It's one of those rare things that Yoosung was never allowed to do but did anyway. Usually, he explains as he mounts the windowsill and takes a timid step onto the awning, his parents' rules were followed down to the most minor details. Not that they were particularly strict or anything. His older sister got away with plenty enough to prove that they weren’t, he notes with a humorless smile.
But he never liked to break the rules. The guilt of it, the discomfort—they were always harsher than any scolding he'd receive. Yoosung was the good, obedient kid they never had to worry about.
Saeyoung laughs at this, and Yoosung only rolls his eyes, feeling his cheeks get hot with embarrassment.
But this was different. Yoosung keeps explaining after they've already settled side-by-side on the roof, rough tiles prickling the bare skin exposed by their shorts. It was dangerous, he knew, and his parents were uncharacteristically peeved on the rare occasion that they found him up here. Still, on infrequent cool summer nights like this one, he'd wind up climbing out his bedroom window anyway. Could you really blame him? he asks, shrugging a little sheepishly.
Saeyoung takes a moment to think about it. He looks down at Yoosung's suburban neighborhood, average and quaint and even more cookie cutter from this high angle that reveals identical roofs stretching out into the distance. He feels the evening breeze on his skin, listens to the gentle rustling of a hundred trees in a hundred manicured backyards. And although he can't quite imagine what it's like, to negotiate the innocuous orders of less-than-intimidating parents, he nods.
"Can't blame you at all," he says. "It's pretty."
Yoosung hums softly. “I think so, too. In high school I always dreamed about, um, bringing a girlfriend up here...? If I had one, I mean.” He cringes visibly. “Ugh, sorry, that’s dumb. Forget I said it.”
“Cute,” Saeyoung teases. He repositions himself carefully, feeling his knees tremble as he pushes his body further up the roof. He catches a glimpse of the edge of the lawn below (far below) and his heart races. But somehow the adrenaline manages to set him at ease, in its own way. After a long day in a warm but stuffy home, socializing endlessly with a surprisingly formal family, Saeyoung appreciates something refreshing like this. No, he really needed it.
“So if they catch us, will we be in huge trouble? Or just you?”
Yoosung laughs. “Um.... They would definitely be mad at me, and me in particular. Augh, I don’t want to think about it!”
“You’re still scared of them getting mad?” Saeyoung smiles teasingly, but he’s genuinely surprised, and Yoosung answers with full conviction.
“Yes! Is that pathetic? It’s not like they can do anything to me now. But somehow the older I get, the more they kind of scare me.” He shakes his head. “Parents are weird like that.”
“Are they?” Saeyoung asks, as though he has no experience with parents whatsoever.
“Yes! I think it’s because the older I get, the more I understand them. Like how when I was a teenager, I always thought I was getting away with something by coming up here. But now I....”
Yoosung pauses. The full impact of Saeyoung’s curiosity, of his clueless “are they?” hits him with a delayed impact. He frowns. Briefly, he considers changing the subject.
But Saeyoung reaches over, closing the gap between them to tap Yoosung on the arm. “Spacing out?” he asks, knowing encouragement gently and innocently masked.
They're already past that point. Of Yoosung skirting around the parents thing, the family thing, the happy and relatively carefree childhood thing. For a while, he avoided those topics for Saeyoung's sake, until harshly being told to cut it out. Saeyoung isn't hurt by talk like that. He's had years to get used to it, and anyway, it's only way more awkward when Yoosung is obviously holding back from what he wants to say.
So Yoosung says what he wants to say.
"To be honest, they probably knew I was coming up here all the time, even when I went years without being caught." Yoosung tilts his head thoughtfully. "That's... something I'm starting to understand about parents, I think. They probably know way more about their kids than what they let on. Like, for example, when I was applying to colleges? They kept suggesting these places that were really close to home, like a short car ride away." His voice gets more and more tense the further he gets in the story. "I was so nervous to tell them where I actually wanted to go! I kept putting it off, and my sister kept trying to "help" me by dropping hints, which only made everything more awkward. And then...." Yoosung sighs. "Two weeks before the entrance exam, my dad let me know that he got time off work to drive me out to SKY University to take the test." There's a small pause before he continues. "We didn't even talk about it. They just expected it, even when I thought it was so out of character, they'd never...."
