The high school rule goes like this: stick to the stuff you know; stick to the status quo. If you don't want to make a mess out of your high school life, better stick to what is 'suited' for you. But Heechul has never been the one to follow rules and this trait gets him in and out of trouble one too many times.
And gets him stuck smack in the middle of trouble, too.
The cool kids normally hang out at the soccer field, but they decide to 'chill out' just beside the doors to the cafeteria today. High school stereotypes tell them to make fun and a fool of everybody who comes their way, so they throw stuff at people, sometimes food, sometimes books, or sometimes even underwear. Through these all, Heechul sits in a corner, back against a wall, eyes covered by sunglasses and face titled up, welcoming the sun.
"Won't you join us today? You promised to be in charge of the bullying this time," Youngwoon asks. Heechul just shrugs and waves the latter off, giving a verbal reply only minutes after.
"It's the same old, pathetic people everyday; it's getting boring."
"Oh, I know where you're coming from." Youngwoon plops down beside him and leaves the rest of the group to their source or entertainment.
Heechul grins. "Then let's get out of here."
What happens soon after is this: Heechul lowering his sunglasses to take a look at the person who has just passed by, Youngwoon nudging him hard in his side, and Heechul scowling in pain as he and Youngwoon walk to the soccer field. They're already a couple of feet away from where they started, but Heechul's eyes are still fixed on the boy he's seen not so long ago.
Something about that boy seems just so wrong.
Jay Kim introduces himself to Kim Heechul by way of hitting the latter on the head with a ball.
It's thirty minutes past four when Heechul finds himself walking to the basketball courts for a quick game. Nothing too strenuous as he doesn't want to be too tired that he'll just drop on his bed and forget to do his homework altogether, but nothing too light for his body that he'll be boring the living daylights out of him, either. He leisurely walks to the court, visibly excited as he hasn't played for quite a while already, when something hits him hard on the head.
"Shit," Heechul says flatly, and he falls to the ground with a loud 'thud'.
"Will he be okay?"
"Did he lose his brain?"
"Is he even alive?"
Heechul groans as the sounds come into focus. He stretches in his position, then tries sitting up. "Where am I?" he says faintly, his right hand massaging his temples.
"Um, well, you're on the grass."
Heechul looks around him for confirmation, scowling when he realizes that there are grass blades in his hair. He quickly gets back to his feet, but his legs wobble a bit and he almost falls back into the grass.
"Careful," says one of the people hovering him, the former's hands on his elbows. It takes two full minutes for Heechul to recover his senses, his sight being the last. A few more blinks and the faces of the people come into focus.
"Oh, come on! He won't hurt you!"
But it's too late; two of the people previously hovering him have already run away, and Heechul is left to stare at the person before him.
"I'm Jay Kim and I'm sorry for hitting you with that ball. Promise, I didn't mean it!" says the person, and extends his hand to Heechul to help him get up. Heechul just dusts off the dirt on his clothes and straightens his clothes out. Only three hours after, when he's already lounging on his bed, does he realize that this person, Jay Kim, is the same person he has seen a few days back and has remotely struck him hard, only that time it was in his chest.
Jay Kim is the leader of the dorks.
He's currently ranked first in the school, and is expected to be the valedictorian of their graduating class. So it comes to Heechul as a surprise when he discovers that Jay is a lot better than him in basketball, and that Jay can easily stump him in that department anytime.
One interesting note: Jay finds rhythm in his movement when he sings, so every basketball game they hold is a little musical, and the two of them are the main actors.
"I never knew dorks could play basketball," Heechul manages to say in between labored breathing. "Not that I ever doubted your—"
"There is science in basketball, if that makes things easier to understand," Jay snaps, and a smile immediately washes over Heechul's features. This dork is different — from his skill in basketball to his ability to cut Heechul off midway through his sentence.
He is just perfect.
Wrapping an arm around Jay's shoulder, Heechul pulls the latter close and says, "Why did we meet just now? We should've been friends a long time ago."
It's impossible to hide Jay's smile now because of the proximity, so he lets on and laughs, to which Heechul replies with light laughter because really, really, he's never been this close to someone before.
The next few meetings with Jay are sporadic. Heechul tries keeping track of the time he normally sees Jay, or the days they normally bump into each other; there is no pattern to them and Heechul thinks, this man really is a genius. When Heechul manages to spot Jay in the library, he walks up to the other and asks, "How do you do it?"
"Do what?" Jay asks, his eyes still fixed on the book he's reading. He scribbles some terms and words down, then shoots a glance at Hechul as if repeating his question.
"How do you surprise me every single time? We never meet at the same place, never see each other at the same time of the day. How do you do it?"
