On a typical Monday, Wonwoo’s morning routine is interrupted by a knock at the apartment door. He drops his pen onto the manuscript and pushes back his chair to go answer. As he nears the door, he hears several voices, followed by what sounds like heavy objects being dropped to the floor. He cracks the door open, revealing his superintendent.
“Hey, good morning!” Seungcheol greets, one hand lifting into a small wave.
“Good morning,” Wonwoo responds, glancing over to his left at the many boxes piling up against the wall between his apartment and the one adjacent. Apparently there’s more where those came from, because several men emerge from the elevator. Some are carrying smaller boxes, while another pushes a cart with a couple larger containers.
“I just unlocked the apartment,” Seungcheol tells them, “So if you want to bring them inside, I’d be grateful.”
“Sure, no problem,” a burly man says, wiping the sweat from his brows with a handkerchief. He pushes open the door and starts to carry the boxes in, while his co-workers continue to unload.
“Is someone moving in?” Wonwoo wonders, returning his attention of Seungcheol.
“Ah, yes!” the older man turns back. “I wanted to tell you last night, but I didn’t get the chance.” He checks the time on his phone. “I was actually hoping you’d meet him this morning, but I guess he’s running late. Anyway, I know you’re a very meticulous and careful tenant, but I just thought I’d give you a heads-up in case you were using next door’s balcony for storage or something.”
“Oh, thanks,” Wonwoo nods. “But I haven’t. It looks pretty dirty, though,” he comments, recalling seeing dead leaves and dust collecting in the corners and cracks, along with bug skeletons. The apartment next door has been vacant for months, maybe almost a year. The previous tenant was a grumpy old man who hated everyone and everything, and eventually, he moved out to live with his children out in the countryside.
Wonwoo doesn’t have the habit of using what’s not his, even though his balcony and the one next door is technically connected, with only a row of plants separating the two that can be easily removed. One reason he hasn’t taken over the old man’s space is because he doesn’t actually own that much stuff. But the main cause is because he still gets flashbacks of that old goat yelling at him for staying up past midnight. Apparently the lights from his apartment poured out into the balcony, and made it difficult for the grump to sleep. Wonwoo has been too scared to tell him to invest in curtains, so he bought them for himself instead.
“Right, right,” Seungcheol nods. “I already asked the janitor to take care of it.”
At that moment, apartment 325 opens, and Seungkwan pokes his head out, probably hearing the movers. He looks past the columns of boxes and notices Seungcheol talking to Wonwoo. He waves, walking past the movers to throw a glance inside the empty apartment.
“Good morning!” he chirps. “Do we have a new neighbor?”
“Yes, glad I caught you,” Seungcheol repeats what he told Wonwoo about the balconies, and adds, “Let’s not scare the new tenant away, shall we? I met him the other day, and he’s, uh, well…” the superintendent scratches his head. “He’s moving here to get away from the crowds and to find some peace, so keep that in mind, Seungkwan.”
“What?” the college student looks vexed. “I can’t believe you think so lowly of me. I’m gonna make sure he loves living here.”
With a sigh, Seungcheol shakes his head. “And that’s what I’m afraid of. Please, let the man breathe, will you?”
“Hmph!” the younger rolls his eyes. “Whatever. When is he supposed to get here, anyway?”
“This morning, actually, but I guess he’s been held back. At any rate, I’m going to organize a small welcome party on the roof tonight. He can be introduced to everyone in the building, and hopefully, things will go smoother than they did with Mr. Han.”
The three boys shudder at the mere memory.
After Seungcheol’s announcements, Wonwoo and Seungkwan return to their respective apartments. Wonwoo finishes up his cereal and drops the bowl and spoon into the sink, all the while trying to read through the manuscript in his grasp. The story and prose aren’t bad, but the pacing is confusing and convoluted. At this rate, he’s going to have to buy a new pack of red pens.
His eyes are glued to the page as he locks the door and heads for the elevator. He barely glances at Mingyu and Minghao when he walks through the lobby, and he only reacts once he’s outside when the sun creates a harsh glare on the white page. Still, he continues to walk toward the train station, knowing the route by heart. He balances the manuscript on his palm and tries to make his writing legible as he circles a passage and scribbles the notes in the margins.
With the combination of the sun beating down on him and his head filled with the plot line, he doesn’t realize he’s walking right into someone until the two of them crash against each other. His papers and pen fly out of his hands, together with whatever the other person was holding prior to the impact. The two bodies land with unceremonious grace onto the pavement among their respective belongings.
“I am so sorry! Are you all right?” a soft and melodious voice asks, although it sounds on the verge of panic, Wonwoo notes, wincing and blinking away the dots spiraling in his field of vision.
“Yes, I’m fine,” he responds, slowly pulling himself up onto his elbows and hands. “I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
“I’m half to blame, as well,” the other male responds sheepishly. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
Wonwoo finally looks at the person in front of him, and for a second, he wonders if he actually hit his head so hard, he’s able to see angels. The man is leaning slightly over him, with the bright sun rays shining on top of his blond hair like a hallo. Large, sparkling eyes watch Wonwoo with concern, a small crease forming between elegant brows.
When Wonwoo continues to gape at him wordlessly, the angel grows worried. He lifts a hand and waves it in front of Wonwoo’s nose. “Hello? Can you hear me?”
“Huh?” At last, Wonwoo snaps out of it. “Yes, sorry. Um… I’m fine.” He clears his throat and shakes his head, seeing relief wash over the other man. He also sees the blond pulling away to retrieve the manuscript and pen, along with a phone that he guesses belongs to his new acquaintance. There’s a map on the screen (which is thankfully intact), that could explain why he didn’t see Wonwoo, either.
“Are you trying to find something?” he asks as the two stand up and dust themselves off.
The stranger hands him his materials and nods. “Yes, I’m supposed to meet someone. I’ve only been there once, though, so I got a little lost,” he laughs bashfully, scrunching his shoulders a little.
Wonwoo cracks a smile at the gesture. “Maybe I can help,” he offers. “What’s the address?”
“Oh, that would be wonderful!” Relief and excitement cross his handsome face as he taps his phone a couple times and hands it to Wonwoo.
It only takes Wonwoo a second to recognize the name of the café down the street from the apartment building. “It’s actually right around the corner,” he tells the blond. “It’s easier if you go through the side street, even though most maps tell you to go around.” Turning aside to stand next to him, he points out the path, ignoring the faint smell of shampoo wafting off from the blond strands as a gentle breeze passes through.
“Thank you so much!” Wonwoo is given a beaming smile, and he refuses to acknowledge the fact that his heart actually accelerated as a result.
“You’re welcome,” he replies, clearing his throat. “The neighborhood is very friendly, so if you get lost along the way, you can always ask.”
“I will, thank you.” He smiles again and looks out toward the direction that Wonwoo had indicated. “Well, I’ve kept you long enough. And again, sorry about earlier. Have a good day!”
“Thanks, you too!”
As the two turn to head off in opposite directions, Wonwoo struggles between kicking himself for not asking the blond’s name, and actually feeling grateful that the interaction ended where it did. Being around someone who makes his heart race so fast for no reason cannot be healthy, he consoles himself as he resumes his editing.
It’s a circus by the time Wonwoo returns home. He finds his neighbors and friends huddled up in the lobby, discussing something. Or more specifically, someone. He pushes the glass door and attempts to slip through the crowd without being noticed. Unfortunately, Soonyoung grabs him by the collar.
“There you are, Wonwoo!” he exclaims proudly. “We’ve been waiting for you.”
“Why?” he wonders, looking around at the familiar faces. “What are you guys even doing here?”
“We’re supposed to decide who’s going to buy what for the party,” Jihoon mutters. “But so far, all these idiots have been doing is yapping about the new tenant.”
“How can you be so blasé about it?” Mingyu asks, raising his hands in the air for emphasis. “Moon Joonhwi now lives in our building!”
“So?” Jihoon shrugs. “Last I checked, he’s still a human being, and I don’t think he appreciates you freaking out whenever you see him.”
“That’s probably why the poor kid is hiding now,” Jeonghan points out, flicking his bangs out of his eyes. “He’s really sweet, though. He saw me carrying groceries earlier, and he offered to help. Unlike some people,” he directs a glare through narrowed eyes at Seungcheol and Jisoo, who both turn away, pretending to be engrossed in the decorative potted plants. Over the years, Wonwoo had stopped wondering what the relationship of those three was. He just knew that they always seemed to come and go as a package deal most of the time.
“I can’t believe you made him carry your groceries,” Seungkwan criticizes with a frown, arms crossed. “He didn’t come here to be your servant.”
“Now, now,” Seokmin interrupts, flashing his signature smile. “Let’s not fight. I’m sure Jeonghan didn’t force it. Besides, all the interviews and magazines always talk about how sweet and polite Jun is. I guess this is proof.”
“Or he could be faking it for the publicity,” Minghao says.
A gasp is heard from Mingyu, who stares at the latter with his mouth open. “I can’t believe my own boyfriend would say something so absurd. What do you have against him?”
Minghao rolls his eyes. “Nothing, but we don't know anything about the guy.”
Mingyu receives a flick to the forehead. “Just because you read and watch his interviews doesn’t mean you know him personally.”
“Whatever. I’m gonna make sure to change that. Then you’ll regret it.”
Instead of feeling threatened by the idea of infidelity, Minghao merely shrugs. “If you get arrested for stalking him, I’m not bailing you out.”
Before Mingyu can retort, Seungcheol cuts in, “No one is stalking him! This is supposed to be a calm and relaxing stay. Didn’t I tell you not to scare him off?”
“So then we just talk to him like a normal person?” Hansol wants to know. He’s sitting by the benches against the wall, sandwiched between his roommates.
“Yes,” Seungcheol confirms, pointing at him. “Because he is a normal person.”
“That reminds me,” Chan pipes up from Hansol’s other side. “Why haven’t we seen any paparazzi around?”
“Yeah, shouldn’t they have been storming the place by now?” As if asking about them would summon the lot, the two youngest tenants throw curious looks outside through the glass doors.
“I don’t know,” their superintendent answers. “I just know he’s going to stay here for a few months, and he wishes to be treated like any other tenant. No special privileges, no special treatment.”
“What a shame,” Jeonghan laments. “If I were him, I’d use my fame to get just that.”
“How modest,” Jisoo mutters, which earns him an elbow to the ribs.
“So to recap,” Seungcheol claps his hands to get everyone’s attention. “Moon Joonhwi is now to be just Wen Junhui, ordinary tenant of the Pledis building. No one is to talk about how a celebrity is staying here, because as far anyone else knows, that statement is false. Is that clear?”
A collection of agreements flow through the crowd, accompanied by nods.
“So can we get to the actual shopping for supplies now?” Jihoon wants to know with exasperation. “The party is supposed to start at nine, and it’s already eight. Unless you guys want him to think you’re annoying and tardy, I suggest we get a move on.”
“Right,” Seungcheol nods.
Immediately, he starts to distribute duties to everyone present, ranging from drinks and foods, to plates and napkins, to setting up, and appointing the cleaning crew. While Wonwoo doesn’t protest when he is tasked to be part of the cleaning group with Mingyu and Minghao, he does wonder what’s so special about this new tenant that’s causing all his friends (minus Jihoon) to go into a frenzy. What kind of celebrity is Moon Joonhwi? Wonwoo has no idea, but now the guy is going to be his new neighbor, and that does make it more exciting (and hopefully more pleasant) than old Mr. Han.
A quarter after nine, the party is finally underway. While the others are starting in on the feast, Wonwoo is asked to go get Junhui and take him to the roof. Because according to Seungcheol, he’s the least likely to freak out. Wonwoo holds his tongue and swallows the comments that the reason he wouldn’t is because he has no idea who Moon Joonhwi is.
In front of door 327, Wonwoo knocks and waits as he hears movement and shuffling inside.
“I’m coming!” a soft—and somewhat familiar—voice calls from the other side mere seconds before the door opens. “Oh!”
The surprise is mutual as Wonwoo blinks at the guy who crashed into him this morning. “Uh, hi. I live next door.”
The shock fades and turns into delight as his new neighbor grins. He steps out from behind the door and extends his hand. “I’m Junhui, nice to meet you. Again,” he giggles. Oh, my god.
Wonwoo feels like he’s falling again, only there’s no impact this time, because he manages to stay on his feet. He may be able to spare himself a few bruises, but his heart is threatening to burst out of his ribcage. This cannot be healthy.
“Nice to meet you.” His brain somehow manages to function, and they shake hands. Junhui’s hand is firm and soft at the same time, a little larger than this own, with tan and long fingers. “I’m Wonwoo.”
“So we’re neighbors, huh?” Junhui seems very happy about that little fact as he scrunches his nose. “That’s a nice surprise.”
“Yeah,” Wonwoo says, although he’s not so sure his heart agrees at the rate it’s beating. “So there’s a Welcome Party going on in your honor,” he moves the conversation along to the real reason he’s here. “Seungcheol asked me to get you.”
“Oh!” Junhui’s eyes turn round. “There was no need for that.”
Wonwoo shrugs. “The guys will find any excuse to throw parties, so might as well enjoy it. Come on.” With a flick of his head he indicates for Junhui to follow him.
And he does, although a little tentatively. “I-is there a lot of people?” he asks, voice almost too small for Wonwoo to catch.
A little surprised, he turns over his shoulder. “Thirteen, including you. Some of the older tenants might come, but not likely. Why? Do you not like crowds or something?”
“Or something, yeah,” he lets out a wry laugh, shoving his hands into his jeans pockets.
They get into the elevator and ride it to the sixth floor. During the ride, Wonwoo notices how Junhui’s shoulders hunch up, and he starts to chew on his bottom lip as he watches the number climbing on the display screen. Out on the sixth floor, Wonwoo shows him to the stairs that lead to the rooftop. Junhui’s nervousness is definitely noticeable now, the way he cups his hands around his elbows, as if bracing himself, before Wonwoo pushes open the door.
Peering around the door as if expecting a wild animal to jump out, Junhui gingerly steps out onto the rooftop. Music from someone’s phone is blasting through a small speaker, and the smell of grilled meats permeates the evening air. So far, no one has noticed them, yet. Some are sitting at the picnic tables chatting and eating, while others are dancing to the beats, heads bopping, legs swinging. The guest of honor stands on the outskirt of the party, fidgeting with his fingers, lip caught between his teeth. He looks like a lost child, Wonwoo thinks as he approaches him.
“Oh!” Wonwoo’s unasked question is interrupted by Seungkwan’s exclamation. The boy is smiling widely as he gazes at Junhui. “Hello!” Running toward them, he stands at a respectable distance, probably recalling Seungcheol’s lecture, and waves. “I’m Seungkwan.”
When he extends out a hand for Junhui, the other laughs softly, nervousness slowly disappearing thanks to Seungkwan’s friendliness. “Hi, I’m Junhui. Nice to meet you.”
The younger beams. “Let me introduce you to the others.” He turns around, eyes searching for a second, before he calls out, “Hansol! Chan! Come here for a second.”
Upon hearing their names, the other students stop stuffing their faces at the picnic table and walk over for Seungkwan’s introductions. “We live in the apartment next to yours,” he explains.
Junhui nods, smiling. “Are you still going to school?”
“Yes,” Chan answers. “I’m still undeclared for now, but Seungkwan is majoring in music, and Hansol is a lit major. He hangs out with Wonwoo a lot.”
Glancing over at Wonwoo, Junhui asks, “Is that what you were doing this morning? Grading papers?”
“Oh, no,” Wonwoo corrects. “I’m not a teacher. I work for a publishing company.”
“Wait, you guys already met?” Hansol wonders, glancing from the blond to the brunet.
Offering a tiny smile, Junhui rocks back and forth on the balls of his feet and heels. “Wonwoo gave me directions.”
While Hansol and Chan nod and accept the answer, Seungkwan throws Wonwoo a betrayed look as if to accuse him of keeping that little fact a secret. Wonwoo still has no idea why Junhui is such a big deal to his friends, but now he feels really dumb for not knowing, so he hopes he can gather clues as the party progresses.
After the three youngest tenants have introduced themselves, they tell Junhui to have fun, then return to their earlier activities. Next to come greet him is Mingyu, dragging along a very exasperated Minghao.
“Hi!” the over-entusized puppy exclaims. “I’m Mingyu, and this is Minghao. We run a fashion blog affiliated with the art school, so if you could spare us some time for an informal interview, it’d be awesome! We live on the second floor, apartment 217. You should come by and visit sometime! Or we can show you around the neighborhood! Or—”
His next suggestion is barred from existence by his boyfriend’s hand clamped over his mouth. He offers Junhui an apologetic smile. “Sorry, he’s still a little starstruck. He’s usually annoying, but not to this extent.”
Behind the hand, Mingyu protests, but it comes out as a weird whining sound.
The celebrity shakes his head, “It’s okay,” he says gently. “I kind of expected this.” As soon as the sentence is uttered, though, a blush creeps up his cheeks, and his eyes widen. “Not to say that I expect people to freak out over me!” His hands wave in the air frantically, head shakes accompanying the denial. “I’m not that famous, or a big deal. I just meant that…” He sighs, head dropping. “I should just stop talking,” he mutters, pressing his hands over his face.
While Mingyu stares at his idol with curiosity, Wonwoo and Minghao exchange an amused grin. Junhui, celebrity or not, is a dork. A very shy and awkward dork. As the realization hits him, he cocks his head to peer at the adorable blushing mess next to him, completely missing Minghao dragging his boyfriend away toward the dessert table, berating him for embarrassing him in front of the new tenant.
“Hey,” Wonwoo nudges Junhui’s shoulder lightly with his. The blond looks up from behind his hands. “Let’s grab some food before someone else comes.”
Junhui nods, tiny smile dancing on his lips. “Okay.”
He takes Junhui around the tables, pointing out dishes that he thinks are tastiest. After they grab a couple cans of Coke, Wonwoo directs them to the table with Jihoon, Soonyoung, and Seokmin. He trusts that with Jihoon present, Soonyoung wouldn’t get too loud or too weird.
At least that’s what he hoped.
Unfortunately, when they start on over, he realizes too late that Soonyoung was already buzzed. He’s about to tell Junhui to go to the next table when the dance instructor shouts, “Look! It’s him!” When the table hushes him, he quickly clamps his hands over his loose lips, grinning like a fool. “Sorry,” he whispers, although it’s more like a whisper-yell. “It’s Mr. Moon Joonhwi and Mr. Jeon Wonwoo!”
“Who let him drink?” Wonwoo asks wryly, sliding into the seat next to Jihoon.
The latter rolls his eyes. “More like who could stop him?” He looks around Wonwoo’s back to see Junhui hesitating, not sure where to sit. “Go ahead and sit next to Seokmin,” he tells him. “He’s more tolerable than Soonyoung.”
“Really?” the other ball of energy exclaims, sitting up in his seat. “Aww, Jihoon, I knew you loved me!”
“Hey! That’s rude!” Soonyoung’s miffed retort comes a little too late, and goes unanswered.
Junhui chuckles at the exchange and puts his plate next to Seokmin’s. As they start to eat, Wonwoo notices him progressively relaxing as he listens to the group chat and joke around. Even Wonwoo has to admit that a buzzed Soonyoung can be pretty funny. The only thing he wishes is for someone to actually tell him why Junhui is famous.
So when the latter gets up to throw his plate away and grab a drink, Wonwoo leans over to Jihoon and asks, “This might sound really stupid,” he starts, which earns him a bored look and raised brow, “But why exactly is Junhui such a big deal?”
Now both brows lift as the bored expression is replaced with one of disbelief. “Are you serious? I know you only watch horror movies, but you own devices on which movie ads play all the time, which means you must have, at one point, seen his face.”
“Maybe Wonwoo has ad-block,” Seokmin says helpfully, spearing a peace of cantaloupe.
“But he has eyes, doesn’t he?” Jihoon retorts. “I can’t believe you’ve never seen him on posters or ads, or even magazines.”
Wonwoo doesn’t know what to say. He guesses he doesn’t pay much attention to those types of things. “So what type of movies does he act in?”
“Not horror, obviously,” Jihoon snickers. “Anything else is fair game. He’s mostly casted for romantic roles, though.”
“Yeah, I bet,” Wonwoo mumbles into his drink, looking over at his neighbor by the dessert table. He’s talking to Jeonghan about something, and even though Wonwoo can’t hear what’s being said, he’s glad to see the tiny smile forming on Junhui’s lips. His shoulders are relaxed, and he’s not curled up on himself.
Right then, Junhui glances over, and they lock eyes. Wonwoo looks away immediately, the tips of his ears burning from having been caught staring.
“I hear his latest movie is coming out soon,” Seokmin says as he pokes at a passed-out Soonyoung. The older swats at the air where Seokmin’s finger was a second ago, but he continues to snore softly on the table. “I think it’s a romantic drama.”
“Probably,” Jihoon chews on a slice of watermelon. “Mingyu would know.”
As the night wears on, more and more of his friends start to drop like flies. Pretty soon, only Wonwoo and Junhui remain, with a drunk Seungkwan in the corner, singing about lost love and cheese, for some reason.
Junhui looks around worriedly. “Should we help them? They’ll catch a cold like this.”
“They’ll be fine,” Wonwoo answers, “I’ll wake them up once I’m done cleaning.”
Nodding, Junhui starts to stand up. “I’ll help.”
“No, it’s okay,” the brunet interjects. “You were the guest of honor, you shouldn’t have to clean up.”
“That’s silly. I’ve got two hands, I’ll help.”
Wonwoo cracks a smile, amused by the show of determination. “Alright.”
Once they collect all the trash and put away the leftovers, they shake the other eleven boys awake and follow them down the stairs to make sure no one breaks their neck. Thankfully, the group files into the elevator without problem, and clumps by clumps, they exit onto their floors. Junhui takes special interest in the younger ones as he leans Hansol and Chan against his sides and supports them with an arm around their backs. Since Seungkwan is still somewhat awake—and singing—Wonwoo merely keeps an eye on him, then springs into action when the music major is unable to fit his key into the lock.
Once they’re all inside and the lock clicks, Junhui and Wonwoo turn toward their own apartments. They stop at Junhui’s door.
“Thanks for letting me stick with you tonight,” he says, although he’s addressing the number on the door, tracing the raised edges.
Wonwoo spies a tinge of pink coloring his cheeks. He grins. “No problem. I know they can be a handful, but they’re not bad.”
Junhui agrees with a nod and bright smile. “I like them. I’m glad I moved here and not somewhere else.”
“You don’t have to answer,” he says cautiously, “But why did you choose to move here?”
Junhui shrugs, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “It’s a small town, away from any major tourist attractions or big companies. It’s easier to blend in. Besides, the last time I was out in public, I had black hair. If no one pays close attention, I don’t think anyone would know who I am.”
Wonwoo nods. “Yeah, I suppose it’s a little hard to believe a big movie star would stay in this tiny town.”
Junhui chuckles lightly and shakes his head. “But I like it, though. The town is nice. And,” he meets Wonwoo’s gaze sheepishly, a corner of his mouth tugged upward. “The people, too.”
Oh, dear lord. Did Junhui really say what he thinks he did? No, he’s just being nice, right? Wonwoo has no idea, but his heart skips beats like it’s playing hopscotch.
Clearing his throat, he pretends to scratch an itch over his chest to try to ease the fluttering. “We’re lucky to have you,” he says, hoping Junhui wouldn’t notice the tips of his ears glowing.
The famous actor lets out a tiny laugh, the sound lyrical and airy. Wonwoo suddenly has an urge to hear it more often. “Thanks.” Pink, full lips stretch into a shy smile, and vibrant dark eyes stare up at him from under long lashes.
