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26th March, 2026

 

Dear Renjun,

 

I know this might sound unbelievable but what I am going to write is very important so please bear with me. I have made many mistakes in the past and I cannot undo them. However, you can. You can live a version of a life that is better than mine. So please, as logical as you are, believe what I am about to write.

 

24th February, 2016:

 

Today, a new student will transfer to your school. His name is Zhong Chenle and he will smile at you cutely, claiming he doesn’t know a lot of Korean. That’s a lie, he’s fluent. He is from Shanghai and you will be assigned by Mr Lee to be his translator until he is confident with his Korean. He will take the seat next to you and Jaemin will mention during break that he wants to invite Chenle to hang out with you guys after school. 

 

Please, for the love of God, do not let Jaemin invite him out. If you do, something bad will happen and I regret what I did that day so much.

 

I wish you the best,

The future you.

 

Renjun sighed and read the letter again - just one of many that he had received that morning in a neat little box in the mail. The handwriting was unmistakably his own, neat Chinese that no one in their friendship group knew how to write. However, what stumped Renjun wasn’t the letter itself but rather, the date of both the letter and the one specified in the content of the letter. Carefully, he unlocked his phone once more to have a look at the date to ensure he wasn’t dreaming as he walked to school.

 

February 24, 2016

 

“Junnie!” He heard someone shout and looked up to see the bright smile of one of his best friends, Na Jaemin, alongside a taller male who waved shyly. “Be sure to look up when walking so everyone can see your beautiful face!”

“Hyung, what do you have there?” Jisung, the other taller male, asked and Renjun hummed, completely ignoring Jaemin’s greeting. 

“Nothing really,” he answered, packing up the letter that had arrived in his mailbox and hastily placing it in his bag. “Just some mail.”

“Sure,” Jisung replied, dragging out the vowel and it took everything in Renjun to not think about what the younger was trying to infer. Luckily for him, he didn’t need to do much as Jaemin was quickly stealing his attention away.

“Did you guys hear?” Jaemin asked happily, his smile present as he began walking backwards and making them follow him. “We’re getting a new student today! Apparently, he’s a genius like Sungie!”

“Hyung, do not call me that,” Jisung protested quietly which just made Jaemin smile wider and pinch his cheeks. “ Hyung.

“Apparently, he’s Chinese too, Jun!” He is from Shanghai. Shaking his head to rid the image of the words on the letter, Renjun raised an eyebrow at Jaemin.

“Is he now?” he asked, entering the school building and walking alongside his friends as they slowly walked up the stairs to their classroom. “Guess I’m not going to be the only Chinese in the class, then.”

 

He saw Jaemin nod rapidly and pulled back the door to their classroom, the rest of his classmates glancing at them before they returned to whatever they were previously doing.

 

All except three certain males who came up to them, smiles on their faces and greetings on their lips.

 

“Only took you guys ten years to get here!” Donghyuck shouted, throwing his arms wide and latching himself onto Renjun, immediately trying to kiss his neck much to Renjun’s protests. 

“Hey guys,” Jeno greeted, his signature eye smile on display that had many of the girls in their class giggling and whispering to each other.

“Donghyuck, leave Renjun alone,” Mark ordered, the class president who was also the oldest in their year. He had been held back a year when he transferred due to the school’s decision to improve his Korean, even if it was just minor things that could use improvements.

“But hyung!” Donghyuck whined, holding onto him tighter and causing him to groan. “He’s adorable, see!”

“Yes, everyone with eyes can see that, Hyuck,” Mark replied flatly, immediately reaching to pull Donghyuck away before he caused more trouble than what it was worth. “Morning Jisung, Jaemin, Renjun.”

“Morning hyung,” Jaemin piped up, smiling wide and going over to his desk on the left side of the room as Jisung threw a peace sign and walked towards his desk near the front. 

“Hyung, is it true we’re getting a transfer student?” he asked as they all followed him to his own desk near the back of the room, the empty desk to his right reminding him of the letter’s contents. He will take the seat next to you.

“Yeah, I heard Mr Lee talking to Ms Park about it,” Mark informed him, blinking blearily and letting Donghyuck run over to annoy Jisung. “Why?” Smiling as gently as he could, Renjun shook his head to avoid worrying the other.

“Jaemin just told me, is all,” he answered, starting to unpack but not being very coordinated and resulting in most of his things falling on the floor. Thankfully, Mark and Jeno were kind enough to help him, picking up the bits and pieces from the floor before someone (like Donghyuck) could step on them.

“You got a letter, Renjun?” He heard Jeno ask and looked over to see Jeno holding the innocent baby blue envelope that had the confusing letter inside. “Who is it from?”

“Ah! Don’t!” he shouted, reaching over and ripping the letter out of the younger male’s hands, sighing when he saw that it was still fine. “It’s just...uh...generic.” Generic? GENERIC? You don’t get letters on a daily basis, Renjun! There’s no way he’ll believe that!

 

“Everyone, places!”

 

Renjun had never been more grateful for Mr Lee entering the room then, his red hair shocking everyone as multiple girls shouted out compliments to him.

 

“Looking good, Mr Lee!”

“Why the change, Sir?”

“Mr Lee! Your scalp!”

 

“Calm down, everyone,” Mr Lee said soothingly, smiling his signature smile that rivalled even Jaemin and Jeno’s. “It’s only temporary. Mr Jung bought the wrong packet of hair dye for me.” The girl next to Renjun tapped his shoulder, leaning over to give him a little folded note that had Jaemin’s signature Ryan on it. Nodding his gratitude, he hastily opened the note, not wanting to be seen by his teacher nor by Mark who was in the seat in front of him.

 

Mr Lee looks like a tomato now!

 

Snorting and shaking his head, he purposefully locked eyes with Jaemin and they both shared a giggle despite the rest of the class still asking Mr Lee questions. 

 

Bored, Renjun carefully took out the letter again and began reading it again, wondering who was bothered enough to learn Chinese and to imitate his handwriting for a prank - Mr Lee’s next words fading into the background.

 

26th March, 2026

 

Dear Renjun,

 

I know this might sound unbelievable but what I am going to write is very important so please bear with me.

 

“Everyone, I have an important message for everyone today.”

 

I have made many mistakes in the past and I cannot undo them. However, you can. You can live a version of a life that is better than mine. So please, as logical as you are, believe what I am about to write.

 

“So please be attentive, especially you, Donghyuck.”

 

24th February, 2016:

 

“As we all know, today is the 24th of February.”

 

Today, a new student will transfer to your school. 

 

“Which means we will be welcoming a new student!”

 

His name is Zhong Chenle and he will smile at you cutely, claiming he doesn’t know a lot of Korean. That’s a lie, he’s fluent. 

 

“Chenle, you can come in now.” Looking up from his letter, Renjun watched as a boy who seemed to be a little taller than himself entered the room, feet shuffling with a cute smile on his face.

“Good morning, everyone,” the boy greeted, a Chinese accent evident in his words but not powerful enough to hinder his pronunciation by much. “My name is Zhong Chenle and I don’t know a lot of Korean so please bear with me.”

 

He is from Shanghai and you will be assigned by Mr Lee to be his translator until he is confident with his Korean. 

 

“Chenle is from Shanghai and came in through an advanced scholarship program - similar to Jisung over there,” Mr Lee piped up, gesturing to the boy who was next to him and still smiling cutely at everyone in the room. “Chenle, we have another student from China so he will be your translator until you’re confident with your Korean, okay?” Renjun barely noticed the boy nodding before Mr Lee was speaking again.

 

He will take the seat next to you and Jaemin will mention during break that he wants to invite Chenle to hang out with you guys after school. 

 

“So you can get to know him better, you can take the seat next to him.” Renjun glanced at the letter, an odd feeling settling in his stomach as Mr Lee looked directly at him. “Renjun, raise your hand so Chenle knows where you are.” Slowly, he raised his hand, watching the boy smile even more cutely at him, if it were even possible, and felt dread for the events that may happen during their break. “Your seat is the one next to him, Chenle.” Renjun couldn’t help but watch as Chenle walked down the rows of seats to sit down at the empty one next to him, the events in the letter occurring in a scarily accurate fashion. He felt the girl next to him tap his shoulder again, the signature Ryan staring up at him from a folded piece of paper yet again.

 

Hey hey - he seems cute! Let’s hang out with him later?

 

Swallowing thickly, Renjun glanced over at the letter once more.

 

Please, for the love of God, do not let Jaemin invite him out. If you do, something bad will happen and I regret that day so much.

 

Looking up and finding Jaemin, he saw the other smiling at him over his shoulder - the same smile he had shown him when his group had accepted Renjun into the group. Surely, it wouldn’t hurt if they asked Chenle to hang out with them...right? After all, the letter could just be a coincidence.

 

I wish you the best,

The future you.

 

Somehow, Renjun felt as if he should follow the letter’s suggestions. However, that didn’t stop him from smiling back at Jaemin - the same smile he had shown when Jaemin had approached him, uneasy and uncertain. Ripping off a small piece of paper from the corner of his notebook, he began to write in neat Chinese before tapping Chenle on the shoulder and handing him the note.

 

Hey! I’m Huang Renjun and I came from Jilin so I know how it feels to be a transfer here. If you want, I can help you learn some Korean?

 

Biting his lip and trying his best to keep staring forward, Renjun heard the new boy next to him giggle softly before a small ball of paper landed on his desk. 

 

Hi, Huang Renjun! I’m Zhong Chenle but you know that already so uh...can we be friends?

 

Glancing at the new boy next to him, Renjun noticed the other seemed shy and smiled slightly. After giving the other boy a nod and turning towards the front to tune back into the lesson, Renjun felt the odd feeling in his stomach grow and hoped that it would go away soon for there was never any problem with making friends. Nothing will happen...right? 

 

When their break rolled around, Renjun had already expected Jaemin would come bouncing over to Chenle’s desk and talking at a million miles per minute.

 

“Hey!” Jaemin greeted, causing the poor boy to jump in his seat before looking up shyly to see a very eager Jaemin. “Chenle, right? I’m Na Jaemin! Are you younger than me? You seem younger than me. You know, we have another student who is younger than me-”

“Stop scaring him,” Renjun interrupted Jaemin, glaring at the other who gave a shy laugh. “Don’t worry about him,” he said to Chenle in Chinese, smiling reassuringly at the other boy’s questioning eyes. “He’s always like this.”

“Yah, Injun!” Jaemin shouted, running over to Renjun’s own desk now. “What did you say about me?!”

“Nothing good,” he replied easily, packing up his things before he heard the soft voice of the new boy. 

“Injun?” Chenle questioned, tilting his head to the side slightly and Renjun found himself cursing the letter for not telling him that the new boy would be this cute. “Aren’t you Renjun?”

“It’s my Korean name,” he informed the other, slipping into Korean, as Mark walked up to them with Jisung in tow, Jeno and Donghyuck still hanging back so that they didn’t overwhelm Chenle. “I’m sure you’ve got one too.” He saw Chenle’s face turn into one of curiosity and raised an eyebrow, not expecting him to have understood that much. Maybe he really is fluent?

“It’s nice to meet you, Chenle,” Mark cut in, smiling at the new boy who hurriedly stood up and bowed, a messy and nervous greeting of ‘Ah, Class President Mark Lee! I-It’s nice to meet you too!’ falling from his lips that Mark laughed off. “It’s okay, I may be the oldest but I was new like you once too!” Renjun watched as Mark gestured to Jisung who had partially hidden behind him despite his larger frame, awkwardness oozing out of his body. “This is Park Jisung and he’s probably the closest to you in age. He’s on an advanced program just like you’re on your scholarship. Sung, come on.” Renjun couldn’t help but smile fondly as Jisung shuffled forward when Mark pulled on his sweater slightly.

 

“I...I’m Park Jisung,” Jisung said softly, Chenle’s eyes sparkling with wonder as Jisung bowed in greeting. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“I-I’m Zhong Chenle,” Chenle replied despite the whole class knowing his name already. “It’s nice to meet you too…”

“And I’m Lee Donghyuck!” Donghyuck shouted from behind Renjun, successfully making him flinch and put the other in a headlock. “Ah! Junnie!”

“Don’t mind those two, this is a daily occurrence,” Jeno piped up from behind Jaemin, slinging an arm around the other who smiled and leaned into the touch - classic best friends. “I’m Lee Jeno. We look forward to spending the year with you, Chenle.”

“I-I...same here!” Chenle replied a bit too loud, his body still tense and Renjun sighed, knowing that he was still quite nervous and intimidated by all of them.

“They’re all good people, don’t worry,” he piped up in Chinese, smiling when Chenle stared at him in surprise and pointing to Mark. “Mark-ge is from Canada and was held back a year to improve his Korean. If you need help with English, he’s the one to go to.” Next, Renjun pointed to Donghyuck. “Donghyuck gets really loud and clingy and he might even try to kiss you,” he paused to laugh lightly at Chenle’s scared expression. “But don’t worry, he means well. He’s also really passionate about singing so if you like music, talk to him about it.” Renjun let his arm fall before gesturing to both Jeno and Jaemin. “Jeno and Jaemin both play sports and are always making the girls swoon with their smiles. They seem intimidating but they’re just as crazy as the rest of us. If you like playing basketball, go and have a match with Jeno but if you’re more into soccer, go and play against Jaemin. Both of them are the aces in their teams.” He noticed Chenle’s relaxing a bit more and smiled to himself, mentally patting his back and pointing to Jisung. “Jisung is two years younger than me but he was bumped up into our year because of his dancing skills and his high scores in creative writing areas. He’s shy but once you get to know him, he’s pretty cute.” Lastly, he pointed to himself. “And I’m Renjun or Injun. Your translator.” Good job, Renjun. Your ability to speak your mother tongue is finally coming in handy.

“...thank you...ge,” Chenle mumbled before bowing, body not tense anymore and relatively relaxed. “I look forward to spending the year with all of you!” Renjun found himself smiling at the slightly accented Korean that had tumbled out of Chenle’s mouth.

“So, now that that’s done,” Jaemin started, smiling his smile that made almost everyone agree with his ideas immediately - Mark was the only one who was immune to that smile, it seemed. “Do you want to hang out with us after school? We can show you around the city before stopping by Donghyuck’s dad’s bakery!”

 

Please, for the love of God, do not let Jaemin invite him out. If you do, something bad will happen and I regret that day so much.

 

Renjun felt as if he had failed his future self already when Chenle shyly nodded.

 

“I’d love to hang out with all of you later,” Chenle said slowly, obviously wanting his pronunciation to be right. “But for now, class is starting again.”

 

Looking at the door of the classroom, Renjun locked eyes with Mr Lee who simply smiled at him - seemingly happy that he was getting along with the new Chinese kid.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“Ah, it’s finally been ten years, hasn’t it?” Renjun couldn’t help but smile at his husband’s words, the slightly younger male’s smile being the same as it was the day he had asked Renjun to join their friendship group all those years ago. “Finally time to open those letters.” Renjun nodded at him, adjusting his grip on his son who was now four years old and currently sleeping.

“Yeah but…” Jeno started, his eyebrows furrowing as he looked at all of them before letting his eyes drop to the ground where their time capsule was buried. “I can’t help but wish he was here.”

