Chapter 1: chapter 01
Lee Jinhyuk knows about the string of fate well, at least, all the ones tied to him.
He remembers the day he heard about it in class back in kindergarten, starry-eyed about the fact that there were countless strings between people, crossing and tangling but in the end, only one person out of the two could see it.
Only one person could see the string, tied to someone so damning and impactful in their life in one way or another. It wasn’t always about a lifelong romance, but the recurring instances of just listening to someone speak or guiding them until the string cut on its own became what made Jinhyuk appreciate it more.
It wasn’t uncommon for someone to have multiple threads clinging to them, nor was it unusual for Jinhyuk to meet someone’s dazzling eyes as he hears ‘ my strings connected to you ’ over and over again.
There’s a handful of instances laced in-between threads that he can still remember, all well ingrained in his memory.
He hears it first hidden in a whisper from a girl in his first-grade class, eyes sparkling as if he’s meant to be her prince when in the end he’d stop her from crossing the red light until they never spoke again.
There was a boy in middle school with a smile that never quite reached his eyes that always linked his pinky with Jinhyuk’s whenever they would wait in line. Whenever he felt the ghost-like touch, he would smile at him until he was no longer there when he looked.
Throughout the years, Jinhyuk’s kept count of every supposed thread tied to him, some long aided and some still their brilliant red that he can’t see.
In all the twenty so years he’s been alive, Lee Jinhyuk has yet to see a string around his pinky finger. What he does know well is the echo of what it sounds like when a scissor cuts a string, a loud reminder that someone’s string connected to him had been cut off.
Jinhyuk watches as Seungwoo absentmindedly twirls his finger in the air of their dorm, presumably playing with the string that’s tied them together in their years of friendship. He can’t see the string itself, but Seungwoo runs his fingers over nothing in such a gentle way that he can only believe its there.
A part of him is surprised that their string hasn’t been cut over time, surprised that Jinhyuk’s been Seungwoo’s shoulder for all of these years, but there isn’t anything he can think of that he would trade it for.
He’s long disregarded his paper, the sheets laying on his chest as he scrolls through his phone, barely registering the faces he scrolls past and the blur of words. He can feel the sun set as it peeks through the blinds, painting the room a warm golden colour. He relishes in the fact that the weekend is what’s going to greet him the next morning instead of his first day of class and it's equally welcome 8 am lecture, and he feels himself sink into the couch despite the growl his stomach lets out in retaliation.
He doesn’t have to catch Seungwoo’s eyes to know that he’s rolling them, hearing the older man stands up from his spot and beeline into the kitchen. He half expects a bag of crackers to be thrown his way until he hears the click of metal, letting his eyes close and relax to the sound.
It doesn’t take long for the smell of kimchi stew to fill up their two-bedroom apartment and he feels the couch practically swallow his form.
“Come on, eat up.” Jinhyuk hears after a while, a hand messing up his hair and pulling him out of his half-asleep state. His hand lifts up to swat Seungwoo’s hand away, but he mostly hits air, hearing an airy laugh get pushed around.
"I thought I was supposed to be the one taking care of you." Jinhyuk jests, pulling himself off of the couch to at least take the bowl given to him, a string meeting when he takes it. He knows the look that Seungwoo gives him-- a mix of disapproval spilling into something unsaid. He doesn't need to hear anything before he ducks his head to look at his food, his once hungry stomach seconds away from denying it but he takes a bite anyways.
They've had this conversation before, Seungwoo squeezing his hand thoughtfully on nights on their balcony.
“You’ve had a lot of strings connected to you, and you’ve helped every single one of them to the best of your ability. But just because you haven’t seen one of your own strings yet doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to seek comfort and help, Jinhyuk.”
Jinhyuk lifts his head to give Seungwoo a smile, one dripping in thanks as he leans over to just give the older’s knee a squeeze silently, and he’s glad that Seungwoo takes it as the end of the conversation.
“Are you still helping Jinwoo tomorrow?”
Ah , guess he really isn’t dropping it.
He recalls Jinwoo’s tear stained face when he comes to Jinhyuk one afternoon, the stress of starting the new school year in a brand new school after moving weighing on his shoulders. There were so many people he was leaving behind, the younger much too attached to the people around him, especially Jinhyuk.
After all, their string had yet to cut too.
Jinwoo was at least relaxed at the idea that his new highschool was fairly close to Jinhyuk’s university, so to comfort the other, he proposed that he would visit on the younger’s first day to help.
“Come with me then if you’re so worried, it’d be better than staying in here, right?” Jinhyuk offers, nudging Seungwoo’s leg with his socked foot. “It’s just around noon.”
He gets a hum from Seungwoo from around the spoon in his mouth and it only took the first 2 years since they’ve known each other for Jinhyuk to know that it’s the others way of accepting.
He smiles to himself, taking another bite before the conversation branches out elsewhere.
Jinhyuk gets up early the next day, blanket nowhere near the surface of his bed. It takes him a minute to actually sit up and pull himself out, tossing the blanket back onto it before he slides out to the living room.
The apartments always quiet despite him being up fairly early-- the clock saying thats its just a quarter past 10-- but Seungwoo’s always up earlier than him, either running or elsewhere.
They don’t need to be anywhere until noon, so Jinhyuk relishes in the quiet, leaning against the kitchen counter until it presses into his back and he scans the room over a glass of water.
He’s roomed with Seungwoo for three years now since they’ve known each other in highschool, brightly smiling as they entered the same university, the room pouring with memories as people entered and left their lives, all on the whims of fate.
He gently sets the glass of water down on the counter, eyes instinctively looking to his hands as it feels like time takes a breath with him.
In the quiet of his apartment, Jinhyuk holds his left hand tenderly to his forehead, pressing it against his fingers while his eyes squeeze tightly.
And there, Lee Jinhyuk prays once again to see a red string of fate.
Seeing Jinwoo’s school throws Jinhyuk all the way back to middle and highschool, the schedules and the rush of figuring out what to do feels like a hand on his shoulder to this day, maybe only less prominently in the front of his mind.
He and Seungwoo visit during the school lunch break, nearly stumbling at the near tide of memories that meet him. Everyone’s so small that he feels like he might bump into people, steps calculated.
Well, maybe he didn’t stumble at the sight, but there was a distinct snip that makes Jinhyuk slow down, turning to look behind him to see that Seungwoo has stopped a couple steps behind him, his face pale as his eyes trail to the ground as if he’s very much watching the string cut and sink in the wind.
“Ah,” Jinhyuk says, suddenly feeling as if every other word would fail them. There’s a silence that falls between them that both of them can’t seem to break. He watches as Seungwoo’s face falls further, working his bottom lip between his teeth and he instantly closes the few steps between them, his hands taking Seungwoo’s left hand in his two and he squeezes.
His own face hardens, teeth clenched behind his lips that form a straight line as he stares at Seungwoo, the others right hand moving to cover his mouth.
“Seungwoo, I’m still here.” Jinhyuk says gently, but the words are straightforward, voice never faltering as he reminds him. “The string snapping doesn’t mean I won’t be.”
He hears Seungwoo’s sharp intake until his body relaxes. There’s a mix of relieved laughter and a choked sob that turns into one sound that leaves one of them, but Jinhyuk holds his words high and true, and he instead moves to wrap his arms around Seungwoo, his thumb rubbing circles into his back.
He feels Seungwoo wrap his arms around his shoulders, giving him a squeeze. His voice is uncharacteristically quiet when he pulls away, eyes glued to his hand, clenching and unclenching it.
“It’s already tied to someone new.” Seungwoo mumbles, swinging his hand from side to side as if he’s watching it move. He grows quiet again to the point where his hand stills, and Jinhyuk watches as his entire body tenses as if the next couple words are difficult to swallow.
“It seems they’re nearby, too.”
Jinhyuk closes his eyes for a bit while he slowly takes in a breath, opening them again when he’s able to give Seungwoo a genuine smile.
“Well, lets not keep them waiting.”
The school’s not big enough for Jinhyuk to get lost after a quick text from Jinwoo explaining how to get there. There’s benches and picnic tables just a step outside of the school where Jinhyuk easily spots Jinwoo, but he isn’t as alone as the former had worried about just days before.
There’s a small group around the boy, about two new faces with smiles that make Jinhyuk brighten up. He knows that Seungwoo’s trailing behind him, but he knows that he would be just as distracted if he had a string and there were mere seconds before that string meant another person.
He seems to beam when Jinwoo lifts his head and waves them over, his steps picking up as he reaches the table, all the kids’ lunches cleared and pushed to the side.
“Jinwoo,” Jinhyuk greets, toothy grin plastered on his face as he ruffles the boys hair, hearing a couple muffled laughs. “How’s the company?”
“Really good, hyung.” Jinwoo smiles up at him, giving a quiet wave to Seungwoo who gives him a quieter smile.
“This is Song Hyeongjun and Nam Dohyon. They’re in my class and helped me find my way around.” Jinwoo says, and Jinhyuk sees that he seems much more relaxed now, his own smile growing. He gets waves and smiles, his and Seungwoo’s introductions taken care of.
“Oh, is Dongpyo still with Ms. Bae?” Jinwoo frowns a bit as he looks to the other two, Jinhyuk taking the free space beside him while Seungwoo leans against the table.
“He texted me saying he finished a bit ago, he’s picking up a drink from the cafeteria.” Hyeongjun barely holds onto the top of his phone as he waves it around as if he needs concrete evidence. Jinhyuk can feel his own body tense in worry for if the phone falls.
“Another friend?” Jinhyuk asks, and his voice is so obviously fond as he says it, but he can’t help the feeling as it bubbles in his chest. He doesn’t bother to stop the laugh that leaves him.
“Mhm!” Jinwoo smiles at him, and he knows that he is just as happy to have found people so easily. There wasn’t a bone in Jinhyuk’s body that worried that he wouldn’t have. Jinwoo’s too cute, he wouldn’t have trouble in a new school, let alone when it came to finding friends.
“Ah! Dongpyo!” Dohyun calls loudly, Jinhyuk blinking at how suddenly the boy shouts and how it was much louder than he was expecting. The brunette waves a hand in the air as if to guide him, and it doesn’t pass Jinhyuk when he sees Seungwoo pause, disregarding whatever he was looking at on his phone as his eyes darted up from his hand to the field and back again.
Jinhyuk holds in a breath at the insinuation, head looking over his shoulder from where he sat, arm wrapped around Jinwoo’s side as he watches another boy walk over.
He turns his head to look at Seungwoo, and he knows enough to tell that it must be Dongpyo that’s now connected to him. He gently lifts a hand to squeeze the man’s upper arm and he finally looks down to give Jinhyuk a warm smile.
“Ah, Jinwoo, they had the drink you were telling me about.” Dongpyo says, placing the carton of milk on the table with a smile, bowing his head a bit as he says his greetings to the visitors.
They fall into an easy conversation, Seungwoo finally taking a seat at the table directly across from Dongpyo, and Jinhyuk watches as they easily hit it off and Jinhyuk watches enraptured as fate does what it does best. By the time lunch break ends, Dongpyo is already calling Seungwoo ‘hyung’ and their hands naturally find one another.
The distress that Seungwoo wore just half and hour lifts a bit, and Jinhyuk swears they’ve already exchanged numbers.
Jinwoo and Dongpyo walk them back inside and to the entrance of the school, Jinwoo falling right into step with Jinhyuk while the other two trail behind.
“I’m glad that Dongpyo-ah got along with Seungwoo-hyung.” Jinwoo says softly, swinging his hand with Jinhyuk’s as they walked.
“Don’t tell anyone,” Jinhyuk says, leaning down a bit as making a show of hiding his mouth behind a hand while he whispers. “Seungwoo-hyung’s string connected to his today.”
