A late life baby, there was bound to be trouble. Jihu was already fifteen years old and working by the time Jeup came along, which made him old enough to reason out that it wasn't his baby brother's fault when their mother never came home from the hospital. But it didn't make it easier, not at all. With just their father working for family income, Jihu took up work fast and early on. The first few years of Jeup's life are narrowed down to a few simple facts like that; cold little notions he barely understands because memory is a flicker, really, until long after the flooding from Yanni took away their home and his remaining family. Their faces remain, father and Jihu both, and the little note that came with the box of cards that'd been rescued from the house ( 'Happy Birthday, maybe you'll get smart enough to figure these out and get famous playing a new game!') but not much else.
The first few months were Hell. Shuffling from place to place with no memory of much, nothing but a collection of cards to hold on to. But when Jeup hit Seoul, things changed a little. It wasn't just Vision and Tempest keeping him company anymore. There was another boy, the same age as Jeup, who was caught around. Jang Yijeong was the brother that Jeup needed, enough that when they were shuffled from one home out again, Jeup cried thinking they'd be split; it turned out their age and size were close enough that they were herded together, though, and life was good enough to give them that in and out. They ran into others that were kind enough or in situations they could hold a kind of emotion towards but rarely was it that someone Jeup met seemed to click as surely as Yijeong did.
Yijeong was there the first birthday the package came in. A little thing from the rescue worker who'd taken Jeup out of the house washing away. He had found the abandoned boy and remembered simple facts. ('It isn't much, but a boy deserves a gift on his birthday. I hope it makes your game more fun. — Sol Kyunggu'). Jeup, too young to write back, knew right away the cards weren't the same but that didn't matter. It took years of little moments like that, slivers of card packages coming his way on his birthday with notes and Jeup sending replies once he could write, for things to make sense. That Kyunggu had tracked down Jeup's location and found out about him because he was the first young boy he'd been able to save without family remaining; young enough in his career to want to help, he knew he couldn't do more and Jeup never dreamed of asking for it. Someone watching over him from afar was great enough to inspire a dream in him already.
He would be a firefighter, some day. Grow up to be big and strong. The big seemed like the worse part of the dream when growing was a slow process, but Jeup figured he'd finish getting there. Big dreams was their thing, anyway, Yijeong and he: dreams of starting a band, dreams of touring the world rich and devouring food, dreams of being icons of some absurd industry. Dreaming was easy when you only had your stuffed animal and your card collections to keep you warm. Which was why dreams were what came to their defense when bullies threatened all that had ever stood by their sides; the day is still a moment out of fantasy as far as Jeup is concerned, the way he'd grabbed for his card from pudgy hands and shouted about letting go before sparks slid off his arm and threw the bully aside. No stranger than the image of a plush come into full force, dark and shadowed before them and terrifying even Jeup as he stared up in wonder and amazement.
They did not get to stay at that home, either, for long, needless to say. But permanent housing did find them soon as they were bused up to the Safe Haven and explained to about their new situation. Half terrified that they would realize there were no powers there just odd situations, Jeup didn't get accustomed to the idea too easily. At first, he was shy again, an awkward boy with his cards making his way through classes and lessons. But when they tested him in a lesson and suddenly Jeup watched Squirtle sprout out from his collection and run around the floor himself. It was a slow adjustment before others but, to himself, Jeup was filled with a glee only a child could have managed.
Because he could make cards real and that was awesome.
Experimentation outside of lessons was minimal only thanks to an accident in the rain with Yijeong: Mew's original card thrown into a puddle while trying to strike one cool pose and suddenly the creature was inherently real. After that, Jeup learned to be careful with his gift. No one needed or wanted something that could just roam around without control. Mew caused little trouble, stealing snacks or hats here and there, but usually kept to himself in the room Jeup shared with Yijeong. After all, Jeup began to grow up to fight for his dreams; the Haven offered so many opportunities that Jeup could hardly hesitate. From drums and vocal lessons to skiing, sports, and even mastering taekwondo until he could teach it back in return for all he'd learned, Jeup absorbed as many classes and hobbies between school and training as he could manage. Dreams could be more than trading cards come to life: dreams could be his own daydreams brought to life.
