taemin/you; pg 4510w (request)
But it was heaven either way. The willow tree boy was sitting on the hill with you instead: a feat you had only considered in daydreams. Though his facade was particularly depressing up close. You had admired his skin from afar, but up close it was sallow, a little acne scaring here and there. His hair was greasy and his ends were split in desperate need of a trim.
The scuffle of hurried feet and chatty teenagers rang into the quad as the second period bell rang. It was a new season, autumn, though just barely. There were dregs of heat left hanging in the mostly still air, the leaves had started turning brown already.
You clambered to your usual spot up a little hill near the out-of-place willow tree, and waited. This was the set up to your usual routine.
Kibum found his way over to you sometime later; he dawdled after class and liked to schmooze the teachers into giving him money for the vending machines in the head lounge.
You weren’t sure when you became friends, but his presence was constant; usually wanted, sometimes excessive.
“I can’t believe summer’s over.” He whined, settling into the grass with a pout, rubbing stains into his white shirt. He was certainly inattentive if he thought you would be paying him any sort of attention.
You pressed your glance to the willow, focused, as your subject of concentration came into view, setting up near the base of the tree.
There, sat who you were sure was the prettiest boy in the world. Lee Taemin, in his final year at school, was an entity. Beautifully handcrafted by the gods, you were certain, with extra care.
You had one class with him, art, that spanned the shortest of the day. It felt like five minutes in comparison to the rest of your classes, but that was only because of Taemin.
He didn’t seem to be very good at drawing or painting, but he was a good judge. He could tell you the subject of a piece and its meaning within the frame. The only time he had ever spoken directly to you had been when he commended your still life drawing.
“It’s pretty,” He said to the canvas when it was being passed around as an example of good technique, “I think you know what you’re doing.”
You’d spent the next week in admiration of the boy. You wondered when your infatuation started, since he had been around as long as you could remember, always in the back of the class. He certainly made a point to live unnoticed.
“He’s not that friendly.” Kibum advocated not liking Taemin, taking a bite out of a fairly brown banana. The food selection in the cafeteria was poor; what was availably good were items high in excess fats and sugars, so some students gained weight their firsts years, especially the ones not directly involved in extracurriculars. Kibum and Taemin were cut of the same meat, however, both weren’t too interested in sports, but could eat whatever they wanted without worrying about yielding bellies.
You were the opposite, however, unfortunately gaining weight through the years. You hadn’t done anything to eradicate your bad eating habits, yet. Focusing on school was more important. Even if your hips were a little wider, thighs a little thicker, you didn’t let it bother you. You had a good spirit that many people appreciated, Kibum especially.
So it really baffled him that you were so infatuated with Taemin.
“He’s just so dark, he always looks so upset.” You sighed, ever-so-melancholy. You sounded stupid, you knew. You couldn’t help it. “But I know inside…”
“Inside he’s the same, there’s no front. He’s like that on both sides.”
“But is there a reason?” You leaned forward to further face the boy under the tree. “Why doesn’t he have any friends?”
“He doesn’t want any.” Kibum leaned back, tossing the banana peel behind him with half the banana inside it. “A lone wolf.”
“Trash can.” You reprimanded.
“Compostable.” He clicked.
The breeze through the quad shifted and teased your face; summers end, this was surely the last lick of fun.
“Say you and I go to the beach.” Kibum switched subjects, wiping his sticky hands on his pants.
“Say you and I do. When?”
“Uh,” He looked around discreetly, albeit briefly, “Now?”
“I’m not cutting class the third week of school,” You heaved as you stood up, “And neither should you.” He threw his hands up.
“I bet if Taemin went, you’d go.”
“You get Taemin to do anything with you that doesn’t directly involve school and I’ll buy you lunch for a week.”
“You’re on, miss.”
Unfortunately for you, Taemin and Kibum started talking a lot.
It was little things at first. Kibum would toss his banana peels in the planter next to Taemin’s sulking spot. Taemin laughed right away, “So that’s why it always smells like bananas over here.”
And then they started hanging out for real. Kibum would skip out on lunch with you to ditch with Taemin at the strip mall around the block; smoking cigarettes they nicked from the convenience store.
They were good about masking their scent when they eventually made their way into their afternoon classes. They smelled like sweat; boys, really, because they would run to get back.
“You’re quite good at pretending to be bad.” You quipped back in the quad on a day Kibum decided to join you.
“It’s not pretend,” He mumbled, a little embarrassed, and you smirked evenly. “Taemin mentioned you this morning.”
