Nothing short of error. As amazing as the spontaneous element of surprise is, he hadn’t been much of a favourable outcome. It was much like a science experiment that really shouldn’t have exploded, but had regardless.
It wasn’t a secret either; that his parents had conceived him on one dreadful night where two college students just had a few too many drinks. It wasn’t uncommon, but how could anybody predict that the class nerd would fall trap to the clichéd jock?
The nerd should have turned right around and fled as soon as such stereotypical bullies showed up at her door and invited her to a party.
As unnecessary as it sounds, one must be assured that she had refused at first, until the promise of fame and popularity momentarily clogged her good judgment, and she chose to trail behind those she once feared so darn much.
A few drinks later (plus numerous chokes and coughs from the still newbie drinker), and an inconspicuous drop of a pill down her drink, the nerd had found herself dragging her legs down a long hallway towards a darkened room, with the so-called jock by her side, his tongue down her throat.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what follows, but sometimes, one does wonder the outcome. Taemin likes to wonder this outcome all the time.
He especially enjoys the part where he finds out his father dropped out of college to run away from the girl that was his mom, but ended up having the child dropped on his doorstep. Re-enrollment in any College was no longer possible, too, when Taemin’s mother pushed charges and his father was convicted of rape.
Who knew that she wasn’t the stereotypical nerd? The ones that are smart, but poor, ugly, but only when they have glasses on?
The woman was not a nerd for no reason, for such a title was earned with hard work. Not only was she top of the class (though reasonably envious of the more popular crowd), she was also the daughter of a millionaire.
One that could squash Taemin’s dad under his pinky toe like a bug. And that he did.
That’s partly the reason why Taemin finds himself living below standards in a trailer that only has one bathroom and one kitchen, with a debatable living room that could also double as a hole in the wall. His room was a corner blocked off by a curtain. It’s also why he’s wearing hand-me-downs from the nearby church, which Taemin likes to avoid, since he majorly lies when he claims he’s Christian just to receive such donations.
Sometimes, when times are good (like Christmas and New Years), some people are generous enough to donate cans upon cans of instant soup or beans, in which Taemin works extra hard to smile pitifully up at the adults, willing them to give this little boy a meal.
His father’s constantly in and out of the trailer, probably pimping around any women he can find around the street, so that he can make bare minimum to buy himself a few cans of alcohol, and pay the water and electricity fees.
Other times, when money was running low, Taemin would run and live under the roof of the Church, until the property owner could beat the crap out of his father and make him scoff out of the few extra bucks he always has hidden in his shoe.
‘For emergencies,’ he would usually smirk at Taemin.
Emergencies like when he himself needed a lay.
Taemin never called his father selfish though, and liked to remind himself that even though he shouldn’t have lived, he has, and that’s all that matters. Besides, how could he call everybody in the world selfish? And who really did care?
Another skinny boy on the streets. But they turn their heads and gaze instead at things more pleasurable to the eye. The new ipad or the new headset. They weren’t selfish though, because who were they to mind Taemin’s business anyways?
At this point, people probably wonder what happened to the billionaire mother. That question would be easily answered by one simple word: Shame.
What rich person would admit to their mistakes just to accept the accusations from an oh-so-judgmental public?
She had ditched Taemin the moment he was born, abandoning him on the doorsteps of Taemin’s father along with a court appointment letter.
In many ways, one might say that Taemin’s father may be more human than Taemin’s mother, but perhaps, it had never been about Taemin, just the father.
That’s probably why Taemin’s second role, other than son, is punchbag.
That’s probably why every night, before he goes to sleep, he finds himself rubbing over patches and patches of reddened, burning bruises. That’s probably why he finds scars covering every inch of his body, the pain it inflicted so stark and cold that he still shivers at the expression on his father’s face.
Alcohol created Taemin, so does that mean that alcohol should destroy him too? He doesn’t know, and he can do nothing but reel over in pain when his father kicks him in the stomach, slaps him across the face, pulls his hair and whips his body with a metal studded belt.
All he can do is smell the alcohol in his father’s breath and know what to expect. Alcohol urges his father to destroy what it has created.
He didn’t like people, with not much but his father and mother as an example. He didn’t like to talk, didn’t like to smile. He didn’t like to like.
Nonchalance makes life so much easier to bear. Numbing always seemed like a better solution.
So he never had anybody, and when his fingers itched to curl around someone else’s hand to find warmth, he would curl it around his own thighs, grimacing when pain seared through his thigh and straight to his head.
This, he would remind himself, would be the consequence of such desires. He punished himself for what he craved.
Perhaps it was coincidence, or possibly, like Onew likes to put it, fate.
Taemin had been playing with himself when he was 5, skipping across the sand and trying desperately not to remember how all the other children had their parents to push their swings and he could do nothing but hang in the air, short legs barely brushing the sanded ground.
He had opted instead to run to the sandbox, where golden shimmers and pretty rocks would momentarily bring his mind away from such beautiful things in life. Oh, the irony.