Wonwoo swallow thickly, praying the silent hallway isn’t allowing Junhui to hear the drumbeats that come from his chest. Inexplicably, he wonders how Junhui would react if he kissed him. Would his lips feel as soft as they look? Would he taste like the cherries he’s been eating?
Wonwoo wants to blame alcohol for the thoughts swirling in his head, but he can’t, because he didn’t drink any. He also has enough sense to remember that he just met Junhui that very day, and people don’t just make-out with their next door neighbor on the day they move in. And more importantly, he has work tomorrow, so he should leave and jump under a cold shower before he does something dumb that would guarantee a lecture from Jeonghan and Jisoo, and possibly a beating from Seungcheol.
Reluctantly, Wonwoo takes a couple steps back toward his door, although he’s not quite able to look away from Junhui’s tempting face. “It’s getting late,” he says lamely, “We should probably go to bed ourselves.”
Junhui, thankfully oblivious to his inner monologue, nods. “Right. Goodnight, Wonwoo.” He inserts the key into the lock, and it clicks open.
He waves back, waiting until his neighbor shuts the door, before he throws his open and slips inside. He hits his head against the wood and closes his eyes, hands tightening into fists.
I am so fucked.
For the next few days, Wonwoo doesn’t see his celebrity neighbor. He tells himself he’s not disappointed, and he pretends not to be aware that he keeps his eyes peeled whenever he leaves the apartment for the off-chance of encountering the actor in hiding. At one point, he even entertains the idea that Junhui has started to practice the hermit life by staying cooped up in his apartment. But then what would he eat? He can’t exactly call for delivery, since it would risk some teenager spotting him and tweeting about it or something. Which makes the hermit life a viable option if Junhui actually really wants to stay hidden from the public for any given amount of time. That still doesn’t answer the question, though, of what the guy eats. Does he ask someone from the building to get him groceries? Does he actually eat with them? The possibility that Junhui went to someone else for help irks him for no apparent reason.
Why should he care about the guy anyway? It’s not like they're best friends, or even friends, for that matter. Although the idea of becoming boyfrie—Nope! Nope! Nope!
Jeon Wonwoo is not going there. He has a lot of manuscripts to go over this week, and he does not need the distraction. Regardless of how pretty that distraction may be.
On Friday, Wonwoo has a rare early appointment to meet with an author. He usually avoids scheduling meetings or anything important before nine, but this author is very difficult to get a hold of in person, so he had to suck it up. Except that he has forgotten how awful it is to have to wake up at six in the morning.
When his alarm screams at him to get up, he reaches out with bleary eyes to grab his phone and swipe over the screen. It takes five alarms, set at three minute intervals to finally get him out of bed. He feels miserable and cranky when he comes out to the kitchen and pours himself a bowl of cereal. Not even the coffee helps his mood, and he curses the author to hell and back.
About half an hour (and two cups of coffee) later, he feels slightly more awake, and his brain starts to kick into action. He grabs his bag and keys, then heads for the elevator. All the way down, he struggles to find the address of the coffee house that he and the author agreed upon for the meeting. The elevator dings, and he steps out, still scrolling through the enormous amount of emails to find the correct one. At last, he finds it.
It’s at that moment, when his eyes lift up from the screen, that he gets the answers to the many questions he’s asked himself about Junhui’s current living situation.
The man himself is walking toward the building, carrying grocery bags, wearing an expression that’s too bright and cheerful for seven in the morning. When he opens the glass door and sees Wonwoo in the lobby, his face lights up even more.
“Wonwoo!” he exclaims, smiling so wide his dimples are showing. “Good morning!”
“Good morning,” the dazed editor responds. He almost forgot the weird fluttering effect his neighbor has on him. If he were half-asleep before, now he’s wide awake. Seeing Junhui’s face first thing in the morning definitely works better than coffee. “You’re, uh, you’re up early.”
“Oh,” he laughs, “Yeah, I’ve always been an early riser. Besides, it’s safer to walk around when the majority of the block is still asleep.”
“Right,” he nods, swallowing in an attempt to calm his breathing. “I see you’ve been able to find your way around.”
Glancing at the grocery bags, he nods. “Jeonghan gave me tips for the best and cheapest stores, but I’ve only been to the closest one, though.” Then as if remembering something, the easy smile slips off of his face, to be replaced with a worried look. “Oh, I’m sorry, you’re probably heading for work, right? Sorry, you should go before I make you late.”
“Oh!” Wonwoo suddenly remembers the reason he’s out of bed at this godawful time. “Yes! I have to go!” He runs past him, but stops at the door to say, “Sorry, I’ll see you later.”
Junhui waves, and Wonwoo sears that smile into his brain for the rest of the day.
After dinner that night, Wonwoo picks up a soda can from the fridge and relocates to the balcony. A pleasant and balmy breeze lifts the ends of his hair as he takes a seat on the small chair, face upturned toward the night sky. Like most evening, the neighborhood is peaceful with the quiet murmurs of cicadas and the occasional rumbles of cars. Wonwoo sets his soda on the garden table in front of him, mindful of the marked up manuscripts.
He’s just picked up his pen to pour over the text, when the sound of a sliding door echoes in the still air. It comes from Junhui’s apartment, and no sooner has he lifted his head that he sees his neighbor’s blond locks. He has a phone pressed to the side of his face, humming responses to the caller. Wonwoo watches him stride to the balustrade and lean his arms over it, eyes distant. Maybe being on the phone is distracting enough for him not to notice Wonwoo sitting in the corner, just on the other side of the flowering bushes.
In any case, Wonwoo figures he shouldn’t be eavesdropping, but he also doesn’t want to cause excessive noise. So he picks up the manuscript and hides behind the thick stack of papers, zoning out Junhui’s enthralling voice as best as he can.
Which is not very well at all.
The silence carries the soft cadence of his voice to Wonwoo’s ears, and pretty soon, he’s paying more attention to the call than the words in front of him.
“It’s fine. I’m fine,” he says. “You worry too much.” There’s a gentleness to his tone, indulgent and amused, but also a little tired. “Everyone has been very nice and welcoming. Seungcheol, the superintendent, hosted a party on the first night.” Here, he laughs. “No champagne towers, but I also didn’t have to pretend to like anyone.” The other person on the line asks something else, and Junhui nods and hums. “I did, it was surprisingly fun.” A tender expression smoothes out his sharp features as he lowers his head and draws patterns on the metal beam. “It’s been so long, I almost forgot what it felt like to make friends instead of connections.”
Hearing the confession, Wonwoo feels his chest tightening. Wonwoo’s always known that all that glitter is not what it seems, and the life of any celebrity must be a hundred times more complex than the public can see. But to hear it from Junhui like this, uncensored, it makes it sound so sad.
“Don’t worry, they’re not—they’re not that type of people.” The shift in tone snaps Wonwoo out of his musing. Junhui stops drawing with his finger, instead he balls his hand into a tight fist. “If they wanted to make easy money, the building would have already been surrounded by reporters. My pictures would have been posted with some crazy headline by now. Just…” He sighs, shoulders slumping. He listens to the other person, and Wonwoo desperately wants to know what is being said. “I’m still thinking about it. For now, I just want to stay away.” Then a pause. “I’m really tired.”
The admission is tiny, almost carried off by the summer breeze, but it pierces Wonwoo’s heart. It almost sounds like a plea, and at this moment, Wonwoo would do almost anything to hear Junhui laugh like he did during the party.
A giant beetle suddenly zooms past, startling the eavesdropping editor. He swats at the air, reflexively dodging out the way of the disgusting insect. His frantic arms knock over the can of soda, spilling it over the manuscript.
Scrambling for the spilled can, he jerks the papers out, flicking the liquid off as much as possible. His fingers are sticky, but luckily only a few pages are soaked in brown liquid. He scowls, cursing the stupid insect to Bug Hell.
“Wonwoo? Are you okay?”
Junhui’s voice freezes him. Crap. He forgot he was supposed to be invisible and mute.
Sheepishly, he lifts his eyes slowly to see his neighbor standing on the other side of the plant partition, a concerned look on his face. He’s no longer on the phone, but his hand is still clutching the device. Wonwoo wonders if he ended the call because of the ruckus. Shame washes over him at having been caught eavesdropping. It was especially bad that the victim is a celebrity who just finished trying to convince his phone contact that he lives with trustworthy people.
Once again, Wonwoo wants to eradicate that beetle and crush it to ash.
“I’m okay,” he responds now, waving the partially ruined manuscript in the air. “I just spilled my soda.”
Junhui briefly scans the scene. “Are you going to get in trouble?”
“Huh?” That is not the question Wonwoo expected. He was certain Junhui was going to ask him how long he’s been out here and how much of that call he’s overheard.
Junhui waves toward the papers. “Are you going to be in trouble for damaging the script?”
The editor throws a look at his hand. “Oh, no, it’s fine. We have the original in the computer. My notes are what matter anyway.”
Relief shows on his face, and he nods. “I’m glad.”
A short silence falls between them, and Wonwoo isn’t sure what to do. He wants to wash the sugary and sticky liquid off of his fingers, but he also doesn’t want to leave. So he’s just standing awkwardly by his chair, holding a damp stack of papers.
“Here.” Junhui reaches over the plants to hand him a roll of wet wipes. “So you don’t get your door handle all sticky, too,” he chuckles, and Wonwoo cracks a smile.
“Thank you,” he walks over and accepts the gift. He sets the manuscript on top of the bush to wipe off his fingers. As he does, he sees Junhui looking curiously over the text, tilting his head in order to read. “It still needs a lot of work,” the editor tells him.
“Oh, really?” Junhui lifts his gaze to address Wonwoo. “Is it a mystery?”
“Yes, somewhat.” Balling the soiled wipes, he chucks them into the small canister in the corner. “It’s more adventure, with mystery elements blended in.”
“That sounds pretty good. I’m guessing the plot isn’t the issue?”
Wonwoo nods to confirm it. “The ideas are good, but the author makes it too convoluted. It confuses the audience, and not for good reasons.”
Junhui chuckles. “I see.” After a beat he adds, “It must be fun, being a book editor. Of course, I know it’s a lot of work,” he admits, “But being able to read stories as a job sounds great.”
“It’s kind of like your job, in a way,” Wonwoo compares. “I mean, obviously it’s vastly different, but you not only get to read new stories, you live through them, too.”
“True,” the other concedes. “But it comes with a lot of hassle and high-strung people,” he lets out a low chuckle, eyes focused on the leaf he’s toying with. “It’s pretty exhausting.” Glancing up, he smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes, which are a lot duller than Wonwoo is used to seeing. He’s rather certain it has to do with the nature of the phone call.
With guilt gnawing at his insides, he finds himself confessing.
“Um… I really didn’t mean to, but I overheard your phone call earlier. I’m really sorry.”
Wonwoo braces for Junhui’s disappointment or outrage, but he only gets a shrug. “It’s okay, it was just my mom. You know how worrywarts they can be.”
To say that Wonwoo isn’t relieved would be a lie. But he’s still bothered. He doesn’t want to pry, though. Most people don’t have heart-to-heart conversations with their new neighbors. So he lets it go for now.
“Yeah, mine calls me at least twice a week to make sure I’m alive, and lectures me about proper diets.”
The comment causes Junhui to laugh and nod. “Same. I suppose all moms are similar.”
“Yeah, guess so.”
Turning toward the metal bars, Junhui leans over them again, eyes strained on the view of the mountain range in the distance. They’re a little difficult to discern at night, but their outlines can be seen against the inky sky. The boys are quiet as they absorb the pleasant silence and fresh scent of summer, spiced with night flowers and moonlight.
The sound of a sliding door cuts through the night, followed by several voices. The boys turn toward the sound, just beyond Junhui’s other side. Crowding the balcony of apartment 325, three heads pop over the hedges.
“Hey guys!” Chan waves, the light spilling out from their apartment allowing his friendly smile to be seen.
Wonwoo offers a wave, while Junhui says hello back. “I thought college students would be out on Friday night,” he comments.
“Who cares about parties?” Seungkwan scoffs. “They’re lame and dull.”
Wonwoo arches a brow. “Since when?”
Standing in the middle of his roommates, Hansol laughs and pats Seungkwan’s shoulder. “Since he has an exam on Monday. He’s on lock-down for the weekend.”
“And we’re here to make sure he actually studies,” Chan adds, nodding for emphasis.
“May I remind you who is the oldest here?”
But the two younger students merely laugh at his sour mood.
“Can you believe that they didn’t trust me?” Seungkwan points his thumb at the other two. “I said I needed to take a break and get some air. They can clearly see me through the glass, and yet refused to let me go alone. What’s up with that?” He turns to glare at his friends. “What can I possibly do alone out here?”
Hansol shrugs. “I don’t know. The fire escape is right over there,” he points to the right. “For all we know, you can run away.”
The older rolls his eyes. “Run away where? My bed and the fridge are here.”
Wonwoo and Junhui laugh quietly at the conversation.
“Oh, hey, I forgot to ask the other day,” Seungkwan interjects, facing Junhui. “I know we’re not supposed to tell anyone you live here. But would it be okay to get autographs?”
Chan elbows him. “You can’t ask that. It’s rude!”
“How is it rude?”
“It’s fine,” Junhui jumps in before they argue again. “I’m flattered you’d want mine.”
“Of course!” Seungkwan exclaims. “You’re great!”
A soft blush covers Junhui’s cheeks in response to the praise, and he averts his eyes. “Thank you for saying that." Wonwoo studies the reaction with interest, still amused at how shy the famous actor actually is in person.
“It’s true! Oh! We should have a movie night!” Seungkwan proposes, eyes lighting up at the excitement. “I bet you’d have all kinds of secrets about all your scenes.”
“Yeah!” Hansol chimes in, grinning wide. “It’ll be like listening to the commentaries on the DVD, only live!”
“Can we?” Chan asks expectantly. The pleading is too difficult to refuse, and Junhui finds himself laughing.
“Sure, why not? Although it might not turn out to be as fun as you guys imagine.”
“Nah, it’ll be great,” Hansol grins. “I’ll text Mingyu.” Glancing at his friends, a mischievous glint flashes in his eyes, he says, “I bet you we’ll be able to hear him scream.”
Chan laughs heartily, nodding his head. “I wonder if we can see him from here.” He goes to the balustrade and leans over, searching over toward the left. “His apartment is below Junhui’s right?”
“Yeah, I bet he spends his time wishing for your floor to give out,” Wonwoo jokes, which causes Junhui’s brow to rise, and the kids to laugh in agreement.
“He can be such a fanboy sometimes, I swear,” Seungkwan shakes his head in mock exasperation. “Remember when he thought he saw Johnny Depp? I thought he was gonna foam at the mouth and faint.”
“Seriously,” Hansol mutters as he finishes his text and sends it. “Any moment now…” He raises a finger, and all five boys wait with bated breath.
A beat later, Mingyu’s unmistakable deep voice rings out, “OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!”
“Shut up!” Minghao shouts. “You scared the hell out of me!”
On the third floor, the tenants burst into laughter as they lean down the balcony to see if they could peek.
“JUST LOOK AT THIS!” Mingyu is still screaming. “Are they all hanging out right now? Why didn’t they invite me?”
“Probably because you act like a rabid dog?”
“I am not!”
“Do you want Seungcheol or me to kick your ass? Because you are seriously getting on my nerves, and you’re definitely gonna freak him out if you act like this. Get off the table! Mingyu!”
“Yikes,” Seungkwan sucks in a breath through his teeth. “Tell him we can hear them from up here.” He nudges Hansol, and the latter laughs as he texts.
A second later, the ruckus downstairs stops. Then the glass door slides open and Mingyu bounds outside. He backs away, head upturned to see them. He’s wearing his signature grin, canines peeking under his upper lip. The boys wave and laugh at his dramatic arm movements.
“I can’t believe you’re all hanging out and left me out.”
“We didn’t plan it,” Wonwoo says. “Besides, the kids have to go back to study anyway.”
“Shhhh!” Seungkwan quickly hushes, finger over his lips. But the damage is already done, and he hangs his head when his roommates give him a judgmental look. “Damn it! I’m tired. Can’t I just call it a night?”
“It’s barely nine!”
“Come on,” Hansol pats his shoulder. Then he turns to wave at the others. “We’ll see you guys later. Bye dude!” he says to Mingyu.
“Wonwoo!” Mingyu calls after waving goodbye to the boys in 325. “Can I come hang out?”
“Aw, come on!”
Over the hedges, Junhui is giggling into his fist, and Wonwoo barely manages to keep his poker face to speak to Mingyu.
“I’m about to go to sleep. I don’t want a hyper puppy running all over my place.”
“Hmph!” the younger crosses his arms. “You’re just saying that because you want to keep Junhui to yourself, isn’t it?”
The tips of Wonwoo’s ears burn up, and he discreetly glances to his right. Junhui is looking straight at him. His heart skips a beat. This is not good.
“Yo!” Minghao stalks outside. “No one is that obsessed. Now stop bothering them and come back inside so I can beat your ass on this level.”
“As if!” the puppy scoffs, apparently forgetting all about the actor upstairs. “I’m gonna beat your ass! I didn’t get those achievements for nothing!”
“Yeah, we’ll see about that.”
Before closing the door, Minghao waves at them, and they wave back.
“Well, that was fun,” Junhui murmurs, turning his body ninety degrees to address Wonwoo. He wears a gentle smile, head tilted.
“Sorry about him,” Wonwoo gestures to the apartment downstairs. “And them.” He flicks his chin toward the apartment behind Junhui.
The latter shrugs, still smiling. “It’s okay. They don’t mean any harm.” After a quiet second, he adds, “But it’s nice to be treated like a normal person, too. So, thank you.” He flashes Wonwoo a smile, eyes crinkling.
Wonwoo lets out a laugh, dispelling a few butterflies in his stomach. “Can I tell you something a little—okay, a lot—embarrassing?”
Junhui nods, eyes focused and intent, “Sure. I won’t judge.”
The other laughs again, picking at a green leaf. “The reason I don’t get starstruck is because until Monday night, I had no idea who you were.”
Junhui’s eyes widen a fraction, but a smirk tugs at the corner of his mouth. “No wonder you were so normal when we met.”
“Sorry,” Wonwoo responds a little sheepishly.
“No, it’s okay,” the actor laughs. “I’m actually really glad.”
They share a smile.
“Well,” Junhui taps out a quick rhythm on the metal bar. “I don’t want to keep you up.”
It takes Wonwoo a second to understand, and he shakes his head. “Don’t worry, I didn’t mean that.”
A smirk lifts a corner of Junhui’s mouth as he gazes at Wonwoo. “Then you really were trying to keep me to yourself?”
Wonwoo’s heart lurches, and his stomach drops. He can feel his cheeks burning in response to the comment. “Um, I—”
Junhui’s airy laugh cuts the tension, and Wonwoo lets out a breath. “I’m just teasing.”
“Right,” he clears his throat, smiling lopsidedly to pretend to be in on the joke the whole time. “Of course.” From the corner of his eye, he sees the blond throwing him a sideway glance, smirk still dancing on plump lips.
“But really, if you have to go back to work,” he gestures toward the manuscript still laying on top of the plants, “I won’t be offended.”
“No, it’s fine.” Wonwoo shoves his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “I’m thinking the fact that I spilled my soda all over it means I should give it a rest for a now.”
The other chuckles softly. The sound blends into the night and dissolves into a comfortable silence.
For next door neighbors, Wonwoo and Junhui don’t run into each other as often as people would think. But then again, that might have to do with the fact that Wonwoo is a night owl and Junhui an early bird. When Junhui is awake, Wonwoo is still somewhere in dreamland. At the time that Junhui decides to head for bed, Wonwoo pours himself another coffee and keeps on working. It’s really no wonder, then, that they only seem to meet on the mornings of Wonwoo’s all-nighters, or in the evening after dinner.
The latter occurs almost every night nowadays. At first, the meetings were merely coincidental and seldom. One of them going out into the balcony for whatever reason and seeing the other already outside. Easy conversation is struck about everything and anything, which lasts until Junhui yawns and struggles to beat his internal clock to stay awake and talk to Wonwoo. It’d always end the same way, too. Wonwoo would laugh indulgently at the cute attempt—the way an adult gets amused by a child’s desire to stay up on Christmas or New Year’s Eve—and tell Junhui to go to sleep. The actor would whine a little, but eventually listens to his neighbor’s advice. Once Junhui heads inside, Wonwoo returns to his apartment and brews a fresh pot of coffee to get to work.
The times they run into each other in the morning, Wonwoo is too much zombie, and so all he registers is the fact that Junhui shines like the sun as he chatters with him, not minding the sorry state of the editor at all. In the morning, it’s Junhui’s turn to scold Wonwoo for his bad sleeping habits, or rather, a lack of. Nagging he may be, but he’d always have some kind of pastry ready for Wonwoo to eat with his cup of coffee. Zombie Wonwoo doesn’t have the brain capacity to wonder why it’s always warm and fresh; he only knows it’s delicious and nothing feels better than listening to Junhui’s lilting voice and eating breakfast together out on their shared balconies.
About a month passes this way, and Wonwoo can’t seem to remember how his life was prior to Junhui’s arrival.
On of those all-nighter mornings, Wonwoo runs out of coffee. He’s shuffled to the kitchen to refill his mug when he realizes that he’s already emptied the carafe. Moving more sluggishly than normal, he opens the cabinet above the counter to look for the coffee grounds. However, the shelf is empty. Struggling to make his brain switch off from editing to everyday functions, he vaguely remembers chucking the empty coffee can into the trash. But now he can’t recall if it was last night, or two weeks ago. To check, he steps on the pedal of the trash canister, and sure enough, there’s the coffee can. He heaves a sigh, looking at the oven clock: 5:45 am.
There’s still about an hour before his breakfast with Junhui, and he’s not sure he can stay awake for that long without the caffein. So as much as he hates it, he goes to splash water on his face to gain a few minutes of alertness, then puts on his shoes and grabs his keys by the door. Fortunately for him, and the author whose work is currently being edited, there’s a convenience store right around the corner of the building that opens 24/7. He’s been in there so many times, the owner no longer asks him if he’s all right when he shows up in this state: bleary eyes, bedhead, wrinkled clothes, feet unable to pick themselves up more than a couple centimeters off the floor.
He pushes open the door, hearing the familiar chime of the bell. The owner looks up from the newspaper, but upon seeing Wonwoo, he merely gives him a dismissive wave. Wonwoo grunts out something resembling a greeting, making a bee line for the coffee aisle. He browses the shelf for the correct brand and grabs two cans while he’s at it. For emergencies, so he can save himself from doing this at this godawful time. He’s still cursing the time of day as he shuffles to the register.
Unfortunately, someone has beaten him to it. The guy is about his height, wearing a black cap that covers short blond strands. Wonwoo heaves a sigh as he belatedly understands that his return to the apartment has been delayed by the customer in front of him. Who even goes shopping at this time of day? he wonders as he throws a look at the basket full of meats and veggies. And snacks. A lot of snacks. Is this guy 14? What is he doing buying that many?
“You really like these, don’t you, kid?” the owner teases as he scans the boxes of crackers and chips.
The blond customer giggles, causing Wonwoo to halt his internal monologue. “My parents were always very strict about it when I was little, so now I’m making up for it,” he says, making the owner laugh good-humoredly.
“I see how it is,” the older man says, pushing the buttons on the register to bring it all up to a total.
Wonwoo is still trying to figure out if his zombie state is messing with his hearing, when the blond customer moves to put away his basket and accidentally elbows Wonwoo’s arm.