He watches as Jinwoo’s eyes naturally sparkle as it sinks it, but he doesn’t miss the way that Jinwoo’s hand squeezes his own.
He’s thankful for the smile he gets from him, and soon the two of them wave back before they hop into Seungwoo’s car and head back to their campus.
The semester hits everyone like a train.
Jinhyuk’s apart of the many people who get run over in the rush of school as it starts, the man not immune to the spill of work that follows his early classes.
He almost always sleeps well, has a decent sleep schedule to accommodate his health and the world around him, but he finds himself falling into a quiet routine before things really settle.
Jinhyuk looks up from his food, the countless holes in his food where he had been poking it with his fork make it evident that maybe he wasn’t as good.
He makes eye contact with Kookheon who pulls out the chair across from him, Yuvin just a step behind him before following suit.
He can’t help but smile a little bit when he sees the two, watches as the two push their chairs together so their shoulders brush when the turn to talk, voices hushed as they talk about what Jinhyuk can only assume be something from the minutes before they walked over.
“Just thinking about how much I love university.” Jinhyuk gives them a toothy grin, watching as Yuvin smiles at that knowingly, Kookheon rolling his eyes but smiles anyways, the concern slowly leaving his face.
“Where’s Seungwoo-hyung?” Yuvin asks, finding his place as he presses a bit into Kookheon’s side. Jinhyuk doesn’t need to ask to know that their hands are clasped together under the table.
He always feels a subtle sense of relief when he sees them so close and so in love since he’s known them despite them only getting together last year. It’s rare for him to see people together despite their strings leading elsewhere, Jinhyuk very aware of the underlying discontent he’s watched from the outside from the passersby in his life.
“He’s made a friend.” he supplies unhelpfully, taking a sip from his water bottle as he sees Kookheon give him a look that speaks every single question he wants to ask into a single glance, and Jinhyuk can’t help but open his mouth again to elaborate.
“His string to me was cut last week,” he says slowly, his lips flattening into a straight line, catching the wince from the both of them. “So he’s getting to know him, a very good guy from what I know.”
There isn’t anything sour in his tone at all. He knows Dongpyo, knows Jinwoo and knows Seungwoo, and he trusts enough to know that Dongpyo will be just as important to Seungwoo as he has been to him.
Yuvin softens. Jinhyuk’s never asked, but he can infer for a bit that his strings connected to Seungwoo himself just from first glance.
He isn’t sure if its still tied to Seungwoo or if its been cut, but Yuvin relies on Seungwoo all the same, thread or not, and that’s what comforts Jinhyuk properly, his own words finally sinking in as Yuvin reaches across the table to give his free hand a squeeze.
He’s thankful for the way that Yuvin brings up one of his classes, Kookheon stilling for a second before he catches on and soon Jinhyuk is pulled into their flow, his smile easily returning to his face as Kookheon mentions Yuvin and his recurring classmate Choi Suhwan, watching as Yuvin covers his face with his hands as Kookheon relays everything.
He visits Jinwoo’s school with Seungwoo at least once a week.
By the time it’s settled properly into his schedule so that they drop by every friday at noon, Seungwoo’s sitting at Dongpyo’s side, arms snaked around his waist and head settled in the space beside the boys head. There was definitely a push and pull in the first couple visits that JInhyuk isn’t surprised to see has melted over time. He can't bring himself to ask if Seungwoo has told Dongpyo that they’re strung together, but he feels like it doesn't matter either way.
A part of him misses how he used to be in that spot, but it’s not something he has to miss for long since Seungwoo’s been hyper aware of the fact that he needs to almost make up for the string by casually giving Jinhyuk’s hand a squeeze or giving him a morning kiss on the head.
He appreciates it surely, and he can feel it slowly returning to their daily life as if it isn’t strained. He doesn’t let himself dwell on it too much as he rests his head on Jinwoo’s shoulder, feeling the other gently runs his hand through his hair comfortingly.
A part of him feels like despite him not seeing it, surely there has to be even the thinnest thread that connects him to Jinwoo. He doesn’t know what loopholes or rules that fate has, but he knows for a fact there’s something, he doesn’t need his eyes to confirm it.
He lets his eyes close, half awake as he listens to Jinwoo talk to his friends, their conversations going through one ear and out the next.
“Ahh, I already don’t like this night class.”
Seungwoo sways a bit, lightly bumping into Jinhyuk’s side as he walks him to his class. Jinhyuk avoided night classes to the best of his ability, giving Seungwoo a comforting smile as he rubs his lower back. He didn’t have trouble getting up in the morning for him to worry about morning classes like most people, but night classes made his days feel long and drawn out.
“Good thing it’s only a tutorial and not a lecture.” He comments, slowing down as Seungwoo’s classroom comes into view and he turns on his heel to face him, a smile on his face to try to pull the exaggerated frown on the others face.
“I can pick up some snacks on my way back for when you get home if you want.” He offers, nudging him a bit.
He watches as Seungwoo silently takes both of his hands in his own, lightly squeezing his fingers as a small smile finally makes its way onto his face.
“Thank you, Jinhyukkie,”
He hears something quiet.
Jinhyuk smiles at him, eyes falling to his hands to reciprocate the action before he pauses, chest tightening.
“Seungwoo--” He says quickly, voice sounding dry as if his voice has been ripped out of him.
He doesn’t mean anything when he pulls his left hand out of Seungwoo’s hold as he clenches his hand, breath quick as he pulls his hand close to his face, lip trembling as if it’s unsure if it wants to smile or cry as he looks at his fingers.
Tied neatly on his pinky with a little bow is a vibrant red string of fate.
He doesn’t entirely make out what Seungwoo says before he’s light on his feet, ushering Seungwoo towards his classroom door.
“I’ll tell you later all about them-!” He says instantly, already darting out towards the building exit as he bolts to follow it, watching as the string almost shortens in front of his eyes.
He’s never seen a string before, doesn’t know the physics of it as it tangles and flows in the wind and he follows it as if he needs it more than anything.
He’s never been a runner, never had the best stamina for sports, and he feels his lungs cry out painfully as he pushes them. He crosses campus in record time into another building he’s never stepped into-- the art department-- as he runs down the halls, thankful it’s late enough that no one questions him running. Or maybe they know exactly why he is.
He turns a corner and almost slides, nearly bending down to catch his balance as he can see where his string leads him, two people walking down the hallway and nearing another exit.
“Excuse me-!” He finds himself calling before he can really think about it, thankful they aren’t moving any farther away for Jinhyuk to catch up, feeling his legs nearly buckle underneath him.
He has to catch his breath, his body folding as he feels his legs shake, putting his hands on his knees as he takes gulps of air.
He offhandedly thinks that he really needs to never run like that again.
Jinhyuk doesn’t know what comes over him, but the second he straightens he reaches for the strangers hands, feeling all the worry thats worked its way into his shoulders melt away as he genuinely sees the string on the other man’s hand, the string in a bow that’s just as neat as his.
“Sorry I--” He starts and suddenly everything slows down-- the rise of his chest, his racing brain and his train of thought. He watches as the boy turns his head to his company that Jinhyuk finally registers is there before he leaves, his eyes making out the strangers side profile as he takes everything in.
Surely he wouldn’t have been this lucky, the man’s features look picture perfect, as if every angle would turn out to be some kind of framed portrait. The others eyes finally look up to meet his and his words feel trapped in his throat.
They're a gentle brown, maybe a hint of the ugly school lighting making them seem brighter and suddenly Jinhyuk doesn’t think the schools light fixtures are as bad.
His skin looks impossibly smooth, and his hands already gripping onto something that he probably shouldn’t feel as comforting as it does are now are itching to gently caress his face in between them.
He knows time isn’t nice enough to really pause, knowing he’s been staring for who knows how long at someone in the middle of a hallway.
“Lee Jinhyuk.” He almost spits out, feeling like he needs to say it now. He doesn’t know the etiquette for this despite being on the other end of these interactions. Surely there wasn’t a real way that matches any books about how you’re supposed to tell him, tell a complete stranger that they here and they mean something .
“My first strings. . . connected to you.”
Chapter 2: chapter 02
Jinhyuk finds that he's starting to miss Wooseok more, and fate is kind in the way that in the end he'll always find him.
Surely, there has to be a better way to go about this.
Maybe all the people that had approached Jinhyuk just had a knack for telling him outright, maybe it was just something with Jinhyuk himself that made people inclined to tell him, but the look on his new companion made him feel like it must not be the most common. Now that he thought about it, Seungwoo never told him that they were tied together until a good year into their friendship, allowing Jinhyuk to feel what it was like to get close to someone despite not knowing.
“Sorry, that must have been weird--” Jinhyuk stumbles, feeling a bit embarrassed. He felt his stomach drop when he felt one of the hands in his grasp slip away, another apology on his lips until he watches as the smaller man’s eyes crinkle at the edges, the hand he took lifting to cover what he assumes is a smile by the small laugh he hears.
The gesture and smile leaves as soon as it comes though when the hand falls, choosing to gently rest it on top of their pile of hands.
“That must be exciting.” He hears the boy say, the brunette tilting his head a bit to the side, smile much more relaxed. Jinhyuk feels like he needs to duck down a little bit, wanting to be in the small space that the other had created. He offhandedly thinks that the other has a way of catching eyes, definitely, and Jinhyuk doesn’t realize he’s holding in a breath until his chest starts to hurt.
“And you are. .?” He leans in a bit. He relishes in the feeling that he still has the strangers hand in his, and it doesn’t seem to be that off-putting. The other doesn’t even take a step back, and Jinhyuk almost lets out a shaky sigh of relief.
“A bit late to class,” he teases, the smile on his face just growing a bit at the edges. There’s a bit of a laugh that he’s trying to cover behind his hand again and Jinhyuk finds that he likes the sound. “Kim Wooseok,” he finally says.
Jinhyuks quick to straighten up, his face exceptionally clear with the embarrassment he’s feeling and he feels several apologies tumble off his tongue, Wooseok waving a hand, calming him and telling him it’s alright.
The taller feels his entire body relax instantly, but his heart is absolutely racing. Is this it? Is this what it feels like? He didn’t realize there was so much comfort to being on the other side of the string, and he realizes that this was what he was yearning for unknowingly. He wants more of it, he wants to take it in between his teeth and pull slowly, but Wooseok's late for class and it’s only the first week. He’d hate to be the reason he gets a poor first impression, but Jinhyuk already feels like the other would be able to do anything and be just fine.
“I should let you go.” Jinhyuk whispers, unable to hide how every other part of him doesn’t want to. He feels like an open book already, maybe like a high school boy crushing for the first time and it wrings him around, throwing him from side to side. He watches intently as Wooseok gives him a knowing smile, small and gentle as he pulls his hands away and Jinhyuk misses it instantly.
“Here, give me your number and we’ll talk when we get a chance, okay?”
Jinhyuk finally breathes again.
He watches as Wooseok pulls his phone out of his back pocket, handing it into Jinhyuk’s fingers and he feels a rush when their fingers brush. His fingers fumble to put his number in before he hands it back, wiping his hands oh the side of his jeans as he realized they’re sweating and that must have been something .
“I’ll text you.” He reassures, leaning forward a bit to take Jinhyuk’s left hand and give it a squeeze before he’s turning on his heel, giving him a small wave before he takes quick steps towards the class at the end of the hall.
And Jinhyuk watches him go, a smile slowly making it’s way to his face as he watched the red string stretch in between them, jumping in the air behind Wooseok’s steps.
He doesn’t hear from Wooseok for a little over a week.
