A loud pop is heard when Jae pulls the cork out of the bottle of champagne he acquired from his last work. He rarely consumes anything nearly as lavish as this, but he figures no other occasion warrants it more than the celebration of Minkyung’s newfangled freedom.
“Congratulations!” Jae howls, pouring the drink into two oversized ceramic mugs that came with the apartment he’s renting.
“Thank you, thank you!” Minkyung is laughing giddily next to him, so close he catches a whiff of her shampoo. It smells like peaches and it makes him a little dizzy, but he manages.
“A toast,” Jae starts, pushing the yellow mug towards Minkyung as he raises his own cup. “To Freedom. To finally quitting your toxic job and joining the Unemployed Crew.”
Their mugs meet with a clink before they drink.
“Is it weird that I’m this excited over being jobless?” Minkyung asks, a pensive smile on her lips.
Jae tuts. “Nah. That place was a hellhole. They abused you. They didn’t even recognize all the hard work you’ve done and gave the position to someone else just because they were an Ivy League graduate. That’s fucked up.”
Minkyung sighs, lifting her knees up to rest her chin on them. “I don’t know. Maybe I just didn’t deserve it.”
Jae deflates, taking in his friend’s self-deprecating comment. But then he perks up, determined to lift the mood. “No, no. You’re amazing. That company is stupid, those people were stupid. You’ll find someplace better, Minky. You’re an ace. Any place would be lucky to have you, and they’d be stupid not to hire you.” He smiles sweetly and genuinely. He really truly does believe this.
“Yeah.” Minkyung snorts and smiles, the kind that makes Jae’s heart soften. “You’re right. Thanks, Jae.”
She scratches her cheek. “I mean at least now I have all this free time to finally start planning things for Eunwoo’s bachelorette party. God, I still need to buy gifts.”
“Speaking of gifts.” Jae holds a finger up. “Uno momento por favor.” He says as he decides that now would be the perfect time to give Minkyung his gift. So he shuffles over to his bedroom to retrieve a small gift bag and clumsily jumps back into the couch.
“Wait—no! You shouldn’t have!” Minkyung exclaims, even though her hands are already reaching for the gift.
Jae shrugs casually. “You’re right, but I did anyway because I think you’re kinda swell and I owe you for the teapot you bought my neighbor when I forgot I had to have a gift for her going away party, despite not having exchanged two words with her since I moved in.”
“Okay, you just made this sound a lot less special like a present and a lot more obligatory like a payment.” Minkyung gives him a pointed look.
“Yeah well it ain’t your birthday. Dang woman, just open it!”
Minkyung giggles and carefully rips the top of the bag open. The way her face lights up at the sight of his gift has the corners of Jae’s lips pulling upwards as well.
“Oh my God! How did you find this?” She pulls out the small stuffed keychain from the bag and holds it against her cheek. “It looks exactly like the one I lost two years ago.”
“Just randomly saw it when I was passing by this store the other day. It was supposed to be a Christmas gift but since you recently acquired freedom, I figured it would be the perfect time to give it to you.”
The part where he had effortlessly found it in a store is a complete lie, because the truth was he had probably scoured every anime-themed store in Los Angeles to find anything remotely similar to the one she’d lost. He doesn’t even want to think about the money he spent on Lyft rides to every location Google had pointed him to. His Youtube channel isn’t exactly the most ideal source of income. He barely has four thousand subscribers and he has to pay rent. So if anyone needs a steady paying job, it’s Jae.
In short, he’s never an inch above the line of being broke, and he’s pretty sure it’s going to be like that for the rest of his life if he continues to be careless. Or if he continues to care too much. Sometimes the latter can be so much worse.
“Thank you.” Minkyung beams at him like she has stars for eyes. This. This makes the trouble worth it, Jae thinks.
He feels something familiar bubbling in his chest, like overwhelming fondness and adoration, but he quickly demolishes them in favor of acting natural, which in Jae-world, means acting like a douchebag tool.
“It’s whatever. Anyway I figured my presence should be enough of a Christmas present. Consider yourself blessed.”
“I’m too happy to even attempt a retort so, consider yourself spared.” Minkyung reaches up to softly pinch the glorified cheek fat next to the bottom of his lips. Jae knows for a fact that anyone who tries to do this will be swatted away like a fruit fly, but since it’s Minkyung, he easily lets it slide. Her place in his life has earned this privilege, and Jae can let himself have these little bits of platonic intimacy.
When Jae realized that he had developed real, unadulterated feelings for his best friend, the first thing he did was desperately try to bottle them up and store them away in the back of his mind, like putting away an airtight jar of worms so nobody has to see it. Because if there’s anything that ruins friendships other than a competitive game of UNO, it’s feelings . And neither him nor Minkyung is particularly fond of card games.
He’s actually been doing well with the not ruining their friendship thing—if the thirty-two months, sixteen days (and counting) of survival after said realization is any indication. This is because he’s gotten pretty good at diminishing the little slivers of hope that manifest each time Minkyung looks at him a certain way or laughs at his lame jokes. It’s a reflex, like antihistamines and allergens. And Jae, he has a lot of allergies, but hope , he thinks, is the deadliest one.
It’s deadly to hope for anything more than friendship when it’s the only thing Jae has ever shared with Minkyung. The last thing he wants is to jeopardize that over the tiniest, microscopic possibility that she would return his feelings. Hell, he’d be lucky if she doesn’t stop being his friend altogether if she ever found out about it. And he isn’t, in any shape or form, equipped to handle not having Minkyung in his life.
“Alright. I should go.” Minkyung sets down her mug. The liquid inside is still close to full, and Jae has always admired her discipline when it comes to alcohol. “Rena is going to have a panic attack if I’m not home by the time she starts her nightly skincare routine.”