You sat straight up, eliciting a flinch from Kibum, and faced him, all ears.
You didn’t need to ask, really.
“He said ‘You know that girl you’re always hanging with? She’s in my class.’”
You collapsed back into the grass, lips curling uncontrollably into a grin that couldn’t be hidden.
“Hey-” He laughed a little, throwing grass he’d picked out of the ground at you. “It’s not like he professed his love for you or anything. No to mention you stare at him all the time.”
“But he knows of my existence.” You said, sitting back up a little, watching as Taemin made his way towards his tree, right on schedule.
He looked over, briefly and waved at Kibum, who waved back, and then set his gaze on you. He looked a little puzzled, mixed maybe, about knowing who you were, but not really. Suddenly, he making his was towards you, dusting his pants off and sliding a hand through his hair.
“Hey,” He said, a little quietly, and his voice was silk.
“Yo.” Kibum nodded his head once at Taemin, who reciprocated, and you looked back at him to mouth “‘yo’?”
“You know Taemin, right?”
“Sure.” You choked out as you looked back to Kibum, his eyebrows wiggling suggestively.
“You’re in my art class.” Taemin breathed, mellow, lilting, and you were pulled back though you were already thoroughly embarrassed.
“Ah, yeah.” You said robotically, pretending seeing him every other day wasn’t all you thought about.
“You’re really good. I like that self portrait you did.” You paled, nearly, scared at the fact that he had actually seen and processed your art.
“Thanks,” You said, clumsily, sitting up fully now. Your shirt was covered in torn grass.
“Kibum, did you wanna…” Taemin nodded towards the back parking lot, a way to tuck out of school when supervisors weren’t on patrol.
“Yeah, man.” Kibum stood up, with Taemin who was staring intently at you, now, eyes daunting, on what, you didn’t know, because you weren’t meeting his eye line.
“Do you wanna come?” Taemin nearly whispered, and you turned to him, pulled into the sincerity of his voice.
“No.” You said immediately, well, that wasn’t all true, “I…can’t skip. I mean, it would be cool to, but-“
“She’s too good.” Kibum finished for you and you puckered a little, face sour in your friend’s so-called aura of defense.
“No-” Taemin blinked at you, dreamily. “Cutting is bad. I should quit while I still have empty space on my record.”
The sudden change in Taemin’s behavior left Kibum a little lost, and even more confused when Taemin plopped down next to you and pulled a banana from his bag.
You were definitely more than nervous overall.
“You like…fruit?” You asked awkwardly. Of course he liked fruit, who didn’t like fruit?
“I picked up the taste for bananas from Kibum,” He laughed a little, without being prompted, as he peeled, “Would you like some?”
You weren’t in the mood, but it was Taemin.
He spent sometime peeling his banana while Kibum was left standing impatiently at the end of the hill.
“So are we not gonna go, or…”
“No. Let’s stay and eat here.” He nodded at you and you blushed a little, never believing that this would be happening to you.
“The flowers look nice,” He sprouted suddenly, admiring the bed along the path near your feet. “I wonder what they feed them.” He mumbled to himself, but you caught it.
“Kibum’s banana peels.” You sighed and he smiled at you, a little glint of laughter behind sad eyes.
The rest of lunch folded over quietly as Kibum was peeved over not leaving to go to the store, and Taemin wasn’t naturally good in conversation. He’d cut off his though mid-way with “never mind”, either embarrassed with the sentiment or speaking at all; you didn’t know. You figured he might be awkward, without friends, but he made an effort for your sake.
But it was heaven either way. The willow tree boy was sitting on the hill with you instead: a feat you had only considered in daydreams. Though his facade was particularly depressing up close. You had admired his skin from afar, but up close it was sallow, a little acne scaring here and there. His hair was greasy and his ends were split in desperate need of a trim. None of this bothered you, really. More details to define Taemin, though somewhat negative, would only add to your infatuation.
You started your week of buying lunch for Kibum a month into school. It was all junk, but whatever he wanted, you’d purchase as per your agreement.
“Say you and I go to the park.”
“Say you and I do. When?”
“After school, with Taemin.” You paused a moment, catching Kibum’s offer on a line.
“Really.” You basically made him promise instead of asking and he laughed.
“Really. He said he’d like to hang out with you again.”
“Where is he?” You glanced towards the willow tree; the space Taemin usually occupied was empty.
“Who knows, probably playing hooky.”
“Why does he cut class so much?”
“He says school isn’t really his thing.” Kibum pondered halfway through a mouthful of something fattening, you were sure. “I don’t know what he does though, when he isn’t with me.”