Surely, there’s reasons for it and there’s ways to go about it, but Jinhyuk doesn’t want to be that guy to follow his string of fate to find him, but there were at least 2 times he had to genuinely stop himself. Wooseok might have been busy, and maybe was just as unprepared as he was, so bursting into his life despite that being exactly what fate strings were all about were something that Jinhyuk hesitated to do.
Seeing his string meant that Wooseok was supposed to be that person for him through thick and thin. It felt out of his element to allow someone to knowingly be there when he needed them to be.
God , he hopes he didn’t put stress on him just for telling him. He wouldn’t say it outloud, but being on the other side of someones calls just because they were roped into something together was a weight on his shoulders that he couldn’t push away. It’s not like he would have if he could, anyway. He was never one to shy away from helping someone, but tended to bottle up a lot of his own concerns.
Wooseok was exactly what he needed right now, and it made laying in his bed curled up while he ignores the words on his phone ten times more lonely.
He hugs the pillow at his chest tighter.
It was only the afternoon, just about a quarter till two, but the apartment was abnormally quiet. Usually he would hear Seungwoo watching something, laughter filtering through the walls, or him talking to him from his own room. This quiet was never something that Jinhyuk had experienced in his life since Seungwoo entered it, and he suddenly feels it sit in the worsts ways in his chest.
He can’t help but pat his bed for his phone since he put it down, opening it slowly as he goes to his messages. There isn’t anything new and Jinwoo’s name is already near the top so without consulting the thought, he sends him a message.
[ To: Haenami ♥ ] 1:56pm
Haenami!! Is Seungwoo-Hyung there??
He smiles when it doesn’t take long for him to get a response.
[ From: Haenami ♥ ] 1:58pm
hyung!! he’s with dongpyo-ah, guess what !! dongpyo told me his string tied to him !!!! ๑•́ㅿ•̀๑) ᔆᵒʳʳᵞ
Something tightens in his chest, but he can’t entirely tell if its good or bad feeling. He swallows the feeling down as he turns to lie on his back, setting the phone on his chest as he stares at the ceiling. No, that’s good for Seungwoo. He’s not one to be bitter over someone else, especially him, and there isn’t anyone else in the world who knows a lot about the strings cutting as well as he does. He’ll get over it, he always has.
He feels his phone vibrate on his chest and it takes him a second to realize that he never replied. He smiles at the messages, feeling Jinwoo’s concern spill though the text.
[ From: Haenami ♥ ] 2:01pm
[ From: Haenami ♥ ] 2:01pm
do you want to come over?? or i can come over!! is everything ok??
[ To: Haenami ♥ ] 2:01pm
I’ll be okay! I won’t say no to treating you to ice cream on your next half day, though!
[ From: Haenami ♥ ] 2:02pm
sounds good !! ₍ᵔ·͈༝·͈ᵔ₎ !!
It hits two weeks since Jinhyuk met Wooseok and he’s starting to worry.
He’s heard Jinwoo reassure him countless times that he’s sure that Wooseok’s busy. They don’t know a lot about him to begin with, so they can’t point a finger when they don’t know any circumstances. Maybe he doesn’t live on the campus and his commutes are god awful because their university is in the rush of the city, or maybe he’s balancing fives jobs at once while being a full time student. There’s so much to take into account that it’s just enough to calm his worries, so Jinhyuk returns back to what should be normal for him. He trusts the string enough, so he prays that the string will eventually lead him back to him.
He already has a couple assignments and some small tasks here and there, so he takes those as distractions and runs with them.
Their school library is fairly big, but nothing to write home about. Jinhyuk’s rarely come here in the few years he’s attended the university, his group of friends and himself never trusted in places where they would have to put the effort into being quiet. So it takes him a bit to navigate the shelves, takes him even longer to try to figure out what he should be looking for.
He’s much too distracted in his searches as he gives up and walks up to a library helper putting away books, blinking as his greeting cuts short in his mouth and he nearly gawks at the others left hand, seeing a red string. It takes him exactly two seconds for him to study the stranger’s face and find Wooseok in all the features, registering that they were indeed connected and he just hadn’t noticed it move in his tasks.
“Wooseok.” He whisper yells, walking over and instinctively bowing as he meets his side, smile bright on his face and heart drumming in his ears. He watches Wooseok turn and see’s the surprise flash over his face, eyes squinting a little bit before it shifts into recognition, brown eyes sparkling.
“Jinhyuk.” He says curtly, awe still apparent in his voice before he squishes it down, holding the book he was about to put away to his chest. The smile on his face is small but warm, inviting Jinhyuk in.
“Sorry I haven’t been able to get back to you, it’s been on my mind, but my hands have been a little full.” He says, eyes crinkling at the edges as his smile turns apologetic, holding the book up jokingly.
“Oh, no, it's fine, it's just,” Jinhyuk starts, and he finds his brain racing to fill in the sentence with things like ‘I missed you’ or ‘ you wouldn’t believe what’s been going on’ that Jinhyuk pauses and almost flusters before he’s quick to supply. “Good to see you. Are you volunteering here?”
Wooseok keeps the same well mannered smile on his face, nodding as he puts the book back down on the trolley at his side.
“Yeah, I needed a job to help a bit financially, and I like it here. It's quiet.” Wooseok says, voice dropping gently and Jinhyuk loves the sound. His voice is low and just a tad raspy, definitely keeping his volume down due to being in the library, but it makes the space between them feel smaller, especially when Jinhyuk takes a step forward to hear him.
“Since you’re here, could you help me find something?” He asks, watching the smaller look up at him in question. It’s almost like his smile strains in the way it should for customer service, but the laugh the bubbles behind Wooseok smile calms it. “Sure, what are you looking for?”
Jinhyuk pulls out his list of books he needs to read through, relishes when Wooseok guides him by hand towards the shelves. He loves more that even if Wooseok dissapears to another section, he’s able to just walk towards him as if he’s being pulled, the string guiding him.
There are so many things pulling him left and right that beg to stay at the library to read through them, which logically outweighs the cons so much that Jinhyuk actually entertains the thought, claiming a seat near the section Wooseok’s putting back together.
He has a handful of books to go though, but he takes minutes to just sit and admire the string, watching it move more actively now that they were in the same room. Distance always made the string move more or less, and Jinhyuk was starting to get the hang of understanding how it swayed as if it was in the wind.
He liked following the trail with his eyes, running along the line before he met Wooseoks eyes. A couple times, it felt like they would meet eyes behind books almost perfectly, the two of them making silent playful gestures from across the room, wide smiles and muffled laughter making it feel like the room was made for the two of them.
He likes when Wooseok would peak behind a book, a new expression uncovered before he hid behind the book again, only to peak again with a cute face. It made Jinhyuk’s smile melt.
He stayed there for hours, much longer than he needed to be when his notes were long done hours ago. He watches as Wooseok walks over, a bag slung over his shoulder as he leans a bit on the table, shift having just ended. They fall into easy conversation, walking out of the library and slowing down as they walk before they find they had to split.
Jinhyuk’s lucky enough that he lives on campus, but Wooseok’s just a short bus ride away.
He holds his breath when Wooseok squeezes his hand reassuringly, waving his phone in his free hand as he shows that he’s finally shot the other a message, Jinhyuk feeling his phone vibrate in his pocket but unable to pry his eyes away to check it until Wooseoks on the bus and driving away. He watches as Wooseok holds his left hand just a little out the window, the string fluttering in the wind at the same pace as the taller's heart.
When he’s finally out of eye sight, he peeks at his phone, cheeks straining when he finds himself smiling.
[ From: Unknown Number ] 10:43pm
thanks for the company :)
Jinhyuk realizes that now that he’s tasted a bit of what it’s like to be around Wooseok, he finds that he craves it more.
Being with Wooseok is comfortable. It felt like finding the right kind of pillow to hug, and now maybe Jinhyuk wanted to know what it would be like the hug Wooseok.
He tries to busy himself a bit, flooding himself with work that isn’t really due till next week and surviving on the few bursts of texts that he gets from Wooseok. He learns a lot about the younger, taking all he can get from just a couple messages.
He finds out that Wooseok’s studying art history, a contrast to his own study on education. He finds out that Wooseok stays up till ungodly hours fairly often, learns that his roomate has the oddest habits along the lines of him eating cereal at the most obscure hours of the morning and he’s a natural ball of energy, something that Wooseok enjoys but gets drained from quickly.
He finds himself texting Wooseok through their classes, even when he sits across from Yuvin and Kookheon as they talk to him about the upcoming fair downtown, humming every once in a while because he deems himself to be quite good at multitasking.
His phone buzzes in his hands, glancing down at the message.
[ From: Kim Wooseok ] 1:09pm
are you in the cafeteria? i think i see you
Jinhyuk naturally sits up, scanning the sea of people as the other two’s questions fly past his ears. He waves his hands excitedly in the air, catching the shorter brunettes attention instantly. The smile he gets from it makes something bubble in his chest, ignoring the pointed looks he gets from Kookheon. They know he’s finally gotten a string, had to endure the good hour of him talking about him over the phone till Seungwoo came out of class, and then he had to go through the entire thing. At this point, the two could probably pick out Wooseok from a crowd with the amount of details they got from Jinhyuk.
Wooseok walks over alone, taking a sip from his drink while his other hand waves. He gives his greetings to Yuvin and Kookheon, slowing to a stop, hovering behind the empty chair that’s beside Jinhyuk before the taller pulls out the seat for him.
“I hope I’m not intruding.” Wooseok adds, settling into the seat after he gives Jinhyuk a smile.
“Don’t worry, he wasn’t listening to us anyways.” Yuvin says, but there's a jest in his voice, pushing away from the table as he stands up, taking his things.
“You have class now?” Kookheon asks, tilting his head up to watch as Yuvin smiles at him, leaning down to press a kiss to his cheek comfortingly. “Yeah, I’ll be done at four. I’ll see you at the dorm.”
Yuvin waves to Jinhyuk, says his goodbyes to Wooseok and gives one more reassuring kiss to Kookheon’s forehead before he heads out.
The two of them watch as Kookheon meets their eyes, smile spread across his face before he flusters and stares down at his lunch, forgoing eye contact.
“Sorry he’s,” The man starts, hand playing with the hairs at the base of his neck.
“It’s fine, it’s good to see you happy.” Jinhyuk puts his phone down now that his distraction is beside him. Yuvin was so gentle with Kookheon, it was always so heartwarming to see them. He’s watched them tiptoe around one another for a good year before they got around to talking, and the smiles on their faces were so bright the next day that it’s ingrained into Jinhyuk’s memory.
“Enough of that though,” Kookheon finally says after he composes himself, ever the dramatic as he puts his hand in front of his face and gestures as if he’s collected. “Wooseok, yeah? Jinhyuk’s told me about you.”
Jinhyuk watches Wooseok straighten up a bit in the corner of his eye, pausing the sip he’s taking from his drink. He catches Wooseok peek at him, smile curling around the straw in his mouth before he puts his drink down in favour of giving Kookheon all of his attention.
“Yeah? I hope it’s all good things.”
Jinhyuk hears the tone in his voice and he instantly stares Kookheon dead in the eyes, glaring obvious that he wants the younger to not spill every incoherent thought that he rushed to explain to the other and his boyfriend at the worst time of day. His wordless threats are ignored though, as Kookheon beams at Wooseok.
“He said you had the warmest eyes, doe like, which are not wrong.” Kookheon says with the sliest smile on his face.
“Ah! Watch out for his love of skinship, but you know that already, right, Wooseok?”
Jinhyuk groans, letting his forehead hit the table. The sound’s pretty heavy, but he ignores it and hopes that it would drown out everything Wooseok was hearing.
He hears Kookheon recite everything Jinhyuk’s told him, and he offhandedly mutters that he’s no longer making him dinner on the night Yuvin’s out late at work, which makes the younger grumble before he stops.