“Jeno…” Donghyuck said softly, reaching out to massage the other’s shoulder before dropping down to Jeno’s free hand - Renjun noticed that Jeno’s other hand was intertwined tightly with Jisung’s. “Jeno, we all wish he was here.”

“Time to start digging now,” Mark stated, handing his shovel to Jaemin who eagerly took it, his signature spark in his eyes but dimmer than what it used to be in their high school days. “Whether Chenle is here or not, he still wrote a letter so technically he’s here with us too.”

“It just makes you wonder,” Jaemin started, violently putting the shovel into the ground just as Renjun felt his son stir awake. “ Why ? Were we not good enough? What did we do wrong ?”

“Sometimes you don’t know why, hyung.” He heard Jisung say softly, his voice sounding more broken than the rest of theirs and Renjun knew that both himself and Jisung were affected the most by what had happened. “Sometimes it’s better if you don’t know why.”

 

“He should have still said something to us, goddammit ,” Jaemin hissed out shoveling faster out of anger as Mark sighed and began to start digging alongside him. “If he was scared of us, sure, that’s understandable, but Junnie was there and he was-”

“Jaemin, stop,” he interrupted, chuckling to himself when his son awoke fully due to the commotion and yawned, his chubby cheeks stretching back to form a cute smile. “That was all in the past. We chose this life because of what happened, stop acting like I don’t love you.”

“Renjun, I know you love me,” Jaemin replied sweetly, halting his shovelling to look at him with the sun highlighting his sweat and faint dark circles from the other staying up late, wondering why Chenle had done what he did. “But even today, you love Chenle more. You’ve always loved Chenle more.”

“Chenle was my first love,” he admitted, stroking his son’s hair and finding himself thinking about what could have been if Chenle were still by his side. “But he isn’t with us anymore. Jaemin, I fell in love with you and married you and had a kid with you because you’re my first choice now .”

“But I wasn’t always,” Jaemin stated, tone somewhat bitter as he crouched down and took out the capsule that they all buried together - all seven of them - ten years ago. 

 

Renjun felt his heart sink at the thought that only six of the people who had buried them were uncovering them today.

 

“Okay, here we go,” Jaemin said lightly, the previous tension having disappeared alongside his son’s third yawn. “Mark-hyung,” he read, handing Mark the white envelope that had his own neat ‘Dear Mark Lee’ written on it in English. “Hyuck.” Renjun watched as the deep red envelope that had the extravagant ‘Dear Donghyuck, the full sun’ on the front. “Jenojaem.” He saw Jeno roll his eyes before he accepted the baby blue envelope with the words ‘Dear Jenojaem’ in somewhat neat Korean. “Junnie.” Nodding and taking his own envelope that was a nice emerald with the words ‘Dear Renjun/Injun’ in both Korean and Chinese. “Jisung.” With shaking hands, Jisung accepted the light purple letter with his chicken scrawl English reading ‘Dear Jisung Pwark’ underneath some messy Korean with his given name. “And finally mine with Chenle’s,” Jaemin finished, putting the capsule down and holding each letter in each hand. Jaemin’s letter was a nice grey with the words ‘Dear Nana’ on it whereas Chenle’s own dark purple seemed to be addressed to no one.

“I think it’s time to open them now,” Mark said softly, opening his own letter and Renjun slightly patted his son on his lower back to get his attention.

“Chenle,” he called sweetly, seeing the child look up at him with big eyes that held so much curiosity like his first love. “Lele, Baba has to use both of his hands. Can you stand on the ground for me, Lele?” 

“Lele can,” his son replied, smiling cutely and nodding even more cutely as Renjun felt his heart squeeze in pain.

 

I could have had this with him. I love Jaemin but Chenle...Chenle, why did you leave us?

 

“I promise Baba will be quick,” he whispered, kissing the boy on his forehead and lowering him until he stood on his own two feet, clinging to Renjun’s jeans for stability. 

“Baba.” He heard his son call and hummed, kneeling down while holding onto his letter tightly. “Baba, can I go to Papa?” Renjun felt his gaze soften at the unsure emotions on his son’s face. 

“Of course you can, Lele,” he replied, voice soft as he lightly pushed the two year old in Jaemin’s direction, his letter open as he shared his ridiculous sentences with Mark and Jisung. He watched on as his son waddled over to where Jaemin stood, stopping in front of him and promptly kicking Jaemin’s shin lightly to gain his attention.

 

Time to open it now. I don’t even remember what I wrote.

 

Carefully opening the green envelope, trying his hardest not to rip it, he took out the paper inside that was in messy Chinese - a privacy mechanism that he had used in case any of his friends, save Chenle, stole it before he could open it.

 

He tried to ignore how he never foresaw the possibility of Chenle not being with them when they all opened their letters.

 

21st November, 2016

 

Dear Renjun,

 

Ten years have passed, hasn’t it? You’ve graduated, you’ve got a job and I hope you have a husband by now. It was a shock when you found out that you liked boys, wasn’t it? Or maybe you just liked Chenle - like me right now. I just...he’s so beautiful. Every time he laughs, I swear an angel appears but then I realise it’s just him and I don’t know how I’m going to tell him I like him. 

 

Love him, even.

 

I know this is dumb, writing what happened to me when you’ve been through it all but I don’t know what else to write. Did you finally get into product design despite what your parents said? How did you find the courage to, if you did? There’s no point asking because I won’t get a reply. It’s only logical. 

 

Jaemin came up to me yesterday. Said he loved me. I ran away. Surely you remember it, right? I mean, Jaemin is beautiful too. His face looks like it was shaped by the gods and his smile does this thing where everything else becomes the background image but I can’t help but feel that Jaemin isn’t the one for me. I really think it’s Chenle and that’s scary because he is everything I’m not. Anyway, I think I’m going to have to reject Jaemin - as harsh as that sounds. I don’t think I can spend my life with Jaemin if all I want is Chenle. That doesn’t feel right. Jaemin told me he won’t blame me if I reject him. He says that he understands but I really don’t want to hurt him. I wish there was a way to let someone down gently...even though it’s logical that it will hurt regardless of the method. Jaemin said he’s been in love with me ever since I first came to the class. I can’t believe I never noticed.

 

Speaking of wanting Chenle, I’m planning on telling him tomorrow at his party! We all worked together to organise his surprise party and (I know you’ve gone through this but I can’t contain my excitement) I’m planning to drag him away from the crowd during the night to tell him. I hope he isn’t weirded out. I hope he likes me back. Jeno tells me I’m dense and Hyuck keeps rolling his eyes whenever I complain to them, so that’s a good sign...right? Mark-hyung is skeptical with me (he says he doesn’t want anyone to get hurt) but Jisung tells me that he definitely likes me (thank God, Jisung is his best friend, right?). Whenever I talk to Jaemin, though, he gives me this pained smile and tells me that everything will all work out. How am I going to tell him? I’m hoping that I’ll find a sufficient method on the day. Because so far? I got nothing.

 

Wow, ten years, huh? Surely it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. What were your difficult times? How did you get out of them? You know, I’m so scared. Life after high school and everything...it’s so scary. I don’t know how I’m going to cope without the whole gang. It’s like, take one of us away and the rest of us can’t function. I hope we all stay in contact. Tell me, did you all stay in contact?

 

Either way, that’s all I’ve got to write. I hope your life has been great so far and that you (or me) had enough courage to actually tell Chenle how you (or I) felt (feel). He’s our first love, after all. 

 

Hopefully, first and last.

 

Make more memories,

Renjun, from ten years ago.

 

“Can you guys believe that I thought I was going to be the only one single?” Jeno asked the group, turning his letter around and showing them the line that read ‘It seems like everyone’s found their soulmate, except you. Have fun dying alone, Jenojaem’ . From afar, Renjun could see how Jaemin had knelt down and wrapped his arms around his - their - son, coaxing the small child to point out what he could read. 

“And to think you were the one who managed to get Jisung to love you,” Donghyuck replied, chuckling after with Mark. “I have to say, I’m surprised by how our love lives went. I feel like it would be different if Chenle were...you know...”

“The main reason why it’s like this,” Jaemin started, looking up from his spot on the floor while their son pointed to a word and exclaimed ‘Papa, it’s me!’ . “Is because Chenle isn’t here right now. If he were, he would have gotten together with Junnie, I’d probably try to get Jisung...”

“We know you two would end up together, hyung,” Jisung said, picking up from where Jaemin had trailed off while pointing to both Mark and Donghyuck as their silver rings winked in the sunlight. “You two weren’t subtle at all.”

“It was Donghyuck’s fault,” Mark insisted and Renjun found himself chuckling at the betrayed expression on Donghyuck’s face. “He knew this whole time and-”

“You kept giving me mixed signals!” Donghyuck interrupted, finger pointing rudely at Mark’s nose. “How was I meant to fully believe what Chenle had told me?!”

 

“Speaking of Chenle,” he spoke up, effectively breaking up the fight and eyeing the letter that was still in Jaemin’s hand. “What are we going to do about his letter?”

“We open it,” Jisung stated, his hand tightening around Jeno’s. “He told me the day before...everything...that he wanted us to open it. Asked me not to question it.”

“Fitting.” He heard Jaemin say and glanced as his husband turned the envelope around to reveal Chenle’s neat Korean saying ‘Dear Mark-hyung, Renjun-hyung, Jeno-hyung, Donghyuck-hyung, Jaemin-hyung and Jisung’ in the top right hand corner. “He didn’t address it to himself. This one is for us.”

“But...why?” he questioned, furrowing his eyebrows as he came to crouch down beside Jaemin. “Was he planning it?”

“There’s only one way to find out, Renjun,” Mark answered, nodding to the letter in Jaemin’s hand. “You open it. Chenle would have wanted you to open it.” Swallowing thickly, Renjun took the letter and stared down at the neat Korean, already feeling tears pool in his eyes. 

“Baba, don’t cry.” He heard his son say in comfort and smiled at the child, pressing a light kiss to his forehead. “Lele doesn’t want Baba to be sad.”

“Baba won’t cry, Chenle,” he whispered, staring at the child in the eyes to make him know he was serious. “It’s because you’re here.” Looking down at the letter again and feeling Jaemin’s hand come up to his shoulder, Renjun carefully opened the letter - he didn’t want to rip it in order to preserve the last link they had to the transfer student who had become such an important part of their lives in the span of a few days.

 

And with a deep breath, he took out the letter and began to read aloud, appreciating how quiet everyone was until he had finished.

 

21st November, 2016

 

Dear Mark-hyung, Renjun-hyung, Jeno-hyung, Donghyuck-hyung, Jaemin-hyung and Jisung,

 

I am sorry. I have to do this. If only there was another way for me to disappear completely without hurting you all, I would have chosen that route instead. However, after thinking for hours about what I should do, I have decided that this is the best way to do it.

 

Tomorrow, on my birthday, I will kill myself.

 

Again, I am sorry.

 

It doesn’t really matter, though, because you all will see this ten years after my death so to give you all some closure, I will make a few things clear:

 

I don’t want to die. I simply think this is the best choice for everyone. I am grateful for all of you and I am happy that all of you were able to become my friends and make me feel welcome. If you all hadn’t invited me that day, I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to be friends with you. So, this is late but late is better than never - thank you for letting me be your friend. We had a short year together but it was the happiest and saddest year of my life.

 

However, as grateful as I am for you all inviting me to hang out with you on the first day of school, I really wish you didn’t. Remember that message I got that I replied to? That was the start.

 

My mother died that day. She had been in the hospital for a while and often went into critical situations before the doctors were able to drag her out. She had come from China with me, needing Korea’s medicine, and it was the main reason why we moved. Since my mother needed money for her hospital bills, my family was left very disadvantaged and that’s how I was given the scholarship - my grades were high but it was mainly due to all the resources my older brother in university bought me despite his restaurant job. That day, my first day, my mother’s doctor texted me to tell me about how she had entered a critical condition and it was probably going to be the one time she couldn’t get out of it. My mother’s wish was to see me and I…

 

I texted back saying that I was busy. I told her doctor to tell her that she was being a nuisance and that I couldn’t enjoy life properly - I couldn’t be a normal kid.

 

Ever since that day, I have regretted sending that message instead of going to visit her.

 

I’m sorry I never told any of you about my mother’s death. It was the reason why I was away for two weeks after - I had to contact my family in China to let them know and organise for everyone to come to Korea in time for my mother’s funeral. Alongside booking a venue and buying a place to bury my mother, I simply didn’t have time to go to school. I wanted to see you all every day for those two weeks.

 

When I came back, you all greeted me the same and I felt so loved that I felt guilty. I thought that if I couldn’t save my mother, I wouldn’t be able to save myself. But all of you...you made me forget about that for six to seven hours a day, five days a week. Thank you for saving me when I couldn’t but it’s that fact that makes everything so much harder.

 

You don’t need me. 

 

None of you do.

 

It’s harsh but it’s true. Since I’ll be gone by the time you read this, I guess I can come clean about how I felt about you all.

 

Mark-hyung, you are the most reliable friend I have ever had. I know you act like you get really annoyed by all of us picking on you but it’s because you never got mad that I knew you were someone I could trust. For that, I must apologise. Dumping everything I was feeling mere hours before I killed myself must have been so damaging to you but I didn’t know who else I could go to. There was no guarantee that the others would take me seriously but if I told you...even though you call me a child daily, I knew you wouldn’t take this issue lightly. Mark-hyung, you are like the second older brother I should have had but never got the chance to meet until this year. Also, I want to tell you that Donghyuck-hyung has been waiting for a long time and that I won’t forgive you if you let him have someone else. I hope everything works out with both of them, hyung. Thank you for everything, I love you.

 

Jeno-hyung, you’re really not that funny but you are one of the most loyal people I know. When you told me about your feelings for Jisung and how you thought we were dating, the first thing that went through my mind was that you were really dense and the second thing was that Jisung would be well taken care of when I left. If you confess and Jisung rejects you, I hope everything will work out and that you will still be happy - yes, you still deserve happiness even if it’s not with my best friend. I also really appreciate how you beat up those bullies that day even if you knew about the detention and suspension that would stain your perfect student record. I’m sorry that we didn’t talk more; I felt that I had too much going on but thank you for letting me bond with you on the basketball court. You’re a brilliant point guard. I can see you doing it professionally. I hope you were accepted by that athlete school you really wanted to get into. Jeno-hyung, you are probably the first person in my life to tell me that my happiness should always be prioritised, no matter where it was - on the court or off. Thank you for everything, I love you.

 

Donghyuck-hyung, you’re the most talented person I know; your voice is amazing. I remember when we first practiced in the music rooms together and you said that my voice was so pure and innocent. That was the first time someone appreciated my love for singing. Donghyuck-hyung, your jokes really made my day and I hope you do record that song we composed together! I know this is a bit selfish, considering how I’m dead, but can you credit me? I did come up with the riff and arrangement as well as the harmonies. Also, before I forget, please tell Mark-hyung you like him already. I expect both of you to be married by the time you open this. And if you’re not, you better be dating both of them and in a committed relationship. Donghyuck-hyung, you are someone I look up to - someone who could make everyone laugh with his jokes and have fun. Thank you for everything, I love you.

