Some Like it Strong
There was a hole in the back fence, just big enough to climb through if you hunched down. It lead onto the dirt track, named appropriately as when the rain came down it was a river of mud.
On sunny days a few students would litter the path, exchanging lighters and casual conversation, and on wet days it was pretty much deserted. Even a sneaky cigarette wasn't worth the complete drenching.
Today was one of those days and the weather was unrelenting. Hyunseong was sat alone on the ground with his back pressed against a wall, allowing the parapet to offer some protection to his face. It was a shame it didn't extend to his now soaking uniform.
He felt a body sit down next to him, the warmth causing the hairs of the back of his neck to prickle up. He didn't need to look up, he never did, he already knew who it was.
Jeongmin's signature smile had been discarded in favour of a disgusted look, his nose wrinkled and brows pulled together. Hyunseong just grinned, eyes disappearing behind fleshy cheeks, "You snuck out of school?"
He shrugged, "I couldn't find you in the canteen so I guess you'd be catching your death out here." Hyunseong was impressed with how well Jeongmin knew him. "Plus, I can be bad sometimes," he trailed off, ignoring the smirk that was sent his way.
"Bad isn't staying up past nine and wearing sunglasses at night, but we can go back soon," Hyunseong assured him, before tugging a slightly crumpled box out his pocket, "once I finish this."
Jeongmin rolled his eyes as Hyunseong attempted to pass him the packet, after taking one for himself. "You can't bitch at me the whole time if you've never tried one," Hyunseong urged, feeling generous for even offering. They were expensive, seeing as he had to go to the corner shop that overpriced everything, but they were the only place that would sell them to him.
Jeongmin hesitated, but eventually caved under the pressure of Hyunseong's mocking smile. He placed the end in his mouth, and touched it cautiously with his tongue. "It tastes weird."
Hyunseong just snorted, "Well to start with, that's the wrong end." He pulled it away from the other boy and turned it around, trying not to laugh at his innocent friend, "Secondly, you don't lick it. Just pinch it between your lips so the filter doesn't get too wet."
Jeongmin tried again, looking incredibly awkward. Hyunseong seemed on the edge of showing him how to light it, but decided not to make it needlessly difficult and just placed them both between his lips, lighting them easily, and passed one to Jeongmin again.
The younger held it gingerly between his fingers, trying not to let his fingers stray too close to the lit end. He looked to Hyunseong for advice, "What now?"
"You sort of take two breaths. One to get it into your mouth and one to get it into your lungs properly," he demonstrated, sighing in pleasure as the smoke hit his lungs and warmth swept through his freezing limbs.
Jeongmin took a breath and tried to hold it in his mouth, but ended up releasing it quickly. "That felt weird," he admitted. Smoking definitely wasn't his thing, but Hyunseong always seemed to convince him to make wrong decisions, and then usually enjoy them.
"Don't do that too many times," he warned without much conviction, "it wastes it and you're not getting anything out of it."
With another roll of his eyes, Jeongmin tried again and again. Only on the fourth drag was he successful, this time holding it in long enough to inhale it into his lungs. He coughed and spluttered, causing Hyunseong to whack him on the back, an admirable but unsuccessful effort at help.
"That always happens the first time, you get used it. Don't worry about it," he said, still clinging to his own cigarette like his life depended on getting the toxic chemicals into his body.
Hyunseong always looked so cool, Jeongmin noted, treating it like it was an extension to his body. Jeongmin on the other hand balanced it between his fingers awkwardly and tried desperately not to let ash drip on his clothes, whilst still not burning himself.
He took another drag, getting to hang of the breathing technique. He choked again, the smoke burning his throat and lungs, leaving an acrid taste. "No, I'm not taking this up as a hobby," he gasped finally, stubbing out the offending item with as much malice as he could muster.
"You didn't even feel the rush?" Came the indignant reply, though Hyunseong had tossed his butt to the ground too and let his final exhale circle around their head.
