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sunday morning

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Jaehyun doesn’t really like to toot his own horn or anything but sometimes, when he’s bored and succumbing to his daydreams, he imagines that he is famous and being interviewed on a nationally televised talk show. It’s an honest pastime, really, one that allows him to think about who he truly is. After all, the deepest conversations are the ones you have with yourself.

The scenarios often differ and the reason for his fame is always obscure. Maybe he dropped out of school to become a teenage heartthrob musician or perhaps he’s on track to become the next Korean Mark Zuckerburg. Whatever it is, he is sitting on a comfortable but expensive seat, answering questions about dumb shit that people want to know about celebrities these days. He thinks the interviewer would look a little like Dr. Phil and Ellen Degeneres combined, nice but a little creepy, in a way that all talk show hosts are. The interviewer will lean forward and ask: “Jaehyun, what is something you are very good at?” And then Jaehyun will smile to himself and say:

“Well, not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think I’m pretty good at reading people.”

There’s a lot of lies and exaggerations one can tell about themselves, but this is something that Jaehyun is confident to say is true. People are very simple, like books, and every gesture, every movement, every action is like splashing ink on a page, telling stories that most do not even bother to observe.

Jaehyun, however, observes. He smiles and nods and steps into the background ever so slightly, often mistaken for shyness when really all he wants is a better view of the show. It’s astounding how a casual conversation between two friends at the cafeteria can offer more depth and meaning than three seasons of a flimsy TV romance. Maybe, Jaehyun thinks, he should’ve been an English major. The things he’s picked up from people who don’t think they’re being heard, being watched, can make even the most seasoned author gasp. There’s nothing on television these days that could possibly be more entertaining than the people who already exist around him.

Like any good reader, Jaehyun has developed a type for what he likes to read the most. Loud ones, mostly, who seem to wear their hearts on their sleeves but underneath, have so, so much more to hide. It’s fun, peeling back those layers, an unlimited amount of pages to read, because these people, they never stop talking. But the quiet ones will do too, seemingly blank pages who betray their emotions in the subtlest of eyebrow raises, a slight quirk of the lips, and the softest of whimpers.

People just have so much to say, even if they don’t express it in words. People are simple and readable, and Jaehyun has always been a great listener.

 

-

 

Fact: Jaehyun has never been able to completely read Doyoung.

There’s just something about the way his mouth is constantly twisted in a frown, how he peppers his speech with spades of disinterest, that deeply unsettles Jaehyun. He says the most absurd yet truthful things at the worst times for reasons that Jaehyun can’t even fathom and this fact simply irks him beyond measure. Doyoung is unreadable, indecipherable, and Jaehyun has never made it beyond the first page.

The beginning of fall semester brings a plethora of party invitations, everything from house ragers to apartment hangouts, all meant to take advantage of Syllabus Week, the one time that absolutely no one had anything to do. The smoking and drinking is to be expected. What Jaehyun doesn’t expect, however, is Doyoung, walking through the front door with a fake smile plastered on his face, mingling with people as if just four months ago, their friend group didn’t experience the largest schism known to mankind.

Doyoung looks thin and his hair is ink black, much more preferable than the awful shade of orange he had dyed it last year. Light from the kitchen floods into the hallway and from here, Jaehyun can tell that he’s got those same beady eyes and a prominent cupid’s bow that he has always found, for some strange reason, wildly attractive.

Once he’s through the formalities, Doyoung ducks into the kitchen for a cup of whatever alcohol Taeyong had put in the punch bowl and his face is suddenly stricken as he stands aloof in the back of the crowd, making it obvious that he’d rather be anywhere but here. Jaehyun takes one look at the pinched expression on Doyoung’s face and has to repress the urge to roll his eyes so hard, they almost fall out. 

(“And what is it that you hate the most?” the interviewer asks, her/his plastic smile threatening to crack under the big studio lights.

Jaehyun’s expression will tighten, like he’s a little uncomfortable but still handsome, always handsome. Even when he’s not famous, Jaehyun is good-looking. He knows.

“People who don’t introduce themselves first,” he answers.)

“Doyoung,” Jaehyun greets, making the effort even though he shouldn’t have to. This is Taeyong’s apartment and he is Taeyong’s friend. He had helped send out the Facebook invites and carry in the cases of beer. Not that guest lists were strict for things like this, but it is odd, even to Jaehyun, that Doyoung would show his face around here.

