Genre: angst, AU, romance
Summary: Would he still call him his hearty if he could see who he'd become today?
"Grandpa, what are we going to do?"
A little boy was watching his grandfather curiously as he ruffled through a big black bag.
"We are going to visit your grandmother. Now go to the garden and bring that small shovel,"
The little boy looked up at him, his thick eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
"Yes. We are going to your grandmothers grave darling. You know how the season is - grass and derbies are growing fast and we need to clean it. Now stop asking questions, we need to hurry."
"The bus will arrive in 10 minutes. If we miss it we won't be able to go to visit her,"
His black eyes shined as the bright sun fell on his face.
"But grandpa why don't we ask father to take us with car? Shall we tell mom we are going?"
"No need. We have the bus. Your father worked the whole night and he must be tired. I'd feel sorry if I asked him to drive us, his leg has been hurting a lot lately."
The boy nodded her head. He knew his father would take them, but he also didn't want to bother him. He was tired.
"You and me, hearty. We don't need anyone else. You are strong enough to help your grandfather."
Hearty. An endearment his grandfather used all the time. He was his heart. And he would say how strong and tall he was, like a grown up boy.
"Eh, If only you were older. We would know no boundaries, hearty. You would be your grandfathers right arm, and I,the mind that leads us,"
His grandfather used to say that all the time. He would blush at his words; always praising him as the strongest of his siblings, even though he was barely 8.
"I put everything in the bag grandpa. I put a bottle of water also."
The old man ruffled her hair as she smiled at him.
"Good hearty. Good."
A bus ride at his age was like a whole new world. The big green fields shifting through the big window of an old bus, as he plastered his nose to the cold surface. Clouds mingling with the green and yellowish color of the grass and trees, melting into a colorful canvas as the boy blinked trying to imprint it in his little head.
"Don't watch it a lot. Your head will hurt."
His grandfather knew everything. From small things such as to never run down the stairs, because he somehow always managed to fall down and cut the skin of his palms. He also knew why moths and butterflies went to the flame. He knew everything. He thought him everything.
The taste of black,homemade coffee is still heavy on his tongue. The first time he had tasted it. His grandpa thought him how.
Or the first breath of cigarette smoke he ever had. Five. He was barely five. But the fact that his grandfather called him, and not his older siblings, as they hid in the garden and he took that cigarette from his wrinkled fingers, meant a world to him.
He always wanted to ask something, but he was scared. His mom would always tell him it's "adults talk". His grandpa must know.
"Grandpa, why is fathers leg in pain?"
The old man's face became nostalgic, as he recalled the memories from not that far away.
"Your father was at war, hearty. He, as many of his friends, fought in a war years ago. He was shot in his leg," turning his head he asked the little boy, "Do you know that scar just below his knee?"
"A bullet went in there and got out where that scar on his thigh is."
The boy's mind was focused on his grandfathers words. It felt as if he found out something secret, something no one else knew. Something his grandpa only told him.
It was silly.
"And today, it pains him sometimes. When the weather is changing or when he is standing for a long time. He had it permanently fixed in place so now he is not able to bend his knee at all. There are metal rods in there. Keeping it all safe."
Nodding his head the boy remembered a time his father showed him a trick. He remembered when his father placed a thick,black magnet on his thigh and it didn't fall down. It was fascinating. He thought it was magic.
"You know hearty, your older brother and sister were born when the war was still on. You also. Your parents went to another city so your mother could give birth to you. It was safer that way,"
"Grandpa?", he asked quietly as the bus was getting closer to their station.
"Why is my name the same as grandma's?"
He almost felt as if he saw his grandfather's eyes getting wet with tears. But no, it must be dust. Heroes don't cry.
"Your grandmother died the same year your sister was born, hearty. Two years later you were born. I... I wanted you to have her name. The name of a woman I loved with my whole heart. Something to be with me, until I go to her hearty."
The boy just nodded his head.
He always thought cemeteries are scary and dark places, like they show them in movies.
Here, a bright sun reflected on the stone and marble surfaces of gravestones. A small, beautiful church in the midst of it.
Opening the gate they made their way towards his grandmother's gravestone, big thick grass tangling around his new sneakers and small legs, the boy's hand securely wrapped by his grandfathers much larger one.
He was lifted on the black marble surface covered with all kinds of flowers and roses.
"Arrange them a bit hearty. Grandpa will start picking the grass around the roses. Don't touch them, they have long thorns."
The boy did as told. He moved the boxes of flowers around until he felt they are just perfectly aligned. Lifting his head up, he saw a photo, embedded in a circular frame at the top of the tombstone, just below the two-headed white eagle.
"Grandpa who is that?", he pointed a small hand towards the frame; a woman and a man in it, shoulder to shoulder.
The old man followed his hand searching to what he meant. When his eyes fell on the small, black and white picture, he smiled.
"That, was your grandmother."
Running over the grave he got close to the frame. Tracing it's rim the boy watched at the couple in the photo. It that lady was his grandma, the man next to her must be her...
"Is that you next to her, grandfather?"
The man nodded and he got even more confused. Why was his grandfather there, when he was here, next to him and not in heaven as his grandma? Was he a ghost?
And judging to the man's amusement he must have voiced his question.
"I am not a ghost hearty, don't worry. Your grandpa is here. I put that picture because it was the only one we had together, while young. I guess I though it's easier that way because I will be here also one day hearty."
His heart stopped, but before he got to ask what did he mean by it, the man continued.
"It's not even real. I asked a man that takes photos to merge mine and hers together, to look as if it was taken while we were there together."
"Why didn't you have a photo together?"
His grandfather sighed, as he sat on the marble grave, hands covered with dirt.
"I guess... I guess I never thought she won't be by my side one day hearty."
"Will you be with her one day?"
He felt a lump forming in his throat.
"Some day. But don't worry, grandpa will be here for a long time."
"Yes!", he smiled hugging the man from the back.
"Will you visit your grandpa like we did to grandma?", the old man asked with a smile on his face.
"All the time. And I promise there will be so much flowers and roses planted around. It will be the prettiest of them all,"
'I know hearty. Grandpa trusts you.'
But he never voiced it out.
Twelve Years Later
'I'm wondering, would he be proud?'
The burn of the alcohol at the pit of his stomach was hard as it mixed with salt liquid sliding down his cheeks. Candles were almost out. The memory of the man drinking in the morning as they talked, was painful. And as he took a sip of the homemade alcohol made from grapes his grandfather planted in the yard years ago, tears fell down.
'I guess, I'm not a Hero.'
First year his grandfather won't taste it.
"Come on we need to leave. The candles are out."
He looked down. They were out.
"I'm coming Yunho-ah ,"
The frame didn't change. A single rose was to the left side,it's petals long gone. It's November, the winter is almost there.
And he, he was not barely 8 anymore.
Placing the bottle of alcohol next to the candles, he kissed the couple in the photo.
With a thought of an old man with a smile on his face as he drinks the alcohol like all those mornings they did it together, he left.
His old sneakers and long legs no longer tangled in the grass. His, now bigger hand, no longer grasped tightly. Instead a hand made way around his waist.
His grandpa's hearty indeed.