“Oh! I’m so sorry!” he exclaims, turning around to see him. Then his dark eyes light up, and he beams. “Wonwoo! Good morning!”
“Uh…” The latter blinks, pain in his arm forgotten. Okay, so he’s not dreaming, he reasons, blinking at Junhui’s cheerful expression. “Hi.”
Laughing, Junhui grabs the coffee cans from his hands and puts it on the belt. “Can you add these to the purchase, please?”
“Sure thing.” The owner scans the cans and eyes them. “You kids friends or something?”
“We’re neighbors,” Junhui explains before Wonwoo even computes the man’s question. “Thank you.” He pays for all the food and coffee, and grabs the bags in one hand, while the other tugs Wonwoo’s wrist.
“Make sure he doesn’t fall down a ditch somewhere!”
The hearty laughter follows them as Junhui reassures him that he’ll take care of Wonwoo. As for the latter, he simply lets himself be led back to the building by the wrist. He likes the feeling of Junhui’s large hand on his skin, it’s warm and comforting. The editor stares at the back of the blond head as he walks a few steps forward, talking about how it’s such a wonderful surprise to see him first thing in the morning, and how Wonwoo should’ve simply asked him for coffee.
“Are you listening?” Junhui turns around and asks.
Like the first time they met, the sun is shining around him like a hallo, and Wonwoo gapes at the sight. Later, he’ll blame his sleep-deprived brain for it.
“Wonwoo,” Junhui calls again, jiggling his wrist playfully, grin widening when he sees Wonwoo blink. “Did you hear anything I said?”
The zombie nods, although it’s only half true. He’s been listening to the melodious sound more than making sense of the words spoken. “Something about asking you for coffee, right?”
“Wow,” Junhui raises his brows. “That was like, five statements ago. You really are dead in the morning, you weren’t kidding. Come on, Zombie.” He takes them inside the building and into the elevator. Since no one uses it at this time, it comes only a few seconds after being called.
“I said,” his neighbor starts once they step in. “You seem to have a very heavy schedule this week. If you’d like, we can put our evening meet ups on hold for now, so you can have more time to work, and you won’t have to pull all-nighters.”
Without as many distractions besides Junhui’s hand still around his wrist, Wonwoo has an easier time concentrating. He frowns at the suggestion. “No, I’m fine.”
The other throws him a skeptical look. “Did you even realize that your shoes don’t match?”
“Huh?” He looks down, and sure enough, Junhui's right. His left foot sits inside a sneaker, while the right wears a loafer. Wow. He’s even more out of it than he realized. But he’s not giving up their evening chats. He shrugs, looking up. “Of course I knew. My left foot hurts, that’s why I wore the sneaker. It’s more comfortable.”
Junhui rolls his eyes. “Lying is bad habit.”
“Says the actor.”
“Excuse me!” he sounds offended, although he looks anything but. His pink lips purse into a pout as he scrunches his nose. “Acting is an art, I’ll have you know. Besides, you can’t act well if you lie.”
“Whatever,” Wonwoo waves it off. “The point is, I’m fine. I just need some coffee.”
The elevator arrives at their floor, and Junhui pulls him out. “I know. And you’ll get some in a few minutes.” Instead of stopping by Wonwoo’s door, Junhui continues a few more feet until they arrive at his. He drops Wonwoo’s wrist in order to fetch his keys, and the latter bites the inside of his cheek to stop himself from frowning.
“Go ahead,” Junhui invites Wonwoo in.
With a little trepidation, the editor toes off his shoes and steps inside. The layout is similiar to his apartment, but it’s a lot prettier. For a second, Wonwoo feels like he just stepped inside a magazine photo. The furniture, the decor, the color palette—wow.
He hears Junhui closing the door behind him and going inside the kitchen. Once he manages to believe his eyes that it’s real, Wonwoo goes to look for his neighbor.
Peeking around the kitchen doorway, he sees Junhui gliding back and forth. He switches on the coffee machine, then takes a pan out of the neatly stacked appliance cabinet. He parks it on the stove and opens the fridge to get out a carton of eggs and some ham. Wonwoo watches him prepare breakfast in awe. His movements are sure and familiar, there is no awkwardness that comes with handling a pan for the first time, or the fear of the heat as he pours the egg mixture into the melted butter. This is someone who’s been cooking for a long time. That alone surprises Wonwoo, but it does so even more when he recalls that Junhui has been acting since he was a child (it’s amazing what an evening spent with google can teach you).
In no time at all, Junhui plates two breakfast dishes and grabs a tray from another cabinet. He sets them on it, along with two coffee mugs. As he picks up the tray, he finally notices Wonwoo by the doorway. “Oh, there you are,” he smiles. “You were so quiet, I thought you fell asleep. Come on.” With a flick of the head, he tells Wonwoo to follow him out onto the balcony, where they sit at the patio set Junhui had ordered a few weeks ago.
“You cook,” Wonwoo states when they’re seated, fork in hand.
Junhui laughs at his serious tone, picking up a piece of toast to spread jam on it. “Yes, thanks for noticing.”
Wonwoo shakes his head. “No, I mean, I didn’t know. I never thought actors would have the need to. Don’t you get catered food on sets, and private chefs at home?”
His neighbor laughs again, chewing his bite. “Yes, to the first question. But no, I never had a private chef. I learned to cook from my mom, primarily, and from a few movies, actually.” He shrugs as if to say it’s no big deal. “It’s no Cordon Bleu, but it gets the job done.”
Digging into the heavenly food (admittedly, he has no idea if it was because he’s really hungry, or if Junhui’s skill really are that amazing), he says, “I’ve never eaten Cordon Bleu-level food, but this is delicious.”
The cook beams, his eyes shining as he watches Wonwoo enjoy the food. He rests his cheek on a fist as he says, “Well, if you like it that much, you should come by for dinner one day. A nice change from all the ramen and mac ’n cheese.”
When Wonwoo scrunches his nose in mock offense, Junhui laughs and resumes eating.
“Do you bake, too?” he asks partway through the meal. “All those muffins you keep giving me on mornings like these, did you make them, too?”
Junhui looks down to scoop some scrambled eggs, shrugging. “Yeah, but it’s more of a new hobby. I saw some easy recipes online, and I thought I’d try to see how easy they actually are.”
“You don’t take praise well, do you?” he chuckles, “Kinda funny considering how many award shows you go to.”
The joke results in Junhui pouting. “You can’t make fun of me, I just fed you.”
Wonwoo puts his hands up, feeling much more awake, and ready to tease, now. “I’m just saying, it’s cute.”
“Oh, hush!” To hide his pink cheeks, Junhui gets up to stack their empty plates together, but Wonwoo just laughs and waves his hands away to take over the task.
“I’ll get it.” When he stands up, though, he gentles his smile and says over his shoulder, “Thank you.”
Junhui smiles, patting his shoulder as they head back to the kitchen.
After insisting on doing the dishes—almost threatening to fight Junhui one on one when the other tried to stop him—Wonwoo goes back to his apartment. On his way, Junhui hands him the coffee cans and pushes him out before he can pay him back. Huffing out an indignant scoff, Wonwoo makes a face at the closed door, and turns to unlock his own to start to get ready for the day. Although he can’t pretend to ignore the stupid grin he sees in the mirror as he buttons up his shirt and combs his hair.
It’s a few nights later, when Wonwoo is ripping open a packet of macaroni and pouring it out into a bowl with water, that he remembers Junhui’s teasing remark. He also casually invited Wonwoo to dinner, right? Or did he imagine that part? Imagined or not, now he can’t stop thinking about what a dinner with Junhui would be like. The bowl of boxed mac ’n cheese tastes even sadder than normal as he sits on the couch, remembering that home cooked breakfast with his neighbor. The only regret he has is that he was still in zombie-mode and couldn’t retain the details as best as he could.
Like how sparkly Junhui’s large eyes looked, how warm his smile made Wonwoo feel, the sensation of his fingers encircling Wonwoo’s wrist. And of course, how tasty the food was.
Finishing his sad dinner, he puts the bowl on the coffee table and throws the spoon inside. He pats his unsatisfied stomach, debating whether he should make another bowl. A cool breeze blows in from the open glass door, and he looks out toward the balcony. Another small gust blows in, and this time, it brings in a very distinctive savory smell. Wonwoo sniffs the air, and sure enough, it’s fried chicken. The flavor alone is making his stomach grumble angrily.
With a groan he walks out. Just to check, he tells himself. He creeps onto his balcony, throwing a look toward his neighbor’s. It’s empty, so he approaches the hedge separating them and peeks over it. The view is partially obstructed by the angle, but he can see inside thanks to the glass. Junhui is absent, but Wonwoo can glimpse at a few plates on the coffee table. From this distance, he can’t make out much of what it is, but it seems like some kind of stir fried dish, with lots of vegetables. There’s a tiny bowl of white rice next to it, and as Wonwoo gets on his tiptoes and leans over the branches, he can see a plate of golden, fried chicken.
Damn, that looks good.
He thinks there’s a bowl of something else, too, with a small ladle, but he can’t quite see. So he moves forward, putting more weight on the hedge. Just when he manages to get a clear view of the soup, he hears a snap. Before he knows what’s going on, the bush supporting his weight gives in. He drops through the layers, sharp branches poking and tearing on his way down. There’s a buzzing in his ears when he finally opens his eyes and sees himself sprawled across what used to be his hedges.
A second later, the glass door flies open all the way, and Junhui runs out in a panic.
“Wonwoo! What happened? Are you okay? Oh, my god.” The usual soft voice is now distraught and borderline hysterical. Junhui’s warm hands grab his shoulders, gingerly pulling him up, all the while nudging away the sharp, broken branches with his own back.
“I’m fine,” Wonwoo tells him with a groan, pulling his legs under him. He grips the strong forearms supporting him.
“No, you’re not,” Junhui states, peering into his face. A hand falls away from his arm to brush his bangs out. “You’re bleeding. Come on.”
With effort, he hops out of the large pot and down onto the floor of the balcony. Junhui leads him through the open doorway, one hand on the small of his back. He lets him sit on the couch, then runs off toward the bathroom. Wonwoo is left to stare at the food on the table, shaking his head at his idiocy. He can’t believe food is the reason he fell through the hedges and made a complete fool of himself in front of Junhui. And now the latter has to delay his delicious dinner to take care of his stupid cuts.
Stupid, stupid, stupid!
The apartment tenant returns with the first aid kit and sits down next to Wonwoo. His eyes roam the editor’s face, bottom lip caught between his teeth, a small crease forming between his fair brows. Wonwoo doesn’t like to see that crease, so he reaches up and smoothes it out with his thumb. That seems to snap Junhui out of whatever daze he was under.
He blinks and shakes his head. “How did you end up in that mess?” he asks, unscrewing the bottle of oxygen peroxide and pouring it out onto a few cotton balls. Gently, he pinches Wonwoo’s chin and tilts it sideway so he can wipe away the blood on his temple.
The other hisses at the sting.
“Sorry,” the actor says, wincing, too. He turns Wonwoo’s face in the other direction to examine it. When he doesn’t see any other cut, he grabs his right arm and twists it. He gets a new soaked cotton ball to clean the scratch right above the elbow. There are a few more on his other arm, which Junhui gets to one by one. Once he cleans and disinfects all the cuts, he rips open the packages of bandaids and sticks them on.
“Thanks,” Wonwoo mutters, face aflame from embarrassment and guilt. “And sorry.”
Junhui balls up the soiled materials and closes the kit. “What happened?” he asks again, noticing how Wonwoo squirms and avoids making eye contact.
“Yes, I got that part,” he says, poking his knee. “I’d like to know how, please.”
“It’s so stupid,” he mutters, pressing his hands over his face. “I can’t even believe it. This is something MIngyu would do, not me. Ugh!” He lets out another irritated and frustrated groan, leading Junhui to rub his back comfortingly. The gesture and contact is not helping at all, but he can’t bring himself to tell him to stop, because he’s a glutton for punishment. Which proves even more true after that incident.
Patiently, Junhui waits and continues to massage his back in large strokes. Eventually, Wonwoo finds the courage to clear his throat. His elbows are still propped on his knees, but he turns to look at his companion.
“I smelled the fried chicken.”
Junhui blinks as the gears in his head work to make sense of that sentence. After a second, understanding crosses his expression, and his lips part in disbelief.
“I know, I know,” Wonwoo cuts in, shaking his head and looking downward at his feet. “It’s so stupid,” he repeats.
“You’re so silly,” Junhui says with an affectionate tone. When Wonwoo glances over, he sees a fond smile on his face as the actor runs a hand through the hair at the back of his head. Wonwoo represses the pleasant shudder from the gesture. “You could have just called me, you know? Or come over,” he chuckles. “Could have avoided all the cuts and bruises.”
Before Wonwoo can even respond, Junhui pulls his hand away and stands up. The editor follows him with his eyes as he takes the trash and medical kit away, to come back a couple minutes later with an extra bowl of rice and a pair of chopsticks.
“I hope it tastes good enough for all the trouble you went through,” he teases when he hands the items to Wonwoo.
The latter smiles bashfully, “You’re like the polar opposite of Mr. Han.”
Junhui laughs, light and delighted. “I sure hope so, from what everyone’s been telling me about him.”
“You are,” Wonwoo repeats, keeping his eyes on his neighbor as the other chuckles and picks up his own bowl and chopsticks.
“Bon appétit!” he wishes, leaning over to pick up a piece of chicken and depositing it into Wonwoo’s bowl. “Eat up!”
“I have never felt so full or satisfied after a meal,” Wonwoo declares an hour later, staring at the empty plates and bowls.
Junhui gives him an amused smirk. “Coming from a man whose diet consists solely of ramen and mac ’n cheese, that’s not saying much.” His cheeky comment earns him a flick to the forehead. “Hey!” he rubs at the sore point, blowing up his cheeks to pout.
The perpetrator laughs, nudging his shoulder with his own. “Thank you. It was definitely worth the fall,” he says with a hint of self-deprecation.
Junhui chuckles. “Good, well…” He chews his lips and looks at Wonwoo, “Not good that you fell and hurt yourself, but good that you liked the meal.”
Smiling, Wonwoo nods.
Out from the hallway, they hear muffled voices, followed by sharp knocks on a door. The boys glance at each other briefly, straining to hear more of the disturbance.
“Maybe he’s not home,” someone says, the murmur sounds like Jihoon, Wonwoo thinks.
“It’s Saturday night,” his companion, Soonyoung if Wonwoo has to name, notes. “He’s always home on the weekends.” More knocking. “Wonwoo! Dude, are you in there?”
“Shh! Stop yelling. There are other tenants on the floor, you know,” Jihoon reminds him. “Besides, maybe he had to go somewhere.”
“Like where?” the other retorts, “A hot date or something?”
Next to Wonwoo, Junhui stifles a laugh, and the editor feels his body temperature rising a few degrees. He scratches his hair for something to do as his neighbor throws a glimpse his way, teasing smirk evident.
“I don’t know,” Jihoon replies. “Just call and see where he is. In the meantime, let’s see if Junhui is home.”
The boys on the couch share a look. Right then, one of their friends knocks on the apartment door.
“Coming!” Junhui calls aloud as he stands up to go answer the door, glancing at Wonwoo as he does.
Wonwoo feels a little unsure as to what to do. Would it be too weird to suddenly show himself behind Junhui? They haven’t done anything besides eating dinner, but he can already see Soonyoung’s eyes narrowing into slits as a grin creeps onto his face, imagining the worst. But then again, sitting here isn’t going to solve anything, either. Especially if Soonyoung decides to call and hears Wonwoo’s ringtone from inside his neighbor’s apartment. That’ll make the whole affair even more suspicious.
So with reluctance, Wonwoo pushes himself to his feet and follows the blond to the door. His neighbor has the door wide open, and he’s leaning against the doorknob, listening to Jihoon and Soonyoung telling him about movie night.
Now Wonwoo remembers. They had planned it for this weekend. It must have escaped his mind. Still partly hiding behind the corner of the wall, he approaches slowly, pieces of the conversation reaching his ears.
“Seungcheol is setting up the projector on the roof,” Jihoon tells Junhui, “We were going to get some snacks, and thought we’d get you and Wonwoo on our way, too, but I guess he’s busy.”
“Which is weird,” Soonyoung adds in his two-cent. “I mean, I’ve known the dude for years, and he’s always been in a relationship with books. Can he actually have found another book lover? I mean, at this point, I’ve sort of lost hope. So sad.”
Wonwoo rolls his eyes at the exaggeration, while Junhui giggles.
“I never knew my dating life interests you that much,” Wonwoo comments as he finally emerges from behind the corner.
Soonyoung blinks, and Jihoon raises a brow, eyes moving between the blond and brunet.
“What are you doing here?” the blabber mouth wants to know, pointing at Wonwoo, then at the apartment next door. Then his eyes lock on Junhui, and they widen. “Are you two—”
“I ran out of food, and he shared,” Wonwoo cuts in. “So what’s that about movie night?”
“Oh, right. The guys want to watch one of Junhui’s movies. We’re getting snacks, wanna come with?”
Before the editor can decide for himself, Junhui exclaims excitedly, “I do! Let me grab my keys.” He glides past Wonwoo and disappears inside.
“Guess I’ll come, too.” He slips into a pair of Junhui’s flip flops and steps out onto the hallway with the other two.
“Um, I don’t mean to pry…” Soonyoung starts, and Wonwoo represses the need to roll his eyes. “But what happened to your face and arms?” He gestures toward the bandaids. “Did we interrupt something? Those aren’t there to hide… unsightly bruises or marks, are they?”
Raising a brow, Wonwoo stares at his friend with disbelief. “Who gets hickeys on their freakin’ elbow?” he deadpans.
The other shrugs. “I don’t know your kinks, man.”
“Ugh.” Jihoon, embarrassed on both of his friends’ behalf, face palms.
Junhui comes out then, keys in hand and black cap over his hair. “Okay, let’s go.”
They make casual conversation as they walk to the store. Once inside, Junhui grabs a basket and goes straight to the snack aisle. Wonwoo watches with amusement as he grabs almost everything within sight with the excitement of a child inside a candy shop.
“Anything else you guys want?” he asks, heaving the full basket.
Soonyoung studies the loot with large eyes and gaping mouth. “I think you might have gone over budget.”
“We all pitched in for snacks,” Jihoon explains. “And that definitely went over the spending limit.”
“Oh,” Junhui’s face falls for a second, but then he shrugs. “That’s fine, I’ll just pay, then.”
If Soonyoung’s eyes were large before, now they’re the size of saucers. “Really?”
“Yeah. It’s just snacks.”
Soonyoung runs to catch up to the actor, walking backward to look at Wonwoo. “Sorry dude, but I think I’m in love with your boyfriend.”
“Shut up!” Wonwoo grabs a pack of napkins and smacks him.
Junhui just laughs, heading for the registers without turning around. Jihoon joins him with a few soda cans, and some bottles of fruit juices. Junhui insists on paying, but Jihoon tells him they’ve collected the money for a reason, and they might as well spend it on drinks.
“Another party?” the owner laughs as he bags their items.
“Yes, sir!” Soonyoung confirms, grabbing a couple bags. “Thank you.”
The four boys bow and thank the older man, dividing the bags among themselves. Upon returning to the apartment building, Jihoon and Wonwoo stop by the lounge on the fifth floor to prepare the popcorn, while Junhui and Soonyoung head straight for the roof with the drinks and half of the snacks.
As they wait for the popcorn, bowls at the ready on the counter, Wonwoo can’t help letting his mind wander to the rooftop, more specifically, to the actor up there. He knows Soonyoung was kidding earlier, but he’s not sure how Junhui took the joke. Was he bothered to be called Wonwoo’s boyfriend? Did he even like Wonwoo that way? Or was he just very nice and considerate? In books, it’s always so easy to pick up the clues and infer how the romantic interest feels toward the hero. Shouldn’t art be imitating life? Shouldn’t Wonwoo—somewhat of an expert on all kinds of books—be able to pick up similar clues in his own life?
“So when did you fall for the boy next door?” Jihoon asks with a snicker, pulling Wonwoo out of his reveries.
“Huh?” he blinks several times, locating the shorter boy leaning his elbows on the table, phone in his grasp.
The latter barely graces him with a look. “What, is it supposed to be a secret?”
Feeling his cheeks heat up at the inquiry, he shrugs, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, please.” His friend rolls his eyes. “Although it’s kind of funny how you managed to collect so many clichés in the span of what, two months? Boy next door, famous actor, crush obvious to everyone except the actual person it pertains to.” Glancing up, he’s smirking, eyes twinkling. “Congrats, Jeon Wonwoo. You’re now living inside a book.”
“You’ve been spending too much time with Soonyoung,” is all he says in response.
His companion pockets his phone and picks up the bowl. “Whatever. But you should tell him. He’s not gonna stay here forever, you know.”
Wonwoo says nothing. Jihoon opens the microwave to retrieve the popcorn bag by an ear, mindful of the burning steam as he tears the package apart and dumps it into the large container. While he disposes of the bag, Wonwoo goes to the second microwave to get the other bag out. They leave the conversation hanging in the air as they start to head for the roof.
Over the years, Wonwoo has read through hundreds of confessions, ranging from childhood crushes to forbidden star-crossed lovers. But when it comes to finding the words for his own, he might as well have been living under a rock his whole life.
He shakes his head to clear it. Now isn’t the time to think about such things. As much as he loves spending time with his neighbor, he’s not certain he’s ready to actually confess anything. Crushes come and go. It’s normal to get infatuated with a friendly, caring, sweet, and good-looking guy. It doesn’t mean it’ll last. Better wait it out, he concludes.
Glad to have come to a decision, he pushes open the door to the roof and lets Jihoon out first. They carry the bowls of popcorn toward the snack table, struggling to find room among the small mountains of crackers, chips, candy, and drinks. The screen has already been pulled down and tied with strings to keep it from flapping whenever a breeze blows through. Propped on a low table in the front, the projector is warming up, throwing out a dim blue light onto the white screen. The group has rearranged the picnic tables to the side to make room for the large blanket on the ground, dotted with various cushions that no doubt came from the couches in the lounge.
The other eleven boys are crowding around one of the picnic tables as Seungcheol sits in the middle. He has several DVDs in his hands, and he’s reading through the summaries in the back out loud to the group. Even though Wonwoo tries to stop himself, he still searches the small crowd for the blond locks. He finds him easily, although he’s not quite happy at the sight.
Junhui has a hand resting on the side of the table, listening to Seungcheol reading the synopsis with an amused smile. But behind him, Hansol has his arms propped up on the actor’s shoulders, laughing loudly into the crook of the older’s neck as Jeonghan chases Seungcheol away so he could take over the reading. Not appreciating the sight, Wonwoo walks around to stand by Seokmin and Seungkwan.
“Okay, so let’s vote!” Jeonghan says, clapping his hands together.
The voting gets underway, and Jisoo keeps tally on the numbers of hands every time Jeonghan calls out a title. Wonwoo isn’t knowledgeable about any of them, but he eventually votes for the movie that looks closest to a thriller. Which is eventually the most popular one, so Seungcheol puts it into the laptop that’s hooked up to the projector as everyone finds a seat on the blanket, grabbing snacks as they go.
Wonwoo doesn’t sit next to Junhui. He finds a spot by Soonyoung because he figures it’d be funny to watch him jump and squirm during the scarier scenes. However, he does notice Junhui glancing his way briefly before sitting with Jihoon and Hansol on either side. He seems relaxed as he rests his weight on his hands, long legs extending out in front of him. As the opening credits roll, Wonwoo peels his gaze away from his neighbor to pay attention to the plot.
