PG // TaeKey // ~3k w
-- this fic has been written
specifically for shawol_haven 's
fic challenge 012.
You see, there were these looks. It’s so helpless sometimes that my heart goes out to them. It’s as simple as a little girl on a street, holding her over grown clothes up her shoulders, trying to find spare change for her next meal, her parents gone a long time ago, and then she stops wandering. Because in the corner of her eye she catches a glimpse of a doll in the window of a toy store, a doll that was never and will never be for her to purchase or claim. Maybe the doll has her eyes or resembles a friend she once knew. That’s what the people who came to me looked like, so drained of energy, eyes lost and colorless because they had to take this road. Because they had to come to me in order to get the ones they love.
Choi Minho was an example I never thought I would face. Yet here he is, in the vacant and ill lit warehouse stacked faraway in the sidelines of Seoul, sinking in his seat, a desk in between us. He discards his sunglasses and his scarf, a disguise of effort because he was Choi Minho, he shouldn’t be seen in my office asking for the services that I provide. Why would he when he was everybody’s wet dream on long, lean legs, with effortless style and olive toned skin. Girls should be lining for his key, not him in line for mine.
“I don’t.” Minho clears his throat, evidently iffy about being here. “I don’t know what the, er, protocol is here. Exactly.”
I pass him a small smile but it doesn’t seem to help him relax. “Well, I know who you are, but. I’m Lee Taemin. We have homeroom together. And I’m here to. Help you. Now, why are you here?”
Minho scratches a patch of skin by his Adam’s apple and sniffs. “There’s this girl…” his voices fades, his eyes fixated on my hands on the desk. I clear my throat, the gesture sending Minho’s eyes back on my face.
“Tell me about this girl.” I insist. “Are you in love with her?”
“I think so.”
I worry on my bottom lip before shaking my head slowly. “Minho sshi, you either are or you aren’t. I can’t use the key if you’re not sure.”
“I am.” Minho’s words come out rushed and fretful. “I just. I hate. Knowing. That we’re not made for each other.”
Suddenly my words run away and I’m left speechless. My gaze lingers about the surface of my desk. I hated feeling like an impromptu guidance counselor.
This is what I do. I help out. For a small price of course but the business of helping broken hearts is always on its peak. Minho speaks more about the girl he thinks is the reason why his world is spinning and I listen with all ears, weighing my options.
I always believed that the key showed itself to me in the tree stomp that night for a reason. It made no sense to me at first why the anomaly in fate’s design was in my hands. But it made more sense than being thrown into the hands of a pervert. Why not a young, virgin from a humble family?
I explain to Minho the details and he nods with interest.
Minho’s leaves my office accompanied by Kibum who I’ve recruited since I began helping people out. I started about two months ago, a few weeks into finding the key which I’ve just decided to call the key. Because I’m just that original. Kibum, my self-proclaimed partner, never came into my plans until the day he found out what I was doing. I wasn’t running a business then, just helping my older sister out.
Noona had been crying a lot then about reasons she wasn’t comfortable discussing. Until one Thursday when she apparently couldn’t handle it anymore and talked to me about Kim Jonghyun and how his key didn’t work for her everlast and how they weren’t meant to be. It might have been one of those do or don’t situations where I would be tested for owning the key. The difference between me owning a universal key and playing with fate is actually putting the key to use. Which I had already did when I tested it on my own everlast, the gold plated belt falling from my waist immediately.
I had felt so light then, but simultaneously extremely exposed. I had opened my own everlast and theoretically that was never how things play out. I was supposed to wait like everybody else, for the owner of the key to my everlast and vice versa, however being sixteen and dangerously curious was no joke.
In any case, I told noona about the key and initially her face had gone white. She had never heard of such a key and I had shouted at her then about how I never heard of one either but I have it and if she wanted my help she shouldn’t be a blabber mouth about it. I told her to lead this Kim Jonghyun guy to our house but not before discussing with him about the key and what I could do for them.
“But I’d have to open yours first.”
“What? Why?” Noona scrunches her face up in question.
“If you show him that your everlast has been open then you won’t need much convincing to do.”
“But, Minnie.” She whined, eyes roaming to and fro in our living room as we continued to discuss of our plan in hushed tones. “It’s kind of….”
“Weird.” She shakes her head, hair strands bouncing against her cheeks. “It’s literally like. My brother opened my everlast—oh, gross. It’s weird saying it too.”
“Noona.” I exhale. “Don’t think of it like that. Do you wanna wait for your soul mate who isn’t Jonghyun until your hair stains gray?”
She gingerly shakes her head. The lock of her golden everlast clocks against the tiles of the bathroom later that night and she almost faints when she realizes that this wasn’t a dream. That she could actually be with Jonghyun.
She assures me the next day after school, Jonghyun’s hand in hers, that no one in school had heard of their conversation, Jonghyun nodding like a puppy behind her. I trust her word and hand her the key. And a day later, one very confident (and beautiful, but ignorant ((as I would like to describe him))) Kim Kibum shows up on my doorstep with a business proposition.
