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you're the prettiest when you smile

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Summer this year has been particularly merciless and no matter what type of clothing Minhee chooses to wear it still uncomfortably sticks like a second skin. It doesn’t help that the ventilation in his room is busted so he finds himself spending most of his summer lazing around Junho’s place.

Junho is the closest to his home out of all his friends and not to mention his whole house is air conditioned since his family has a weird – and definitely hilarious, Minhee thought – fear of getting a stroke because of how extremely hot summers can be in Seoul.

Minhee wasn’t going to say anything though, a visitor can’t be a busybody.

“Dongpyo wants to meet up to get popsicles.”

“But it’s so hot outside.” Minhee groans out, flipping over his stomach on Junho’s bed and spread out like a starfish. “Why do we need to go too?” His question is muffled by the sheets and Junho chuckles lightly at Minhee’s childish act.

“You wouldn’t want to upset Dongpyo.” Junho says matter-of-factly. Touche, Minhee’s never been one to resist their short friend.

“Tell him we’re perfectly happy here. Where it’s cool, cozy and not being heated in a microwave.”

Junho laughs louder this time and the sound makes Minhee look up from suffocating himself in between his friend’s soft pillows. He catches the way Junho’s eyes crinkle slightly and fist covering his mouth, a habit of Junho that he noticed every time his friend found anything funny.

“It’s not that bad outside.” Junho offers once his laughter dies down yet traces of his mirth present in the grin on his lips.

Minhee swallows at the sudden dryness of his throat. He wonders if it’s because he’s been spending an excessive amount of time with Junho lately that’s been causing these odd moments where his breath just catches up in his throat, and chest feels tight for no apparent reason at the sight of him smiling, or just existing in general.

He can’t blame it on the heat but Minhee doesn’t think Junho seeming prettier sounds reasonable either.

It’s definitely the heat, Minhee settles for resolutely.

“Fine.” He relents tearing his gaze away the older boy. “I’m holding your word against you.”

It wasn’t meant to be a joke but Junho merely laughs at his threat as if he knew Minhee was all talk and no bite, as if he knew Minhee would let him get away with anything because he’s secretly soft for him. Junho appears in his line of vision, a hand outstretched for Minhee to take. He takes the older boy’s offer and tells himself not to mind the way his fingertips tingle at slightest touch.

“Sure. I don’t mind.”

You should. Minhee stubbornly thinks, you should mind.

 


 

 

“Am I experiencing a fever dream or Minhee and Junho went in together?” Always the first one to point out what’s out of the ordinary, Dongpyo narrows his eyes at the two who were the last ones to arrive at the convenience store.

“You talk as if those two don’t live close to each other.” comes Eunsang’s smart reply and Dongpyo pouts his lip petulantly.

“They do but they never spent time alone together before either.”

“Actually, I’ve been hanging out with him a lot this summer.” Minhee swings an arm around the other and flashes him a grin, “Right, Chacha?”

Junho adorns amusement prettily on his face and Minhee wonders how he’s able to do it. “He’s just there because their air conditioning is broken.”

“Hey, I stay at your place because I genuinely want to spend time with you.” Minhee’s lower lip juts out and Junho simply laughs.

He feels a weird fluttering sensation in his stomach and chalks it up to hunger, it’s not that he feels this way whenever Junho does things that sort of tug his heart, nope, not at all.

“Throw him out when he’s being annoying.” Hyeongjun chimes in.

Minhee quickly dives in once he comes across the opportunity of a distraction, “Hyeongjun, I thought you were on my side. I am hurt!”

What he didn’t see coming though was an external force – taking form through Lee Eunsang – that causes a tiny rumble within Minhee because of his course of action.

“And you can’t steal Junho away from me that easily.” Eunsang swats Minhee’s arm off their friend and pulls Junho towards him. “I won’t let you.”

Eunsang wraps his arms protectively around Junho, as if the other boy was a precious toy of his that he didn’t want to share. Junho gives him a faint apologetic smile before he tells Eunsang that he’s not a possesion and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Minhee might have or might have not tuned out the part Junho reassures Eunsang that he’s still his bestfriend in purpose.

“I’m surrounded by children.” Dongpyo mutters exasperatedly, both hands coming up to massage his head as if he’s already suffering a headache.

“Come on, let’s get popsicles before they decide to kick us out!” Hyeongjun links his arm with Dongpyo’s and drags him to the isle where the ice cream section was located.