Yoosung's voice trails off. Saeyoung readjusts in his seat, and once he's sure that Yoosung is finished with his anecdote, he proceeds cautiously.
"... Do you think they expected me?"
Though Saeyoung cracks a smile, a weak attempt to lighten the mood, Yoosung’s face stays serious. Saeyoung eyes his profile, shadowy and obscured but just clear enough to watch his eyebrows furrow in thought. Yoosung answers softly. “No. No, probably not.”
For a moment, Saeyoung feels guilty for straying into such serious conversational waters. But Yoosung goes on. “I mean, all the ‘girlfriend’ stuff—it’s not like I talked much to my parents about that . But they knew I liked girls. So. So it’s not like they really had to think about it? Maybe I’m explaining this wrong....”
“No,” Saeyoung says. “I get it.”
Yoosung falters. He’s sitting before a beautiful sight, an expanse of houses and trees and streetlights laid out before him, all below the stars. But he’s staring at his hands. Turning them over, pulling at his fingers, tightening and loosening his grip.
Saeyoung doesn’t like that. He reaches over and takes one of Yoosung’s hands in his own, squeezes softly, and rests their clasped hands together in the tiny space between them on the roof. As planned, Yoosung finally looks up to face the scenery. Saeyoung watches his hair move gently in a small gust of wind. Yoosung’s shoulders hunch a little.
“Your hand is cold,” he whispers.
“All of me is cold right now.” Saeyoung gives a meek smile.
“Hmph.” Yoosung frowns. “No good. Here–”
Before Saeyoung can ask what he’s doing, Yoosung scoots carefully closer, keeping the soles of his shoes flat against the roof to hold himself up. Saeyoung sucks in a breath, nervous. But then Yoosung gets close enough to maneuver over Saeyoung’s leg, to settle comfortably in the gap between his thighs. Saeyoung puts his arms around Yoosung and holds him close. And Yoosung, letting out a soft exhale, presses back and rests his head against Saeyoung’s shoulder. From the corner of his eye, Saeyoung can glance over at his face, catching a glimpse at the shimmering reflection of starlight in his purple eyes.
Saeyoung is definitely much warmer already. How much of that is shared body heat and how much comes down to the blossoming warmth in his chest... that’s anyone’s guess.
Yoosung continues, as though they were never interrupted.
“No,” Yoosung says. “No, they definitely didn’t expect you. But they definitely like you.”
“You think...?” Saeyoung tries to hold back the urgency in his voice.
“Yeah! They really do.” Yoosung looks up, smiling gently. “You seem really terrified of them? I think they liked that.”
“What!” And now Saeyoung is speaking over the loud, musical sound of Yoosung’s laughter, clinging onto the boyfriend wiggling in his arms. “Hey, what’s that supposed to mean? They like my fear? Are they really that terrible?”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying!” Yoosung waits for his own laughter to die down before continuing. “Just.... I mean, they could just tell you were taking it seriously! Eager to make a good impression, and... not too cocky? That’s the kind of impression they wanted.” He lets out another laugh—a less earnest one, more mischievous—before adding, “You know? I’ve seen that more uncertain side of you enough times by now, but I think that’s the first time I’ve seen you show it to other people.”
Suddenly, the limp boy lounging in Saeyoung’s arms grows bones. He presses his back up against Saeyoung, almost teasingly. “It was... kind of cute? It was sweet, seeing you get all nervous with them.”
“Did I seem that nervous...?”
“Yeah. It’s like, you start fidgeting, and you thank them for every little thing. It’s....” Yoosung smiles, as though preparing to tell Saeyoung some grand secret. “It isn’t easy for you to do things like that, is it? So it really.... It makes me so happy, seeing how important this is to you too.”
Saeyoung brings a hand to his face automatically, pauses, and lowers it again with the realization that it’s far too dark for Yoosung to see him blush. Still... in proper daylight, he’d be unmistakably red. Running his disturbed hand through Yoosung’s hair, Saeyoung merely shrugs.
“It is important to me,” he admits. “A first impression lasts a long time, and....”
