It was Christmas Eve, and Christmas was on a Sunday this year.
The busy streets would be even more overwhelmed by people shopping and celebrating, and Taemin imagined Jongin and Soojung together amidst the body of people. They would walk by the brightly decorated trees lining the street and Jongin would hold Soojung’s cold hands to warm it with his own…
And when his imagination started running down towards the gates of hell, Taemin violently shook his head. Jongin had said that he wouldn’t date Soojung even if she asked him out. He had to believe him.
The clock flashed seven o’clock, Christmas was only a night away. Taemin hadn’t heard from Jongin all day, and it took too much of his pride to call first.
He picked up his phone after a long contemplation and dialed a number. A familiar voice flowed through after a couple of rings, but Taemin couldn’t speak. He couldn’t understand why, but Soojung’s voice echoed in his head and Taemin held the phone at his ears, unable to open his mouth.
You are nothing but just a pretty face.
“Hello? Hello? …Taemin? Hello, is it Taemin?”
“Taemin-ah? Isn’t this Taemin’s number? Why aren’t you talking, honey?”
Taemin listened to his mom call his name on the other side of the line. If he was to open his mouth and speak one word, he felt like tears were going to gush out of his eyes. Ignoring the expensive roaming fee, Taemin tried to figure out how many Christmases he had spent alone, in this dark empty house. Taemin’s grip on the phone hardened.
“Lee Taemin! …Did he hang up? It’s mom, Taemin-ah talk.”
Without a word, Tamin hung up. He tossed his phone on the floor and buried his face on the couch.
Soojung wasn’t wrong. The problem was that the situation then and now was very different. The Taemin then had indiscreet recklessness, naivety, and uncontrollable personality.
But most of all, the Taemin then had both his mom and dad by his side.
He had his mom’s embrace to jump into after getting into a fight with a fellow classmate, and he had his father’s back to cling onto during a lazy Saturday afternoon like today.
All Taemin had right now was Poloysporin to apply on his face, a fifth lonely Christmas, and… Kim Jongin.
She doesn’t know anything. How dare she say that when she doesn’t know a about anything?
“… … …”
The back of Taemin’s hand was hot. The tears that welled up between his eyes and wrist flowed down his arms and wet the cushion. Taemin had stopped crying even when he was alone. Of course there were times when he wanted to bawl his eyes out, but it still took him some courage. He hated getting caught, and it probably started there. Crying alone on top of being abandoned by his parents, it just seemed too tragic for comfort.
Taemin bolted up and rubbed his face. He sat back on the couch, brought his knees up to his face and buried his head. It was Christmas Eve, crying alone was allowed tonight. As soon as Taemin excused himself, a stifle that sounded way too pitiful even in his own ears escaped his lips. He gritted his teeth, but there was no use. Taemin screamed, refusing to yield into his own sadness, and started crying. He cried loudly, sobbing and wailing as much as he wanted to, for as long as tears gushed down his face and dried him up of water. When Taemin lifted up his head, the living room was still dark.
He blinked, and spied his wallet on the floor. Taemin got up to his feet for a change of his crappy mood. Scurrying out two ten dollar bills from his wallet, Taemin energetically stormed out the door… and froze in his tracks.
Jongin was leaning against the side wall. The wide shoulders, the two hands pocketed in his jeans, and the awkward smile that formed his lips to a straight line, it was all Jongin.
Meeting gaze with Taemin’s widened eyes, Jongin straightened up.
“My stupid phone never lasts a day these days.” He murmured. “It died right when I was about to call you. I tried with my mom’s but you’re line was busy…”
“I was going to ask what you wanted, but then again it’s always the same thing. So yeah.”
Jongin chuckled as he held up the plastic bag on the ground. Taemin peered down the plastic bag and saw cans of beer and a red box labeled XX Wings, its corners ripping out of the bag. Taemin’s gaze moved back up to Jongin. He could tell, Jongin’s awkward smile was more than obvious. Jongin was trying his hardest to hide that he knew how embarrassed Taemin was, but it was making things more uncomfortable. As Taemin stood without accepting the plastic bag, Jongin placed it down again and scratched his head.
“Are you going to kick me out? ‘Cause… I already told my mom that I’d be sleeping over tonight.”
To be honest, being embarrassed wasn’t important. What was really significant was that Taemin really wanted to cry. He wanted to cry in front of Jongin. If there was somebody to pat on him on the back and tell him that everything was going to be okay, it had to be Jongin. Taemin wanted to break the ten year record of not crying in front of his friend, he wanted to hear Jongin tell him that it was okay.
“When did you get here?” He managed to say.
“Huh?” Jongin said, “…Oh, um I don’t know.”
“…Tell me, Kim Jongin.” Taemin said firmly.
“Uh…Since the first …”
Taemin looked down and mussed up his hair. Everything was revealed, down to a single speck of his pitifulness. Taemin sighed and Jongin cautiously opened his mouth.
