word count: 1674
summary: there wasn't much to hongbin's photos.
a/n: another thing inspired largely by sarah's hen shriekings...where would i be without her. high school au of sorts. enjoy!
Why couldn't a cat’s tail ever stay still? Hongbin desperately wondered this as he was poised painfully, crouched down on the sidewalk across the street from the unknowing feline, trying his best to hold his camera steady in his shaking hands. It wasn’t that he was nervous, he thought, not really. Or was it? No, it was just that he wasn’t used to such a heavy camera, he had to hold it steadier.
He tried to adjust the weight but instead his grip slipped, and Hongbin saw before him an early funeral for his incredibly expensive and incredibly new camera. In an attempt to save it he slammed his knees together, causing him to lose his balance and fall backwards, hissing out a frustrated “shit.” His hand scraped the rocks and dirt behind him as he saw the cat scramble away from him out of the corner of his eye.
The camera was safely cradled in his abdomen, but he sat still trying to recover from the panic. He half-heartedly wiped the dirt from his hand on his pants, not even bothering to check if he hurt himself. He started to curse himself mentally for even wanting to take pictures of a stupid stray cat. Weren’t there better subjects for his pictures? Why couldn’t he find them?
“Why so glum, chum?”
Hongbin looked up towards the grating voice to see a classmate walking towards him. Lee Jaehwan. He was one grade above him and was supposed to be a complete clown, but Hongbin didn’t know much else about him.
Jaehwan stopped in front of him. “Well, isn’t that a camera! The mysterious pretty boy turned out to be the artsy type, after all.”
Hongbin glared at him. “Can I help you?”
“I should be asking you that.” Jaehwan held out a hand to him.
“I’m fine.” Hongbin put the camera strap around his neck and lifted himself off the ground, wiping the back of his pants.
“Why were you hanging out on the floor anyway, man? Can’t be much fun. I’d say I’m more interesting than the sidewalk.”
Hongbin shot him an annoyed look. “Do you only speak in one-liners? You sound like you’re trying to pick me up at a bar.”
“Sorry, sorry.” Jaehwan flashed an impressed grin. “You’re pretty sharp yourself, though.”
They stared at each other for a few moments, Hongbin looking more disinterested and Jaehwan looking more apologetic as time passed. Jaehwan offered a goofy, wide smile, desperate for Hongbin’s continued attention, and Hongbin couldn’t help but laugh back at him.
“Which way are you headed?” Hongbin asked. “Let’s walk home together.”
Jaehwan’s showy grin melted into one of genuine content at his change of heart.
Hongbin checked his phone for what felt like the millionth time in the past ten minutes. He was supposed to meet Jaehwan, who he had somehow bound himself to once a week as soon as classes were over. He had to mention one thing, one little thing about lacking inspiration for his pictures. Upon hearing that Jaehwan couldn’t help throwing up a mountain of ideas and spewing out a novel-length itinerary to remedy what he charmingly nicknamed Hongbin’s “pictureblock.” All from an innocent walk home and ten minutes to spare, Hongbin thought. He sighed.
“Incredible, that guy,” he mumbled.
As soon as Hongbin spat out his complaint, Jaehwan popped up by his side, startling him. He couldn’t help but wonder if Jaehwan was like a curse, some sort of repentance he must pay for playing the game of the aspiring photographer.
“Adventure time, Binnie!”
“You’re already calling me something like that?”
“Sorry. Can I call you Binnie?”
“Fine.” Despite trying his best not to smile, Hongbin couldn’t stop one from creeping onto his face at Jaehwan’s modesty. He decided Jaehwan was a curse—a happy one.
Jaehwan led Hongbin around many turns and small streets. Jaehwan claimed to know lots of good hiding places, as he called them, from spending so much time around their neighborhood with an old girlfriend. He promised and insisted that Hongbin would find plenty to take pictures of today. Hongbin wasn’t sure why he chose to follow him, but seeing as Jaehwan became an excited puppy once his mind started going, he didn’t think he could have said no.
Once all of Jaehwan’s bad jokes ran dry Hongbin started to wonder if he knew where he was taking them. As soon as they turned a corner onto a long street, though, Jaehwan began to inspect the tall fence cautiously. Hongbin took note of the thick shrubbery beyond the fence and gripped the strap of his camera a bit tighter.
“Where are we?” Hongbin asked.
“That’s rather vague.”
“It’s just a lousy wildlife area behind one of the local schools.”
“If it’s so lousy, then—“
“I knew you would ask that. That’s not what we’re here for.” Jaehwan’s face lit up. “Aha! Come here.”