“Jaehyun,” Doyoung acknowledges, and the expression of his face and his entire body screams that he desperately wants to leave. Jaehyun is more than fine with this because there is nothing about Doyoung that he finds particularly interesting, nothing that would make him want to convince him to stay. Except maybe the way his chiseled jaw stands out harshly on his soft skin, or the milky collarbones which peek out from the collar of his shirt. Doyoung is wearing a dark button-up, open at the top, his chest toned and lean, but Jaehyun drags his gaze back up to Doyoung’s eyes, piercing and all too unreadable, and reminds himself that Doyoung has always had the personality of a wet sock.

“Funny seeing you here,” Jaehyun says. It comes out harsher than he intended but his words are reasonable. It is funny, hilarious even, that Doyoung is standing here, in Taeyong’s apartment. He would look much more at home in Sicheng’s place, or the house that Ten shares with all his favorite dance crew members. Better yet, why is Doyoung not in his own apartment tonight? He did always like to host the quiet nights in.

Doyoung laughs, a short huff, and his impatience is not lost on Jaehyun. Doyoung has always hated beating around the bush, preferring to get straight to the point instead. He came here tonight for a reason. For something. Doyoung always wants something, Jaehyun just doesn’t know what. He’s never been able to guess correctly.

“Is it so hard to believe that I wanted to see you?” Doyoung asks, and Jaehyun doesn’t know if he’s going blind or if that’s an actual, genuine smile on Kim Doyoung’s face.

Jaehyun smiles back in response, half-assed but amicable enough in the darkness of Taeyong’s living room, surrounded by peers and Yuta’s abhorrent party playlist. There are other, far more interesting people in this apartment to read, but Jaehyun has never really been able to look away from Doyoung, even when Doyoung has deliberately closed his covers and shuttered himself away.

Jaehyun holds Doyoung’s gaze for a moment and the way the light hits his eyes— it looks almost wistful. Like the last dying breaths of summer before autumn takes over, Jaehyun feels the rationality leave his body as he proposes:

“Let’s get out of here.”

 

-

 

Unlike Jaehyun, Doyoung dislikes people. He dislikes being around them, talking to them, and most of all, getting to know them. He keeps a tight circle of friends and anyone on its periphery might as well be dead, because it’s never been in Doyoung’s character to give attention to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

It’s for this reason that Doyoung lives alone, a small one-bedroom on the edge of campus, not too far from Taeyong’s. Jaehyun can only be thankful that there are no roommates around to hear the embarrassingly loud groan he emits when Doyoung grabs his hair and pulls him in for a dirty, open-mouthed kiss.

It’s quick work, getting from the door to the bed. Doyoung empties his pockets before unbuttoning his jeans, unceremoniously dropping his keys onto the dresser and with it, a pack of cigarettes.

Jaehyun wants to frown. Does Doyoung still smoke? Or does he only do it in select times, when he’s out drinking with friends or on the verge of a breakdown, anxious and stressed? Does Doyoung experience a lot of stress these days? He has always been high-strung, cautious and wary of fucking everything, but then Doyoung whines, high in the back of his throat, and Jaehyun can only think about pressing him deeper into the sheets.

Doyoung has a lot of habits but Jaehyun’s favorite is the way he tries to swallow his gasps, broken whimpers as Jaehyun grips his hips harshly, fucking him at an agonizing pace.

“Jaehyun, more,” he says, barely a whisper, and Jaehyun can feel his hot breath when he leans forward to press a kiss to Doyoung’s neck.

It’s delirious, the warmth of his skin, the tight, wet heat that Jaehyun fucks into, slow at first, until he can’t take it anymore and props Doyoung’s leg up onto his shoulder, thrusting in deeper and harder and faster. They had barely needed preparation, for Doyoung came prepared. He had left his apartment that night with clear intentions, and now he is back in his own bed, harvesting the reward of his efforts: Jaehyun, on his knees, giving him exactly what he wants.

How was Jaehyun supposed to know? It’s been months since they’ve seen each other, even longer since they’ve done something like this. He received no preamble, no warning, not even a text. A simple see you tonight? would’ve been nice, but when has Doyoung ever been polite like that? He’s a wildcard, unreadable and unpredictable, in the exact way that Jaehyun likes and hates so much.