Which proves more difficult than he imagines because eighty-five percent of the movie consists of Junhui investigating the disappearance of a girl, and Wonwoo is focusing more on the way Junhui looks in button-ups and slacks, than the actual investigation.
During the part where Detective Junhui (Wonwoo already forgot his character’s name) crawls under the house’s basement, Wonwoo does hold his breath, knowing a jump scare is bound to appear at one point. His hunch is proven right, when a stray cat gets spooked and zooms past. Next to Wonwoo, Soonyoung startles, while a few seats over, Mingyu shrieks. The roof fills up with laughter for a few moments, before it quiets down once more.
Wonwoo is pulled out of the movie, though, when the obligatory romance is shoved down the audience’s throat. He groans quietly in the back of his mouth, getting up to grab some chips to distract himself. Wonwoo doesn’t have anything against romance; it’s just annoying when it adds nothing to the current plot line. He gripes to himself; the girl’s sister is still missing, and it’s possible that the creepy guy down the street killed the kid. Why is she flirting with the detective? Wonwoo wants to tell her to get her priorities in order, because it’s what normal people would do. Not because she’s kissing Junhui on screen. Wonwoo’s mood is not ameliorated by the whistles and whoops coming from his friends when the scene earns its PG-13 rating. He shoves the chips into his mouth and chews as noisily as he can to drown out the sound of lips smacking and heavy sighs.
He’s looking anywhere but the screen, eyes darting around the roof, head tilting away from the projector lights.
That’s when he sees Junhui staring right at him.
Junhui’s brows quirk upward in concern, the flickering light reflecting in his dark eyes. He seems to be searching for something on Wonwoo’s face, but the latter turns away, unable to handle that searching and honest gaze.
Unfortunately, the Universe hates him.
When he returns his attention to the movie, Detective Junhui has the love interest backed up against the wall, hands on either side of her head. He’s breathing hard, pupils blown wide. Pink tongue slips out to wet swollen and parted lips. The top buttons on his shirt are undone, giving the love interest and the audience an eyeful of well-defined collarbones at the bottom of a smooth neck.
Wonwoo swallows thickly, averts his gaze again, painfully aware of his own body reaction to seeing his neighbor in such a state. He’s not sure how his friends are reacting to the scene, because his ears are buzzing with the rush of blood.
Thankfully, the scene cuts to black before it moves toward dangerous territories, and Wonwoo lets out a relieved sigh. The rest of the movie is uneventful in comparison. Detective Junhui finds the missing girl and confronts the creep. There’s a fight, lots of running and pursuit, and eventually, the bad guy is arrested. There’s a happy ending for everyone.
As the credits roll, the thirteen boys stir back to life, discussing the movie with various levels of interest and critiques. A lot of praise flies around Junhui, though, and Wonwoo has to agree that he can see why he’s such a popular actor.
Junhui accepts the admiration and applaud as well as Wonwoo expects, which is to say, not well at all. He’s a blushing mess, chuckling nervously as the tenants gush about different scenes. He only relaxes when the questions turn more technical, dealing with how the scene was shot, what actually went on behind-the-scenes to produce such a great effect.
By the end of the night, there is not much left of the snacks to clean up. Since Wonwoo and Junhui were stuck with the clean up last time, Seungcheol tells them to head back to their own apartments. Junhui is reluctant to go at first, and it takes Jeonghan almost pushing him down the stairs to get him to leave.
The boys are quiet as they ride the elevator, and Wonwoo realizes it’s not the usual comfortable silence between them. They’re both staring at the display, counting down to their floor. The air is stuffy. Wonwoo desperately wants to dispel the awkwardness, but he has no idea what to say. Thankfully, Junhui does it for him.
“I’m sorry the movie isn’t what you hoped it’d be.” He’s not looking at Wonwoo. His gaze is still strained on the slowly moving numbers. Wonwoo tries not to stare at the square jaw.
“No, it was good,” he answers. It’s a true statement, for the most part.
A gentle smile spreads on the actor’s lips. “You voted for it, but you spent more time eating and looking at the sky than you did watching the screen.”
Busted. Although should he be glad that Junhui was watching him?
When he looks at his companion with a sheepish and guilty look, the other chuckles, dimples visible.
“I didn’t mean to call you out on it. It just made me wonder what kind of movie you usually watch. Or do you not watch movies at all?”
“No, I do,” Wonwoo replies. “I mostly watch horror or scary movies, though.”
“Ah,” the other nods in understanding. “That’s why you’ve never heard or seen me before,” he offers a teasing smirk, and Wonwoo feels warm all over again. Turning back to the display, he adds, smiling mischievously, “I knew I should’ve worked on at least one scary movie.” When he peeks at Wonwoo, he giggles.
Is the famous actor Moon Joonhwi seriously flirting with him right now?
Wonwoo is pretty sure the blush is clearly visible under the harsh light of the elevator, and he has no idea how to make it go away.
The elevator, at last, comes to their floor. Wonwoo takes in a lungful of air as he follows Junhui out.
“Is there any reason you haven’t in the past?” he asks.
Junhui shrugs and turns to look at him over his shoulder. “Not really. I suppose the opportunity never presented itself. I don’t have much experience with the genre, either.”
An idea—both genius and terrible at the same—strikes Wonwoo. He opens his mouth before he can think about why it’s a disaster waiting to happen for his internal organs. “Would you like to come over and watch one sometime?”
Junhui tilts his head and smiles widely. “Sure! I’d love to!”
The editor reciprocates the gesture, even though it feels like a million butterflies decided to take flight inside his stomach.
“Just set the date, and I’ll be there,” Junhui says, pulling his keys out of his pocket.
Wonwoo ignores how the word “date” makes his heart flip. “Sounds good.” He pats his pockets for his own keys, when he remembers that he doesn’t have them with him. And then the events of the evening prior to the movie come crashing back to him. Apparently, he’s not done getting humiliated by the Universe quite yet.
“Um,” he hesitates, watching Junhui turn the lock and pushing the door open. “Can I…” He motions for the open apartment, hoping his neighbor understands without Wonwoo having to speak out loud.
“Oh, right,” Junhui chuckles and nods, stepping aside for him. “Come on in.”
The boys enter the apartment, and Wonwoo glimpses at the stacked plates and bowls on the coffee table. They left before he can offer to do the dishes in repayment. Can he do so now, or was it already too late in the night? He scans the walls, searching for a clock.
“Did you leave your keys here?” Junhui asks, a little confused by Wonwoo’s movements.
“Oh, no, I was just looking for the time.” He points to the dirty dishes. “I was planning on washing those to thank you for everything.”
But Junhui waves the issue off. “You don’t have to do that. It’s fine. Plus, you’re hurt,” he points to the small cuts. “I’ll do them really quick before bed.” As if the mention of a bed triggers a reflex, Junhui yawns and cups his hand over his mouth. “Sorry,” he laughs at himself.
“See?” Wonwoo moves forward to pick up the ceramic dishware. “You go get ready for bed. I promise I won’t break anything.” He takes the stacks to the kitchen sink, Junhui close on his heels.
“Do you even know how to do the dishes?” the actor asks playfully, leaning against the counter and watching Wonwoo turn on the water.
The latter turns a mock glare on him. “Stop making fun of the fact that I eat pre-packaged food.”
Junhui laughs again, and Wonwoo swears it sounds cuter now that he’s sleepy. “Okay, okay.” He pats Wonwoo’s back, but he lingers for a moment to watch Wonwoo squeeze soap onto the sponge.
Amused, Wonwoo looks over his shoulder to meet the blond’s eyes. “You can go. Promise I won’t rob the place.”
The comment earns him a grin as the other pokes his neck. “You better not. I know where you live.”
Even though Wonwoo rolls his eyes, he’s laughing.
Despite all the yawning and the fact that his eyes are drooping, Junhui refuses to leave. He tries to rinse the plates that Wonwoo has washed, but the other blocks his path, hip-checking him every time he gets too close to the sink. After a few tries, he relents and hops on the counter instead, leaning on the microwave, and talking to Wonwoo. As the minutes tick by, the conversation turns more and more random, and Wonwoo wonders if it’s because Junhui is too sleepy to make much more sense. The sight of a sleepy Junhui, cheek resting on a fist, trying his best to stay awake, endears Wonwoo. A peek at the microwave clock shows 12:35. No wonder the early bird is falling asleep.
Once Wonwoo puts all the dishes on the drying rack, he flicks a few droplets onto Junhui’s face. The other scrunches his face, jerking back at the sudden stimulus.
“That’s not nice,” he complains with a pout, cracking his eyes open.
Wonwoo laughs, drying his hands on the towel. “That’s what you get for not going to bed when I told you to.”
“How is that fair?” the other retorts, swinging his legs, which basically touch the floor. “You’re not my maid.”
“True,” Wonwoo agrees, leaning against the sink so their arms are almost touching. “I do not look good in those uniforms.”
Junhui bursts into laughter, head lolling to rest against Wonwoo’s shoulder. The latter sucks in a breath, eyeing the blond locks tickling his nose. Tentatively, he reaches up and brushes them down, then lays his cheek on the crown of Junhui’s head.
They stay still like that for exactly three minutes. Wonwoo stared at the oven clock, counting his erratic breathing, and Junhui’s steady ones. He thinks Junhui has fallen asleep, but then he hears a small and soft voice.
“This is nice.” His breath blows across Wonwoo’s neck, and the editor smiles.
“Yeah, it is.”
“Do you want to have breakfast tomorrow?”
Wonwoo chuckles. “I don’t know, what time do you want to eat?”
The actor shrugs. “Since I’m still awake at this hour, I won’t be able to get up as early as usual. How about eight?”
“On a Sunday?”
Junhui laughs at the shock of Wonwoo’s tone. “What time do you usually wake up, then?”
“I don’t know, like eleven?”
“That’s basically lunch!”
“Wanna compromise and say brunch instead?” Wonwoo ventures.
“I don’t mind,” Junhui replies. “But what would I do in the meantime?”
“Sleep in for once,” he pokes his side, causing the blond to curl up with a giggle.
“I’m planning on it, but there’s no way I’ll sleep until eleven.” Sitting up slightly, he rests his chin on Wonwoo’s shoulder and looks up at him.
Wonwoo can see their reflection in the small window, colors tinted by the dark sky beyond the glass. But he can clearly make out Junhui’s smirk and brilliant eyes gazing at him. He focuses on how nicely they fit against each other, complementarily. His hand is naturally resting on Junhui’s knee, thumb caressing the warm skin through the ripped hole. Junhui’s upper body is pressed against his side, as he gazes at Wonwoo’s profile.
Through the reflexion and from the corner of his eye, he sees Junhui lift his finger to poke at his cheek, grin widening when he glimpses over.
“Are you falling asleep with your eyes open?” the trickster wonders, poking him again.
“No,” he rolls his eyes, reaching up to grip the probing digit and bringing it to his teeth. “I was trying to think of something for you to do.”
“I was going to ask you to do some editing, but that’s just going to create more work for me.”
“Hey!” Mock offense crosses his expression as he sits up. “I know how to edit. I’ve read plenty of scripts and books in my life. I can tell when things don’t sound right.”
“I know,” Wonwoo concedes around an amused grin, “But you’re a terrible speller.”
At that, Junhui’s cheeks turn pink, and he makes a face, looking away. “Fine. Then what else am I supposed to do while you’re still off counting sheep?”
“Oh, come on, don’t pout,” he teases, squeezing the other’s knee. When Junhui turns back around, he suggests, “You can borrow some of my books. Reading should pass the time quicker.”
“You want me to crash into your apartment at eight in the morning for some books?” he asks with a quirked brow.
Wonwoo rolls his eyes. “I was thinking of taking you back and letting you choose a couple right now.”
“Well, that’s not as exiting,” he jokes. “But okay.” Hopping off the counter, he follows Wonwoo to the balcony.
They study the ruined hedges, and Wonwoo sucks in a breath through his teeth, shoving his hands into his pockets. “I’ll fix it,” he tells Junhui.
“Are you a gardener, too?” There’s real interest in the question, and Wonwoo smiles.
“I wouldn’t go that far, but I like plants, yes. I’ll trim this off so it can grow back nicely.”
“There’s no rush,” Junhui says.
Nodding, Wonwoo climbs over the partly destroyed bush back onto his balcony. Junhui follows after him, and right into the apartment. The editor leads the actor to the bookcases and lets him look through the spines. His neighbor seems very impressed with the collection as he picks the volumes up excitedly, reading through the summaries and book flaps. Wonwoo wears a content smile as he sits on the floor at his side.
They don’t return to their own beds until well past 1am. Wonwoo feels exhausted, but he falls asleep with a smile, looking forward to tomorrow’s brunch. He chooses not to think about how his apparent crush isn’t showing any sign of fading away, and instead seems to intensity.
One quiet evening, Wonwoo is sitting in silence, answering panicked emails from new authors. His fingers hit the keyboard, and the sharp clacking of the keys echo around the apartment. Suddenly, accompanying the rhythmic sound of keys struck, he hears the soft riff of a guitar. He stops typing, straining his ears to make sure he’s not imagining it.
The sound definitely comes from a guitar, but the player seems to be struggling. The notes are a little awkward and discordant, the way new students have a hard time pinning the strings to the neck. Wonwoo listens for a few more minutes, trying to discern where it could be coming from.
As far as he knows, not counting himself, only two other tenants play guitar: Jisoo and Jihoon, and neither one would sound so inexperienced. Did Seokmin get a hold of the older’s instrument, he wonders. Closing his laptop, he walks to the gap in the glass door. Sure enough, the music sounds louder. He nudges the door slightly more open and slips out. On the balcony, he can hear it much clearer. And that’s when he realizes where it’s coming from.
Wonwoo climbs over the now bald hedges and hops onto Junhui’s balcony. He can see the actor sitting on the floor, back leaning against the couch, hugging the instrument. A crease formed between his brows, he looks down at the fingers gripping the neck, while the other hand holds the pick and strums lightly. With his door wide open, no wonder the sound travelled into Wonwoo’s apartment.
Gently, he knocks on the wall from outside, causing Junhui look up in surprise.
“Oh, hey,” he says with a smile, then it turns worried. “Sorry, am I being too loud?”
Wonwoo shakes his head. “No, it’s okay.” He flicks his chin toward the instrument. “Are you trying to learn or something?”
The actor lets out a timid chuckle, setting the guitar aside. “I was hanging out with Jisoo this afternoon, and he taught me a few chords.” He pulls his knees to his chest and shrugs, “But I guess from the time it took me to return here with his extra guitar, I’ve already forgotten. Oh well, I guess I’ll stick to piano for now."
“Everyone gets better with practice,” Wonwoo says. “I’m sure you didn’t get all those awards by doing nothing.”
The blond laughs, “Look who decided to google me.”
Wonwoo rolls his eyes, shaking his head. “Anyway, I can teach you if you want,” he points to the discarded instrument.
Junhui’s eyes turn round, and excitement turns them sparkly. “You play?”
“Somewhat. I’m nowhere near as good as Jisoo or Jihoon, though.”
“Aw, don’t be modest!” Junhui stands up to come and tug him inside. “Besides cooking and waking up early, you do everything very well.”
“Thanks,” he mutters, trying not to let it show that his ears are turning red. He takes a seat next to Junhui on the floor.
“Play me something!” the other says, picking up the guitar and handing it to him with both hands.
There’s no way he can say no to that face, he realizes belatedly. Before he knows it, he has the instrument in his grasp. He strums it a few times to get the feel for it again. It’s been a while since he’s last picked one up and actually played. Junhui hands him the red pick, and he settles himself more comfortably with the body resting on his thigh.
From the corner of his eye, he sees Junhui staring at him with a thrilled grin, eyes full of anticipation.
He lets out a shaky breath, then places his fingers over the neck. He decides to play an old favorite, a ballad he’s learned since high school. Over the years, for some reason he’s been able to remember every single note by heart.
As the music starts to flow into the apartment, Wonwoo gains more confidence. His fingers glide along, switching at the appropriate times, slowly and accelerating the strumming in varying times. He watches with pleasure as Junhui sits next to him, chin resting on his knees, sways back and forth. His eyes don’t leave Wonwoo’s, and a happy grin dances on his lips. He listens intently, elated at the music created at the tips of Wonwoo’s fingers.
“That was amazing,” he sighs contently once Wonwoo puts the guitar down. The dreamy expression he wears as he leans his face on a fist makes the musician blush. “If you sing, too, I think I might fall in love.” Junhui concludes the remark with a giggle, unaware of the effect it has on Wonwoo’s heart.
The latter swallows thickly, sucking in shallow breaths of air in a futile attempt to calm down. He’s been waiting for the infatuation to die down, but no such luck. Every day that passes, his feelings for his neighbor get stronger, and he has no idea how to stop them from advancing. Or whether he wants to.
“Here,” he passes the instrument to Junhui. The dreamy expression quickly disappears and transforms into one of trepidation. “If you want me to teach you, you gotta show me what you know first.”
“Not much,” Junhui mutters, gingerly picking the guitar up and laying it over his lap. He idly sweeps the back of his fingers over the strings, making them sing softly, then he taps outs an unknown beat over the wood.
Wonwoo doesn’t like to see the downcast eyes on his neighbor; it doesn’t fit the bubbly and dorky personality at all. So he sits up and spreads his outstretched legs wider. “Come here.” He pats the floor in front of him, making Junhui glimpse over with a curious look.
But nevertheless, he acquiesces and scoots over, sitting with his back to Wonwoo’s chest. The musician pulls Junhui against him by the hips and sets the guitar over both of their legs. Usually, being this close to Junhui would make him hyperventilate, but for some reason, he just feels pleasantly warm right now. It’s similar to that feeling from a few weeks ago, in this apartment’s kitchen, with the half-asleep actor tucked against his side. His heart has sounded thunderous in his ears, but he also felt at peace at the same time. As if being in that position was natural and right.
So now Wonwoo controls his breathing and grips Junhui’s hand around the neck of the guitar, guiding his fingers into proper position. He expects an actor’s hands to be soft and pretty, and while Junhui’s are nice and slender, Wonwoo notices a lot of healed cuts and calluses. Curiosity knots his brows together, and he temporarily forgets about the music lesson. Gently, he flips Junhui’s hand up, tracing over the hardened and tough skin. He senses the other watching him, their faces mere inches apart.
“I didn’t know famous actors get calluses, too,” he teases gently. Junhui lets out a laugh, warm breath fanning over Wonwoo’s neck.
“I took martial arts lessons when I was younger,” he explains, answering Wonwoo’s unposed question. His tan fingers curl around Wonwoo’s pale ones and squeeze. Wonwoo feels the same pressure around his heart, but instead of hurting, it makes him grin like a fool.
“I did, too,” Wonwoo reveals, causing the actor to beam and widen his eyes, leaning his head back against Wonwoo’s shoulder to see him better.
“We should compare skills one day,” he suggests, and Wonwoo isn’t sure if he’s serious or not.
Cautiously, Wonwoo adds in a disclaimer, “I haven’t practiced it in a long time, though.”
The actor smirks, using their joined hands to poke his neck. “Is that your way of forfeiting?”
The taunting comment riles Wonwoo up, and he grips Junhui’s hand tighter, pulling it down from his neck. “As if!” The jerk causes his neighbor to slide down a few inches, and the actor throws his head back against Wonwoo’s chest, laughing delightfully.
“Relax, I was just teasing,” he says once he calms down from the fit, patting Wonwoo’s thigh. “I think it’d be a little difficult to explain to your boss why you were fighting your neighbor to end up with a black eye.”
“You think you’d win, don’t you?” he asks, looking down at the mischievous twinkle in Junhui’s eyes.
The other grins, dimples visible. “A little.”
Wonwoo narrows his eyes. “If I weren’t worried about damaging your money maker, I’d fight you right now,” he declares.
“Ooh, how noble of you,” he taunts, feigning fright. But he catches the giggles again and scrunches his nose.
Wonwoo isn’t sure what takes over him at that moment. But the next thing he knows, he’s grabbing Junhui by the shoulders and flips him over, pinning him down on the carpet. He hovers over him, staring at the blond locks brushing against the dark carpet, the dazed look in Junhui’s eyes. His pupils are dilated, cheeks rosy, full lips parted from shock. He blinks up at Wonwoo, breath catching a little. Their faces are so close, Wonwoo can feel his breath on him. If he just moves a few inches, he could taste those pink lips.
He starts to lean in, his heart already soaring at the possibility.
But within the last inch, he stops.
He doesn’t understand why, and from the wild look Junhui is giving him, the actor doesn’t understand, either. They stare at each other from the minute distance, so small, yet significant. The gears in Wonwoo’s head spin restlessly, trying to find a way out of this situation without turning it awkward. Although at this point, it’s almost impossible.
Junhui reacts faster, though. Saving the both of them.
He hooks his leg around Wonwoo’s hips, and in one flip, he switches their position. Wonwoo finds himself smacked against the floor, staring up at the popcorn ceiling. His vision soon fills with Junhui’s handsome face. It takes the editor a second to connect the dots and realize that the latter is straddling him. He panics again, not sure how this position is any better than the previous one. Especially when Junhui leans over him. A perfect reproduction of his earlier action.
And like him, Junhui stops right before their lips touch.
A smirk tugs one corner of his lips, and he removes one hand from Wonwoo shoulder to poke at the center of his chest.
After that “wrestling” incident, a strange tension hangs in the air whenever the boys are confined within the same four walls. They don’t have to do be touching, or even sitting close. One of them could be standing on the complete opposite side, and their gazes would still lock, like two magnets snapping together. It was undeniable and unavoidable.
Which was bound to be noticed by their friends.
It happens on an unusually hot summer night. They’re all hanging out in Seungcheol’s suite, where he’s hosting a game night. Some comedy is playing on the TV, and it takes Wonwoo a few moments to realize Junhui isn’t in it. He loses interest quite soon after the discovery. As do most of their friends, as the majority are sprawled on the hardwood floor, rotating board games after board games, before inserting a short round of poker, and now they’re on their second Jenga tower.
While the activities were fun—and he laughed quite a lot when the tower collapsed on Seungcheol after the older’s boasting—Wonwoo admittedly spent more time staring at Junhui’s perfect profile than he did paying attention to the games. The piercing gazes he received in response leave him quite breathless and feverish. Not even the high power air conditioning seem to be working. For that reason, he got up after Seungcheol lost, and went to the kitchen to fetch an iced beverage.
Now he’s standing by the counter, rolling the cold soda can over his forehead. Not that it’s helping much. Of course, it might make a significant difference if he looked away from the reason he’s burning up.
The boys have re-stacked the tower and picked out the order they’ll go in. The oldest one seems fired up at the prospect of winning the next round, as he claps his hands together and pulls out the first block. Hansol goes next, followed by Jisoo and Chan. It’s a little unstable by the time Junhui’s turn comes, and Wonwoo finds himself holding his breath as the tan fingers taps on the edge of the wooden block to dislodge it out of place. Smoothly, Junhui slides it out, proud grin dancing on his lips. Wonwoo breathes out in relief. Only it’s short-lived.
In the next second, Junhui glances up, catching his gaze.
The smaller part of Wonwoo’s brain that is still aware of his surrounding notices the tower teetering as Hansol finishes his turn. But the way Junhui is staring at him, Wonwoo feels that his knees might may wobble even more. He presses his lips into a thin line, grateful that his expression isn’t giving him away.
“Why don’t you take a picture? It’ll last longer.”
Soonyoung’s mocking voice cuts into his thoughts, and he blinks, breaking eye contact. When he looks back up, he sees Junhui resuming his turn, so Wonwoo faces the dance instructor.
