Photographs Are Worth More Than A Thousand Words If You Look At Them The Right Way

Sometimes the representations of our past can remind us why we look forward to the future. A short story on quirky love.

Credit to the lovely and talented Victoria Raven for the cover. :)


1. Photographs Are Worth More Than A Thousand Words If You Look At Them The Right Way

"How many times have I asked you not to leave the window open?" you shout at the now angry boyfriend in front of you. Not that he's the one who should be angry.

"What's the big deal?" Minho sneers, arms crossed and eyes rolling. "Too cold?"
"You know that's not why," you hiss back.
"Why did you even leave your paper there in the first place?" he asks, hands thrown up in exasperation.
His eyes are flat when he glares, the irises devoid of their usual warmth. You don't flinch away, instead returning it with one of your own.
You had left your research paper on the window ledge and he must have opened it, because now there is evidence of the drizzle outside sprinkled across the smeared ink.
"Now I have to reprint this!" you bemoan.
"Yes, because that's really strenuous when the printer is literally 20 steps away," he seethes. "Your life must be so difficult."
"You are what makes make my life difficult!"
He looks startled for a moment, but then his expression turns stony again.
"I don't have time for this," he growls. "I have to go to work."
He snaps around, striding across the room, and begins to wrap a scarf around his neck.
"Hey," you call, angry he isn't acknowledging you, "don't forget it's your turn to get dinner. That is, if you even can remember."
He turns on his heel, a sharp remark on his tongue, but his phone ringing cuts him off. He answers brusquely, having a short conversation with the person on the other line. He sighs, looking weary.
For a moment you feel a pang of remorse, sad that he was going to leave for work while you two were fighting. That goes away when he raises an eyebrow at you watching, like you're some sort of pest that he doesn't know why they're there. He hangs up.
"I'm leaving," he says through his teeth as he heads to the door. "I'll get the stupid dinner."
Without even so much as a glance back, he wrenches the door open and then closes it with equally as much force.
God, he was so frustrating sometimes.
You reprint your paper, pace around the living room, and take out the trash in the kitchen, kicking the garbage bin outside. Anything to keep your mind off the fight. Even the television does nothing to calm you down. You tried watching a few episodes of Storage Wars, but it didn't make you feel any better.
It's not like you and Minho don't fight. You fight all the time. It was just that they were little squabbles about things like how many bananas to get or what temperature to keep the thermostat. You don't usually escalate to yelling. The only serious exception was the time you broke up for two weeks, and you both try not to think about that. You don't even bring it up in arguments.
Sighing frustratedly, you push away from the wall you've taken perch on, and head to the bedroom to do some cleaning. Maybe you could throw one of Minho's shirts out the window or something.
You tidy up a little, but there's not a lot to be done. Minho had just cleaned this room a few days ago.

As your boredom increases, you find yourself looking under things. For gum, for bats, for a secret inter-dimensional wormhole. Anything that's more interesting than the soft patter of rain outside.
"Ouch!" you exclaim, something sharp colliding with your head.
Before you destroy the offending object due to the mood you're in, you realize what it is. A memory box.
You and Minho got it when you moved in, although the only thing you had to put in it was a few photographs, a penguin plushie, and some sports ribbons he got in school. Now it’s full of silly things. Badly woven homemade paracord bracelets, movie and concert ticket stubs, pins from places you'd traveled, and a foam finger so humongous you're not sure how it fits, proudly stating #1 status.
You smile as your sort through the various items, wondering how you forgot about the box.
You reach the photos. Vacation spots, photo booth strips, all the times your parents just had to take those Halloween photos where you always look like you're 12 no matter the actual age. 
Then you come across ones from high school. You had a friend, Tina, who was obsessed with photography. She would take photos of everyone and everything. It got to the point you're almost positive she nearly got suspended for sneaking into some invitation only event at the school and snapping photos. While it was kind of voyeuristic at times, she was so passionate and sincere with it you tried not to be bothered when she would capture you in a shot. 
At the end of the year, Tina distributed a stuffed envelope of photos she had taken to everyone. You're not sure where she got the money to develop so many photos, but your graduating class was only about 50 people.