“How long were you thinking about this?” he asks, breathless as he works to keep up the pace. He imagines Doyoung, alone in this bedroom, fingering himself in anticipation, and then getting dressed as if he hadn’t just opened himself up to the thought of Jaehyun fucking him. Showing up at Taeyong’s doorstep as if he was just casually dropping by. But Doyoung never casually does anything. He is a wolf, who hunts with intention, and it’s downright thrilling to know that Doyoung has been thinking about him just as much as he has been thinking about Doyoung.

Part of what makes this so fun is how much Doyoung absolutely hates making too much noise. Even in the privacy of his own home, shame floods his eyes when he lets a moan escape. Jaehyun relishes the fact that he can make Doyoung lose this much control, just a simple surge forward enough to make Doyoung grasp at his biceps, his entire frame shaking with pleasure as Jaehyun drives into him, harder and harder.

“A long time,” Doyoung confesses. “I’ve been thinking about this for so long, Jaehyun —”

He comes right then, throwing his head back in a silent moan as he releases all over his stomach. Jaehyun pulls out, letting the dead weight of Doyoung’s legs drop to the bed as he kneels over his chest, stroking himself to completion as Doyoung watches him, eyes barely open and lips parted in anticipation.

And then Jaehyun comes too, harder than he has in months, all over Doyoung’s collarbones and neck and mouth, right on the cupid’s bow that he likes so much.

 

-

 

Doyoung looks like he’s on the verge of kicking Jaehyun out, which is fine because he was leaving anyways. He would love to stay and bathe in the sunlight, tucked away in Doyoung’s sheets (they had done that once, long ago, and it was the first time that Jaehyun understood what people meant when they talked about Sunday mornings), but the sun is about to rise and Johnny is a psychopath who likes to wake up early on weekends. While it’s true that Johnny is his oldest friend and would do his best to understand, this entire ordeal is something that Jaehyun would rather not have to explain to anyone.

Jaehyun spends his entire walk home wondering if and how he should keep this a secret. The decision is robbed from him, however, when he walks through his front door and comes face to face with a very much awake Johnny, working on his laptop at the kitchen table. It’s Syllabus Week, no one has homework. Like he said, his friend is a fucking psychopath.

Jaehyun knows what Johnny is wondering before he even asks:

“Where were you?”

“Taeyong’s,” he replies, taking his shoes off. It’s a flimsy excuse and he knows it, but there’s always been a childish part of Jaehyun that believes it’s always good to try his best.

(“Best efforts,” he would say, sending a dazzling smile to the audience.

“Even when it looks like things won’t work out?” the interviewer asks.

“Especially when it looks like things won’t work out,” Jaehyun replies. “I don’t want to experience any regrets.”)

Johnny scoffs at his lie.

“That ended hours ago,” he says. “Who did you fuck?”

Jaehyun raises a brow, because while he did expect Johnny to find out, he didn’t think he’d find out this fast.

“How do you know I fucked someone?” Jaehyun grumbles, taking a seat next to Johnny. He peeks over the screen to see what Johnny is working on. Microsoft Word is open, halfway through an essay that probably isn’t due for weeks. His roommate really is something else.

“You might want to check the mirror,” Johnny says, tapping the left side of his neck.

Jaehyun self-consciously slaps a hand over his own neck, then removes it because Johnny has already seen all there is to see. He swipes his phone to the front-facing camera and grimaces when he spots a purpling bruise right under his jaw. He didn’t think that Doyoung had bit that hard, but Jaehyun had clearly been preoccupied with other things in the moment.

There’s a slim possibility that Doyoung didn’t do this on purpose, but Jaehyun wouldn’t bet on it. Doyoung is sharp and likes to do things with intention. Apparently, he wanted to broadcast to the world what exactly Jaehyun had been up to that night but again, he cannot fathom the reason why. After all, it had been Doyoung who broke things off, on a clear night in May, not quite heartbreak but something very, very similar.

“Who was it?” Johnny asks again. “Someone cute with long hair?” Jaehyun rolls his eyes because he hasn’t kissed girls since high school.

He considers brushing Johnny off with a non-committal answer. No one important would have been good enough. Johnny would’ve shrugged his shoulders and gone back to his essay, no questions asked. But Jaehyun is a curious being who likes to push buttons and he wants to know if Johnny will react in the same way Jaehyun suspects.