It had been the first time he had seen Onew, the older boy rabbit like crouched over his sandcastle as he smiled up at the sun, blinking quickly like Taemin had a habit of doing.
A feeling of warmth surged through his veins, making him freeze for a couple of seconds before sliding shyly over to the other boy in the sandbox, silently inquiring what the sandcastle was. Innocence was so beautiful, Taemin mused as he wondered what it would be like to be just another child.
“Why, it’s a sandcastle!! You’ve never seen one?” The voice that spilled from the small, pouty lips was warm and dripping honey, exactly how Taemin liked to dream his hyung to be. He liked to avoid his desires in real life, when he was conscious, but when he was unconscious, he couldn’t help but dream of what he really wanted.
Bravely, and so unlike himself, he reached out to pat the sandcastle, jaw dropping into a gasp as he saw the beautiful structure tumble to the ground, multicoloured flags buried under piles of golden sand.
That was when the older boy’s bottom lip started trembling, a sob breaking out from his lips as he dug into the pile of sand to find his flags.
“I’m sorry!” Taemin whispered, sticking a small, sticky hand into the sand to help the other boy.
“You hadn’t even gotten to put the draft down yet!” The flustered boy cried, still digging for flags and pushing Taemin’s helping hand away.
“I made the castle for you, so that you won’t be so sad that nobody can push you on the swings!”
“…I’m not sad over that.”
“I’m not having any of those lies!” Onew cried, tears gently caressing the dirtied flags lying on his lap.
“Why don’t you push me then, and quit crying like a baby?”
A six year old Onew smiled, jumping up and pushing the taller toddler over to the swings.
Unfortunately, Onew was way too short to reach the swing, and although Taemin climbed onto the swing with the help of Onew, there was no way for Onew to push Taemin, nor for Taemin to push himself.
Onew’s significant pout was visible from the other side of the playground as he stomped the ground in frustration.
“Don’t be sad, Taeminnie! I promise I’ll push you when I get a little taller!”
“Promise.” Taemin repeated, too distracted by the implications brought on by this small vow to notice that Onew had known his name even before he introduced himself.
Instead, he folded his hands behind his back, not forgetting to add a little pinch to each side of his waist, just to be sure.
Please let Onew not be a dream.
Three years later, both Onew and Taemin were well beyond the height needed for the swings, and they both sat in the sandbox, fingers threading through the loose speckles.
Clambering over to the swings, Onew patted a seat, smiling as Taemin settled into it.
Scruffy looking shoes scraped the sanded ground as Onew contemplated the plans for the day.
“So, your room again?”
It wasn’t like they had anywhere else, since Taemin liked to avoid other people, and Onew preferred to be alone with Taemin only. Taemin never questioned why, proud to be the sole recipient of Onew’s attention.
“I drew a new picture, Onew.” Taemin smiled, small hands grabbing onto the metal swing tightly as his excitement grew. He was usually shy of what he drew, but he always enjoyed the look of pure astonishment on Onew’s face as he shared them.
His expressions always differed, depending on the meaning conveyed in the drawing, but his smile afterwards, as bright as the sun if not brighter, always lit up his face, showcasing two rows of pearly white teeth and an eye smile to die for.
Taemin really did believe that he would die for that smile. His world before Onew showed up had been a shadow of events, of pain, hurt and loneliness, but now he wonders how he had lived without his sun.
Onew was everything he was not. Onew was outgoing, cheerful and always smiling or giggling, while Taemin found all this terribly endearing, he couldn’t bring himself to voice it out loud, only allowing himself subtle touches and the occasional hugs.
Unlike Taemin, Onew liked body contact, choosing to express himself through hugs and shoulder pats rather than words, because according to him, he wasn’t as skilled in his words as Taemin was, though Taemin spoke far less. But it was true, because in time, Taemin had grown so accustomed to his own little world that anybody that interrupts this peace was rewarded with a sarcastic comment and usually an eye roll.
But Onew always believed that Taemin put up such a mean front because in truth, he was shy and scared, not being able to trust strangers when his own parents have treated him as they had.
Nobody but Onew knew that he was hurting on the inside, and that as much as he wanted to fit into this world, he didn’t feel like he could. But Onew was from his world. Onew was from Taemin’s private little world, and could therefore, know exactly what made Taemin laugh.
He didn’t, of course, know that above all, Onew was the one that made him smile the most. Something about the bunny overbite, or the lame jokes, or the random moments of innocence made him feel like he couldn’t stop thinking of the other.
He liked to call it love, but what could he do when the other boy called him his best friend?
“Hello? Taeminnie?” Onew’s soft voice rang in his ears, and he suddenly became alert, always ready to come to Onew’s rescue, though it seemed like Onew saved him more. Sometimes his savior rescued him in such figurative ways that he wondered if it was possibly to really sew a broken heart back together.
He wondered if souls parched and wasted could really be patched up, cleansed and purified. He wondered if Onew was an angel that could do exactly that.