There are some of you and your friends at the graduation ceremony, laughing at the comedic speech. Pictures of all kinds of kids you knew back then doing whatever you could think of. Near the end is one of you and Minho. 
He looks like he was helping you up where you had slipped on the confetti on the floor. The laughter on both your faces is evident. This had been your prom. You could tell by the background and outfits. Those stupid heels were the reason you fell. You don't think humans were really meant to wear heels.
Minho's dark, coffee colored hair was longer than it is now, curling at the nape of his neck. But despite it having been a few years, he still looks the same. He still has the same angular cheek bones, the straight and long frame that leads to the legs that make him great at outrunning you any time you have a race. Those warm chocolate eyes are still there, as well as the charming little boy smile. 
You were jealous he never had to go through that awkward scrawny teenager phase. 
Not that you were too bad yourself in this photo. Your dress was flattering, the deep blue hue meshing nicely against your pale skin. It's more that you didn't look like you'd stepped out of a fashion magazine, as he did.
The picture brings back a lot of memories. While you're not an overly emotional, sentimental person, you find yourself thinking back to the first time you two met. Or rather, the first time you spoke to each other. 
You lose yourself in the memory, thinking back to the days of your senior year in high school. It wasn't hard to recreate the moment. 
This was not happening to you. It just wasn't.
Because there was no way that your film teacher was scolding you for missing those last pages, perhaps one of the only kids to ever do the reading in the first place.
"I am highly disappointed," he drones, "I don't ask for much in this class and I expect my students to read what I assign to them."
"Look," you say, placating, "I'm really sorry. You know I usually do the reading. I was just so tired-"
"I don't want any excuses!" he retorts. "There is no reason you shouldn't be prepared today!"
You were going to lose it.
You've had no sleep this week, or the last one for that matter. Other classes were piling on the homework because midterms were coming. You had four study guides, three essays due by Monday, and a group project that you were thinking everyone else who was signed up for was dead. Or they better be, because you were going to kill them if they were alive and not helping you with the stupid diorama of an ocean trench ecosystem. To add to this was about 40 pages of film reading.
You weren't a bad student. You worked hard, put in the hours, and tried to participate in class.
But last night, after reading 35 pages of the film book, you fell asleep on it.
You didn't even know what had happened until you woke up with an aching back and drool covering your cheek as your alarm blared in your ear. 
You didn't think it could hurt much. What was 5 pages?
Apparently a lot. Because the instructor had to ask you a question from the last pages and none from the previous ones. Of course. Isn't that how life works?
So when you couldn't BS what chiaroscuro (what even?) was, you had to explain to him that you didn't read the last few pages.
A headache is beginning to form at your temples, and you close your eyes as you try to will it out of existence.
"Look at me when I am speaking!" your teacher shrieks.
You're not sure what's going on with him. Generally, he's a pretty cool guy. You guess it was a combination of the fact that midterms stressed out teachers too and that he was sick of everyone not reading. You get it. But you don't deserve the brunt of his frustration right now. And as your own sense of frustration builds, you can't stop the words that spew from your mouth like vomit. You wish you could.
"Okay!" you shout, and a few students jump in their seats.
"Now I said I was sorry," you seethe. "But after all I go through each day, I don't deserve this."
You take advantage of the surprise still on the man's face.
You want to stop. You want to stop speaking the things on your mind but it's like the floodgates have opened and you don't have an ark to save yourself. You were not going to be one of the animals saved from drowning because you'll already be dead, murdered by someone for what you just said. The words come anyway.
"I have eight classes," you continue, "all of which have just as much homework as this one. And after I wake up early in the morning, go to said classes, try and find something to eat, and walk a gazillion miles to my house because my car is broken, I use whatever energy I physically have left to climb onto a surface and do the unfair amounts of homework I'm assigned. I haven't slept in two weeks just so I can keep up and judging by the way everyone else looks like a zombie, they haven't either. So I apologize I missed the reading. But please stop yelling at me. I think that the ONE time I miss a few pages of reading because I literally fell asleep on them, you can let it go."
You sit down when you realize you're standing, the heat of the moment causing an automatic reaction. But as the adrenaline fades and you start shaking due to what you've done, you want to take it all back. He could yell at you for an hour for all you cared. That would be better than what you are scared is going to happen.