Minhee trails behind his rambunctious friends, mind occupied with the way Junho slotted perfectly against his side, the pretty curl of his smile, and how he feels oddly annoyed that Eunsang took him away. He quickly buries his last thought when he realizes where it’s about to lead. He skips past Eunsang and Junho to unceremoniously loop his arms around his other friends, immediately teasing Dongpyo about his height and getting his rib harshly poked.

It has always been like this within their circle. Minhee’s close to Hyeongjun and Dongpyo most, Junho’s best friend is Eunsang, and the two of them meet in the middle of overlapping friendships. He didn’t feel the need to be extremely close with Junho before, he was fine with hanging out with him when all of them are together.

But why does he find it hard to shrug off the want to be with Junho more now?

 


 

 

The five of them end up eating their frozen treats at the patio of Eunsang’s house.

Minhee was sweating buckets and his popsicle is barely helping beat the heat out of his system. Perhaps, he should’ve convinced Junho to stay and face Dongpyo’s wrath after – a week of insisting to buy him ice cream – than sit under the unbearable heat of the sun.

He could be showing Junho dumb memes right now but, no, they're outside and the streak of sunlight burns on his skin.

“Fuck, it’s so hot.” Minhee throws the stick away and moves to grab another one in the cooler. “Why can’t we go inside?”

“Mom will kill me if she finds even the smallest drop on the carpet.” Eunsang hisses uncharacteristically, probably due to the heat as well, or the way Dongpyo stuck with Hyeongjun and Junho ever since they left the store. Minhee can’t be bothered to figure out if his friends were going through another episode of their ridiculous game of push and pull.

Fuuuuck.” He swears and earns a kick from Eunsang for being too loud, angrily whispering the neighbors woud hear him.

“Who was the dumbass that thought it’s a good idea to buy fifty pieces of popsicles thinking we can finish it all?” Dongpyo asks out loud and flicks a popsicle stick in Minhee’s direction that hits him square on the face.

“Kang Minhee!” Hyeongjun yells and laughs along with Junho who’s suspiciously eating his fifth popsicle already.

Minhee squawks out indignantly. He’s noticing a pattern and it’s not something he likes. Is it bully Minhee day?

“I’m bored. Let’s play truth or dare!” Dongpyo announces firmly, leaving no room for protests.

There’s hardly any protests when it comes to the things Dongpyo wants to do. Despite being the second oldest among their circle, everyone treats him like the youngest and he even acts like he is. (“Only sometimes!” Dongpyo argued each time anyone pointed it out.)

“How are we supposed to play when we don’t have a bottle?”

“That’s simple. We’ll reuse the sticks and who draws out this color is it.” Dongpyo holds out one stick that’s heavily pigmented red on its end.

Junho’s face scrunches in distaste, “That’s absolutely disgusting.”

“Okay, Mr. Hygiene Freak. You can not play but you won’t be able to dare anyone dumb shit you want us to do.” Dongpyo fixes Junho a challenging stare but the smirk he’s wearing clearly indicates that he knows he has successfully convinced the older boy into participating.

“Fair point. I’m in.”

Minhee raises his hand, “Can we do this inside?”

“No.” Eunsang quickly denies and Minhee lets out a whine.

He chances Junho looking at him and the other spares him a smile that borderlines sheepish and empathic. Truly, Junho is the only one that understands him. Junho is now his favorite, screw Dongpyo and Hyeongjun, and it’s not because of other reasons Minhee chooses to ignore.

“Minhee stop whining and join us.” Hyeongjun beckons for him.

He drags his body across the wooden floor, not without an unnecessary display of a crawling zombie that all of his friends groan at with the exception of Junho who genuinely seems to find it hilarious. Minhee sits in between Eunsang and Dongpyo just to get on Eunsang’s nerves because he won’t let them go inside his house.

Junho sat across him and shot him a knowing look, eyes twinkling in mirth once again as he knew the scheme Minhee was trying to pull off.

Hyeongjun holds out all of the sticks and each of them pulls out one from his grasp. Minhee thought he won’t be the unfortunate soul to be the first it but he’s staring dumbly at the crimson color of the stick he took. It’s not that he hates to be it but Minhee always chooses dare for the fun of it and there’s something about the way he feels a menacing aura coming from Eunsang that’s telling him it won’t be safe to.

Not to mention, Dongpyo and Hyeongjun appeared to  have already orchestrated a dare judging at the way they were grinning at each other.

“It’s a dare right, Mini?” Hyeongjun clarifies.

