Seungcheol has royally fucked up this time.
The apology bouquet he bought is in pieces, scattered on the floor by his feet. There are petals clinging onto his shirt from where Jihoon had thrown the bouquet at his chest. The daisies look especially sad, already wilted from the care Jihoon didn’t show them.
Evidently, Jihoon is still angry.
He lets out a sigh, gathering the flowers. There’s still one lone daisy that survived Jihoon hurling it at him and he hesitates before tucking it between the doorknob and the door. If anything, he wants her to know he’s sincere.
“Jihoonie?” he says softly, pressing a hand to the wood of the door. It’s getting to the last few weeks of summer, so the door is cool to the touch. He doesn’t even know if she’s on the other side or if she’s already buried herself under her covers, watching dramas to forget him. “I’m really sorry.”
He waits, hoping that she’ll open the door and let him in. He’d do anything to right the wrong he’s done. Seungcheol just hopes she’ll give him the chance.
Seungcheol doesn’t understand the guys who always complain about not knowing why their girlfriends are mad. There’s always a reason, even if you don’t get it at the time. Seungcheol usually knows why he’s gained his girlfriend’s ire. It’s gaining her forgiveness that Seungcheol always struggles with.
“She’s mad at me again,” Mingyu sighs, slumping into the booth. His knee knocks into Seungcheol’s, but the latter doesn’t react. He’s too busy staring sadly into his melted strawberry milkshake. They’re at the campus diner, a fancy little cafe that’s decorated like an eighties diner from an American movie. It makes them feel like they’re living out a volume of Archie’s Digest or something.
Seungkwan glances up from her phone, eyebrow rising. “Are we talking about your cute, statuesque girlfriend Zhou Jieqiong, who’s way out of your league?”
“She’s not way out of my league,” Mingyu insists, stealing a fry from Seungkwan’s plate as revenge. “Only, like, kind of.”
“She could do better than you,” Seungkwan grumbles under her breath, sinking down in her seat slightly so Hansol can slide his arm around her shoulders.
Mingyu wrinkles his nose, this time stealing a handful of fries. Seungkwan smacks his hand, but she still allows him to escape with his spoils. “This is the part where you guys inject sympathy into the conversation because of my situation.”
“Break up with her,” Seungkwan snorts, taking a fry and dipping it into Hansol’s chocolate milkshake, despite the distressed noise her boyfriend makes. “Let her meet better guys – or girls. She’s bi, isn’t she?”
“I’m not breaking up with her!” Mingyu insists, crossing his arms defensively. “I like her.”
“Then why’d you forget your hundred-day anniversary?” Seungkwan challenges, smiling smugly when Mingyu’s jaw slackens.
“Oh fuck,” Mingyu groans, whipping out his phone to start frantically texting. “Fuck, she’s going to break up with me.”
“Probably,” Hansol snorts.
“If she hasn’t already. I would’ve,” Seungkwan adds.
“Really? You would’ve broken up with me?” Rather than offended, Hansol sounds rather bemused. “Harsh.”
His girlfriend chuckles, brushing a lock of hair out of his face. There’s something very tender in the gesture. Seungcheol’s Jihoon-less side feels very cold, all of a sudden. “I would never break up with you. Mingyu oppa, on the other hand… I would break up with him in a heartbeat.”
Mingyu – completely ignoring the couple’s conversation – lets out a distressed noise, tossing his phone on the table when he finally gets a message from Jieqiong. “She broke up with me,” he moans. Wonwoo drops by then, bringing Seungcheol’s order and a vanilla milkshake for himself. “Hyung, Jieqiong broke up with me!”
“I know,” Wonwoo says, ruffling Mingyu’s obnoxiously orange hair. “She asked me out for Jeonghan hyung’s party, but I said no. I had a test to study for.”
Mingyu’s eyes widen. “She broke up with me last week?” He stares at his phone helplessly. “Is that why she’s been so cold lately?”
Seungkwan and Hansol, their university’s most stable couple, both sigh. “You’re a mess,” Seungkwan says flatly.
“Utterly hopeless, hyung,” Hansol adds. Mingyu replies by making increasingly distressed noises, pressing into Seungcheol’s personal space. He stops suddenly, frowning when he realises the elder hasn’t made a single comment the entire time.
“What’s up with him?” Mingyu stage-whispers, still far too loud to be subtle.
“Jihoon,” Seungcheol says mournfully. The younger jumps in his seat, clearly not expecting Seungcheol to answer. “She’s still mad at me.”
Mingyu pats Seungcheol’s shoulder sympathetically. “What did you forget?”
