no guts, no glory
warning: character death, violence
listen to songs quoted here
round the hanging tree
swaying in the breeze
in the summer sun
as we two are one
four days ago
“Why do you even stick around? I’ve been nothing but bad news to you.”
Key wasn’t really asking, and he did not really want an answer. Taemin seemed to understand his unspoken thoughts, giving a resigned shrug.
You compelled me, the shrug seemed to say. Later that night Key pushed back his seat and tried to get comfortable. He knew Taemin was sprawled across the backseat, just as he’d been when Key had discovered him there the first time. But this time there was no sound of soft breathing to startle Key into consciousness, nor lull him back to sleep. He absorbed the hollow silence before finally peeking over the headrest, only to be met by two wells of darkness. They said it all. Closer.
He climbed over the headrest, slowly, trying to keep his breathing even. He never got nervous over anything, not ever, but he got nervous over the little figure in his backseat. Taemin was welcoming enough, scooting to one side to make room for him. Key leaned back, catching a glimpse of the sky. The moon gave it an odd inverted quality, colouring the clouds a paler shade of purple than their backdrop. He felt a little threatened by it, he couldn’t have said why.
When Taemin tried to climb on top of him, Key pushed him back, holding down his shoulders.
Taemin blinked, leaning forward to trace unheard whispers around his ear.
But I will, I will.
thirteen days ago
The key was to keep driving. Because when Key drove, he drove, everything else blending into white noise. He tried to pull over as little as possible, only doing so when it was to tend to something necessary; empty his bladder, feed the car, get money to feed the car. Maybe the car was the key.
He looked out of the window, watching the sun come up over a mostly deserted highway. He was nearly out of gas, and he knew his wallet was empty. Time to earn some money.
He took the first exit he encountered, stopping halfway. Tapping his fingers against the steering wheel, he squinted when the sun tipped over the horizon and momentarily blinded him. He retrieved his sunglasses and slid them on.
twelve days ago
The first time Key could have sworn he saw something move near the back of his car, he chalked it up to the heat, because when he rounded his vehicle there was no evidence of anything besides road and dust.
eleven days ago
This time he even sunk to his knees, berating himself a little when the underside of his car revealed nothing besides an underside of a car.
He got back up and kicked one of his tyres. Maybe he should cut back on coffee.
nine days ago
He’d finally pulled over for a quick shut eye. Two days was usually his limit. He parked at the back of a truck driver’s resting spot, mindlessly checking the back of his car when he returned from taking a leak against one of the trees. When he realized what he was doing he smirked, and got in.
But after he’d pushed back his seat and closed his eyes, ready to drift off to sleep, he’d realized there were two people breathing inside of his car.
“How the fuck?” Key shouted, and for the first time in his life, he was truly frightened. Or maybe for the first time in a long time.
Taemin got up from his slumped position.
“You left me behind,” he said, almost sulkily.
Key reached behind him blindly, fingering the handle of the door before finally getting it open, half stumbling half falling out of the car onto the pavement.
“You can’t be here, you can’t,” Key whispered frantically, getting back up and rubbing his arms. He felt so cold all of the sudden.
Taemin just sat in the back, looking at him through the window, his eyes black and empty in the night.
thirteen days ago, second time
It didn’t take long for a car to appear. He trained his eyes in his rear-view mirror. The car honked, once, twice. Key felt like his heart should be speeding up, like he should be getting sweaty palms. But right before was always his calmest moment.
It made him feel out of place. Not quite right.
The driver was exiting the car now. Nice looking boy, around his age. Key reached behind him for what he knew was there. He closed his fist around it when his fingers grazed the smooth, almost cool surface, and took a deep breath.
six days ago
“Why are you here?”
He’d gradually grown used to Taemin’s presence. It wasn’t that hard, the boy rarely spoke. He liked to look out of the window, or at least Key assumed he was looking, observing the other’s unmoving eyes in the mirror. And sometimes he’d lean back and reach up with one of his hands to trace invisible patterns on the roof of the car, and sometimes he’d spend time watching Key holding the wheel. But all of it dipped in eerie silence. Key wasn’t sure why he tolerated him. Maybe he had no choice.
“I owe you something,” Taemin finally provided.
“Like what?” Key demanded.
“Just something, you’ll see.”
You’ll like it.
five days ago
Key decided he really liked this car. It was old, but unlike most cars of its era the dated style made it charming instead of ugly. Taemin had used something on the interior that made it smell nice, and it ran too smoothly for its age, speaking of a line of caring owners.