The class is deadly silent, and you're not sure you've ever been able to hear breathing so clearly. Even over your own still erratic breaths, the silence is palpable.
Your teacher looks murderous. Maybe you won't have to wait for your parents to kill you when you get suspended. You're hoping the number of witnesses present can at least testify against him. At this point though, you're not so sure he couldn't buy off the class with good grades in return for their silence. You would take that deal.
Before the livid educator can think of some way to eviscerate you with the pencil in his hand in a slow, agonizing death, another voice speaks up.
"She's right, professor," you hear. 
Both you and the teacher whip around to see a boy standing up, leaning casually on his desk.
Wait. That's the cute boy. The cute boy that transferred into the class maybe a week ago, saying his family moved to get a new way of life.
At the time, all you could think was how silly it was to move so close to the end of the first semester. Why did he even join so late? Then you noticed that nobody seemed to care, as they were too preoccupied with swarming around him like he was the Wizard of Oz and could grant their deepest wishes. Which, coincidentally, he didn't even do. Telling someone they have what they want does not mean that he gave it to them. The Wizard of Oz was a faker.
Anyway, this was that boy. The one whose name you don't actually know but should because everyone else seems to. You really need to pay attention to other's conversations instead of listening to music a majority of the time. Not to say you hadn't heard about him, especially from the whispering girls that sit behind you. But they've always referred to the boy simply as "him," as if he was some magical being. A magical being with dark chocolate hair, warm eyes, and a voice that's so deep you swear it's coming from his feet. 
Yes, the person now holding the gaze of a stern and possibly stress crazed teacher without flinching is well known in the class.
He's able to play every sport the school has given him in gym class, and you've heard a rumor he's never actually lost a soccer game. This boy wasn't someone you would expect to stand up for you. You weren't low on the social scale or anything, it just wasn't like you would usually mix together. He likes sports and socializing, you like going home. But you stop thinking about that soon enough.
You're too busy marveling at his ability to not sink back into his seat when every single person turns to stare at him. You're practically on the floor you're so far down.
Now you're feeling bad you're going to be partially responsible for his murder too. You peek through your fingers while you watch their interaction.
"Excuse me?" the professor growls. "Would you like to repeat that?"
"I said that she's right," he shrugs, mildly apologetic. "I think this one time you could forgive her. I've seen her in class. She often has to lead our discussion when nobody else will. Don't you think you can let it slide in return for her hard work?"
He sees you in class? Maybe you've been participating a little too much lately. You sink a little further, embarrassment causing your cheeks to flush.
He's so natural at speaking that you expect to turn to your instructor to find a smile on his face. To just turn around with an exasperated sigh and make a joke about school. He does no such thing.
"Come on, professor," you say charmingly, now inspired by the boy backing you, "please? Just this once?"
Detention is a lot different than you thought it would be.
Honestly, you're glad to be here, if only because you were expecting worse. 
When your professor had what was possibly an aneurism and sent you and the boy down to the office, you were thinking about crying. All you could do was thank the boy and apologize to him for getting him in this mess (even though it was his choice, as he kept saying.) 
You think the principal felt bad for you, in addition to knowing that you were not a consistent antagonist of teachers, so he didn't suspend you.
The boy was apparently named Minho, according to the "I'm disappointed" speech you heard. He was too new to have much of a track record to go off of like you, so he didn't have anything to guide what his punishment would be. However, he charmed the principal into letting him off easy. You weren't surprised. 
They put you in separate rooms because the administration didn't see it as too wise to let your film teacher know you were "conspiring" (as he put it in the pink slip) together during detention. 
So here you are.
You spend the first 30 minutes doing the assignment set on the board, but finish much faster than you imagined. Too bad you had to stay here for 2 hours. You weren't allowed to do anything fun either because, well, it was detention.
Unfortunately the only things to look at are the morbidly instructive science posters about going blind due to not using goggles around chemicals, and the creepy boy in the corner rifling through his pockets. He's been doing it the whole time as far as you can tell, and you admit you're scared of him. Especially of what he was looking at. You were going with either shrunken heads or some sort of demonic creature summoned from the other realm. You don't like the situation either way.