 

Jisungie, my best friend, you were the person I relied on the most. You are so quiet and savage but so gentle and caring - it should really be illegal. You’re really cute too! I trust you with almost everything, Jisung, you know that. That’s why I told you to tell everyone to open this letter together. It was only fitting. If I didn’t have you, Jisung, I probably wouldn’t have been able to last the whole year. Every time I cried, I said it was over Renjun-hyung but considering how I’m gone, let me be honest: it was because I couldn’t leave you nor him, not just yet. I wanted to protect you, Jisung. I really did. But I couldn’t even protect myself from my thoughts so what made me think I could protect you? You are the best friend who I never asked for and once I had you, I couldn’t let you go...until now. Thank you for everything, I love you. (Also don’t think I don’t know about how you like Jaemin-hyung - someone else likes you, Sung).

 

Jaemin-hyung, you’re my favourite hyung who has so much love to offer but only receives an amount that needs to increase. You always included me, you always remembered me and you always made sure that I was meeting up with Renjun-hyung. I’m sorry, Jaemin, I really am. You liked Renjun-hyung for so long and then I came along and… Either way, I’m gone now so by all means, please go after him. I want you two to start a family, to fall in love even more with each other and live the life you were meant to have before I came along. I see how much you care for him every time you look at him and I know he will be better off with you than he will ever be with me, Jaemin-hyung. So, do me a favour and impress him with your soccer skills, yeah? You are the person who made me feel the most welcomed in your group. Thank you for everything, I love you.

 

And lastly, Renjun-hyung, my only love. I know you were forced to help me out but I want to believe that it was out of goodwill and not because Mr Lee would lower your grade. I really don’t know what to say. I guess I should start with this: I love you. Not the platonic love that I’ve been stating so far, the romantic love. The one where I want to have you in my arms all day and give you kisses when you’re crying. But, we’re just not meant to be. Did you know that when you enter a room, everyone’s eyes immediately seek you out? You’re just that pretty, hyung. I really wish we could have been something but I didn’t even love myself so I don’t believe that I’m worthy of your love. You are my very first and very last love, hyung. Thank you for everything, I love you. Heaps.

 

I’m so sorry but this is for the better.

 

Live the life I can’t.

 

Forever your dolphin, 

Zhong Chenle.

 

“That...that asshole .” He heard Jisung hiss out and looked up from the piece of paper to see the younger shaking, hand over his mouth. “What an asshole .”

“Tell me about it,” he replied, swallowing despite his dry throat and feeling a tear rolling down his cheek. “I guess it really was planned.”

“He should have said something,” Jaemin growled, his body lowering until his knees hit the ground and Renjun rushed to kneel down next to him and wrapped his arms around the other’s middle. “He should have fucking said something!”

“I can’t believe he commented on our second crushes though,” Donghyuck said fondly, shaking his head and squeezing Mark’s hand, their rings winking once more in the daylight.

“Oh yeah, definitely a Chenle move,” Mark agreed, his eyes glazing over with tears as he wiped away Donghyuck’s which were now sliding down the tanned boy’s cheeks.

“You guys had a second crush? Each?” Jeno asked, voice wavering as unshed tears glistening in his eyes and silently, Renjun watched as Mark and Donghyuck shared a look before nodding. “Who?”

“There’s no point in knowing,” Mark answered shortly after Donghyuck had opened his mouth, causing Renjun to giggle amusedly at Donghyuck’s following pout. “It’s not relevant now.” When he heard a sharp sniff from next to him, Renjun couldn’t help but hold his husband closer just as their son stopped in front of them. Suddenly, the conversation between his friends wasn’t interesting and served as his background noise.

“Papa, please don’t be sad,” their son said softly, his small hands reaching out and messily patting Jaemin’s cheeks to stop his tears before the hands moved onto Renjun’s. “Baba, don’t cry.”

“Chenle,” Jaemin called, reaching out and bringing their son close, squeezing the toddler between them. “Chenle, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry, I didn’t notice. Please, please forgive me. Forgive all of us.”

 

Renjun found himself crying harder since he didn’t know if Jaemin was apologising to their son or to their friend who they had lost ten years ago.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Please, for the love of God, do not let Jaemin invite him out. If you do, something bad will happen and I regret that day so much.

 

“Have you gone exploring yet, Chenle?” He heard Jeno ask the younger, peeking to see Chenle shake his head as he quickly placed his stationery in his pencil case. “Really?”

“I arrived yesterday,” Chenle explained just as Renjun picked up his bag to place his books and pencil case inside. “I haven’t really had the time.”

“We’ll take you to all the best spots in town,” he piped up in Korean, turning dramatically to face the two and smiling the best he could while thinking of the letter. “And then we can stop at the Lee bakery which has the best bread in town!”

“The Lee bakery?” Chenle questioned, his head tilting to the side as Jeno laughed at him, fondly ruffling his hair.

“Remember Donghyuck?” Renjun smiled wider at Chenle’s nodding and his subtle gesture to the tanned male who was currently annoying Mark by constantly looking at his worksheets. “His family owns the best bakery in town here. His mother and father really put a lot of effort into the cooking.”

“Don’t eat whatever his mother makes, though,” he warned, tucking in his chair and walking over to help Chenle place his belongings in his bag. “She likes to experiment with all the wrong combinations.”

“It can’t be that bad,” Chenle commented kindly, pulling up the zipper just as Jaemin joined them, his bag on one shoulder since he insisted that it was cooler that way. 

“Let’s go? Hyuck, Mark-hyung and Sung are all ready,” Jaemin informed them but one look at Donghyuck and Jisung laughing at Mark who seemed awfully embarrassed got Renjun thinking otherwise. “We’re just waiting for you.”

“I’m ready! I’m ready!” Chenle shouted, taking his phone out and checking the screen before slipping it into his pocket. “We can go now.”

“Alright,” Jaemin stated, smiling brightly before taking in a deep breath and turning around before Renjun or Jeno could stop him. “Babies!”

 

Renjun mentally facepalmed when he saw Donghyuck, Mark and Jisung all turn around - each with a different expression.

 

Donghyuck hosted a calm look since he had heard the line many times before and would probably grow worried if Jaemin hadn’t called them that.

 

Mark was flustered, his cheeks a light pink and his eyes wide but slightly mad since he didn’t like being condescended as he was the oldest.

 

Jisung had an odd look, one of awe and surprise before he caught sight of Jaemin’s large smile and coughed, turning his head away with slightly pinker cheeks.

 

I wonder, do the other letters predict other events too?

 

Walking out of the classroom and down the hallways to the exit, Renjun looked at Chenle and wondered what was so bad about inviting him out. 

 

Maybe I’ll have a look later.

 

They had walked around town for a good hour and a half, showing Chenle the brilliant convenience store, bridge and park that they often went to. As they were in front of the Lee Bakery, all waiting for Donghyuck to walk out with bags of bread that tasted like heaven, Chenle’s phone began chiming with a new text message.

 

“If you need to go somewhere, we won’t stop you,” he said softly in Chinese, smiling at him as Jaemin was pulling Jisung’s cheeks while Mark and Jeno tried to stop him. “You probably have people waiting for you.”

“Ah, no, it’s not that,” Chenle replied cautiously in the same language, furrowing his eyebrows as his fingers flew across the screen of his phone. “I just have to send a text message.”

“Well, if you want to stay, we won’t stop you, either,” he concluded just as Chenle had pressed the ‘send’ button on his phone and Donghyuck had come running out of the bakery, hands full.

“I have a curry bun, a melon bun, a custard bun and a sweet bun!” Donghyuck exclaimed, holding up on hand that had a bag full of bakery goods. “As well as fried donuts, cinnamon rolls and the red bean bun!” Renjun glanced at Chenle and snorted at the other’s worried face since Donghyuck seemed to be out of breath while holding up the bag that was in his other hand. “Sorry, Chenle. I didn’t know what you wanted so I just got the basic cinnamon rolls.” Renjun felt his mouth water at the thought of the cinnamon rolls, not being able to remember the last time he had eaten one. The Lee Bakery always seemed to run out whenever they grabbed their after school snacks.

“Ah, it’s okay!” Chenle reassured hastily, waving his hands about in a panic. “I like cinnamon rolls.”

“Well then!” Donghyuck exclaimed, taking out the curry bun and handing it over to Mark. “Here’s your curry bun, hyung!” Next, Donghyuck reached in one of the bags and took out the melon bun, immediately handing it over to Jisung. “Sungie’s melon...Ah! Here it is! Jeno, your custard!” Almost immediately, Jeno reached over to grab the poor bun off Donghyuck as the tanned male threw the sweet bun at Jaemin. “My dad put more sugar in that one just for you, Min.” Renjun found himself smiling fondly when Jaemin chuckled and immediately began digging into the sweet bun. “Red bean for me and a fried donut for you, Jun!” Smiling as happily as he could while thinking of the small cinnamon rolls that he had wanted before, Renjun accepted the fried donut, his eyes following Donghyuck’s hand that was holding the box of cinnamon rolls for Chenle. The younger smiled brightly and expressed his gratitude, eyes disappearing into endearing straight lines. Wordlessly, Renjun took out the fried donut and was about to take a bite when he felt someone tap his shoulder.

“Exchange,” Chenle stated, holding the box of cinnamon rolls in front of him. “I’ll exchange my cinnamon rolls for your fried donut.”

 

Did I look like I wanted the cinnamon rolls?

 

“Okay,” he agreed, slipping the fried donut back in its bag and taking the cinnamon rolls, squealing when he tasted the popular treat. He heard Chenle laugh from next to him and silently cursed his future self in his head, suddenly glad that he had let Jaemin invite Chenle to hang out with them.

 

See, he’s laughing. It wasn’t a bad idea, after all.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“What are the flowers for?” he asked, watching as his husband walk towards him on the bridge with an extravagant bouquet in one hand and their son’s hand in the other. “We’re just going to visit Chenle.”

“They’re for Chenle,” Jaemin explained, smiling sadly as their son began laughing and pointing at someone beyond Renjun. Looking back, he saw Mark and Donghyuck walking, hand in hand. 

“You really bought the flowers, you weirdo,” Donghyuck said in lieu of greeting, Mark simply sharing a sad smile with Jaemin. “Why did you only get them now?” Renjun hummed in agreement, noticing Jeno and Jisung arriving behind Jaemin - their footsteps were silent and Jaemin was too occupied.

“Chenle specifically said in ten years time when we open the letters ,” Jaemin stated, pouting slightly as he looked at his flowers once more. “Maybe it’s a bit overboard?”

“Jaemin, they’re fine,” Jeno said flatly from behind the younger, Jaemin flinching and turning around to glare at him.

“Don’t murder my fiance, please,” Jisung said tiredly, blinking twice before spluttering out messages of ‘wait hang on’ and ‘I swear, it’s not what it looks like’ .

 

Needless to say, chaos had erupted and even Renjun found himself questioning the couple about who had proposed.

 

He decided not to comment on the fact that no one else had noticed the shiny ring on Jeno’s left hand.

 

~ ~ ~

 

26th March, 2026

 

Dear Renjun,

 

I know you are probably very skeptical right now about whether the first letter was real or not and that you’re reading this one to make sure. I thought that you would probably have ignored my message and let Jaemin invite him to go out with you anyway so here’s the outcome that I don’t want you to have:

 

Ten years into the future, Chenle isn’t with us.

 

I can’t write any more than that without tearing up. I’m sorry.

 

So please, do whatever you can from this point on to help him. I don’t want you to go through the same grief I went through. Those two weeks of not seeing Chenle should be enough to make you want to see him again. It was enough for me and I have no doubt that it’s enough for you too.

 

23rd March, 2016:

 

First, happy birthday!

 

Second, I know you’re planning to go straight home after school. I went home straight away and I regret it so much. Chenle and Jaemin will get into a fight in the morning and when you arrive, their sudden fight will stop. They will be cold to each other during the day and I had forced Chenle to play soccer with Jaemin to get them to reconcile. 

 

I want you to make Chenle go and play basketball with Jeno instead.

 

While you’re at it, talk to Jaemin and find out why they were arguing in the first place. I never found out why.

 

Third, I want you to show up for Chenle’s tutoring session. That day, I had decided to skip without telling him and he was left waiting for me...for four hours. Please, just go to the tutoring session. He’s fluent anyway.

 

Fourth, I want you to read the rest of these letters. All of them. In order. Now.

 

And use my story as a guide of what NOT to do.

 

I wish you the best,

The future you.

 

“It’s exactly the same,” he mumbled, holding the second letter next to a piece of homework he had scribbled messy Chinese on. When he had gotten home after hanging out with Chenle and his group, Renjun had immediately counted the letters - ten in total. The first had been creepy enough but the second was bordering on being downright scary. The next date was almost a month after today and Renjun found his throat drying at the thought of Chenle not being part of their group ten years in the future. The poor boy had literally just joined them.

 

With shaking hands, he picked up the third letter despite still processing the information in the second.

 

26th March, 2026

 

Dear Renjun,

 

I’m sorry, I can’t think of a proper introduction for this specific day.

 

27th April, 2016:

 

Today, Chenle will talk excitedly from the moment he enters the classroom. It’s because - I found this out from Donghyuck - today is the day the choir soloist will be chosen for their act in the upcoming full school assembly. Chenle will be very nervous, please do your best to calm down his nerves and please, listen to the kid sing. I didn’t listen to him sing and later found out from Jisung that he had cried because I was too focused on my homework. So please, do whatever you can to help him calm down. In my life, Donghyuck had been chosen as the soloist. He was ecstatic and he shined on stage like he was meant to but Jisung later told us that Chenle really wanted that solo so then he could show his parents how far he has come. Here’s what I want you to do:

 

I want you to talk to Hyuck in the morning. He gets to school the earliest and if you wake up early enough, you should be able to arrive around the same time he does. Talk to him and try to convince him to let Chenle be the soloist for the assembly. He’ll probably be skeptical but if you’re reading this letter, then I can only hope that Donghyuck has done his part already. Try your best to convince him if you need to, bribe him - please do anything just so Chenle gets the solo. 

 

After you’ve convinced Donghyuck, greet Chenle when he arrives. Talk to him, exchange your usual notes and show up for his tutoring. During tutoring, let him sing. He’ll need the practice and compliment him. His singing voice is the most beautiful sound you’ll ever hear. 

 

Please, trust me.

 

I wish you the best,

The future you.

 

Renjun was puzzled. 

 

Two weeks? Chenle will stop coming to school for two weeks?

 

He couldn’t help but feel as if the two weeks were closer than they seemed and with a flower of uneasiness blooming inside him, he opened the fourth letter.

 

26th March, 2026

 

Dear Renjun,

 

I really hope you’ve been planning to follow my wishes. I guess it’s time to you find out what happens in my story - the whole thing - before you go on your quest.

 

The first day I met Chenle, I was confused. He was from China and younger than all of us (except Sung) but that all changed when we went to get food from the Lee Bakery. He exchanged his cinnamon rolls for my fried donut - I had been secretly wanting one since they were sold out every time I went for the past few months. Two weeks after that day, none of us saw him at school. He didn’t contact us and we forgot to get his number anyway (I blame Jaemin for that). 

