Zelo plopped down on his bed, sighing heavily. Sure, his parents’ house was nice, but he wanted to go back to his aunt. He wanted to visit Yongguk. He sure as hell didn’t want to be 50 miles away from the jail. He rolled over, hearing his door being cracked open.
“Junhong, hunny, are you awake?” he could hear his mom’s cautious voice and he sighed, pulling his jacket closer around himself.
“I told you already that I don’t want to be called Junhong.” He groaned, burying his face in his pillow. He rolled on his back, staring at the ceiling. “Get out, Umma.” He couldn’t help but think to the pictures, the words, the looks from all of his family, except his aunt, that spoke of why he wasn’t good enough to deserve that name.
12 Years Ago
“Appa, Appa, come play with me!” Junhong smiled and ran with little legs toward his father, who was dressed in an army suit. His father bent down and smiled, pulling the little boy into his arms.
“Oh, my little Junhong, this will be the last time I’ll play with you for a while, okay?” The boy frowned at his father but nodded, understanding. Being five didn’t make him stupid. He knew his daddy was a hero. They played for a while, tossing the ball or playing tag, leaving little Junhong laughing so hard he was crying. He was going to miss his daddy. The father ruffled his hair, grinning widely as he placed the camouflage hat on his son’s head. “Maybe someday you’ll wear this hat too, eh Junhonggie?”
“Daddy, can I be like you?” he was basking in his father’s praise, pulling the hat down so it fit better on his head. The father nodded and sat down next to him, hugging his son tightly.
“Junhong dear, come in here would you?” Both boy’s looked up at the woman’s request, little Junhong stumbling toward the kitchen to his mother. The woman laughed sweetly, patting her son’s head. “No, not you little Junhonggie, I meant daddy Junhong.” The boy smiled.
“But Umma, I want to be just like Appa.” The boy turned around and opened his mouth to yell. “Appa Junhong, Umma wants you!” The father chuckled at the boy’s seriousness and took the hat off of his head.
“Yes, Jagiya?” the father kissed her forehead and she smiled, leaning on him.
“Junhong, Yeobo, do you have to go?” the mother sighed and wrapped her arms around him.
“Yes, jagi, I have to.” He whispered this against her hair and she breathed in, reveling in his scent.
“Junhonggie, I’ll play with you when I get back, okay?” The father bent down and kissed his son’s forehead as he heard a horn blaring outside. “I love you, Yeobo.” He said to his wife before he turned to walk out the door.
A couple months passed of the mother and son waiting patiently. The boy was still happy, still content with life, still normal. A phone call came one day that changed their life, their world, his name.
“Eoboseyo?” The mother answered the phone, a hopeful look on her face when she recognized the number.
“This is General Kim Tae Woong from District 15. Miss Choi?” the woman swallowed the lump in and breathed out, knowing that generals didn’t call for just any reason.
“Yes, Tae Woong-ssi?” she held her breath, tears welling in her eyes.
“I’m sorry to inform you that your husband was killed in combat today.” He paused as the mother choked out a sob. “He was fighting against the North Koreans and they dropped a bomb, Agassi. He saved everyone in his battalion before he was killed. You should be proud to have had such a wonderful man as your husband.” The mother choked out another sob, falling to the floor. She was too young to be a widow. Why did this happen to her? She looked to her son, playing in the yard, tossing around a ball, and knew she couldn’t take it without her husband. Her son ran in the house, seeing his mother lying on the floor.
“Umma, are you okay?” his voice was barely above a whisper, tears forming in his little deer-like eyes. She shook her head.
“Junhonggie, I’m sorry…” she choked out. Her son was only five, how could she tell him? “Your Appa. He can’t play with you anymore.”
Junhong stopped. He knew those words. He knew what they meant. He knew because his daddy told him so. His daddy had told him that he would always come back to play with him, and if he didn’t, then he was a hero. If his daddy wasn’t able to come back to play, then he was to take care of his mother.
Zelo heard his mother shut the door and he heard her run downstairs. He knew she’d leave with her new man, and they’d go out, and he’d complain about how much of a failure that Zelo was, or how much of a little he was being to his own mother. He remembered the reason he chose the name and smiled. Zelos, the Greek god. The god of rivalry and dedication. Mostly dedication. Zelo rivaled with his mother’s boyfriends for her love. He dedicated himself to protecting her and she shunned him away because he looked too much like his father. So he quit.