Once, he caught you staring. You had to suppress a shriek as you turned around, willing your heart to stop jamming against your ribs. He stared at the back of your head for 5 minutes straight. You could feel it. You hope you don't have a hole burnt there now. You feel you hair to make sure, and breathe a sigh of relief when all seems normal. You're okay.
You think your soul is slowly floating away from your body because it's too bored to stick around.
When the supervisor over the class gets up and leaves you hardly notice, your glazed over eyes fixed on the crudely carved words and figures on your desk. Someone had quite the vocabulary.
The door opens again, and this time you look up.
And there's Minho.
He's standing in the doorway, scanning the room with those big, doe like eyes.
When they settle on you, he winks.
He streams in with a few other students as the supervisor goes back to her desk and pops in her earbuds, resuming her reading of what looks like Twilight. You’re not sure she knows anything about any of you, or that she even wants to know. It seemed like, to her, the only thing to be concerned with was making sure you all didn’t set anything on fire. Or interrupt her readings on sparkly vampires. You don't blame her for ignoring the students.
Minho lithely crosses the room until he stands at your desk, waiting expectantly for you to acknowledge his presence.
The first words out of your mouth are: "Why are you here?" 
You didn't expect the teacher to allow you two to speak again. Looks like he didn’t get to choose.
The first words out of his mouth are: "You're an idiot."
His tone isn't harsh, but it still surprises you.
"Excuse me?" you ask, mildly shocked.
"I said you're an idiot."
He says it in a way that’s so nonchalant.
"I heard what you said," you hiss, "now I'm asking why you said it."
Just because he stood up for you does not mean he could just insult you.
He looks taken aback himself at your sudden demeanor change. Was it really so strange to be upset someone called you an idiot? It's probably because the last time he saw you was when you were a nervous and weepy mess.
His lips quirk up into a curious little smile, like he's made some sort of discovery. It's kind of cute.
But you were going to shove that discovery up his ass if he didn't answer you soon.
"I'm sorry," he responds, "I didn't mean to upset you. I just wanted to talk."
"Yes," you retort, "because the first thing I think when I want to make friends with someone is 'let me call them an idiot.'"
"Who said I'm here to make friends?"
"Most people don't land themselves in detention just for the fun of it."
"Maybe I was just fighting for what was right. The teacher was wrong to scold you so harshly."
"Is that why you're standing at my desk?"
"Why are you here then?"
"To make friends."
Oh lord. You might just face a different kind of detention when you murder this boy.
When he sees what must have been an overwhelming amount of exasperation playing across your features, his face splits into a grin. Before he had been almost suave, despite being in his teenage years when he should have a pepperoni face. Now, he looks just like a little boy. At the sight you feel your own lips twitch slightly, and you have to bite down pretty hard on the inside of your cheek to keep the smile down. It should be illegal to be that adorable.
"Are you always this impossible?" you ask, irritation fading from your voice against your wishes.
"Pretty much," he shrugs. "Are you always this aggressive?"
You glare at him slightly.
"That's a yes, then."
How long was detention again? 
You sigh, a deep and soul weary noise that makes him smile again.
"Can I sit here?" he asks, not in actuality waiting to drop his stuff and swing around the desk. 
"I don't know, can you?" you answer, but the point is lost because he's doing it anyway.
He plops down onto the chair lazily, like his legs just can't hold him up anymore.
Not that you can see why, as they go for miles and appear to look like they've been on a lot of runs. Especially in those jeans.
Stop it. Don't like dumb boys.
"Should I even bother asking why you called me an idiot?" you ask, already feeling like this would be much longer of a day than you originally thought.
"Oh," he chirps, "I forgot about that."
Sure he did.
"Don't you think it's a pretty bad idea to piss off a teacher so close to midterms? Because I think it is."
"You seem to forget that by agreeing with me, you have also pissed him off near midterms," you bark. “And you just transferred. Who's really the idiot now?"
"You,” he answers.
"What did you just say?"
"I said-"
"Stop it,” you interrupt with a hiss.
"You should work on your listening skills,” he says playfully.