“Yes, Onew?” This was something Taemin always felt necessary in their relationship: formality. As much as he loved Onew and saw the other as his own flesh and blood, he couldn’t help but feel like he must always be polite to the other, Honorifics had been dropped long ago because Taemin liked the intimacy of getting to call the other Onew and only Onew, but Onew was too dear to him for him to stop treating the other like a fragile treasure.
“Are you bored of me already?” Onew giggled, though his eyes held a hint of his worry. He couldn’t imagine a day where he wouldn’t be able to talk to Taemin, to feel the accomplishment rushing through his veins and making him dizzy every time Taemin smiled at him.
Taemin didn’t answer. Of all the things he hated, he hated Onew’s lack of confidence. He hated it when Onew doubted himself, because he didn’t understand how something so perfect could be unconfident next to his imperfections.
Feeling dejected, the older boy only let his head drop as the conversation grew awkward, with Onew feeling all guilty but not understanding why, and with Taemin silently fuming over something even he himself didn’t understand.
“I’m sorry, Taeminnie!!!” Onew sobbed out of nowhere, his eyes red and splotchy because of his continuous rubbing at it. “I’m sorry! Sorry! I don’t know why but I’m sorry!”
And with that, the smoke coming out of Taemin’s ear evaporated quickly as he just had to stop and squeal inwardly at Onew’s adorableness. The boy had his nose scrunched up and his lips were quivering as he had two hands clad in a prayer like position before him, eyes pleading.
Without a word, Taemin gathered Onew in his arms and tried to look subtle as he gave the other boy’s neck a deep whiff, taking in the scent of baby powder. That’s how Onew always smelt: pure, untainted, innocent.
Onew was too perfect to be true, even Taemin knew that.
But he never thought that there would be a time when he would have to face the consequences of such a truth.
The two hadn’t gone out during the day in a long time, preferring to roam the night streets and alleyways rather than go out to into a crowd and have people stare at Taemin’s dirtied clothes, or the scars running down his cheeks and never ending.
But Taemin remembered seeing Onew’s eyes light up every time they passed by the closed amusement park, the childish innocence radiating from every pore of the other. It was night when they usually walked by said park, but it was there that a local festival was taking place that night and so people set out earlier in the evening and enjoyed themselves till later that night.
Taemin figured it wouldn’t hurt too much for him to bring Onew out earlier than usual as well. So that afternoon, around six, he promised Onew a surprise with a more than excited glint in his eyes, and followed suit by tying an old piece of cloth (maybe a dishrag, but whatever), around Onew’s eyes, and led the boy out of the trailer.
Onew stumbled, as always, and kept a strong hold on the back of Taemin’s shirt, laughing as Taemin suggested that “he could just carry him.”
It didn’t take long, probably a good ten minutes, before Onew was met with loud laughter and too much chitter chatter. Screams were heard off a distance, but mostly childish giggles and baby cries were made apparent to him. As he listened closer, he could differentiate mechanic voices introducing acts on stage, machine rides and rules to the game stalls. For a moment, as Taemin was standing behind him and removing the blindfold, he was frozen in spot, lips parted in a silent ‘o.’
He was hit with sudden nausea, partly from the crowd and partly from pure astonishment. Everything seemed so perfect and exciting. And there was Taemin standing there, with anticipation in his eyes, and a nervous lopsided grin on his face.
So he did what he never should have. He let down his guard and smiled the widest smile he could muster, tears collecting in his eyes as he ran forward to bury his crying face in Taemin’s chest. His mumbled apologies (for being overemotional), combined with his sincere string of thanks made Taemin feel proud and smile like an idiot.
The first stop was a small photo booth, where they were allowed 8 small photos for 2, 297. 78 won (2 dollars Canadian). Taemin and Onew made funny faces, but before looking at the photos, Taemin just shoved it in his pocket and prepared for their next stop.
“Come on!” Taemin laughed, pulling Onew over to the nearest ride, wondering if the rides would be scary enough for Onew to bury his face in his shoulder again.
It proved no, because Onew was the one holding tightly onto his hand and smiling as Taemin felt his stomach lurch and take a turn for the worst. Onew tried to tell him that screaming was supposed to help his upset stomach feel a bit better, and will stop him from throwing up, but it seemed that cool guy Taemin didn’t like to scream, and preferred spending a good ten minutes bent over a garbage can dry heaving as Onew pat his back gently.
“I’m fine,” He said, just before he heaved again, and realized that he absolutely had no food to throw up. “We’ll go get cotton candy as soon as I’m done, okay?” He tried to smile, but talking only brought him an entire new round of dry heaving.
He didn’t see the weird glances other people were sending his way.
Luckily, fifteen minutes later, with Onew sitting crossed legged next to him on the bench, he munched on cotton candy, reveling in the sweetness that exploded in his mouth. Onew shook his head when Taemin offered him the cone, so Taemin figured that it was because Onew didn’t like sweets.