He quit protecting her and the man she had now was great. He loved her, and cared for her, but he hated Zelo. That was okay, because Zelo hated him as well. He couldn’t stand to be called Junhong. He missed his father and knowing he gave up on his father’s wishes, he couldn’t keep the honor of being named after such a great man. He desired a father figure, one that wasn't dead. But these men never cut it. But he still called them 'father' just to satisfy them.
Zelo shot up on his bed when he heard a knock downstairs. He heard his mother leave, but he knew no one really knew where he was. He was almost scared to go downstairs. He wiped away his tears, knowing there’d still be tear marks. He tugged at his long-sleeve white shirt and straightened out his black sweatpants before going down and opening the door in front of him.
“Yah, Yongguk-hyung!” Zelo had to catch himself before he slammed the door in the elder’s face. He saw the man in a pair of plain baggy black jeans with a chain and a red shirt with the sides cut out, revealing a tight black tank top underneath. He saw the purplish hair was still hanging loosely in his face, and he had a faint smile decorating his perfect mouth.
“Nice to see you too, Zelo-ah.” Yongguk’s mouth curved into a bigger smile, his lip creeping its way up his gums. He stopped smiling when he saw the tear marks down Zelo’s face. “Are you okay?” Zelo saw his entire persona change. He stopped smiling and darted his eyes around the room behind him, searching for the ones who made Zelo cry. Zelo noticed this and immediately began defending.
“Oh, uh, hyung I’m fine, I promise!! It’s just a memory that made me cry, is all.” Zelo sighed and bit his bottom lip, leaning against the door frame. He gulped when Yongguk stepped in the frame in front of him and put his hand beside Zelo’s head. He gripped Zelo’s chin with the other hand and tilted his head to look at him.
“Are you sure, Zelo-ah, that no one is hurting you?” Yongguk’s face was serious, and close. Zelo shut his eyes and breathed out a shaky breath, reopening them to stare straight into the elder’s brown ones. Zelo nodded, sliding out of his grasp and moving into the house. Yongguk followed and shut the door, locking it behind him. “Zelo-ah, what’s wrong?” Yongguk moved to hold him from behind, his arms gliding around his waist and pulling him close, stopping him from walking.
“What are you doing here, Yongguk-hyung?” Zelo turned around to face him.
“They let me on parole early.” He smiled his gummy smile and Zelo had no choice but to smile back.
“No, I can understand that, babo. I meant what are you doing here…at my parents’ house?” Zelo couldn’t hide his surprise at the smirk that came with that question.
“Do you know how easy it is to ask your principal where you live during breaks?” He couldn’t help the victorious look that crossed his face at Zelo’s now pink tinted cheeks. “All I had to do was say I served in the army and he did everything for me.”
“Did you really serve in the army, Yongguk-hyung?” Zelo looked up at him. Calling him a soldier meant nothing unless he really was one.
“Yeah, for about two years.” He smiled, brushing the pink hair out of Zelo’s eyes. “Until someone attacked my sister.” He bit his lip and scrunched his face in anger.
“Is that why you were put in jail, hyung?” Zelo couldn’t stop the questions from rolling out of his mouth. It was like he had no self-control when he was around Yongguk. Yongguk nodded, his arms still around the younger.
“Do you mind if I ask some questions now, Zelo-ah?” Yongguk’s voice was soft, sweet, caring. Zelo nodded, his smile widening. Zelo was content in being here, being in this man’s arms, feeling like he was loved. Yongguk ran his hands up under the back of Zelo’s shirt, the warmth of their skin mixing together.
“Is your real name Zelo?” he cringed at the question and Yongguk saw the pain in his eyes. He kissed his forehead and pulled the boy closer to him.
“No, but my real name doesn’t matter.” Zelo tried to keep the shaking from his voice, but the elder noticed.
“That memory?” that was all Yongguk said but he didn’t have to say anything else as Zelo began to shake again. He could feel the tears threatening to fall but he tried his best to hold them in. Yongguk sat down on the couch, pulling Zelo into his lap. Zelo didn’t know why he was so drawn to this man. He could feel the strength from his arms and the kindness in him. He didn’t know why, but he felt safe in those arms.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up.” Yongguk sighed against Zelo’s hair. Zelo turned and buried his face in Yongguk’s shoulder, feeling the shaking subsiding. Yongguk ran his hand up and down Zelo’s back up under the white shirt. “Let me ask something else.” He grinned, hoping Zelo would become happier.
“Okay, hyung. What is it? “Zelo gripped the front of the red shirt and slightly smiled.