You thought for a moment, too, about his whereabouts and what it was that he was likely doing. You couldn’t imagine, because even if you thought you knew Taemin, you hadn’t even scratched at the surface.
Getting to the park was easy enough. It was in the general vicinity of where you lived, down the street a ways, and behind a block of cookie cutter houses.
Taemin was already there, sitting on one end of a see-saw. He looked quite dejected, but when did he not?
“Look at the preschooler!!” Kibum laughed, kicking his way over to Taemin; you followed apprehensively behind.
“Respect your elders,” Taemin deadpanned, getting off the see-saw and pushing Kibum’s arm playfully.
You eyed each other carefully and then bowed a little, and he may have smiled. It didn’t linger, if he had.
“There was a test today in math.” Kibum interjected.
“Ah…” Taemin swung around the pole that supported the swing set. Light on his feet, he fell into one of the swings, bending his knees a bit. “I guess I should make that up.”
“She could help you in math,” Kibum nodded towards you. “She’s good at that kind of stuff.” Taemin smiled again.
“You must be good in school.”
“I’m okay.” You said modestly. Honestly, you did alright. Your grades may have been slipping due to a boy, but you would never admit to that.
“I’d actually like to see more of the stuff you’ve drawn…if there is anything.”
“A little,” You admitted.
“Did you guys fill out those questionnaires about colleges? I’m so stressed out.” Kibum interjected yet again, not one to notice when his conversation wasn’t needed. “School is hard,” He collapsed back on a bench near the swing set, Taemin still rocking back and forth.
“Life is hard,” You laughed a little, “Get over it.”
Taemin looked over at you, mouth open in apprehension. He seemed to want to add to your point, or ask about it, but couldn’t find the words.
“It’s easy for you, you’re good at art. Go to art college.” Kibum stared into the sky where the light was already starting to dim. The faint image of the moon could be seen past the slide. “What am I going to do?”
Taemin was observing, silently. Clearly not adapted well enough to Kibum or you to answer properly or help his plight. You watched his eyes flit from Kibum to you and back again and you wondered if the heavy situation could be fixed.
“You’ll figure it out.” You laughed a little, going over to the bench to shake out Kibum’s hair, “And even if you don’t figure it out now, that’s fine. The journey is just as important as the end goal, if not more so.”
Kibum reached around to your hand and pulled a little, something akin to a frown on his face.
“Can you fill out my questionnaire for me?”
“No.” You walked back over near the swings as he whined, eyes wide and eyebrows, bent.
“Come on! I bet if Taemin asked you, you’d do it for him!”
You stopped and Taemin looked up at the mention of his name. You were hoping he hadn’t heard the comment or the context of the sentence at all.
“Is that what you want to do? Art?” Taemin asked quietly and you nodded, trying to get away from the awkwardness of the situation, if there was any. You couldn’t tell as Taemin’s face stayed mostly stagnant the short period you’d been there.
“It’s nice; art is. It’s something I can relax in. And if it turns out I’m good enough to peruse it after high school, then that’s just a plus.”
It was easy for you to talk about your future and because they hadn’t been set yet. There were multiple possibilities and it was a pleasure to go down each path to figure them out.
Taemin smiled again and you were sure it was the most happiness you had ever seen from him.
“You make me hopeful.” He said, in that soft voice of his and you paled. Kibum seemed to nearly fall off his bench, as well. “I feel like…well,” He scratched the back of his head a moment and winced a little, lips twisting up, “Never mind, I don’t know. Forget I said anything.”
“Oh…well,” You looked around, carefully, again, painfully aware of the situation, “Thanks.”
This was surely the beginning of something new.
Taemin joined you and Kibum at your lunch spot, seemingly permanently. He wouldn’t talk much, but when he did it was addressed to you, curious about your art mostly, and other hobbies you would often partake in.
Kibum noticed your ability to draw Taemin out of shell, and mentioned it sometimes, to both of your embarrassment.
“But that’s Kibum.” You laughed a little on your way to class with Taemin at your side. He’d go with you after lunch on the days you had math and greet you before lunch in art class, so you could walk out to the quad together. It was enough, the time spent together. You considered yourself lucky to spend time with him at all, so…it was enough.
“He can be brazen sometimes, but maybe that’s why I like him.” Taemin pondered, quietly, of course. “Though…”
“Go on.” You egged hopefully.
“Never mind.” He bit his lip. His entire mouth had become chapped, probably due to the change in weather, but his habit of biting didn’t help.