He feels a tap on his shoulder, turning his head so the side of his face presses against the cold cafeteria table, pout squished on his face as he looks up to see Wooseok’s eyes, sparkling with laughter.
“So you think I’m pretty?”
Jinhyuk covers his face again, a sputter of words leaving his mouth.
Wooseok really is pretty.
Their meetings somehow catch a bit of a rhythm.
Every monday evening, he finds Wooseok working at the library, taking the time to just exist in the same place as him. He’s able to do his work just fine, and seeing Wooseok across the room motivates him a bit more. They end up sometimes talking through written things on sticky notes, sometimes just smiles or tiny requests like books or snacks. Jinhyuk finds that he saves all of them, and that Wooseok's writing is one he could look at for hours on end.
Some Thursdays at lunch, Wooseok seems to join him with Kookheon and Yuvin, always there with smiles hidden behind his hand while the others run out of breath from laughing. He’s over the moon that he’s getting along with some of his friends, but he’s yet to meet Seungwoo, and he’s yet to meet anyone from Wooseok’s life.
Their meetings are always coincidental before they turn into something permanent, and that’s where Jinhyuk finds them today.
Fridays are when he finds himself alone after visits to Jinwoo’s school. He usually spends the afternoons there with Seungwoo, but he and Dongpyo usually spend time afterwards too. He’d ask Jinwoo to do the same, but he can only ask for so much.
That’s how he finds himself texting Wooseok, unintentionally venting about his day and Seungwoo, and then he finds himself fresh off a bus and in front of Wooseok’s apartment the second the offer was out.
He gets buzzed in, Wooseok in the lobby to pick him up and guide him to his single apartment.
“It’s a bit messy.” Wooseok says as he unlocks the door, holding it open for Jinhyuk to step in.
It’s cozy, only a one bedroom apartment, but there's not a lot of furniture for it to be cluttered in any way, Wooseok definitely making use of the space without it feeling small.
“You can take a seat, do you want something to drink? Tea, water, hot chocolate. . .” He hears Wooseok list from the small kitchen as he strides to the couch, sitting as properly as he can. “Hot chocolate’s good.” He smiles as he gets a hum in response and then his eyes wander.
The apartments definitely something common for a university student, a bit away from the school, but something much preferred to hours of commute.
There’s plants here and there, small succulents and some trinkets decorating the empty spaces. He can see a small balcony just behind a curtain and a slightly ajar door that he assumes is Wooseok’s room.
“Here, it’s hot.” Wooseok whispers, placing the cup on the coffee table in front of them. He takes a seat beside Jinhyuk, leaning forwards as he lights a match and lights up the candles, instantly making everything feel warmer. He watches as Wooseok sets them down and then shifts closer to the arm rest, putting distance between them that Jinhyuk nearly falters before he sees Wooseok extend his arm and invite him into his side, and Jinhyuk instantly takes it.
He fits into Wooseok’s side perfectly, curling into it. He feels Wooseok’s hand run through his hair, instantly making him sign and relax, melting into his embrace.
Wooseok doesn’t say anything, only comforts Jinhyuk through touch. Even though Jinhyuk’s been touchy every time they’ve spent time together, this was the first time he was so close, surrounded by Wooseok and Wooseok only. He smelled like vanilla, mixing into something earthy like fern.
Jinhyuk takes a deep breath before he asks, breaking their quiet.
“Do you have a string connected to someone?” He can’t help but ask, question slow and his chest tight at the thought. He recalls how calm Wooseok was when he had stumbled when they first met. Maybe he’s had much more experience when it comes to the string than he lets on. He feels much too awake to really be asking, heart thundering in his ears.
“Mhm. I just haven’t gotten the chance to know them yet.” Wooseok says, eyes still forward until he finally turns his head to look at Jinhyuk, and the soft smile on his face absolutely floors him.
He can’t find it in himself to ask more, instead finding the chance to start talking about Seungwoo, someone who was just inches away from being a ghost in his life that he was trying desperately to grab onto.
He knows it no ones fault, knows that it’s natural and inevitable and its fate , but Jinhyuk doesn’t like it, never has.
“You know, I think we’ve been spoiled a little bit.” Wooseok whispers, head turned to press into Jinhyuk’s hair, words muffled.. Jinhyuk can’t bring himself to really speak, unsure if it’s something that he needs to respond to or if Wooseok had just said it absentmindedly. There’s the candle light, but Jinhyuk can’t really read the others face well at all as if everything dark and he feels his browns knit.
“Yeah. Have you ever thought about it? About if we couldn’t see them?” Wooseok turns his head to look at him, shifting over to press into his side, gesturing to Jinhyuk’s left hand. “When we see them, it tells us exactly who’s gonna be important to us, tells us who to approach and talk to. It’s like fate couldn’t trust us on our own to make those decisions.” He starts, and Jinhyuk realizes this is probably the most he’s heard Wooseok speak.
“Everyone talks to someone without the string being there, but everyone makes such a big deal about it when it is. It makes simple interactions seems less important. I’d hate for someone to feel that way because of some string.”
Jinhyuk’s taking in all the information, don’t doubt him, but he’s taking in Wooseok’s expressions more. He likes the way that his face seems to twist as he speaks, much more expressive than the first day they met. It feels like his eyes are racing to tell a million stories about what made him feel that way, and Jinhyuk wants to hear every single one.
“Did something. . . happen before?” Jinhyuk asks slowly, head dipping gently as if he wanted to appear smaller, much easier to open up to unconsciously.
Wooseok slows to a stop, face falling slightly as if it’s finally sinking in what he had just rambled about. His face doesn’t fall much further though, much to Jinhyuk’s surprise as he watched Wooseok give him a small smile. The smile doesn’t sit well with him though, as if he knows that it’s him pushing it away, but he can’t bring himself to press.
“No, not really.”
hello again !! sorry this took a hot minute to get out, its like barely edited but i was in a rush to finish bc the next couple days are getting a bit too busy for me to write so !! here he is <3 i think this ones a bit shorter than the first chap, i hope its alright !!
kudos, comments and all that jazz are highly appreciated !! thank you sm for reading, it means the world. all of the comments from the first chap were so lovely to read.
follow me on twitter @/uwuushin !! <3
Chapter 3: chapter 03
Jinhyuk finds that Wooseok is a library, books left out of place and in different shelves. He's only on the first book, but he likes the pages he finds, corners folded in as bookmarks that he keeps in his own head.
But he's still on the first book.
Jinhyuk doesn’t realize he’s fallen asleep until he wakes up, the sun pressing against his eyelids and someone’s voice calling him, a hand gently shaking his shoulder.
“Psst. Hey, psst.”
“Wooseok. . .?” Jinhyuk mutters, eyes squinting to adjust to the light as he makes out blobs of colour in front of him. It takes him a second to register that the person in his view isn’t Wooseok, hair much darker and eyes sharper, almost cat-like in the way that they crinkle at the edges and the grin on his face widens. It takes him exactly three seconds to break down exactly what’s going on.
One. It's Saturday, no clock in his immediate glance to tell him the time, but it still feels hazy enough to maybe just be around 11.
Two. He’s still in Wooseok’s apartment, entire body sore seeing as he fell asleep on the couch, legs just barely hanging off the arm rest while the other digs into his back.
Three. Said Wooseok is resting on top of him, most likely fast asleep as he lays on Jinhyuk’s chest. He can’t really catch the younger’s face from this angle, only seeing the top of his head and it takes all the will in his body to not jostle him around as much to wake him up. He glances back at the stranger, face painted with a plea for help while the other just pats his shoulder as his only good luck.
“He’s a deep sleeper, you could probably wiggle out of there, right?” The stranger says, walking back into the general direction that he thinks is the kitchen.
He feels himself go slack against the couch again, already exerting his body so much by sitting up slightly to take everything in that he needs to relax again before he even attempts to get up. He runs through his memories and comes to the conclusion that this is probably the roommate that he’s heard a bit about, and he has a vague picture that he also matches the face of the man Wooseok was with when he first met him.
When he starts to hear the clattering in the kitchen actually get more frequent, Jinhyuk spends all the time trying to slip out from under Wooseok’s body. He makes sure to help the man lie down properly, catching the blanket that was thrown over the two of them before it slipped onto the ground and placing it back onto Wooseok.
He feels his body complain with all the knots in his muscles as he walks over to the kitchen, trying to push the tension out as he massages his arm. He watches the dark haired male just setting up the table, glancing up the second Jinhyuk walks in.
“Morning, I wasn’t expecting company so I would have brought something nicer but,” the man starts, walking around the table and extending a hand for Jinhyuk to shake. “Cho Seungyoun, I’m that one’s roommate.” Seungyoun nods his head upwards in a way to gesture to Wooseok’s sleeping form on the couch. Jinhyuk takes his hand, his grip definitely not as tight as it could be if he was fully awake, but Seungyoun just smiles at him, gesturing to one of the empty chairs at the table while he mumbles something about waking Wooseok. He can’t help but follow Seungyoun with his eyes as the man walks quietly up to the couch, folding his upper body as he leans down to talk to Wooseok gently.
Jinhyuk hears just bits of what Seungyoun says to him, but it feels undeniably warm, so gentle that Jinhyuk’s chest tightens like it’s something he shouldn’t be watching, but he can’t really pull himself away.
Wooseok does mumble something back, but turns in his sleep so that he faces the couch, Seungyoun ruffling his hair before he walks back to the kitchen.
“He said, and I quote, “five more minutes, mom” so I think we can start without him.” Seungyoun laughs, pulling out his own chair and sitting in it. He pulls one of his knees to his chest while he cuts into his egg with a fork, silence falling and Jinhyuk watches it fall, tensing and not thinking before he opens his mouth to try to salvage it. There was something about silences between two strangers, especially when that stranger was your soulmates roommate. It was like meeting parents, but worse since they actually decided to live with them.
“Are you and Wooseok. . .” Jinhyuk trails, starting but almost biting on his own lip with how he talks around his bite of toast. He catches the way Seungyoun raises an eyebrow at him, but the dark haired male smiles and it’s contagious, Jinhyuk relaxing a bit.
“Roommates, friends for a bit, connected at one point.” Seungyoun lists, counting off of the tips of his fingers. “We dated a bit ago because that what we thought it meant, but we think its better like this.”
Jinhyuk straightens up a bit, fully aware of how wide his eyes must be. Seungyoun gives him a toothy grin, like he knows that exactly the reaction he was gonna pull from him. “What? Didn’t you want to know? You’re curious right?”
Crafty, Jinhyuk thinks. That’s the first word that comes to mind for the other.
“I’ve known him for years, just ask me anything, I know in fine detail about the time when he walked out of-- ow .”
Seungyoun hisses, lifting his hands to hold the back of his head that Wooseok hit, the blanket wrapped around his shoulders. “Don’t talk about people behind their back, it’s rude.” He scolds, mumbling a morning to Jinhyuk while he takes an empty seat. He doesn’t seem to direct the complaints to Jinhyuk himself which he’s thankful for, but Seungyoun’s grin just grows wider.
“Well now that you’re here, I can talk about it to your face.” He speaks around his next bite of egg, turning his attention right back to Jinhyuk. “So he--”
“One more word and I’m going to lock you out when it snows.”
“Aww Wooseokie’s embarrassed.” Seungyoun coos, reaching over to try to pinch at the younger's cheeks while he tries to swat it away. One wink from the man gives Jinhyuk the impression that he’s going to get the story one way or another.