“Why are you here alone?” Yongguk’s voice was barely above a whisper and it was close to Zelo’s ear. Zelo shivered.
“My mom went out with her boyfriend.” He muttered, not wanting to talk about it. Yongguk understood and smiled, running his fingertips down the younger’s spine. Yongguk heard the door unlock and he turned his head to see a woman walking through the door laughing, hanging off of a guy’s arm. Yongguk didn’t move because he didn’t want to dump Zelo on the couch, but he wasn’t exactly the best person to be seen around an underage boy at the moment. His mom stopped laughing as Yongguk turned his head back around to face Zelo. He didn’t want to see the woman’s reaction to an ex-convict cuddling with her son.
“Junhong-ah, what are you doing?” his mother’s voice was loud and harsh. She walked over and peered over the couch, seeing Yongguk’s hand resting slightly up the back of his shirt.
“Go away Umma.” Zelo’s voice was soft but it was harsh. “I told you not to call me that.”
“Junhonggie, I’m doing the best I can, so why are you sitting here in some boy’s lap? I thought you were normal, you know, and liked women?” She tried her best to keep her voice level, but she began yelling at the end.
“Well,” Zelo sat up, scooting out of Yongguk’s lap and facing his mother, “it’s not like you’d know how I was, considering you don’t talk to anyone but him!” Zelo spat this at his mother’s boyfriend, a smirk crossing the older male’s face. Yongguk gripped Zelo’s wrist, tugging at his arm slightly.
“Zelo-ah, you don’t want to do anything stupid, do you?” Yongguk’s sweet voice whisked past Zelo’s ears and he sighed, anger not fading. He wanted to do nothing more than jump over the couch and rip at the man who his mother called Jagiya, after she’d called his father Jagiya. She shouldn’t have been allowed to have any other man call her Jagiya, or Yeobo, or even say her name.
“Who is this man anyway, Junhong?” the man dared to speak to Zelo. No term of respect, no formality, nothing but hatred dripping from his voice. “You’re only seventeen.”
“I want nothing to do with you.” Zelo couldn’t help his shaking voice in anger. “I don’t have to tell you anything, saekki.” Zelo spat out that last word, satisfied when the man frowned.
“Junhong, watch your mouth.” The man dared to speak to him again. Zelo heard Yongguk shift beside him and he turned his head, seeing that the elder was completely pissed. Zelo grabbed his arm, stopping him from standing.
“You don’t have any reason to tell him what to do.” Yongguk’s voice growled out as he realized the situation. This man was trying to take control of both the mother and Zelo.
“What did you say punk?” The man thumped Yongguk on the back of his head and Yongguk turned, a fire in his eyes as he jerked his arm out of Zelo’s grasp.
“I said…” Yongguk stood, walking around the couch and grabbing the man’s shirt, “...that you have no right to tell him what to do…punk.”
“Hyung, let him go.” Zelo’s voice was full of caution. “Just let him go and we can leave.”
“You’re not going anywhere, Junhong.” The man was foolish enough to speak from Yongguk’s grasp.
Yongguk sighed, pulling back his fist to ram it into his stomach. Zelo grabbed his arm, his grip so tight that if Yongguk pulled forward, he’d hurt him. “Zelo-ah, let go.”
“His name isn’t Zelo, it’s Junhong.” The mother piped up finally, her voice shaking because of her fear.
“If he wants to be called Zelo, then I’ll call him Zelo.” Yongguk’s words were precise. “Now let go, Zelo-ah.”
“Not until you let him go, hyung. We can go when you let him go.” Zelo was practically begging him.
“Wait, I’ve seen you somewhere before…” the man spoke stupidly again, glaring down from his spot hoisted in the air. “You’re a murderer.” He whispered. That shouldn’t have been said. Zelo felt his muscles relax under his grip and he dropped his mom’s boyfriend on the floor.
“We can go, Zelo-ah.” Yongguk turned and gripped Zelo’s hand in his own, pulling him out of the door. They walked for a little bit before Zelo stopped, jerking Yongguk back.
“What’s wrong, Yongguk-hyung?” Zelo moved closer to him. Yongguk turned around to Zelo, his eyes watery.
“I’m not a murderer, Zelo-ah.” He stated this breathily, sinking down against the wall of a random building, looking up at the sky. “I killed that man to protect my sister. He attacked her. He her. He was going to come back for her.” Yongguk pulled Zelo down beside him and the younger leaned on his shoulder, his fingers intertwining with the other boy’s. “Why do you trust me, Zelo-ah?”
