Jung Heewon silently hands Kim Dokja a slip of paper. Kim Dokja looks down. There’s a number written on it. He looks back to Jung Heewon in confusion. “Heewon-ssi?” he says questioningly.
“That’s the number of a guy,” she says. “You’re going to text him.”
“Why am I doing that?”
“You need to get laid.”
He stops. “Heewon-ssi. I have a boyfriend. You know this.”
“Oh, that guy.” She snorts. “Yeah, tell me more about this ‘boyfriend’ of yours and how hot and perfect and cool he is.”
“Hey, I never said he was perfect.” Kim Dokja is the first person who will admit that his boyfriend has many flaws. Many, many flaws. He’s probably the only person who can find his… everything so attractive, but that works out fine, because Kim Dokja is an unattractive person in looks and personality, yet somehow he’s loved in return.
“Right. Dokja-ssi, you don’t have to keep pretending you have a boyfriend.” Jung Heewon looks at him pitifully. Kim Dokja suddenly feels like crying. She pats the hand that holds the slip of paper. “Call this guy. I’m sure he’ll like you.”
Kim Dokja nearly does cry.
The issue is that Yoo Jonghyuk is Hot—capital H, full italics. He’s hot like burning. He’s also devastatingly romantic, and Kim Dokja has heard enough about how he needs to shut up about Yoo Jonghyuk to know that he, maybe, talks him up a bit too much. (He doesn’t have a muscle kink, thank you very much! He simply has a healthy appreciation for Yoo Jonghyuk’s assets. In all capacities. Really, who can blame him?)
They met in their first year of high school. Yoo Jonghyuk was popular for his looks and aloof expression while Kim Dokja was generally ignored by the school population when he wasn’t been harassed by bullies. He isn’t ashamed to admit that he was another one of Yoo Jonghyuk’s admirers, and he remained an admirer even when Yoo Jonghyuk threatened him on the rooftop when he thought Kim Dokja was stalking him.
In his defense, Yoo Jonghyuk’s ears turned red when Kim Dokja scoffed at him and told him to get over himself. It was endearing.
After that encounter, Kim Dokja spent the entirety of high school trying to get other reactions out of Yoo Jonghyuk. When it became clear that Kim Dokja wasn’t going to leave him alone, Yoo Jonghyuk began to let him hang around, and somehow that meant he began to chase off bullies too, and then he stopped threatening him as much, and then at some point, Kim Dokja’s mother was moaning into the kitchen table that if he likes this Yoo Jonghyuk boy so much, he should just invite him over and possibly even marry him.
Kim Dokja did not propose to Yoo Jonghyuk, but he did invite him over and shelved the ‘marriage’ idea for a later date.
It took until after they separated for college for Step 2 of Kim Dokja’s “Marry Yoo Jonghyuk and Gain a Trophy Husband” plan to come to fruition (Step 1 was “become close enough to Yoo Jonghyuk that he doesn’t want to murder you on sight”), and ever since, Kim Dokja and Yoo Jonghyuk have lived in loving, couple-y bliss.
(“Too loving,” Lee Sookyung—Number 1 Jonghyuk Hater—would mutter and whisk away her almost-grandchildren before they were subjected to too much of Kim Dokja and Yoo Jonghyuk’s relationship. The kids were already used to it though)
For the majority of Kim Dokja’s years growing up, he didn’t exactly have friends other than Yoo Jonghyuk. So, when he reached his adult years and found people who actually liked him for him, he maybe couldn’t help ranting about his boyfriend when the opportunity arose.
The opportunity arose a lot, and he often went on for a long, long time.
“Jonghyuk-ah.” Kim Dokja slips into Yoo Jonghyuk’s lap the moment he finds him in their shared apartment. He presses a short kiss to his lips. Yoo Jonghyuk tugs him back to give him a longer one. “Jonghyuk-ah, do you—” Oh, what the heck, another kiss. “Do you remember—” kiss, “my friend—” kiss, “Jung Heewon-ssi?”
Yoo Jonghyuk pushes him back just a little bit so he would stop attacking him. Kim Dokja huffs, betrayed. “Either kiss me or talk, don’t do both,” he says.
“Why not?” Kim Dokja grins cheekily and leans in for another kiss, but Yoo Jonghyuk places a hand over the lower half of his face and pushes back.
“What were you saying?” he asks, taking back his hand after waiting a few more seconds.
“Right, remember my friend Jung Heewon?”
“I remember all your friends.”
Kim Dokja can’t help giving him another quick peck on the lips. “How sweet. She gave me some guy’s number and told me I needed to get laid.” Yoo Jonghyuk freezes. Kim Dokja is quick to elaborate, “I haven’t been keeping you a secret! You know I haven’t! Apparently I talk about you so much that everyone thinks you’re not real!”
Yoo Jonghyuk closes his eyes and takes a few slow, deep breaths. “Right. Right, okay. I’m going to burn that guy’s number, and then I’m meeting your friends. How about lunch at Eden?”
“Don’t you have work?”
“I’ll take a day off.”
Kim Dokja grins again and kisses his cheek. “Possessive, aren’t you?” he teases.
Yoo Jonghyuk’s hands slip to his hips. “Is that supposed to be a question?”
Their favorite restaurant is a place called Eden, which would be difficult for them to get into without a reservation dating back months in advance—had it not been for the fact that the owner’s sister, Uriel, adores them for reasons they aren’t quite sure of. She’s all too happy to give them a private table for them and Kim Dokja’s friends set for a week’s time.
