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Love Me Always
prologue: autumn; word count: 985
Kyungsoo wiped down the counters, like he always did around this hour. This particular hour of his shift was slower than a tortoise. It was the last hour before closing time, so not many people usually came around. Kyungsoo stared out the window, longing to be outside in the beautiful autumn colors.
The leaves were blowing off the trees and falling to the ground like something out of a surrealist painting, while little kids ran around trying to catch them. A rainbow of autumn hues fell to the ground and Kyungsoo’s attention was drawn away from his work entirely. That was, of course, until he heard the familiar ringing of the bell over the door. The bell that always rings when someone comes in or goes out.
“Hello? Are you still open?” a voice asked him, causing him to turn his attention to the door and away from the beautiful autumn outside the window.
“Yeah” Kyungsoo said softly. “Only for another hour though. So you came at the right time.”
“Oh great! Hey, how’s about you close up early and you and I get some coffee to go, Kyungsoo?” The customer smiled brightly.
Kyungsoo froze. “How do you know my name?” he asked. He didn’t have a nametag on his apron, so he wasn’t sure how the stranger could’ve known his name. “And why would I go out for coffee with you? I don’t even know you.”
“Why don’t you come get coffee with me, and I’ll explain how I know your name.”
Kyungsoo stared at the stranger for a moment. Once he got a good look at him, he could tell he’d seen his face before. He just couldn’t put a finger on where he knew this stranger from. His beautiful caramel colored skin, cheerful smile, twinkling eyes and, dare Kyungsoo say it, absolutely adorable little dimple all seemed too familiar. So for whatever reason, Kyungsoo decided to close up early and get coffee with this very stranger who… might not have been a stranger at all.
“Alright, fine,” he said. “How do you like your coffee?”
“Hmm? Oh, right. Two spoonfuls of sugar, a little bit of milk and some whipped cream. I suppose I’m pretty simple.” The stranger laughed, and Kyungsoo knew he’d heard that laugh somewhere before.
“Alright, coming right up.” Kyungsoo brewed coffee for the stranger and for himself. He took out a Sharpie to write the stranger’s name on his cup and realized he’d never asked for it.
“It’s Jongin,” the stranger laughed softly, noticing the pen in Kyungsoo’s hand hovering over the white styrofoam cup. “My name’s Jongin.” There was that feeling of familiarity again. As soon as Jongin told Kyungsoo his name, Kyungsoo knew he’d heard it before.
“Thanks” he smiled softly, writing Jongin’s name on the cup and handing it to him. He saw Jongin begin to take money out of his pocket but stopped him. “No no, it’s on me” Kyungsoo smiled.
“Yeah, it’s the least I can do for someone who’s being so nice to me, even though we just met.”
“Right,” Jongin laughed awkwardly. “We just met.” Kyungsoo handed Jongin his coffee and grabbed his own. He followed Jongin outside and locked the door.
“Follow me,” Jongin smiled, taking the shorter male’s hand and bringing him to the park that Kyungsoo had been looking at out the window earlier. They sat on a bench and Kyungsoo watched as autumn swirled around them.
“It’s so beautiful,” he smiled as he watched the beautiful colored leaves fall, and shuffled through a rainbow array of leaves that sat piled at his feet. “So tell me Jongin, how do you know my name?” A cool breeze blew through and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up.
“Remind you of anything?” Jongin asked, pointing to a group of children jumping into a pile of leaves near the center of the park. Kyungsoo shook his head.
“Not really. Why?”
“We used to do that too, together. Remember? We were best friends when we were kids, and we used to hang out at your house all the time. Your mom used to rake us a big pile of leaves and we’d jump in it like we were professional Olympic divers.”
Kyungsoo shook his head.
“Best friends?” His eyebrows furrowed confusedly. “You and I? Surely I’d remember my best friend. Especially if we hung out all the time like you’re saying we used to. Are you sure you aren’t thinking of someone else?”
“No Kyungsoo, it was you.” Jongin said. His urgency only confused Kyungsoo even more. It was like Jongin was insistent that Kyungsoo remember all the time they had supposedly spent together. Although, it would explain why he knew Kyungsoo’s name. Maybe they were just young. Maybe that’s why Kyungsoo didn’t remember.
“Jongin, how old were we when we did all those things?” he asked.
“I dunno, we were really little when we met. I think I was around four, so you must’ve been five. But you and your family moved away the day after our birthday, about three years after we met.”
“Yeah. You remember don’t you? Your birthday’s January twelfth, mine’s the fourteenth. So the two of us would always celebrate together on the thirteenth. The day in between our birthdays.” Jongin explained.
