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that sweet syrup called you

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"hey jinx," comes that soft voice. "what if i dyed my hair pink?"

jinki looks up from his rummaging on the assorted gummy candies shelf and sees junghee shifting nervously from foot to foot, hands fiddling with a cheap box of electric pink hair dye. he hums thoughtfully. "it'd probably be a bitch to clean out of the tub. what about it?"

junghee juts her bottom lip out in an exaggerated pout. "i need a change of pace. chestnut brown isn't exactly the trend right now," she complains, pulling her hood down to ruffle her hair out. the poodle cut that key recommended did her justice, accentuating her cheekbones and big, sparkly puppy eyes in a way that made jinki swoon. "please help me out with this tonight?"

"well, if that's what you want," jinki grins, finally settling on a pack of cola gummies. he tosses them into the basket and links his arm with junghee's. "anything for you. you'll owe me a rematch in smash, of course."

she smiles wide, flashing her bottom canines as always. "that's a deal."

they head to the counter and pay for their items, slipping out of the convenience store and back into the hazy summer night. jinki thinks it's moments like these he enjoys most with junghee: late-night snack runs, arm in arm, humming earworm tunes absently to herself. he doesn't know how he got so lucky to meet her (read: get chased down by her pipsqueak of a daschund in the park), but he doesn't think he'd trade it for anything.

it doesn't take long to get home and junghee is practically already skipping her way to the bathroom with the hair dye before jinki can even set foot in the kitchen to put away their snacks. he enters the bathroom and finds her rummaging through the cabinets for a ratty towel to use. she all but shoves a pair of plastic gloves into his hands. "i think there's some bleach leftover from last time i went platinum blonde. gimme a sec and i'll get it ready."

she does find it, just enough to cover her entire head. before she does, junghee removes her sweatshirt and jinki swallows, watching her biceps flex tantalizingly under the band tee she wears to bed. she catches his eye in the mirror and grins crookedly with an exaggerated stretch. "like it? can't touch til later." junghee sits on the toilet and drapes the towel over her shoulders. "fire away, captain."

"aye aye, madam." jinki salutes obediently and takes the bleach, clumsily sectioning off her hair and smothering the strands in bleach. he's seen key do this plenty of times and in a rainbow of colors, he just doesn't have the deft precision they do. the two of them sit in a hushed silence for a few minutes while jinki works.

"you know, i don't even know if pink will suit me now," junghee suddenly says. "i liked it a lot before, but nowadays i feel a bit afraid of it."

jinki hums in acknowledgement, slathering more bleach on the roots of her hair. "pink has always suited you. don't be afraid, even if it looks bad from my awful dye job we can always make your hair black."

she chuckles a bit, broad shoulders shaking. "it's not totally your handiwork that i'm afraid of, i can always call key." jinki gives her a little nudge, feigning offense. "it's just… you know, since i've started being junghee. it's been a difficult ride, you know? well, not really, it's complicated. but it's just that… i don't know if i'm fit to be junghee. i feel like i don't fit. it's easier to be jjong, saves me a lot of trouble. but it just isn't me. the hypermasculine display just isn't me." she sighs deeply and the tension in her shoulders unwinds with her breath, jinki's heart clenches with her breath. "we should all be our authentic selves and i've helped key with that, and tell taeminnie and minho that all the time, even if their authentic selves have rocks for brains. i just don't know why it's so hard to take my own advice sometimes." she buries her face in her hands and groans. "i'm here struggling over the color pink when i never did before. you guys have it so much easier. i feel like a burden on you."

jinki finishes the bleach, setting the bowl and brush in the tub and disposing of the gloves. "hey," he starts in that honey-smooth voice he knows she likes hearing to ease her anxieties, kneeling in front of her and taking her wrists gently. junghee relents, revealing pink cheeks and dewy eyes. "it's been tough these past few weeks, but so much more for you than me. you know that you deserve only the best and that's what i want most for you." he offers a small smile. "and i'll do anything to make sure you get that. you're not a burden. you're a beautiful woman who'll kill any color hairstyle, and it doesn't matter what you look like. you don't have any expectations to meet. at the end of the day, you're junghee, you've always have been, always will be, and no one can take that away from you." she snivels a bit at that, pawing at her eyes. "we love you all the same, jinki finishes, pressing a kiss to her wrist. he feels the strain evaporate almost instantly as his lips brush her skin. "i love you all the same."