“How the hell?” Jung Heewon mutters as a server leads them to their table. Kim Dokja is unsurprised to see that Uriel gave them a private area of the place too. He probably should have told her that he was fine sitting in a public space.
“I’m friends with the owner’s sister,” he explains.
“This is very nice, Dokja-ssi; thank you for bringing us here,” Yoo Sangah says, smiling. Her tone is polite as always, but even she can’t hide her amazement. Han Sooyoung is the only one who isn’t shocked, already sitting down and looking through the menu.
“What’s the occasion?” Han Sooyoung says disinterestedly.
“I’m going to prove to you once and for all that my boyfriend is real,” Kim Dokja declares. He times it perfectly to watch Han Sooyoung choke on the water she had been about to drink. The others fall silent and don’t seem to notice that Han Sooyoung isn’t turning red because she’s trying not to choke but rather because she’s trying not to laugh.
“Dokja-ssi,” Lee Hyunsung says, sadness coloring his tone. Faced with the pitying look in his eyes, Kim Dokja feels the need to apologize even though he’s done nothing wrong. “We know already that you don’t have a boyfriend. It’s okay. That’s why Heewon-ssi gave you someone’s number. He’s a nice man, really.”
“We all vetted him to make sure,” Yoo Sangah adds. “Except for Sooyoung-ssi.”
“I had no part in this,” Han Sooyoung says, recovered from her coughing fit.
“My boyfriend burned his number,” Kim Dokja tells them. He had walked in on Yoo Jonghyuk staring at the burning paper in the kitchen at two in the morning. He’s still not sure it wasn’t a dream, but he never found that paper again.
“Dokja-ssi!” came the chorus of scandalized voices from his friends.
“Did you really burn it?” Lee Hyunsung asks.
“Did you at least send one text?” Jung Heewon says.
“You’re really too much…” Yoo Sangah sighs.
As planned—because Kim Dokja can’t resist being dramatic—Uriel walks in a moment later with Yoo Jonghyuk at her heels. He moves around her when he sees the group and leans down to press a kiss to the top of Kim Dokja’s head. Uriel squeals. “So cute!” she coos. “Have a nice lunch you two! And Dokja’s friends. Ah, I wish I could eat with you both too.” She sighs, her cheek in her palm. Yoo Jonghyuk stares daggers that she pretends not to notice.
“Uriel, leave,” he orders.
“So rude!” Uriel huffs. With one final wave, she exits the private area.
“You ruined her,” Yoo Jonghyuk says to Kim Dokja as he takes his seat beside him. “She never used to be like this. She used to be cool.”
“I didn’t do anything,” he retorts.
“Who…?” Yoo Sangah says. Kim Dokja smirks at the confusion on everyone’s faces.
“Yoo Jonghyuk,” Han Sooyoung says, voice flat. “I’d say it’s nice to see you again, but it’s never nice.”
“Han Sooyoung.” Yoo Jonghyuk nods in her direction, then looks to the others at the table. “You’re Kim Dokja’s friends. Yoo Sangah, Jung Heewon, and… Lee Hyunsung.”
“Yes, that’s us,” Jung Heewon says slowly. “And you are?”
“His boyfriend,” he says. “The one that supposedly doesn’t exist.” He crosses his arms. Kim Dokja pokes his bicep to get him to lighten up on the death stare, then squeezes his arm absentmindedly. The black coat is really nice on him. “My name is Yoo Jonghyuk. I don’t appreciate you trying to set him up.”
Kim Dokja revels in the stunned silence that lasts for several seconds, before Jung Heewon looks at him and says, “You didn’t hire an actor to play your boyfriend, did you?”
“I didn’t!” Kim Dokja exclaims.
“He’s the real deal,” Han Sooyoung confirms.
“How do you know that?” Yoo Sangah asks.
“Kim Dokja and I went to college together,” she reminds them. “I was there when Yoo Jonghyuk showed up and declared his love for Kim Dokja in the middle of the café. I took a video. It’s on my computer.” Kim Dokja also has the video. He watches it with the kids sometimes.
“I didn’t declare my love,” Yoo Jonghyuk says.
“You gave a speech; that’s practically the same thing.”
“I thought it was romantic,” Kim Dokja says. He had been entirely red during and after the whole debacle, but it was cute when he thought about it later. Yoo Jonghyuk quirks his lips and kisses his cheek.
“You think everything Yoo Jonghyuk does is romantic,” Han Sooyoung says, rolling her eyes.
“So if he’s real—” Jung Heewon says.
“I am,” Yoo Jonghyuk interjects.
“—then why didn’t you say anything?” She points accusingly at Han Sooyoung, who shrugs. The picture of innocence.
“It was funny,” she responds. “I didn’t want to ruin the surprise.”
“I’m very sorry, Yoo Jonghyuk-ssi,” Lee Hyunsung says promptly, bowing his head apologetically. “We were worried, but we should have believed him.”
“Does that mean you really took him out on a carnival date and won him so many stuffed animals he had to get multiple bags?” Yoo Sangah asks. “Stuffed animals he later gave away to orphans?”
“I did,” Yoo Jonghyuk confirms.
“And for your anniversary you rented a boat and cooked dinner under the stars?”
“And you keep trying to cuddle him when he’s sick even though it almost always leads to you getting sick too?”
A sigh. “…Yes.”
“Dokja-ssi, your boyfriend doesn’t fit the picture,” Jung Heewon declares.
Kim Dokja grins. “I know.”