“Sorry about him, he gets excited with new things.” Wooseok sits back, taking the mug of coffee made for him off the table and into his hands, blowing over the surface of it. They look like polar opposites to him, Wooseok in all of his unmoving, untouched quiet and Seungyoun in his rippling glory that it makes Jinhyuk smile. He likes that they’ve found their place in this small two bedroom apartment, and he likes that it already felt like home the second they let him in.
Breakfast flies by when they start talking, conversation easily going through Seungyoun and Jinhyuk while Wooseok comments here and there. It doesn’t feel forced, and he finds that he misses these kinds of scenes-- talking with someone with the sun seeping into an apartment. It contrasts a bit to the stagnant air of his own apartment, and he doesn’t want it to sit badly beside the breakfast he just ate, but it sits there and rots.
“Sorry ‘bout him.” Wooseok sighs, falling into place beside Jinhyuk on the couch. He instantly presses into the taller’s side, eyes forward as he watches the race that Jinhyuk’s playing in. Jinhyuk immediately wants to say that there isn’t anything for him to be apologetic about, but can’t find any words while his fingers fiddle with the console, so he instead pressed back into Wooseok’s side, hoping it conveys the same thing. The younger’s mouth falls open a little bit as he watches, instantly enraptured in the way that Jinhyuk’s playing almost flawlessly. When he finishes his race, he turns to Wooseok, giving him his controller while he reaches for the other one on the table.
“Play with me?” He says, voice soft as if Wooseok would say no, but Wooseok’s already going through the motions of the main menu, setting up races for the two of them.
“Don’t cry when you lose.” He teases, eyes glued to the screen, and for some reason, Jinhyuk feels like he really wouldn’t mind.
He doesn’t lose , but Wooseok is a win away from beating him and that’s already a thought too close for comfort
Jinhyuk relishes in the fact that both of them are free on weekends, just mulls around on the idea that this could be a regular thing. They don’t get classes together since they’re constantly in different buildings, but he pries Wooseok’s schedule out of him through the hours he spends there and naturally finds every spare hour he can get with him. It does cross his mind that he might be going a little overboard, but he likes the smile Wooseok wears when he asks about spending their next lunch break at the campus cafe, likes how his eyes sparkle gently in the afternoon glow and likes how Wooseok instantly says yes.
He feels like he could ask for the world and Wooseok would give it to him.
He’s about to open his mouth and ask for more before he feels his phone buzz in his pocket, pulling him away from the natural magnetism Wooseok has, apology rolling off his tongue as he checks it. He feels his brows furrow and then he feels Wooseok gently run his hand up and down Jinhyuk’s upper arm reassuringly.
[ From: Seungwoonie ] 12:46pm
You didn’t get home last night, is everything okay?
He feels his stomach drop a bit. He would have naturally told Seungwoo that he went out, would have told him that he went to Wooseok and that he found himself crashing there, but even him falling asleep is hazy in his memory.
“Give me one second,” He leans over to Wooseok, voice dropping for no reason as he naturally leans to whisper in his ear, nearly kissing the side of his head before he pulls himself off of the couch and taking a couple steps towards the kitchen. He dials Seungwoo’s number, and hears a neatly surprised “ hello-! ” tucked in between a sharp intake of air after two rings, surprise unmasked in Seungwoo’s voice.
“Sorry, I was meaning to text you.” Jinhyuk follows, scratching the back of his neck and feeling how long the hairs have gotten. “I’m at Wooseok’s, I hope you didn’t worry too much.”
“I always worry, Jinhyukie,” Seungwoo says with a lift in his voice, but he knows he’s serious despite the tone and he answers with soft ‘I know, I know’ to comfort the other
“Are you busy for the rest of the day? I wanted to treat you, there’s a new cafe that opened a couple blocks away, and the sweets look really good.” Seungwoo hums, and Jinhyuk hears plates getting pushed around and clinking against one another. He almost forgot that they usually had breakfast together on weekends.
He gets a little quiet. There’s a whole room, a whole house that he’s supposed to be in just on the other line and JInhyuk misses it, misses that natural push and pull that was their apartment, but he finds himself somewhere else with a strong grip on his hands.
He turns his head to watch as Wooseok plays, his character falling over the edge while the younger pouts.
“. . . Can I bring a friend?”
Okay maybe Jinhyuk didn’t entirely plan this entire day through but he was willing to push through it anyways.
It’s not like he had planned to sleep over in the first place, nonetheless plan to go out to some cafe the next day, so here Jinhyuk was, watching Wooseok fish out things from his closet that could potentially fit the older but he was being picky about it.
“This might fit you but I don’t think it matches the shirt. . .” Wooseok mumbles to himself, still in his sweats and shirt from the night before while he prioritizes Jinhyuk instead. He does have a headband pushing his hair back, squinting at the clothes in his hands before he sets things out.
“Wooseok-ah you’re being so picky as if I won’t look good in anything.” Jinhyuk beams, basking in the glory of Wooseok’s eye roll as he gives up and just hands Jinhyuk a striped button up and some black ripped jeans. The button-up is mostly white, faint black lines saying that there is some kind of pattern here, but when Jinhyuk puts it on it looks like Wooseok drowns in it. The cuffs that end just a bit after his wrist would surely cover all of Wooseok’s fingers, and that brings a tight, aching smile to his lips. Wooseok picks something for himself, a large oversized yellow sweater that does everything but cling to him and jeans, and Jinhyuk has to hold back a coo as Wooseok pulls out glasses, rounded frames making Jinhyuk want to squish his cheeks.
And by the look on Wooseok’s face, he knows that he wants to, too.
They make their way out of the apartment, Seungyoun long gone with the breeze by the time they leave and catch the bus back to campus. Their walk back is quiet but its not painfully so, their hands occasionally brushing whenever they walked to the cafe and ghosts of small smiles on their faces.
They get their earlier than Seungwoo, which Jinhyuk rolls his eyes at due to their drastic difference in distance, but he takes a small booth in the corner of the cafe with Wooseok beside him. Despite their being space, they naturally press together, Wooseok’s eyes crinkling in the corners as he gives a small smile and he points out the display.
“Um, excuse me,”
Jinhyuk lifts his head, expecting a waiter or the like but at the end of their table stands a girl, hair cut right along her chin while one hand moves to tuck some hair behind her ear. Her eyes barely meet his, darting left and right while she tries to find words. He thinks that maybe they took her seat, immediately grabbing Wooseok’s hand as he stands to find another table before the girl waves her hands around, ushering him to sit which he slowly does, confusion still plain on his face.
“S-String!” She sputters out, and he sees Wooseok raise an eyebrow from the corner of his eye as he leans forward a bit, eyeing the girl.
She holds her hands to her chest, embarrassment rolling off of her in waves and Jinhyuk can feel it. He can infer from just the way she stands there that it’s just like its always been, Jinhyuk wearing his normal smile as he opens his mouth to introduce himself like he would any day, but he gets cut off.
Wooseok’s voice is dripping in something that Jinhyuk can’t place, can’t exactly run his finger over and taste in the moment, but the girl straightens up a bit, working her lower lip in between her teeth.
“Wooseok-ah,” Jinhyuk starts, turning to look at him, but Wooseok doesn’t meet his eyes, his own dead set on hers.
“Even if you are, you’re interrupting our date, you know.” Wooseok draws circles on the table as if Jinhyuk’s ears are burning red, dipping his head down to try to look at Wooseok, attempt ignored before he goes to look at the girl again, her name still tucked under her tongue. He wants to apologize in his place, but she turns on her heel and out the cafe door. He immediately turns to look at Wooseok, frown evident with the way he just pulled that scene. “Wooseok.” He says, voice low.
“You’ll see her again if she really means it, won’t you?” Wooseok says in return, leaning back against the booth chairs as he tilts his head to the side, eyes finally meeting Jinhyuks. He doesn’t find anything malicious, nothing like the jealousy that might have painted Wooseok’s words earlier that Jinhyuk can’t entirely get mad at him.
“. . . What makes you so sure?” He shifts, turning his body to face Wooseok, watching as Wooseok’s face softens at the gesture. They’re existing in their space again, something that’s just for the two of them even if it’s for a second. He wants to know, needs to know what had just played in front of him.
“She looked like she didn’t mean it, and you look like you'd make her feel like something.”
Jinhyuk doesn’t entirely get to pull what he said apart before there’s shadows casted on the table, urging Jinhyuk to look up and meet Seungwoo’s face, but he isn’t alone.
Just a step behind him is Dongpyo, large white t-shirt over the boys shoulders making it look like he and Wooseok coordinated. He knows he’s older that Jinwoo by a little bit, but he still gets the young, refreshing vibes that he gets from the other that makes him smile, waving him over.
“You said you were bringing a friend, so I thought why not make it an occasion~ It’s like meeting the family, right?” Seungwoo ducks into the booth, Dongpyo bowing to the two of them before he slides right in beside the older. Just like he and Wooseok, the other two pull in together, Seungwoo draping his arm on the back rest of the booth behind Dongpyo’s head.
“Family meeting?” Wooseok echos, smile back on his face as he looks at Jinhyuk, looking for an explanation.
“Yeah, of course! Here I’ll start, this is my son, Son Dongpyo.” Seungwoo drapes himself onto Dongpyo’s side, earling a dragged out “ hyuung” while the younger tries to push him away. Seungwoo doesn’t budge though, instead staring at Jinhyuk for his partners introduction, said man feeling his cheeks burn slightly. They weren’t anything yet besides friends, but Jinhyuk wanted them to be, wanted to at least slap a best friend title or even a little more somewhere, but they were only a good month into everything. Maybe his internal turmoil wasn’t so internal, because he felt Wooseok put a hand on his knee, squeezing it before he gives Seungwoo a smile.
“Kim Wooseok, I’m Jinhyuk-ah’s soulmate.”
Jinhyuk knows that that’s what they are, exactly what it says on the tin. And he also knows that ‘soulmate’ means so much more to everyone now, but it doesn’t stop him from hearing a laugh bubble in his chest, flustered as he covers his face with his hands. He hears someone laugh along with him, knows that it’s Seungwoo’s unique hiccup of a laugh, but also hears whispers of Wooseok’s mixed in there. He waves his hands around, trying to deter his own embarrassment.
“Have you two ordered yet? I hear their cake is really good~”
He replies that they haven’t, but how could he when he was so distracted by what Wooseok said?
He actually doesn’t mind the time at the cafe, still tiptoeing around calling it a date like Wooseok has insinuated earlier, but even if it wasn’t, he thinks that he likes the family that’s being built around him.
“Ah, you should meet Jinwoo, he’s one of Dongpyo’s friends, I’ve known him for ages. I know that he’d like you.” Jinhyuk mentions, walking Wooseok to the bus stop. Wooseok was just as enamored with Dongpyo, going out of his way to talk to him and even leaned over the table with a napkin to wipe away from cream from the youngers cheek. He’d be good with kids, and that makes Jinhyuk’s chest warm.
“I’d love to.” Wooseok slows to a stop, small smile that so characteristically Wooseok on his face that Jinhyuk feels himself smile. His cheeks are starting to hurt more with how much he smiles around the younger, and he hopes he doesn’t have to put that into words because even he can’t find the words to say it to himself. There had to be something more poetic than just ‘ Wooseok’s important to me ’ because Wooseok deserved more, deserved better.
“Text me when you get home?” Jinhyuk asks, watching the lights from passing cars and the bus cast long shadows behind their two forms, feels momentarily blinded when a headlight passes and flashes right into his eyes that he doesn’t perfectly catch the way that Wooseok stands on his tip toes, hand resting on Jinhyuk’s shoulder as he leans forward to plant a kiss to his cheek.
There are no words let alone feelings that could describe how much Jinhyuk wants to burst, wants to pick Wooseok up and spin him and just drown in their laughter, but he hears the bus slow to a stop, hears the automated voice call out the bus number and destination, and with one last squeeze on his hand, Wooseok steps onto the bus.