“Is that why the thirteenth has always seemed to be such an important day?” Kyungsoo mumbled to himself.
“The thirteenth… Every year on the thirteenth I always get this feeling that it’s some sort of important day. But I can never figure out why. I’ve always wondered if maybe it was some holiday I never remembered or something.” It was true, he could remember the thirteenth being an important date, but other than that, nothing. He really couldn’t recall anything about Jongin either. In fact, he was almost positive he never knew him. Or… did he?
prologue: autumn; part one: do i know you?; word count: 2,006
Kyungsoo was a simple man. A twenty-three year old barista at local coffee shop in downtown Daejeon. Physically, he didn’t believe he was much to look at. He was short and stocky, with big round eyes that didn’t see too well without his owl-eye glasses. Though for whatever reason, all the girls who came into the coffee shop were always hemming and hawing over him. Some even attempted to flirt with him. But Kyungsoo was oblivious. Perhaps he wasn’t able to notice because he wasn’t interested in women. His co-worker, Jongdae tried to bring it to his attention once. “You know almost every single girl who comes in here is trying to flirt with you, right?” But poor oblivious Kyungsoo just shrugged and said,
“They’re simply being nice, Jongdae.” Jongdae shook his head in disbelief.
“You really are clueless, aren’t you Soo?”
“No, I think you’re just delusional. They’re not flirting with me. Besides, why would they? I’m nothing special. I wouldn’t be surprised however if they were flirting with you.”
“Yes, with you. Kim Jongdae. The dreamboat of Daejeon.”
“No one calls me that.” Jongdae laughed.
“Well they should.” Kyungsoo muttered under his breath. Jongdae tilted his head.
“Aigoo, you have a crush on me, don’t you?” he teased.
“Shut up, don’t get c***y. Just because I think you’re good looking doesn’t mean I have a crush on you.” Kyungsoo jested. This had been their relationship for as long as they had known each other. Jongdae would tease or poke fun at Kyungsoo, and Kyungsoo would poke right back.
“Besides,” Kyungsoo scoffed, trying to sound as snobbish as he could to carry on the joke. “I don’t think you’re that good looking.” Jongdae covered his mouth and gasped in mock offense.
“But you just called me dreamboat!”
“Well I lied.” The two laughed at the scene they’d just played out. It had been like something out of one of those really overly dramatic soap operas.
“Aish, what a pair we are huh?” Jongdae grinned, putting a fresh pot of coffee in the machine to brew.
“Mhmm,” Kyungsoo laughed, a bright, heart-shaped smile gracing his lips.
“Well, I’ve gotta get going. I’ll see you tomorrow right Soo?” Jongdae smiled.
“Yup. 9am on the nose,” Kyungsoo beamed. Jongdae nodded and hung up his apron, clocking out.
“See ya.” And with that, Jongdae left. It was an hour before closing. Kyungsoo always enjoyed this time, because it was his time to be by himself. Not a lot of customers came around at this particular hour, except maybe an occasional few in the first couple of minutes. Kyungsoo went about the usual closing hour duties that he took it upon himself to carry out. He cleaned the coffee pots and put in fresh filters for the next morning. He restocked the styrofoam cups and plastic lids that rested beside the coffee pots.
It wasn’t until he was in the middle of cleaning the tables, off in his own little world as he hummed a cheerful little tune, that the bell rang. That little bell that sits above the entrance and rings every time someone enters the shop.
“Are you still open?” a voice asked from the doorway. Kyungsoo turned around to see the face to which the voice belonged. And almost instantly, he felt as though he recognized it. But he couldn’t put a finger on exactly how, so he just shrugged it off and told the stranger that, yes, the shop was still open.
“How do you like your coffee?” Kyungsoo asked.
“Two spoonfuls of sugar, a little bit of milk and some whipped cream. I suppose I’m pretty simple.” The stranger laughed, and Kyungsoo knew he’d heard his laugh somewhere before.
“Alright, coming right up.” Kyungsoo smiled as he brewed coffee for the stranger. He took out a Sharpie to write the stranger’s name on his cup, but realized he’d never asked for it.
“It’s Jongin,” the stranger laughed softly, noticing the pen in Kyungsoo’s hand hovering over the white styrofoam cup. “My name’s Jongin.” There was that feeling of familiarity again. As soon as Jongin told Kyungsoo his name, Kyungsoo knew he’d heard it before. “Hey, why don’t you close up early and come join me in the park?”
“Why would I—” Kyungsoo was about to question why on earth he would go out to the park with a total stranger. But then that strange feeling of familiarity crept back to him, and he thought maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. He could finally figure out how the hell he knew Jongin, if he truly did at all.