"If you mean the disgusting taste, the fact that I need a drink and that I really want to brush my teeth right now," he sighed accusingly, "then yes, I'm feeling the rush."
Hyunseong just shook his head and heaved himself to his feet, stiff joints clicking. "You're the one missing out," he said in a low voice.
Jeongmin stood up too, "Missing out on lung cancer, you mean?" Hyunseong smiled at this, though his expression was slightly pained, realising he'd only given Jeongmin ammunition against him. Now the boy could attack his habit without restraint, seeing as Hyunseong couldn't claim he had no right as he'd never even tried one.
"Bring it on," he laughed out loud as they made their way back to the hole in the fence, the one at the back of the school that you could climb through if you hunched down low enough, shoes muddy from walking along the dirt track.
They both knew the back of their trousers were in a worse state than their shoes, but nobody mentioned it.
Hyunseong sat awkwardly, trying to position his body for a better shot, and threw a pebble down in to the road below. He released a satisfied grunt when he heard a yelp of pain.
"What are you doing?" Jeongmin asked, shuffling along the roof to sit next to him. His lip was bleeding from where he had bitten it in fear, fear of slipping off the roof and onto the bonnet of his dad's car. Hyunseong wasn't sympathetic, this was Jeongmin's idea after all.
He looked up, offering an arm subtly for Jeongmin to rest against, "Throwing stuff at drunk people." He ignored the incredulous look that was sent his way, it was their fault for being out this late. "Did you get it?"
Jeongmin grinned cheekily and pulled a bottle out from his pocket, "Picked the lock on the wine cabinet, didn't I." He looked so proud of himself, as he always did when he broke the rules. He looked up to Hyunseong a lot and often tried to go one step further than necessary to impress his 'bad boy' friend.
"Looks good, vintage," he read like he knew what it meant, "red with a woody taste." His father had once tried to teach him about wine, but it went over his head a whole lot.
Hyunseong grinned, "It tastes of wood?" Jeongmin just hit his shoulder and mumbled something about having a dirty mind, while Hyunseong wrapped his arm around his shoulder tightly, making the younger wobble dangerously.
"Let go of me now," he shrieked, in what he was convinced was a manly tone, "get off my roof and out of my life."
Hyunseong snorted, "I wonder what your parents would say about their precious son. They always say I'm the bad influence, yet you're the one stealing from them." In all honesty, Hyunseong was a bad influence, Jeongmin would probably be sleeping right now, it was one in the morning after all, if they hadn't crashed their bikes into one another a year previous.
"I will pay them back in good grades," he reasoned, uncorking the bottle with flourish. Hyunseong watched in interest as he licked the alcohol that spilled over off his fingers, but quickly turned away when Jeongmin looked up.
Jeongmin stared at him in confusion, "Why are you blushing?" He shrugged it off as Hyunseong shook his head, hands covering his hot cheeks. Jeongmin probably understood why he was blushing more than he did, he honestly had no idea.
Well, maybe he had an inkling. Jeongmin was hot, but luckily for him, he was the only one who had noticed. The odd, fluffy hats with ear flaps and the uniform with all his buttons done up, including those on his blazer, and a tie with a knot so tight it looked like somebody had pulled it, were a real turn off. The tight jeans and shirts over fitted vests he wore on the weekends, on the other hand, were on another planet entirely.
Hyunseong remembered the moment he had first lay eyes on him, the smaller boy trapped under his bike's wheel with a trickle of blood running down from his temple. He wasn't sure why they were still friends, though it may have had something to do with his form tutor's encouragement to find better companions than those who got into fights and lived their lunches in detention.
He was pulled out of his reverie by a bottle being forced on him, Jeongmin's face contorted from knocking back a mouthful of the bitter wine. "However rare it is to see you thinking, have some of this," he leaned back on the roof so he was effectively lying down, "it has a real kick."
Hyunseong took a swig, wondering how mature adults drank this stuff for fun. "It tastes like shit," he complained, before pouring more down his throat.