"And you should work on getting out of my business,” you growl back, giving him a nasty glare.
He looks a little hurt at that one. More than a little. It's as if his smile just kind of crumbles off his face. Now he's sitting there quietly, like he's a scolded puppy. 
Usually you aren't too bothered by what happens to those that push you to say mean things, but something about the way he's scuffing his feet on the floor uncomfortably makes you feel guilty. You guess that was a bit too harsh. 
You sigh again. It crosses your mind that sighing is going to become a common action this evening.
"I'm sorry," you murmur, "I shouldn't have said that."
He hears you, you know by the way he perks up, but he still asks anyway.
"What did you say?"
"Maybe it's you who needs to work on your listening skills."
He starts to grin again, like a giddy child playing a game. In a way, the conversation was a game.
"I do apologize," he says with an accent like a fancy old Englishman, "but I don't think I quite heard what you said. Please do tell me again."
You don't want to give it to him, but he's now got you in a silly mood.
"I'm sorry," you enunciate, "I shouldn't have yelled at you."
He looks so pleased with your response that you don't regret giving it again at all.
"So tell me, old chap," you say, your own accent in place, "what brings a jolly good fellow like you to this destination? I would have thought the instructor would separate us."
His eyes are dancing. That sounds weird to say, but the way they glimmer in the light makes them look like they actually dance. 
"He did," he replies, "but the person who was supposed to watch us apparently had to go take his cat to get a particularly stubborn hair ball removed. So we moved here."
"Tell me about it."
"I was talking about the fact I have to spend the detention with you."
You smirk victoriously, glad you made him surprised for a moment. Take that, Mr. I-Have-A-Comeback-For-Everything.
He smiles when he sees your face before a cheerful peal of laughter escapes his lips. It reverberates around the space, causing those with you in the classroom look up. You think you quite like the sound. It's warm and welcoming. 
The supervisor looks up and glares at the two of you. You both sink back into your chairs.
The rest of the detention passes in a much smoother manner, as you and Minho spend it bantering back and forth. You have to say, it's probably the most fun you've ever had despite supposedly being disciplined.
At one point the supervisor looks up when Minho is trying to tickle you and you are sure you're about to be busted. But he dives down in one smooth movement to fiddle with his shoelaces, making his actions seem less obvious. You cough obnoxiously to hide the laughter you were holding in.
She looks back down again. You sneak Minho a frivolous look, excited at having gotten away with it. He just smiles conspiratorially at you.
When it finally ends, you stand up and stretch. This is when you realize Minho is taller than you. By a lot. You were too panicked to notice in the hallway before, but now with your eyes to his collarbone, you can certainly tell. You have to tilt your head back to see his face.
"So," he rumbles, "do you need a ride home? You know, so you don't have to walk 'a gazillion miles' as you put it."
You know you're not supposed to trust strangers, especially with car rides. But something about Minho tells you he's probably the kind of person who walks around worms on the sidewalk and carries spiders outside. Besides, with how he's already helped you out once today, you feel like you two are friends.
"Sure, thanks."
When he parks in front of your house, you see your mom through the kitchen window. She sees you too and moves to intercept you at the door before you have a chance to make a quick escape. Which is really too bad, as you were hoping when you slid out the passenger seat of the car you could avoid her notice. She wants to yell at you, you can tell, but she stops when she sees Minho. 
Unfortunately, a long string of questions follows, many addressed to the boy himself. You're not so subtly gesturing with your eyes that he should drive away before she launches into some sort of family story.
Too late. Now he knows about the time you got your head stuck in the stair banister when you were 4. Thanks, mom.
You are covering your face with your hand in an attempt to pretend that this is not happening. Your mom loves to chat up your friends. 
But when you look back at Minho to apologize with every body language sign you can think of, he's smiling softly. His eyes twinkle as he laughs at something your mother said (probably embarrassing you), and you decide that you want him to be someone you keep around. 
When your mother moves to leave an eternity later and Minho peers up at you expectantly, you wave her off with the promise of being inside in a minute. She gives you a look that indicates there will be lecturing later, but goes anyway. 
"So I suppose I'll never see you again," you comment lightly, only half-joking, "since I'm sure my mom just scared you off. I wouldn't blame you."