“I was at Doyoung’s,” he replies airily, and then chuckles at the way Johnny’s eyebrows very nearly fly off his forehead.

“Are you serious?” Johnny says, straightening in his seat.

Jaehyun just nods, mustering the most flippant expression he can. He holds Johnny’s gaze, challenging him to say something derogatory, but as usual, Johnny doesn’t rise to the bait. He never does. It’s good, quite comforting actually, to know that Johnny will always be the same boring person that he met all those years ago.

“You’re being serious,” Johnny states, deflating in his chair. He sighs loudly before closing his laptop, the sound echoing through their quiet apartment. “Don’t let Yuta find out.”

“Of course not,” Jaehyun scowls. That was a given, had always been a given, and he is suddenly tired of this conversation. He stands up to head to his bedroom. “I’m going to sleep. Good night.”

“Technically, it’s morning,” Johnny mutters, gathering his things as well. He’s probably going to get ready for his Saturday morning run.

(“Oh, yeah,” Jaehyun would say. “Every morning, at six. Like clockwork.”

“You can’t be serious,” the interviewer exclaims. “That’s some amazing self-discipline.”

“Right?” Jaehyun agrees. “My college roommate is definitely a psychopath.”)

He changes clothes and drops into bed feeling mildly dissatisfied. What did he expect Johnny to say? That he shouldn’t do what he’s doing? Johnny isn’t naive, he won’t tell Jaehyun was he already knows. But maybe Jaehyun wanted to be scolded, to be told to stay away from Doyoung. Maybe he would actually listen to Johnny, because he sure as hell didn’t listen to himself when his conscious told him that it was a bad idea.

He tosses and turns but eventually falls asleep an hour later. He drifts away, thinking about the curve of Doyoung’s lips and the mild disappointment in Johnny’s eyes. Doyoung might be a wet sock, but Johnny has never had any trouble with sucking the fun out of everything.

 

-

 

People may ponder and speculate the possibility of World War 3, but what they don’t know is that it already happened, inside an off-campus apartment with Yuta and Sicheng’s names on the lease. The final battle culminated in the country’s loudest screaming match, several broken plates, and a close call with the local police. Three years of love and commitment, down the fucking drain.

Jaehyun remembers it clearly, the tears, the hurt, and most of all, the amount of time he spent helping with damage control because he didn’t get a wink of sleep that night. The next morning, he went straight from Yuta’s to his 8AM chemistry midterm. He aced it, of course, but it certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience and only served to further color the entire ordeal as something he’d rather forget.

But he can’t forget, none of them can. How can they? The scramble for peace in the aftermath was pathetic, like children choosing sides in a messy divorce. Jaehyun has always liked Sicheng, liked how quiet and introspective he is, how resilient he must be to date someone like Yuta. But he has known Yuta for far longer, and the moment he received that fateful phone call, answering to Yuta, in the smallest and most broken of voices, asking him to come over— I really messed up this time — there was no question as to where he would stand when this all blew over.

Collateral damage, he thought, silently mourning the opportunities lost when Sicheng texted him one day that they should probably stop studying for exams together. Now his physics grade will pay for it, but if it wipes the frown off Yuta’s face, then Jaehyun isn’t going to argue.

What he really mourns is the loss of Doyoung. Taeyong did too, the two of them always did get along strangely well. But unlike Taeyong, Jaehyun doesn’t let the memory of Doyoung fade into the periphery of his past. He can’t, not with the image of Doyoung, sleepy in the early moments of morning, beckoning him back to bed, burned into his eyelids. They were something, on the verge of becoming something more— and then they were nothing.

And they are still nothing. Or at least, that’s what they should be.

 

-

 

Yuta is loud when he greets Jaehyun, expressive and grand in his gestures. If Yuta was a book, his pages would number the thousands and even someone like Jaehyun would have trouble reading them all.

“Heard you got laid last night,” he says, wiggling his eyebrows without an ounce of subtlety, and Jaehyun thinks about all the plausible methods he can employ to kill Johnny.

“You’re in a good mood,” Jaehyun comments, half as distraction, half in honest observation. Yuta seems happy, more carefree than he’s been in months, and it’s a good look on him. If Jaehyun is going to suffer for the sake of his friend, then he might as well reap its benefits.

“I am in a very good mood,” Yuta announces. “Want to guess why?”