His friend laughs at his reaction, patting his shoulder as he moves to grab a water bottle from the fridge. Out of the Junhui tunnel vision, Wonwoo notices that some of the boys have moved to the kitchen. Mingyu is at the other end of the counter, cutting up lemons and squeezing each half into a glass pitcher. Next to him, Minghao is scooping out sugar and adding it to the juice. Seokmin is also in the kitchen, for some reason.
“You can just google him,” Seokmin comments, grabbing the wooden spoon by the lemons. “There’s a bunch of good quality photoshoot pictures of him online.” He dunks the spoon and begins to swirl and mess with the thick layer of sugar at the bottle of the pitcher.
“Whoa, hey!” Minghao catches the glass container before it topples over and gives Seokmin a glare. “Do you have to act like a fool every single minute?”
Shrugging, the other laughs. “Just trying to help.”
“You can help clean up,” Minghao says, confiscating the wooden spoon, much to Seokmin’s dismay.
“I don’t think he’s had any recent photoshoot as a blond, though,” Mingyu pipes up, pouring more citrus juice into the pitcher.
Wonwoo alternates his focus between each members of the group, quirking a questioning brow. “What are you guys even on about?”
Jihoon appears out of nowhere—wait, not nowhere. He was just blocked by Mingyu’s tall frame—and plops on the stool next to Wonwoo. “Since when did you become so obtuse?” he wonders, smacking the editor’s arm with the back of his hand. “They’re talking about how you and Junhui have been eye fucking each other for the past week. You’re staring at him so much, you might as well take a picture of him.”
“Or google it!”
Wonwoo rolls his eyes to hide the creeping blush from being noticed. And to think he figured his poker face would save him the embarrassment of being caught by his friends.
“You guys need to mind your own damn business,” he mutters, drinking a large gulp of Coke.
“But prodding into yours is so much more fun!” Soonyoung quips with a carefree laugh. “Seriously, though, dude.” He grips Wonwoo’s shoulders and shakes them. “You’re so obvious, it hurts. With this much sexual tension blocking the air flow, I’m surprised you two haven’t frick-fracked yet.”
The editor shakes him off, clicking his tongue in annoyance. “Please, just shut up.”
“I think it’s cute,” Mingyu chimes in, returning from pouring in a few water bottles into the pitcher. When the rest of the group turn their attention to him, he elaborates. “It’s cute that you guys are both too shy to confess.”
“We’re not cute, and there’s nothing to confess.”
His friends roll their eyes collectively. He sighs.
Seokmin makes himself useful by grabbing the ice cube trays from the freezer and dropping them into the lemonade, while Soonyoung digs around Seungcheol’s cabinets for plastic cups. With most of the group dispersed, Jihoon nudges Wonwoo’s arm with his drink.
The taller one glances over. “What now?”
“Whatever is stopping you, I suggest you figure it out fast,” the musician says. “Keep in mind that Junhui isn’t a permanent tenant. If you actually want to become more than just neighbors and friends, grow a pair and tell him.” Standing up, he adds, “Do it before something happens to cause him to return to his senses and go back to his previous life.”
As it turns out, the incident occurs less than a week later.
On his way home from the train station, Wonwoo sees from afar the police car parked in front of the Pledis building. His steps slow automatically at the foreign and worrisome sight. He approaches cautiously, glancing inside the vehicle to see a teenaged girl sitting in the back with her arms crossed, a grimace on her face as she looks out the window. Standing by the driver’s door, an officer is writing something into a notepad. When he senses Wonwoo’s presence, he looks up with a stern expression, to which the editor quickly bows and moves along.
Upon arriving in the lobby, he asses the scene before him. Seungcheol, frowning and perturbed, listens in intently to another officer speaking to Seungkwan and his roommates. Jeonghan and Jisoo stand a few feet away by the row of mail boxes, looking worried. Seokmin and Minghao sit together on the benches, and Mingyu brings over two cups of water from the corner dispenser for them. Wonwoo’s eyes flicker to the left, where Soonyoung studies the oral report that the college students are giving to the officer, his hands tangled together on top of his head. His feet move restlessly, and Jihoon briefly peeks at the disruption, before returning his attention to the front.
His stomach in knots, he searches for the missing person. What in the world happened while he was at the office? Who’s the girl in the cop car? What did she do to turn his friends so somber? And most importantly, where is—
A hand falls on his shoulder, and he turns in response.
“Sorry, it’s just me,” Soonyoung says, noting the emotions quickly crossing Wonwoo’s face. “Junhui’s outside, talking to his manager.”
His insides twist painfully. “What happened?”
“Did you see the girl outside?”
Wonwoo nods. “Yeah.”
“She broke into the kids’ apartment, thinking it was Junhui’s.” Wonwoo’s eyes turn round, but his shock is only starting. “She’s a big fan, apparently,” his friend laughs wryly. “Anyway, she started grabbing random shit around their place. The noise alerted them, so they came out of their rooms. When she saw them, she turned kind of psycho.” He made a face. “I heard her screeches from my place, if you can believe it. She demanded to know who they were, and what they were doing in Junhui’s place. When they tried to calm her down, she turned their living room upside down, throwing stuff to keep them away. Then here’s where it gets worse.”
After all of that, Wonwoo can hardly imagine what can be worse than some random stranger breaking into your home and wrecking it in a fit of insanity.
“Seungkwan picked up the phone to call the police, and she panicked. So she ran to the balcony and tried to jump.”
“Oh, my god!”
“Yeah, tell me about it. By then, the screams and ruckus were too much to ignore, so I ran over to see. If Chan and Hansol were even a second too slow, she’d be lying on a metal slab at the morgue right now.”
Wonwoo exhales, shaking his head at the impossible event. “That’s crazy,” he comments superfluously.
“Yeah,” Soonyoung throws a look toward their superintendent and the college kids. “Thankfully no one got hurt, but Seungcheol is probably giving himself a few stomach ulcers right now.”
“No kidding.” After another scan of the room and still no sign of the actor, he ventures, “So then… What’s up with Junhui and his manager?”
But his friend merely shakes his head. “I don’t know. When everything went down, he was hanging out with Jeonghan and Jisoo. He only found out when the police arrived, and everyone went out to find out what happened. As far as I know, the fan never saw his face.” Soonyoung shrugs. “He still probably has to tell his manager before he finds out through the news or something.”
As Wonwoo stretches his neck from the sudden hefty weight of stress, he meets Jihoon’s gaze. He’s reminded of their conversation in Seungcheol’s apartment, and dread fills his mouth, turning it cottony.
The lobby door is pulled open, and Wonwoo turns toward the sound. The person he wants to see the most enters, wearing a cap and sunglasses, face lowered, shoulders hunched. He hugs the walls and hides in the corner, silently taking off his sunglasses and tucking them into the collar of his shirt. His face is blank, no traces of the usual animated, kind, and clumsy dork. Wonwoo’s legs itch to march over immediately, but he’s forced to wait. The officer gives them all a few last words about safety and tips on how to handle stressful and potentially dangerous people.
The whole group visibly relaxes once the police car drives off with the crazy fan.
“What a day!” Seungkwan cries with a tired sigh. He sinks into the bench next to Minghao, and the latter rubs his back reassuringly. “And to think I was planning on going to the movies today! I don’t even want to think about what could have happened if we weren’t home.”
“I still can’t believe she climbed the fire escape,” Chan says. “And then she tried to jump! From the third floor!” his eyes are open wide as he waves his arms in the air.
Hansol looks out of it as he sits down next to Seungkwan, pushing his elbows onto his knees and forming a little tent with his hands over his nose.
There’s a very quiet shuffle of long limbs, and a hesitant throat clearing. Wonwoo watches Junhui pushing himself off of the wall and stepping forward, drawing the focus of the rest of the group. He appears so small standing there, curled in on himself, hands cupping his elbows against him. Wonwoo has a sudden flash of the first night, at the party. Once again, Junhui finds himself on the outskirt of the group, scared and uncertain. Wonwoo wants to close the distance, but he’s rooted at the spot.
Junhui bows at the waist toward Seungcheol and the kids. “I sincerely apologize for all the trouble I’ve caused you. When I met with you,” he addresses a stunned Seungcheol, “I promised that my stay wouldn’t cause any disturbance to you or the other tenants,” he swallows. “So my manager and I agreed that it will be best if I moved out.”
A hush falls over the lobby as they all stare at the actor. Wonwoo stops breathing.
Eventually, Seungcheol breaks the deafening silence. “What?”
Junhui averts his eyes, teeth chewing his bottom lip. He takes in a deep breath to steady his voice. “Hansol, Seungkwan, and Chan were hurt today because of me. I was too careless, I…” Turning to them, he bows again. “I’m really sorry.”
“No, no, no! Stop!” The three boys jump out and pull him up, shaking their heads and reassuring him with overlapping voices that he has nothing to be sorry for. He didn’t ask for it to happen, and they surely weren’t blaming him for something someone else did. “We don’t want you to move out,” Hansol says.
The others echo his statement, resulting in the minuscule lift of Junhui’s mouth. He looks at the boys fondly, the way someone looks at their own family. It makes Wonwoo’s heart ache when he recalls Junhui’s phone conversation with his mother: It’s been so long, I almost forgot what it felt like to make friends instead of connections.
“Junnie.” Seungcheol walks up and puts a firm hand on his shoulder. “I’m not going to stop you from moving out if that’s what you want,” he says, and Wonwoo wants to argue the opposite, but he holds his tongue when the older continues, “But I believe you’ll create an even bigger disturbance if you leave us at this point.” He smiles gently, and the actor laughs timidly. It’s a wet sound that accompanies a sniffle.
“Aww!” Jeonghan comes, nudging the others over to stand before Junhui. Smiling, he pats the actor’s cheeks. “You may be a big movie star to the rest of the world, but you’re one of us now.”
He lets out another wet laugh, but nods. “I guess you do deserve your nickname once in a while.”
“Why, aren’t you being cheeky!”
Their friends laugh along, and very soon the tension thaws like frost under the morning’s sun. Wonwoo feels himself breathing a little easier now that Junhui has postponed his departure, but he still feels unsettled, as though he’s only delaying the impossible.
Movement from the corner of his eye catches his attention, and he glances over. Jihoon, standing behind Junhui, is snapping his finger to get Seungcheol’s focus. Then when the superintendent gives it to him, he darts his eyes to the side, head flicking toward the other wall. Wonwoo is a little confused by the exchange, but Seungcheol seems to get it without difficulty, because he nods.
“Alright, kids.” He claps his hands together. “We’ve all had a very long day. What do you say we get some rest?”
“Not for us,” Seungkwan grumbles. “We gotta clean.”
“I can help,” Junhui volunteers, but the younger boy shakes his head immediately.
“No, it’s okay. Mingyu and Minghao will help, right?” Turning to the couple, he claps his hands together and pleads. When the others seem reluctant, he elbows his roommates, prompting them to mimic his actions, adding on the charms and cuteness. It’s not long before the second floor tenants relent and agree.
The group splits into two clumps, one taking the stairs to the second floor, while the rest file toward the elevator. Wonwoo and his neighbor are bringing up the rear, but when they get to the elevator, Seungcheol stops them from going in.
“Sorry, we reached the capacity limit,” he says.
“Catch the next one,” the superintendent instructs, then presses the button to close the doors in the faces.
The boys turn to glance at each other. There’s a weird and unusual awkward silence between them. So this is what Jihoon and Seungcheol were planning, he realizes. Those little schemers!
“Um,” Wonwoo starts. When Junhui turns to look at him, though, he feels the butterflies take flight in his stomach again. He clears his throat. “I’m glad you’re not moving away.”
Junhui smiles, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. They haven’t returned to their usual spark, either. “I don’t want to leave, but I still need to find a better alternative. My manager has no idea how word got out that I live here, but we’re afraid of more incidents happening.”
“Did the girl see you?”
He shakes his head. “I don’t think so. Jeonghan gave me the sunglasses, and Jihoon put the cap over my head.”
“Then I don’t think you need to worry too much.”
“Maybe.” But he doesn’t look convinced. He’s still worried, that tiny crease appearing between his brows again.
Without thinking, Wonwoo reaches over and smoothes it out with the pad of his thumb. He cracks a smile when the gesture elicits a small chuckle from Junhui.
“Don’t give yourself premature wrinkles,” he jokes, causing the other to laugh more freely. It’s a lot closer to the sound that Wonwoo has come to adore.
“Thanks for looking out for me,” he responds a little wryly.
They share a smile, shifting their weights until their shoulders brush together. Wonwoo steals a peek, finding the sight of Junhui biting his lip in hopes of keeping the silly grin off of his face to be really cute, and the corners of Wonwoo’s lips curl upward on their own accord.
As the elevator arrives and they enter, Junhui wonders aloud, “Do you think there are any vacant apartments in the building?”
Wonwoo reaches for the button of their floor as naturally as he can without alerting the other of the chill shooting down his spine. “I’m not sure, why?” He almost doesn’t want to know the answer.
Junhui shrugs, looking over from the panel to Wonwoo’s face. “The more I think about it, the more likely it seems that I might have been spotted during our balcony meet ups. Those were the only times I was outside without any disguise, or paying as much attention to the surrounding.” Flicking his eyes away, he mumbles, “You kinda have that effect on me.”
The blush is clear, but Wonwoo decides not to tease him about it, because he’s feeling too elated from Junhui’s comment. He swallows and returns to the topic at hand. “So you want to shut yourself away?”
“Either that, or move to another apartment, if one is available.” He shrugs again, sighing sadly. “Neither are exactly ideal, but it beats moving away completely.”
“Right,” Wonwoo responds woodenly, too preoccupied with finding a solution. He doesn’t want to lose Junhui as his next door neighbor, but neither does he want to quit their meet ups. They’re the best parts of his day.
It takes him the whole ride to come up with a solution, and then find the courage to actually form the words. He follows Junhui out and down the hall. They stop in front of Wonwoo’s apartment to say goodbye, and the editor knows it’s now or never.
“Do you want to move in with me?” he blurts out, almost too fast to be intelligible. He figures if he approaches it like you rip off a bandaid, it might hurt less.
Junhui blinks, lips parted. “You mean…” he leaves the question hanging, making vague hand gestures between the two of them, then points at the door to the apartment.
Of course Wonwoo understands the implication of that question. Unless you’re still in school and pick roommates, you don’t just ask someone to move in with you unless you want to take the relationship a step further. Unfortunately, Wonwoo has yet found the guts to ask Junhui out, much less be in a relationship with him. So it’s understandable that the actor is confused now.
“Er… I mean, you can stay with me for a few days while things settle down,” he backpedals. “You won’t have to move, and we can still see each other.” Wonwoo is burning up. He feels like his internal organs are melting. He wants a black hole to open up and swallow him. Unable to face Junhui, he finds sudden interest in his shoes. The next several seconds are excruciating as he waits for an answer, any answer.
“I-if you’d really let me,” Junhui answers at last, voice barely above a whisper.
Wonwoo risks a peek, and the other is blushing so hard, he’s practically glowing. He tugs at his lower lip, waiting for Wonwoo to say something.
A thrill runs through him as the meaning of the words click into place. He nods, grin blooming on his face. “Of course.”
One of the first things they do once Junhui moves in with Wonwoo is close off the curtains. As much as Wonwoo loves having Junhui with him, he knows how disastrous it would be for the actor’s career and reputation if word got out that he’s co-habitating with some random guy in an apartment in the middle of nowhere. Wonwoo also insists that Junhui at least puts on a cap whenever he leaves Wonwoo’s apartment, even if it’s to go next door to grab some personal effects. One can never be too sure. Wonwoo still worries about a potential fan showing up in the hallway and catching the actor disguise-free.
For their first evening together, Wonwoo calls for delivery. Junhui offered to cook, but making his guest cook him dinner seemed rude, so he declined, saying he was perfectly fine with instant noodles, to which Junhui responded that a human being needs proper food. They alternate paying for the various restaurants they order from, until one day Wonwoo returns home to find his fridge full of fresh ingredients, and a proud Junhui prepping dinner at the kitchen counter. The sight had stunned Wonwoo into silence, and he couldn’t find any argument to make. Junhui seamlessly took over the meal duties, commenting how now Wonwoo would eat like a functioning adult instead of a broke college student. Wonwoo would have found some way to refute him, if the food didn’t taste so good.
As for the sleeping arrangements, a routine sort of accidentally developed. Junhui had brought over his spare futon to place on the floor of Wonwoo’s bedroom, but so far, he has yet to use it. Mostly because he’s taken over Wonwoo’s couch. In the evenings, while Wonwoo works on his revisions or answers emails, Junhui would slowly, but gradually, work through the editor’s book collection. And then fall asleep. Wonwoo has told him numerous times to go into the bedroom so he could sleep more comfortably, but the latter had refused, saying he enjoyed having Wonwoo’s company. And Wonwoo couldn’t argue that point, either, because while he never admitted it, he liked working on the floor and sensing Junhui’s presence behind him. He liked hearing the quiet flipping of pages, the muffled giggles and gasps. It was very comforting.
And so it went. By the time Wonwoo was ready to turn in for the night, Junhui would already be dozing off, half finished book splayed over his chest. The editor would take off his glasses to rub his tired eyes and smile to himself as he brushes the blond locks out of the actor’s eyes. As gently as he could manage, he’d remove the book and replace it with a blanket. In return, Junhui would always greet him in the morning with a full breakfast and a sparkling smile.
Life is good, Wonwoo thinks every day as he digs into the lunch Junhui’s prepared for him.
Several weeks after their new living arrangements. It’s a Friday night, and they’ve just finished doing the dishes to return to the floor and sit against the couch. Some criminal drama is playing on TV, but neither really pays attention to it. Casually, Junhui takes Wonwoo’s hand in his and starts playing with it. Wonwoo lets him, used to the random show of affection by now. They’re always very innocent and natural, as if the one initiating them isn’t even aware of what he’s doing. There hasn’t been a repeat of the guitar lesson, nor of the “wrestling” match following it, and even though Wonwoo’s heart is grateful for the reprieve, he also can’t help feeling a little frustrated.
He’s currently living with his crush, and the most they’ve done is hold hands. Which can’t even be considered romantic, because it’s just Junhui playing with his fingers, tracing invisible patterns, while his mind is focused on the TV or whatever book he’s picked up. Since Wonwoo has no clue on how to broach the subject, he thought he would use some other way to hint at it.
Leaving his hand in Junhui’s grasp, he reaches behind them to grab his bag from the couch. The movement causes Junhui to stop tracing his palm lines, and start to pay attention to the contents of Wonwoo’s bag. The editor takes out four DVDs and places them on the coffee table. Junhui briefly glimpses at the covers and laughs, arching a brow toward his roommate.
“There’s nothing on TV,” Wonwoo states, “Wanna pick something to watch?”
“You want to watch one of these?” Skepticism is evident in the other’s tone as he sweeps his gaze over the DVDs once more.
“What? They come highly recommended.” Wonwoo pretends not to see his point, even though he knows exactly why question marks are floating around his blond hair. The collection consists of Junhui’s best selling romantic movies: one comedy, and three drama. Normally, Wonwoo wouldn’t be caught dead watching anything like this, but he has to start somewhere, right? Besides, he gets an odd thrill thinking about how the man on the screen is now sitting right beside him, in his living room, still holding his hand.
Admittedly, he was still a little clueless about Junhui’s movies. Which is why he went to Mingyu’s apartment this evening after work. The movie buff has looked through his extensive and eclectic collection, scanning the titles for a few seconds, before pulling those four out onto the table.
Resting his chin in his palm, he gives Wonwoo a knowing look, brows wagging suggestively. “The storylines aren’t bad, good reviews. But they’re especially great if you’re in need of, shall we say… ‘material for lonely nights.’”
Wonwoo grabs a DVD and swats the younger’s arm. “I am not!”
But Mingyu doubles over laughing. “Then what are you even doing borrowing movies? You have the real deal in your apartment right now. Shouldn’t you try to make a move instead of watching him get it on with some A-list starlet?”
“No one asked for your opinion,” Wonwoo mutters, stacking the DVDs into a small pile.
Emerging from the kitchen with a bag of chips, Minghao sits between the boys. “While I’m never one to agree with Mingyu—”
“—I do have to agree with him on this one,” Minghao continues smoothly, not sparing his boyfriend a second look. “You guys are literally living together. Asking him out can’t be that hard.”
Wonwoo’s face remains blank. “I’m working on it.”
“Are you planning on doing it this century or the next?” Mingyu wonders, pursuing his lips. “At the rate you’re going, I’m betting on the next.”
Wonwoo rolls his eyes. “Thank you so much for the unsolicited advice,” he mutters, standing up and taking the movies with him.
Now back in the apartment, Junhui picks up one of the discs and waves it around. “Did you even read the summary?”
The other shrugs, feigning nonchalance. “Sure. Sounded interesting. Why? You don’t like them?”
“It’s not that,” he answers, putting it back down on the table. He drums his fingers on the surface for a second as he tries to find the words, mouth twisting to the side. “It’s just a little weird.”
Wonwoo blinks. Did he figure it out? Is this his way of rejecting me before I even ask?
“It’s like when you watch a movie with your parents, and a sex scene comes up,” Junhui says, cutting into Wonwoo’s paranoia. He’s not meeting Wonwoo’s gaze as he continues, “Only it’s worse because I’m actually in the sex scenes. And it really doesn’t make it easier that I’d be watching it with you.” The last sentence is spoken so softly and fast, Wonwoo almost misses it. Almost.
Junhui turns to stare at the curtains fluttering in the nightly breeze, the tips of his ears red. Wonwoo represses a smirk, even though it’s still apparent in his voice when he speaks next.
“Sooo… It’s okay for everyone else to see you naked, but not me?”
“Oh, my god.” Junhui presses his hands over his face and pulls his knees to his chest.
Wonwoo laughs, nudging his shoulder with his. “What do you want to watch, then?”
The question draws Junhui out of hiding. He lowers his hands, cheeks still dusted pink. “Preferably none of those,” he waves toward the DVDs. “But if you really want to, I’ll sit through them with you,” he mumbles the last part.
Wonwoo smiles. “Nah, I might just end up watching your reactions instead of the movie.”
Junhui lets out a chuckle, glancing sideways at him. “Okay, then how about you introduce me to the horror movies you love so much?”
A brow quirked, he asks, “Are you serious?”
“Sure! I haven’t watched one in a long time. Well, aside from that one from last year, but it was lame, so it doesn’t count.”
“I don’t mind, but they’re pretty hardcore,” he warns.
But Junhui is undeterred. “I’ll be fine. Besides, I think I have extra perks being in the industry and all.” He grins proudly. “I know all the tricks directors and the special effects team use.”
“Alright, if you say so,” Wonwoo chuckles as he gets up to go to the TV stand and pick a movie out at random. He turns on the DVD player and puts the disc in.
Excitedly, Junhui grabs a pillow and hugs it between his chest and knees, grin stretching across his face. Before returning to his seat, Wonwoo flips off the lights. The other says nothing as he keeps his eyes strained on the screen, reading through the backstory introduction. Wonwoo settles back, small smirk tugging the corner of his mouth. He can’t wait to see how Junhui reacts.
Halfway through, his cheeks are sore from the constant grin resulting in watching Junhui. Despite his boasting, the actor is reduced to a spectator as he follows along the storyline. His body jumps at every noise, his teeth are sinking into his bottom lip, and his eyes are blown wide. He has long forgone the pillow to grab onto Wonwoo’s arm like a lifesaver, using his shoulder to block out the intense scenes.