“It’s fine if you don’t want to. Don’t swe—”
“I’ll go,” Kyungsoo smiled. “It’s almost closing time anyway, so it’s no big deal if I close up a little early. Besides, it’s beautiful outside. I’ll take any and every opportunity to be out there in Mother Nature’s masterpiece that we call autumn. Just give me quick second to make a cup for myself okay?” he motioned to the coffee machine and Jongin nodded.
Once Kyungsoo had brewed himself a cup of coffee, he turned the sign on the door to let everyone know the shop was closed. Then, putting on his coat, he followed Jongin outside.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Do I… Do I know you?”
Jongin nodded. “Yeah, don’t you remember?” he asked. “We were best friends when we were kids. We used to spend nearly every second of every day together. That was of course, until you moved away. I thought I’d never see you again. But when I looked in the window of the coffee shop, I recognized your face immediately. You haven’t changed a bit Kyungsoo!”
Kyungsoo was still beyond confused. Jongin knew his name, even though he never told it to him at the coffee shop. This meant that either the story he was telling was true, or, Jongin was a creepy stalker. But if he were a creepy stalker, Kyungsoo probably would have noticed him at some point, leading him to believe the former over the latter. But if that were the case, and he really had been best friends with Jongin in his youth, then how did he not remember? He sat for a moment, pondering in silence until it was broken by Jongin’s voice.
“You… really don’t remember me?”
“No I’m sorry Jongin, I don’t.”
“But the day you left, you swore you’d never forget me.”
Kyungsoo remembered moving when he was young, but he couldn’t remember everyone he said goodbye to. He was young at the time, and currently he didn’t have contact with more than half the people he’d known in his youth. But for some reason, he vaguely remembered saying goodbye to one person in particular on the day he left Busan. Was it Jongin? It must’ve been, if Jongin was telling him all these stories about how close they used to be.
“Yeah. You told me you’d never forget me and… you told me you loved me.”
Kyungsoo’s eyes widened. “Love?” he asked. “I told you that I… loved you?” He was completely dumbfounded. He couldn’t even remember knowing this person, let alone telling him that he loved him.
“You really don’t remember me?” Jongin asked again, tears welling up in his eyes. Kyungsoo felt horrible for not being able to remember something that clearly meant so much to Jongin. The worst part was that he couldn’t even figure out why he couldn’t remember.
“Jongin I’m sorry I really don’t remem—”
Kyungsoo was cut off by Jongin pressing a sweet, tender kiss to his lips. It was one last desperate attempt to get Kyungsoo to remember him.
“Do you remember me now?”
“Look, I know we were young, and that’s probably why you don’t remember me. But—”
“Yes, Jongin that’s exactly it. I was young. I was moving around a lot because my father just could not keep a job. I had such a hard time remembering names and faces because by the time I was seven years old I had already lived in five different houses. But when you came into the coffee shop I… I knew I’d seen your face before. When you were telling me all those stories I… I remembered bits and pieces, but all the memories that came to me were so vague. I could see a best friend, you. But I couldn’t clearly see your face, or hear your name. But when you said that I told you I loved you, I knew I had to try harder to remember you. And then you kissed me and… and…”
“And what, Kyungsoo?”
“And I realized that a heart just can’t forget a love like ours, Jongin. You kissed me, and it all came back. The little boy who I said goodbye in my driveway the day my family packed up and left Busan when I was five. The little boy who I kissed goodbye that day, and told that I loved him and I’d never forget him. That little boy was you, wasn’t it?”
Jongin stared at him in awe. “Kyungsoo,” he said, tears welling up in his eyes again. But this time they were tears of joy. “Kyungsoo? You remember!” he tightly embraced the shorter male, holding him so tightly that it was almost as if Kyungsoo would disappear into thin air if he let go.
“Jongin. Too tight!” Kyungsoo slapped at the taller male’s arms lightly, hoping he would loosen his grip. “Can’t breathe.”
“Oh sorry! Sorry, I’m sorry!” Jongin rambled a stream of apologies as he released his grip. “I’m just so… for lack of a better word, happy.”
“I could give you a few.” Kyungsoo laughed.
“You said, ‘for lack of a better word’ so I’m saying I could give you a better word.”
“How many words are there in the world that mean ‘happy’ Kyungsoo?”
“There are so many Jongin. There’s ecstatic, overjoyed, thrilled or my personal favorite—”
“On cloud nine?”
“Well yeah, that’s a good one too. But I was gonna say that my personal favorite is with you.”
A bright blush painted Jongin’s cheeks with a sanguine tint that Kyungsoo couldn’t help but find beautiful.