There are many conceivable answers to that question, for Yuta is a simple human that is easily pleased. But Jaehyun knows better and he idly entertains two scenarios. It’s either A.) Yuta got baked in Taeyong’s bedroom (which is only significant because Taeyong buys really good weed, although he refuses to tell anyone who his seller is. Jaehyun has a running theory that it’s because Taeyong himself is the seller) or B.) Yuta also got laid last night. The second option seems unlikely, because while Yuta has always been open with his affection, sex is different. Sex to him is important, intimate, and he’s probably not ready to have it, especially when less than five months ago, he’d just broken up with—

“Alright, you got me,” Yuta says, holding his hands up in the exaggerated manner of mock surrender. “I had a date last night. And it went really, really well.”

“Did you now?” Taeyong asks, arriving just in time to save Jaehyun from bearing the weight of Yuta alone. “Care to reveal their identity?”

“Nope!” Yuta replies, bringing a finger to his lips. “I’m keeping this under wraps until I can figure out what’s going on. Not trying to get anyone else involved this time.”

The silent apology is there, ridiculously obvious in this conversation between three close friends, and this is why Jaehyun can’t ever be mad at Yuta, why he knows he’ll go to great lengths to protect his friend. Yuta went through the worst breakup of the century and he still feels bad for asking his friends for help. He thinks it’s his fault that everyone split into two sides, and while it kind of is his fault, it’s really truthfully not. For something like this, everyone and no one takes a bit of the blame and the entire thing, really, is so unfair.

“Don’t worry about it,” Taeyong says as he waves a dismissive hand, ever the one to diffuse a tense atmosphere. Jaehyun believes that every squad needs a Taeyong, because no group of friends would ever survive without someone like him. Someone who is friendly and caring yet knows how to lay down the rules.

“But I’m not the only one who scored last night,” Yuta grins, and Jaehyun bristles from the sudden attention. He doesn’t blush, though, far too old to be embarrassed about things he has no control over.

“Could’ve fooled me,” Taeyong comments. “The hickey is pretty bad but you don’t have the same glow that Yuta has. Maybe you should try your luck again.”

He clearly meant it as a joke, but the thought just hits a little too close to home.

“Yeah,” Jaehyun laughs bitterly, running a hand through his hair. “Maybe I’ll try again next week.”

 

-

 

The end of Doyoung and Jaehyun was nowhere near as intense or loud as the breakup between Yuta and Sicheng, but somehow, it was much worse because nobody was allowed to know.

They’d just fucked, the post-exam agony becoming too overwhelming to simply bear alone. Johnny had left the day before, flying overseas to the internship of his dreams, and Jaehyun had been left by himself to stew in his own anxiety. Final grades didn’t come out for another week, and Jaehyun’s entry in an honors program was contingent on the results. When there are no people around to read, Jaehyun will analyze himself and inevitably, he’ll overthink his future. It’s a vulnerable state, one he truly hates, so it doesn’t take much thinking, in fact, it took no thinking at all to text Doyoung a simple come over. He was at the doorstep within minutes.

The midnight air is uncharacteristically cool for May, but Jaehyun is thankful for the breeze as they sit on the concrete floor of his apartment balcony, passing a cigarette between the two of them. It’s one of those menthols that Doyoung likes so much and Jaehyun thinks that this summer, he’ll try to convince Doyoung to quit smoking. It’s a terribly guilty pleasure of his, thinking about the possibility of a future between them, but under the moonlight, Doyoung looks absolutely radiant. His eyes flutter shut as he takes a drag, bringing his thin wrist over the edge of the railing and tapping out the ashes. He exhales a stream of smoke and then says:

“I think we should stop seeing each other.”

Jaehyun always had a feeling that this was coming, in fact he’s surprised that it hasn’t happened sooner. They’re both terrible people with too much pride and it was only a matter of time before one of them broke.

But that doesn’t mean that Jaehyun wants this to end, even though it has to, and right there, in that split second, he decides to drag this out as far as he can. If he’s going, then he’ll go kicking and screaming. After all, he’s always thought that it’s good to try your best, especially when it looks like things won’t work out.

“Why?” he asks, and it’s a stupid question because the answer is obvious. He knows why, they both do. There’s nothing good that can come from this, sneaking around like they’re committing the gravest of sins. Like their friends wouldn’t be hurt if people found out what they were doing. But Jaehyun needs to start the conversation somehow, and he needs to position himself in a way that’s advantageous to what he’s about to pull next.