 

When he came back, he was...off. He wasn’t smiling as much and when he did, his eyes didn’t form those straight lines like they had on the first day. After a while, he got better and more comfortable and we thought it was all fine. Then, Chenle and Jaemin fought and he was really sad because he didn’t get the solo and everything was slowly falling apart. Chenle didn’t seek Mark-hyung out like he used to, he stopped trying to get closer to Jeno and even gave Hyuck the cold shoulder a few times. However, we still tried our best. We included him in so many activities and so many things went wrong and in the end…

 

...in the end he left us on the day of his birthday.

 

So please, please, I beg you, don’t let it get to that point. We all blame ourselves for his disappearance and we wish we could turn back time but that’s not possible. So please give us - all six of us - the peace of mind that a reality where Chenle is happy and smiling next to a Huang Renjun, a Na Jaemin, a Mark Lee, a Lee Donghyuck, a Lee Jeno and a Park Jisung exists.

 

6th May, 2016:

 

Chenle will receive a zero on the pop English quiz. It will hurt his pride a lot since he has been learning English since he was three in Shanghai. The main reason why I wanted you to read these before starting everything was because of this one incident. 

 

When you can, from the 3rd of May, give Mark-hyung little clues about Chenle being nervous for English exams. He explained to me once that he didn’t understand what kind of answer they wanted from the question. Mark-hyung is the best at English since he’s Canadian so please get him to explain these questions to Chenle.

 

While you’re at it, you can afford to understand what those types of questions want as an answer too.

 

During your tutoring session on the 6th, give him a little pep talk for English exams. He might do better depending whether or not Mark-hyung actually gets round to helping him but propose a deal: treat him if he achieves a new personal best. It might make him want to do better and well...let’s just say that Chenle would like to probably spend more time with you. 

 

Remember: the more times he’s with someone else, the more times he can’t disappear. My Chenle disappeared when none of us were with him. 

 

I wish you the best,

The future you. 

 

Renjun dropped the letter after he had finished reading it, sitting back in his chair at his desk and listening to his heart beat faster than it ever had before. The letter had been right - it had somehow predicted that Renjun would trade with Chenle, the younger saying how he would give Renjun his cinnamon rolls in exchange for that damn friend donut. 

 

Swallowing and hastily packing away the letters in disbelief, Renjun made a deal with himself when he buried his body under the covers that night.

 

If he doesn’t come to school for the next three days, then the letters are right. 

 

And I’ll have to do what I can to save Chenle.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“Hello, Ms Zhong,” Donghyuck greeted once the old woman had opened the door, a charming smile on her face as she reached out to caress Donghyuck’s cheek. “We all made it.”

“I’m so glad you all came here,” she said, her voice raspy and her back bent. “It’s been a while since you visited Chenle. How many years was it?”

“Four,” Renjun answered, moving towards the front of his crowd of friends and bowing to the older woman. “As promised, we brought our son.” Smiling gently, he gestured to where the toddler was currently sleeping in Jaemin’s hold. “We got a Chinese surrogate and used my seed too. Jaemin and I decided to name him ‘Chenle’.”

“Oh, Renjun, Jaemin,” the old lady cooed, holding out her arms to which Jaemin willingly gave the old lady the small toddler. “Hello, little Chenle.” Renjun would have been worried about her back if he hadn’t known that this old lady was one of the strongest women in the world - she did have to deal with her only daughter-in-law and grandson dying in the same year. “Come inside, you need to say hi to your dear friend.”

 

Stepping inside and discarding all their shoes, they were met with the familiar sight of Chenle’s small shrine - his ashes in a small container and a picture of his bright smile on display.

 

Renjun was glad that Jaemin was with him for if the younger didn’t squeeze his hand, he would have broken down crying.

 

“Sorry, it’s a little messy,” Chenle’s grandmother said gently, her head nodding towards the minimal mess near the shrine. “I haven’t had time to clear it out ever since...”

“It’s okay, Ms Zhong,” Mark replied, smiling softly when his eyes landed on the shrine. “We understand.”

“Guess I should get this over with,” Jaemin stated, his hand tightening on the flowers in his hands before he lightly tapped it on Chenle’s picture. Instead of leaving it near the shrine, however, Jaemin immediately took the bouquet and shoved it in Renjun’s face. 

“Jaemin, what the-”

“They’re from Chenle,” Jaemin interrupted him, a sad smile on his face when Renjun peeked over the petals. “He told me that he wanted me to buy flowers so he could give it to you.” Renjun carefully caressed the bouquet in awe as Jaemin scoffed. “Even beyond the grave he’s so demanding.”

“Hey, don’t talk about my best friend like that,” Jisung chastised, eyebrows furrowed as he glared at Jaemin and Renjun would have found it cute if Jisung’s lip wasn’t trembling to fight back tears. “Chenle was never demanding.”

“I know he wasn’t, Sung,” Jaemin whispered, sighing and moving to stand behind Renjun, making his heart beat faster than it had in awhile. “All of us know that.”

“Ms Zhong,” Jeno piped up, swallowing harshly as his hand lifted to reveal a small letter in a dark purple envelope with Chenle’s neat Korean. “I think you should read this. It’s not addressed to you but it might give you some closure.”

 

Renjun felt his heart break at the sight of Chenle’s grandma shaking her head.

 

“Chenle didn’t tell me for a reason,” Chenle’s grandma said, handing Jaemin their toddler and patting the small boy’s head as he laughed. “And I will respect that reason until I die.”

 

~ ~ ~

 

He’s not here.

 

It’s been three days.

 

“Hyung, are you okay?” Looking up, he saw Jisung staring at him in worry and forced a smile on his face. “You seem...scared.” It was the morning of the third day and Renjun had come early just so he wouldn’t miss it if Chenle walked through the doors. “Early too.”

“Yeah, I just...” he sighed, cutting himself off since he knew how bizarre it would sound if he told the younger that he had received letters from his future self. “I’m okay, Sung.”

“Are you sure, hyung?” The younger asked and Renjun forced himself to nod, trying his best to not remember those words that were in the letters. 

 

...in the end he left us on the day of his birthday.

 

“Hey, Jisung,” he started, taking in a breath when the younger let out a noise to let him know he was listening. “Do you think Chenle is going to be with us this time next year?” Renjun stared at something swirl inside Jisung’s eyes and thought that maybe - just maybe - Jisung had received some letters too.

“I don’t see why not,” Jisung replied and all hope evaporated into thin air. “We’re friends, right?”

“Yeah, sorry,” he whispered, feeling stupid for almost believing the stupid letters...but then again… “Can I...can I tell you something?”

“Are you sure you don’t want to go to Jaemin-hyung for that?” Jisung asked, one of his eyebrows raising as he stared at him in shock and almost making Renjun feel bad for asking. Letting out a small laugh, he shook his head - telling Jaemin felt too...intimate but telling Jisung felt...Renjun felt like it would turn out alright. If the letters were right in any sense, Jisung and Chenle would become pretty close since the future Jisung was able to answer future Renjun’s questions.

 

How delusional have I become that I started referring to them as the future Jisung and future Renjun?

 

“Sung,” he started, taking a deep breath before reaching into his bag next to his desk and pulling out the four letters he had shoved into his bag that very morning. “I got these in the mail a while ago...it was a whole set - ten letters in total.” Renjun’s stomach twisted and turned as Jisung stared at the letters before looking around to check if everyone was busy minding their own business. With curious eyes, Renjun found himself watching and following Jisung’s large hands as they reached inside his bag and pulled out an envelope that was of a light purple shade. 

“Hyung...I got ten too,” Jisung whispered, their secret being exchanged only between the two of them. “I think you should read it. The...The letter told me to show you if you asked.” Nodding and reaching out with shaky hands, Renjun opened the letter and immediately recognised Jisung’s handwriting.

 

26th March, 2026

 

Dear Jisung,

 

You’re not going to believe this but I need you to. 

 

Your one and only best friend is going to commit suicide. Your crush is going to reject you. You are going to spend years being sad.

 

But those will only happen if you don’t do what I say.

 

On February 24, a new student will come. Zhong Chenle is his name and he’ll sit next to Renjun-hyung. He will become your best friend because he’s only a few months older and will keep annoying you. 

 

Don’t let Jaemin-hyung invite him to hang out with you. Please. Pull any excuse - any - just don’t let hyung invite him.

 

If you do, he won’t come to school for two weeks.

 

Good luck.

 

Future Jisung.

 

PS. If you see Renjun-hyung, it’s probably a good idea to show him this letter if he asks. We don’t know how many will get through but he’ll surely be confused if he receives his. So show him this one in case he asks, yeah?

 

“Jisung...” he mumbled, looking up at the younger and finding himself appalled at the lack of detail in the letter. “Yours is much less detailed than mine.”

“I don’t write essays like you, hyung,” Jisung retorted, snatching back his letter and putting it back in its purple envelope. “But I think the future me was hinting that they all sent letters. The future Jeno-hyung, Jaemin-hyung, Hyuck-hyung and Mark-hyung must have.”

“You think they have letters too?” he questioned, not having noticed anything weird with the rest of his friends. 

“I’m not sure but it’s a pretty safe bet,” Jisung answered, sighing and glancing at the door that still didn’t show Chenle. “But I think...if we follow the letters...we’ll be able to change our fate.”

 

And use my story as a guide of what NOT to do.

 

“We’ve already let them down...” he pointed out, remembering the day when none of them had stopped Jaemin from asking Chenle to go out with them despite the warning in both of their letters. “How can we-”

“Hyung, Chenle committed suicide,” Jisung said, quieter than his voice had been to prevent people from overhearing them. “It’s not exactly rocket science. We just have to make him feel like he...doesn’t need to.”

“Jisung, how can we do that?” he questioned, sighing and running a hand through his head. “He doesn’t seem like someone who would-”

“He doesn’t but he will do it if we don’t do something,” Jisung interrupted, voice desperate as his eyes pleaded for Renjun’s cooperation. “We may not have followed the first letter but we can follow the rest.”

“Sung, we don’t even know if it’s real, this could all be a scam-”

“Hyung, we invited him out and he hasn’t shown up in three days.” Renjun diverted his eyes to the floor at Jisung’s determination that was laced in his words. “Unless he walks through that door in the next three minutes, I’m going to assume the letters are right. I can’t make you help him but I sure as hell am going to do everything I can to save my best friend. Even if I barely know him right now.”

“Jisung...” he let out helplessly as the younger walked away to put down his stuff on his desk, the letter tucked away into the depths of his bag. “But what if we can’t do enough ?”

 

“Do enough what? Smooching?”

 

Flinching and turning, Renjun wasn’t that surprised when he saw the shit eating grin of Lee Donghyuck.

 

“Fuck off, Donghyuck,” he mumbled, lowering his eyes to his desk and staring at the empty space that previously had his first letter. 

“Now, what kind of person would send you a secret admirer letter?” Donghyuck questioning, moving to open the envelope only for Renjun to stand up and snatch it from his hands at lightning speed. “Hey, what the hell?!”

“It’s none of your business, Hyuck,” he mumbled, feeling his eyebrows furrow and his temper rise despite having shared his past secret admirer notes and letters with the other - Donghyuck was the one who was closest to him after all with no romantic feelings attached. 

“Hey, Junnie,” Donghyuck called, his voice soft and caring as he ran a hand through Renjun’s hair and Renjun felt ashamed when he could already feel the sting of tears behind his eyes. “Let me in.”

“I don’t know what to do, Hyuck,” he whispered, closing his eyes and laying his head on his arms, hiding the rest of the letters as he clutched the first one in his fist. “Even Jisung knows what to do and I don’t.”

“Jun, whatever decision you make,” Donghyuck started, his voice weighted with something that Renjun couldn’t read - as if he knew something that Renjun himself didn’t. “It’ll be the right one. I know because you have a heart of gold.”

 

That , Renjun thought, didn’t sound like something he’d say if he didn’t know about the situation.

 

Maybe they did try to send letters and Hyuck got his set too?

 

But wouldn’t that be too kind of the universe? For three sets to have been delivered out of six…

 

~ ~ ~ 

 

“Jisung...” he mumbled, leaning further against the tree beside the younger as he watched the rest of his friends play with his son. “Do you think our letters got sent through?”

“We can only hope, hyung,” Jisung replied, opening up his arms and only waiting three seconds before Renjun seeked comfort by snuggling up to him. “But I think they did. At least, I’d like to think ours did.”

“I hope they did. I really hope they did,” he whispered, voice soft as if what they were discussing were a secret. “I can’t help but hope that things turned out differently.”

“I know, hyung,” Jisung whispered, voice even softer as Renjun let his eyes linger on his son who was currently being given a piggy back by Donghyuck and tugging on his hair. “We know.”

 

~ ~ ~ 

 

“Okay, Renjun.” His room was quiet, the silence suffocating as he stared at the ten envelopes in front of him. “You’ve read four of them...six more.” With shaky hands, he picked up the fifth letter. “Let’s go. Let’s get it.”

 

26th March, 2026

 

Dear Renjun,

 

I just realised that this is probably a lot to take in - especially in one go and for that, I apologise. I’m sorry I’m putting all of this on you but we don’t know if our letters will even get through so we’re all writing as if only our counterparts will receive their letter. One person doing something is better than none.

 

19th May, 2016:

 

Today is Chenle and Jisung’s first fight.

 

It’s because of Jaemin.

 

Here’s a rundown of what happened to me: During high school, Jaemin was the first person who greeted me and I was Jaemin’s first crush. Apparently he’d liked me since my first day there and I was probably on my way to liking Jaemin when I met Chenle. When Chenle came, my whole world got turned inside out. He came with this smile, this personality and this comfortable atmosphere that reminded me of China and I couldn’t help but fall in love with him. As the story goes, he disappeared. But this isn’t about me or you, this is about everyone else. So, Jaemin liked me while I liked Chenle. Jisung kept saying that Chenle liked me as well but I found out after he left us. Mark-hyung and Hyuck did nothing to hide their feelings for each other and didn’t act on them because they liked someone else as well.

 

That person was and still is Jeno. 

 

Here’s the thing: we all knew - they weren’t slick. However, Jeno is about as dense as a piece of coal and was too busy making heart eyes at Jisung to notice. We all saw it, even Jisung, himself, but that’s what makes everything that much more sad.

 

Jisung liked Jaemin.

 

And Jaemin used to like Jisung before I came along.

 

With everything that happened, it turned out to be like this: Jaemin insisted on courting me a few months after Chenle left us and I, completely broken and needing someone to hold onto, agreed. It was the worst and best decision I have ever made. I never forgot about Chenle - I still can’t, not when he holds a special place in my heart - but I learned how to fall for Jaemin in exactly the same way. Jaemin is my other half, my soulmate and we even have a son now - surrogate using my genes. Both of us have worked so hard to raise him and he’s four years old and we agreed to name him ‘Chenle’. 

 

Somewhere along the way, Mark-hyung and Donghyuck started dating and after five months, they were inviting everyone to their wedding. They were the first ones to get married - both wearing their white suits the literal day after they graduated from university, Jaemin and myself following a year later. Somewhere between that chaos, Jeno had confessed to Jisung and gotten rejected. About five times. It reached the point where we had to get Jisung drunk just so that he would spill his worries about the possibility of not being able to love Jeno back romantically. After that day, Jeno began courting him and somewhere along that path, Jisung fell in love with Jeno. Now, they’re engaged - Jisung proposed.

 

As happy as all that is, it’s a life where Chenle isn’t there and all of those incidents happened because he left us. 