Jongin’s lips were quickly met with Kyungsoo’s as the shorter male stood on his tiptoes to capture the other’s lips in a sweet, tender kiss.
“I love you. And this time, I’m gonna remember it. Damn it Kim Jongin, I promise you this. I’ll love you F-O-R-E-V-E, but not R, because that would be the end of forever.”
“That’s gotta be one of the cheesiest things I’ve ever heard.” Jongin laughed as he held Kyungsoo in his arms. “But it was precious, just like you.” Kyungsoo’s cheeks were suddenly painted the same crimson color that Jongin’s had been only moments ago.
“Thank you, Jongin.”
“Hmm? Oh, of course.” Jongin beamed and softly kissed Kyungsoo’s cheek. “I mean, I call’em like I see’em, and I see you as a really prec—”
“No no, I don’t mean the compliment” Kyungsoo shook his head. “Though, that was very sweet of you. Thank you for that too.”
“Then what do you mean?”
“Thank you for loving me. For bringing everything back. I can’t tell you how much it means to me, knowing that after all this time you still remembered me, even if I didn’t remember you. But I’ve gotta ask, how’d you know it was me in the coffee shop?”
“I told you, you haven’t changed a bit. How could I forget those big, bright beautiful eyes? Or that sweet heart-shaped smile? You were a really handsome kid Kyungsoo. And you’ve grown into an even more handsome young man.” Kyungsoo’s blush had faded, but Jongin’s words made it come crawling back. The shorter male’s cheeks were once again painted with a scarlet tint. Jongin grinned as he softly caressed Kyungsoo’s bright red cheek. “Hey, Kyungsoo?”
“I promise that I’m always gonna love you too.”
prologue: autumn; part one: do i know you?; part two: valentine; word count: 2,136
It’d been four months since Kyungsoo and Jongin had met each other again in the coffee shop. Jongin had since become a regular customer, mostly for the purpose of seeing Kyungsoo every day. They hadn’t officially claimed themselves to be an item, but anyone who saw their interactions could tell that they were. But despite all that, the two love-stricken fools were too oblivious to call themselves a couple. Sure, they had said those three words. Sure, they had shared a kiss or two. But neither of the two had ever officially asked the other to be his lover. Therefore, in their eyes they were not yet an official couple.
It was a Monday. Like he did every day, Jongin made his way into the coffee shop. “Hey cutie” he grinned as he approached the counter, giving Kyungsoo a soft peck on the cheek. Kyungsoo’s face turned a bright shade of crimson, as it did every time Jongin’s lips met any feature on his face. Jongin’s favorite places to kiss were Kyungsoo’s cheeks, nose and of course his lips.
“Aish, can’t you two go be cute somewhere else? You’re so sweet you’re giving me a toothache!” Jongdae teased.
“Jongdae-yah! You pabo. Hush!” Kyungsoo whined, lightly smacking his friend’s shoulder.
“Tell you what,” Jongdae said. “I’ll stop teasing when you two finally stop denying that you’re a couple.”
“We’re not a couple!” Kyungsoo and Jongin exclaimed in unison.
“Hmm, really? Then why is it that you two always act so much like a couple?”
“What do you mean?” Kyungsoo asked.
“Jongin comes in here every day. He calls you some sort of pet name as soon as he walks in the door, then he comes up to the counter and kisses your face. You two say ‘I love you’ every time Jongin leaves. You think I don’t hear that, but I do. So, try to tell me again that you’re not a couple” Jongdae said. He sounded like a judge interrogating someone on a witness stand.
“We’re not a couple” Kyungsoo repeated. Jongdae shook his head.
“Liar!” he said.
“What do you mean? Jongdae I’m not lying to you, we aren’t a couple.”
“And why not? What about this relationship you have with Jongin makes you so convinced that you’re not a couple? Because everyone around you is convinced otherwise. You two are just oblivious.”
“Because,” Kyungsoo said. “Neither of us have ever asked.”
“Neither of us have ever asked to make it official.”
“Well why not?”
“I dunno, I guess… we just kinda got caught up in the all the romance and kisses and ‘I love you’s that maybe it never really crossed either of our minds to ask—”
“Well what are you waiting for? Now’s as good a time as any right? In fact, now’s an even better time than any. You guys do know what today is, right?”
“It’s Monday,” Jongin stated.
“I know it’s Monday you dope, I meant the date! It’s special.”
“What about it is—” Kyungsoo was about to ask, but he stopped as he looked at the calendar on his phone which told him it was Monday, February 14. “It’s Valentine’s Day.”
“Mhmm,” Jongdae nodded. “So, do either of you have anything important to say? Maybe a special question you’d like to ask of each other?” Kyungsoo and Jongin stared at each other for a moment in silence before either of them spoke. It felt like all eyes in the coffee shop were on them now.