Whatever it took, Jeup vowed to do. From busking with Yijeong in high school just to make money to joining university together while they got themselves together, he was working toward the fire services in his life. Sure, he wasn't a giant but he was wide, he was more than strong and he could outperform anyone if he had to. The only worry ever was how to finance their life. Money, money was the worst kind of thing to imagine. Busking did well enough but it'd never be a career that they could keep up while in university. The first time they tried to stream as an option wasn't the biggest success: about 50 people watched their stupidity though and that felt kind of good, a crowd sitting around them in Hongdae in a way. The second time, there were 64 people. The numbers grew as they got their hang of it, started to make something of Skinny Boys vs. Food until it became something that could sustain their university days.
It was supposed to be that, a fun way to make money while studying. But it lasted, lasted through the struggles of Jeup's studying for his Emergency Medicine degree from Seoul National University and that, that was a blessing. As difficult as the schooling was it was harder to imagine how he would have gotten through without the ability to make money eating to keep on the muscle weight he would need to apply to his firefighter's academy. Somewhere along the way it just made sense to keep up. Daily intake of calories had to stay high for his body mass to stay in a good place for work and, well, once he was done studying all night and day it just seemed more sensible to stay doing a job he could fit around his other work schedule than to try and find something that fit into odd days off here and there. Life that fit around two boys who hadn't a fighting chance at life once before just made more sense, really, and neither of them wanted to give up something they loved.
A difficulty when relationships sprouted but life likes to throw cracks through concrete sometimes. Taehyun was the first misstep along the way. Not Jeup's first anything but the first to really matter. A poet that Jeup met in university before they split their courses in opposite directions, they began to rely on one another through stress. Late night phone calls that, eventually, gave way to late night conversations about one another that would have turned angels bashful. The first time together was like a new wonder, Jeup apologizing the next morning to Yijeong over it because that was totally not cool for roomies but it was something else. New and different and great. Jeup was able to connect with him about books, people, the world; they understood the makeshift habits of one another's souls in ways that just fit. Until, suddenly, they began not to after a year together. Taehyun's frustration with getting rejected from publishing houses and his blogs never taking off grew into frustration in general. He hung out with new people, he made friends with people he used to hate and, one night, he brought up something so out of nowhere Jeup had to laugh.
It turned out that wanting to pierce Jeup's body for fun while they had sex wasn't a laughing matter, though.
There were a few more months of odd times together, hot and cold days until finally Jeup had enough. The break up was rough, a quiet thing before the end of university, and it took a solid year before they were able to even communicate again as vague friends. Trouble came in that time apart, though, when a mutual friend began to get close to Jeup. Camilia was a photographer who echoed Jeup's concerns about Taehyun. They loved him, after all, and both cared about where he was going with all his weird needs and anger. But that empathy was ill-founded when they drank together in anger and, well, spent the rest of the night letting their own frustrations out with one another. It was a mistake, a big one, but Jeup was willing to at least be there for her after and every time it became another mistake, a big accident. It only lasted a few months before they finally woke up and realized how stupid it was; Taehyun hated hearing about it, probably still holds it against the both of them, but Jeup has long since moved on. And learned, too, making no big mistakes in dating since them two just because it's so much easier to keep his head on straight.
Jeup likes to think that trying to do better than the worst in him can be has helped. Being a firefighter isn't easy or well worth it but he did it; he's even taking slow courses toward his masters in the early evening these days when he can, working the Skinny Boys vs. Food show on Twitch.TV these days to make even more money and keeping his life in the firehouse firm and ongoing. Maybe dreams had given him the weird gift of cards once upon a time but these days, dreams are everything he makes them be and that, that's the only gift he cares to concern himself with.