By the time they were finished talking, and Taemin was done his cotton candy (bought by the couple of bucks he stole from his father when the latter was drunk), the stars already hung high above them, and the clock just struck eleven.
“How about one last ride?” Taemin gulped, eyes a little nervous but brave. It wasn’t like they’ve went on many rides, after all, since Taemin had gotten extremely sick from just two rides, and those two had been unpopular rides that really, nobody wanted to ride.
“I want that one,” Onew cooed, lacing his arm into the loop Taemin’s arm made with his body as he stuck a hand into his pocket.
“The Ferris wheel?” Taemin asked, taking his hand out of his pocket so that he could wrap his arm around Onew’s shoulder. Onew shrugged away and ran forward to the Ferris wheel.
Taemin brushed off the shrug as Onew being not a fan of public displays of affection, but it was oh so much more.
Luckily, Taemin believed that the only thing he didn’t like were the roller coasters and that the Ferris wheel, albeit going far higher than the roller coasters, also went a lot slower, so he wouldn’t be too sick during the ride. They waited in line as Onew hopped excitedly beside him, a grin on his face and eyes small crescents.
The Ferris wheel came to an abrupt stop before them and Taemin climbed in gingerly, quite unsure of the safety of the ride, due to the rusted seats and the creaking chains. He was just about to close the door when the ride attendant stuck a foot into the ride.
“What?” Taemin hissed, looking back at Onew, who was looking extremely aggravated, nibbling on the end of his thumb as he cowered in the seat.
“Sir, the plaque says that there is a maximum of two passengers per compartment.” Sure enough, as Taemin turned left just briefly, he saw the plaque hanging just above Onew’s head.
“Yeah, idiot. There’s two people in here already.”
“Sir,” The attendant, a tired looking young man who was probably only working part time sighed, exasperated.
“Now, how would we go about doing business when selfish people like you prefer to hog two seats for yourself rather than share so that the line wouldn’t be held up?” The rude tone in his voice was accompanied by an eye roll, before he shoved another girl through the door, and she tripped a little before sitting down on the seat beside Taemin.
Taemin looked up to see Onew standing next to the window, an embarrassed smile on his face. He was trying too hard to look reassuring, and it wasn’t helping.
“So it’s only the two of us.” The girl smiled, obviously a little smitten by the handsome boy sitting beside her. Too bad for her though, because this handsome boy was currently fuming, as angry as he was confused.
Only the two of us.
After the ride, which had been much too slow for Taemin’s liking, the two had strolled over to the nearby park, and Taemin had sat himself as far away as possible from Onew. Onew hadn’t failed to notice that. The night was almost completely over before Onew finally worked up the courage to explain himself.
“I’m concrete to you, but nobody else.” Silence hung heavy in the air as Taemin continued staring at his shoes, fingers twiddling as the photo bunched up in his back pocket. The small, slow crunches indicated tattered edges and rough rips. It didn’t matter, he figured, because Onew would never show up in the photos anyways.
Onew bit his lip, biting back words and wondering if telling the truth would damage his relationship with Taemin further. Instead he watched as Taemin hiked his shoes up onto the railing next to the slide and curled up into a ball, catapulting his body down the slide and onto the sharp wooden chips layering the play ground.
He didn’t register the sharp edges digging into his skin as he looked up at Onew, his personal angel’s face highlighted by the sun shining bright behind him. The sun was rising behind Onew, and the faint orange-red cast a sweet halo around him, captivating sunlight hardly more beautiful than the captivating natural glow Onew emitted.
“You’re beautiful. But you’re only a dream.” Taemin smiled bitterly, hand reaching out to clasp Onew’s wrist. “But if you disappear, so must I.” I would rather die than wake up from this dream.
Onew gaped, mouth opening and closing quickly as he registered what Taemin was saying. Taemin had his eyes shut now, tears tracing the edges of his jaw, the side of his face as he sobbed silently to himself. He was used to this; he used to say, before Onew had appeared in his life. He was used to crying on his own, hiding his sobs and shivers because any noise would’ve woken his father, earning him yet another storm of abuse.
But Onew’s shoulder was here now, even though he had to remind himself that this was all his mind playing with him. All those drawings he sketched of this perfect being were exactly what it seemed to be, a drawing- a product of his imagination.
His sobs broke out, raw and uncontrolled as soon as he found himself being embraced in Onew’s strong arms. Not only was Onew warm, but he always became exactly what Taemin needed at times. Onew was weak, when Taemin needed to feel strong. He would protect Onew then.
Onew was strong when he himself couldn’t stand any longer. Onew was a wall, a shield, a teddy bear. It all seemed so true now, so unbelievably, undeniably real. Onew was only so perfect because he wasn’t at all real.
It felt better regardless, to be in Onew’s embrace. And for the first time, Taemin wondered if he was crazy, and if the feeling of having concrete arms around him made him a delusional schizophrenic.
“Don’t cry,” Onew’s voice was breaking, trembling as it always did when Taemin was hurting.