“Hey, Jongin?” Kyungsoo asked shyly. “W-will you… will you be my valentine?”
“How about something a little bit better than that?” Jongin asked.
“Hmm?” Kyungsoo tilted his head.
“Sure, I’ll be your valentine. But how about we sweeten the deal a little bit, hmm? Do Kyungsoo, will you be my boyfriend?”
“Of course Jongin!” Kyungsoo beamed, his cheeks painted the same shade as the construction paper hearts that Jongdae had taped to the front of the counter.
“Now was that so hard??” Jongdae asked.
“Oh hush Jongdae” Kyungsoo lightly smacked the back of his head.
“I’m just saying, you two were a couple all along. Throw all that ‘official’ stuff aside and just think about your relationship. All the kisses, the affection, the ‘I love you’s. You two have so much love for each other and I’d hate to see it go to waste on you two not being ‘official’ or whatever. It was obvious to everyone but you two. I just wanted you to see it. I didn’t want you to live the rest of your lives blind to your own feelings.”
Kyungsoo had just turned twenty-four last month, and Jongin turned twenty-three two days later. It was Valentine’s Day again. Kyungsoo was still working in the coffee shop, his pride and joy. Well, besides Jongin of course.
“Hey cutie” Jongin grinned as he pushed open the coffee shop door, making his usual visit. Kyungsoo made his way out from behind the counter and found himself wrapped up in the taller male’s embrace.
“Happy Valentine’s Day” Kyungsoo grinned, softly poking the tip of Jongin’s nose. “And happy anniversary too.”
“Hey Kyungsoo, I have a special gift for you,” Jongin said sweetly. He rested his chin on top of the smaller male’s head and asked, “should I wait til you finish work?”
“I don’t see why you should wait,” Jongdae chimed in from behind the counter. He already knew what the ‘special gift’ was, he had helped Jongin plan for it. “Just go ahead and give it to him. It’s not that busy right now, I can handle the customers.”
“A-alright,” Jongin stuttered. He slipped his shaking hands into the pockets of his jacket and Kyungsoo wondered what brought about this quick change of emotion. The chipper Jongin that had just walked in was now replaced by a Jongin who greatly resembled a scared little boy on his first day of preschool.
“Are you alright? Jongin why are you shaking?”
“I’ll be fine, I’m just… bad with words that’s all.” Jongin hadn’t thought he would be so nervous. He had rehearsed this so many times. He’d gone over and over it in his head. Why was he nervous this time. Then it hit him. This is real, he thought. This isn’t a rehearsal anymore. This isn’t me in my bedroom saying those words to myself in the mirror and pretending it’s him. This is me, getting down on my knee and saying…
“Kyungsoo, w-will you… will you marry me?” The words slipped out of Jongin’s mouth so fast that he had no time to even realize he had said them. He hadn’t even gotten down on one knee. He was still standing there, with his hands in his pockets, looking like a flustered fool.
“What?” Kyungsoo stared at him, eyes wide, mouth agape. “What did you just say?”
“Let me try that again. I’ll do better this time, I swear.” Jongin approached Kyungsoo. He took the smaller male’s hands in his own and looked him so deeply in the eyes that Kyungsoo could swear he was staring straight into his heart and soul.
“J-Jongin…” Kyungsoo stammered. His heart was beating so loud in his own ears that he was sure Jongin could hear it too.
“Shh,” Jongin softly pressed a finger to Kyungsoo’s lips. “Just listen for a minute baby, let me do the talking.” He returned his hand to its previous position, holding onto Kyungsoo’s. Then, intertwining all ten of his own fingers with Kyungsoo’s, he spoke again. “Do Kyungsoo, every day with you is a blessing. I still remember when we were kids, running around in your backyard and raising all sorts of hell. I know that for a while, you didn’t remember me. But every day of my life from the day you left Busan, I remembered you. When I graduated high school and moved out into the world, I searched all of Korea high and low trying to find you. But until I came here, no one I talked to had even heard your name.
How unlucky they are, huh? Not to know the beautiful, golden soul that you are. God I can’t see why people aren’t fighting me for your heart. Although, maybe it’s a good thing they aren’t, they wouldn’t even stand a chance. You’ve had my heart since the day I first saw those big, bright owl eyes. And I’m so glad I found you. I got lucky on a crisp autumn day. Maybe that rainbow array of leaves pointed me in your direction. Who knows? All I know is once I saw your face again, my heart took to fluttering about as fast as a million caged doves. Who knew back then, when we were those kids raising hell in the backyard, that we would be here? Who knew that we would go through all the things we’ve been through. Together. Apart. Then together again. Fate wanted me to spend my life with you, and I’m so glad it did.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is,” he let go of Kyungsoo’s hands and got down on one knee, pulling a small box out of his pocket and opening it up. “Do Kyungsoo, will you marry me?”
