“Hakyeon has never loved anyone else as much as he loves you. Please talk to him.”
“What?” Jaehwan looks at Taekwoon in confusion, thumb frozen over his phone screen. Taekwoon had burst into his room with only this phrase on his mind, not thinking further than that. “Who’s Hakyeon?”
Taekwoon looks blankly at him, eyes wide in realization. “Fuck,” he murmurs. He sees it now, the details in Jaehwan’s room that hint to where he is in his life. He isn’t supposed to meet Hakyeon until in a few months. “Shit, I’m early. I’m sorry, I need to leave.”
“Wait, Taekwoon-” Jaehwan starts, but Taekwoon cuts him off. He can’t give away too much.
“No, Jaehwan, it doesn’t matter. I’ll be back later,” he calls, already in the hallway. When he’s just outside the apartment, he checks for people. No one there. So he presses the button on his watch, and feels himself being pulled through time, hoping to God that he’ll land at a better time. A time where Jaehwan knows who Hakyeon is.
He didn’t mean to get involved and meddle in their relationship. He’s always just been a traveller, an explorer jumping through time, never really getting attached to people. Then, at some point, he met Hakyeon. He met Jaehwan, in the same timeline. He appeared throughout their timestreams. It wasn’t hard for Hakyeon to rope him into a coffee or a movie night, or for Jaehwan to drag him with him to the arcades, until they both considered him their friend, before and after they met each other. He was involved in their first meeting, too. He saw the stars in Hakyeon's eyes when looking at Jaehwan and knew they could do the rest on their own.
Then their relationship seemed to start going downhill. Simple misunderstandings making them drift apart, Taekwoon knew he should at least try to help and make sure they could communicate. But he kept landing in the wrong times, and by the looks of it, he's definitely too far back again.
"Fuck this machine," he grumbles. "You suck." If only he could control when he would land, things would be so much easier.
"Hakyeonnie, come in for dinner! Be careful crossing the road!" a voice calls, and Taekwoon whips his head around to see a little boy, maybe six or seven years old, crossing the road, at the same time that a car approaches at a high speed.
Out of instinct more than anything, he rushes to catch up with Hakyeon, picking up the little boy and carrying him out of the road just before the car rushes past, horn blaring. He holds little Cha Hakyeon close for a moment, heart racing in his shock, and then puts him down, remembering he shouldn't crush his friend to death right after saving his life.
"Hey kid, are you okay?" he asks, inspecting him for damage.
The boy nods excitedly, eyes big. "You're like Superman," he says.
Taekwoon grins something bashfully and ruffles his hair. "Look both ways before you cross the road, okay?"
Once Hakyeon goes home, his mother wailing about how worried she was when she realized what happened, Taekwoon watches the door close behind them and breathes out a sigh of relief. Hakyeon is his best friend and he almost got killed right in front of him, and at such a young age.
He may never land where he wants to, but he always lands where he is needed. He doesn't want to imagine the mess that would have happened if Hakyeon had died before he got to meet Taekwoon properly. All the memories, gone even as he jumps through time.
"Okay, one more try," he says to himself, to his time jumper. "Please don't fail me."
Another jump, and he's back in Jaehwan's apartment. It seems quiet, and he wonders for a moment if no one is home, but it's dark outside, so maybe Jaehwan is sleeping.
He takes a look around the living room, trying to gauge when he is. There are some pictures of Hakyeon on the fridge, so they must be together now. He notes that there are more pictures strewn on the floor. A video game controller is precariously leaning on the sofa armrest; Taekwoon picks it up and sets it down on the table, next to an empty beer bottle.
"Jaehwan?" he calls cautiously into the air.
"Taekwoon? Is that you?" His voice comes from the bedroom, and Taekwoon follows it, enters the room.
Jaehwan is sitting at the floor next to his bed, tears streaking his face. "Taekwoon," he says, voice shaking. "Did you... did you hear?"
A terrible dread sets into Taekwoon. He knows, Jaehwan doesn't get this wrecked for nothing. "Hear what," he says.
Tears begin to fill Jaehwan's eyes again. "Hakyeon, he-" He cuts himself off with a sob. "He was hit by a car this morning. It went- it- it went too fast- there was no chance-" Jaehwan hides his face in his hands and sobs uncontrollably.
Taekwoon's knees buckle underneath him, and he drops to the floor in shock. "I-" His voice is barely a whisper. "I told him to look both ways. I told him...just now." If Jaehwan heard him slip up, he doesn't show it, doesn't ask. It's just as well, because Taekwoon is shaking all of a sudden, not knowing what to do with himself.
Hakyeon is dead.
He could save him. He could go back in time to this morning and stop this from happening. He could stop it all. He could...
He could be stuck jumping through time for weeks until he finds the right moment. He could leave Jaehwan to grieve alone while he goes on a stupid quest to stop Hakyeon from being run over, again.
He was warned, when he received his time jumper, that preventing a death that has already occurred is dangerous. There's no getting his friend back.
No, he won't leave Jaehwan. Not like this. "I'm sorry, Jaehwan," he says. A hand on Jaehwan's shoulder has his friend pulling him into a tight hug, sobbing into his shoulder. "I'm so sorry."
Jaehwan says nothing for a while, just whimpers, and Taekwoon holds him tight, begins to feel the tears coming as reality sets in. He can't time jump his way out of this.
"H-he, he was your friend too," Jaehwan mumbles eventually. "I'm sorry too."
Not trusting his voice, Taekwoon simply nods. He strokes Jaehwan's back gently, finding comfort in the touch.
"I just hate," whispers Jaehwan, "that the last words I said to him were so mean. I can't believe I fucked up like this. I can't believe- he's gone and that's the last memory I have of him. The last he had of me."
"I'm sorry," Taekwoon says, feeling like a broken record. But an idea forms in his mind, a reluctance to have this be the last of them, of Hakyeon and Jaehwan's story. He feels some sort of responsibility for them, feels like he needs to help them, if he can. He may see Hakyeon again in times before his death; Jaehwan will never see him again. They deserve closure at least, if he can't save Hakyeon.
First, however - he looks at the time, close to midnight - he needs to take care of Jaehwan. "I'll make us some tea," he suggests, gently peeling his friend's arms off his waist so he can leave the room.
He spends the night with Jaehwan, drinking tea and speaking in soft voices about Hakyeon and their fond memories together. Taekwoon hugs Jaehwan as they drift off to sleep; Jaehwan sobbing, Taekwoon crying silently.
The next morning, while Jaehwan is still asleep, Taekwoon devises a game plan; he will time jump until he can find Jaehwan in the period between his fight with Hakyeon and Hakyeon's death. He'll be damned if he can't guide them towards the closure they need and deserve. He scribbles a quick note to Jaehwan about a very important errand, and he jumps.
Your turn miyeokguk, good luck!