“Don’t leave.” Taemin demanded, voice hoarse compared to that of the always gentle Onew. “Don’t leave me. Let me be crazy.”
“You’re not crazy, Taemin. Like I said… I’m concrete to you.”
“You’re not making any sense! I imagined another person, and lived with them for twelve years!” He didn’t like the feeling. This feeling was much worse than when he was being beaten by his father, when he was laughed at by his mother, when he had to beg for clothes and food. He felt lonely before he met Onew, but thinking about how Onew would leave him, he felt empty. Suddenly, his heart seemed to stop beating, and everything he ever felt seemed surreal and forced, fake and cowardly.
“Just listen to me, okay?” Onew raised his voice, and would be his first time ever seeming even slightly agitated.
With watery eyes, Taemin rubbed at his eyes and looked up from Onew’s chest, smiling the smile he always had when he told himself everything was going to be fine. It never was.
“Imaginary friends aren’t what you think they are! Not everybody has one, you know.”
“I can’t believe my imaginary best friend of twelve years is trying to teach me a lesson.” Taemin said spitefully, more to himself than Onew.
“Do you trust me, Taemin?” Taemin nodded before he could stop himself, and silenced himself. Heck. Let his imagination run wild. If only Onew could stay.
“Then believe me when I say imaginary friends aren’t at all imaginary. Only children can see these imaginary friends because only children believe in them. Only children have this pure and completely untainted belief. That’s why only children see something as pure as Angels.”
“Imaginary friend is just another name for Angels that come here to watch over children that are broken and lonely.”
Everything seemed rather unbelievable right now, but Taemin didn’t have to heart to admit otherwise. If all this meant that he wasn’t crazy, and that Onew was actually real-to him at least, he couldn’t possibly mind that much.
“You see… Angels can sin too, and when they commit a mistake, they are sent to Earth to cleanse themselves of that sin by aiding something as pure as children. Many children don’t seem like it, but are broken and alone, and with the help of these fallen angels, they are supposed to heal and become better.”
“Why are you still here then?” Taemin said quietly, his voice small and defenseless. “I’m basically an adult now.”
“That’s not the point. You still believe. Besides, Imaginary friends don’t disappear until they’re forgotten. Many children are healed and learn to make new friends before they grow up, usually forgetting their imaginary friend in the process.”
“Disappear?” Taemin’s eyes grew wide, and started to tear up again. “You can’t disappear!” He lunged forward and grasped Onew into a bone-breaking hug, suddenly realizing that he didn’t care about any of this. He didn’t even care if Onew was a figment of his imagination. Let the world think of him as crazy; it didn’t matter anymore. If all it took was his sanity in trade for Onew, then insanity was fine with him.
“I’ll always be here for you, Taemin.” Onew smiled. “Until forgotten.”
“This is too much like a fairytale,” Taemin smiled, still basking in Onew’s warmness, with the other tucked under his blanket next to him. “Angels exist. Imaginary friends aren’t so imaginary, and suddenly it seems like happily ever afters do exist after all.”
Onew smiled back at Taemin, but in the night, any worries were masked by the gentle rays of a shy moon, and storm clouds were hidden high above their heads, camouflaged by the darkened sky. “Sometimes, it’s no wonder that you haven’t forgotten me. You act just like a kid!”
Taemin giggled at Onew’s teasing, and pinched Onew’s nose as he sat himself higher in the bed and snatched his sketchbook from under his pillow, flipping through the pages till a drawing sketched onto toilet paper fell out.
“Just for your information, I’ve always seen you like this.” He pointed down at the small patches of toilet paper, where he had sketched a picture of Onew with Angel wings. It had been five years ago, when he was twelve that he drew that picture, suddenly inspired when he woke up one morning to Onew’s smiling face.
He had been too embarrassed to sketch that picture in front of Onew at the time though, knowing that Onew always peered over his shoulder when he drew, so he chose instead to duck into the washroom and sketch it out there. The picture had been a tad bit rushed, so Onew’s smile was a bit too wide, and his hair was messy like it usually was in the morning, but the air of elegance surrounding the figure in his drawing was exactly what he wanted to capture. The Angel wings suited Onew too well, he figured, but now, he finally understood exactly why.
“You see me on toilet paper all the time.” Onew stated flatly, but his cheeks were tinted pink and he was already fighting a smile.
“I see you everywhere.” Taemin grinned, feeling himself fluster at the romantic tinge to the words. And the confession.
“Really?” Onew was flat out blushing now, biting his lip as he twiddled his thumbs in his lap.
“Yes. And I wish you would stop doubting how beautiful you are.” With sudden bravery, and curiosity too, Taemin leaned forward and placed a short, small kiss on Onew’s cheek.
Seeing Onew’s eyes flutter closed as he scrunched up his nose cutely, Taemin laughed and leaned forward to capture Onew’s sweet lips this time.
Taemin, clad only in his worn wife beater and boxers had been thinking about a little more than kissing, but what could he do when the innocent Onew only swung his arms around his neck and shyly kissed him back?