He chuckles warmly, and you feel reassured.
"Don't worry," he replies, "my mom is the exact same way. They're like clones."
"Oh," you breathe. "So, did you ever get your head stuck in a banister?"
He smiles.
"No, but I'm sure she would be happy to tell you about the time I got my hair tangled up in an entire roll of bubble tape gum."
"The whole roll?"
"Let's just say I wasn't bald as a kid by choice."
You laugh this time, imagining a little Minho without any hair. It was almost sort of sad. Almost.
You sigh reluctantly, and he looks up to study you.
"I guess I should go," you say, now a bit crestfallen the day was over. "My mom's got to have time to hide my body before sunset when she murders me, and it's only courteous to give that to her."
He's silently shaking with laughter.
"Okay," he responds. "But if you're still alive tomorrow, do you want to study? We can go wherever. I'll help you with that film reading or something if you need it."
"Really?" you ask, ecstatic at the idea.
"Yeah, sure," he answers, shrugging. "Why not?"
"Okay!" you chirp, trying not to sound too happy. "How about we get some food after school and study in the library?"
"Sounds good. See you after class?"
"Yep! Thanks for the ride home."
"No problem."
"Wait," you call, "don't you have your own film studying to worry about?"
He gives you a cheeky grin.
"I don't have to take the test because I wasn't here for most of the semester."
"You suck. And I hate you. Like I genuinely hate you."
"I'm sure you do."
"Go home, Minho." 
You smile to lessen the harshness of the comment. He takes it quite graciously.
He starts his car and makes a roundabout turn while giving you a wave, which you return.
When you finally enter your house and your parents are regarding you sternly, you're too elated to really be brought down. 
Surprisingly, maybe due to your happiness, they don't even ground you. You think it might also have something to do with the fact that your parents appreciate all aspects of sass and the value of standing up for yourself.
As you head upstairs to go to sleep, you smile. Maybe you should get in trouble more often, if this is what you get.
The next day, when you find that homicide has not been committed in the house and you are most definitely still alive, you meet Minho after class in the library.
You've been working on homework together for the past hour. In between problems you would ask things to get to know each other. You now know that his lucky number is ten and his favorite smell is the Tarmac in the evening once it's cooled off. He now knows you're terrified of moths and that your favorite animal is a penguin.
"Guess where I'm from," he says, intent on gluing a tiny piece of Styrofoam coral into the trench diorama while you paint the specks that represent different depths. "I bet you'll be wrong."
Finishing up, you slouch into one of the nearby plush chairs, shoving a forkful of noodles into your mouth.
"You're trying to make me sound racist," you mumble around said mouthful before realizing that's probably extremely unladylike and gross. Minho doesn't seem to care.
"No, I'm not," he assures. "I won't judge you. Go ahead, guess."
He was so pretty that, with his lighter than caramel skin and wide eyes, you weren't sure he was from here. You had heard maybe he was an exchange student. You take a guess.
"Okay... Japan?"
"Nope!" he chimes. "That was pretty racist."
"I am going to kill you."
"Cincinnati," he concedes, "I'm from Cincinnati. If it makes you feel better my family does have roots in Japan."
"You are a terrible human being."
"I know."
"Like really terrible."
"At least I'm not racist."
You hope nothing just broke when you slammed your bag into his face. Actually, maybe you do.
Just nothing on the diorama.
It's four months later that Minho finally asks you out, or what you think was asking you out. You're still not really sure if what he said qualifies. 
The thing about Minho is that he's a confident person, often striding across the room like he owns the place. Which he does, if you go off of how all the females in the area follow him like baby ducklings. You're going to pretend that you're not one of them. 
It appears that everyone's drawn to him because he always seems smooth without trying. He wasn't trying and still managed it when he was grinning as if he was ten that time in Food Science you somehow managed to lock the sink sprayer in the on position. He looked smooth with sopping wet hair and clothes that clung to him when he got drenched trying to help get said sprayer under control. He even looked smooth when you threw flour on him for laughing at you and it formed into a gooey mess on his cheek. The teacher did not appreciate you at all, on the other hand. There was no laughter from him. That would be two teachers now.