The corners of Doyoung’s mouth pull into a deep frown. “Why would you ask that?” he says, stubbing the cigarette out under his foot. “I can’t keep doing this. Not to Sicheng.”

Jaehyun snorts. He’s doing this for Sicheng? What a fucking martyr. Kim Doyoung must think that he’s oh so righteous, doing this for a friend, for friendship. What are friends when they’ve robbed you of autonomy, of pursuing your desires? What else can they be but thieves, far from deserving the title of friends?

“Oh,” Jaehyun says, reeling his arrow back for a final attack, the absolute worst he can muster. “Because you think you have a chance with Sicheng now?”

And Doyoung has always carried an impressive air of indifference around him, but Jaehyun’s seething comment hits him so hard, he physically flinches. Doyoung, so sharp and so resilient, who somehow can’t take the simple fucking truth when it’s spoken out of Jaehyun’s sneering mouth.

“It’s not that,” he says, voice fracturing into pieces, and Jaehyun feels a sick sort of satisfaction that the first time he ever sees Doyoung’s facade break is when he’s close to being completely destroyed from the inside. “You know it’s not like that.”

And Jaehyun does know. Doyoung had made it clear countless times, although the number of people he’s admitted this secret to probably amounts to less than three. There are no lingering feelings left for Sicheng, only their friendship that runs stronger than the highest of mountains, the deepest of valleys. Perhaps it’s strong because of that, but Jaehyun doesn’t know if that’s really it, nor does he care to find out. What he does know is that first loves hurt the most and finally, he knows that Doyoung, whose only crime was falling for his best friend, is capable of being hurt.

“You should leave,” he says, gluing his eyes to the street. He refuses to look Doyoung in the face, for it would be all too easy to break under those eyes.

He hears Doyoung go, heading inside to get dressed. He gathers his things, keys jingling as he pockets them, lingering in the hallway for one last time.

“I’m sure you did fine on your exams,” Doyoung says. “You shouldn’t worry so much.” 

And then finally, he leaves with a resounding click of the front door.

Jaehyun exhales deeply, both relieved and extremely burdened at the same time. It’s really the end. No more secrets, no more ambiguity, and also, he thinks bitterly, no more Doyoung.

(“The last time I cried?” Jaehyun asks, making a show of looking contemplative for the cameras. “That’s quite a difficult question.

“I know,” the interviewer acknowledges. “That’s why we ask it.”

“Well,” Jaehyun begins. “Imagine me, twenty-one years old, sitting on the floor of my apartment balcony. There’s half a cigarette next to me, but don’t get me wrong— it wasn’t mine, I don’t like to smoke…”)

 

-

 

Jaehyun’s summer had been horribly boring, so dull that he felt like crawling out of his own skin. Doyoung had accepted a research position at another university, hours away, and perhaps it was a good thing that there would be some distance placed between them for a number of months.

Jaehyun wastes away in the school library, becoming intimately familiar with tall stacks of bookshelves because it was an easy desk job that paid extra for any students willing to work through summer break. He hangs out with Yuta mostly, and sometimes Taeyong, when the boy isn’t swamped with assignments from his summer courses. Then Johnny flies back early and the four of them take a train to the city to visit their favorite upperclassmen: Jongin, who tells them that working life isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, and Baekhyun, who counters that there’s actually a lot to look forward to, but they should still enjoy their youth.

Jaehyun doesn’t feel like he’s enjoying his youth at all. He feels empty, like he’s holding his breath and waiting for something, something that will never ever happen. Maybe in another universe, his wish might be granted. But definitely not this one, and certainly not now. 

It’s funny, he thinks. Just fucking hilarious how summer is the one period of time he has to put himself together without the distraction of school, but those months mattered little when he crumbled into pieces the moment he saw Doyoung walk through the door.

 

-

 

“Doyoung, what are we doing?”

They’re laying side by side, in nothing but t-shirts and boxers, on the bare surface of Jaehyun’s mattress. In their earlier haste, desperately chasing their orgasms like inexperienced teenagers, they had soiled the sheets, which are now in the wash, along with whatever clothing they were wearing at the time.

“We’re waiting for the laundry,” Doyoung replies simply. He ignores Jaehyun’s scoff as he gets off the bed and rummages through the dresser, fishing a pack of cigarettes and a lighter out of the messy crap in Jaehyun’s drawer.