“Actually,” Minhee raises a finger, “I choose truth for a change.”

Dongpyo boos noisily from his side while Eunsang shakes his head disappointedly. Minhee’s not sure if Hyeongjun’s amused or not that he’s capable of picking truth and doesn’t want to figure out whether it is.

“We’ve witnessed half of your life there’s nothing interesting to ask about you.” Dongpyo reasons.

“You just want an addition to your blackmail material.” Minhee retorts and the other smiles playfully in response.

“What about dating, though? Yujin confessed to him before school ended.” Eunsang nudges him and wiggles his brows suggestively. “Are you two seeing each other?”

Minhee’s brows furrow in confusion, mind retracing the incidents that happened in the past month. The memory resurfaces in fragments that are a bit hazy, Minhee only remembers declining her confession hurriedly because he was supposed to meet Junho right away after class. It was the first time Junho coyly asked if they were walking back home together, oh.

Junho watches him closely. Minhee feels a lump growing in his throat, he avoids the indecipherable stare Junho pins at him and fakes a cough.

“We’re not. I would’ve told you guys about it if we were.” He says feeling unusually conscious of his words and actions.

“This is why truth is boring. Let’s make it dare only to spice things up.” Dongpyo says as he gathers the sticks in his hand.

Each of them pull a stick once again and Minhee’s thankful to find no sign of red on the piece of wood he’s holding.

The unlucky one happens to be Junho though and everyone’s suddenly thrilled at this turn out. It’s because for some otherworldly reason, Junho manages to escape doing crazy dares each time they play or he never gets to be it only the one giving out outrageous challenges that might or might not be the prime cause why all five of them get into trouble.

“It’s finally time.” Eunsang’s lips are upturned in a devilish grin and if Minhee were Junho, he’d be fearing for his life – or what’s left of his dignity – now.

“I have a dare for Junho.” Dongpyo gains their attention and feigns an innocent smile towards the aforementioned boy.

“Should I be nervous?” Junho asks but maintains a perfectly blank face.

“I dare you to kiss the prettiest person here.”

Dongpyo’s dare manages to crack the front Junho was trying to pull as his expression slowly bleeds into something near frantic, eyes wide and mouth slightly agape. Hyeongjun was covering his mouth in a scandalized manner Minhee doesn’t quite follow to why he’s reacting like that while Eunsang watches everything unfold amused, satisfied with the dare.

Minhee’s brain struggles to process whatever telepathic communication was going on between his four friends. The only thing it registers is that Dongpyo’s dare is absurd. How can Junho kiss the prettiest one here when he is that person?

“Impossible. He can’t kiss himself.” Minhee blurts out unintelligibly.

Silence hangs in the air heavily and only then does the implication of his words dawn upon him. The heat must be getting to him as he feels his cheeks flush hotly, maybe it also got to Junho that even his ears were burning red.

Dongpyo was the one to speak up first, “Okay.” He drawls out to disrupt the awkwardness that settled among them.

Eunsang doesn’t bother to hide how entertained he is, “Is that right, Kang Minhee?” He peers at him and Minhee suppresses the urge to smack the shit-eating grin off Eunsang’s face with his fist.

“If that’s the case then our Chacha is lucky.” Dongpyo shoots Junho a mischievous grin.

Hyeongjun and Eunsang ‘oooh’s in the background while Junho’s face flushes a darker shade of red. Minhee is certain he’s missing out on something because it doesn’t click to him why Junho is so flustered and that why the others are so adamant in teasing him instead of Minhee himself.

Minhee sets aside his curiosity when they finally carry on with the game. Things continue normally save for the palpable tension between him and Junho, it was a tactless slip up but Minhee doesn’t feel like taking it back either. Maybe, he’s tired of playing oblivious already.

But that doesn’t mean he’s going to acknowledge it out loud soon.

Their little game ends when Hyeongjun actually succeeds in asking Minkyu out – a dare by Eunsang – and that the older boy told him they’ll be meeting each other today. Junho laughs at Eunsang because the latter was sure Hyeongjun wouldn’t be able to do it and even bet money on it.

“Bye, losers.” Hyeongjun gives Eunsang a pointed look. “I have a date.”

Eunsang sulks, Dongpyo pats his cheek to console him but he’s laughing alongside Junho at his misery. Minhee tries hard not to stare too long, opting to wave Hyeongjun goodbye as the younger boy leaves.

“Let’s call it a day.” Eunsang says and pulls Dongpyo into his arms. “I need my daily dose of cuddles.”