 

So today, talk to Jisung about why they fought as if you don’t know the reason. Jisung refused to tell Chenle who he liked and Chenle had reached conclusions on his own about how Jisung didn’t trust him and all of that. Please convince Jisung to talk to Chenle honestly. 

 

I’d like to say that that’s all that happened but it wasn’t. 

 

Today, Chenle will ask you about your crush.

 

I want you to be completely honest - the poor boy thinks you like Jaemin. You don’t have to tell him you like him but you can at least give hints that omit Jaemin. 

 

I hope everything turns out well.

 

I wish you the best,

The future you.

 

“The future me marries Jaemin ?” he let out, remembering the past when Jaemin’s smile brightened up the room. However, Renjun knew that he didn’t like Jaemin and he knew that although Jaemin was sweet, he wasn’t his type. Swallowing, he opened up the sixth letter.

 

26th March, 2026

 

Dear Renjun,

 

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but Chenle, for a month prior to the day below, hadn’t been eating his breakfast. You’ll probably notice. I did.

 

6th June, 2016:

 

It’s Donghyuck’s birthday but no one told Chenle so he will be the only one without a present. I want you to write his name on the card that you got for Hyuck. (Also Hyuck will whine about wanting a kiss from Mark-hyung - hint hint, nudge nudge, shove them in a closet and wait)

 

Also, since Chenle doesn’t eat breakfast, I want you to bring him breakfast today. Make some egg rolls and give it to him, no matter what everyone will say. I made him a whole box but never gave it to him and I regret it so much. If only I could see his grateful face…

 

Sorry this one is so short. The next one will be really long.

 

I wish you the best,

The future you.

 

Somehow, Renjun couldn’t stop his fingers as he opened the seventh letter.

 

26th March, 2026

 

Dear Renjun,

 

Let me say this first: It’s not your fault. It’s not Chenle’s fault. It’s definitely not Jeno’s fault.

 

10th June, 2016:

 

Today is the day Chenle reveals to all of you that he’s gay.

 

Today is also the day Chenle’s bullies will attack him. 

 

During lunch, when you have to see Mr Lee to update him on Chenle’s Korean, when Donghyuck has to talk to his music teacher about his assessment, when Mark-hyung has class president errands, when Jaemin and Jeno have gone to play basketball for exercise and when Jisung has dance, the bullies will corner Chenle. They will shove him against the lockers in the hallways near the art studios and scream about how he’s a faggot, unloved and a mere foreigner who will never fit in. In my life, none of us got there fast enough and it wasn’t until the end of lunch that Jeno had gone to grab something from his locker when he passed them. Jeno will beat the bullies up, start a fist fight and win. He will also not be bothered to explain why he did so since Chenle’s family in China would be contacted and Chenle told us once that if something went wrong and they heard, he would have to move back against his will. 

 

Jeno will stay silent and he will receive three afternoon detentions and a month of suspension. His student record will forever be stained.

 

Please, do not leave Chenle alone today. None of you. Resolve the fight without violence. You’re the only one who can - Mark-hyung gets walked all over and Jisung is too soft spoken. 

 

I wish you the best,

The future you.

 

Suddenly, the realisation of pressure had caught up with him. He couldn’t breathe, he was sweating and it was through a daze that he grabbed his phone and dialed the first number he saw that had an ‘SOS’ next to it.

 

“Junnie?” Donghyuck’s voice seeped through the speaker and Renjun wanted to greet him - he really did - but all that came out was a bunch of sobs and cries. “Junnie? Junnie! Stay with me, okay?” Wordlessly, he nodded, knowing that Donghyuck would have the common sense to imagine him doing so. “Come on, breathe with me. In and out. In...” Listening to Donghyuck’s soothing voice, Renjun breathed in and out, holding it in for as long as necessary and slowly felt the tension in his body leave, the tears on his face dry and the heavy load of panic lighten.

 

“Thank you, Hyuck,” he whispered, voice rough and ten seconds away from breaking but there nonetheless.

“Don’t thank me for doing my job,” Donghyuck replied, chuckling shortly after. “Give me five things you can see, Junnie.”

“I...I can see my unmade bed,” he started, knowing that this exercise would keep him grounded just as it had done many times before. “I can see my desk, my moomin pillows, the fox slippers you gave me and...and ten letters.”

“Okay, now tell me four things you can hear, Junnie,” Donghyuck said softly, his tone not showing an ounce of impatience. 

“I can hear your voice, some soft music from your end of the line,” he paused, straining his ears just to find more things to tell Donghyuck. “I can hear some crickets outside and...and...and the TV coming from the living room where my parents are.”

“That’s good, Jun,” Donghyuck reassured him, breathing out slowly. “Care to name three things you can smell?”

“The candle Jeno gave me last month because his mum didn’t want it!” he shouted excitedly, taking a deep breath of the sweet watermelon scent. “It’s watermelon. I can smell my laundry powder since I’m wearing freshly washed pyjamas and when I put my head on the desk I smell new paper.”

“Two things you can touch?” Donghyuck continued and Renjun imagined the other was smiling by now. 

“My desk and my phone,” he answered easily, gripping his phone a little bit harder with the words ‘Chenle is going to die’ on the tip of his tongue.

“And one thing you can taste?” Donghyuck asked.

 

Fear. Loneliness. Regret-

 

“Chocolate,” he lied, not having eaten chocolate that whole day. “I can taste chocolate.”

“You with me now?” Donghyuck asked and Renjun let out a small sound in agreement. “What happened for you to end up like this, Renjun? You haven’t had one in months,” Donghyuck said, curiosity laced in his words with no drop of malice. “If you’re comfortable sharing, of course.”

“Hyuck, this is going to sound really unbelievable,” he started, staring at the letters in front of him - three still tucked neatly in their envelopes. “But I received ten letters saying that-”

“Chenle was going to die?” Donghyuck interrupted, effectively shutting Renjun up and waiting for the other to say ‘sike! ’ or something similar. “I got them too.”

“No way,” he whispered, shaking his head as Donghyuck reassured that ‘yes way, it’s real’. “Did...did you read them all?”

“Yeah, the minute I received all of them,” Donghyuck revealed, his voice even and just as calming. “It’s crazy what happens. You should read all of them too.”

“I...how did you know I didn’t read all of them?” he asked, eyebrows furrowing as he never remembered ever saying anything about not reading all of them. 

“Junnie, I know you,” Donghyuck said lightly, chuckling a little after. “You need constant reassurance whenever something shady happens so you were probably waiting for a few days to see if the letter was wrong.”

“Am I really that easy to read?” he questioned, earning an amused ‘not at all’ from Donghyuck. 

“Read the rest of them, Jun,” Donghyuck said quietly, something more in his voice that Renjun couldn’t quite pinpoint. “You won’t regret it.”

 

The sound of Donghyuck hanging up was enough for Renjun to pick up the next letter.

 

26th March, 2026

 

Dear Renjun,

 

This one is a bit of a continuation from the previous letter. However, it happens on a different day.

 

14th June, 2016:

 

Today is the day where Jeno will get beat up in detention. 

 

No one but the kids with detention passes are allowed to go into that room and Jeno doesn’t want you to put yourself in danger but he will come out with injuries. When this happens, I want you to somehow convince Chenle that he should help you. Be as helpless as you want but it’s essential that Chenle helps you - I feel like he has some things he’d want to say to Jeno. 

 

Today is also the day you will fall in love with Chenle.

 

Over a silly drawing.

 

During tutoring.

 

I wish you the best,

The future you.

 

Ignoring the fact that the letter predicted when he would fall in love with Chenle, Renjun opened the next one.

 

27th March, 2026

 

Dear Renjun,

 

I want to start by saying that what will happen next will not be your fault.

 

21st June, 2016:

 

Today is the day you will be bullied. 

 

Please, for the love of God, do not let anyone find out. If they find out, Jaemin will be hospitalised because they broke a few ribs, Jeno will eternally blame himself for not stopping them even when he was at basketball practice, Mark-hyung will beat himself up over not being able to protect us, Donghyuck will starve himself since he kept giving his food to me to make sure I’m okay, Jisung will face having his scholarship taken away since he went to “talk” with the bullies that hurt you and Chenle…

 

...Chenle won’t speak to you for three days.

 

Avoid them, please. You’ll know who they are - it’s the same group who will bully Chenle and target Jeno. Do not let yourself cross their path but if you do, do not say anything.

 

Especially nothing about you being in love with Chenle.

 

I did and they beat me up before they told Chenle that I said I hated him. We both know that’s not true.

 

Don’t get hurt,

The future you.

 

And finally, he picked up the last letter.

 

27th March, 2026

 

Dear Renjun,

 

This is the last one. There’s nothing much that happened between June and November - just events that could be avoided if you weren’t bullied and the others didn’t find out. 

 

22nd November, 2016:

 

Confess to Chenle before 4pm.

 

He disappears at 4pm. Alone. In front of the Lee Bakery. 

 

Even if you can’t save him, you can at least let him know how you feel.

 

That’s all. Good luck.

 

I wish you the best,

The future you.

 

Unlike before, Renjun found a wave of determination wash over him. He wasn’t alone - Jisung and Donghyuck both got their sets of letters - and his future self had been the one around Chenle the most considering the tutoring program. He could do this, Donghyuck and Jisung would help him but…

 

... how exactly were they going to save Chenle?

 

~ ~ ~ 

 

The school hall was decorated with flowers - ones that made the hall look the most presentable it had been all year - with Chenle’s photo on stage.

 

“Yesterday,” the principal began as Jisung cried next to him - the best friend of the student who had left them. “Our high school had lost a very bright student. He was one of our best, having a scholarship that was given to him from China, and one of our most loved.” He took a deep breath in, feeling someone - Donghyuck, probably - grab onto his left hand as someone else - Jaemin, definitely - ran their hand through his hair. “Today, we will remember Zhong Chenle as one of our own and-”

 

He awoke with a gasp, his friends all crowding around him as he stared at them with dazed eyes.

 

“Hey, Junnie,” Donghyuck’s voice and someone shaking him slowly brought his attention to the tanned male. “You okay?”

“Baba?” A child-like voice whispered, worried, and Renjun didn’t even have the heart to look in his direction. You can’t even spare a look at your own son. 

“Renjun, Jun, breathe with me, come on,” Donghyuck whispered, squeezing his shoulder to reassure him of his presence and slowly but surely, Renjun felt himself imitating the other. “In and out, in and out...there we go. Breathe easier?”

“Yeah, yeah, Hyuck,” he answered, mind still hazy and disturbed from his dream. “I...I can breathe.”

“Five things you can see, Jun,” Donghyuck stated softly and swallowing, Renjun let his eyes roam around his group of friends.

“People I trust, trees, grass,” he listed, bringing his attention down to his wrists. “My watch, your shoes.”

“Four things you can hear,” Donghyuck said again, in the same soft tone he had always used since high school during Renjun’s episodes. 

“Your voice, my voice, birds and...and grass rustling,” he listed once more, feeling his erratic heartbeat calm down to a more tolerable pace. 

“Three things you can smell now, Jun.” Nodding, Renjun took a deep breath in and focused on the scents. 

“Soil, bread and...” He took another deep breath and wrinkled his nose at the overwhelming scent of spice. “Jaemin’s dumb cologne.”

“Two things you can touch,” Donghyuck continued, ignoring his comment much like everyone else.

“Your skin and the rough tree,” he answered and slowly let his eyes wander from their intertwined hands to Donghyuck’s caring eyes.

“One thing you can taste.” A quick swallow told Renjun everything he could feel.

“Regret,” he whispered, gaining a glare from Donghyuck and sighing. “Okay, I taste apples.”

 

“What were you dreaming about that pushed you over the edge, Jun?” He heard Jeno ask, curiosity in his voice and Renjun didn’t even know if he should tell his friends the answer. 

“It was the funeral day...wasn’t it?” He heard Jaemin ask from beside him and nodded, letting his husband pull him into a comforting hug. 

“Baba?” Smiling and lifting his head from where it was being cradled to Jaemin’s chest, Renjun opened an arm while feeling tears well up at the sight of his son. “Sad?”

“Yeah, Baba is sad, Le,” he choked out, the dam breaking as his tears spilled out. “Make it go away?”

“Lele will fight sad!” He couldn’t help but laugh at his son just as Jaemin’s grip on him tightened.

 

~ ~ ~ 

 

Two weeks without Chenle had gone faster yet slower than what Renjun had imagined. Every day, he wished for the other boy to walk through the doors just to prove the letters wrong despite knowing that they hadn’t failed him yet. 

 

It was the tenth day of March when Chenle finally walked through the doors, a smile on his face but sadness lingering in his eyes.

 

“Chenle!” Renjun heard Donghyuck shout, the other quick to give the younger Chinese boy a hug as they walked to the desk next to Renjun’s. “ Man , we have so much to catch you up on! You know, when you were gone, Jeno fell into the lake and-”

“I’m sorry. Donghyuck-hyung,” Chenle started, beginning to set up his desk. “I don’t feel like talking.”

 

Ah, we’re going to fail.

 

“Do you want to be left alone?” Donghyuck asked instead of his usual banter that would have ensued. From the corner of his eye, Renjun saw Chenle nod. “Alright. Just...we’re here for you, okay? All of us are good listeners and we might not have gone through anything you have but we can try to be a pillar of support for you.” With those words, Donghyuck scurried away to annoy Jeno who was scrolling through social media before class started. 

 

We just have to make it so he doesn’t feel the need to.

 

But how can I start to get close to him to change the future?

 

“I know you don’t want to talk,” he started, walking to Chenle’s desk and being met with the dead stare of the younger. “But you don’t have to, I’ll do all the talking. I...I watched this interesting thing last night about aliens and...do you want to listen to what the theory was? None of the other guys like to listen to these and Jisung is busy being babied by Jaemin so...” It was a gamble but Renjun hoped that it was enough for at least something to change - even if he had no idea what he would do if it didn’t work.

 

Slowly, yet surely, Chenle’s face morphed from discomfort to curiosity.

 

“Okay, ge. What’s the theory?”

 

~ ~ ~ 

 

“You’re still interested in alien conspiracy theories?” Jeno asked him, the slightly younger male peeping over his shoulder at his phone which was on yet another alien theory. 

“Hey, you never know what’s out there!” he insisted, narrowing his eyes at the other who laughed in his face.

 

Now that I think about...I had watched an alien conspiracy theory video the day before Chenle came back...maybe I should have put it in my letter that Chenle ignored my request to talk…

 

~ ~ ~ 

 

Chenle and Jaemin will get into a fight in the morning…

 

Walking through the doors, it felt as if all eyes turned to him and watched his every move as he approached his desk. The silence was eerie and everyone’s blank faces had yet to make him feel comfortable.

 

...and when you arrive, their sudden fight will stop.

 

“Must have been the fight,” he mumbled, glancing over at Mark who was switching his gaze between Jaemin and Chenle - the two had their backs to each other. It was a grand total of three seconds before Jaemin sighed and turned back around, the elder tapping Chenle’s shoulder lightly and clearing his throat.