You sighed a little, growing dependent on the thoughts of Taemin ever finishing a thought you’d like to hear. It was painful, almost; the way he would walk around, shoulders rounded, terrible posture, overall. He was a dark cloud on his best days, and there didn’t seem to be much you could do to eradicate that.
But your interest in him had grown substantially and you were ready to delve deeper.
He wasn’t at lunch the next day, or the day after that.
You didn’t ask Kibum about it and he didn’t mention Taemin otherwise, so it was a floating thought.
“I really like the food today.” Kibum mentioned off hand, picking at something covered in cheese.
“Ugh, just looking at that makes me sick.”
“You used to eat this stuff, too!”
“Yeah until I realized how much it was deteriorating my health.”
“You’ve gotten awfully prickly.” He side-eyed, “What’s on your mind?”
“Nothing. No one.”
“You sound like Taemin~” He sung and you huffed, bringing your legs up into your chest, staring at the willow tree across the way.
“Do you still like him?”
“I don’t know.” Yes.
“It’s only been a little while, I think you still like him.”
“I think he likes you, too.” You flushed, happiness filling your system. Then, immediate suspicion.
“Why do you say that?”
“He’s opened up a lot more since you started talking with him. I don’t think it’s coincidence that he went from almost never talking to always jumping in on a conversation.”
It was true to an extent. Taemin’s conversation skills had gotten slightly better, but they were no where near normal social standards. You didn’t think he had social anxiety, it was behind that. It was like he was just too bothered to speak. Too bothered to do a lot of things.
Art class welcomed Taemin’s empty seat and you supposed you weren’t surprised, but it left you feeling a little empty. He was what you looked forward to most and he never showed up anymore. You had it in your right mind to just quit.
You packed up your things alone at the end of the block as everyone filed out. Your teacher left to his office and you were left with en empty classroom.
You sighed into your easel, looking at the painting you’d completed. It was drab in color and mostly just depressing. Even your teacher mentioned your change in habit of painting the last few days.
“You’ve dispirited, but I still sense your passion.” He said cooly, and then left to let you figure things out on your own.
You supposed you had become a little distraught without being able to see Taemin. It was embarrassing that even your teacher had been able to see that.
There was a shuffle beyond the door and you kicked yourself out of wallowing over your piece and back to wrapping up your bag.
The familiar slow scuttle of sneakers resonated across the room and you looked up to see Taemin set his things down and make his way over to you, not smiling, but not unhappy either, fortunately.
“Hey.” You said, keeping your cool, though you were ecstatic.
“Hi-sorry,” He apologized right off the bat and you shook your head, surprised.
“I…nothing. No, never mind.” You exhaled, a little upset and then he was looking to your easel, eyes big.
“Ah, I really like this one,” He marveled your painting, twisting his head a little to the left and then to the right, “Wish I could have seen you paint it. It’s…”
“Trash.” You laughed, uncomfortable with how much he was examining something you had created.
“No-” He said lightly, shaking his head, hair falling around his face. “It’s you. It’s pretty.”
You shifted a little, trying to figure out how you should process that. You didn’t have much time, however, before he turned to you and smiled just slightly. It was a smile, but a sad, lost smile.
“Are you hanging with Kibum after school?” You asked him delicately as he looked down to his shuffling feet.
“Nah, I was just waiting around until…” He looked up, realizing his answer would not be adequate to your interests, “Never mind.”
You sighed again, nearly snapping. After all this time, he couldn’t speak properly to you and you really hated it.
“I hate when you say that,” You shook your head, “Finish a thought for once in your life.”
You looked back to your bag and continued to pack things away, angry with yourself, but upset with Taemin.
He looked a little scared, but mostly angry with himself for failing to follow through with a conversation, again.
“I’m sorry-” He choked back a little, his cheeks shadowing as he turned his face towards the floor again, “I’m so-“
He shook his head, legs twisting around so he had his back on you. It sounded like he was about to cry, but you knew better. Taemin would not emote in front of you, the sadness he had been suffering all this time would not equate to crying in public. It was much deeper than that. It was something you almost felt was impossible to fix.
“Taemin.” You started, reaching out to him before he could pull away. When you touched him, he tensed, but turned back towards you. Conflicted, mostly, was the subtle trait of his stony exterior.
“I’m not good enough. I’m not good enough for anything or anyone.” He spouted off, albeit quietly. This was definitely new. But wasn’t surprising.
Taemin had always exhibited signs that he was in a tough place emotionally. You thought hanging with Kibum might change things, but you supposed he wouldn’t be the best help in these kinds of situations. His inattentiveness was definitely at the forefront of his personality and that didn’t mix well with someone as hidden as Taemin.