Tears poured down Kyungsoo’s cheeks as he nodded his head fervently. “Of course I will Jongin. Of course I will!” He helped Jongin stand back up and threw his arms around his waist, burying his face in Jongin’s chest and staining his shirt with tears. “I love you” he mumbled over and over into the fabric of the shirt. “I love you so goddamn much.”
Jongin took Kyungsoo’s chin in his hand, tilting his head with his fingertips.
“I love you more.” He leaned down and pressed a tender kiss to Kyungsoo’s lips, before pulling away and slipping the ring out of its box and onto Kyungsoo’s finger. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
“This just makes my gift to you seem silly,” Kyungsoo pouted.
“If it’s from you, I’m sure it’ll be perfect” Jongin grinned. “Perfect just like you.”
“Cheesy as always,” Kyungsoo laughed, wiping the last of his tears with the back of his hand. “Alright, wait here.” He went outside and opened up the glove box of his car, retrieving a small jewelry box. He came back into the coffee shop holding the box behind his back. “Close your eyes and hold out your hands” he commanded Jongin in a gentle tone. Jongin obeyed, shutting his eyes tightly and cupping his hands in front of him.
Kyungsoo gingerly placed the box in Jongin’s hands and smiled. “Alright, now open your eyes” he grinned. Jongin opened his eyes and cast a questioning glance at the box in his hands. “Open it!” Kyungsoo beamed. Jongin opened the box and tears flooded his eyes at what he saw.
Inside the box was a small, heart-shaped, gold locket. Inside the locket was a picture of Kyungsoo and Jongin from their childhood. They were smiling and laughing, running around in Kyungsoo’s backyard without any care in the world.
“Where did you—”
“My mom found it” Kyungsoo said. “She was looking through old pictures and she found a bunch of you and I. But this one was my favorite.”
“Kyungsoo, it’s beautiful.”
“Compared to your gift it’s nothing” Kyungsoo laughed sheepishly.
“Oh who cares about fancy gifts? Kyungsoo you could’ve given me a slip of paper with the words ‘I love you’ written on it and I’d probably cherish it for the rest of my life. It doesn’t matter what the gift is. What matters is that it’s from you, the person I love more than anything in this world. It came from your heart and that’s what makes it so special. I love this locket, and I love you.”
A light pink dusting crept onto Kyungsoo’s cheeks at Jongin’s words. “And you know why I love this locket so much?” Jongin said softly, taking Kyungsoo’s hands in his own. “Because when people ask to see the picture inside, I can open it and tell them ‘see those little boys?’ Then I can take your hand and say ‘look who they grew up to be.’ Because guess what. This little boy,” he pointed to himself in the locket photo. “This little boy spent his entire life loving this one,” then he pointed to Kyungsoo in the photo. “And by the power of that love, those two little boys are going to be spending the rest of their lives together.”
“I’m glad I remembered you. I’m glad I remembered us.”
“Me too Kyungsoo,” Jongin softly rested his forehead against Kyungsoo’s, looking into his eyes. Then before they knew it, the small space between their lips slowly disappeared, and it felt like there was nobody but them for miles around.
prologue: autumn; part one: do i know you?; part two: valentine; part three: my home; word count: 2,044
The question came on a night where there was no sound but that of the rain outside their window. The wedding had come and gone one day in September. It was simple. A small gathering of friends and family, with the autumn leaves encompassing the couple in a cornucopia of colors that was reminiscent of the first time they’d seen each other’s faces in that coffee shop a year before.
Now the newlyweds were nestled like spoons on the couch, focusing on nothing but each other.
“Have you thought about, maybe, starting a family?”
“A family?” Jongin’s eyes lit up and Kyungsoo knew immediately what answer he’d receive. “You mean like, we’d adopt a precious little being and hear the pitter patter of little feet running up and down our halls? And have a snuggly little munchkin in our bed at night when they wake us up to protect them from nightmares?”
“Yes, exactly. It would be picture perfect, just like that” Kyungsoo smiled, watching the light in Jongin’s eyes grow even brighter.
“Yes! Yes yes yes! Oh god yes!” Jongin exclaimed, throwing his arms around his husband in a grand display of excited affection. “When?”