(What he doesn’t say- “and if everything goes well, they might have to keep seeing me for a long time. Holidays, vacations, graduations. Other events I really really shouldn’t be considering yet but, you know, how could I not? When you smile at me like you are right now.... How could I not imagine keeping that smile for good?”)
What Saeyoung actually says is much tamer, tempered by his well-trained skills of restraint. Tempered by years spent repressing those types of hopeful thoughts. What he says is, “So if I get less scared of them, does that mean they’ll stop liking me?”
“Of course not!” Yoosung jolts at the suggestion, almost sounding offended. He reaches up and pokes Saeyoung’s cheek with one finger. A punishment. “It’s good to hold back at first, but once you open up, I know they’re going to like the rest of your personality, too. Your intelligence, and your thoughtfulness, and....”
“My sense of humor?”
“Hmm. Well, I don’t know about that one. I don’t think- hey!” Yoosung struggles not to squeak as Saeyoung jabs at his side teasingly. “I’m kidding, I’m kidding! But seriously, I don’t know any parents who appreciate weird memes, so....”
“Nah,” Saeyoung shoots back. “You just haven’t met the right kinds of parents.”
“Hmmm.” Yoosung reaches up again, this time resting his fingertips on the frame of Saeyoung’s glasses. “And what about these? Do you think you’ll keep wearing them?”
“Ah....” Saeyoung raises a hand, intending to take Yoosung’s in his own, but meeting disappointment when Yoosung interprets it as him brushing the hand away, and retracts. Instead Saeyoung adjusts the glasses absentmindedly. Plain, black-framed, and completely unremarkable. Different than the trademark striped pair Yoosung had grown used to seeing him in.
He shrugs. “Probably. Just when I expect to see them, of course. But... yeah, that’s what I bought them for. I don’t need your parents thinking I’m some weirdo based on how I dress.”
Rather than the protests or reassurances he expects, Saeyoung’s reply is met with silence. Though he doesn’t look Yoosung directly in the eye–feeling way too self-conscious at the moment–he can feel his boyfriend’s gaze boring into him. After a moment of uncomfortable silence, he glances up toward the sky and presses for a response. “What, Yoosung?”
“Nothing, I just....” Yoosung’s reply comes out breathless. He’s limp again in Saeyoung’s arms, but he shakes his head. “I just realized how serious you are about all this.”
Call it a defense mechanism, but Saeyoung can’t help but laugh weakly in response. “I... do really care about you, Yoosung. So much. I just don’t want to blow it.” He swallows hard. “I’ll do anything not to blow it.”
It’s too much. That’s what his rational side is telling him. He’s saying way too much, way too sincerely. Any day now, Yoosung will shrink away from him, or some other circumstances will tear them apart, and all he’ll be left with is this bitter taste in his mouth. Regrets over too much said in a moment of vulnerability.
That’s still how he’s inclined to think about it.
But Yoosung just shakes his head again. “You won’t blow it. Trust me, they already like you, and they can tell that you make me happy. So from here... it’s really not that easy to screw up, you know?”
Before Saeyoung can respond, he feels Yoosung’s hands resting gently on the sides of his face again. Slowly, they pull the glasses away. With blurred vision, Saeyoung watches Yoosung hold those glasses against his chest as he eyes Saeyoung intently.
“So don’t worry so much,” he whispers. “In the end, it’s just you. And there’s nothing not to love about you.”
Saeyoung’s heart pounds. He’s too overwhelmed to speak, so instead, he pulls Yoosung tighter against him, burying his face against his boyfriend’s neck.
He feels one hand snake up toward his head, fingers drawing through his hair gently.
Skin hot, chest tight, he thinks about pressing his luck.
Saeyoung is good at denying himself what he wants. He’s good at holding back, placing boundaries, and where there were no overprotective parents to set out rules for him, he enforced his own guidelines. Sure, there was always the agency breathing down his neck. (Or maybe holding a knife against it?) But ultimately, the restraint shown in difficult moments was his own.
Yoosung isn’t like that, Saeyoung observes, thinking about the face of the man in his arms. He thinks about those eyes and how, moments ago, they were dancing back and forth, taking in the sight of the dense midsummer stars. Always searching. Always drawn hungrily toward what they crave–fun, knowledge, distraction.