Hongbin approached Jaehwan with apprehension as he disappeared somewhere beyond the fence. He crouched down and crawled through what he supposed was Jaehwan’s secret entrance, a hole just big enough for a person to fit through. He nervously grasped for his camera, and when his grip kept faltering, he jerked his hands forward to see they were shaking as much as he felt his heart was.
After Hongbin crossed the fence he stopped to look ahead. Jaehwan was already unabashedly marching forward. He held onto the camera lens with a death grip in a feeble attempt to calm his nerves. Watching Jaehwan, Hongbin thought he might disappear into the trees, which was much worse than his uncertainty in his destination of choice. He took a few steps forward.
“J-Jaehwan,” he called. “Wait.”
Jaehwan paused, hearing the steady crunching of leaves and branches from careful footsteps. When they stopped, he turned to face Hongbin, who was looking down at his feet, with an encouraging smile.
“Well,” Jaehwan began, “Let’s go.”
He grabbed Hongbin’s free hand with the intent of pulling him through the trees, but when he felt the trembling hand in his own, he stopped and his hold loosened. Both boys stared at each other, uncertainty keeping them in place. Worse than seeing how sorry Jaehwan was for leading him into this innocent detour was how Hongbin felt downright stupid for getting worked up about it. Just trust Jaehwan, he thought, and he understood from the look in his eyes, Jaehwan was pleading the same thought.
“We came here for you, Hongbin.” Jaehwan said firmly. “Trust me.”
“I do.” He wasn’t sure why, but at that moment, he decided he did.
The late afternoon sun shone on Hongbin in jagged forms as he leaned against a tall maple tree, waiting for Jaehwan and excitedly tapping his foot. The last thing he had expected from his first outing with Jaehwan was to be willingly meeting him during his only free time on the weekend only to be dragged into another one of his hiding places.
Truthfully, the first place he took Hongbin had proven to be impressive, and as Jaehwan promised, there was more to it than a boring garden—there were remnants of a once well-loved hangout spot, worn couches and tire swings intact. Hongbin was so amazed with his pictures from that afternoon that he couldn’t help but bring his camera back the next school day and find Jaehwan to show him.
“I need to repay you somehow,” Hongbin told him. “This happened because of you.”
“I’m not the one that took all these pictures, though.”
Your time is enough of a reward, Jaehwan thought.
Today was special because Jaehwan swore it would be better than any of the other places they had been to together. He had overheard his classmates talking about an abandoned house that kids from the school frequented for overnight stays. But they wouldn’t be doing any of that, Jaehwan promised, just their normal afternoon exploration.
“Binnie,” a voice whispered into Hongbin’s ear. He jumped and started laughing almost immediately after as he punched Jaehwan in the arm.
“Don’t scare me like that!” Hongbin protested. Jaehwan swung an arm around him and gave him an expectant smile.
Hongbin nodded assuredly.
After many detours due to the confused and lost Jaehwan, they arrived at the fenced-off house. The sun had already fallen low in the sky and casted grand shadows on the tall grass of the front lawn. They carefully jumped the fence, wandered down the worn pathway and propped the door open.
Once inside Hongbin could not shut up. “Jaehwan, look at the ceiling. Jaehwan, look at this table. Jaehwan, look at the rugs.”
After a moment of silence where Hongbin stood mesmerized by the house’s trinkets, Jaehwan spoke up. “I couldn’t have imagined you this comfortable anywhere that I took you months ago.”
“Because, Jaehwan, I didn’t realize how much you brighten up every place that we go.”
Jaehwan turned his face away, trying to hide his smile. “Is the camera even coming out today?”
Hongbin absorbed his unusual surroundings for a bit longer before turning to look at Jaehwan. The sun was shining down through holes in the roof onto his face as he started into the house. Against the shadows of the dimly lit house, Hongbin thought that he looked like he was glowing.
Jaehwan snapped out of his trance and gave him a questioning glance. “What are you staring at?”
“Can I take pictures of you?”
Jaehwan’s voice wavered. “How would I even pose for them?”
“Well.” Hongbin considered for a moment. “Just look at me the way you do when you watch me take pictures and you think I’m not looking.”
At these words Jaehwan stiffened and Hongbin’s lips turned up in a wry smile. They stared at each other until Jaehwan’s expression dissolved into a fierce gaze. Hongbin’s heart raced frantically as he reached for his camera.
“Yes, that’s exactly the one.”
He never once considered that his hands remained unshaking.