Right now, he has his arm wrapped around Wonwoo’s, using both hands to cover his face. But no sooner has he hid that he pulls his fingers apart to peek though. “Oh, god. No, don’t go into the woods, no, no, no…”
Wonwoo stifles his laughter, using his free hand to press a fist against his lips.
On the screen, the hero spins around in a circle. Then suddenly, the demon lunges out. Next to Wonwoo, Junhui yelps, and his body startles. “I knew it!” he whisper-shouts. “This is—Ark!” This time, the scaredy-cat presses his whole face against Wonwoo’s chest, hands grabbing him by the shoulders.
Wonwoo’s laughter dies in his throat. His hand hesitantly settles on the blond’s back as he feels his heart beat hammering from the fright. Warm breath tickles his throat, and he swears he feels Junhui’s plump lips brush at the skin there. But before he can make sure, the other is already shifting around, peeking out at the screen. When he deems it safe, he pulls away, resuming their previous positions, with Wonwoo’s right arm as his prisoner.
By the end of the movie, both of their hearts beat erratically. While Junhui’s is a reaction from fear, Wonwoo’s is a whole different story.
The blond has yet to dislodge himself from Wonwoo’s side, and he doesn’t seem ready to give up custody of Wonwoo’s arm anytime soon. The editor hits a few buttons on the remote, stopping the movie. They sit in the silent darkness for a moment, only the sounds of their breathing audible.
“That… was a very good movie,” Junhui eventually concludes, his voice still a little dazed.
With the few minutes of reprieve, Wonwoo has managed to calm himself enough to sound normal. “How would you know? You had your eyes closed the whole time,” he teases.
“Did not!” Junhui retorts, spinning sideways to face him. Wonwoo can see the flickering light from the TV reflected in his eyes. “I knew the demon was that guy the whole time!”
“True,” Wonwoo admits. “I was surprised you could tell so early on.”
A satisfied smile appears. “See? I told you I knew all the tricks.”
The other scoffs, flicking his forehead. “You jumped at every scene.”
Pouting, Junhui rubs at the spot. “That just means I was paying attention to the movie and reacted accordingly.”
Wonwoo rolls his eyes. “Right… Anyway, let’s turn the lights back on before it comes and catches you.”
“Pfft,” Junhui scoffs, sitting up to reach for the light switch. “I’m not a child. I know the difference between fiction and reality, thank you very much.”
We’ll see about that.
After Wonwoo comes out of the shower, he sees the kitchen light turned on. He expected Junhui to be buried under the covers of his futon, actually putting the thing in use after all these weeks. But this unexpected development works in his favor. He tiptoes into the kitchen, smelling the faint fragrance of chamomile tea. He smirks to himself. Not scared, my ass.
With Junhui’s back facing him, he sneaks up, making sure the mug of hot liquid is far enough from his roommate to not cause any damage lest it spilled. Unaware and oblivious, Junhui swirls the tea bag inside the hot water by the tag, humming a quiet song to himself.
When Wonwoo is within a foot of him, he throws one last cautionary glimpse at the tea, then he pounces.
Junhui yelps, body catching a few centimeters of air. He spins around, pupils dilated, mouth agape, hand over his chest. “Wonwoo!” he yells.
But the latter is too busy laughing, hand on his knees as he wheezes. The raucous laughter fills the previously silent apartment, only cut through by Junhui’s voice.
“You’re such an ass!”
“I’m sorry,” the other says, although he looks the farthest from apologetic as he continues to rasp through his fit. “I’m really sorry, but I couldn’t resist.” He straightens out, wiping at the tears in his eyes, to see his victim wearing a pout.
With a huff, Junhui spins around, returning his attention to his tea.
“Aw, c’mon,” Wonwoo coos, walking up to grab him by the waist, resting his chin on his shoulder. “I apologized.”
“Yes, I heard you,” the other replies, stubbornly refusing to meet his gaze.
He grins, squeezing his sides a little to elicit a forced giggle. Junhui tries to wiggle out, but he just holds him tighter and repeats it. Another peel of laughter fills his ear, and he bites into the blond’s shoulder.
“Okay, okay,” Junhui relents, shaking with laughter as he leans into Wonwoo’s chest.
“Good.” Wonwoo stops his tickle attack and lets Junhui get back to the tea.
He keeps his hold on him as the blond moves around the kitchen to get the honey out of the cabinet, and pull out a lemon from the fridge. He studies Junhui’s movements, shifting his face so his nose is pressed against the slope of his shoulder, breathing in Junhui’s skin and soap through the tee-shirt. If Junhui feels hindered by the koala on his back, he doesn’t voice his complaint. Before long, he has a nice cup of sweetened lemon and chamomile tea.
“Having issues sleeping?” Wonwoo asks, smirking against Junhui’s shoulder blade.
The gentle clinking of the spoon against the side of ceramic pauses as the blond peeks over his side. “Well, whose fault do you think that is?” While he sounds reproachful, there’s an amused spark in his eyes that Wonwoo recognizes.
So he grins, shameless. “You picked the movie, though.”
“But you didn’t have to sneak up on me!”
Recalling the hilarious sight, Wonwoo laughs into Junhui’s neck, his arms coming around to squeeze him again. “I’m really sorry.”
He receives a mocking glare.
Wonwoo schools his expression to convey sincerity. “Really. No more.”
He nods, temple brushing against Junhui’s soft hair. “Promise.”
“Good.” Satisfied, Junhui resumes stirring the tea. “You better be because otherwise, you’re getting soggy pancakes and cold eggs in the morning.”
“That’s your big threat?” Wonwoo taunts. “A bad breakfast?”
The boy in his embrace scowls, although it doesn’t look scary at all. Cute things tend to have a hard time looking threatening, Wonwoo muses.
“Don’t tempt me, Jeon Wonwoo,” he warns as he picks up the mug and blows on it. After taking a sip, he offers it over his shoulder.
Wonwoo doesn’t have any sleeping issue, and he’s surely not going to get any nightmares. But he leans forward and takes a sip anyway. He tells Junhui to drink the rest, though, knowing the latter will still insist on waking up at the crack of dawn like he does every single day without fail. He wants Junhui to get as much sleep as he can.
After Junhui empties the mug and rinses it off, Wonwoo guides them out of the kitchen. Instead of leaving Junhui by the couch, he takes him to the bedroom. He figures the scaredy-cat would appreciate having someone else in the room with him. Besides, he’d be a lot more comfortable sleeping on a futon than a couch.
It’s not like Wonwoo devised a plan to get him used to the comfort of the quilt so that he’d want to sleep in the bedroom from now on. With Wonwoo only a few inches away. Nope, not at all. This is done all for Junhui’s own comfort.
At least that was the plan.
It’s been almost an hour now, and Wonwoo can still hear Junhui shuffling and wiggling under the covers. He looks through the dim light coming in from the window to see his roommate turning and tossing, unable to fall asleep.
“Are you okay?” he asks, breaking into the series of fabric rustling.
The noise stills. “Sorry, am I disturbing you?” comes Junhui’s tiny voice.
“No, I wasn’t asleep yet,” he answers honestly. “The tea didn’t help?”
Wonwoo’s heart is thundering in his chest again. It’s so loud, he’s afraid Junhui can actually hear it. His brain forms the word, and his tongue curls to make them audible. “Come here.” He pats the spot next to him on the bed.
The sound echoes through the quiet room. Realistically, it only lasts a few seconds, but they feel like hours, before Junhui pulls back his covers and walks forward. Wonwoo scoots over, and Junhui crawls in, laying right on the edge of the twin mattress, his back to him.
“You’re gonna fall off the bed.” Not waiting for a reply, Wonwoo reaches over and pulls Junhui back against him. He keeps his hand on his stomach, spooning him. He feels Junhui’s breath hitch as he swallows. “You okay?” he whispers, not trusting his voice to sound stable.
It’s so strange how a change in setting can affect them. They were just back-hugging in the kitchen an hour ago, with neither so much as batting an eye. He had felt butterflies and a thrill down his spine, yes, but it wasn’t as nerve-wrecking as this. Now he feels like he could combust, and his heart could break out of his chest at any time. And yet there’s nothing that could get him to let go.
Junhui nods, his hair tickling Wonwoo’s nose. “I’m great,” he says quietly, placing his own hand over Wonwoo’s.
“Good,” the other replies, pressing his lips to the crown of Junhui’s head. “Go to sleep now.”
Junhui nods again. “Goodnight, Wonwoo.”
Eventually, his breathing and heartbeat slow down enough for him to fall asleep.
The next morning, he’s disappointed to wake up alone, but he finds that it might have been the best night of sleep he’s had since childhood. As he rubs his eyes, he smells the unmistakable aroma of coffee and pancakes. With a smile, he sits up and trudges out. He leans against the doorway of the bathroom, glimpsing into the kitchen. He see Junhui at the stove, spatula in hand, flipping the golden, fluffy discs in the pan, humming a song to himself.
When he spins around to slide the pancakes out onto a plate, he notices Wonwoo, and grins. “Good morning, sleepy head! Hurry up and come out before they get cold.”
Wonwoo chuckles. “Okay,” he says quietly, pushing himself off of the wall.
The boys spend a lazy Saturday indoors. The weather is too hot to do much of anything, even if Junhui could go out with a disguise now that the whole fiasco has died down for good. Neither one of them brings up the fact that Junhui could probably return to his own apartment now. As far as their friends are concerned, they are now a pair. A pair of fucking idiots, if you asked Jihoon. They’re still dancing around each other, without a clear label on their relationship, but Wonwoo doesn’t mind. Even if they never go beyond what they are now, Wonwoo would still be okay with that. Because at the end of the day, they’re just happy being together. And he thinks that’s what really matters.
All throughout the day, Junhui leaves Wonwoo to his work, occupying himself by alternating between reading Wonwoo’s books, and searching new recipes online. Around noon, he glides into the kitchen without Wonwoo even noticing, and comes back with a refreshing lunch just in time for Wonwoo’s stomach to grumble.
By the time dinner rolls around, Junhui has somehow gotten it into his head that he wants to watch another scary movie tonight. Wonwoo tries to understand the logic, but honestly, he’s having too much fun watching his roommate’s reactions to really care at this point.
“As a kid, you get exposed to pathogens and build up your immune system,” Junhui has reasoned over their meal. “That’s the same basic principle as vaccines. I figured I can apply it to scary movies. The more I watch, the more exposed to the genre I’ll be. It stands to reason that I’ll eventually be used to it, and they will no longer scare me to the point of insomnia, right?”
On paper, it doesn’t sound like such a bad conclusion, but in practice, Wonwoo has doubts. He tries to talk Junhui out of it, knowing his collection better than anyone. There’s a few films that scared even him for a few days. But the confident actor doesn’t heed the warnings. He still insists for it after they clean up the dishes.
Wonwoo doesn’t know what he expected to happen, but he should’ve seen it coming. It’s almost an identical series of events to last night. Although Junhui seems to be forcing himself to not jump by gripping onto Wonwoo’s arm tighter, and keeping his hand around his mouth permanently throughout the duration of the movie to keep his yelps in check. He’s still shaking like a leaf, though.
Since they started the movie earlier than last night, they still have about an hour before their usual turn-in time. Which gives Junhui the opportunity to make and down two mugs of tea. However, all that seems to accomplish is making him go to the restroom every five minutes. Because when they retire to the bedroom, no matter how quietly Junhui thinks he’s being, Wonwoo can still hear him tossing inside the covers of the futon.
So just like the previous night, Wonwoo ends up spooning him.
“If you you wanted to sleep with me, you just had to say so,” he teases, laughing into the crook of the blond’s neck.
“Shut up, I hate you,” Junhui mutters, but he doesn’t move out of Wonwoo’s arms. “You chose an extra scary movie on purpose.”
Even though he can’t see it, Wonwoo knows there’s a pout at the end of that sentence. He laughs. “I did no so such thing.”
“I’m giving you burnt bacon tomorrow.”
Or so he says. In the morning, Wonwoo finds perfectly crispy and delicious strips of bacon on his plate.
On Sunday night, Wonwoo cuts to the chase. He brings his laptop to the bedroom and pulls Junhui in next to him. The actor settles in against his side, head nestled on his chest. Instead of grabbing for Wonwoo’s arm, now he just grips a fistful of his shirt, shoulders scrunched up as he screws his eyes shut. Wonwoo feels him jump every few minutes, and the editor has to give it to him. As scared as Junhui is, he doesn’t give up. He sits through the whole movie and pays attention to the smallest detail of the plot. After it ends, he brings up important points that Wonwoo has a difficult time answering.
“I’m impressed,” Wonwoo tells him as he returns to the bed after turning off the lights. “You spent so much of the movie with your eyes closed, I didn’t think you’d even understand what’s going on.”
Offended, the other scoffs as he finds a comfortable spot on the editor’s shoulder. “Who do you take me for? I’m a professional.”
“I still find it hard to believe,” Wonwoo says playfully. He grabs Junhui’s hand and runs his thumb over the back of it. “I mean, I’ve only seen one movie with you in it. Maybe if we watched the ones Mingyu has, I’d believe it.” At this point, he doesn’t really want to see them anymore than any other movie, but it’s fun to tease Junhui knowing how he’ll react.
Just as Wonwoo expects, the boy in his arms squirms. “I was kind of hoping you'd forgotten about those,” he whispers into Wonwoo’s shirt.
“Junhui, they’re some of your biggest hits,” he states.
“But it’s still embarrassing!”
“Whatever you say,” Wonwoo indulges. “But I’m gonna watch them one day or another.”
By the time the following week rolls over, they’ve grown accustomed to the routine, and Wonwoo isn’t sure which one of them is more eager for the movie. Although to be honest, he’s not all that concerned with the movie; it’s what the movie allows to happen afterward that makes Wonwoo smile when he inserts the disc into his laptop.
Everything was going great, following the script, until they hit Wednesday night.
Over dinner, Junhui has casually asked him about his day, and he had grumbled over the early appointment he had in the morning.
“What time is the appointment?”
“At seven-thirty,” he answers dejectedly, stuffing a piece of rolled omelet into his mouth.
Junhui chuckles. “I suppose it is early for you,” he pats the grumpy editor’s knee. “That means you should go to sleep early tonight, then.”
Wonwoo stops chewing for a second to glance up. “I’m not a kid. I won’t crash if I get less than the normal eight hours, you know.”
His companion smiles, but it looks placating. “There’s nothing wrong with sleeping early. You don’t automatically turn more tough if you stay up past a certain time.”
The brunet narrows his eyes and picks up a piece of meat with his chopsticks. “Whatever. I’ll be fine, don’t worry about it.”
“If you say so.”
Unfortunately, contrarily to what Wonwoo thinks is the end of that conversation, Junhui doesn’t let it end there.
After the clean up, Wonwoo attempts to get a DVD from the shelf, but he’s stopped by a hand around his wrist. Confused, he turns to look at Junhui.
“You can’t watch a movie now,” he says. “Then you’ll never be able to wake up on time in the morning.”
“Junhui, I told you, I’ll be fine.”
The other chews his bottom lip. “What if I don’t want to watch anything tonight, though?”
Wonwoo arches a brow. “Are you giving up on your quest to conquer the horror genre?”
“Absolutely not!” he replies with enthusiasm. “But I’ll be the one stuck having to endure your prickly ass tomorrow, so.” He puts his hands on his hips to prove that he’s not budging from his stance.
“Excuse you, my ass is not prickly!”
Junhui rolls his eyes, dragging his roommate toward the bathroom. He all but shoves Wonwoo inside and closes the door. Heaving a sigh, Wonwoo stares at the door and shakes his head. Junhui can be obstinate about the strangest things.
A while later, Wonwoo is laying under the covers with a book, waiting for Junhui to finish his bedtime routine. He hears the tap being turned off, followed by the creak of the door hinges. Very soon, his roommate appears at the doorway. Wonwoo looks away from the page, placing the receipt back into the crack. He expects the lights to go off and see Junhui’s shadowy figure walk to bed. But even after he sets aside the volume on the nightstand, Junhui still lingers at the door.
He stares at the fidgeting blond. The latter has his face downturned, arm leaning on the wall. His brows are furrowed as if he is contemplating something significant, teeth tugging his lip.
Wonwoo opens his mouth to ask what’s wrong, but as his mouth forms the words, he realizes what the matter is. They haven’t watched any scary movie, so there’s technically no reason for for them to sleep together. But seeing the hesitation in Junhui’s tall frame, maybe it’s safe to say that Wonwoo hasn’t been the only one who enjoyed the repercussions of the jump scares.
“Didn’t you say I need to sleep early?” he asks, surprising Junhui. When he captures the other’s attention, he pats the mattress next to him. “Hurry up and turn off the lights.”
Still tentative, Junhui lifts his hand to flip off the switch, then treads over to claim his usual side of the bed. “You could have easily done that while I was in the bathroom, you know,” he murmurs, although the playful tone is evident in his voice. He rests his head on Wonwoo’s shoulder, and the latter pulls him in by the waist.
Tucking Junhui’s head under his chin, Wonwoo smiles. “Can’t fall asleep without my favorite body pillow.”
The so-called body pillow scoffs, but a giggle quickly follows. He nuzzles his cheek against the editor’s chest and flattens his hand over the pectoral muscle. “You’re not a bad one, either,” he says, “You chase away all the scary monsters.”
Wonwoo chuckles, his grin widening when Junhui’s melodious laughter joins his. He squeezes the scaredy-cat closer to his side. “I thought you wanted to fight them yourself.”
“I do,” he confirms. “But I’ll make do with you in the meantime.”
In revenge for the cheeky comment, Wonwoo pokes his side, making the actor squeal and wriggle away from the prodding finger.
“Hey!” he cries out, giggles intensifying as Wonwoo continues his attack. “You’re supposed to be going to sleep!”
Laughing, Wonwoo relents, but not before poking Junhui’s puffed out cheek. “Alright, let’s go to sleep.”
Junhui lets out a sigh, dazzling smile dancing on his lips as he stares up at Wonwoo.
“What?” the brunet asks, turning a little shy at the tender look in the sparkling eyes despite the darkness.
A shrug. “Nothing. Just happy.”
Now Wonwoo definitely turns pink, and he thanks the cover of night. “Go to sleep,” he threads their fingers together. “Before the monsters come out and catch you.”
Junhui laughs, settling back down. “I’m not worried. You’re still here, after all.”
Wonwoo melts, hiding his stupid grin into Junhui’s soft hair.
A few days later, Wonwoo comes home to see his kitchen resembling a set of a Food Network cooking show, with Junhui as the animated host. There are containers and utensils that Wonwoo has never seen before, which he guesses came from the apartment next door. The counter is filled with ingredients in various stages of preparations. As he slowly closes the door and locks it behind him, Junhui finally senses his presence and looks up from reading off of the laptop screen.
“Hey!” he greets.
“Hi,” Wonwoo answers, toeing off his shoes. “What’s all this?”
“Just trying out a new pasta dish.” Glancing at the clock on the screen, he comments, “You’re home early.”
The editor confirms with a nod. “The last appointment didn’t take as long as I thought.” He drops his bag on the couch and walks into the kitchen to take a closer look at what’s going on.
“Maybe this can be a good learning opportunity, then,” Junhui comments, straighten out and giving Wonwoo a dazzling smile. “If I do this right, by the end of the evening, you will acquire the skills necessary to do more than cook ramen and microwave stuff.”
Wonwoo gives him a look, not exactly liking where this is going. “You want to teach me how to cook?”
“Sure!” he grins. “Don’t worry, we can start with the easy stuff.”
“Oh, don’t you worry,” Junhui winks, “There’s plenty of things to do.”
After Wonwoo changes out of his work clothes and washes his hands, Junhui has already parked two pots with water over the stove, and placed a box of pasta next to it. He is then given a block of cheese and a grater.
“I need about three cups,” Junhui says, drying off some kind of orange squash with a paper towel and bringing it over to his side of the counter.
As Wonwoo works on the block of cheese, he watches Junhui cut the vegetable across, then proceeds to peel off the skin. He carves out the seeds, then cuts the whole thing into chunks. As if he had timed it, one of the pots on the stove starts to boil, and Junhui brings the cutting board over to slide the squash in the hot water. Wonwoo is too preoccupied with watching Junhui, he doesn’t even notice that he has reduced the block of cheese to a tiny stub until the other turns to check up on him.
“Hold on, you’re gonna shred your own fingers!”
“Oh.” Looking down, he removes his hand from the grater. “Oops?”
Junhui laughs, shaking his head as he takes the bowl out. “You need to pay attention, mister.”
I would if you stop being so distracting.
“So what next, Oh Great One?”
The chef scoffs, waving Wonwoo over to get him to cook the pasta. He pulls Wonwoo over to stand in front of the other boiling pot, and gestures for him to dump the pasta into it. With a little trepidation, Wonwoo follows the instructions and picks up the chopsticks to swirl the dry noodles.
“You don’t have to keep stirring it,” Junhui says, resting his chin on the brunet’s shoulder. “Just make sure they don’t stick to the bottom. You know what cooked pasta looks like, right?” he asks, a teasing tone in his voice as he glances up from his spot to look at Wonwoo.
“Obviously,” the other rolls his eyes. “How long does it usually take, though?”
“Not very long.” Straightening out, he keeps his hold on Wonwoo’s back and picks up the chopsticks out of the latter’s hand. “But not compared to the boxed mac ’n cheese, though.” He chuckles, which turns into a yelp when the sous-chef jabs a finger into his side.
They stand shoulder to shoulder, each manning a separate boiling pot. While they easily could take a second pair of chopsticks out of the drawer, they prefer to fight over the one pair they currently have. Wonwoo has no idea if Junhui does it on purpose, but he can be honest enough with himself that he takes pleasure in their fingers brushing over each other every time they yank the wooden sticks out of the other’s grip.
Before long, the pasta is cooked, and Junhui plucks one strand out of the hot water and flicks his wrist. The noodle spins around the ends of the chopsticks, and he runs it under the cold water. Instead of directing it toward him, though, he leads to Wonwoo’s mouth.
“Test out your hard work!”
“Don’t you mean ‘taste’?” the cooking student retorts, and he receives a flick to the forehead for the bad pun.
“Fine, then I’ll eat it.”
But the theft is thwarted by Wonwoo gripping Junhui’s wrist and guiding it back to his mouth. As he chews, the victim looks more than happy.
“Great. Now, dump it out onto the colander and spray cold water over it.”
While the pasta drains in the sink, Wonwoo obediently mashes up the squash, keeping one eye on his work, and the other following Junhui’s fluid movements around the kitchen. He slices the ham into thin slices and sets it aside in a small bowl, along with the rest of the ingredient. The only one remaining is the squash.
“Come on, now, put some force into it!” Junhui taunts, elbows planted on the counter in front of Wonwoo.
The other narrows his eyes. “Do you want to try it?”
With a toothy grin, he answers, “I’m not the one who needs to learn how to cook. Now push down harder. Come on, harder!”
Wonwoo blinks, doing a double-take toward his apparently oblivious roommate, who’s taking cursory look at the recipe once more. Knowing Junhui, he probably has no idea how his last comment could be misinterpreted in the wrong context. As he keeps working, he tries to get his mind out of the gutter, but his cooking partner is making the task nearly impossible.
Insouciant of the internal battle Wonwoo faces, Junhui casually picks up a piece of ham and brings it to the other’s mouth. “Here. Open up.”
The worker barely has time to look up before the piece of meat is fed into his mouth. Junhui’s finger lingers over his lips, a few seconds too long, as they lock gazes. It takes all of his self-control not to suck it into his mouth. Red-faced, Wonwoo blinks and attempts to remember how to swallow properly, all the while keeping his gaze downward. Unbeknownst to him, the amount of restraint he exerts not to throw Junhui against the wall and kiss him senseless, transmits into his mashing capabilities. He ends up working twice as fast and efficiently.