“Her summer recital…”
Mingyu snatches his hand away, horror dawning on his face. “How are you still alive?”
It’s well-known that Jihoon cares a lot about three things: her music, Seungcheol and food. Not necessarily in that order. To be more specific, she finds it important that her boyfriend shows up for her recitals, or at least remembers she has them so he can send her a good luck message.
Seungcheol has been a bit of a crappy boyfriend lately.
“She’s so upset she’s not even out for blood,” Wonwoo states, loudly slurping on his milkshake. “When you messaged her during History, she shut off her phone and said, “fuck you, Choi Seungcheol” before glaring at me and telling me you’re an idiot.” He pauses, head tilting to the side. “I think I’m a pariah by association, but she also likes me more than she likes you now.”
“Don’t make a move on hyung’s girlfriend,” Hansol says.
Wonwoo huffs. “I will not make a move on hyung’s girlfriend. Jihoon will murder me and hide the body.”
Mingyu reaches over, patting Wonwoo’s arm. “We’d look for you,” he assures his best friend. “We might not find you, but we’d definitely look.”
“Don't ever try to reassure me again.”
“How are you still alive?” Seungkwan asks, talking over the two bickering best friends effortlessly.
“I'd like to think it's because she still loves me,” Seungcheol says mournfully.
“Sounds about right,” Hansol says brightly. “Don't lose hope yet, hyung!”
“Hansol, I need relationship advice,” Seungcheol sighs, slumping forward.
Hansol raises an eyebrow incredulously. “Just because I’m dating Seungkwan doesn’t mean I know how I did it,” he snorts. The younger absently rubs his girlfriend’s arm when he feels the goosebumps there, the air conditioner aimed straight at her.
Seungkwan nods, leaning over to kiss her boyfriend on the cheek as thanks. “He really doesn't,” she says drily. “Cheer up, oppa. Jihoon unnie can't hate you forever.”
It prompts a groan from Seungcheol, heading falling onto the table top with a hard thunk! “Doesn’t mean she won’t try,” he grumbles.
Seungcheol’s rounded up the boys to play basketball, because they’ve obviously proven to be wonderful advisors. Mingyu gives his best advice when he’s not sitting down and Wonwoo comes up with his best words when he sees Mingyu making a fool of himself – which usually happens when they’re on the court.
“Why not just apologise?” Hansol asks, bouncing the ball a couple times before tossing it into the hoop. It rolls around the hoop teasingly a couple times before rolling out, depriving the younger of a point. Mingyu whoops, snatching the ball in mid-air and somehow tripping over his own feet and falling to the ground gracelessly.
“Pretty sure he's tried,” Wonwoo answers, lips twitching as Mingyu groans about his injuries. “But what's she really mad about?”
“The recital?” Seungcheol ventures cautiously, eyebrows raising when Wonwoo shakes his head. “What the hell, I know Jihoon.”
“Not as well as you think,” Wonwoo teases, stealing the ball from Mingyu (not that it takes much skill to steal a ball from a downed opponent) and manoeuvring around the elder.
Seungcheol runs after the ninety-six liner. “She told you something, didn't she? You traitor!”
“I told you she likes me more than she likes you right now.” Before Seungcheol can decide to deck him in a fit of jealousy, the younger adds, “We’re project partners. Don't get your panties in a twist, hyung. Jihoonie’s like my sister.”
Jealous or not, the idea of Jihoon and Wonwoo together romantically is too ridiculous to even fathom. They’ve always been friendly and they share the same classes, but Jihoon has only ever regarded Wonwoo as a classmate who happens to run in the same social circles as her.
“Wonwoo oppa, Mister Steal Your Girl,” Seungkwan cackles unhelpfully from the side-lines, the sunlight catching in her blonde hair. Hansol looks vaguely starstruck, which only makes it easy for Mingyu to trip him.
“Shut up,” Seungcheol sighs, giving up the game to go sit next to Seungkwan. “What’s she mad about, then?”
Seungkwan hums thoughtfully, sipping her lemonade. “You probably already know,” she says. Seungcheol thinks they all think too highly of him – if he knew, he wouldn’t be asking dumb and dumber, with Hansol the whipped over there for advice.
“I really don’t,” Seungcheol groans, flopping onto his back. He squints up at the sunlight, letting out a huff as Hansol lays his head on the elder’s stomach. “Jihoon’s not petty.”
“She’s kind of petty,” Wonwoo contradicts. “Did she ever tell you about the time she left me at a frat party because I was late for lunch with her once? It wasn’t nice.”