Minho also doesn't often seem unsure, and he's never been the type to stumble over his words.
So it surprises you, very much so in fact, when that night he does just that.
You go over to his house to work on homework together, studying for the film final you were terrified of. It made you feel better Minho had to take this one too.
He's been quiet all evening, which you attribute to nerves, so you make some hot chocolate to keep the mood up. 
You like yours with exactly 6 squeezes of chocolate sauce. He likes his with the rest of the bottle. That’s not an exaggeration.
When you return to the spot where you've made a crease in the couch with your back (which is now temporarily crippled from the horrible study posture you've adopted), he peers up at you with uncertainty. 
Since it's such a weird experience for you, you simply hand him his mug and ruffle his messy hair. He seems content enough with the gesture that he relaxes.
Somewhere along the way, in between mass examples of mise en scène and something called verisimilitude, he reaches down into his backpack to extract an item and tosses it gently onto your lap. It's a tiny stuffed penguin, hands velcroed around what appears to be a tube of individually wrapped chocolates. 
You look up at Minho, startled by the sudden action. Perhaps even more so by the implication behind it. Because Minho doesn't give random gifts, and you weren't forgetting any events.
"I-I, uh," he stammers, "I got this thing, that thing, because um..."
You don't interrupt him because you want him to say what he's trying to, although you're not sure you can speak at this point anyway because your heart is in your throat.
He clears his own, trying to regain composure. Honestly, you liked this Minho more than suave Minho. It was cute, earnest, and entirely real.
"I got you this penguin," he says again, more determined, "because... Well, because I like you. There. I said it."
"Oh. Well, thanks for the chocolate. Now I can use it as snack food to study," you say, feeling sly.
He looks crushed for a second and you panic, worried he doesn't understand. But he's seen your coy smile already and now shoves you, almost causing you to lose your new stuffed friend.
"What's wrong with you?" he asks, pretending to sulk.
"I just confessed to you and you're being sarcastic."
"Is that what that was? That's your idea of confessing?"
Your tone is light and giddy, and he's smiling despite his best efforts.
"You're a terrible human being," he announces.
"I know."
"Like really terrible."
He's using your own words against you.
"But I'm your terrible human being. And you're an idiot for taking so long to tell me."
"But I'm your idiot, right?"
"Yes, Minho, you're my idiot."
The studying gets pushed aside for a few hours while you're occupied with the taste of chocolate and the tickle of warm breath on your skin.
You both ace the film final, which doesn't make the teacher all that happy. You go out for celebratory noodles.
You're not quite sure which day it is you go from having feelings for each other to love. Minho would tell you about the event one day, but if you asked him again he'd say something different. You also do this. It's like sometime between pranks and late night phone calls you realized the depth of what you had. You went from being best friends, to crushes, and then to significant others. 
Two times of outings getting soaked with rain, at least eight burnt dinners, and an immeasurable number of snarky conversations later, you and Minho moved into your split level apartment together.
You fell in love with the bay window in the living room. He fell in love with the old fashioned spiral staircase leading to the kitchen. It seemed… Perfect.
It still is perfect.
What were you even doing? Sitting on the bedroom floor looking back at the past seemed like a waste of time. Reminiscing like you don't have a relationship anymore, when in fact you can hear the door open and Minho shuffle in. Or at least you hope it's Minho, and not someone breaking into the apartment. 
Your stupid fight this morning didn't mean anything anymore. It was so trivial, arguing over what was the fault of absentmindedness in both of you. You just want to let it go and see what he brought home for dinner.
You close the box, running a finger lightly over the lid as you put it back.
When you turn around, Minho is there. He's got his hands jammed in his pockets, one foot scuffing against the floor, trying not to look at you.
"Hi, babe," he greets quietly.
For a moment he looks like he did in detention, and you smile at him.
It seems he’s come to the same conclusion as you.
"Hi, Minho," you greet back, before walking to him and wrapping your arms around his torso. "How was work?"
"It was okay," he replies, his voice filled with surprise and curiosity.
You peer up through your lashes and have to laugh at the look on his face.
"You thought I'd be angry," you say in between giggles. It's not a question.
"Well, I certainly didn't expect a hug."