Dongpyo rolls his eyes. “I’ll see you two tomorrow. This baby needs attention.”

“You’re not going to let us in?” Minhee asks, panic slowly rising in him because he’s not ready to be left alone with Junho yet.

Eunsang wraps his arms tighter around Dongpyo’s tiny frame, chin resting on his shoulder and spares Minhee a lazy smirk. “I’m sure you prefer to stay at Chacha’s place.”

“You two are an eyesore.” Junho pulls an expression that he’s completely grossed out at what he’s currently seeing.

Dongpyo leans back against Eunsang’s chest. “Is that envy I hear?”

Junho turns to him instead of answering, “Let’s leave these two. They're appalling.”

Minhee swallows thickly then musters what he hopes is a smile and not a constipated expression.

“Sure.”

 


 

 

Contrary to what Minhee was anxious of happening, the walk back to Junho’s home isn’t awkward. The older boy acted as if Minhee hadn’t accidentally admitted that he thinks he’s pretty and the disappointment that settles on his chest is hard to ignore. Maybe, playing oblivious isn’t a smart choice.

“What you said earlier, did you mean it?”

Minhee halts on his steps, shoulders visibly tensing at the question directed at him. He turns around to face Junho and finds the older boy a few feet away from him with his eyes fixed on the ground. He approaches Junho hesitantly, torn between telling the truth or passing it up as another one of his jokes. When he’s standing close enough that he can see the red dusting Junho’s cheeks, Minhee feels a sudden wave of confidence wash over him.

“I meant it.” He starts off, voice a bit unsteady. “I think you’re the prettiest especially when you smile.”

Junho finally looks up to him. He adorns a smile that Minhee knows is best described as beautiful. A smile soon makes its way on his own pair of lips, Minhee doesn’t wonder anymore why his heart is easily swayed by the older boy and welcomes the warmth that blooms in his chest.

“Well, that’s for you.”

“For me?” Minhee’s brows raise in curiosity and Junho nods.

“Then who’s the prettiest person for you?”

Minhee thinks the world went to a full stop when Junho leaned in and kissed his cheek. He wears a shy grin as he pulled back, cheeks sporting a light red hue that only complements how pretty Junho is. The older boy stands there anticipating and a hint of worry in his gaze.

He blinks once, twice, thrice for good measure that he’s processing it right. Minhee stares Junho disbelievingly, am I reading things correctly?

“You think I’m pretty?” Minhee asks.

He probably sounds dumb but he can’t find in himself to care when the look he receives from Junho is nothing short of fond and affectionate. Junho nods firmly, eyes disappearing into crescent moons that makes Minhee’s heart leap to his throat.

“I always have.” Junho runs his fingers through Minhee’s hair, “Even before you impulsively dyed your hair blond. Which I think suits you a lot. You look really pretty with it but you probably would look pretty in any hair color. And I’m rambling…”

When was Junho capable of being this adorable? Minhee wonders, deliberately ignoring the part where Junho implied he’s always found him pretty. He has a lot of time to dwell on that later at night while staring at his ceiling when he’s supposed to be sleeping.

Junho stares at his fidgeting hands in embarrassment and Minhee reaches out to take them in his. He encloses both of his hands around Junho’s and beams towards the boy when the gesture causes Junho to look up at him.

“You’re cute.”

Junho snorts, “How am I cute?”

“You just are. Pretty, too. But really cute now.” Minhee utters while staring straight into Junho’s eyes.

Junho tries to pull away his hands from Minhee’s grasp to cover his face but Minhee keeps his hold tight and doesn’t want to let go. It’s not everyday you’d see Junho this flustered, moreover that he’s the cause of it.

“I don’t know how you’re able to stomach saying that without feeling embarrassed.”

“What can I say? I’m a sweet talker and a charmer.” Minhee flashes Junho a sleazy grin that earns a chuckle from the older boy.

“I think it’s shameless.” Junho teases him, who seemingly got over his mortification already.

Minhee pouts. “Why don’t we head back so I can prove to you that I really am charming?”

“Just say you’re feeling hot already.” Junho shakes his head and tugs Minhee to continue their walk towards his place.

He lets himself get dragged, mildly surprised that he hadn’t minded standing under the sun for who knows how long it was. Tentatively, Minhee attempts to intertwine their fingers, giving Junho the option to let go.

The older boy easily slots their fingers together, and Minhee smiles to himself. What if I told you I just want to be with you and maybe kiss you senseless?

He decides to save it for another day.