“Look at that!” Junhui exclaims, straightening up. “I should have fed you the ham from the beginning,” he giggles, taking the bowl away from Wonwoo.
As he starts to follow the next steps, distracted, Wonwoo lets out a relieved breath, discreetly adjusting his pants.
Gratefully for his sanity, the rest of the cooking lesson progresses and ends quite rapidly. He brings down two plates from the cabinet for Junhui, then grabs their utensils. The whole apartment smells like an Italian restaurant, and the sight of the finished product makes his mouth water.
“So, what’s the verdict?” Junhui asks after they’ve finished. “Should I keep this recipe or not?”
“Keep it,” he answers, “It tasted amazing.”
The other beams. “Don’t you feel great about reaping your hard work?”
Wonwoo chuckles. “Of course. It went better than I thought. Guess I’m not so hopeless after all.” Although deep down, he knows the whole experience wouldn’t be half as fun if he had shared it with anyone but Junhui.
Junhui opens his mouth to retort, when his phone goes off. “Oh, sorry,” he says quickly, pulling it out of his pocket. When he glances at the caller ID, though, a small frown tugs the corners of his mouth. With a sigh, he answers, “Hello?”
Not wanting to repeat his offense once more, Wonwoo stacks their empty plates and forks together. He shoots Junhui a concerned glance when the other grows silent, listening intently to the other party. As quietly as he can, he moves to the kitchen and passes the time by doing the dishes.
The phone call is still going by the time he returns, and Junhui definitely looks dejected now. That troublesome crease is back to mar his jovial expression, and his bottom lip is caught between his teeth again. He hums at different intervals, letting the caller know he’s listening, but the noncommittal sound is too vague to be any sort of agreement. His fingers toy with a cushion as he sighs and finally says more than a single-syllable word.
“Thank you for your hard work, Ben. I’ll look it over and let you know. Just…” His voice trails off when he notices Wonwoo entering the room. He offers him a tiny smile, probably meant to reassure the editor, but it has the opposite result. “Are you sure I have to be at the lunch?”
Ben answers the question, and a wry smile tugs the corner of Junhui's lips. “Right, no, I guess I was just being hopeful. Okay, thanks. Bye.” He hangs up, throwing the phone over his shoulder onto the couch. Then he closes his eyes and leans his head back.
Wonwoo scoots closer to him, tracing the contour of his face with his eyes, lingering over the freckles. When their arms come into contact, Junhui opens his eyes and lifts his head to rest it onto his neighbor’s shoulder.
“Thanks for doing the dishes,” he says softly.
Ignoring his attempt to dodge the reason of his forlorn mood, Wonwoo asks, “Is everything okay?”
He nods, hair tickling Wonwoo’s chin. “Just my manager.” But he doesn’t elaborate further. He allows Wonwoo to wrap an arm around him and pull him closer, though.
They sit in silence for a while. It comes to the point where Wonwoo wonders if he should break it and pretend the phone call never happened, returning to their usual evening activities. However, the boy in his arms stirs, and the warm breath blows over Wonwoo’s skin as he begins to talk.
“Do you ever feel like you really hate your job?” he whispers, as if afraid his question might be overheard, and he’ll get in trouble.
“Yeah. Pretty often, actually. Especially when it makes me wake up at dawn.” The last comment draws a tiny chuckle out of Junhui, and the editor smiles contently. “Everyone feels that way, I think.” He wants to ask why, to know what’s distressing Junhui, but he waits. He’s reminded of that phone call all those months ago, the sadness and exhaustion in the actor’s voice when he spoke to his mother.
“I don’t hate my job,” the blond says at last, “Not the job itself, anyway. But I hate everything else that comes with it. Ben, my manager," he waves a hand at his phone, "landed me a lead role for some major blockbuster. He probably had to talk his lips off for that, but apparently the role won’t be guaranteed mine until I meet up with the director and the lead actress. Then I’ll have to make them like me.” Here he pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs.
“I don’t mind going to auditions and being turned down. That’s part of the job. What I can’t stand is the ass-kissing that goes on. I act for a living, so I should probably be used to it. But whenever I meet with those people, I keep having to pretend, to act, to lie.” Sitting up, he meets Wonwoo’s gaze to continue. The latter had never seen Junhui so adamant about something this serious before. And for the most part, he listens in awe, both at what Junhui has to say, and at the obvious distress and lost he seems.
“You commented on it once, and I still stand by what I said,” Junhui continues, tapping his finger into the center of his palm. “A good actor is one who is honest, one who channels his own emotions into bringing the character to life. He dedicates his life to the arts. But when you have to act a certain way just to please the big people and guarantee you a role…” He shakes his head, disgust written all over the scowl, nose scrunched up. He glowers at his socks.
“That’s just lying. You don’t earn those roles with your talent. And the worst part?” he laughs wryly, looking heavenward. “I can’t even refuse to attend those dinners and lunches, because that sends a signal to other directors that I think I’m too good for them. And that pretty much guarantees the ending of my career as I know it.” A broken smile appears on his face, and Wonwoo just wants to make it disappear.
The editor pieces the puzzle together.
Gently, he slides his hands under Junhui’s, unfurling the tense grip he has on his knees, to knot their fingers together. He squeezes once, then the actor returns the pressure.
“That’s why you moved here, isn’t it?” he asks gently. “To get away from it for a while.”
Junhui nods. “I was so tired of pretending,” he admits, his voice so small and frail. “I love acting, and I love the movies I’ve made, but I don’t think I deserved all of them. Whenever people tell me they love those roles, I keep thinking about how someone else might have been better, but they couldn’t show anyone their talent, because I’d won over the crew with my charm and guiles.” He swallows, eyes cutting away from Wonwoo.
“Don’t say that!”
Junhui startles at the intensity of Wonwoo’s order. Doe eyes lift up, wet and clear.
“You’re a very good actor, Junhui,” he asserts, making sure the blond is listening. “Regardless of how you got those roles, you did them justice. You have won the audience’s heart with those movies. You’re not just some sweet-talker with a pretty face.”
Junhui lets out a snort, but he nods anyway.
Offering a warm smile, Wonwoo reaches up to stroke at his cheek, hoping to convey how much he values the actor. He’s realized from their very first night that Junhui is shy and awkward, but he never knew that he could be so timid and filled with this much self-doubts. He is so much more than he sees himself, and Wonwoo’s heart tightens at the thought that such a wonderful person couldn’t see it.
“Thank you,” Junhui whispers with the most tender expression Wonwoo has ever seen. His stomach drops for a whole different reason.
I love you, Junhui.
Wonwoo almost blurts it out, but he manages to hold his tongue. Now isn’t the time, nor the appropriate context with which he wants to confess. It would feel placating, like a bandaid to mask the wound.
Instead, he extends his arms out and pulls Junhui back to him, hoping action would speak louder than words. The actor lays his head on Wonwoo’s lap, nestling his hand next to his check on the firm thigh. Wonwoo reaches down to stroke the soft blond locks, gratified by the content murmur from the latter.
“So what are you going to do about this new role?”
The boy on his lap shrugs, then lets out a sigh. He shifts so he can look up into the brunet’s eyes. “I told Ben I’ll think about it once I see the script. If it’s too ‘out there’, I can probably talk my way out of it. Ben will probably kill me, but I’ll live.” A small chuckle escapes his lips, and Wonwoo finds himself smiling, glad that his exuberant Junhui was gradually returning.
Pale fingers comb through the actor’s bangs, brushing them over his forehead. "He’ll have to go through me first, though,” the editor states with confidence, prompting Junhui lift his head and look at him with an amused expression. “Aren’t I supposed to be keeping the monsters away?”
He’s awarded with a blinding grin and lilting laugh. “Yep.” Junhui lays back down and pats Wonwoo’s thigh twice. “You might have to stay with me forever.”
Wonwoo’s heart lurches at the apparent joke, and he hopes Junhui can’t tell the difference in his breathing.
It takes a couple days for the script to arrive, and when Junhui finishes his read through that day, Wonwoo comes home to him laughing at it.
“Is it a comedy?” he asks, toeing off his shoes and shrugging out of his jacket by the doorway.
Junhui drops the thick packet on the coffee table and strides over to the kitchen to grab two water bottles from the fridge. He hands one to Wonwoo. “Nope. Try again.”
Wonwoo pretends to think about his answer instead of staring at the actor’s bobbing Adam’s apple as he gulps down half of the volume in one go. “Um, chick flick?”
The other laughs, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “That’d be hilarious, but no.”
The way Junhui smirks at him knowingly, Wonwoo feels like the answer is obvious. So he squints his eyes and thinks hard, all the while watching his roommate rock back and forth on his heels and soles of his feet, hands folded behind his back.
“Don’t tell me…” he starts, and Junhui’s grin widens. “It’s a horror?”
“Wow!” The actor cheers, clapping. “Good job, I’m impressed.”
They go over to the coffee table, and Junhui hands him the script. The name is cryptic, with just enough to make it creepy. Wonwoo flips through the first few pages, seeing the highlighted name on almost very page. Junhui wasn’t kidding when he said it was a lead role. It looks like the type of movie with only a handful of main characters, with a bunch of creepy events unfolding around them, the setting where it’s generally abandoned or empty.
“So does that mean you’ll go for it?” Wonwoo wants to know, glancing up from the page.
A shrug follows a twist of the mouth. “I haven’t decided if it’s worth the groveling.”
Obviously, Junhui is still sensitive about the topic, so Wonwoo returns the script and says nothing more about it.
Taking the script, the movie star closes it and holds it against his chest. He thinks for a second, then lifts his head to meet Wonwoo’s steady gaze. He tilts his face, eyes searching.
“Would you watch it?” His voice is small, hesitant.
Wonwoo wants to release the tension. “Depends. Do you survive?”
Junhui laughs, flashing a grin. “I don’t know yet, I haven’t gotten to the end.”
“Then you better find out. I’m not sitting through two hours of goosebumps and jump scares, just to see you die.”
“Aww,” Junhui coos, sliding up his side and grabbing his arm. “Would brave Mr. Jeon Wonwoo actually cry?”
He clicks his tongue and rolls his eyes, but makes no move to extract the clinging koala off of him. “You’ll never know.”
Laughing, Junhui leaves him with a poke to the stomach, before sauntering to the kitchen to get their dinner ready.
For a while, their lives return to normal, and the script seems to go to the back of Junhui’s mind. Wonwoo never hears him speak about it, nor does he see it around the apartment any longer. He figures Junhui eventually declined the offer based on one thing or another.
For a while, life is nice and peaceful.
Irritation. Annoyance. Displeasure. Aggravation.
Wonwoo tries to come up with as many words as he can to describe the current feelings coursing through his veins. He’s been bombarded with texts and notifications from his friends for the whole day about it, and for the most part, their messages have gone unanswered for the sake of his job. He can’t be seen spending all his time texting his friends during work hours. Plus, he’s had to work through his lunch hour due to a last minute meeting.
He didn’t get a chance to see what the fuss was all about until he left the building and headed for the train station.
He’s been fuming for the past half hour now, intent on finding out for himself. The familiar connivence store comes into view, and he enters. The owner’s greeting is ignored as he heads straight for the magazine racks. And then he sees it. It’s huge and right in his face.
Moon Joonhwi's Secret Girlfriend: the actor’s hideout, his long-time girlfriend and co-star, their secret rendezvous.
Below the loud and tasteless headline, there’s a series of photos of Junhui with a girl who Wonwoo thinks looks fairly familiar. The largest picture is a shot of him and the co-star for their movie, the one scheduled to premier in a couple weeks. Next to them are smaller candid shots of Junhui walking down the street wearing a hoodie and sunglasses. Because the hood is hiding most of his face, Wonwoo can’t make out his hair color to know if the photos are recent or not. Accompanying him in each picture, though, is the unmistakable figure of a woman, with her face hidden by dark glasses and a hat, too. But that’s not what has the editor’s blood boiling.
A Match Made in Heaven: even during Joonhwi’s hiatus, he still finds the time to seek out Victoria. A source tells us that she finds Joonhwi’s quest to live a normal life to be adorable, and he regales her with his misadventures over lunch at Chez Jean (pictured above).
In that photo, Junhui is out of the hoodie and jeans. He’s wearing some high-end suit that probably costs more than Wonwoo’s monthly salary. Most of his hair is blocked in the shot by a hanging plant, but Wonwoo knows where to look to see the golden strands. Unlike the other ones, this picture is undoubtedly recent.
Gritting his teeth, he snatches the magazine and rolls it up so he won’t have to see its front page.
Wonwoo unlocks the door and storms in. The apartment smells like tomato sauce and a bunch of fragrant herbs. The savory aroma would normally make his mouth water and stomach grumble. But right now, all he can taste on his tongue is bitterness. Junhui spins around from the slamming door.
Large eyes assess Wonwoo’s heaving chest and sharp eyes shooting accusing glares at him. Cautious, the actor straightens up from his spot by the sink, reaching over the stove to turn down the heat over the casserole with spaghetti sauce.
“Wonwoo? What’s the matter?”
The editor narrows his eyes and stares at him, wondering how he can act like nothing happened, like everything is normal. Without saying a word, Wonwoo steps forward and throws the crumpled magazine at the other’s chest. Junhui scrambles to catch it.
He takes a look, eyeing Wonwoo all the while, probably wary of Wonwoo’s unusual behavior. “Oh.” He grimaces, pulling the magazine out at a distance to survey it. “It’s been a while since I made their front page,” he says, completely missing the point.
His obliviousness causes a new wave of irritation to wash through Wonwoo.
Not that Junhui notices as he goes on, “I can’t believe they decided to go with these pictures, of all things,” he mutters, throwing the magazine onto the counter to return to the stove. “There’s a bunch of better, more flattering and less grainy, ones in existence.” He shakes his head regretfully.
“Have you turned fucking blind?” Wonwoo snaps, causing Junhui to jump. He turns around, eyes larger than saucers, lips parted. Wonwoo marches forward and picks up the magazine. “Do you not see what is being said here?”
Apparently not understanding the reason for the brunet’s outburst, Junhui’s eyes dart from the front page to Wonwoo’s murderous eyes. “Of course I see it,” he says gently, but there is now a hint of crossness in it. “But I have the brain capacity to know it’s not true. I was hoping you would, too.” He’s openly glaring at Wonwoo now.
“Is it, though?” he shoots back. “Pictures don’t lie, Junhui.”
The other’s fair brows rise in shock. “You can hardly even tell it’s me in the shots! And that one is literally the center point of the movie poster.”
“I’m talking about the one where you’re on a a fucking date with her,” he slams the magazine against the actor’s chest. Junhui is forced a step backward from the surprise of the hit. “What do you guys do, huh? Talk about how a commoner’s life is adorable and precious, all the while sipping champagne and eating caviar?”
Junhui listens to Wonwoo’s diatribe in silence, but his wide eyed look very quickly transforms into a scowl. He sets his mouth into a hard, thin line as he waits for Wonwoo to finish.
“Are you just slumming it here because you’re bored of your old life? Is this some kind of game for you?” His chest is heaving from the anger and frustration, and he balls his hands into fists. "How long were you going to keep lying about this?"
Uncrossing his arms, Junhui takes in a shaky breath. “I think it’d be best if we take a break.”
Wonwoo stays rooted to the spot as Junhui side-steps him and heads for the door. The meaning and significance of the words don’t click into place until after the door shuts.
He messed up. He messed up so freakin’ much.
Standing alone in his kitchen, staring at the half-finished dinner preparation without Junhui, everything he’s done since he got home, come crashing down on him. The anger evaporates into thin air, and his mind clears to leave him with nothing regret and shame. The magazine mocks him from the floor, serving as a reminder of the fool he’s turned himself into. He knows he needs to find Junhui and apologize, right out the wrong. But he can’t move. The weight of the humiliation and remorse is too much. He can’t even face him right now.
Groaning out a startled cry, he pushes his hands through his hair.
A few minutes later, he receives two texts, one after another.
19:05: What happened? Why is Junnie crying??? /)0_0(\
19:05: YOU FUCKING IDIOT
Wonwoo leaves both texts as ‘read’.
Before Wonwoo knows it, it’s already the day of the movie premiere. Which he isn’t attending. Not that he wasn’t invited. In fact, he received the invitation quite early on in retrospect. And it had come as a surprise, considering it’s only been a day since his fight with Junhui.
He had woken up on Sunday morning around eleven, groggy and cranky, to an empty apartment. There was no quiet clatter echoing from the kitchen, nor the delicious smell of pancakes or waffles, or even coffee. He’s grown so used to Junhui setting everything up, he hadn’t even thought about preparing the coffee machine before bed.
It’s true what they say, he thinks begrudgingly, as he shoves a spoon of cold cereal and milk into his mouth. You never know what you have until you lose it.
And in this case, it’s everything that revolves around Junhui. Everything that Junhui encompasses: tasty food, bad jokes, warm hands, sparkling eyes, shy and dazzling smiles, melodious laughter. Companionship.
He misses everything, but he misses the companionship the most.
Junhui tends to stuff the fridge to the brim, so what was left in it now should be plenty for Wonwoo. Unfortunately, a fridge full of ingredients makes no difference to someone who can barely cook. So after breakfast, Wonwoo forces himself to go to the store for some ramen. In the lobby, he passes by the mailboxes and decides to check his while he’s at it.
Unlocking the little door, he finds the usual junk and flyers, which he’s about to toss in the recyclables. But a silver envelope comes into view. His name is written neatly in the front, and he tries not to think about how that handwriting resembles all the notes his lunches used to come with. After dumping all the junk, he carefully unstick the flap in the back, minding not to damage the pretty paper. Inside he finds a ticket. Curious, he picks it out and reads it over. The word Premiere jumps out at him.
Does this mean Junhui want him there?
While he’s still contemplating his next move, the elevator dings, and Jisoo exists. Wonwoo holds back the urge to ask why the older is alone.
“Hey, man,” Jisoo smiles gently, just like always. He notices the ticket in between the editor’s fingers. “Oh, you got one, too. Then Seungcheol is right.” He chuckles. “Junhui did invite the whole gang. I wonder if it was difficult to request twelve premiere movie tickets.”
For some reason, realizing that Junhui only included Wonwoo because he planned on inviting everyone causes Wonwoo to deflate like a leaky balloon.
“Yeah, he probably had a to beg,” he says in response to Jisoo’s comment, but then he winces at the choice of words.
Did Junhui really have to beg for them to come? He recalls the way Junhui had looked that night after he told Wonwoo about his turmoil. The vision is replaced with the last time he spoke to the actor. Wonwoo had been livid with stupid jealousy and indignation, but now thinking back on it, Junhui seemed ready to burst into tears. He had trusted Wonwoo with his troubles, and the latter had crushed it to pieces.
Guilt gnaws at his insides, and he doesn’t feel hungry at all anymore.
Somehow, he finds himself back to his apartment, sitting on the floor against the couch. He’s holding the silver envelope in one hand, while the other toys with one of Junhui’s trinkets. It’s one of those little finger puppets. Wonwoo wiggles his finger, making the kitten head move up and down. Over the few months they lived together, whenever Wonwoo found himself in a foul mood due to some rude author, Junhui would lean over and tap his cheek with the toy until he was forced to look away from the computer.
He heaves a sigh, head lolling to stare out at the balcony. He wonders if Junhui has returned to his apartment, or if he’s still crashing at Jihoon’s and Soonyoung’s.
Wonwoo decides to text the latter, too afraid of being yelled at by the musician. The dancer replies within thirty seconds that Junhui is with Jihoon, out shopping.
Come hang out. They should be back soon.
The offer is tempting. Especially since he knows it might ease the apologizing process a bit if they’re not alone. But in the end, Wonwoo can’t bring himself to go through with it. He’s still riddled with guilt and shame, and he feels that the moment he sees Junhui, he would probably explode.
Every day, he tells himself that he will gather his wits and go apologize.
Every day, he chickens out and procrastinates.
And just like that, two weeks fly by. Two very miserable weeks.
Eventually, Junhui returns. He hears movements next door. He smells the food from the open windows. He and Junhui are literally only separated by a layer of plaster, but it feels like a ginormous canyon. It’s been so long, he doesn’t even know if an apology would be enough at this point. Would Junhui even open the door and listen to him? Or would he be greeted by a bucket of water the moment the door cracks open?
Wonwoo decides he doesn’t want to find out. If he lets it fester like this, at least he can still hold on to the slimmest, thinest thread of hope that Junhui doesn’t completely hate him.
While the tactic works for his mental health—somewhat—it does nothing to help with the crippling loneliness and deafening silence of the apartment.
For the first few days, he turns on the volume of the tv as loudly as he can without resulting in Seungcheol coming to bang on his door. And to a certain degree, the white noise helps. But since none of the shows actually hold his attention, he still finds himself thinking about the actor next door. So the following day, he changes tactics. He puts in one of his favorite movies. That should keep his mind occupied for a couple hours before he throws himself into his work, right?
Of course his favorite film is a horror movie. And that just makes it ten times worse. With a flick of the hand, he turns off the system and sits in the dark, staring at nothing, attempting not to feel the cold absence of a shivering and jumpy blond next to him.
By the time the second week rolls around, he’s going through withdrawal. A small part of his brain is shouting at him to get a grip. That Junhui is just another human being, not some drug. As dramatic as it sounds, though, that’s how he feels. And he hates it. He hates not seeing the actor, not hearing his voice, not having someone to joke around with, or discuss the happenings of his day.
As he lays sprawled on the floor and staring up at the popcorn ceiling, an idea occurs to him.
He might not be able to face Wen Junhui, but he has Moon Joonhwi at his disposition. Sitting up, he pulls out the stack of DVDs borrowed from Mingyu. Admittedly, this is not the context with which Wonwoo imagined he’d be watching these movies, but maybe they’ll motivate him to go next door and actually face his problem instead of hiding.
Unfortunately, the Universe conspires against him. Not only does the first movie he chooses rated R, it finishes with Junhui’s character dying. Wonwoo’s head ends up pounding from the roller coaster of emotions, and he resorts to taking some pain killers and crawling into bed.
Even though he’s hesitant to watch the other three films, he eventually does anyway.
This time, they’re uplifting enough that he manages to put on his shoes and leave the apartment to walk down the few feet separating his door with his neighbor’s. He raises his fist and rasps the wood a few times. Each knock echoes his heartbeat. He waits a few seconds, listening for movement and Junhui’s voice. But it’s dead quiet inside. He tries again, a little louder this time.
A door opens, but it’s not the one he wants.
Hansol pokes his head out from his suite. “Hey.”
“If you’re looking for Junhui, he’s not home.”
“Where is he?”
Hansol shrugs. “He told me he was leaving town for a few days. Probably something to do with the movie premiere.”
“I see.” Wonwoo is glad for his usual expressionless face, because right now, he feels like screaming out of frustration. Why is it that the one time he manages to pull himself together, things go awry? “Thanks.” He tells the college student and turns to go, but Hansol calls him back.
“Are you going? To the Premiere on Friday.”
“I don’t know yet,” he answers honestly.
Hansol nods, seemingly thoughtful. “I think he’d want you to be there.”
A little surprised, Wonwoo blinks at the lit major.
“Obviously, I don’t know what’s really going on between you two, but considering you’ve been sporting matching zombie looks,” he bobs his head, making a face. “I think it’s safe to say that one of you has to give in soon. And I vote for it to be you.”
“Why me?” Wonwoo wants to know immediately.
The younger shrugs. “Jihoon says it’s your fault, so shouldn’t you be the one to say sorry first?”