“It was the first thing I bought with my own money,” Taemin said from where he was sitting next to Key. “Maybe not the very first thing, but the first big thing. People tend to forget the small shit. The lighters and the candy bars.”
Key stroked the steering wheel. It was the most Taemin had said to him so far.
“I like it a lot.”
“I can tell,” Taemin said, looking out of the window again.
three days ago
“You can’t,” Key moaned, and it was clear to both of them what he was truly saying.
“I want to,” Taemin offered to his lips, triggering an almost involuntary response. He slid into Taemin, making the boy in his lap inhale sharply. Key froze, suddenly frightened to shatter this fragile thing, which was so much more than he’d ever failed to hope for. He could feel Taemin clenching around him, could feel the press of his fingernails against his shoulders. “Let me,” he offered.
But then Taemin seemed to melt into him and all he heard after that was more, more.
“Taemin,” Key whispered. He was thirsty, so incredibly thirsty. The sun kept beating down onto his skull, and he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen any kind of road.
Taemin was walking in front of him, just out of reach, no matter how hard he tried. He couldn’t remember, couldn’t remember anything. When they’d left the car. Or why. All he could think of was how sore his feet were, how thirsty he was. He knew if he could just get Taemin to stop, to lie down with him, to kiss him, he’d feel better.
“Taemin,” he tried again. Finally, Taemin stopped. The sudden change of pace had Key stumbling, and he fell onto his knees.
“This is the spot.”
Key wanted to ask what that meant, but he found he didn’t have the strength to talk anymore. Taemin became blurry, or his eyes were tearing up, he wasn’t sure.
“You should rest.”
No, Key wanted to say. Instead he sighed, bringing down his hands. He realized it should be hot, but the ground felt smooth, almost cool. No, he thought again, but his cheek was already resting on the ground, and he knew he was lost.
thirteen days ago, one last time
The boy had reached his window now, and Key turned his face towards the light knocking sound. His hair was dyed a charming enough blonde, but Key frowned, not sure how he felt about bleaching his own hair. He flashed the other an almost polite smile before opening the door with brute force, hitting him right in the stomach, causing him to stumble backwards and crash onto the concrete. He swore he could hear the soft skin of the other’s hands tearing up, and he licked his front teeth. The boy instinctively brought a bloodied palm up to his face, sharply sucking in air through his teeth when he saw the damage.
“Clumsy,” Key commented, gripping the bat in his hands more firmly before he let it connect with his face. It produced a satisfying crack, making Key hum in approval. Especially when he saw more blood well up, this time from the other’s mouth. The boy opened it, producing an awful gurgled sound, before collapsing sideways.
Key gave the other a shove with the tip of his worn-down chuck, but got no response. He was only a little peeved when he realized he knocked him out cold already.
“Maybe I’m not in the mood today anyways.”
He rolled the boy onto his back, and stood back a little so he’d have better aim. Then he swung the bat down onto the other’s face, using all of his force. More things cracked. He continually repeated the action, until there was nothing left but bloody pulp. His bat dripped.
Maybe the key was to keep the cops from catching on too quickly.
When he felt satisfied with his work, he dropped his tool to the ground and walked back to his car, reaching inside and grabbing his wallet from the passenger seat. He carefully tucked it into the boy’s skinnies, examining him for anything valuable. He contemplated taking the colourful high-tops before realizing they were an extraordinarily small size, too small for even his girlish feet. “Blech,” Key mumbled to himself. He would’ve liked a new pair of shoes. But enough fucking around. He expertly picked up the body and shoved it behind the wheel, reaching over it to pop the trunk before slamming the door shut.
In the trunk he retrieved the only things that were truly his, six matching jerry cans. He carried them over to the waiting car two by two, going back one final time for the bat. He was pleased to find the keys in the ignition, new wallet shoved where you’d normally find a radio. When he’d stored his fuel containers and his bat had found a new home on the backseat, he leaned back and opened the wallet. He found enough cash to last him a good long while, and an identity card.
“Lee Taemin,” he tried, tasting the name. The picture was vague enough to be him, and he smiled again when he realized Taemin wasn’t blonde in it. People were more prone to have a second look if the hair colour didn’t match, and he hadn’t been looking forward to doing the upkeep in dirty gas station bathrooms. He threw the wallet on the backseat as well, adjusting the mirrors and the seat before carefully backing out of the exit.
His car looked so innocent, sitting there in the morning light. Key averted his gaze, and drove off.
when you walk among the trees
listening to the leaves
the further I go the less I know
the less I know
round and soft, pink and weak
foot and thigh, tongue and cheek
you know I'm told to swallow you whole
skin and bone
a/n: I wrote most of this at the music festival I attended last week