Maybe it was too soon. They had forever, after all. Onew had promised to stay. Until forgotten.
That day, two confessions were made, one shocking, and the other... Well, only Onew was too thick in the head to not have noticed sooner.
“I love you,” Taemin murmured, heart pounding in his head as he heard the same three words repeated against his lips.
Onew never slept longer than Taemin. It was always Taemin who woke up to Onew’s smile, not the other way around. That morning though, Taemin’s foggy morning eyes were greeted with a still deeply asleep Onew, who had his lips curved into a small smile and his body shifted every ten minutes, as if he were whining like a child in his sleep.
For several minutes, he couldn’t force himself to move, so he sat there stupidly, frozen, as he stared at the boy before him. Beauty was an understatement, after all, he decided.
But then his father was storming into the room, reeking of alcohol and screaming at the top of his lungs.
Taemin wasn’t scared anymore though, not like when he was a child, so he slipped out of his bed to grab his father’s hand and drag the drunkard out of his room. It was a moment later that he realized his father wouldn’t be able to see Onew.
“What the fuck are you doing in my room?” He hissed, eyes large and glaring, menace dripping from coffee brown orbs.
The poor drunkard was old now 17 years older and not without a pot belly. He was no match for Taemin, who stood at 5 foot ten and had lean muscles rippling under pale, scarred skin.
His father obviously didn’t understand that Taemin was no longer the little boy he used to beat the crap out of. He raised his hand in a loose fist but was quickly overtaken by Taemin, who threw him on the couch and promptly made his exit.
“Bastard, I didn’t even get to kiss Onew goodbye because of you.” With the mention of Onew’s name however, he was again overcome with this warm, mushy feeling that made him smile giddily on his way to school. He spent the next eight hours paying exactly no attention to his teachers as he instead, dreamed about his first date with Onew that night.
He, of course, wouldn’t know that Onew had slept the entire day away, only opening his eyes mere minutes before Taemin arrived back at the trailer that night with a cheesy, but fresh, bouquet of flowers and a single cupcake.
It had taken Taemin another two years before he started to realize that something was horribly wrong with Onew.
Gradually, not only was Onew starting to seem tired more often, but he now cuddled into Taemin for warmth, rather than the other way around.
Taemin had found himself a job as a waiter, and moved out of his father’s place as soon as possible. Now, he owned a small apartment on the outskirts of Seoul, and was attending a small community college near his home. He came home to a smiling Onew every day, exactly as he had always wanted to, but he couldn’t help but feel something stirring behind all this peace.
Then it happened one day. Onew had collapsed in the middle of a mini-wrestling session, one where Taemin would always eventually win and have Onew balled up tightly in a hug. It ended wrongly that day.
Taemin had Onew tightly grasped to his chest, arms protectively wound around the other, and Onew had been giggling moments before, fingers tugging at Taemin’s long blond hair and making a mess out of the otherwise neatly put ponytail.
But then his giggles grew scattered, and his breathing was labored as Taemin turned him around to look at him. Onew was red faced, and he looked like he was in immense pain, hands leaving Taemin’s hair to clutch at his chest.
And Taemin panicked. There was no word that could accurately describe the fright that Taemin felt. He wouldn’t be able to take Onew to a hospital, and he momentarily wondered if there would be some kind of Angel hospital that he could bring Onew to.
But Taemin could do nothing as Onew’s eyes closed and his body grew limp. He could do nothing but cry.
A sudden gust of wind, odd and out of place startled Taemin and he turned around just to get a face full of feathers.
“Hand him over.” Taemin felt himself tremble with the deep baritone voice echoing back at him from the empty walls.
“No.” He shook his head childishly and made eye contact with possibly the most majestic being he’s ever seen. White light lined the body of the tall figure and large white feathered wings were folded neatly behind his back. He was as intimidating as he was beautiful.
The Angel bent down to look Taemin full in the eyes, large doe eyes peering into scared, wide ones. “Don’t fear me.”
Taemin felt the words settle like a blanket over him, but he fought the calmness spreading from his ears to his heart, and struggled to keep his eyes open.
“Don’t fight it.” Still, Taemin fought, until the Angel let out a sigh, and shook his head. “You’re not helping Onew.”
“You can save him?” Taemin was suddenly alert, picking Onew up bridal style, taking note of how light Onew weighed, and placing the body on a nearby couch.
“He’s not supposed to be here, you know? At least not for this long.”
“Onew’s an Angel, Taemin. Have you ever asked him why he doesn’t have his wings?”
“He told me that when Angels make a mistake, they’re sent here to help children.” Taemin muttered, hand fluttering down to brush Onew’s hair and trace his lips.
“When Angels make a mistake, they have two choices: to commit to a child and help them or to live a life that will correct their mistake. In either option, they are not intended to stay on earth long. They are meant to either help a child, or live as a child, and leave before they reach maturity. Angels are stripped of their wings if they were to be either. They gain their wings back when they return to the Heavens.”