“I trust you because you’re a soldier. Soldiers are disciplined and very trustworthy.” Zelo smiled, turning to the side to get more comfortable on Yongguk’s shoulder.
“Was your dad a soldier?” Zelo cringed. How did he know?
“Is it obvious?” Zelo gripped Yongguk’s hand tighter and the elder turned his head to the side, kissing the top of his head.
“You’re so trusting of me, but not the man in that house. If you can trust someone who was in jail more than that man, your dad must have been a soldier.” He smiled.
“I don’t think you’re a murderer, Yongguk-hyung.” Zelo whispered this, feeling himself drifting off to sleep.
“Yah, we can’t fall asleep out here Zelo-ah.” He whispered this, shaking the boy lightly.
“Why not, hyung?” Zelo’s voice was soft, sleepy.
“Because it’s going to get cold tonight. We need to be somewhere warm, ok?” Yongguk smiled softly and stood up slowly, pulling Zelo up to his feet.
“We could go back to my aunt's?” Zelo mumbled. “She understands me.”
Yongguk clarified the address he remembered from the school's information. They waited at the bus stop, Zelo frequently falling asleep on his shoulder. Yongguk pulled him inside when it got there, but soon smiled down at him when he fell asleep yet again on his shoulder. He managed to stay awake in the hours it took them to get back to his aunt's side of town. He woke the younger and led him to the address. They knocked on the door, the woman letting both in without question.
“You're back early, Zelo-ah.” She smiled at him.
He just nodded. “This is Yongguk-hyung. He's...” He sighed, but smiled when his aunt just nodded.
“Nice to meet you, Yongguk-ssi. I'm Seoyun.” She bowed. Yongguk bowed in return. “Rest well, you two. I'm off to bed.” She walked into another room, closing the door behind her softly.
Zelo took Yongguk to his room and over to the bed, flopping down onto it after removing his shoes. Yongguk just did the same, laying down beside the younger. “Good night, hyung.” Zelo mumbled, already off into the abyss of sleep.
“Sweet dreams, Zelo-ah.” Yongguk smiled, kissing his forehead lightly.
After breakfast, the first thing Zelo wanted to do was go inform his best friend of his early return. He took Yongguk with him, and held his hand as he knocked on the door. He knew Jongup's parents were on a trip, so there was no one to question Yongguk's appearance.
The door opened slowly, and Zelo jumped when he was faced with someone other than Jongup. “Yongguk?” The voice responded with a chuckle. “I see you found him.”
“I see you escaped again, Himchan-ah.” Yongguk sighed.
Zelo smiled when he remembered the way Himchan hung all on Jongup that day at the jail, and was glad they had a way to be together like he and Yongguk did. “Where's Jonguppie-hyung?” Zelo asked curiously.
“In his room.” Himchan smiled. “He's a little tired.”
“Can we come in?” Zelo asked. Himchan nodded, stepping aside.
Zelo made his way up to Jongup's room, but Yongguk stayed behind to talk to his friend.
“So you two are official?” Himchan asked, nudging Yongguk a little.
Yongguk just smiled. “How about you?” Himchan smiled and lazily nodded in response. “You know I'm going to turn you in, Himchan.”
“Gukkie! You wouldn't do that poor Jongup-ah, would you?” He frowned. “He loves me.”
“Loves?” Yongguk scoffed. “You kill people, Himchan-ah.”
“But I didn't!” Himchan grabbed his arms lightly. “I couldn't. I tried, I really did, but I just couldn't Guk!” He pouted. “Because I love him, too.”
“You did that with him already?” Yongguk sighed. “You're a terrible man, Kim Himchan.”
Himchan crossed his arms. “I'm still loved aren't I?”
Up in Jongup's room, Zelo sat down on the bed next to his friend, who was still lying down, blanket covering him to his neck. “I'm glad you're back so soon.” Jongup smiled.
“Yeah.” Zelo sighed. “My mom is going to come try bring me back, I'm sure.”
“But you have Yongguk with you, so your 'father' can't touch you.” Jongup reached down and patted his leg. “It'll be okay.”
“I know.” Zelo smiled. “How are you and Himchan?”
Jongup just grinned ear to ear and a blush came over his face. “Do we have to talk about it?”
Zelo gasped. “You didn't?” Jongup's even redder blush answered his question. “You're terrible, Jonguppie-hyung. Terrible.”
Jongup just laughed, the two friends soon joined by the two adults.