And he watches him leave, entire body buzzing, sparks of electricity running from one end of their string into him.
Jinhyuk eventually walks home, barely a ten minute walk from campus to his house. He hears the shower running, sees Seungwoo’s shoes at the door and he thinks that he registers that information before he falls onto his bed, the blanket swallowing him as he stares at his ceiling. He doesn’t get to close his eyes before his phone vibrates later, pulling it out of his pocket and glancing at the notification.
[ From: Kim Wooseok ] 10:57pm
He smiles and sends back a sun sticker, a smile off-center while the rays rotate around it. He gets a string of messages right when he’s on the brink of sleep, barely registering anything else.
[ From: Kim Wooseok ] 11:13pm
wooseok once tried to hold the door for this one old lady a d nfjefbbfgfvcwasd f,s;
[ From: Kim Wooseok ] 11:13pm
nseu3e 7wgyf a’]panwsdv
[ From: Kim Wooseok ] 11:13pm
IT WAS NICE METIGNG YO Y
[ From: Kim Wooseok ] 11:21pm
you probably won’t see seungyoun for a little bit
Jinhyuk can’t help but beam.
As the seasons melt into fall and winter, classes and Wooseok blur into memories. When winter break comes, he doesn’t hear from him until the second semester.
this is absolutely not edited at all forgive me !! i'll review it after i take a break from it. i wasn't sure i'd be able to finish this in time for this week, but i hope you all like it :D
Chapter 4: chapter 04
Smile, because the world says so.
There’s a thin layer of snow that falls over Seoul, nothing enough to paint the entire white but Jinhyuk can feel the temperature drop instantly.
He sets up camp out in the living room, mountains of pillows and blankets trapping in heat in the dead of night while some movie rerun plays on the television, obviously disregarded despite Jinhyuk’s eyes being glued to the screen. It’s only been three days into winter break, but Jinhyuk was finding this scene to be his routine now. It’s wake up, do school work and then waste the day. He sometimes finds Seungwoo with him, and today he finds the older under the same blanket at him, feet tangled to keep warm. He sometimes feels Seungwoo’s cold feet touch his skin and he whines out, swatting at the older who just fills the room with laughter, drowning out the movie audio.
He feels like when he loses someone, he gains another in the meantime until it shifts out again, Seungwoo and Wooseok taking different spots in his life.
He doesn’t let himself follow the trail of red string that hasn’t moved for the last couple hours, doesn’t let his feet try to carry him out of his blanket cocoon and brave the cold so he can finally feel warm , his layers of blankets and clothes he throws on never feeling enough. He tries to relish in the fact that he’s now spending time with Seungwoo again, and it throws him back to first and second year, where it was just the two of them almost naturally. They had so many friends, had such a large friend circle that they gravitated to, but nothing could beat Jinhyuk and Seungwoo . He misses the sweet aftertaste, mouth dry. He knows that in just a couple days, Seungwoo will be going home for Christmas, leaving their apartment for Jinhyuk alone. He contemplates holding a party while he's gone, but the person he wants to see there the most doesn't even leave a whisper in his ear.
“Something’s bothering you.” Seungwoo leans over and presses against Jinhyuk’s side more, head finding its place in the crook of the younger's neck. He knows he can’t really lie, doesn’t entirely like the idea of lying to his roommate, so he instead relaxes against him, eyes falling closed as the feeling of Seungwoo at his side like he never left.
He tests a lot of words in his mouth, running his tongue over them as he tries to pick them apart to decide what would be the best way to go about talking about it. In the end, he decides to be honest, words quiet.
"I miss him." Jinhyuk breaths out, chest rising as he breathes slowly.
"I know." Seungwoo replies, letting the silence sit in between the little space between them. It makes itself comfortable, and its painfully familiar to the both of them before Seungwoo tilts his back a bit, trying to catch Jinhyuk's eyes. "Do you want to go somewhere?"
He knows that its Seungwoo's way of trying to distract him, and he's thankful, finding Seungwoo's hand under the blankets and giving it a small squeeze.
"You're paying, though."
Jinhyuk tilts his head back to watch as the warm air escapes his mouth, letting out a heavy breath as it makes a cloud against the snow. It's only snowing slightly, enough to leave decorations of white snowflakes against his dark hair, sticking to the scarf wrapped tightly around his neck. They wander for the most part, window shopping here and ducking into some stores there. They have a couple bags in their hands, small gifts that show up that seem to beg to be purchased to end up in their friend's hands. There's trinkets that remind him of Yuvin and Kookheon, sets that calls out to him for Jinwoo, but nothing catches his eye enough for Wooseok.
There isn't any gifts that stay in his hands, scarves that don't seem like they would suit to sit on Wooseok's shoulders, necklaces that wouldn't sit on his collarbones well or anything vague enough to be a gift. It hits him that he doesn't know Wooseok well enough to gift him anything meaningful, and it doesn't let his mind rest as he tries to trace through every conversation they've had for a hint hidden in between their words, but all that comes to him is their string.
Wooseok brings it up a lot, and it makes Jinhyuk stumble a bit as he finally takes them in. Does Wooseok hate the strings? Does Woosoek hate theirs? That made Jinhyuk pause, Seungwoo walking ahead of him before he looks over his shoulder, Jinhyuk no longer a step behind.
"Jinhyuk?" Seungwoo calls, confused.
He hears the other, he really does, but he can't put any effort into answer because he puts everything into finding something that says otherwise. He knows some people hate the string, hate what they do to the world, but Wooseok teetered on both ends, letting Jinhyuk savour what they had yet letting him barely bite into the life he had before Jinhyuk. It felt like he was just a foot in the door of their relationship, Wooseok doing just exactly what it was required of him as a soulmate, a bright opposite to how Jinhyuk laid himself out.
He feels a hand on his shoulder, a light squeeze pulling him out of his spiral as he looks up to see Seungwoo smile at him, smile trying to be comforting.
"Come on, you look hungry. We'll take a break, okay?" Seungwoo says, but the look on his face tells him that he isn't asking, instead taking Jinhyuk's wrist and guiding him out of the gift shop.
They find a restaurant, barely squeezing into a spot with how easy Christmas shopping fills up the malls. He picks at his food for a bit, earning a stare from Seungwoo before his stomach coaxes him to eat. He's thankful that Seungwoo doesn't press him to talk, filling the silence for them which is a contrast to how it usually is.
In the end, despite walking around the district for hours, Jinhyuk isn't able to find a single gift for Wooseok.
"You have his number right? Just text him." Kookheon suggests, holding one of the couch pillows to his chest from his spot on the ground.
Jinhyuk isn't a stranger to Kookheon and Yuvin's apartment, the space filled to the brim with things that Kookheon holds onto, sentiments flooding out from every item decorating their room. To say it bluntly, Kookheon hoards , holds onto things with memories staining the surfaces. If he let him, he could probably waste hours with Kookheon just talking about the things he collects, where he got them and what they remind him of. It makes him smile without knowing, finding comfort in the way that his friends make a place like this home.
“Ah I do but,” Jinhyuk starts, immediately trailing off as he looks elsewhere. He wants to say that he doesn’t know why he hasn’t texted him, but he knows very well that he’s scared.
He’s scared about how Wooseok will reply to him, scared about what would happen if Wooseok never replied . He knows that surely he wouldn’t, knows Wooseok wouldn’t do that to him and knows that his string is still there . It’s there for a reason.
“Hyuk,” Kookheon starts, and he gives Jinhyuk a look that makes him forget that he’s the older of the two. Kookheon is naturally caring, leaning over to lean against the couch that Jinhyuk’s claimed so he can give his knee a hearty pat, settling there so he can glance up at him properly. “Do you like the strings, Hyuk?”
The question startles him for a second, eyes widening a fraction as his words sink in. He throws it around in his head, weighs the pros and cons through flashes of memories. He opens his mouth before closing it again when he doubts himself, but then he nods slowly. “Yeah, I do.”
Kookheon smiles at him, and Jinhyuk knows it’s one that’s standing between knowing and wishing he didn’t.
“Sometimes I don’t.” The younger says, his eyes dropping to his left hand that’s resting on Jinhyuk’s knee. “I know we’re kind of the odd ones out. Yuvin and I, we’ve never had out strings connected at all but we’re here, you know?” He says gently, and Jinhyuk can see the fondness rolling off of him in gentle waves kissing the shore, and it makes him relax a bit, smile contagious. Kookheon then looks up at Jinhyuk, face serious and determined.
“So you get it, right? People can be this close, they can mean so much without the string,” he says, voice straining slightly as he tries to talk to him. “But you can see yours, that means something, right?”
There’s a look in Kookheon’s eyes that makes Jinhyuk lean over and put both of his hands over his, giving him a reassuring squeeze.
“I know. I know.” He whispers, dropping his head a bit.
He hears the lock of the apartment click against a key, lifting his head to glance at the door right as Yuvin walks in, bag slung over his shoulders.
“Jinhyuk-Hyung, Heonie,” Yuvin greets, slipping his shoes off and walking into the living room where they’re stationed. He tiptoes around their mess of bowls and books walking over to the two. He gives Jinhyuk a reassuring smile, eyes soft as he welcomes him before he turns to Kookheon and somehow he softens even more. He crouches down to his level, running a hand through Kookheon’s hair before he leans down, closing his eyes as he presses into the side of Kookheon’s head. It’s inexplicably soft how the two of them melt into the small gesture, Yuvin pulling away too quickly for the older’s liking before he stands, lightly pinching his boyfriend’s cheek.
“Cute,” Yuvin coos as he walks to his room to drop his bag, Kookheon’s ears burning red instantly while he ducks his head.
Jinhyuk’s gotten used to the way that Yuvin boldly appreciates Kookheon, even outside. He’s watched how they grew from quiet and hidden touches to the way that Yuvin’s become more vocal about it, much more inclined to act affectionate whereas Kookheon shies away from it in public.
He hears Kookheon ask Yuvin about work, faintly hears Yuvin reply but he doesn’t feel the need to join in, instead looking down at his hands in his lap. Just like the week before, his red string was just as lifeless, distance that felt like oceans in between him and Wooseok.
He lets his body fall back onto the couch, back hitting the cushions as he stares up at the ceiling. He lets the sound of the two drown out a bit as he mulls it over. He took one of the pillows and hugged it to his chest just like Kookheon did throughout the night, and he had a nagging feeling that he did it with the exact same reason he was at that moment. It didn’t need a lot of thought for him to know that he missed Yuvin.
Shifting a bit awkwardly, he reached for his phone in his back pocket, maneuvering a bit to pull it out. It was stupidly late into the night, much closer to calling it the next day than the night before. Kookheon’s words echoed in his mind a bit more, urging him to unlock his phone and go to his messages. He types and then deletes and then types over and over again, finding every word that he types out glares at him. It feels like ages pass before he finds one that’s more fitting, and without much thought, he sends it before he can think otherwise.
[ To: Kim Wooseok ] 3:56am
Hey, if you’re free, do you want to hang out on Christmas eve?
Days pass and he doesn’t get a response from Wooseok. He starts to get a little worried then, but his worry isn’t enough to push himself to call him.
He does find himself outside of Wooseok and Seungyoun’s apartment, though, but he knows that his string doesn’t lead here, seeing it cascade down the hall and elsewhere. It doesn’t entirely stop him from knocking, hearing shuffling and a carefree “one second!” that’s distinctly Seungyoun call from somewhere inside before the door opens, showing a fresh out of bed Seungyoun.