“To tell you the truth… This isn’t the first time…”
“…What?” Taemin asked, looking up.
“……I was here last year, the year before,… I guess you could say that this is my fifth time.”
Seeing Taemin’s mouth drop in shock, Jongin continued.
“You would’ve hated me there with you. So I waited. I hope you don’t get mad.”
Jongin’s eyes fell, afraid of what Taemin would do considering how much Taemin valued his pride. Taemin managed to wet his dry lips. His voice was hoarse.
“…Yeah?” Jongin looked uncertain.
“Thanks…” Taemin mumbled.
Jongin’s watchful eyes searched Taemin. His nervous expression turned to a smile of relief as he discovered that Taemin wasn’t planning to throw a fit any time sooner, and a bunch of excuses standing by flew out of his mouth.
“Sorry I miscalculated the time this year… You usually go to the washroom right after to wash your face before coming out to go to the convenience store. I thought I still had some time before heading out… Can’t believe it, I did it perfectly for the last five years… It’s not my fault though! You broke the pattern, why the heck didn’t you wash your face this time? You look disgusting by the way…”
Taemin honestly wanted to tell Jongin to stop talking. The last five years of Taemin’s Christmases were being played over in his head through Jongin’s voice.
Just one day a year, on Christmas Eve, for twenty minutes. That was the given length of time Taemin allowed himself to cry. And then he would wash his face, and charge out to the convenience store like nothing was wrong.
It struck Taemin now how he didn’t realize it before. He had always, always met Jongin on the way to the store.
Every year, every time, for the last five years.
Taemin had just let it pass as a weird telepathy thing, as part of their destined friendship. The picture of Jongin waiting outside the doors drew in his mind and Taemin bit his lip hard, trying to blink back the tears.
“Well, shall we go to the store like we always do?” Jongin asked cheerfully.
“Yeah…” Taemin nodded, eyes still on the ground.
Turning around towards the driveway, Jongin smiled and chirped.
“Let’s go! It’s on me today. You can pick out all the chocolates you want but I only have seven bucks left so make it…”
Taemin shut his eyes and tightly wrapped his arms around Jongin’s back. Jongin’s voice trailed off, and Taemin hugged him even tighter. Taemin had nothing to lose anymore. He had already been called pathetic and nothing, he could be called crazy for all he cared.
Jongin’s back against his own chest felt warm. He could feel Jongin trembling slightly from the shock but didn’t let him go. When Taemin lost count of the seconds, he heard Jongin’s voice hinting with laughter.
“Lee Taemin. …Don’t you think that our pose looks a bit weird right now?”
Taemin replied, biting the insides of his mouth incase he stifled a cry. His arms drooped down back to his sides.
Jongin slowly turned around and Taemin kept his gaze glued to the floor, afraid to look at him in the eyes.
Weird. Of course it was weird.
Pushing self-hate for later, Taemin lifted his head to ease the unusual atmosphere when Jongin suddenly stretched his arms. Jongin grabbed Taemin’s shoulders and pulled him hard, into his own embrace. The scent of Jongin’s soap filled Taemin’s senses and he felt his heart race faster and harder against Jongin’s chest. Jongin’s hand tapped gently against Taemin’s back, and unknowing what to do with his own, Taemin left his arms hanging awkwardly by his side.
“This looks much better, don’t you think?”
Taemin heard Jongin say softly against his ears.
“I’ll be sure to charge my phone from now on,” Jongin promised, “so don’t act like you’re alone Lee Taemin.”
Taemin’s arms rose slowly and linked around Jongin’s back. And without a second to think about his pride, Taemin wet the shoulders of Jongin’s uniform.
He couldn’t help it, he had held them back for five whole years after all.
Thank you for reading!!!
I know this chapter is shorter than my usual ones but I thought this was the right place to cut before I moved on. I promise that next chapter will be longer!
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AhjummaNR1 ♡ lol aww thanx. i wonder which is worse, story deprivation or taemin's love deprivation? ;)
MachiShupp ♡ omg how did you know? lol i don't watch animes but i do love reading mangas! i'm glad you enjoyed the chapter♥
starkey ♡ thank you, your comment makes my day too >///< haha i would too if i had friends like... them. thank goodness i didnt
yuraxchan ♡ yeah.. its complicated isn't it? i hope you anticipate for more taekai in the process, the key theme in this fic! > <
maxjibong, des2bfree ♡ oh dear, charming chanyeol is getting to everyone isn't he? haha truthfully i suffer from second lead syndrome in about every drama/fic I watch/read, and i guess that has a great impact on my writing as well teehee
imsocuriousyeah ♡ ;~; thank u so much♥ i swear you always write the sweetest comment and i cry cry. im so happy you like sulli, soojung, chanyeol and everybody omg T^T
stern270 ♡ haha i do always hope to make u guys laugh when i insert sulli in XD thank you reading and commenting!
★ Please check out my other story Chocolate Cupcakes and Cigarettes ★