“Onew’s made his decision to stay here with you, so he’s never going to go back to the Heavens. Not only has he given up immortality and his wings but also all magic in his veins. He’s become much like a ghost. And he’s hurting on the inside. He’s not like you, Taemin, he can’t be sustained by food and sleep. He needs the heavens. He needs his wings. There is no choice here, but he’s created one himself.”
“I-Is he going to die?”
“Angels can’t die. But do you know how it feels like when you can’t breathe? When there seems to be not enough oxygen in your lungs? You’re suffocating. That’s how Onew will always be feeling.” For once, the Angel’s eyes weren’t calm, and he smiled tightly even as his eyes grew dark with worry. “He’ll wake up, Taemin, but tell him that his best friend misses him, and make sure he’s happy, okay? Because he chose you.”
“So he can choose to leave me?” Taemin had never felt so vulnerable in his life, but neither had he ever felt so relieved. So this can all be changed.
“He had that choice five years ago, when you were already stronger than your father, and when you were no longer a child.”
“But he didn’t leave.” Taemin muttered. “Why?” If he knew this was going to happen…
“Do you really think that he loves you any less than you love him?”
“Stay!” Taemin muttered after a moment, just as the Angel turned to leave. “I can convince him to leave!” It would be too selfish for him to keep Onew by his side, regardless of how much it would hurt to have him gone.
“He won’t be able to leave now. He’s too weak. If he decides to leave by himself, he’ll have to reach the Heavens on his own and journeying to the heavens without wings is almost impossible, even if he were strong and healthy. It’s too late. Just love him as much as he loves you, okay?” The Angel was rushing now, glancing only once back at his best friend before trying to take flight.
“Until forgotten, right?” Taemin whispered, words stuck at his throat as Minho stopped to turn around and look him right in the eyes. In those eyes, once so calm and assured, was brimmed by fear and possibly, just a tiny bit of hope.
“I wasn’t supposed to say so much, but I couldn’t stand letting him suffer by himself. He needs you to understand that he might not be as lively as he was before, not as cheerful and not as energetic. I need you to know that he’s not getting bored of you; merely that he has no energy to open his eyes anymore. I want him back, but he wants you.”
“What happens if I forget him?”
“Don’t think about stuff like that. It’s not worth prodding in.”
“Tell me.” Taemin was no longer scared, and he stood tall in front of the Angel. Shoulder’s squared and determined frown etched onto his face, he vowed to interrogate until his questions were answered. “You don’t know what it’s like to think that the person you love is going to waste away before your very own eyes.”
Minho was startled, and Taemin quickly latched onto that momentary surprise, stepping in and clenching each fist by his side. It wasn’t until Minho answered with a awkward stutter that he backed away to once again focus on Onew.
“H-he’ll forget you. Angels will come to retrieve him, and his wings will be given back to him. He’ll resume his guardian angel duties.”
“Do you think he’ll be happier?”
Minho smiled, a more genuine, but still strained smile. “I don’t think he can ever be happier than when he is with you.” With that, the beautiful being spread his wings and disappeared before Taemin’s eyes. Bright light exploded from the spot the Angel was standing, and Taemin was once again blinded.
Mere seconds later, Taemin found himself once again sitting in darkness, his head on Onew’s chest as he contemplated his choices. He blinked away a few more spots in his eyes before placing one last kiss on Onew’s lips. There was no choice to be made.
Onew had it all figured out. He knew exactly what he was going to say to Taemin so that the latter wouldn’t be too worried about him. Taemin had always been extremely protective anyways. He still remembered the time when Taemin didn’t know other people couldn’t see him, and had decided to stand in front of Onew and shield him as they walked through a particularly bad part of town at 3 AM at night.
He knew Taemin would always worry, but he had prepared a very, very convincing argument. At least that’s what he was telling himself as he took a few extra minutes just to practice his lines a little more. He kept his eyes closed and listened. He listened for Taemin’s voice, listened for the mingling of Taemin’s slow breaths next to his own. But he heard nothing.
He waited to feel Taemin’s touches, waited to feel fingers in his hair, or arms shuffling him closer to a strong chest.
But nothing happened.
His eyes opened to nothing but darkness. He was alone on Taemin’s bed. The room was lonely and cold, the mattress too hard without someone sharing it with him.
He later discovered Taemin on the couch outside, head buried in his arms as he slept. He sneaked up on the boy, intending to surprise Taemin with a bear hug, only to be pushed away.
“What the hell? I was sleeping.” Taemin’s voice was cold, so cold that Onew flinched and backed away before he himself made sense of what was happening.
“What’s wrong, Taemin?” Onew squeaked, a small whimper leaving his lips before he could stop it. “D-Did I do something wrong?” He thought back to everything that had happened… and could remember nothing but the blackout. Was Taemin angry because he was worried?
No, Taemin was not like that. Whenever Taemin was worried about Onew, his voice would grow softer, not harsher and crueler. Onew bit his lip, knowing too well that his fears and doubts would leave him in the form of tears and sobs.