Wonwoo frowns. Of course, he knows that, that’s why he dragged his sorry ass over to apartment 327 tonight to do just that. But it still irks him that Jihoon blabbed.
“Also because I don’t like seeing Junhui sad.”
The editor raises a brow, a little offended. “Are you saying you’re fine seeing me sad?”
Hansol barks out a laugh. “No, of course not.”
“You just like him more because he buys you snacks all the time,” Wonwoo mutters, to which Hansol laughs again.
“Anyway, good luck!” He pumps his fist in the air. “I’m rooting for you!”
Wonwoo has debated for days if he should follow Hansol’s advice and just show up to the premiere with the rest of them. Really, it’s not like Junhui doesn't expect him there, right? He gave him the ticket, after all. As much as he ponders the predicament himself, their friends have not failed to bombard him with the same question. His phone has been exploding with notifications from the group chat. He’s scrolled through them and read their messages, mostly about the excitement of the red carpet and potentially seeing all the stars in attendance. Mingyu was probably ready to die from happiness, if his liberal use of emojis and exclamation points were any indication.
But there’s no sign of Junhui in the chat room until the day before the premiere.
Moon Light_Moon Bright: Two cars will come by the building to pick you guys up at 6:00. Don’t forget to bring your tickets. See you all there!
Following his instructors have been a string of questions of what was and wasn’t allowed. He answered most them, even though some sounded ridiculous to Wonwoo.
TheGreatBeatsby: Are we going to be fed at the after party?
Moon Light_Moon Bright: Yes, Hansol lol.
Puppy_Lovin'Style: Can we bring cameras to take photos on the red carpet? It'd make the blog so legit!!! \(*0*)/
Moon Light_Moon Bright: As long as you don't try to steal the reporters’ shots.
DancingStAr: Do you think the stars will be mad if I ask them to sign my Disney autograph notebook? Their names will be right next to Mickey’s and the Princesses =P
Moon Light_Moon Bright: You’ll have to see for yourself. Although I’d personally be flattered to be placed next to such important people lol.
In the end, though, Wonwoo decides to stay home. Everyone seems to be so happy and cheerful, he doesn’t want to bring everyone’s mood down. So he told Seungcheol he caught a cold. Whether the older boy knew if he were lying or not, he didn’t comment on it. He merely told Wonwoo to get better and to watch them online during the Live Stream.
Which is what Wonwoo ends up doing. He’s sprawled on his couch, feet on the coffee table to balance the laptop over his lap. He watches the glittering world on the screen with his face planted on a fist. One beautiful star after another walks down the red carpet, smile as bright at the jewels decorating her body. The men wear smart suits and shiny shoes, waving at the crowd with excitement. They stop in intervals for the flashing lights to capture their artificial perfection.
Wonwoo grows bored, and his eyelids start to droop until he’s snapped awake by a text.
18:55: Just got there. Junhui looks super hot with black hair.
That piece of information does cause him to sit up straighter and stare at the screen. Very soon, the camera pans over to the cars and vans dropping off the guests. An unmistakable large group exists the two silver vans. The eleven boys all wear expressions of awe and wonder as they gape and look all around them. Reactions aside, at least their clothes look the part. They blend in easily with the other suits and shiny shoes. It’s almost funny how they practically cling to each other as they slowly walk forward among the flashing lights and hoots of the audience.
While Wonwoo cracks a smile from seeing his friends having fun and enjoying their fifteen minutes of fame, his face freezes when he spots a familiar tall figure among the crowd. It’s like seeing him for the first time, and Wonwoo supposes that it’s true. This is the first time he’s seen Junhui in his natural world, so to speak.
Soonyoung was right. Junhui looks great with black hair. He walks with confidence, charming smile and twinkling eyes commanding the crowd.
Having spotted their friends, Junhui navigates the mass backward until he reaches the start of the queue. His dominant aura morphs into that of the bashful and dorky neighbor when he reaches them. But he’s laughing, receiving their praises and excited comments. Despite the flashes all around them, Junhui doesn’t pull back when Seungcheol and Jeonghan wrap their arms around his shoulders. He doesn’t refuse when Mingyu motions for him to pose with him and Minghao for a selfie in front of the roaring fans. As they walk along, the big movie star doesn’t pull away from Hansol’s grip on his shoulder, laughing at Soonyoung and Seokmin as the two goofballs point at the A-listers and make exaggerated gestures at the unbelievable sights.
Wonwoo finds himself laughing along, not regretting his choice to stay home at all. They wouldn’t be as carefree and enjoying themselves like this if had tagged along. He can be happy vicariously through them, he thinks, watching them fondly.
As for him and Junhui, maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.
Maybe they were just two people who were supposed to cross paths, and never intended to be anything more than neighbors.
It’s past 1am. Wonwoo puts his red pen down to rub his tired eyes. He’s almost finished with the manuscript; if he pushes himself, he might actually have it done by tomorrow. Scooting out his chair, he goes into the kitchen to pour himself another cup of coffee.
As he sips the bitter taste, he pats his stomach. He should probably eat something to get him though the night. Junhui’s always hated for him to eat so late, but Junhui isn’t here anymore to stop him. So he puts the cup down and goes to the cabinet to grab a small casserole and fill it with tap water. He parks it on the stove and goes to fetch a bowl and a packet of ramen.
A watched pot never boils, he remembers hearing. So he takes his coffee and goes out onto the cool balcony. The heat wave has come and gone, and it actually feels nice to stand under the night sky. Wonwoo leans his elbows on the metal beam and looks out at the distant mountain range. The calm breeze blows over the tops of the trees rustling them quietly, leaving behind the fresh scent of night flowers.
The sudden glow of a light surprises him, and he turns over his shoulder.
His stomach drops when he realizes it comes from next door. He stays frozen, clearly able to see Junhui enter the apartment and toe off his shoes. He shrugs off the suit jacket and hangs it over the back of a chair. One finger unbuttoning the top of his dress shirt, he moves out of sight into the kitchen. He returns to the living room a few seconds with a bottle of water. Since Wonwoo only has a small desk lamp on, the balcony is partially dark, so Junhui doesn’t notice him.
Wonwoo should count his lucky star and retire before he gets caught staring at his hot neighbor. But he can’t bring himself to move. It’s been too long since he’s seen him in person, and he wants nothing more than to get his fill now. Especially since he gets to ogle at Junhui in a full suit, well, minus the jacket.
Junhui, still oblivious, slides the door open and steps out into the balcony. Wonwoo swallows, his heart in his throat.
As if shocked by an electric current, the actor startles when he looks toward Wonwoo's apartment. “Oh, hello.”
His voice is a healing balm to Wonwoo’s frayed nerves. “Hey.”
They lapse into silence, and it’s so unbearable Wonwoo has to break it only after a couple minutes. “How did the premiere go?”
A wry smile tugs the corner of his neighbor’s mouth. “It was fun, thanks to the guys.” Then he looks over. “How’s your cold?”
Damn it, Seungcheol.
Wonwoo clears his throat. “Better, thanks.” He hopes the spilled light from the apartment isn’t enough to let Junhui see the embarrassment coloring his cheeks. Best to change the subject. “You, uh, you changed your hair back.”
“Oh,” as if remembering that himself, he glances up at his bangs, flicking them out his eyes. “Right.”
“It’s nice.” A beat. “You look nice.”
The famous actor tries to contain the bashful smile by biting his bottom lip, but Wonwoo still notices. “Thanks.” He stays quiet for a moment, and Wonwoo has gotten good enough at reading his facial expression that he knows Junhui is trying to form his thoughts into coherent words, so he waits.
At last, the new brunet inquires gently, “Why didn’t you come?” The way Junhui’s dark eyes look at him, Wonwoo feels naked and vulnerable. There’s a very faint hint of reproached laced with hurt in the question, and it takes the editor by surprise.
Dumbstruck, he blinks. “I—”
Junhui snaps his head up and leans over the growing hedges. “Are you cooking something?”
Wonwoo bounds inside, running straight for the kitchen. The smell of overheated metal hangs heavily in the air. On the stove, there’s only about a centimeter of water left at the bottom of the pot, and he quickly turns off the heat. In his haste to pull the pot off of the hot plate, a few drops spills out onto his hand. Hissing, he drops the offending object into the sink and brings the back of his hand to his lips.
“Are you okay? Let me see.”
Out of nowhere, Junhui appears behind him. Still a little stunned by the past couple minutes, he just stands there as Junhui grabs his hand to expect the burn. The skin is slightly irritated, reddening where the hot water spilled over. Junhui shakes his head in disapproval.
“I can’t believe you let a pot on the stove and walked out,” he clicks his tongue.
“I just got distracted,” Wonwoo excuses himself with a small voice, too aware of the fact that Junhui is still holding his hand.
The other keeps their hands connected as he reaches for the first aid kit Wonwoo stores in the cabinet above the fridge. He digs through the bandages and rolls of gauze until he finds the tiny tube of ointment. Squeezing it out, he gently applies it to the damaged skin. Wonwoo unclenches his teeth when the balmy substance cools down the burn.
“I don’t think it’ll blister,” Junhui assess once he’s done, still staring at the hand he’s holding.
He watches the superstar treating the small injury with the utmost care, recalling the first time it happened when he fell through the hedges and ended up cutting himself. Junhui hadn’t hesitated to fix him up, then. Despite their fight and drift, Junhui has jumped in after him to ensure sure he was okay without a second of hesitation, tending to the minor burn as if it were life-threatening.
Wonwoo is suddenly filled with so much fondness, he blurts out, “I’m sorry.”
Junhui glances up. “Why are you apologizing? You didn’t burn yourself on purpose.”
The editor cracks a tiny smile. He's almost forgotten how oblivious his neighbor could be. “No, I don’t mean about the burn.” Squeezing Junhui's hand, he makes him look up again. “I’m talking about before. I acted like a freakin’ idiot. I was just… I don’t know.” He shakes his head, looking toward the far wall for help. “Who even goes and believes the tabloids? You shouldn't even forgive me, but I had to say it.” Shame colors his cheeks as he scoffs at himself. “I should have apologized a long time ago, but like I said, I’m an idiot.” A sigh leaves his mouth, and his shoulders slump.
In front of him, Junhui has a gentle smile and tender expression as he reaches over and brushes Wonwoo’s bangs out of his eyes. “Yeah,” he agrees with a smirk, “But a cute idiot.”
Wonwoo flushes for a whole new reason. He smiles sheepishly. "Do you forgive me?"
The actor cocks his head to the side, studying Wonwoo's sincere expression. The editor spends a lot time staring at him, memorizing again each line and curve of his face.
"I was never mad at you," Junhui says at last, voice soft. He strokes Wonwoo's cheek. "I was hurt, but I figured maybe you'd had enough of me." He shrugs, and Wonwoo's insides twist painfully. "I mean, you never called or came to see me. You didn't even show up to the event tonight."
Unable to bear seeing the sorrow in the actor's gaze, Wonwoo tugs at his wrist. There's nothing he'd love more than to hold him right now, but he doesn’t want to freak Junhui out. So he moves slowly, bringing his arms around to hug the other boy. At first Junhui is a little stiff, but very quickly, he melts against Wonwoo’s embrace, his arms coming around to tighten around his waist. The editor smiles when the new black strands tickle his nose. He cradles Junhui's head in his hand, and the latter nuzzles into the crook of his shoulder, running the tip of his nose along Wonwoo’s collarbone.
"I'm sorry," he says again, mumbling the words against Junhui's silky hair. "Believe me, I wanted to see you and apologize, but I had no idea how to face you after that scene. I didn't know if you'd even want to talk to me."
Against his neck, Junhui shakes his head. "I don't think there's anything you could do that would really drive me away."
Wonwoo's heart soars at the words, and he grins. “I missed you.”
Pulling away, Junhui admits with a similar expression, “I missed you, too.”
They hug again, and Wonwoo brushes his lips over the other's temple.
“You lost weight,” Junhui mumbles, soft lips brushing against the hot skin at the base of Wonwoo's neck. Before the editor can answer, Junhui squeezes his sides. “Have you not been eating properly while I was gone?”
Wonwoo looks at the small pout and crinkled eyes, and he chuckles.
Removing a hand away from around the editor, Junhui traces the bags under Wonwoo’s eyes, and another frowns appears. “Did you not sleep, either?”
Laughing again, Wonwoo lifts his hand to take Junhui’s in his. “I've told you before, I can’t sleep without my favorite body pillow.”
Junhui rolls his eyes, but his cheeks are pink. “Such bad habits,” he feigns disappointment.
Wonwoo grins. “Maybe, but I’m not intent on breaking them any time soon.” He receives two pokes to his cheeks and a peck on the nose.
Startled, but not displeased, he blinks at a smirking Junhui, eyes sparkling with mirth and mischief.
Wonwoo isn’t one to be beaten. He retaliates by pecking Junhui’s lips, successfully wiping off the smug expression, replacing it with one of surprise. His eyes are wide, and his full lips are parted. Wonwoo can’t stop staring at them. Gently, tauntingly, he runs the pad of his thumb over the pink bottom lip, a silent request, which gets answered by Junhui knotting his fingers around Wonwoo’s neck and leaning forward.
The actor’s lips are soft and warm against his, their movements sweet and gentle like the man they belong to. Wonwoo can’t get enough. He’s been thinking about this moment from the very first night, imagining what it would like to kiss his next door neighbor. It’s everything and nothing like he expected.
It’s so much more intense than any fantasy or movie scene. It’s not just the gratification from kissing someone you find attractive, it’s the knowledge that they feel the same way. Then it goes even beyond that. It’s the realization that the person who’s been stealing your breath with everything they do, now gives it back through contended sighs, to be shared between the two of you. It’s realizing that home is not always a place or a person.
Home can be the feelings shared between two people as they find their way back to each other.
Wonwoo doesn’t wake up to the sound of his alarm. Or to the smell of coffee and pancakes.
Wonwoo wakes up to the sensation of a slender finger tracing over his face, from the top of his forehead down the bridge of his nose, gliding over his lips. He keeps his eyes closed, slowly rousing up from sleep as he hears the soft giggles by his ear. The pale glow of sunlight filters through the curtains and warms the skin of his exposed shoulder as he continues to lay still despite the teasing.
When he stubbornly refuses to open his eyes, the body in his arms wiggles to lie on an elbow, careful not to dislodge Wonwoo’s arm from around his waist. There’s another fit of quiet giggles, which precedes the return of the finger.
It dips below his chin, tracing an invisible line down his throat, reaching the base. There, it traces along the defined collarbones with the lightest of touches. Wonwoo has to bite the inside of his cheek to keep himself from squirming from the tickling sensation.
There’s a soft whine and huff coming from his right, slightly disgruntled by the failed attempts to raise a reaction out of him. He doesn’t need his eyes open to see the sight of pink lips forming a pout, nose scrunched up. Wonwoo almost laughs and gives himself away.
But the bubbling emotions dies in the back of his throat when he feels a hot tongue replacing the fingertip. Too unexpected, he gasps, and his eyes fly open. He sees the dark hair right below his chin at the same time that Junhui’s grin stretches against his skin.
The latter takes his time laving Wonwoo’s collarbones thoroughly, hot breath blowing out every time he laughs at the grip around his waist tightening. Once he’s satisfied, he kisses his way up the column of Wonwoo’s throat slowly, leisurely. Wonwoo lets a moan escape when his boyfriend gets to a particular spot around his jaw, causing the early bird to pause the ascend to spend extra time at that exact location. Wonwoo lowers his hand to Junhui’s hip, squeezing hard enough to leave a bruise. Not that the other seems to mind as he relentlessly continues to tease the editor.
It takes him an eternity to reach Wonwoo’s mouth. The moment their lips connect, Wonwoo growls and flips them over, hovering over Junhui. The actor laughs into their kiss, tangling their legs together and pulling Wonwoo down by the neck. His fingers feel the erratic beat of Wonwoo’s pulse, and he smiles again.
“Good morning,” he whispers when they break apart for air, foreheads pressed together.
“That’s not how good morning kisses usually go,” Wonwoo points out, lips brushing the other’s with every breath.
Junhui shrugs, arms still around Wonwoo’s shoulders. “Are you complaining?”
“Nope.” He leans down and claims the plump lips once more.
“Where are my flowers?” Soonyoung complains, eyeing the bouquet of roses and lilies Wonwoo hands Junhui.
“You’ve already got flowers,” the editor points to the bouquets and single flowers the instructor is currently holding.
“So?” Soonyoung isn’t giving up. “Junhui’s dressing room is full of flowers. That’s not stopping you.”
Wonwoo rolls his eyes, while Soonyoung winks at Junhui. The actor stands between his friends, laughing and smelling the sweet fragrances of the bouquet.
“Thank you,” he says, hugging Wonwoo, using the opportunity to peck his cheek. “How did it look?”
“Amazing, obviously,” Soonyoung cuts in. “I choreographed it, Jihoon composed the music, and you starred in it. The holy trifecta of performing arts!” he shouts with vigor, startling a few spectators nearby.
“Keep doing that, and no one will show up for the next show,” Jihoon mutters as he makes his way over. “Good job, Junhui.” He punches the actor in the arm. “Your improv. definitely got better.”
“Thanks,” the addressee smiles bashfully, using the bouquet to hide the blush.
Very soon, the rest of their friends arrive from their seats in the audience. They offer various comments and cheers to the three main participants of today’s play.
“For a second night, it was a great turn-out,” Seungcheol comments. “You guys might have a career yet.”
“As long as we get good scripts,” Jihoon says with a pointed look toward Wonwoo and Hansol.
The younger puts his hands up. “I’ll do my best.”
“For the next one,” Soonyoung chimes up, “I want a singing role. Actually, let’s make the next one a musical!” Excited at the new idea, he claps his hands together, managing to crush a few flowers in the act. Jihoon clicks his tongue, but the hyper choreographer is too far gone to notice. “Wonwoo, Hansol! We’ll brainstorm tonight! If we work our cards right, we can have a show ready by next month!”
“Next month?!” Hansol exclaims, eyes wide. “I can’t work that fast! I’ve still got finals coming up, you know.”
“And I still have a full time job,” Wonwoo adds. “Do you need a reminder that this was supposed to be a side project?”
“Side projects can become full blown,” Soonyoung points out wisely. “What do you think, musical genius?”
Jihoon cuts his eyes at him. “I say you need to chill.” The comment causes a roar of laughter. “We’ve barely started with this play. We need to focus on this, or it’ll all go down the drain.”
“Right, right,” the other nods. “But I didn’t hear a no concerning the musical, so I’ll keep thinking about it.”
Jihoon sighs and shakes his head, but there’s a smile playing on his lips.
While the actors and stage crew clean up, Wonwoo goes with the rest of their friends to wait outside. The gang pitches ideas about where to go for dinner, and Wonwoo lets his mind wander a bit over the past few months.
After the night of the movie premiere, Junhui had moved back in with Wonwoo, only now it really was because they took a step forward in the relationship. Needless to say, their friends had a lot to remark on the matter. Mostly about how long it took the two of them to finally sort it all out. Also that if their cold war had lasted any longer, they were going to have to interfere.
“I would’ve thrown you into a room and locked the door. No amount of begging or crying would have gotten me to let you out. No food or drink, either, to expedite the process. You’d only be let out once you got your shit together and acted like fucking adults. And if you died in the process… Eh, at least you’d have a buddy on that final journey.” Thanks, Jihoon. We love you, too.
After that was resolved, Junhui explained to Wonwoo what the whole magazine fiasco was about. Turns out it was as dumb as Wonwoo suspected: it was all for PR to promote the new movie. Both of their managers arranged it with the press in order to “catch them" out on dates. There was a stipulation, though, that nothing would take place at night, since his co-star is actually engaged, and the fiancé wasn’t thrilled about the arrangements, either. All in all, it worked out for everyone, except Wonwoo, who was indeed an idiot for not even listening to Junhui trying to explain.
“Next time, I’ll just go inside the room and lock the door,” Wonwoo had said.
Junhui laughed. “Don’t worry. There won’t be a next time.”
“What do you mean?”
The actor shrugged. “I quit. It stopped being fun a long time ago, but I kept going because I didn’t have anything else in life. But now I do,” he smiled brightly at Wonwoo, and the editor felt his knees wobble. “I realized that something had to give when I attended the premiere. I kept wanting to leave and find our friends. Ben was trying so hard to get me to talk to the directors and other actors present, but I couldn’t find myself caring about the connections, even though some of them were working directly with the next project I was supposed to do. It wasn’t fair to Ben, so by the end of the night, I told him I quit.”
The news had come to a shock to Wonwoo, but at the same time, he was glad that Junhui was free, or so to speak. His expression had been so relieved and relaxed, it made Wonwoo realize how stressed he must have been about it all this time.
That also meant that Junhui never got around to doing the horror film project, but the latter didn’t mind. “I’ll just stick to your movies for now. They’re great learning experiences,” he claims as he still hides under cushions or Wonwoo’s shoulder.
With Junhui’s newfound freedom, though, came a lot of free time. He still gets stopped on the street from time to time, but none of the fans have been as crazy as the one who broke into the kids’ apartment. But now that he’s allowed himself to go out more, he’s been tagging along with Soonyoung to his dance studio and hanging out with Jihoon at the music company he works for. With time, the three of them somehow roped Wonwoo and Hansol into writing them a script for some random concept Soonyoung came up with.
At first, it was more like a joke. But as the project grew, the more serious every member became. In the end, they had a real script, with music, and choreography to boot. Junhui called a few of his old college friends, and in only a couple months, they had a finished performance. Thinking about it, Wonwoo is still impressed by how quickly it all came together.
Late that night, after everyone had returned from the celebratory dinner, Wonwoo and Junhui share a lounge chair on the balcony. Wonwoo lays between Junhui’s legs, head resting on his stomach. The actor threads his fingers through Wonwoo’s hair idly, and the other leans into the touch, happy smile gracing his lips. He finds Junhui’s free hand and laces their fingers together.
They’re not particularly doing anything, just staring up at the dark sky, dotted by luminescent specs. As his mind wanders, a thought occurs to him.
Sitting up a little, he shifts his head so he can see Junhui. The other drops his hand to Wonwoo’s shoulder as he stares back, curiosity swirling in the depth of the dark eyes.
“It’s late,” Wonwoo states.
The actor chuckles, poking the side of his neck. “Good observation, Sherlock.”
Not appreciating the sarcasm, Wonwoo grabs the offending hand and bites it.
“Hey!” Junhui swats him lightly. “No biting.”
“That’s what you get,” he mutters, placing the hand on his chest.
Junhui pats him with a laugh. “Okay, okay. So what about it being late?”
He lifts his head, looking at the other boy upside down. “Why aren’t you falling asleep?”
“I don’t know,” he shrugs with a gentle smile. “Maybe I’m just too happy.”
The other laughs, bringing their joined hands to his stomach. He feels Junhui kiss the top of his head, and he smiles. “Do you ever think about how it all started?”
“Us, you mean?”
The actor chuckles. “Sometimes. If we weren’t such klutz, we might never have even ran into each other.”
“You mean crashed into each other,” Wonwoo corrects, making his boyfriend laugh.
“Guess we literally fell for each other, huh?” He looks up just in time to see the actor roll his eyes, but the indulgent grin tugging his lips upward is evident. Reaching up, he strokes the soft skin of Junhui’s cheek, and his eyes turn tender. “Isn’t that how most movies start out? Accidental encounter turns into love?”
“Same thing can be said of books.” With a dazzling smile, Junhui wonders, “And you know how they all end, right?”
Wonwoo smiles in response, inching up to brush their lips together. “And they lived happily ever after.”