“What the fuck?” Jaehyun says, watching incredulously as Doyoung opens the window and lights a smoke. He ducks his head outside to take a drag because he knows Jaehyun hates having the smell settle into his furniture. Doyoung isn’t a polite person, but sometimes, he can be considerate.

“Don’t know if you’ve noticed,” he replies. “But I always hide a pack somewhere in your room. For emergencies like this, when I’ve forgotten to bring my own.”

Then Doyoung grins, cheeky and dimpled with the cigarette perched precariously between two fingers, and Jaehyun thinks his heart might cave in on itself.

“What are we doing?” he tries again.

This time, Doyoung doesn’t ignore his question. He pauses, then sighs, deep in his chest, and Jaehyun shoots him a sympathetic smile because yeah, he feels that way too.

“I don’t know,” Doyoung says quietly.

It’s not often that the great and sharp Kim Doyoung admits defeat. Jaehyun thinks that he would’ve enjoyed taking him apart like this, if it didn’t mean breaking his own ribs and handing his heart over in the process.

“I can’t answer that question,” Doyoung continues. “I need more time.” More time to decide if this is worth it.

It’s golden hour now, the moment of sunset that lies just before twilight, when everything is doused in a brilliant, honeyed hue. Jaehyun knows that there’s little else that’s prettier than this: Doyoung, sincere and unmade, looking out into the world from Jaehyun’s bedroom windowsill while the light hits his face just right.

If it was up to Jaehyun, he would have replied in a heartbeat. Yes, it was worth it. With Doyoung, it was always worth it.

He imagines that falling in love is a lot like suffocating. First, the water surrounds your feet, slowly rising up to your chest. There would be a brief moment, where it levels at your neck, that you know it’s too late. And then it would engulf you completely, drowning you deep at the bottom.

In reality, it’s nothing like that. It’s a clear sky overlooking the dry shore, waves barely coming up to where they should. And then, all of a sudden, the tide pulls you under, a sweet rush of water straight to your lungs. 

And that’s the thing about loving someone you don’t have.

Jaehyun hasn’t been able to breathe in months.

 

-

 

Parties are a messy affair and Jaehyun hates cleaning up, so there’s an unspoken agreement with Johnny to keep these gatherings small. Just their friends, people they liked, and please ask the hosts before inviting any other guests. It’s a faultless system and Jaehyun has never had to clean anyone’s puke except his own off the bathroom floor.

So when Sicheng and Doyoung walk in through the door together, Jaehyun immediately turns to Johnny and hisses,

“What the fuck are you trying to pull?”

Johnny just shrugs, infuriatingly calm.

“It’s an olive branch. I’m tired of picking sides, and I’m sure you are too.”

“But Yuta—“

“Yuta is an adult.” Johnny sounds stern and Jaehyun begrudgingly thinks he’ll make a great father someday. “He can make a mess of his own apartment but he won’t pick a fight in ours.”

“You’d better make sure of that,” Jaehyun grits out, refusing to concede. “What made you change your mind?”

“A lot of things,” Johnny says, rolling his eyes. “Now go talk to Doyoung.”

Right then, Doyoung walks through the kitchen door with a mixed drink in his hand, laughing gleefully at something Taeyong has just said (when did those two start talking to again?)

It seems to be a common theme these days, Doyoung coming in through doors, looking striking and beautiful and capable of absolutely ruining Jaehyun’s life, if he really wanted to. Maybe he already has. 

Doyoung is wearing a t-shirt, layered with an open blue button-up to help temper the moderate weather. His legs are long, always so long, in black jeans, and Jaehyun can spot the outline of a pack of cigarettes in his right pocket.

He belatedly realizes that the shirt Doyoung is wearing belongs to him. It’s white, the fabric is soft, and Doyoung had complimented it the last time he wore it. Maybe he accidentally took it home with him when he was over last week, when they had thrown the sheets and their clothes into the wash—

No. There are no accidents here. Doyoung never does anything by mistake. Dread fills Jaehyun’s stomach because this is Doyoung, sharp and knowing, always doing things with intention and reason. And Jaehyun doesn’t think he’s ready to face those reasons, at least not sober.

He heads to the kitchen, curtly nods at Taeyong and brushes right past Doyoung when he crosses the threshold. He tries not to think about how soft Doyoung’s hair had felt between his fingers last night as he uncaps a bottle and makes himself the strongest drink known to mankind.