Taemin knew what this meant. He knew that these were indicators of water works. His Onew, his Angel, someone he promised to never make upset, was going to cry because of him.
“Just get away from me.” And that Onew did.
Days passed, with Onew following Taemin’s each and every step. Taemin’s hand itched to hold Onew’s and he knew that he was missing Onew even though the other was a mere step behind him.
Taemin never let the cold act drop, but Onew wouldn’t let go.
And as much as Taemin wanted to, forgetting wasn’t as easy as television dramas made it seem. He would never be able to forget Onew.
The only times he even let himself even remotely close to Onew was when the other had another episode and passed out onto the ground. It was those times that he let his hand trail against lips that were getting paler and paler; let his lips graze upon skin that seemed chalky and cold.
But he persisted. And Onew didn’t give up.
At some point, he had to admit that it wasn’t working. Even if he flat ignored Onew, he found the other’s voice echoing in his head. He held back from touches, and kept his day so busy that he never even looked back at Onew. Still, every night before he slept, regardless of how tired he was, snippets of him and Onew would run through his head.
He couldn’t forget.
And Onew was blacking out more and more. He didn’t have time.
But he did have some cash.
So he did the last thing he would ever do. He picked up a pill, and gulped it down with his back to Onew.
In the few hours that the drugs ran through his body, he found himself numb and devoid of feeling anything. All he did was float, and fly, and not have to think of anything.
It was in those moments that he found himself not having to remember. It was times when he didn’t have to think that he didn’t remember.
The pills became all too frequent. It accompanied him in the morning, at breakfast, at the library, at night. He saw them more than he did food. But it didn’t hurt anymore.
It took less effort to ignore his lover. It took less effort to numb himself.
It was addicting… and he knew it was helping.
At least that’s what he liked to tell himself.
But he was passing out now too.
He didn’t exactly know what these pills were, but he knew the effects. All he knew was that a short man with dirty blond hair sold them in the alleyway a few blocks away from his apartment, so he purchased them.
He didn’t remember Onew anymore, but he still vaguely felt those soft touches, those insanely sweet lips.
So he purchased more, taking it more frequent and in larger amounts. Pretty soon, no memories were left except those that made him feel all weightless and happy.
Absurdly happy, when truthfully, nothing hurt more. But he didn’t really feel the hurt, because it was masked by a numbness that liked to tell him otherwise.
He didn’t know who was the man that was shaking his shoulders, telling him to drop the pills. He didn’t recognize the man that laid his head on his lap, crying and sobbing for him to stop.
He did however, remember that the day those bright lights filled his eyes, and a loud siren was screaming in his ears, that he was writhing on the ground, trying to remember what he had fought so hard to forget.
His house was empty that day, empty to others as empty as it was to him.
He reasoned that a hospital should be white. Minho had told him what hospitals were. They were places where humans went to heal themselves, so he figured it had to be white, since it should be clean.
He felt different. Something was weighing down on him, and making him feel slightly uncomfortable. Was it his wings?
It couldn’t be, after all, he’s had these wings since forever! But come to think of it, Minho had been acting weird the last time he’s seen him. He had awoken from a nap that seemed very, very long, and woke up to Minho lightly sobbing in his shoulder, claiming that he just wasn’t feeling too well.
The taller Angel was never so touchy-feely, so Onew wasn’t too well practiced in comforting the other, only patting Minho’s back tenderly as he smiled.
Minho had reached over to his wings and ruffled the feathers slightly, mumbling into his hair as he hugged tighter.
“The price of these…” He spoke spitefully, marveling at the pure snow white of the feathers clashing with his own eggshell white.
Onew figured that Minho was just frustrated with his guardian angel duties, so left the other to go claim his own assignment. The parchment was laid on his counter, and he read it quickly before jumping for joy. His first assignment!
As he left his room though, his wings spread uneasily behind him, and tickled his backside. Odd. It had never happened before.
Said wings fluttered and folded neatly behind him as he entered the hospital room, and he traced his fingers over the many appliances in the room, smiling at the many new devices that humans had.
The human world sure felt weird.
Since it was his first assignment, and his first time on Earth, he figured a little exploring wouldn’t hurt. He picked up some fruits, smiling at them before letting his gaze fall on the other things in the room. He had entered the room without much thought, smiling softly as he saw the vase of sunflowers placed on the windowsill.
“How pretty,” He mused, enjoying the sunlight basking the room in warmth.
Just as his eyes scanned the room, he let out an uncharacteristic gasp. On the bed was the most beautiful human he’s ever seen, dressed in pure white with his long blond hair fanned out beneath his head.
“Nice to meet you,” He whispered, voice gentle and sweet. “I’m Onew, your guardian angel.”
His eyes trailed down to the clipboard hooked onto the foot of the bed.
Name: Lee Tae Min
COMA DUE TO DRUG OVERDOSE.
“It’s okay. I’ll be here for you. Until, well, forever.”
Onew liked to think that a few fingers twitched in response.