“Seungyoun, it’s past 2pm.” Jinhyuk says in disbelief, seeing the other shrug his shoulders. “Break means rest, and rest means I get to sleep for as long as I want.” He counters with a smile, pulling the door wider for the other to enter.
The place looks much cleaner than the last time he was here, the place that he and Wooseok carved into the middle of the room long gone and put back together. He doesn’t want to comment on the way his heart falls a bit at that, but he does take the time to really appreciate the place.
He knows that Seungyoun and Wooseok like to keep the place clean and well decorated, and he can see it as a place that he would want to stick around for all the time. It has its own aesthetic, but he can maybe pick out things that Wooseok may have added if he tried really hard.
“Wooseok isn’t here.” Seungyoun suddenly says, but he knows that Jinhyuk knows that extremely well too.
“Did he tell you where he was going?” He asks, turning to look at Seungyoun over his shoulder while he goes to sit on the couch, letting out a small ‘ oof ’ as he hits it. “Wooseok never really tells anyone where he’s going.” Seungyoun answers back, a hint of exhaustion in his voice. It’s the tone that makes Jinhyuk feel like Seungyoun’s been through this a lot, their years of friendship almost having Wooseok’s disappearances be commonplace. If Seungyoun didn’t know, then there really wouldn’t be much else he could ask besides the string, but it felt unfair to follow.
So instead he takes a seat on the other side of the couch, bringing back his smile onto his face as he gives it to Seungyoun. “Well, since he isn’t here, you said you had a lot of funny stories of him.” He teases, voice bright. Seungyoun’s laughter fills the entire apartment, throwing his head back before he goes to wipe away fake tears.
“Did you know he once had to eat bugs? We were out on a trip and he lost a bet. . “
“Are you sure you’ll be okay? I can ask if I can stay back just for one break, I feel bad,” Seungwoo fusses at the door of their apartment, shoes already worn and jacket zipped up while his hand has long disregarded his suitcase.
“Hyung, it would be even more of a hassle to to unpack now instead of going.” Jinhyuk rolls his eyes, lightly hitting Seungwoo’s upper arm while he pretends to whine out in mock pain. He continues to whine for a little bit more before he leans forward, dropping his head to rest against Jinhyuk’s shoulder. Jinhyuk tenses abit against the sudden touch but he finds that he relaxes right after, tilting his head down a bit to look at the top of Seungwoo’s head before he wraps his arms around the man’s shoulders, patting his upper back slightly.
“I’ll be okay, Hyung.” Jinhyuk reassures, tightening his embrace. He feels him nod against him before he straightens up, give him a tight lip smile that says that he isn’t entirely sure. Seungwoo lifts up a hand, pointer finger lifting up to poke Jinhyuk’s nose gently, trying to pull his smile upward more.
“Call me right away if you get lonely, okay?”
“Okay,” Jinhyuk echoes, voice just above a whisper. He watches Seungwoo leave the room, door closing behind him and leaving the apartment to linger in silence.
It’s Christmas eve, but Jinhyuk can’t really encourage himself to leave the house. His entire body complains to just stay in, tangled undercovers instead of going aside just for once, and he lets himself indulge. He reclaims his space in the living room, sitting down right in the middle of the room before he grabs a bowl of chips and the remote, settling into place. The second he gets comfortable though, he hears a gentle knock on the door.
“Seungwoo, did you forget something?” He calls out, tilting back to glance at the door before he pauses, breath trapped in his chest.
He catches his red string, trailing out the door and waving in the air, matching the next set of knocks as they follow movement. He thankfully takes a second to place the bowl on the ground before he tries to pull himself out of the hug of blankets, nearly tripping on one that clings to his foot before he unlocks the door with shaky hands, almost pulling it open in record speed.
On the other side stands Wooseoks, hair peppered with snow and small smiles. He shifts a bit under Jinhyuk’s gaze, smile almost apologetic as he folds his hands behind his back.
“Merry Christmas eve, Jinhyuk-ah.” He says, voice soft and breathless. If Jinhyuk allowed himself to entertain the thought, perhaps he could believe that Wooseok ran here.
He can’t help the small laugh that erupts in his chest, starting off small before he folds a bit as he looks at him.
“Wooseok-ah, it’s like half an hour till real Christmas.”
“Mm, sorry I didn’t make it,” Wooseok starts, still standing outside of the door. “Can I spend real Christmas with you to make up for it then?”
Jinhyuk feels his mouth dry instantly, unable to find words. He opts for dropping his head and nodding, letting Wooseok in, unspoken that they would instead spend Christmas inside his small dorm instead of out in the bustling streets. That felt more characteristically Wooseok than anything.
Wooseok steps in and sheds his jacket, putting it on the coat hanger and Jinhyuk just watches. It's like he wants to really convince himself that Wooseok is here, feels like he can't ask all the questions that plague his mind in fear that Wooseok wouldn't like it. Maybe Christmas eve and Christmas itself wasn't entirely the time for him to ask either, so he indulges himself instead, letting himself push the thoughts at the back of his mind because Wooseok was right here.
Gently, he slips into the space beside Wooseok, tentatively reaching for his hand and locking their fingers almost hesitantly before Wooseok squeezes his hand and he looks at his face to catch his smile. He wordlessly lets Jinhyuk guide him into the living room, finding his makeshift space that he wouldn't admit is a replica of the space they made in Wooseok's. He easily gives in to his need to hold Wooseok, so he makes room for them on the floor where he can lean against the couch, Wooseok pulled into the space in front of him so that his back rests against Jinhyuk's chest and he engulfs him entirely.
Wooseok doesn't complain when Jinhyuk buries his face into the crook of his neck, doesn't flinch when he wraps his arms around his waist and just holds him. It makes Jinhyuk think that Wooseok knows why he's this close, knowing his weeks of radio silence was something that took a toll on the older.
Wooseok tips his head back a bit to rest on Jinhyuk's shoulder, knowing he wouldn't entirely be leaving any time soon. They sit in their silence for a bit, only the sounds of Jinhyuk occasionally shifting with him in his arms and the sounds of people walking outside.
"Sorry, I must have made you worry." Wooseok says quietly, and when Jinhyuk looks, the younger's eyes are closed. He can't like and say that he didn't, so he instead nods against his skin, hug tightening a fraction. "Yeah, yeah," He says, voice muffled. "Please don't do it again." He tries to say as jokingly as he can, but he feels his voice sound a little strained, also knows that Wooseok can read him like a book.
"Mhm, sorry." He says again, lifting a hand to thread through Jinhyuk's hair. He feels like the apology on Wooseok's lips isn't entirely an apology for disappearing, as if he can't promise that he won't leave again.
He can feel the exhaustion seep into his body, his hold on Wooseok not as tight as it could be. "Stay until the morning at least? I make really good eggs." Jinhyuk mumbles, eyes closing. He feels Wooseok squirm a bit, guessing that his eyelashes tickled his neck a bit. "Okay,"
He thinks its the end of it, his eyes much too tired to open once again as Wooseok shifts a bit in his arms to get comfortable. He feels something cold touch his left wrist, hears a small jingle of metal before he feels Wooseok turn and kisses the side of his head, lingering for a second, words so quiet that Jinhyuk has to strain his ears to hear.
"Merry Christmas, Jinhyuk."
apologies for the late and slightly shorter chapter qwq !! im hustling to post this bc my fams like 2 seconds away from leaving the house but i hope you enjoy this chapter :D !!
Chapter 5: chapter 05
Jinhyuk doesn't know whats colder, the weather or Wooseok.
hello again !! deepest apologies for the super late chapter. school's started and its ripped a lot of time out of my hands with working as well. i'll try my best to not put super big !! gaps inbetween the next chapter, but nonetheless, i hope you like it!!
Jinhyuk finds himself waking up alone.
He’s in his bed somehow, nothing in his memory telling him why or how he made it there, but the fact that he grips bed sheets instead of a person-- despite the fact that the chances are so slim that Wooseok would sleep in the same bed as him-- causing him to jolt out of bed. He’s a hair away from tripping out of bed and falling face first into the carpet, just barely catching himself on the wall before he tumbles into his living room.
His chest is rising and falling rapidly, taking long strides towards the door as he grabs his jacket off of the coat hanger, rushing to throw his shoes on. He doesn’t even know where he’s going or god where to look first but--
He finally pauses, takes a breath for possibly the first time since he’s woken up. His jacket isn’t even completely on his shoulders yet, shoes yet to be tied, but the voice nearly unravels all of it. He walks without much thought other than to find him, stepping out of his shoes and letting his jacket fall off his shoulders. It’s only then that he looks down at his hand, red string so obviously leading towards the kitchen that he almost laughs at his own obliviousness, walking into the kitchen because even then he wants to see it to make sure.
Wookseok’s at the stove top, cooking something that his body shields from Jinhyuk’s eyes. He doesn’t look over his shoulder as Jinhyuk walks in almost as if this is a familiar scene between them.
“It’s already eleven, I thought you wanted to make eggs.” Wooseok hums, still tending to what he’s cooking, but his voice couldn’t hide the smile that spread across his face. There was the soft sizzle of the pan, the smell of breakfast seeping into the room.
He wouldn’t be able to tell you what compelled him to walk over without saying a word, wrapping his arms around Wooseok’s waist as he hugs him from behind and buries his head in the crook of his neck. All of his panic from the morning immediately melts away the second he glues himself to his back, letting his body really take in that Wooseok is right there, and in his arms nonetheless.
“I was worried you left.” Jinhyuk mumbles against his t-shirt, his voice just soft enough to hint that he’s almost scared for Wooseok to hear his anxieties about it, but he feels a hand card through his bedhead with a small knowing hum. Wooseok turns his head to press into the side of Jinhyuk’s whispering a small apology into his hair.
“Here, I’m almost done.” Wooseok says quietly, pulling away only slightly. It’s as if he’s giving Jinhyuk a second to decide if he’s gonna stay glued to his back or sit. “Ill look forward to your eggs next time.” He adds, resting a hand over Jinhyuk’s the hold onto him around his torso and giving them a squeeze, which coaxes Jinhyuk to let go and sit on the small kitchen table.
It doesn’t take long for Wooseok to walk over, placing a bowl of fried rice, sitting just across from him with his own bowl. “I hope you don’t mind me going though your kitchen, I didn’t know you were so tired.”
It made Jinhyuk pause a bit, because he didn’t think he was tired until it started to set in that he had just been waiting and on edge for weeks now for a text or a call or even jus his sting to budge even the slightest bit.
But here, in the small space of his apartment, he watched it tangle and curl around their legs, around the mess on the kitchen table to race around their fingers. There was a relief there that he didn’t know he needed, could feel the gentle weight of it in his chest. Perhaps he was so obvious about it, because he could hear Wooseok cover a smile and laugh behind his hand.
“You’re doing it again.” Wooseok says, taking a small bite of his food.
Jinhyuk startles a little bit. Was he? He felt himself straighten up in his chair, rolling the thought around his head. He couldn’t pick his actions apart in his head so quickly, but his voice dropped a bit as he asked.
“Is that a bad thing?”
Wooseok doesn’t take as long as he does, his eyes falling closed and lips quirked up a bit at the corners. “No, not at all.”
It leaves Jinhyuk hopeful, still walking gentle on eggshells around who Kim Wooseok is, but he wants to press, wants to figure out what this switch does, what this lever will do.
“You seem so. . . . used to the strings.” He says slowly, as if he’s trying to walk on water, steps slow. He felt like he was treading on high waves, the crashing storm evident. He’s barely touched his food, but he stirs it around absent-mindedly. He’ll eat it when he feels like he can stomach it along with the information he’ll try to pull out of the man in front of him.