“I don’t believe in this whole soul mate bullshit either.” Kibum bluntly admits after stretching on my couch that afternoon as I walk in, two drinks of iced tea in both my hands. I settle the drinks on the coffee table, taking the seat opposite his. I observe his demeanor, flooded with clothing of blues and blacks, every finger that he observes on his lap adorned with rings that clink together.
He’s got this face with skin that looks as if it were made specifically for touching, for running rough pads along just for the feel of its contradiction against the porcelain spread. I know of Kibum’s beauty. I’ve seen it prior to this meeting. Denying it would just be more proof of its existence. Unfortunately, it was the only thing that kept me hanging around the older boy. That and the fact that,
“If you don’t let me in on your operation.” Kibum shrugs. “Things are going to go array for you, Lee Taemin.”
I sense the corners of my mouth quirk. I was intimidated, not gonna lie. But there was something about the fact that it was my house and he wanted something of mine that held my smile steady on my lips. “Is that a threat?”
“Make of it what you will.”
“A threat.” I arch a brow as if to challenge and confirm, no questions or doubts and if I remember correctly I saw him fidget ever so slightly with the tips of his thin, brown side burns. Nervousness? Was this all a bluff? I knew there was nothing he could do. In order to place me into the hands of the law for such a foul instrument he would lose exactly what he came here for.
We indulge in a little bit of a stare down and I try not to blink. Or laugh. Seriously, though. I wanted to. I was about to tear something up inside (maybe a pancreas or a liver) from keeping my features so solidly passive. Kibum’s the first to look away, pushing his fringe away from his eyes with his pinky and I inwardly cheer to my victory or whatever. I knew it was going to forever be a battle with him. But things were going to get lonely for me. I’ll be flooded with lovers left and right and without Kibum I’ll just be a lonely boy with a key.
“That really cute tall guy is back.” Kibum’s floating head from behind the door of what I deem as my office in the warehouse informs me.
“Sure.” Kibum lets the rest of himself through the creak of the door as I continue to fix the pens in the mug on my desk.
“Is that all?” I ask after a moment of finally fixing everything and Kibum literally just standing there pass by.
“He brought her with him.”
“Uh, let them in?”
“I’m not some blonde bimbo of a secretary that you have sex with on Tuesdays and Fridays without your wife knowing.”
My head falls to my hands. “Kibum, seriously—“
“Hahaha.” Kibum lightly returns to his straightened position, pushing off the wall. “Just fucking with you. Yo, allstar! The doctor will see you now.”
I stand from my chair, greeting a very puzzled Choi Minho and Kwon Yuri upon their entrance to my office. Their heads spin back towards the door where they know Kibum still is every now and then as they make their way to the adjacent chairs opposite my seat. “Don’t worry about him. He’s just trying to lighten the, uhmm. Atmos—I don’t. Just. Anyway.” I walk towards a cabinet a few feet away to the right of my desk.
The partition in the middle of the cabinet separates two mini safes that hold two different keys. One was the key and the other was my own, something that I haven’t put to good use for the longest time. I turn the dial of the safe to the left accordingly and once I hear the lock click I open the safe and out comes the red tinted key, transparent almost, time not allowing it to show on it’s perfectly cut edges.
Minho and Yuri all but gasp when I walk back behind the desk and hand them the key with both hands. Minho looks up at me, his eyes wide and hopeful.
“This is. This is going to…”
“Well.” I take a deep breath as I head towards the door. “Just knock when you’re done. I’ll expect the key to be left on my desk and—“
“—for nothing to be touched. I’d also appreciate it if you—“
“Taemin.” Minho says louder this time.
I spin on my heel, the door already a creak away from the frame.
“Thank you.” He says it genuinely, reminding me why I’ve been doing this for so long.
Clients of different kinds have stepped into my office and sat on that chair. It wasn’t just Choi Minho that was a shocker although it was definitely a scandal that needed to be kept behind closed doors. There was that one guy who claimed the woman in the market who sold vegetables and meats and was ten years older was the one that he wanted. There was also this one girl who said that she would do anything to please her best friend, who also happened to be a girl. She had come into my office with the intention of having her own everlast unlocked.
All of these people with different stories were connected to one another through me and my decisions. Sometimes I ask for a small fee, but for the most part I just let them go as they please. I never knew how to deal with putting a price on happiness anyway.
Kibum cornered me upon hearing of the clients I had let go without a penny gained.
“Business is business, you know. God. I knew it. You’re too young to understand how this works.”
“Like there’s some standard way to how it works.” I scoffed back.
“It’s not about standard plans or patterns, Taemin. It’s about authority. The money we ask establishes that we don’t do this for just anyone.”
“Then what’s the point, Kibum. I did this whole thing to help people out. I didn’t do this for me.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You opened your own everlast.” Kibum says indignantly.
My jaw hangs slack in search of a follow explanation. I find none. “So?”