Fair enough. “Fine, she’s petty. But she’s not petty with me,” Seungcheol sighs and everyone nods, conceding to that point.
“She probably thinks you don’t care,” Hansol says, beaming up at Seungkwan when she rests a hand in his hair.
“Did you notice you don’t spend as much time with her now because of graduation?” Seungkwan adds helpfully.
Seungcheol blanches. “Oh god.”
They’re right. They’re so right. Seungcheol’s been so caught up in graduation and all his final projects that he’s probably put Jihoon in the backseat without meaning to. The music student is just so… not-clingy that it’s easy to forget she wants his attention sometimes too.
“Hey, kids,” Junhui calls out as Minghao drags her towards their little gathering. “Did we miss the memo or something?”
Mingyu flinches, immediately getting out of Junhui’s immediate range and attempting to fit all one hundred and eighty-five centimetres of himself behind Wonwoo. Junhui smirks, kicking in Mingyu’s direction just to scare him even more.
“Noona, please,” Minghao sighs, pouting slightly at his girlfriend. “You’re going to give him a heart attack.”
“She’ll give me a case of murdered to death,” Mingyu protests, ducking behind Wonwoo once more. His best friend merely rolls his eyes, too used to his antics to really care.
Junhui turns sharp eyes to Seungcheol; he feels vaguely like a lamb being placed on a chopping block. “Shouldn’t you be on Jihoonie’s doorstep, begging for forgiveness?” she drawls. Seungcheol flinches. He’s not sure if she meant to sound that sarcastic, but it cuts anyway.
“You think I haven’t tried?” Seungcheol grumbles, flopping over onto his back. He squints up at the sun, raising a hand to shield his eyes. “Junhui,” he drags the last syllable of her name, “help me!”
“What do I get out of it?” the Chinese woman drawls, hand resting on her hip as she looms over Seungcheol. “You hurt my best friend.”
Seungcheol looks up at Junhui, trying to look as pitiful as a rain-drenched puppy. “She's the love of my life,” he says mournfully. “I'd never willingly hurt her…”
Junhui rolls her eyes, red lips pressed into a thin line. “You're lucky Jihoon still loves you, or I'd throw you into a ditch and leave you there.”
The threat should probably offend Seungcheol (he knows Mingyu is appropriately offended for him), but the confession that Jihoon still loves him makes his heart jump in his chest. He sits up, head spinning from the sudden altitude change. “You'll help me?”
Junhui shakes her head. Seungcheol’s expression falls, so Minghao nudges his girlfriend, who immediately folds. “All I can say is that Jihoon isn’t petty enough to ignore an apology from her second favourite male and she's home right now, sorely in need of coffee.” Junhui’s expression is razor-sharp when she adds, “Hurt her and die.”
Seungcheol’s already gone, leaving a figurative dust bunny in his empty spot while he heads for the nearby Starbucks, Jihoon’s order already resting on the tip of his tongue.
He stands in front of Junhui’s and Jihoon’s apartment. Jihoon’s coffee is steaming in in his hand. He doesn’t bring flowers this time, but maybe he should have. Then again, since she hadn’t responded all that well to it the first time, maybe this was for the best.
He raises a fist to knock on the door and lets it hover. His palms sweat and it feels a lot like meeting Jihoon’s father again, only this time he doesn’t have her by his side to tell him (in a roundabout way) that everything is going to be fine.
Jihoon has never said let’s break up. Seungcheol doesn’t know if he’s just that good or if Jihoon’s just that patient. He’s beginning to think it’s the latter, because there’s obviously so much about Jihoon that he doesn’t know. He doesn’t even know enough to know that all she wanted to hear from him was an admission of guilt and an apology for making her feel like she didn’t matter. He’s really an idiot.
He finally lets his knuckles rap against the wood, feeling the vibrations vibrate all the way to his gut out of nervousness. He swallows, running a hand through his hair as he tries to steady his shaking hand.
He hears the lock unclick; he swears his heart stops for a moment.
The door swings open; Seungcheol’s words stick in his throat.
There she is – his angel, his princess, the only woman who has ever made him feel five different things at any one moment in time. Her hair is tied back in a low ponytail, a couple errant curls framing her face. She cut her hair short a couple weeks before the recital, her permed hair barely now resting on her shoulders. The sweater rests on her shoulders, wrapping around them like a warm hug (like how Seungcheol’s arm rests on her shoulders on those Saturday afternoons where they have nothing to do but lie in each other’s embrace and watch bad weekend television). The sleeves fall way past her wrist, only the tips of her fingers barely peeking out from the fabric. Her short ride low on her hips, the length of the sweater nearly hiding them from Seungcheol’s sight. Her eyes are half-shut, but it’s not from sleep; the pencil tucked behind her ear and the smudge of graphite on her chin are proof that she’s in another one of her composing moods, head crowded with music notes and lyrics.