 

-

 

Jaehyun has never been a loud drunk, which is why drinking is often the best way to subdue himself.

It’s not the same relief he gets when he’s high, but it clouds his mind in a helpful kind of way, dulls the environment around him so it’s just a little easier to handle everything. If this was any other party, Jaehyun would’ve left by now. Probably, he realizes crossly, to spend the night at Doyoung’s.

But this isn’t any other party and Jaehyun can’t just leave. He has to stay and laugh and talk, posturing like the good host Johnny wants him to be because it’s post midterm season, for fuck’s sake, let go and stop stressing out about nothing. So until the last person leaves, Jaehyun has to stay out here, pretending like the sight of Doyoung right across the room doesn’t fulfill all his guilty wishes of months past.

Jaehyun’s body on alcohol processes time too fast and too slow, all at once. Conversation with people drips by leisurely, meaningless and casual, and then he’s manhandled into taking group shots with his friends, although what they’re toasting to, he doesn’t know. The last sip of vodka tastes like water, and that’s when Jaehyun knows he’s close to getting trashed.

“You need to slow down,” Doyoung grumbles, and he’s suddenly in front of Jaehyun with a cup of water. 

He thinks about slapping the cup out of Doyoung’s hand, just to be an asshole. Then he realizes that this is his apartment, and it would be his kitchen floor that he would have to clean up later, so he accepts it instead.

“Why didn’t you stop me sooner,” Jaehyun croaks, downing half the water in one go. He’s not going to black out or anything, but his body will definitely pay for this tomorrow.

Doyoung clicks his tongue. “Because I need you to be drunk for this.”

Under the fluorescent lights of his kitchen, Doyoung looks so unabashedly good. His cheeks are flushed the perfect kind of pink and his outfit suits him so well that if Doyoung broke up with him now, Jaehyun thinks that he would tell Doyoung to keep the shirt, it looked better on him anyways.

Realization hits him, like a slow moving train.

“Wait— I need to be drunk for what?”

“For this—,” Doyoung says, and then he steps into Jaehyun’s space.

There’s no fanfare or flourish, nothing ceremonious about this at all. It’s just Doyoung, pressed so close that they might almost kiss, at a time and place where they should definitely not kiss.

Jaehyun brings a hand to Doyoung’s shoulder, intending to push him away but not quite yet finding the resolve to do so. “Doyoung, I— ”

“Please,” Doyoung says, simply and plainly. “I just want to be happy.”

And then he brings a hand to the back of Jaehyun’s neck and pulls him in for a kiss, light and chaste but lingering enough that there’s no question as to what this really is.

Doyoung kisses him in an apartment full of all their friends and Jaehyun’s heart soars.

 

-

 

“Oh,” Taeyong says, tapping a thoughtful finger to his chin. “I’ve known for awhile. You’re not the only one who stayed friends with Doyoung, you know? Although I wouldn’t exactly call you two friends.”

And Jaehyun blanches because for once in his life, he realizes that he’s maybe not as observant as he thinks he is.

“What’s going on here?” Doyoung asks, coming to circle his arm around Jaehyun’s waist. It’s intimate and affectionate and Jaehyun thinks he could die happy like this, with Doyoung wrapped around him in every way.

“Not much,” Taeyong replies, winking before taking a big sip from his red solo cup. “Jaehyun is just having a revelation of sorts.”

Doyoung frowns, a cute pout that Jaehyun would totally kiss away if not for the words that leave his mouth next.

“Is he spacing out again? Like he’s daydreaming about being interviewed on a talk show, as if he’s famous or something?”

“I— huh, what are you talking about?” Jaehyun splutters. “I don’t do that.”

“No, you definitely do,” Doyoung disagrees, and he reaches up to run a hand through Jaehyun’s fluffy hair. “Because I do it too.”

 

-

 

“Okay, final question,” the interviewer says, sitting up with anticipation. This is it, the juiciest tidbit of information saved for last. Hypothetical ratings for this imaginary talk show will definitely go up after this episode.

“What’s it like being in love?”

“That’s an easy one,” Jaehyun laughs. He sits back comfortably and thinks about Doyoung, always about Doyoung.

“It’s like Sunday mornings, but every day and all the time, for the rest of my life.”

And then he will smile, because he knows it’s true.