Jay's features contort in such a way that Heechul isn't so sure if his question is a bit too invasive, or if Jay is already making fun of him. When a smile breaks across Jay's features, Heechul sighs in relief — for not coming off as invasive or for being laughed at, he doesn't exactly know, but either way he's contented with this.
This being a giggling Jay, not giving a concrete answer to his question, and laughter threatening to spill from his lips in manner entirely not classy that they might just be kicked out of the library.
"You've changed," Youngwoon points out when they get the chance to have lunch together. "You've changed a lot."
"I haven't," Heechul replies matter-of-factly, averting his eyes from Youngwoon and focusing on his food, instead. If there's one person in the world who knows him best, it's Youngwoon. They've been friends since first grade and they've been through too much that they no longer have inhibitions with each other. Hearing this from Youngwoon makes him doubt his reply a bit; Youngwoon always speaks his mind, after all, even at the cost of coming across as rude.
"You're beginning to get perfect scores in exams. It's weird."
"Hey, I resent that!" Heechul says indignantly. "If you must know, I normally get 80% of the questions correct. I was born smart and awesome, yes." Youngwoon ditches his lunch to smack Heechul on the head. Heechul then yelps in pain, punching Youngwoon on the arm. A grin surfaces on Heechul's lips.
Youngwoon smiles. "Now, that's the Heechul I know."
Heechul's eyes widen at Youngwoon's statement, but he quickly masks it with nonchalance. "Whatever, kid. You just miss me," he says in a gruff manner and puts an arm around Youngwoon, dragging the latter down and ruffling his hair. It's times like this that make him think about friendships and passing time and changes, of times spent with Jay because Jay's just outside the window opposite him, standing in such a way that tells him Jay is waiting for him and wondering, until when are we going to fool around?
Heechul takes preventive measures before it's too late, avoiding Jay like the plague. Even he, himself, finds it dauntingly cheesy, but it works, effectively ridding himself of the thought of having to meet up with Jay for a little review session, a lot of story telling and even more singing. Every song on the radio becomes a reminder of Jay, so he makes sure to keep the radio in his room turned off.
There's the compulsory pigging out session, too, that they take to Heechul's house. Now, the only food in the cupboard are instant food, and this means the end of the world.
So less than a week into this Jay-strike of his, when someone knocks on his bedroom window, he takes it as a sign of salvation.
"Jay?" Heechul quickly opens his window when he sees the former. "What are you doing outside my house? Are you giving me the answers to tomorrow's quiz?" he sputters the words at random. Maybe it's just the cold wind outside or his growling stomach. Or maybe, it's just Jay.
"Close enough," Jay replies, teeth chattering, "Can you please just let me in?"
Five minutes later, both of them are sitting Indian-style on the floor.
"You didn't mean that, did you, the answer key thing? You're not the type who'd—" Jay cuts him off, lips pressing lightly on his. There is no tongue, teeth or anything else, just a shy touching of lips to test the waters. Jay pulls away a few seconds after.
"I felt compelled to do it. Sorry," Jay mumbles, but Heechul shakes his head and returns the favor, kissing Jay back with more confidence. He doesn't know why he does it or how his body moves instinctively to fit itself in Jay's, but then he's never been a man of logic.
In a corner of his mind, he thinks, 'I'll regret this tomorrow' and 'Shit, I have an exam tomorrow; I have to study', but all of these conveniently get lost in the caverns of Jay's mouth as they kiss for a third time, a fourth, until they lose count.
Something about this boy just feels so right.
They almost clean out the cupboard, eating most of the instant food and lounging on the couch, watching National Geographic because Jay says it's a form of studying for his chapter test tomorrow, and because the cuddling bears are just too good to pass up.
Heechul graduates with flying colors, his average only a few points shy of an honorable mention. Never in his life has he achieved something like this, so when Youngwoon says, "You've really changed," and takes a good look at the badge on his chest that says, 'With Distinction', he glances at Jay who's delivering his valedictory speech and smiles at Youngwoon, saying, "Not at all. He just brought out the best in me."
The rule of high school goes like this: stick to the stuff you know; stick to the status quo. But Heechul has his own brand of rules that say, live, love and eat. Jay stuffs Heechul's mouth with popcorn when the latter says college applications are totally fucked up, but not really, especially when Jay's dragging him to the admissions center. There's a bit of reluctance when he admits to himself that, yes, he might be a bit in love, but he's willing to get in trouble for this and invest in a little happily-ever-after. A little goes a long way, after all.
"I'm so going to beat you in academics," Jay says, smiling cheekily at him.
Heechul shrugs and replies, "Maybe you will," and puts an arm around Jay's shoulder. For now, he'll take this small step. The rest will follow.