscle will be long forgotten. When their dreams have come true, their dedication will be worth every hour of sleep they lost practicing side by side.
Jinyoung eyes Jaebum from where he stood amongst the other backup dancers. He was disappointed when the boy didn't recognize him, but he had pushed that back. That pledge they had made ages ago still meant the world to him. Even though this situation isn't ideal, he would still be sharing a stage with Jaebum tonight. And that's all that mattered to him. He knows the situation isn't ideal, but it's better than anything. He can hear the fans cheering for I:dn and he can make out his hyung's form in the shadows getting prepared to dance. His eyes stay on the boy as the lights turn on and the music starts. He continues to perform with his gaze on his hyung, intrigued for multiple reasons. It's the first time the two have been in this close of a proximity with one another in a long time and Jaebum's dancing interests him. He travels around the stage and lets his body move on its own, having practiced the dance steps with this crew long enough to know what to do. As the song comes to the end, Jinyoung still is looking at Jaebum. The man has another odd smile on his face and his body seems to be forcing itself to exude passion. Jinyoung can't help, but still be a tad bit disappointed in the boy. Jaebum is better than this. So much better. He knows it. "What has idol life done to you, hyung?" Jinyoung murmurs to himself as he shuffles off stage. He watches as Jaebum slowly moves around backstage with not a lot of emotion. He looks like a zombie, just going through the paces because he has to. It makes Jinyoung frown and feel upset. He wants to reach out, but he knows for a fact that Jaebum has never really liked it when people he didn't trust gave them advice. Even though the two are friends, when he had first introduced himself, Jaebum hadn't noticed his old friend Park Jinyoung. Jinyoung tuts as he watches Jaebum shrug his partner's hand off his shoulder and walk away with a haughty look. "You were a better dancer back then, Jaebum-ah," Jinyoung says to himself, "What happened to you?"
Jaebum's audition for Kirin was first. And it hadn't gone well. The principal didn't think he had what it took. Jinyoung, on the other hand, made it into the school. Jaebum was proud of the kid, but it still hurt him deep down to know he wasn't good enough. Jinyoung had told his hyung that he wasn't going to go. They had to stick together after all. Jaebum had hit him after that, telling the boy he would be nuts if he let such an opportunity down. Jinyoung was hesitant, afraid of losing Jaebum in the process. "Silly," Jaebum scoffed, "Why would you lose me when you go to that school? I'm still here. And we're still going to share a stage even if I didn't make it in...that is if you still want to..."
"Of course, I want to!" Jinyoung huffed, "But school won't be the same without you...practicing dance won't be the same without you..."
"How about we do the same thing we used to do as kids?" Jaebum asked, "Teach me all your dance instructor teaches you...I'll catch up and join you in no time." Jinyoung nodded his head and Jaebum grinned. That plan was thrown out the window when the boys were approached the next day by a label exec asking to sign Jaebum. This time it was Jaebum that wasn't sure and Jinyoung didn't hesitate to slap his hyung. "You're going. There's no question about it," Jinyoung stated.
"But..." Jaebum started to say.
"No, buts! You're going to become a trainee! You can debut!" Jinyoung exclaimed.
"What about you?" Jaebum asked.
"I'm going to Kirin and you're going to an entertainment company," Jinyoung answered, "We may be going on different paths, but we'll meet back up. We're going to perform together. Don't you ever forget that."
"I won't," Jaebum said with a grin, "Okay. If you want to do this, then let's do it." That day the boys both took the first steps towards their shared dream. They had no idea what is to come, but they would face it because they had to end up on a stage together. Everything they are doing is for that.
Jinyoung rushes to the front of the school with wide eyes. He gapes as he sees Jaebum step from the car alongside his fellow idols. He's not really surprised. He's read the news. The fact that the young idols would start going to Kirin due to the recent law regarding young entertainers. His brain is more so trying to process the fact that Jaebum is here. That he would be here for an extended period of time. That he would be living in the dorms with him. Going to classes with him. Practicing to reach their dreams together again. Jinyoung knows that Jaebum has been swept up in the idol life and doesn't remember him, but he still has a hope that he recalls that promise they had made to each other as kids. Cause Jinyoung still wants to share a stage with his hyung. For real this time. Not as a backup dancer and an idol. As equals on stage. And now that he's here, they may be able to do that. A soft smile appears on Jinyoung's face as he stares at Jaebum's stoic one. He sighs, "Im Jaebum, does it kill you to smile, even just a little?"
Jaebum sat in his room, packing up his clothes. He sighed, wondering if he should really go through with this. He would be leaving behind everything, but could he really let this chance slip by. He knows he promised Jinyoung that he would go through with it, but could he do it. "You're thinking too much," Jinyoung said. Jaebum looked up and sighed when he saw his friend standing by his doorway. "Maybe, I am," Jaebum muttered, "I guess I'm just a bit scared"
"I never thought you would ever be scared," Jinyoung said with a smile.
Jaebum shrugged, "I don't know if I can do it. What if I'm not as good as they think I am? What if I start training and they see that I'm just untalented and they kick me out? What do I do then?"