You bury you face into his scarf, enjoying the feeling of the soft fabric as he returns your hug.
"Listen, babe," he begins, regret lacing his words, "I'm sorry about this morning. I’m going to try really hard not to leave the window open. Because I know it bothers you and-"
"It's fine," you interrupt softly, before he starts to ramble like he does when panicked. "It doesn't matter anymore. I'm sorry too. I have a problem with leaving stuff everywhere. We all make mistakes."
"What were you doing in here while I was gone?" he asks, no doubt confused by your attitude lacking either hostility or despondency. 
"Nothing. I just don't like to fight with you," you murmur back, holding him tighter.
He does the same thing to you.
"Nobody likes to fight, I think," he breathes into your hair.
"I think our mothers would disagree."
He laughs quietly at the statement.
Your mom adored Minho. Minho's mom adored you. It was just each other they had problems liking. He wasn't kidding when he said they were like clones. Too similar to get along, you guess.
"What were they arguing about again, last week at the barbecue?" he asks, appearing to think back.
"Whether toaster strudels or pop tarts were the superior morning meal."
"That's right," he says, smiling. "They got into an actual heated 30 minute argument about breakfast foods."
"I'm pretty sure if we don't keep an eye on them they'll put laxatives in each other's punch."
"I'm pretty sure you're absolutely right."
You share a smile at their crazy antics.
"So," you say, "what's your opinion on which is better?"
"What about yours?"
"I asked you first."
"I was born first."
"By four months."
"Four months is a long time."
You punch him in the arm.
"Okay," he says, "how about we say our favorite of the two on three?"
"Wait. On three as in once you say three or right after you say three?"
"Really, babe?"
"It matters."
"Say it when I count on three."
"1, 2, 3!"
"Toaster strudels," you say simultaneously. You look at each other warmly.
"I was so worried you were going to say pop tarts," he confesses.
"Oh. No way."
"Good," he says, grinning, "because I'm not sure I can date someone who thinks otherwise."
"So you can't date my mother?" you ask slyly. "She'll be so disappointed."
He throws his head back and laughs a hearty chuckle.
"I'm totally serious," you continue. "The amount of times I've heard her say if she was 20 years younger that she'd date you herself might have aged me 20 years."
He's trying to bring his breathing back to a regulated state. He's still laughing though, making it a bit difficult.
"Well," he chokes out in between gasps, "my father says the same thing about you. I'm starting to wonder if I'm going to have to fight him for you."
He's got the giggles now and he's infecting you with them. You both struggle to make it to the couch before you fall over. Your ribs hurt. Except what's great is that you don't care.
You know it's dumb, and you’re sure he does too. You’re aware that's it's not really that funny. But there are days when it doesn't matter what anyone else says because you are just enjoying each other's company.
When you can breathe again you ask, "So what's for dinner?"
He's quiet for a moment.
"I forgot."
Oh. You don't know what to say. It's not like you want to be mad at him but you two just... Wait. The look on his face.
He laughs through his nose, making a slight snorting noise.
"You should see your face," he says, "you look so lost. I stopped by the store on the way home and got some of those chicken strips you like."
"Good," you sigh, relieved, "because I was about to beat you."
"I'm sure you were. I have no doubt in your ability to do physical harm."
"Keep that in mind," you coo back, grinning.
A while later when Minho's occupied trying to capture a spider (you were right about him letting them out), you slip back into the bedroom. You grope for the memory box in the dark, finding it when you jam your finger against it. This thing wants to cause you pain. You rifle through it until you find the small, plushie penguin Minho had given you. You hold it close to your chest, deciding you don't want to put it back. You want to see what’s part of your past every day of your future.
Peering around, you decide to tuck it into the space between two picture frames on the bedside table.
Minho notices when you both go to bed that night, and you don't comment as he studies it.
You feel a strange sense of satisfaction when recognition flashes in the wide brown eyes, the same quirky little discovery smile creeping onto his face.
You think he's not going to say anything because he turns off the light and just curls up next to you silently.
Then you feel an arm loop around your waist as he speaks.
"I'm still your idiot, right?" he asks earnestly.
"Yes, Minho, you're still my idiot."

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