"I'm feeling a little dizzy," Jeongmin admitted, though he was reluctant to say how much of a lightweight he was.
Hyunseong glanced at the bottle, excluding Jeongmin's sip, he had drunk half the bottle in less than a minute. "Now I have drunk enough to determine, I think," he shot Jeongmin a look before he could make another jab at his intelligence, "this has quite an ashy taste, with a distinct hint of rose."
"Okay," Jeongmin sighed. He knew Hyunseong had rich parents, even if he didn't see them very often, so it didn't seem that unusual for him to know how to taste wine. "If you're making this up as you go along I'm going to hate you."
"Hate me then," Hyunseong laughed, "how am I supposed to know how to taste wine? I'm a chain smoker with a liking for strong spirits."
"And parents who own, like, half the houses in this town," Jeongmin pointed out, rolling onto his stomach. He took the bottle back and attempted to sniff it like a professional wine taster, "This has a smell of... Lipgloss."
"Should I be worried that you know the smell of lipgloss?" Jeongmin just shot him a withering look. "Okay, okay. It's me. I was getting off with Bora behind the old cinema before you called me."
The name always made Jeongmin's heart stop, his blood run cold. He didn't know why, but Hyunseong was involved with her. She had long black hair, a woman's figure and soft breasts, or so he'd been told. He had none of those, he was fighting a battle he'd already lost.
"Hyunseong, if I told you I loved you, would it be a happy ending?" Jeongmin asked, drinking everything that was left over, not wanting to make eye contact with Hyunseong, for fear of his answer.
The older boy shook his head, pulling a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket, "I wish, but life isn't as kind as that."
"I love you."
Hyunseong put the fag to his lip, took a drag and leaned back, so they were lying side by side under the stars, "Yeah, I know you do."
"I bet you're wondering why I called the gang here today," Jeongmin said, gesturing to the room that was empty apart from the two of them.
Hyunseong shook his head, "Not at all. You always call me over."
"Okay, so the smokes were horrible," Jeongmin summarised, ignoring the noise of disagreement Hyunseong threw his way, "and my dad was totally buying that wine half price, because it sucked."
Hyunseong nodded, although the wine had only made him slightly happy in the evening, it had given him a throbbing headache in the morning, something unforgivable. "That wine sucked like a whore."
"Wow, you have a way with words like no other," Jeongmin complimented, sarcasm dripping from his tone.
Hyunseong shrugged, but remembered why he was here. Jeongmin had called, and, as always, he came on demand, never even considering what crazy idea he would be involved in next. "Why did you call me here?"
"Because, my dearest friend," Jeongmin gave him a nod and Hyunseong just sighed, forever wondering why they were friends, "I have something better than wine and chocolate."
"When did chocolate even come into this?" He asked, slightly humouring Jeongmin as he realised that that was the plan: chocolate. He was known for a big appetite, this didn't seem like something he was going to be opposed to.
The younger scowled, "Oh shit. I meant cigarettes. Well, anyway, I bought this chocolate from the shop this morning." He pulled it out proudly, though it seemed to be just an ordinary bar with 'new!' splashed across the front.
"It was sat on the counter, wasn't it? While you were paying?" Hyunseong guessed, trying not to smile mockingly.
It was just staring at him as he bought a can of pop, and it was such a reasonable price for something so new. "How did you know?" He asked with surprise, and maybe embarrassment of being read so easily, but he wouldn't admit that.
"You're such an impulse buyer. Do you remember when you bought the hundred pack of orange juice because it was such a good bargain?" He sighed, shuddering slightly as he thought of how much juice he had to drink. Jeongmin hated oranges, and he didn't want to take it home, his parents would yell at him for wasting all his money.
Jeongmin just muttered something under his breath and broke the chocolate into uneven rectangles, sharing them out between them. He gave the Hyunseong the odd one that was always left over when sharing rows between two, even if he paid for it, he knew he wouldn't enjoy it as much. "Now taste it."