 

“I’m sorry I called you spoiled and said that you didn’t know how any of us felt because you didn’t have our same financial struggle,” Jaemin said slowly, his voice showing how much regret he truly held for having said those words. “I...I don’t know what you’ve been through and I probably will never go through it but keeping it inside will hurt you more. As long as we wear the same school uniform, our financial situations don’t matter so if you want to complain about how painful it is being a spoilt brat then I’ll gladly listen and shit on whoever needs to be shitted on!” Renjun, along with the rest of their friendship group, watched on as Chenle started laughing and wiping tears from his eyes. 

 

Whether those tears were from happiness or sadness, Renjun was simply glad that the two weren’t going to be cold to each other all day. 

 

“Jaemin-hyung, I don’t think that’s how an apology should go,” Chenle wheezed out before he surged forward and hugged the elder male tightly - as if he didn’t want to let time move on from that one moment. “Ah, before I forget! Renjun-ge! Are you still up to tutor me during lunch? Even though it’s your birthday? Oh, happy birthday, by the way.” Following Chenle’s greeting had been a chorus of his friends greeting him a happy birthday as well while Renjun’s mind could only focus on Chenle.

 

I want you to show up for Chenle’s tutoring session. 

 

“Sure, the same cafe?” he asked and was rewarded with an adorable nod from the younger. 

“Here’s a little birthday gift from me,” Chenle started, pulling out a little Moomin keychain from his bag. “I asked Jisung what you liked and he said Moomin so, I hope this is enough-”

“Great, now my gift is going to look lame!” Donghyuck interrupted, grumbling about the envelope in his hands as Mark sighed and patted the dramatic male’s head while half-heartedly comforting him. 

“Thank you, Chenle,” he said softly, carefully taking the keychain and trying not to brush the other’s fingers. “I will treasure it.”

“Yeah, yeah, you better treasure this shit too,” Donghyuck cut in, handing him the envelope. “I created it with love and Mark-hyung printed it.” Opening the envelope, Renjun was met with several printouts of Donghyuck’s own face in every single selfie pose that was known to man. 

“Hey Chenle,” Jeno called out, walking over and tossing a box to Renjun, leaving him to struggle to catch it. “Want to play basketball later after school?”

“I can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to beat me, hyung,” Chenle taunted, the smile on his face dangerous as Renjun’s heart skipped a beat. 

“Oh I want to play too!” Mark exclaimed, laughing and easily dragging the two of them into a conversation.

 

“Seems like we don’t have a lot to worry about, huh, hyung?” Snickering and punching Jisung playfully, Renjun couldn’t help but agree.

 

~ ~ ~ 

 

“Baba! Moomin!” Chuckling at his son’s antics, Renjun patted the toddler’s head and carefully plucked the small keychain that he had received all those years ago. “Chenle likes Moomin!”

“Yeah, that’s right, you do, Chenle” he replied, carefully putting the keychain back on the shelf that it used to be on. “Chenle didn’t even like the show but always insisted on watching it with me.”

“Cause he liked you .” Renjun scoffed when he heard Jaemin’s voice float in from the kitchen to where Renjun was in the living room. 

“I liked him too,” he whispered to himself, smiling softly at his son as he apologised once more to the Chenle that was undoubtedly in heaven.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“Donghyuck!” he shouted, running through the gates and trying to catch up with the tanned male who was taking his time walking to their classroom. Seriously, why does Hyuck come so early? 

 

The sight of Donghyuck giving him the middle finger was one that Renjun could never get used to, even if the other was only joking. 

 

Donghyuck ,” he panted once he caught up, hands on his knees as he struggled to catch his breath. His best friend, on the other hand, pulled out one of his earphones and looked upon him in pity.

“You’re here to tell me to give the solo act to Chenle, right?” The other asked, his eyes conflicted as the tanned male bit his lip. “I don’t want to give it to Chenle. That solo...that’s the only way for my parents to see how much I love music and-”

“Hyuck, you don’t have to give him the solo,” he blurted out, feeling uneasy at his own words.

“But Junnie, the letters-”

“We don’t even know if the future will change even if we do what they say,” he reasoned, remembering Jisung’s words. 

“Are you kidding me? You know what will happen if we just do everything for our own selfish needs-”

“We just have to make him feel like he doesn’t need to!” Renjun could feel the tears reach his eyes, his vision swimming as he reached out and gripped Donghyuck’s shoulders. “The versions of us who wrote the letters, they only know one possible outcome! They don’t know what will happen if we do follow the letters word for word! No one does! But, if we just make sure we change enough for Chenle to feel as if he isn’t a burden, as if he isn’t dampening everyone’s moods and as if he belongs with us then I’m sure that-”

“Junnie, that’s naive thinking and you know it,” Donghyuck cut in, his eyes hosting the same shallow tears that he had. “We don’t know why their Chenle committed suicide and we probably won’t know why our one will either. But...I guess you are right. We just have to make him feel like he doesn’t need to.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t want you to lose the solo either,” he whispered, wiping away his tears before they even had a chance to fall. “I know how much music means to you and-”

“Hey, it’s okay...I think I might have an idea anyway,” the tanned male whispered back, a mischievous smile on his face. “I don’t know if it’ll work but I want you to keep going with whatever plan the future Renjun advised, okay? Leave this bit to me.”

 

That had been the end of their conversation and Renjun was now mulling over his best friend’s words. Donghyuck hadn’t come to the classroom yet, heading straight to the staffroom as soon as they entered the main building just as Renjun had been swept away by Mark. The elder was now trying to help Jaemin with his English while Jeno and Jisung were playing some rhythm tap game on their phones.

 

“Hey guys!” Looking away from where Mark was scribbling English exceptions of grammar on Jaemin’s arm, Rnejun was met with the sight of Chenle staring at all of them excitedly. “Today is the day!”

“What day?” Jeno asked, looking up briefly from his game before resuming.

“The solo for the act,” Jisung answered, making a noise of frustration when he tapped on the wrong spot. 

“And my best friend, Jisung Pwark gets it right!” Chenle exclaimed, slamming his hands on Renjun’s desk and flinching at the impact. Seriously, why are we always surrounding my desk? “After school! Come and watch me sing!”

“Now that you mention it, I’ve never heard you sing before,” Mark wondered out loud, tapping his finger on his chin. “I’m free after school. You guys?”

“I don’t have anything,” Jaemin replied, leaning forward and staring up at Chenle who looked back with enthusiasm. “Can you even sing?”

“I’ve been singing my whole life!” The younger male shot back, earning chuckles from the two who were tapping away on their phones. 

“I don’t have anything either,” Jeno piped up, Jisung making a noise as the elder bumped him to answer.

“Music room right?” Renjun watched as Chenle nodded to Jisung’s question. “I’ll be there.”

“And you, ge?” Having Chenle stare at him in anticipation with stars twinkling in his eyes made Renjun weaker than he ever felt before. 

“I...I guess I can come,” he mumbled, wishing he hadn’t seen Chenle’s overjoyed face at his confirmation. “But we still have tutoring at lunch so focus on that before the audition, okay?”

“Sir, yes, sir,” Chenle replied playfully just as their homeroom teacher entered the room seconds before Donghyuck ran inside and fell into his seat.

 

Later that day during lunch, Renjun had given in to letting Chenle practice for the auditions and had concluded that the voice of an angel must have been passed down to Zhong Chenle. It had seemed that the rest of the group had been dumbfounded at the boy’s voice as well when they had heard it during the auditions, even Donghyuck who had managed to become the solo act the year prior was rendered speechless.

 

“To think that he could sing this well...” Jaemin mumbled beside Renjun from where they were to the side of the room, away from the rest of the auditioning singers. “He could give Hyuck a run for his money.”

“His voice has a different tone to Hyuck-hyung,” Jisung piped up, a proud look settling on his face. “As expected of my best friend.”

“You two sure have gotten really close lately,” Mark commented as if he were a doting father. “I’m glad you two are getting along well.”

“I’m glad we’re all getting along well,” Jeno echoed, his tone wistful and almost making Renjun ask him if he had received a set of letters from the future as well. 

 

“It was very hard to choose just one person for the act,” the music teacher started, frustration on her face as she glanced in the direction of Renjun’s best friend. “As following Lee Donghyuck’s rather forceful suggestion from this morning, the solo act will turn into a duet this year.”

“Ah, that’s what he had up his sleeve,” he mumbled, receiving a curious look from Jaemin who undoubtedly had heard him.

“I am pleased to say that Donghyuck and Chenle will be the ones carrying out the duet for the festival in a month’s time. Don’t disappoint us, boys.”

“I’ll try my best!” Chenle practically shouted as Donghyuck hugged the younger boy.

 

Guess you didn’t have to give up the solo act after all, Donghyuck. You just shared it with the boy who we swore to protect.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“You know, I keep thinking,” Mark started, picking up a fry and dipping it in his tomato sauce. The whole group had gotten together at a burger joint shortly after Renjun had dropped his son off to daycare. It was rare for all of them to be free on a day such as this one. 

“How many brain cells did you lose doing that, hyung?” Jisung asked, earning a snort from Renjun and a jab to the rib from his own fiance. 

“What if, instead of Hyuck getting the solo, we just made sure that he did a duet with Chenle?” Now that Renjun thought about it, he had never considered the possibility of the solo act turning into a duet like Mark had suggested. 

“And you’re telling me this now ?! After we sent out the letters?!” Donghyuck exclaimed, slapping his husband over the head in disbelief. “I didn’t even think of that!”

“Ah, don’t worry!” Jeno cut in, his smile sheepish as the table’s attention had shifted onto him completely. “I wrote that idea in mine and told my past self to tell Donghyuck. So, as long as my letters get through, that event should be okay.”

“But why didn’t we think of just asking the music teacher to make it into a duet?” Jaemin wondered, resting his head on Renjun’s shoulder. “If Donghyuck had asked enough, it would have happened, right?”

“I think it’s just our perspective now,” Jisung answered, sorrow swirling in his eyes. “Back then, we just assumed that the solo act was something that couldn’t be changed. But now, we want to change it so we’re thinking of what to do just to make it change.”

“Eh, too complicated,” Jaemin complained, eating a few fries after Jisung sent him a fed up expression and getting sauce stuck in the corner of his mouth.

“At least wipe your mouth,” Renjun mumbled, shoving a napkin in the direction of the other and wondered if it was really possible to change the solo into a duet.

 

~ ~ ~ 

 

“And then this is the verb you use here,” he explained, neatly writing the verb in Korean with some messy Chinese in the brackets. Nervously, Renjun glanced at his phone once more to check the date.

 

May 3, 2016

 

“I’m sorry, ge, I’m really not able to focus on this,” the younger Chinese boy said softly from beside him while spinning his pen around. “It’s just, the-” 

 

Chenle will receive a zero on the pop English quiz.

 

“English quiz, right?” Embarrassed, Renjun hastily covered his mouth as Chenle stared at him in awe. “I...I’m pretty nervous about it too...”

“Yeah, comprehension type of questions always gets me,” Chenle sighed out, leaning back in his seat and staring ahead at the empty library. “I might fail this stupid pop quiz. If only they told us the date of it then I would be motivated to study!” 

 

6th May, 2016: Chenle will receive a zero on the pop English quiz.

 

“Why don’t you get Mark-hyung to help you?” he asked, remembering the letter’s contents and hoping that he could follow what it truly wanted from him. “You know he’s from Canada, right? He’s really good at English since it’s his first language.”

“But do you think he’ll help me?” The timid look on Chenle’s face made Renjun’s heart break just a little. “He always seems so busy and-”

“Why don’t we ask him together? I could use some help with those types of questions too,” he interrupted, deciding that he liked the grateful look on Chenle’s face much more than the previous timid expression. 

 

They didn’t get a chance to ask Mark for help until two days later when the elder was delivering some books to the library during their tutoring session - the day before the fated quiz.

 

“I can help you guys for a bit now since I just finished my errands for the day,” Mark said, the grateful smile making its way onto Chenle’s face once more. “What do you guys need help with?”

“Go on,” Renjun encouraged the younger male beside him, gently nudging him with his elbow and watching as Chenle opened up a notebook full of questions they had brainstormed to ask Mark.

“Um...what’s the best way to answer a comprehension question?” Chenle asked, his big eyes looking up at Mark and Renjun saw something fly across Mark’s eyes. Was that just...regret?

“Do you have something I can scribble on?” Quickly, Renjun opened his own notebook, ripping out a page and handing it to the elder with a pen. “Okay, so...”

 

Both of them had walked away from Mark’s impromptu English lesson with a better understanding of what to do for the quiz. However, their quiz had come in the morning on the 6th - Renjun hadn’t been able to give Chenle a small pep talk nor try and motivate him to do better. The quiz itself didn’t seem too bad...

 

Yet somehow, Huang Renjun had found himself staring at the sorry sight of a mere 3/10 on the top right of his quiz. 

 

“I literally just did what hyung told me to!” he exclaimed, running a hand through his hair as Jeno peeked over at his score. They were currently having their short break for the day and once again, everyone had decided to huddle around Renjun’s own desk. 

“That’s rough but...I didn’t do any better,” Jeno said sheepishly, showing his own score of 2/10. 

“I think it was because of the multiple choice options,” Donghyuck joined in, brandishing his score of 4/10. “A lot of them were really similar and I couldn’t tell what the difference between them was.”

“Really? I thought it was relatively easy,” Jaemin wondered out loud, prompting Renjun to lean over and see a solid 7/10 on the other’s sheet. 

“What?! When did you get so good at English?!” he shouted, getting ready to slap Jaemin for having known what to do and choosing not to help him. 

“At least you all got more than a point...” Turning towards the boy who was resting his head on Jisung’s shoulder, Renjun felt his heart sink at the thought that they had failed. “I only got one point...”

“It’s because you were sleeping for most of the twenty minutes we took the test for,” Mark stated, rolling up his own test paper that most likely had a full score and hitting Chenle’s head with it. “Why did you even stay up so late?”

“I was playing a game...” the younger Chinese mumbled and Renjun could feel Mark’s irritation grow. 

“Hey, at least it’s not a zero!” Jisung exclaimed when Mark had raised the rolled up paper once more. “Chenle, at least it isn’t a zero.”

“Ah yeah,” the younger Chinese said as he suddenly sat up and looked Jisung straight in the eyes. “I forgot you didn’t score anything. I’m sorry for moping about one point when you got none, Jisung.”

“Chenle...that’s not how you apologise to someone,” Jeno mumbled as Renjun snorted.

“Come on, it’s only a small quiz to see how we understood this section of the unit,” he explained, looking at the two youngest and giving them a wide smile. “It’s not the end of the world!”

“Oh, Junnie’s smiling,” Donghyuck pointed out, his eyes wide as he slapped Jeno’s shoulder. “Junnie’s smiling! He only does that when he wants to kill someone!”

“Hey! Renjun smiles at other times!” Jaemin shot back, immediately roping Donghyuck into an argument and usually, Renjun would have gotten mad at them.

 

However, the sound of Chenle laughing at their stupid antics made dealing with the both of them worth it.

 

~ ~ ~ 

 

“Baba! Chenle found something!” Humming and looking away from where he was drawing in his sketchbook, Renjun saw his son holding the crumpled up piece of paper with the modest 6/10.

“The pop quiz from that day?” he wondered to himself, carefully plucking it out of his son’s hand and reading over the analytical type questions. “Ah that’s right, Chenle was always bad at analytical type questions, wasn’t he?”