Seungcheol stands there, agape like the very first time he first laid eyes on her. Jihoon is still too sleepy to realise its him, a sleeve-encased fist rising to rub at her eye.
“Junnie, you said you weren’t coming home today,” she mumbles, her words slurring like she’s too tired to move her lips. It’s so cute and if Seungcheol doesn’t fix this, he’ll throw himself off the building from everything he’ll miss about Jihoon.
Hesitantly, he clears his throat, watching apprehensively as her eyelids slowly lift and awareness slowly fills her gaze.
Her expression changes in the blink of an eye, from sleepily content to stonily displeased.
“You,” Jihoon says flatly, all traces of comfort fleeing her body. Her shoulders tense, reminding Seungcheol of freshly-cut marble. “What are you doing here?”
His tongue feels swollen, all the words he needs to say crowding in his throat. He ends up thrusting the paper cup in her direction, looking down at her bare feet and counting the different colours she’s painted her toenails (seven, because Jihoon like variety and hates boring colours). He feels the liquid slosh, but it doesn’t spill thanks to the stopper at the mouthpiece.
“Here,” he croaks. God, he sounds like he’s drowning. He coughs into his fist, then tries again. “Junhui said you’d need this.”
Jihoon eyes the cup suspiciously, not taking it from Seungcheol’s shaking hand. “What is it?” she asks, voice void of inflection. She’s clearly still mad – and Seungcheol deserves to be hit with every wave of anger she possesses.
“Coffee,” he answers lamely. “Your favourite. Latte, with an extra shot of espresso and no… whipped cream…”
Her lips thin with every word that come out of Seungcheol’s mouth. He wants to stop talking, but he can’t; this is the most attention she’s given him in a week, so he’s going to savour every moment.
“Junhui told you I’m here,” she says flatly, effectively shutting Seungcheol up. He doesn’t disagree or protest, deciding instead to stand there like a dumb goldfish. “Ugh, just come in. it’s hot out here.”
He hadn’t even noticed the heat, a thin sheen of sweat settling on his skin. His t-shirt is damp, sticking to him slightly. He hesitates, then kneels down to undo his shoelaces before stepping inside.
The apartment is noticeably cooler, the windows firmly shut and the air conditioning running. It’s low enough that Jihoon can run around in her favourite sweaters comfortably, but just warm enough for her to wear shorts.
Seungcheol watches as she takes a sip of her coffee, her shoulders slumping slightly as the coffee warms her up. She glances at him over her shoulder, looking a little less hostile.
“I… came here to apologise,” Seungcheol says carefully, wading into the conversation like he could step into a landmine at any time. “About missing your recital. And for not spending time with you. For making you feel like I don't care, like you're not one of the most important things in my life.” He pauses, mulling over his words – letting it sink in how true those words are. “I’m really sorry and I don’t know if I can ever make up for it.”
Jihoon bunches up her shoulders, the way she does sometimes when she’s deep in her head. “I’m not that angry,” she sighs on an exhale, a little furrow between her eyebrows. “I know you’re busy. But I – ”
She cuts herself off, looking up at him helplessly. Jihoon looks especially tired like this, her dark circles more pronounced.
“I know,” he says, and he thinks he almost does. If Jihoon had forgotten to show up to his graduation, if she had completely forgotten to even say anything on such an important day, he wouldn’t know what to do. “I’m sorry.”
She bites her lips, letting out a soft exhale. “Just come over here and hug me already,” she grumbles, setting the cup of coffee down onto the coffee table so she can stride forward and wrap her arms around Seungcheol’s waist.
The elder freezes, almost disbelieving of how easily she forgives him. Sometimes, he underestimates just how much she must love him.
“This isn’t the end of it,” she mumbles into his chest. Warmth spreads from somewhere between his ribs, but it might just be from Jihoon breathing onto his shirt. “I’m going to forgive you, but I’m still a little pissed.”
“Fair enough,” he chuckles, burying his nose in her hair. The frayed curls tickle his nose. “I’ll make up for it, even if it’ll take the rest of my life.”
She sounds content when she answers, “Good.”
Seungcheol wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s just glad she wouldn’t either.
(Jihoon’s already forgiven him completely, but she doesn’t tell him. Not until he’s taken to serenading her in the courtyard and pulling her out of her apartment just to dance in the summer rain.)