He smelled it, then placed a piece in his mouth, moving it about slightly as it melted on his tongue. All the while he had a serious expressions, as though he was honestly thinking it through. Jeongmin was suddenly excited by his commitment, until, "The aroma of this is chocolate, the taste is chocolate. Hey, it even feels like chocolate."
"You never try for me," Jeongmin sighed, stuffing some into his mouth. Hyunseong was right, there was nothing remarkable about this.
He remembered when they first met, the chocolate made it impossible not to. Not during the accident on their bikes, when Hyunseong thought they first met. Before then, when they were seven. He remembered the older boy, the bigger boy, come over to him, while he cried over his bruised knee, and thrust chocolate in his face. It was melted from being squeezed in Hyunseong's palm and tasted of feet, but the memory had never left him.
Sometimes he wondered if Hyunseong remembered deep down, the way he stared at him with wide eyes the previous year. The way he couldn't leave, he'd stuck around with the school's weirdo. He didn't even classify as a nerd, he fit in nowhere.
Jeongmin was in love with him for this, because it felt amazing to have someone accept him. Then and now. He just, though he berated himself for being selfish, wished the other would remember.
Tears escaped from Jeongmin's eyes and ran along his nose, where they dripped off. "I'm going to miss you so much," he sobbed as they sat on the roof together.
Hyunseong hadn't spoken for a good few minutes and he was starting to wonder if he still could. "I'm not dying, I'll be waiting for you," he said, his throat choked up.
Jeongmin was leaving, there was no helping it. They'd graduated, finally, the day they'd been waiting for for years. Hyunseong didn't know why it felt like his body was numb, the day that had been golden in his mind suddenly felt like the end.
Jeongmin hit him mercilessly, the power behind the blows lowering each time, "Idiot, you wont wait. Don't lie to me - I hate it." He slumped against Hyunseong's chest, where he was taken into his arms. The other didn't speak, not wanting to say something he didn't mean again, so he just hummed.
After a while he realised Jeongmin was waiting for a response. He chose his words tentatively, who said he never thought anything through? "I wont be waiting for you, but I'll still be here when you get back."
"Bastard," Jeongmin cursed, but without much enthusiasm, Hyunseong just let the insults roll off him. "Fuck you. I'm doing something with my life and all I can think of is how much I want to be here with you. A dead end nobody."
Hyunseong laughed which caused Jeongmin to smile involuntarily, his voice was usually quiet and low, but now it a rough quality as he attempted to hold back tears. "Hey, I'm going places. I've got a job interview at the car garage down the road."
"University is more worthwhile," he countered. Maybe talking about leaving would make it easier, maybe it would just make it more surreal. His parents would bring him back to earth if his resolve started to dissolve, he knew that for sure.
The view from the roof was one they'd become accustomed to. They could see the rows of houses that sloped down the hill and the quiet road beneath them, the one which Hyunseong liked to throw rocks onto. The people below did not share his love as they shouted curses up to him.
Hyunseong liked it, but it felt like he was seeing it for the final time. He could remember the first time too, the way it felt like he was ontop of the world. The way he could make fun of Jeongmin as he shuffled along nervously, completely certain the first few times that he'd fall off.
The taller boy fished some cigarettes from his pocket and placed one to his lips. He wasn't surprised when heard Jeongmin speak up beside him, expecting him to whine about second hand smoke and lung cancer. That was probably the only thing he wouldn't miss, but maybe he would after all.
"Can I have one?" Jeongmin asked, holding out his hand expectantly.
Hyunseong looked wary, hoping Jeongmin wouldn't toss his packet off the roof, "I thought you hated them?" Jeongmin smiled wryly and he felt his heart skip a beat. In a different world, where Hyunseong was better at talking about feelings, they could have had a happier parting.
"It's just one of those days," Jeongmin reasoned.
They didn't see each other much after that.
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