“Soon” Kyungsoo cooed with a gentle smile. “Very soon. What do you say we start checking out orphanages tomorrow afternoon when I’m done with my shift at the coffee shop?” This made the light in Jongin’s eyes even brighter, if such a thing was possible. Kyungsoo was sure that the younger boy’s face would split in half from the grin that stretched so widely across it. He wasn’t sure he’d ever seen Jongin this excited, but he loved seeing this side of his young husband.
When Kyungsoo came home from his shift at the coffee shop the next afternoon, Jongin was already waiting by the door for him, coat in hand, like an excited child whose parents promised to take them to the park. Kyungsoo kissed the excited man-child’s lips sweetly and smiled as they parted.
“Come on, come on!!” Jongin returned Kyungsoo’s kiss, then urged him out the door and into the car before Kyungsoo even had a chance to say a word. “There are sweet little cherubs waiting for us to meet them!”
“You really love children, don’t you?” Kyungsoo smiled. This earned him a nod from a beaming Jongin in the passenger seat beside him.
“I’ve always considered working with them somehow. Maybe a kindergarten teacher or something. I did go to university for a degree in early childhood development after all.” Kyungsoo knew that. Jongin had been fresh out of university when they met in the coffee shop.
“Have you been looking around for jobs?”
“I have, but I haven’t had much luck” Jongin sighed.
“What about a daycare? Do you know of any that’ve been hiring lately?”
“I haven’t looked into it,” Jongin shrugged. Before they had the chance to get any more entwined in conversation, they found themselves in the parking lot of a local orphanage. Jongin’s eyes lit up when he saw the cheerful little welcome sign on the building’s door. “Come on, come on!!” he grabbed Kyungsoo’s hand as soon as the shorter male had gotten out of the car. He dragged him to the orphanage door like a child dragging his parents out of bed on Christmas to tell them that Santa Claus had paid a visit.
“I’m coming, I’m coming” Kyungsoo laughed and intertwined his fingers with Jongin’s. “Now remember Jongin—”
“I know, I know! I can’t take them all home” Jongin laughed, though a small pout graced his countenance and Kyungsoo was sure that if there was any way in which Jongin could adopt every single child inside that orphanage, there would be no stopping him. “I just… It’s not fair you know? That a woman could carry a child for nine months just to give it away in the end. Is it even worth to have a child if you aren’t going to care for it?”
“Jongin,” Kyungsoo softly stroked Jongin’s cheek. “Baby you have to think of the circumstances. Maybe some of those women don’t want to give away those children. There could just be some circumstance that makes it difficult for the child to be kept. If you were in some sort of situation that was no good for your child, wouldn’t you want to give them a better chance at life than you had?”
“But Kyungsoo…” Jongin’s bottom lip quivered. “It’s still not fair. I wouldn’t want to be the kid who wakes up wondering why their family didn’t love them. I just—”
“I know my love, you have a big heart” Kyungsoo cooed softly. “But everything in this world happens for a reason. Think about it this way, because someone else couldn’t care for their child, we get to give that child a greater chance at having a wonderful life than they would have had otherwise.” He gave Jongin’s hand a soft squeeze. “It’s okay baby. Those kids deserve great lives, and this orphanage will give them greater chances to have that.”
Jongin nodded, receiving one more reassuring hand squeeze from Kyungsoo before the pair entered the orphanage. They were greeted at the front desk by a soft-spoken receptionist who led them into the children’s wing of the building.
Jongin’s eyes lit up and any feeling of sadness he’d had outside the building was completely washed away. The same ear to ear grin that had graced his face when Kyungsoo brought up the idea of adoption was now gracing his face once more.
“Oh Kyungsoo look at them, they’re all so precious!” Jongin cooed. Suddenly, his eyes fell on one little girl who was playing by herself. She looked like she couldn’t be more than three or four years old. Her raven black hair protruded from her head in two small pigtails, one on either side and she wore a knee-length red checkered dress with a white undershirt. Jongin didn’t have the slightest hesitation approaching her. He hated to see the little girl all alone. “Excuse me little miss,” he said softly. “Why are you playing all by yourself?”
“Hmm?” the little girl glanced up with soft, wavering eyes. “Oh, I’m lonely all time.” Jongin swore he could feel his heart physically breaking when those words fell from the child’s pouting lips.
“Well, I’ll tell you what,” Jongin said with a soft smile. “You don’t have to be lonely anymore.”
“How’s this for why not?” Kyungsoo approached the two, holding a set of papers in his hands.
“What’s those?” the little girl asked, peeking curiously at the documents Kyungsoo held.
“These are your adoption papers, Aejung” Kyungsoo smiled, giving more identity to the child whose name, until then, had been unknown.