junghee wails at that and tugs jinki in for a hug. she holds him like her life depends on it, shivering from her sobs. he cradles her in his arms and murmurs tenderly in her ear. they stay like that for a while, junghee occasionally taking a deep, shuddering inhale to catch her breath. jinki only wants the best for her, no matter what.

he knew jjong before he knew junghee, masculine-presenting jjong who worked out religiously and liked showing off. and as their time went on together and as their relationship got more serious, she tiptoed less, fell into him more. let her softer side show, wore her heart on her sleeve, cried at the drop of a hat. she whispered it to him late one night, voice hushed and fingers trembling where they were laced with his in the dark, afraid to be seen. jinki merely took her hands and kissed at her wrists as he always did when she was nervous, first at the inked square on her right, then just below the cool silver of her bracelet. "i love you," he repeated like a mantra, kissing her over and over and over, everywhere he could. she shivered and melted and let her last line of defense fall, let herself finally and fully trust him.

"how did i get so lucky with a guy like you?" junghee sniffles, wiping at her eyes. she muffles a laugh when her eyes land on the tear-drenched shoulder of jinki's shirt.

he laughs a little. "it's more of a, 'how did i get so lucky to meet and fall in love with the most perfect girl in the world?', you know?"

junghee pretends to flip her hair over her shoulder. "that's a wonderful question, indeed." jinki laughs at that.

"well, most perfect girl in the world, do you want me to tone and dye your hair or are we gonna sit here all night thinking about how perfect you are?"

"we could do that, but i think i'm ready for pink me."

so jinki washes the bleach out of her hair, helps her tone and shampoo, and applies the dye carefully. jinki opens the window to air out the bathroom and they sit together at the foot of the tub while they wait for the dye to set, scrolling through junghee's instagram feed. it's filled with a slew of posts from key's official account for their two little brats of dogs who roo doesn't quite get along with. jinki and junghee click through and coo at the puppies on screen, leaving double-tapped hearts in their wake. jinki had gifted comme des and garcon to his childhood friend for their birthday, and junghee was all but enamored when she was finally introduced to the little poodle pups. (roo had squirmed unhappily at her owner's feet during the whole visit to key's house, but was later lovingly showered with kisses and cuddles upon their return home.)

after another half hour of waiting and the ring of a phone timer, jinki washes the pink dye out of junghee's hair, watching the pink leave pastel trails in its wake down the white porcelain to the drain. he towel dries her hair and steals a few kisses with the promise of a deep conditioning tomorrow before taking a blow-dryer and brush to her strands, fluffing it up to maximum puffiness. once he finishes, he covers her eyes with faintly pink-stained fingertips and guides her to the mirror over the sink. with a flourish, he uncovers her eyes. "ta-da! what do you think? maybe a bit of a trim wouldn't hurt on the undercut, but i don't trust myself with that."

junghee leans on the sink into the mirror and examines her new style. it's turned out rather nice, not as vibrant as the box described, a bit gentler but nonetheless striking. it's a sharp change to her previous looks and it suits her rather well. she looks up at jinki through the mirror with those big eyes and his heart skips a beat. "it's perfect," she whispers, spinning suddenly and taking his face in her hands to press her lips to his. "thank you, thank you, thank you," junghee says between kisses, giggling a bit. jinki steadies her with hands on her waist and pulls her closer. "i love you so much."

"i love you too," he sighs, and his heart feels light with her newfound comfort. "i'm happy you're feeling better about this and that i could help you. wouldn't trade your happiness for anything in the world." he presses his forehead to hers and rocks them back and forth slowly. junghee gives him that lopsided grin that's always made his heart soar and hums while the summer night sludges by, ambient noise in their comfortable silence.