“I guess you could say that, it’s more like I’ve been around them for a long time.” Jinhyuk hums in agreement, finally taking a bite of his breakfast, the rice room temperature now. “What about you?” Wooseok trails off, his attention much more focused on Jinhyuk talking than himself.
“I think I’ve been about two dozen soulmates in my life time,” Jinhyuk gives him a small smile, a little strained at the edges. “You’re the first person who I guess I can call my first soulmate, it’s a little surreal.”
“You have a lot,” Wooseok comments, and Jinhyuk inches a bit closer for him to continue on. “I mean, you look like you’re used to it, like at the cafe.”
The day at the cafe comes rushing to him, the scene playing in his mind over and over again as he finally sits back and thinks about it, the surprised obvious on this face. “At the cafe--” Jinhyuk starts, but Wooseok cuts him off.
“Right, sorry about that, I didn’t. . Mean to.” He confesses, his shoulders still broad, not letting them fall at the slightest. He still couldn’t make any sense of it at all, didn’t want to pass it off as some mild possessiveness from the younger but couldn’t put anything else beside it.
“Wooseok, what happened?” he says slowly, trying to put enough warmth in his voice to coax the others words into the sunlight that spilled into the kitchen. They don’t speak for a while, but Jinhyuk watches as Wooseok seems to talk himself down from any high, the small smile that he always wore when he was tucking something away made its way onto his face, Jinhyuk feeling his fist clenches under the table to stop himself from overstepping.
“You won’t believe me.” He says finally, a small sigh under it. He sounds like he’s tired, like he doesn’t want to relive the very thing he’s living in now, and it makes a bitter taste stick to Jinhyuk’s tongue.
“You won’t even let me try?” He asks, voice straining just a bit, throat dry, heart breaking. The face that Wooseok makes when he glances down at Jinhyuk’s hand makes his chest tighten with how many speeches run over his brown eyes. “It’s your string connected to me, isn’t it?”
The insinuation makes something rot inside of him, makes Jinhyuk lean back against the backrest of the chair and almost go slack. If anything, Wooseok’s right, seeing his string connected to Wooseok meant that till the end, Wooseok was supposed to help him. It. . . Wasn’t the other way around, and Wooseok was building his gates right in front of him to make sure of it. Jinhyuk bites the inside of his cheek, cutting off all the questions that bubble in his throat and threaten to spill out of his mouth.
Knock knock knock.
The gentle knocks on the door cut off Jinhyuk off, both of them not backing down as they stare at one another. Minutes pass as they continue to stare at each other, waiting for someone to break and for someone to say something, but another stressed knock against the apartment door pulls Jinhyuk away, the chair scratching against the tile as he pushes himself out of it.
Jinhyuk has to wipe away all the doubt that’s present on his face before he opens the door, face immediately pulling upwards in surprise.
Jinwoo smiles up at him, a present bag slung onto his arm and wrapped up so the cold winds couldn’t touch him. It takes Jinhyuk a couple seconds to register that Jinwoo was right here at his door, a paper bag slung over his arm and smile bright on his face.
“Jinwoo-?” Jinhyuk says, a little dumbfounded, but the younger just seems to laugh, expecting the reaction. He pulls off his hat and Jinhyuk watches as snowflakes that cling to the wool fall a bit to the floor slowly, echoing the snowfall outside. “You’re surprised, aren’t you? Seungwoo-hyung told me you would be.”
He feels like his tongue isn’t able to form words anymore, trying to piece a couple things together on his own with his sleep filled brain, and he was a little relieved that Jinwoo knew him well enough, his laughter filtering into the room.
“Seungwoo-Hyung told Dongpyo who told me that you were gonna be alone for the winter break, so he asked me to come over and take you outside instead of you being stuck in your apartment.” Jinwoo supplies, then pushing the bag that he carried in. “And this,” He says, voice gentle, “is for you.”
Jinhyuk slowly takes the gift, heart swelling as he peeks into it and feeling like a child on Christmas eve. He tilts his head to meet Jinwoo’s eyes, feels like he seconds away from just crying with a mix of happiness and uncertainty.
“You’ve done a whole lot for me since I’ve met you, since we’ve been connected, hyung. I want to say thank you and,” He takes a deep breath, something passing over his face that Jinhyuk recognizes as him recalling that he had scripted and it makes something warm bubble in his chest. “You gotta remember! I’m here for you too!”
All the strength that he had that was holding back his tears snaps at that, and Jinhyuk feels a handful of tears run down his cheeks, Jinwoo giving him the warmest smile in return. Without another word, the two of them immediately pull themselves together into a hug, Jinhyuk feeling the cold breeze that clings to Jinwoo’s jacket. He quietly mumbles almost a hundred thank you’s onto the top of his head.
Jinhyuk pulls away slightly, still keeping Jinwoo close as the younger peeks to look into the house, Wooseok peaking from the kitchen. “Oh! You weren’t alone, I thought. . .” Jinwoo mumbles, slipping out of Jinhyuk grasp to bow a little properly. “Hello! I’m Lee Jinwoo, it’s nice to meet you.” He says happily, and Wooseok immediately echos his smile. “Hyung’s my string buddy.”
“I know,” Wooseok quietly walks over, footsteps almost non-existent as he takes his place at Jinhyuk’s side, the Wooseok that was building a castle in his very kitchen nowhere in sight. He catches himself a bit, smile gentle. “I mean, I can tell, you two seem close.”
“Kim Wooseok, I’m his soulmate. Jinhyuk-ah told me a little bit about you. I heard that you once chased a duck into a pond. . .” Wooseok says off-handedly, but his eyes crinkle at the edges mischievously. There’s a bit of pride that seems to seep into his words the more he introduces himself as his soulmate, and Jinhyuk feels something beg to burst in his chest at the very same time.
“Hyuung-!” Jinwoo whines, turning to face Jinhyuk and missing the way that Wooseok’s face bursts into a smile. Jinhyuk’s left to try to calm the youngers embarrassment, Wooseok pulling on his jacket and hat that he left around the apartment while they made their home just last night. He doesn’t register that Wooseok had grabbed his own things as well before theres a jacket draped over his shoulders, a hat pushing his hair down and a scarf wrapped gently around his neck. He has to push the hat up to get the hair out of his face so he can see, and when he does his vision is just filled with Wooseok, the others fingers still clinging to the edges of the dark blue scarf.
Wooseok looks up at him and gives him a small smile, and Jinhyuk relaxes when he sees it reach his eyes completely, mimicking the look.
“Let’s go outside, maybe we can walk around downtown, it’d be better than staying cooped up in here, right?” Wooseok asks, turning his head to look at Jinwoo who instantly beams and nods along.
Jinwoo reaches out and takes on of Jinhyuk’s hands, does the same to Woosoek albeit a little more hesitant, but the man reaches out and takes it, watching as Jinwoo instantly takes it as an invitation to learn as much as he can from him.
Jinhyuk lets himself drown out the sounds of the busy Christmas street life. Despite it still being quite early and only with a brief scan through the sea of people in front of him, Jinhyuk can at least see pairs decorating the sidewalks, hand in hand. It makes Jinhyuk’s body feel warm, seeing him settle right into the crowd. Even if Jinwoo stood in between them, he felt like the younger was the glue keeping them beside each other for the most part, the lingers of their previous conversation leaving something bitter to sit on his end.
He doesn’t get a lot of time to think it over or even ask more questions as the day goes on, Jinwoo half leading them through the streets of Seoul thats decorated in lights and painted white. It almost seems blinding, but it pales in comparison to the way that Jinwoo seems to coax Wooseok into bright smiles.
It’s been a while since Jinhyuk can remember the last time he’s been out like this, the past years all framed with Seungwoo or his other classmates in the picture. It makes this outing feel a thousands times more special, Jinhyuk swinging his arms and hoping that Wooseok can feel the joy that seeps out of him and through Jinwoo. He knows that he’ll have to call Seungwoo when he gets a chance, a ‘merry christmas’ and a ‘thank you’ piecing itself into a 2 minute call with how busy Seungwoo’s family tends to pack their holidays.
Jinhyuk startles a bit as he picks two people out of the crowd, mouth instantly opening wide to scream their names above the crowd.
“Yuvin-! Kookheon!!” He yells, tone piercing and catching the attention of the people around them. He can briefly see Wooseok dip his head a bit at the attention, but the smile on his face is evident.
They could see one head of brown hair nearly teeter forward as he was suddenly called, Yuvin catching Kookheon before he slipped in the snow with how aggressively he turned around to find the source of the voice. There’s still lingers of surprise in the corners of Kookheon’s face, but it gets pushed away by surprise when he catches their eyes. He throws a hand in the air to wave, walking over with Yuvin trailing behind, a fond look on his face.
“Jinhyuk-hyung, merry christmas.” Kookheon says warmly, smile echoing the feeling. There’s dusts of red over his face, which Jinhyuk could either tie to the weather or the way that Yuvin looks at him. He hears Yuvin echo the same thing, gluing himself to Kookheon’s side. He feels the burning gaze before he looks up, catching the way Yuvin glances over his company before staring right at Jinhyuk.
“Hyung, I didn’t know you had a whole family outing planned.” Yuvin says, surprise mixing with the way the words leaving teasingly. Jinhyuk nearly howls in laughter, Jinwoo’s own laughter following his while Wooseok rolls his eyes, contrasting the smile on his face.
“Forgive me, let me introduce you to the family.” Jinhyuk jests, playing along as he bows his head slightly, turning to the other two. “My son, Jinwoo,” He starts, watching as Jinwoo fails to hold back his laughter before he waves to the couple. “And my beautiful husband.” He says with such grandeur, painting Wooseok in a spotlight. He lets himself be playful, allowing himself to hide his compliments under his teasing. Even if he never says it, he’s fairly sure that Wooseok knows that he thinks he’s pretty.
“How are the kids?” He tacks on, driving the conversation back to Yuvin and Kookheon to save himself a bit.
“Oh you know, as non-existent as always.” Kookheon supplies, putting a hand on Yuvin’s upper arm. They all shake their heads in laughter, bits of conversation filling in the cold air between them before Yuvin ushers them away, a reservation calling their name.
“Did you not get us a reservation as well, honey? ” Wooseok teases, leading them back onto their path. Jinhyuk hopes that he was red before due to the cold nipping at his skin, hopes that Wooseok won’t comment on the way he definitely gets a couple shades darker. He shakes his head, voice dropping a bit as he mutters a ‘next time’ over Jinwoo’s head.
Jinwoo shakes their hands a bit, slipping out of their grip. They both watch as Jinwoo races towards the Christmas tree, his shouts of joy mixed with the bursts of people around him. Wooseok finally settles into place beside him, taking his hand and running his thumb over Jinhyuk’s knuckles, and it feels like it’s the first time in ages that he’s felt Wooseoks touch since the night before.
He watches Wooseok from the corner of his eyes, his main focus on keeping the small tuff of gold hair in his sights out of caution, but he sees that Wooseok doesn’t look up at him-- eyes entirely glued to their connected hands.
“You know,” Wooseok starts, and everything else around them drones out. The footsteps, the chatter, all of it turns into white noise as he turns his head slightly to listen closer, the others voice pulling him in.
“My first strings been connected since I was ten years old.” He says almost off-handedly, like he isn’t telling the biggest secret that’s ever been heard.
Jinhyuk knows that there are so many cases in the world, the numbers of people always rising every second of the day. There had to be billions of scenarios, different ways that the strings of fate connected and tied and curled around, but nothing could have prepared him for the way that Wooseok barely looks at him until he does, tipping his head back and looking Jinhyuk dead in the eye. It’s the first time of many that Jinhyuk can’t describe what he reads in Wooseok’s eyes, the brunette dipping his head so the older couldn’t even try to read into it more.
“I hasn’t been cut since.”