“How you knew my name mister, um… mister what your name is?” Aejung asked, her childish lack of proper speech evoking small laughs from Kyungsoo and Jongin
“My name is Kyungsoo sweetie, and this is Jongin,” Kyungsoo smiled as he motioned to the younger male. “And that nice lady at the desk told me all about you.” Kyungsoo softly rumpled the little girl’s hair. “So, what do you say? Would you like to join our little family?” Aejung’s eyes lit up and she nodded fervently.
“Oh please please??” she asked hopefully.
“Absolutely,” Jongin grinned. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the three of us will make a perfect family. And the two of us promise to take the best care of you that we possibly can.”
“Thank you! Thank you much!” Aejung squealed and threw her little arms around Jongin’s neck. Jongin picked her up, holding her close and softly stroking her raven colored hair.
“Come here,” he motioned for Kyungsoo to join them. “Group hug!”
Kyungsoo smiled as he embraced the two. Then he pulled away to look at them and a huge smile graced his face. This was his family. He had made two wonderful people happy, Jongin and Aejung. When this realization hit him, the corners of his eyes were suddenly brimming with joyful tears.
“Soo,” Aejung frowned, bringing her little hands to his face in an attempt to dry his tears. “Why cry?”
“These are happy tears sweetie,” Kyungsoo smiled. “I’m just really happy.” He placed a tender kiss on the child’s forehead and ran a hand through her hair. “You and Jongin make me happy, because we’re a family.”
Once they were through finishing up what was left of the paperwork and legal business, the couple brought the little girl home. As soon as her feet were on the floor, Aejung was running around and exploring every room in the house.
“Remember when you were worried she wouldn’t adjust?” Kyungsoo laughed.
“Well you know, when you stay in one place for so long, it’s usually hard to get used to being in a new setting.” Jongin said. He was right, but Kyungsoo of course couldn’t relate, as he had moved around as a child more times than he could count. He had never really gotten used to being rooted in one place, because it felt like as soon as he’d settled, his roots were pulled up and planted somewhere else.
“Soo, are you alright?” Jongin was waving his hand in Kyungsoo’s face. The shorter male had seemingly disappeared into a whole nother world, drowning in his own thoughts without even realizing it.
“What? Oh, yeah I’m fine” Kyungsoo laughed sheepishly. “I was just thinking again.”
“It seems like you’re always thinking,” Jongin mused. “What’s on your mind?”
“Jongin, thank you.”
“You’re welcome?” A quizzical look painted itself onto Jongin’s face. “Um, what for?”
“Just… everything,” Kyungsoo sighed peacefully. “Thank you for finding me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for marrying me. Thank you for finally giving me a place where I know my roots won’t be pulled anymore. Kim Jongin, thank you for being my home.”
And suddenly, there was a whirlwind of joyful sobs, arms around torsos, lips crushing lips in soft and loving kisses. Neither of them knew what was happening until it happened. They relished in their intimate moment for only a short while longer, until they were interrupted by the pitter patter of little feet.
“You house real nice” came the broken English of the little toddler at their feet. Wiping the last of his tears, Kyungsoo lifted her off the ground and kissed her head.
“It’s not a house baby girl, it’s a home.”
“What diffent?” The child’s pronunciation of the word different extracted small giggles from her fathers.
“Well, let me try to explain it in the best way I know how.” Kyungsoo sat down with Aejung in his lap. “A house is just a place, there’s nothing really special about it, it’s just a building that you live in. But a home—”
“Now now Kyungsoo, don’t start using big fancy explanations that she won’t understand. She is just a toddler you know.” Jongin interrupted, laughing as he sat down beside them.
“I wasn’t going to” the other shook his head. “I was going to give her the simplest explanation I could, while still keeping it philosophical enough for you and I.”
“So you are using big fancy explanations,” Jongin teased.
“No, I’m using simple terminology with underlying tones of subliminal philosophy.”
Aejung stared at them both in bewilderment. “Soo! What diffent?” she persisted in her attempts to learn the difference between a house and home, as any curious child would when they really wanted to know something.
“Well, like I said,” Kyungsoo began again. “A house is just a place. It’s not particularly important. A home is, well, to put it simply,” he rested his head softly on the waiting shoulder of his husband, casting a smile up at the younger male before returning his attention to Aejung. “A house is a place where you live, and a home is a place where you belong. Do you see the difference?” Kyungsoo asked.
“Mhmm. Hey Soo, Jong?”
“Yes baby?” Jongin softly kissed her cheek. Aejung crawled into the place where Jongin’s right thigh nestled beside Kyungsoo’s left, making it seem as though the two shared one lap. She cuddled up to her fathers with a peaceful smile painted on her lips.
“My home you.”