“So, you fucking imbecile. You wanted out of fate’s palm since the day that key stepped into your life.”
“I didn’t think. That wasn’t what I—“
“Yes, it was, Taemin! Stop lying.”
“You’re such a hypocrite.” I pace the room in search of something to throw at him. “The first time we met you said you thought this whole thing was bullshit anyway.”
“And I do.” Kibum pulls at my arm forcefully. “In the sense that I find the everlast restraining. Everything is so limited. All of these rules about keys for soul mates and soul mates alone, it’s a torturous wait. And sometimes, soul mate or not, it’s just nice having someone to go home too.”
Such terrible, irreversible decisions.
I slam the door to my office that morning, startling Kibum and causing him to pull the ear buds from his ears.
I slump in my chair, arms and head on my desk, the morning paper underneath me when I hear Kibum scramble into the room. “What’s the matter? You’re looking much pitiful than usual.”
I throw him the paper and he need not flip through the pages. Because on the front page was the story about a market vendor, a woman in her thirties who was robbed last night of her money and feeds. The woman reported the suspect to be a boy. Once the descriptions were enumerated on the paper Kibum’s eyes gradually go round.
“Hey, Taemin, isn’t this that guy that you—“
“Don’t.” I raise a finger over my lips before hanging my head on my hands. “This is all my fault.”
“Taemin.” Kibum shakes his head, nearing my desk. “You didn’t know, okay? You were just trying to help out.”
“I shouldn’t have used the key.”
“Having that key doesn’t make you God. You’re still human. Like that woman. And humans have a knack for choosing precisely the things that are the worst for them.”
KIbum licks his lips once, placing the morning paper on my desk gently. He awkwardly reaches for the crown of my head before stopping mid air when he senses my stare on him.
“What are you doing?” I ask, eyes narrow.
“Patting your head. Can’t you tell.” He gives my head of auburn hair two full pats before dipping his hand in his pocket.
“Uhuh. You’re terrible at this.”
“I know.” Kibum shrugs, sticking his earphones back in his ear while exiting my office.
I keep Kibum around because he tries. Like that little awkward pat incident in my office earlier. He’s not the best at it but he tries. And it was no mystery that a part of me melted when he would smile at the simplest things like the smell of coffee or the first drop of rain.
“My parents are soul mates.” I admit to Kibum one night as we sat side by side by the dock, the lake separating us from the city, lights of the building reflecting in soft hazes on the surface of the calm water.
“You and your sister must be very rewarding for them.”
“Are yours soul mates?”
“I wouldn’t know.” Kibum takes a swig of his beer. “They died before I was born. I live with my aunt and her brother. They’ve given up long ago.”
I stare at my feet hovering over water. “I could help them. If. If. You know.”
Kibum offers a curt smile, clean and chaste, something new in my eyes. “Thanks, but no thanks.”
“Why are you doing this with me?” I ask a few seconds later.
“Having a drink?”
“No. Working with me. And the key.”
Kibum’s eyes wander over the water, ripples fading into flatness. “Truth?”
“If you tell this to anyone I will have your left nut sack.” Kibum laughs by the end of his sentence and in those brief seconds my lungs lose all air. His smile was even more breathtaking than the view before us. “Taemin, I’m hopeless. I found my soul mate a few months back. But. I dunno. Maybe fate wasn’t in my favor. She was a cancer patient.”
“Kibum,” I whisper his name, my voice shying away with the breeze.
“But it was different. I mean. This is going to sound cruel. I didn’t love her the way I’m supposed to or. Just. I loved her like. I wanted to protect her from all of the hurtful things in the world. I wanted to keep her from pain. From death. And I did believe that yes, she was my soul mate but not.” Kibum chuckles to cover up the way he quickly swiped a small tear lining his right cheek.
“So there you have it.” Kibum exhales a minute later, sniffing. “Kim Kibum Damaged and touched, with only half a heart to offer. If I play by the rules of fate, I have no one.”
“That’s not—you know. Fate brought us together. You have me.”
“But we’re not soul mates.”
“Neither are Minho and Yuri. Or that girl and her best friend.” I don’t notice my hand clinging onto Kibum’s sleeve until I sense my knuckles going numb from the pressure of my grip. “Even if you aren’t my soul mate or. I don’t care. I’ll have you. All that’s left and whatever else you’re willing to give—“
I take a sharp breath in as Kibum crosses both our personal spaces, his forehead on mine, my eyes closing without a second thought. There was only a wall of mingling breath between our lips. I’ve never wanted someone so much my whole life. It wasn’t because I was lonely. It was because it was him. He was every bit of need and want that flowed within my veins.
And it was all shades of beauty when it dawns on me that we needed no glitch in fate, no universal key.
We may not be soul mates, but I know for sure that I was not meant to share this seat on the dock with anyone else but him.
-- i've never joined any fic challenges since being on LJ
and i'm highly nervous with this piece in particular
because it feels so cramped to me and even a bit rushed? i dont know.
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challenge 012just so we're clear :3