Saeyoung doesn’t dislike that part of him. It’s not a fault, he thinks, that self-indulgent impulse. Maybe it could be a negative, if Yoosung were in a situation where he needed to hold back, where he needed to be frugal as a virtue, as a lifestyle....
But he’s not. Saeyoung reminds himself of that fact with a startling frequency. Yoosung has his own share of hardships, but his life has no looming existential threats. Aside from a few odd characters at play, it’s startlingly normal.
Yoosung is an average college student, living on scholarships, doing charity projects on the side, working hard toward what will certainly be a rewarding career as a vet.
He doesn’t need to hold back. When it comes to seeking his pleasures, Yoosung is free to be a bit greedy.
More than anything, Saeyoung wants to indulge that greed.
And maybe, now that they’re in this situation together, he can stand to be a bit greedier, too.
Saeyoung lifts his head slowly. “Hey.”
“Hm?” And just a second after Yoosung turns to face him, Saeyoung seals their lips together.
The kiss is fast and startlingly intense, no doubt amplified after the forced restraint of a day spent around parents. Earlier, everything had been chaste and uncertain, including the covert holding of hands below the kitchen table, the tiny peck on the lips before they were sent to separate rooms for the night. (It took all of ten minutes for Yoosung to sneak off of the couch and into his bedroom, where Saeyoung was meant to be sleeping alone.)
Now, they’re more than making up for it. Yoosung clings to the collar of Saeyoung’s shirt, drawing him in closer, deepening the kiss with a tiny muffled whine. After a while Yoosung pulls away, lingering close to Saeyoung’s face, heavy breaths felt against his lips.
“Thank you,” Saeyoung whispers suddenly.
“Mm?” Yoosung blinks hard, as though remembering how to think. “For what?”
“For....” Saeyoung shrugs. “For all of this. For staying with me. For letting me meet your family, and....” His voice breaks, then trails off.
Yoosung only smiles. Staying close, he presses their foreheads together, winding his arms fully over Saeyoung’s shoulders. It’s an awkward position, and a bit dangerous as they cling together on the slanted roof. Saeyoung chooses simply to hold Yoosung tightly, protectively.
“I’m glad you came home with me,” Yoosung whispers.
“Me too. It makes me feel....” He takes in a breath, for once choosing total honesty. “I guess stuff like this makes me feel like a real couple?”
“We are a real couple,” Yoosung protests, pouting slightly.
“Ah. Right. Bad phrasing, sorry. I guess what I mean is.... It makes me feel like a real person.”
Definitely too honest. Saeyoung can feel himself cringe at his own words. They’re painfully sincere, and he knows he’s going to regret this later, when it all inevitably falls apart. Saeyoung is about to lean back when Yoosung pulls his arms away, breaking their contact. Before he can panic, Saeyoung feels something cold rest against the bridge of his nose.
The glasses are returned. Saeyoung blinks. Now that he can see clearly, he can recognize the expression on Yoosung’s face. It’s tender, and it’s full of resolve.
“I’m never going to forget this,” Yoosung says in a hushed tone, hands resting on either side of Saeyoung’s face. “I meant it when I said I always dreamed about sharing this with... with someone I love. So tonight, you made one of my dreams come true.”
Yoosung leans in, giving him a single soft kiss. If Saeyoung was speechless already, now he’s dumbstruck, fully overwhelmed by his sincerity returned in full force.
It feels awkward, and scary, and exciting, and beautiful. It feels like indulging yourself on something too sweet that you can’t get enough of. It feels like the drop in the rollercoaster, when you think you could die but the harness is tight and reassuring against your chest, and against all odds, you can’t seem to stop smiling.
All of those cliches and more. In short, it feels the same as falling in love with Yoosung Kim.
“Let’s go inside,” Yoosung says. “We can cuddle on my bed for a while before I have to go back to the couch? If you want!”
Throat still uncomfortably tight, Saeyoung only nods. He lets Yoosung guide them both back toward the window, trusting his own quivering legs not to drop him off of the roof at the last moment. It would be a cruel irony to die now. A tragedy rivaling any other. Not before they’ve gotten inside, where it’s warm and cozy, and before he and his boyfriend have gotten the chance to fully indulge themselves in their long night of rule breaking.