“Don’t say that-” You whispered, drawing a bit closer. You thought carefully before executing your mindset. “You are good enough.” You exhaled slowly.
“I-” He looked around a bit frantically, and then at your hand which was still clasped to his arm. “I don’t want to drag you down.”
You stared for a moment, processing the confession. It would in no way correlate to the sort of confession you always imagined giving Taemin. It was sad, and a little cold, and it wasn’t what you wanted in a relationship with him.
“I…I’m not sure if-” You started and he immoderately cut you off, finally shrugging away your hand.
“You don’t have to pretend,” He moved to sit in an empty desk, facing half away from you. “There are no merits to spending your time with me, so you might as well give up.”
“Taemin,” You cooed, “I’m really-” Well, you were upset, first of all, that he would suggest he didn’t have anything to give. His presence, though sometimes daunting, was lovely, underneath the black. You saw it and you knew Kibum saw it, even in his inattention. There were layers to Taemin that he couldn’t see by himself, because he was stuck on the outer shell.
“You’re being really dramatic.” You laughed. Laughed was a strong word, it was more of an exhale in relief. Knowing his true feelings was a weight off your shoulders, even if it had been displaced by another: the deviously heavy burden of Taemin’s despondency.
But you would fight for him, even if it meant taking some of his pain for yourself. What else was love, really?
He was looking up at you, a little surprised at your reaction, but still dejected.
You reached down to his cheek, smoothing over the sallow skin with your thumb and he was warm, so much more than you would have ever thought.
He went slightly red, leaning into your touch and opened his mouth to sigh.
“I suppose I am.” He whispered, and then looked to you as he stood up. Your hand slipped from his face to his chest as his level doubled and he was warm there, too.
His heart was beating strongly.
“It’s okay to be dramatic. And it’s okay to be depressed.” You said lightly, “But there are ways to fight through it.”
“You are such a happy person,” He breathed, settling his hand into your hair, where you could feel even there, warmth. “You’d be such a light in my life, if you wanted to join in.”
“I do…” You confessed, not apprehensively or nervously this time around. “I believe you could be a great help to me, as well.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I think you see the world in a different way. There are things you admire that the average person would just take advantage of.” You thought back to the flower bed and other occasions when he had noticed things that others would have taken for granted.
“I’m nothing special…” He started and you have him a stern look. He laughed, pretty and high, “I’ll help you if you help me. And even if you can’t help me, I’ll continue to help you.” He brought the hand that had been combing rhythmically through your hair, back down to your own and grasped tightly.
“Can you promise me something?” You hummed.
“Anything.” He breathed and you faltered for a moment.
“You won’t ever think badly of yourself again. When you feel down, even before you feel down, you seek me out first.”
He held out his other hand and held out his pinky to you. You linked together and shook a bit before he grabbed your hand fully, both of your hands now in his, warm and sound.
“I’m sorry, for all this.” He breathed. “I’m…” He stopped and you held your breath, “Well…I know I have a problem. I’m trying to fix it. Talking to Kibum ws one of the first steps.”
“I’m glad you did.”
“But you were my ultimate goal.”
“You make me sound like a prize.”
“You always intimidated me. Your art- and you’re so pretty and lovely-” He stopped again, turning redder and you laughed, nodding into him.
“Taemin, I have been infinitely intimidated by you. Still even now, I’m intimidated.”
“I just broke down in front of you.” He said incredulously, “I can’t believe you don’t think I’m a big baby.”
“This is a real problem you have. This is big and there’s only so much I can do. You’ll need to be strong; I don’t think you’re a big baby, especially for getting this far.” His hands, which were still holding your own, squeezed. His face was worried, but gracious.
“Thank you.” He accepted, and dropped your hands to wrap his arms around you, squeezing strong.
This was enough, for now. You would both need to work up your confidence around each other. Though, in the meantime, helping him get to better grounds would be your main priority. It would be difficult work, but worth being in love.
a/n: jfc I’m sorry I have no idea how public schools work my hs’s a private art school so like
this was a little difficult for me to write. It really parallels a relationship I had once except in the irl version, the guy couldn’t get over his own grievances and it was just…really awful. I don’t advocate these kinds of relationships. this kind of depressing love story with a premise like ‘being sad together will get us through’ is bullshit and should not be romanticized. depression is real and scary and although I’ve never had any bout of it, I have faced plenty of people who have. I wasn’t sure how else to write it, though, so here we are.
sorry & thanks.