“Baba, what’s that?” his son asked and Renjun chuckled, giving the toddler a kiss ont he forehead. 

“Something you don’t have to worry about.”

 

~ ~ ~

 

19th May, 2016.

 

Walking into the classroom, Renjun wasn’t met with anything out of the ordinary.

 

Today is Chenle and Jisung’s first fight.

 

“Ah, ge!” Chenle greeted him from where he was on Jisung’s back, leaving Renjun to stutter a greeting back. “Jisung is giving me a piggyback!”

“I...can see that,” he mumbled, staring at the two in awe and concluding that Jisung must have done something to avoid the fight. Well...if they didn’t fight then...I don’t have to do anything, right?

“Jisung and I were talking about crushes!” Humming to show that he was listening to the younger’s words, Renjun began to prepare his desk for the day. Today, Chenle will ask you about your crush. “So do you have one, ge?”

“A crush?” he asked and received two nods from the younger males he was conversing with. 

 

I want you to be completely honest - the poor boy thinks you like Jaemin.

 

“I don’t think you’d classify it as a crush...” he answered, looking up at the two who seemed very disappointed - especially Jisung. 

“Then a type?” the youngest asked, a mischievous grin on his face and Renjun had a feeling that his determination had something to do with the letters he received.

“Basically the opposite of you, Sung,” he quickly shot back, narrowing his eyes at the youngest whose grin still didn’t waver.

“The opposite of Jisung?” Chenle echoed, looking around the room before gasping. “So Jaemin-hyung ?”

 

You don’t have to tell him you like him but you can at least give hints that omit Jaemin.

 

“If you think Jaemin is the opposite of Jisung, then you’re in for a sad story, Chenle,” he started, smirking at the younger Chinese who tilted his head in curiosity. “Those two are literally as idiotic as each other. Did Jisung tell you about his crush?”

“Hyung!” the youngest whined but Chenle shook his head rapidly, leaning closer while holding on tighter to his best friend who was still holding him up.

“I’ll let him tell you himself but Chenle,” he paused when Chenle’s large eyes focused his whole attention on Renjun’s being. “I prefer people who aren’t overly obsessed with Ryan plush toys and who don’t go around pinching Jisung’s cheeks every minute.”

“Okay, so you don’t like Jaemin-hyung,” Chenle concluded, laughing after.

 

In that moment, Chenle’s eyes had seemed sad yet relieved and Renjun couldn’t help but wonder why.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“You know,” Jaemin started, cutting the onions and not looking up from the chopping board, “I wonder what would have happened if I just gave up on you and pursued Jisung.”

“Why are you wondering about this when we are married with a son ?” he asked, turning on the heat of the stove for their stir fry. “There’s no use dwelling on the past. We can only hope that our future and the future of the ones who received our letters are bright.”

 

~ ~ ~

 

Happy birthday.

 

The most handsome, amazing, beautiful, one who lights up the world…

 

...was the one who gave you this present.

 

We will somehow get through this together.

 

- Renjun

 

“What’s that, hyung?” Chenle asked him even though he was meant to be constructing sentences during their tutoring session. It’s Donghyuck’s birthday but no one told Chenle so he will be the only one without a present.

“It’s a birthday card to Hyuck,” he explained, turning to the younger who looked on with curious eyes. “It’s his birthday tomorrow.”

“Ah! I had no idea!” Renjun couldn’t help but chuckle to himself when the younger panicked. “I’ll get him a present later! What does he like?”

“Hm...I’m sure he’ll appreciate anything but he really does like Michael Jackson,” he answered after a moment of thinking, carefully putting the card away in an envelope. “Just get him an MJ figurine or something.”

“I had no idea Hyuck-hyung liked Michael Jackson...” Also, since Chenle doesn’t eat breakfast, I want you to bring him breakfast today. “He never told me-”

“Hey, have you been eating right?” he asked, deciding to take a gamble once more. “You’ve gotten paler and you seem to have lost weight recently.”

“Ah, that’s just because of some family things,” Chenle replied, his smile strained and eyes darting to the book he was previously writing in. “I’m okay, really!”

“Do you want me to bring you some breakfast tomorrow?” he asked, hoping that the other would say yes.

“Ge, it’s really okay, you don’t have to-”

“But I want to,” he whispered, wondering if he really wanted to or if he was simply blindly following the letter. “What’s your favourite dish?”

“D-Don’t judge me...” Chenle started, looking away before continuing. “Boiled egg and soy sauce.”

 

Boiled egg and soy sauce? Wasn’t he meant to like egg rolls?

 

“What kind of a meal is that,” he commented, sighing before writing it down on his hand. “I’ll chuck in some egg rolls so it’ll make a proper breakfast. You have to make sure to eat, okay?”

“Ge, seriously, I don’t need you to-”

“Chenle, this is what I want to do,” he cut the other off, getting up after realising they only had a few more minutes of lunch. “And don’t worry, you won’t die from my cooking!”

 

When they were back sitting at their desks, Renjun took several peeks at Chenle while he passed the other pointless notes that made fun of Mr Lee’s shaved eyebrow. 

 

It seemed as if Chenle was brooding over something big.

 

The next day, Donghyuck had been showered in gifts and Renjun was surprised that Chenle had found a Michael Jackson figurine on such short notice. 

 

“Thanks everyone! I didn’t expect for you guys to buy me gifts so thank you so much!” Smiling at his best friend, Renjun was glad that Donghyuck had liked his poorly made scrapbook of them. 

“Ah! Before I forget!” Running back to his desk, Renjun quickly grabbed out the lunch box that contained his promised breakfast meal for the younger Chinese male. “Chenle, here! Like I said, here’s your specially made breakfast!”

“Ge, I...thank you,” the younger Chinese male said softly, obviously at a loss for words. “You really didn’t have to.”

“Oh? What’s this?” Donghyuck started, leaning closer and inspecting the two of them.

“Don’t you know, Hyuck? A specially made breakfast is a declaration of love!” Jaemin exclaimed, holding his hands out dramatically as Renjun struggled to process how making someone a meal was a declaration of love.

“Is that why you make Jisung so many lunches, Jaemin?” Jeno asked, easily roping the rest of them into laughing at his question.

“Is it really, ge?” He heard Chenle ask from beside him and tilted his head as a sign to let the younger elaborate more. “If...if you make someone breakfast...does it really mean that you...”

“Ah, that’s just Jaemin spouting bullshit,” he reassured the other, suddenly feeling as if progress was going in the opposite direction that what it needed to. “Don’t worry about it and enjoy your soy sauce covered boiled eggs, alright?”

“Okay...”

 

~ ~ ~ 

 

“How the heck did you manage to cook so much, Donghyuck?” he asked once he entered the shared apartment of Donghyuck and Mark. It was yet another gathering for the group and Donghyuck had insisted on preparing the food by himself. 

“Did some prep last night and woke up early today,” Donghyuck explained nonchalantly, putting a rather small pot on the table. 

“What’s in that one?” Jaemin asked from beside him, their toddler in his arms and beginning to grab Jaemin’s pink strands of hair. “Chenle, stop, that hurt.”

“It’s boiled eggs and soy sauce,” Donghyuck whispered, his hands tightening around the pot holders as the rest huddled around them.

“Chenle liked boiled eggs and soy sauce,” Jisung said softly, as if they all didn’t already know. 

“What’s even more sad is that we only found out about that at the funeral,” Jeno mumbled, causing Renjun’s hands to turn into fists.

“If only I had asked -”

“Renjun, you did what you could,” Mark cut in before he could say another word, unspoken messages of comfort residing in his eyes. “Now we all have to live on for him.”

 

~ ~ ~

 

10th June, 2016: Today is the day Chenle reveals to all of you that he’s gay. 

 

“Guys, I have to tell you something,” Chenle started the minute Renjun arrived at his desk - he was the last one as usual. 

 

Today is also the day Chenle’s bullies will attack him.

 

“I...I’m gay.”

 

They will shove him against the lockers in the hallways near the art studios and scream about how he’s a faggot, unloved and a mere foreigner who will never fit in.

 

“There’s nothing wrong with that, Chenle. I’m bi and poly myself.”

“Thank you, Mark-hyung.”

“Wait, you’re poly? What a coincidence cause so am I.”

“Seriously, Hyuck?”

 

In my life, none of us got there fast enough.

 

“Chenle, I don’t think anyone in this group is straight.”

“Even...well...you know...is no one actually straight, Jeno-hyung?”

“Nope.”

 

Jeno will beat the bullies up, start a fist fight and win.

 

“Yeah so you fit right in!”

“Thank you, Jaemin-hyung. Thank you, everyone.”

 

Please do not leave Chenle alone today.

 

“I mean, I obviously knew.”

“That’s only because I told you last night, Jisung.”

 

None of you.

 

“I-I have to go to talk to Mr Lee now,” Renjun blurted out, realising he hadn’t said anything regarding Chenle coming out. “Chenle, I will love you for whoever you are, no matter what your sexuality is. That being said, all of you wait for me here! I really have to go now! Bye!” 

“Wait, Jun!”

 

How could I be so carefree walking to school today?! It’s the day Chenle will get bullied!

 

June 10, 2016

 

Despite the fact that he knew the date wouldn’t change in the span of an hour, Renjun still hoped that the day would have passed. 

 

“Mr Lee!” he shouted, halting at the open door of the teacher’s office and effectively surprising the poor man. “Instead of later, can I give you a quick report of Chenle’s Korean ability now?” he asked, trying desperately to catch his breath. 

“Ah, make it quick Renjun, we have class soon,” Mr Lee said, his red hair glinting in the dim light of his office. 

“He has improved greatly and I think it’s because he has grown comfortable with several students here,” he reported, still trying to catch his breath as Mr Lee nodded along to his words. “I think in a few more weeks, he won’t need my tutoring anymore.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Renjun,” Mr Lee replied just before the bell resounded throughout the school. “Come on, let’s go to class.”

 

As promised, Renjun stayed with Chenle for the rest of the day and accompanied him to the vending machine during lunch - the one near the art studios. 

 

“Oh? What do we have here?” A classmate of theirs that Renjun never really bothered to learn the name of asked while approaching them. “A faggot and...a baby faggot.” So they’re going to target me too? “Why don’t you both just go back to your own countries, huh?”

“Ah, there you two are!” Turning around, Renjun was met with the sight of Jeno jogging up to them with an eye smile resting on his face. “We wanted to play jenga but you two were missing so Hyuck sent me to find you. Come on, let’s go.”

“Oh and here’s the prince who can’t do anything!” Their classmate continued, causing Jeno’s fists to clench tightly. “What? You mad? What can you do?”

“We can sure as heck not give worthless shits like you our time,” Renjun spat out, forcibly turning Jeno around and grabbing Chenle’s wrist. “Come on, let’s play jenga.”

 

Although he heard their classmate’s taunts, Renjun could only focus on getting all of them away from that place due to the trembling of Chenle’s wrist in his hand.

 

~ ~ ~ 

 

“Chenle...what if I actually did something when you got bullied?” he wondered, lying in bed awake while Jaemin snored next to him. “Would things have turned out differently?”

 

~ ~ ~

 

Today is the day where Jeno will get beat up in detention.

 

But Jeno was never given detention.

 

He will come out with injuries.

 

But he will never come out of detention since he never went in.

 

I feel like he has some things he’d want to say to Jeno.

 

Maybe that part is still true. 

 

Today is also the day you will fall in love with Chenle.

 

“Ge? Are you okay?” The voice of the younger male who he was currently tutoring brought him back to the world in front of him. “You’ve been spacing out a lot recently.”

“I’m okay, Chenle,” he replied, giving the other a small smile. “Are you done with the questions?”

“Ah, I finished a while ago,” the younger male answered, flipping the pages in his book to show that the assigned questions were done. “You were in dream land for so long that I drew a picture of us, see!”

 

The picture itself was of two stick figures before what seemed to be either sunrise or sunset. 

 

“I want us to be able to watch the sunrise sometime in the future!”

 

Renjun couldn’t even suppress the spreading warmth within his chest at the thought of being able to watch the sunrise with Chenle some day in the future.

 

“It’ll happen,” he blurted out, giving the younger a teary smile since he realised that even though it had been a short while since he had met Chenle, he didn’t want to live without him. “I’ll make sure it happens.”

“I’ll make sure it happens too!” Chenle replied, his smile reaching his eyes and becoming brighter than the sun itself.

 

Ah, I didn’t expect that part of the letter to be right. 

 

~ ~ ~

 

“You still kept this, Renjun?” Looking up from where he was drawing, Renjun saw Mark point to a mere piece of paper that was on the wall near their clock in the living room. Mark had decided to come and keep him company while he watched over his son. Curse Jaemin and Hyuck for having work and leaving me to deal with hyung.

“Yeah, it’s something Chenle made for me, after all,” he answered, looking at the poorly drawn picture of two stick figures hunched over a desk in what seemed to be a library. “He drew that during one of our tutoring sessions.”

“Is it you two doing work?” Mark asked and Renjun nodded, noticing the sadness in Mark’s eyes. “He was only thinking about the present and not the future. Maybe this was his way of telling us he didn’t think he had a future...”

“If it was...I hope the boy who has my letter got a better picture, then,” he said softly, feeling tears rise up to his eyes. “I hope they notice what we didn’t.”

 

~ ~ ~ 

 

A kick to his stomach that was powerful enough to send him crashing into the vending machine near the art studios.

 

Today is the day you will be bullied.

 

A handful of hair being grabbed and pulled upwards.

 

Please, for the love of God, do not let anyone find out.

 

“Pathetic bitch.”

 

Avoid them, please.

 

“Did you really think avoiding us for three months would save you?”

 

You’ll know who they are.

 

“God doesn’t save faggots like you who stick close to that spoilt brat.”

 

Do not let yourself cross their path but if you do, do not say anything.

 

“God doesn’t save people who resort to violence either.” His comment was rewarded with another kick to his stomach.

 

Especially noting about you being in love with Chenle.

 

“Hey, it’s okay if we kick your stomach, right?” Laughs from the additional onlookers who had gathered, causing his blood to boil at the humiliation. “After all, you and that Zhong kid can’t have babies. What a tragic love story that pulls at your heartstrings.”

“So what?” he spat out, looking up at the students who were still peering down at him and undoubtedly enjoying his misery. “At least I know that this love is real! I don’t care about his gender, I don’t care if I can’t have kids and I don’t care about what you say about me! Because at the end of the day...” he paused to push himself upright and pulled back his arm, giving the student in front of him a solid punch in the jaw. “I’m the one who will be able to be proud of who I have become.”

 

What ensued next had become a blur, there were fists thrown, people shouting and a teacher breaking up the fight. He had been escorted to the infirmary with minor injuries where he was advised to rest after he was patched up. 

 

September 20, 2016

 

“I was only able to avoid them for three months, huh?” he asked no one in particular and leaned back in the bed, letting the fact sink in. 

“It’s amazing that you were able to avoid them for three months .” Looking towards the door, he saw Jeno walk in with Chenle behind him, a box of chocolate in the younger boy’s hands. “Why didn’t you tell us, Jun?”

“Didn’t feel like it,” he breathed out, sighing and reaching out for the chocolate. “I want the brain food.”

“Chocolate isn’t brain food, you idiot,” Jeno commented as Chenle opened the box and unwrapped a piece of chocolate.