"Stop stressing," Jinyoung said, walking into the room and sitting on his hyung's bed, "You haven't even started yet. You should have more confidence in yourself. You're a great dancer and singer. I know you are. You'll do amazing. Show them who Im Jaebum is. Impress the hell out of them." Jaebum looked at Jinyoung, who flashes the older a confident smile. "I believe in you," Jinyoung said.
Jaebum smiled, "Thank you, Nyoungie."
"I'm always here for you, Jaebum-ah," Jinyoung said, "Here, it's for you." The boy takes his hand out from behind his back to reveal a box. Jaebum stared at it before taking it from his friend's hands. He lifted the cover and his eyes-widen when he saw what was inside. "Shoes?" Jaebum questioned.
Jinyoung nodded, "You're going to be dancing a lot. Practicing more than anything else. Wear these. By the time you wear out nine of them, I think you'll debut..." Jaebum smiled and lifted one of the shoes from the box. "Thank you," Jaebum says, "I'll treasure this."
"It's just a pair of shoes, hyung," Jinyoung laughed.
Jaebum smiled, "It's more than just shoes. They're your gift to me. They're everything."
Jinyoung sits on his bed and eyes Jaebum as he unpacks his stuff. He can't believe the boy is going to be rooming with him. He knows that Yoojin won't be happy when he sees JB, but Jinyoung is glad. It's been ages since he's seen Jaebum. Been in the same room as him. He watches the boy shuffle around the room. He can't help, but smile finding the scene somewhat familiar. His movements look almost the same as they did years ago when Jaebum was first preparing to leave. He wonders if his hyung would ever recognize him. He could make it easier and just introduce himself again, but he thinks it'll hurt more to see the confusion in Jaebum's eyes. It's better for him to just figure it out on his own. Jaebum has to remember. Eventually. At least, Jinyoung hoped he would. Suddenly, there's a boom and Jinyoung eyes widen as he sees Jaebum on the floor beside an overturned box. The contents of the box are all over the floor and Jinyoung is surprised to see that they are old, worn out shoes. "Do you need help?" Jinyoung asks.
"I'm fine," Jaebum says through gritted teeth. Jinyoung tuts at Jaebum from inside his head. He sounds like he did when they were younger. He had thought the boy had long grown out of that phase. "What's with all the worn out shoes?" Jinyoung questions.
Jaebum huffs, "It's none of your business."
"I'm just curious," Jinyoung says, "No need to get all defensive, Jaebum-ssi..." Jaebum's eyes flit to meet Jinyoung's. Jinyoung freezes, wondering if the boy could finally recognize him. The idol continues to stare at Jinyoung for another minute before breaking the gaze and looking at the ground. "It's JB," Jaebum states, "No one calls me Jaebum..."
"I still do..." Jinyoung mutters, "You'll always be Im Jaebum to me..."
"What did you say?" Jaebum asks.
"I was wondering about your shoes. Why keep them?" Jinyoung questions without a second thought.
Jaebum sighs, "They're special to me. I wore out nine of them and debuted. Just like he said I would..."
"Who?" Jinyoung asks.
"No one," Jaebum says before turning around and focusing on picking up his shoes. Jinyoung sighs and turns around in his bed. Jaebum really didn't recognize him. He remembered a boy from his past, but not him. Not when he's right in front of his face. He hasn't changed that much, has he? Or is Jaebum just really that unobservant? Jinyoung eyes flit back to Jaebum, who is holding the shoes he gave him tenderly. Jinyoung sighs again, wishing things were simpler.
Jinyoung always found himself in the worst of situations. With the worst of people. He didn't want to be in them, but he always seemed to find his way into the same position. He didn't do anything wrong. He just had one of those faces that people seemed to be able to easily hate. Jaebum was always with him before and for a long time those bad people avoided him. But, not when Jaebum had left to become a trainee. Jinyoung was once again forced to face those people that had issues with him. He didn't fight back. He was always against it. He never thought fighting was right. So, he kept finding himself in those situations. Even today. "Sometimes I wish you would fight back," Seojoon said, patting Jinyoung's cheek hard. Jinyoung frowned as the boy shoved his face close to his own. "It would make beating you up more interesting," Seojoon whispered with a smirk on his face.
"What the hell do you think you're doing!?" A voice yells. Seojoon huffed and turned to look at the source of the voice. Jinyoung turned as well and his eyes widened when he saw Jaebum walking towards him. "Im Jaebum? I thought you left," Seojoon muttered, taking a step back.
"I did," Jaebum huffed, "But, that doesn't mean you get to go after my Jinyoungie."
"I-I wasn't," Seojoon stuttered.
Jaebum glared at the boy, "Yeah, I hope that true. I would get going if I were you. I'm not in the mood to fight you, but that could change depending on how much longer I have to see your face." Seojoon didn't hesitate and he took off running. Jinyoung sighed and looked to Jaebum, "What are you doing here?"
"I have the day off and I wanted to visit," Jaebum answered, "What about you? Have they been bothering you? I told you that you should start standing up for yourself."