“Say ‘ah’,” the younger coaxed much to Renjun’s dismay and annoyance. “ Ge.

Ah ,” he said flatly, growing more annoyed when Chenle refused to give him the piece of chocolate. “ Zhong Chenle, I swear-

“They told me you hated me, ge,” Chenle cut him off, shoving the piece of chocolate into his mouth and making Renjun make an odd noise in protest. “What a funny joke, right?”

“I’m going to hate you if you don’t give me a piece of chocolate in the next three seconds.”

“I’m not scared of a cinnamon roll like you, ge.”

“Can you two stop flirting in front of me?”

 

~ ~ ~

 

“Hey, does that bother you?” Looking at the spot on the side of his thigh where a scar had formed over a cut that one of the bullies had given him back in his high school days. 

“It’s a reminder of how dumb I was,” he replied, moving closer into Jaemin’s embrace. “And of how helpless I was. But if anything, I should be asking you if it bothers you. You chose this scarred man.”

“I chose this scarred man because the cheerful dolphin left us,” Jaemin whispered, his arms tightening around Renjun’s own frame and allowing their body heat to mingle together. “That’s all there is to it.”

“Jaemin,” he called, shoving his face closer to Jaemin’s own in a silent request for a kiss. “I love you.”

“I love you too, Renjun,” Jaemin said softly, leaning down and giving Renjun numerous kisses in a row as both of their hearts ached for each other.

 

~ ~ ~ 

 

Confess to Chenle before 4pm.

 

“Shit! We have to find him!”

 

He disappears at 4pm.

 

“Did nothing change?! Did all of our efforts mean nothing?!”

 

Alone.

 

“Fuck! I knew this was coming and I should have stayed with him!”

“He forced you to go, Mark-hyung! This isn’t your fault.”

“It might as well be!”

 

In front of the Lee Bakery.

 

“He was meant to be in front of the Lee Bakery! Why isn’t he in front of the Lee Bakery?!”

“Jeno-hyung, stop shouting and come with me over here!”

 

Even if you can’t save him…

 

“What about the bridge?”

“That’s a good idea, Jaemin! Let’s run there and check!”

 

...you can at least let him know how you feel.

 

“Fuck! I didn’t even tell him!” he shouted as he ran with the rest of his friends to the main bridge of the city. “I should have fucking told him!”

“Renjun! Focus on finding Chenle now !” Mark shouted, easily weaving through passersby as they continued to run at full speed. “You can tell him you love him later!”

“But hyung, I got these letters and they said-”

“I know ! I received them too!” Mark screamed, glancing towards Renjun and showing him tears that had yet to fall. “And mine told me to stay near Chenle but I didn’t so this is all my fault-”

“He isn’t dead yet, hyung!” Jeno cut him off, passing them and pointing to a boy who was currently looking over the railing of the bridge. “Look! Our Chenle is right there! Just a few more steps and we’ll save him! We’ll change the future!”

“Wait, Jeno, you got letters too?”

“Now is not the fucking time to ask about the letters, Hyuck!”

 

“Chenle!” Renjun shouted, speeding up despite the protests of his muscles and reaching out to embrace Chenle’s torso from behind. “Chenle! I’m sorry!” he screamed, letting the tears fall as he pressed his forehead into the younger male’s shoulder. “I’m sorry I called you an idiot at times! I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about the bullies! I’m sorry I didn’t bring you breakfast more often! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” He tightened his hold on the younger Chinese male and sobbed, letting his guard down completely as he refused to let the other go. “I love you so much and I don’t want you to die! I want you to live with us! I want to celebrate your birthday properly and I want to hear you roast Hyuck more! I want to date you and I want to marry you and I want a kid with you even if we can’t make a baby! I want you in my future, Chenle!”

“Chenle!” he heard Mark shout, the several footsteps that were approaching them slowing to a halt. “Chenle, we love you! We don’t know what you’re going through but we are here for you! You can rant to us, you can complain to us! You are not a burden!”

“If you go, who am I meant to have intelligent arguments with?!” Renjun heard Donghyuck shout, the tanned male undoubtedly panting heavily from the run. “Who am I meant to shit roast Jaemin with?!”

“We haven’t even had a proper basketball game outside of school yet!” Jeno shouted, his voice slightly wavering and Renjun was sure it was due to tears. “Weren’t we going to get into a good university and have a game on a better court?!”

“Why, Chenle?!” Jaemin’s pained voice made its way to Renjun’s ears and Renjun let another fresh wave of tears escape him, dampening Chenle’s shirt even more. “We haven’t properly talked about any of this yet!”

“Did you fucking think that killing yourself would make us happy?!” The anger in Jisung’s voice surprised him and Renjun could feel Chenle’s body shake from fear - Renjun’s body was doing the same after all. “Did you think that you disappearing would enlighten us or something?! The only thing that would make us happy is if you were here to celebrate your life with us, you fucking idiot! Don’t decide everything on your own!”

 

“I...” Several gasps and breaths came from the boy in his arms, making Renjun loosen his hold a bit as Chenle sank to the ground, taking him along the way. “I’m sorry! I tried to! I really did! But I couldn’t! I couldn’t jump!” Feeling the tears rise once again, Renjun scooted closer and embraced the younger male once more in a much more comforting way. “When I was about to, I thought about all of you and I couldn’t move! I’m sorry!” Renjun felt the rest of their friends come closer and embrace them as well. “I’m sorry! Please forgive me!”

“Of course, we’d forgive you,” Mark whispered, his voice cracking due to his tears. “Just please , live with us. Stay here with us.”

“I will!” Chenle shouted, his own voice cracking and sounding forced due to tears. “I will! When I’m with all of you, I don’t feel like I have to die! So please, don’t hate me and let me still be friends with you!”

 

He didn’t feel the need to. 

 

“As if I’d have it any other way, you dipshit!” Jisung shouted in response, the youngest’s arms forcing their way around Chenle’s body and making Renjun loosen his own hold. “You’re my goddamn best friend! I can’t live without you!”




Future Mark-hyung, future Jeno, future Donghyuck, future Jaemin, future Jisung and future me…are you watching?

 

Chenle is still with us.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Stopping in his tracks, Renjun looked out towards the sunset as they were all walking towards their cars after a short group picnic.

 

“Is something wrong, Renjun-hyung?” He heard Jisung ask and shook his head, looking back at the younger. 

“I just feel like something good happened,” he answered, glancing back at the sunset once more. “Something incredibly good.”

“Like our crazy idea of sending those letters that we dropped into the Bermuda Triangle working?” Renjun could only chuckle at the mention of the ridiculous and desperate gamble of theirs that they all spent quite a bit of money on. “You think they got delivered today?”

“No, Jisung,” he replied, giving the younger a sad smile. “I want to think that they saved Chenle today.”

“Baba!” Renjun waved at his toddler who was now sitting on top of Jeno’s shoulders.

“So you think that a world where Chenle lives was created just then, hyung?” Jisung asked and Renjun didn’t waste a moment nodding in affirmation. “If that’s the case, I’d like to think that too.”

 

You did well, past me. Thank you, for taking on my selfish request.

 

~ ~ ~

 

“Guess it’s time, huh?” Chuckling at his husband’s words, Renjun parked the car with ease and turned towards the man he had fallen in love with. “Ten years...wow...”

“Ten years and you’re still dying your hair terrible colours,” he commented, ruffling the pastel green strands of hair. “Really? Green? You look like shaved lettuce, Chenle.”

“Baba?” Turning towards the backseat, Renjun smiled at their four year old son who was currently rubbing sleep from his eyes. “Papa?”

“And our prince calls,” Chenle said in amusement, surging forward and landing a swift kiss on Renjun’s forehead. “Get Chenjun, will you?”

“I can’t believe I married the laziest one in our whole group,” he complained, getting out of the car and moving to the backseat to pick up his son nonetheless. 

 

“Oh there they are! Oi! Jisung!” Closing the door with his son in his arms, Renjun turned to see Jisung waving back to his husband, the younger’s right hand interlaced with Jaemin’s and his left hand carrying two shovels.

“My sweet baby, Chenjun!” Jaemin shouted, letting go of the youngest’s hand and rushing to coo over Renjun’s son who was in his arms while Chenle and Jisung made small talk. 

“Jaemin, he isn’t even yours,” he sighed out, looking at Chenjun and noticing a simple silver band on Jaemin’s left fourth finger. “Jaemin.” The slightly younger male let out a hum as he pinched the cheek of Renjun’s own son. “Is that an engagement ring?”

“Ah, yeah,” Jaemin sheepishly admitted, laughing and holding up his hand to show Renjun the ring. “Jisung proposed to me yesterday. Can you believe it?”

“Well, I have to, don’t I?” he joked back, sharing a chuckle with the other. “I’m happy for you guys. It was a shock to us when he randomly kissed you on our high school graduation day.”

“Don’t even get me started on that, Jun...”

 

“Ah there he is!” 

 

Hearing the voice of his best friend, Renjun immediately changed his course to avoid the tanned male who was running towards him and his son at full speed.

 

“But Junnie!” Donghyuck whined, his boyfriends laughing at his misery behind him as they met up with Chenle and Jisung. “You’re so mean.”

“Baba?” Chenjun asked, tilting his head in a way that reminded Renjun of Chenle. “Who was that?”

“That was your creepy Uncle Donghyuck, Chenjun,” he said loud enough for Donghyuck to hear and feel offended - the whine the tanned male gave after let Renjun know that it had worked.

“Hyuck, stop terrorising the toddler,” Mark, the eldest of Donghyuck’s boyfriends, chastised once they had caught up.

“Come here, Chenjun,” Jeno, the younger of Donghyuck’s boyfriends, coaxed, opening his arms and making Renjun’s son reach out towards him. Reluctantly, Renjun let the small toddler be carried by Jeno - the small boy always seemed to like Jeno the most out of all their friends, after all.

 

“Okay, let’s start digging!” Jaemin announced, grabbing the shovels that Jisung had been holding and passing one to Mark. 

“Why does Chenjun like Jeno more than me?” Donghyuck complained and Renjun could practically see imaginary dog ears drooping in sadness.

“Who wouldn’t like Jeno-hyung more than you, Hyuck-hyung?” Chenle asked, his high pitched laugh nearly breaking Renjun’s eardrums per usual. The usual banter between Donghyuck and Chenle also ensued with Renjun watching them as Jisung and Jeno kept his son entertained. 

 

“Alright, here we go!” Jaemin’s bright voice cut in, seven letters in his hands. “Mark-hyung!” he announced, handing the white envelope with the neat English showcasing ‘Dear Mark Lee’ to the eldest of the group. “Hyuck,” Jaemin stated, the deep red envelope with the words ‘Dear Donghyuck, the full sun’ in extravagant calligraphy on the front making its way into Donghyuck’s hands. “Our sweet Jenojaem.” Renjun caught sight of Jeno rolling his eyes as he lowered the toddler to the ground, the baby blue envelope with the words ‘Dear Jenojaem’ being handed to him after. “Junnie!” Taking his own emerald envelope with the words ‘Dear Renjun/Injun’ in both Korean and Chinese, Renjun called over his son who immediately ran over to his husband instead of him. “My Jisungie,” Jaemin cooed, handing the light purple letter with chicken scrawl English reading ‘Dear Jisung Pwark’ underneath some messy Korean to his fiance. “Mine,” Jaemin said as he showed his own grey envelope that said ‘Dear Nana’. “And, last but not least, Chenle.” The dark purple envelope was handed from Jaemin to Chenle, the words ‘Dear Zhong Chenle’ written on the front in both Chinese and Korean. Wasting no more seconds, the seven of them immediately began to open their own respective letters.

 

23rd March, 2017

 

Dear Renjun,

 

It’s finally been ten years, hasn’t it? Surely, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It must seem like just yesterday when you received those letters from the future right? It’s been just over a year for me and I still can’t believe that we managed to pull it off.

 

I wonder, how were these past years? Are you and Chenle still going strong? Did you marry him? Do you have a kid? I’m thinking of naming my kid ‘Chenjun’ since it’s a combination of Chenle and Renjun...what do you think? Ah, how silly, you’ve already lived through this so there’s no point asking you…

 

Say, how is Chenle now? He’s still feeling guilty about what happened but we all are just grateful that he’s here, laughing with us. He closed himself off for a few days after the day we found him at the bridge and only recently, he’s been letting us in again. His laughter...oh God...his laughter is one of the prettiest things I’ve ever heard. 

 

I hope you guys are going strong and tell me: did the idiot trio and the dumb duo get together? Hyuck has been complaining about how neither Mark-hyung nor Jeno notice his advances and Jisung has gotten so nervous around Jaemin that Jaemin thinks he’s done something wrong. Please tell me that it all worked out…

 

Anyway, I hope the future turned out for the better - I really can’t imagine my life without any of these idiots and I hope it’s like that for you too. 

 

I also hope that Chenle was (or is) your first and last love.

 

Make more memories,

Renjun, from ten years ago.

 

“Renjun? We’re heading to the actual picnic spot now?” 

 

Smiling even wider and walking towards his husband who was now holding their son, the dark purple envelope in their son’s tiny fingers. 

 

“Why are you smiling so much today?” Chenle asked him, moving the corner of the envelope out of Chenjun’s mouth. “Chenjun, that’s Papa’s letter. It’s not food.”

“I’m just happy, Chenle,” he answered, carefully taking the letter out of their son’s hands when he had put the corner back into his mouth. “I have the greatest friends, the most adorable son and the best husband. Of course, I’m going to be smiling a lot.”

“Open up my letter,” Chenle stated as they halted a few steps from Mark, Donghyuck and Jeno’s car while the rest took out the picnic materials. “I want you to read it.” 

 

Carefully, Renjun opened up the letter and began to read.

 

23rd March, 2017

 

Dear Chenle,

 

It’s hard. It was always hard but now I’ve found a reason to keep going. I have a best friend who looks like a mouse sometimes, a hyung to play basketball with, a hyung to teach me English, a hyung who coos over me and a hyung I can have intelligent arguments with.

 

I’ve also fallen in love. His name is Huang Renjun and he was the one who saved me. The day I tried to jump off the bridge, I could hear his voice in my head telling me not to - I could see how sad he would be if I had jumped and I...I couldn’t move.

 

I love him so much, I really do. I don’t think living is too bad if I have all of these people near me. I’m not 100% okay but I think with these people, I eventually will be.

 

So how is being married to Huang Renjun like? I want to marry him, even if it’s the last thing I ever do.

 

Stay strong,

Chenle, from 2017.

 

PS. What does sex feel like?

 

“You asked yourself about sex ?” Renjun asked, choosing to ignore the several embarrassing points that were written about himself. 

“Hey, you looked sexy that day,” Chenle defended himself, holding Chenjun tighter. “Plus, I didn’t think that this would happen, okay? I wanted you to see how much I loved you but you decided to only read about the sex bit.”

“Yeah, yeah, thank you,” he replied, chuckling at Chenle’s fed up expression that had come with his reply. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Chenle said softly, leaning down to give him a slow kiss above their son who was still in Chenle’s hands.

 

“Ew! Kiss!” 

“Seems like Chenjun didn’t like that, Le.”

“Should we drop him off at Jisung’s and have some fun later, then?”