"I'm not a fighter," Jinyoung said plainly.
"Yeah, yeah," Jaebum muttered, "I just don't want you to get hurt."
"I won't. I have you," Jinyoung said with a smile.
Jaebum rolled his eyes, "C'mon, I'm hungry." The boy started to walk down the sidewalk and Jinyoung went to his side. "Mom bought some apples," Jinyoung said, "We can have those."
"Cool. I love apples," Jaebum says, throwing his arm around Jinyoung's shoulder. Jinyoung smiles and grabs onto Jaebum's hand as the two walk back to Jinyoung's house. That's the last time Jaebum came back. The boy started to get busier and when his life as an idol star began, he seemed to forget about his hometown and the boy next door.
Jinyoung frowns as he picks himself up from the ground. He didn't know what he was expecting when he challenged Jaebum to a dance battle. It had gotten a bit out of hand. He had hoped that it would spark his hyung's memories, but it only seemed to piss the boy off even more than he already is. Jinyoung has known Jaebum for a long time, but this is the most angry he's ever seen him. Something's up and Jinyoung wants nothing more than to help him, but until Jaebum remembers him. It won't happen. He hears footsteps coming behind him and he gapes as Yoojin raises his fist. Jaebum smirks as Yoojin grabs him by his shirt. Jinyoung launches himself forward, grabbing onto his roommate's fist. The other students around him gasp in surprise and watch, wondering what is going to happen. Yoojin huffs as Jinyoung pushes his fist down. "We were just dancing," Jinyoung states.
"Yeah, it's no big deal," Jaebum says in an arrogant tone. Jinyoung wants to face palm as Yoojin raises his fist again. Jinyoung stops him once more and places a hand in Jaebum's shoulder. He can't let this escalate any further. Yoojin is a hothead, but Jaebum even more so. Especially recently. His temper has just been boiling and no one is there to take him off the flame. Well, he's here now and he'll more than happily help his hyung. "Stop it, Jaebum-ah," Jinyoung states in a firm tone. Jaebum looks Jinyoung in the eyes and then at his hand that he placed on his shoulder. His gaze flicks back up to Jinyoung, who looks into his hyung's eyes. Jinyoung doesn't say anything as he sees Jaebum's eyes light up in recognition. "Nyoungie?" Jaebum whispers in disbelief, "Is that you?" Jinyoung's breath catches in his throat, wondering if Jaebum really just said what he thinks he did. He stares at Jaebum, whose eyes are almost pleading for him to be his Nyoungie. "It took you long enough, hyungie," Jinyoung says back with a small grin on his face. Jaebum lets out a breath and a soft smile appears on his face, an expression he hasn't had for a long time. "Let's talk," Jaebum says.
Jinyoung nods, "Follow me." He grabs Jaebum's hand and pulls him through the crowd. The students murmur and wonder what in the world could be happening between the two. Jinyoung takes Jaebum down the hall and into a spare practice room. He locks the door behind him before turning to face his hyung. Jaebum doesn't hesitate to pull Jinyoung into a hug. Jinyoung smiles at the familiar warmth and hugs the boy back. "I missed you," Jaebum says.
"I did too," Jinyoung says.
"I'm sorry I didn't recognize you," Jaebum says, "I guess I still am pretty slow at putting two and two together."
"It's okay," Jinyoung says, "I'm just glad you did."
"I am too," Jaebum says, "God, I missed you so much." The idol hugs the dancer tighter, almost as if he's afraid he'll disappear if he lets him go. "You're still such a sap," Jinyoung murmurs, "You should show this side off more. The bad boy thing doesn't fit you..."
"Have you been watching me?" Jaebum asks, pulling away from the hug, "On TV and stuff?"
Jinyoung nods, "Every chance I got. It was the only time I got to see you even though it wasn't really you. This whole life changed you. I barely recognized the Im Jaebum I grew up with."
"Yeah," Jaebum says, scratching the back of his head, "I don't recognize myself either. I don't know what happened. I guess I got lost somewhere along the way..."
"Maybe it's cause you were too far away from me," Jinyoung says in a joking tone.
Jaebum smiles, "Honestly...you always did lead me in the right path."
"Guess I've got my work cut out for me now," Jinyoung says, "You've been Jinyoung deprived for too long."
"Yes, yes," Jaebum says, "I need to spend the next twenty four hours with Park Jinyoung or I may be in serious danger."
"We better take care of that then. It's a good thing that you have me on hand," Jinyoung grins.
Jaebum nods, grabbing Jinyoung's hand and gently squeezing it, "I shouldn't get that dependent. Who knows where I would be without you?"
"Lost," Jinyoung says, "But, you'll be fine, cause I'll find you."
"You will?" Jaebum questions.
"Of course," Jinyoung says, "I can't just let you go, especially not when we still have dreams to achieve."
"Our stage," Jaebum murmurs, "I remember."
"Good," Jinyoung says, "Cause I still want it."
"You still want to be on stage with Mr. Grumpy?" Jaebum asks.
Jinyoung nods, "I want nothing more than to reach my dreams with you. Our dreams."