“I swear, she’s like, obsessed with you.” Jae quips, straightening up first so he can offer his hand to Minkyung. She takes it and pulls herself up off the floor.
“Trust me, it’s more like she’s obsessed with herself. But I love her anyway.” Minkyung snorts. “Bye, asshole.” She holds up the Luffy keychain and playfully wiggles it in front of Jae’s face.
“I’ll walk you out.” Jae offers.
“Nah it’s cool. Save your energy, old man. I’ll see you later.” She waves a hand and smiles.
“Yeah, see you.”
“Ideas. I need ideas!” Jae groans, tugging on his hair like a madman. It’s gotten so long and unruly now, and he thinks maybe he should finally heed Minkyung’s advice of getting that trim.
Dowoon looks up from the papers he’d been dutifully grading, and Jae briefly wonders how none of them in their close friend group ever saw Dowoon following in his sister’s footsteps as a teacher. “Ideas for what?” He asks.
“My next video.” Jae answers feebly.
“Ah I see.” Dowoon says, then continues to write red marks on his students’ papers.
Jae stares at him in disbelief, disappointed in himself more than anyone for expecting actual suggestions. “Thanks.” He wryly says.
“Weren’t you like doing covers and shit? Wasn’t that like your thing? Do you need song suggestions?” Sungjin barrages as he shuffles into the living room holding a plate of last night’s leftover pizza.
“It was. But it’s not working, and it’s not that fun doing pretty much the same thing for every video. I need something new.” Jae chews on his lip.
It wasn’t even Jae’s idea to start a Youtube channel. It was Brian’s. They were supposed to do it together. Brian’s face was supposed to be the perfect thumbnail bait that would lure people into their videos and watch him long enough to decide to stay for the actual content. Who would have thought that the guy would suddenly need to leave for Canada for a once in a lifetime internship offer? And even if Jae had been desperate to kickstart his Youtube career by exploiting Brian’s sharp visuals and otherworldly talents, he could never be the one to stop anyone, not one of his closest friends, from chasing his dreams.
The thing is, the channel had already garnered over one thousand subscribers by the time Brian had left, and more often than he’d like, he comes across comments asking where his insanely talented and good-looking friend was. But rather than wallowing in self-pity over the fact that he’ll always be second best to Brian Kang, he replies to each and every one of these comments with unmitigated professionalism, even when he sometimes berates himself for not pushing through with a Farewell video so people didn’t have to keep asking him in the first place. He also kind of regrets the fact that the channel is called JaehyungParkian. It’s a name born out of his own arrogance. Brian was just too nice to object, which again proved how much he’s better than Jae.
“So you’re going to stop doing song covers? How about original songs?” Sungjin helpfully suggests. And Jae has thought about it, but at this point, no one’s going to want to listen to an original song of his.
“I’m still going to do them from time to time. I just don’t want my channel to only be about them.” Jae shifts in his seat, the smell of Sungjin’s food wafting under his nose like pure seduction. But he remembers his stomach is acting up again, so he relents. “Like maybe I should do some vlog type things in between covers so shit doesn’t get tired out.”
In this exact moment, Wonpil emerges from the bathroom accompanied by the resounding flush of the toilet. “You need ideas for a new video?”
“I’m going to try and ignore the fact that you were listening in on us while you were doing your business and tell you that yes. I need new ideas.”
Wonpil moves over to situate himself between Jae and Sungjin. “I have a few ideas.”
Jae raises an eyebrow. “All right.” He rubs his hands together like a delectable meal has been placed before him. “Shoot.”
“You can do one of those challenge things.” Wonpil tells him.
Jae offers a tumultuous look. “What, like the Cinnamon Challenge?”
“Cinnamon Ch—what is this, 2012? And you call yourself a Youtuber?” Wonpil tuts, and Jae wants to thump him upside the head for sassing. But he concedes, fully aware that Wonpil would know a lot more about these things than he does.
“I mean stuff like, Try Not to Laugh, Try Not to Cry, The Whisper Challenge, Spicy Noodle Challenge, or the Beanboozled Challenge.” Wonpil diligently enumerates, as if Jae has the attention span to remember all of them at once.
“Wait wait, slow down. What the hell is a Whisper Challenge?” Jae asks, more out of disbelief than curiosity.
Wonpil grunts softly like he’s so close to calling Jae a Baby Boomer. “It’s when one person puts on noise cancelling headphones with loud music on while another person says certain words to them and they try to guess what it is.” He explains.
Jae gets the mechanics, but he doesn’t get how anybody would want to watch something so nonsensical. “That’s so lame, what the fuck.”
“I’m just telling you what’s popular!”
“Well tell me something else because I’m not doing that.”
At this point Dowoon is gathering his papers and preparing to move someplace else.
“Why don’t you try one of those challenges where you handcuff yourself to someone and have to stay like that for a whole day? That shit cracks me up.” Sungjin pipes in.
Jae sends him a pointed look. “I do what now?”
“You know, like, I watched one where the guy handcuffed himself with a total stranger, some chick he went on a blind date with, and it was hilarious.”
Jae is more surprised by the fact that Sungjin enjoys watching things like that, but he doesn’t question it or make any type of comment.
“Oh! Maybe do one with Minkyung. Handcuff yourself to your best friend for a day.” Wonpil excitedly chimes in. “It’ll be fun.”
The mention of Minkyung throws Jae into a curve. Just like that he starts to feel like a high school boy who had just heard the name of his crush. He inwardly composes himself in a split second before Wonpil or Sungjin notices anything off. His feelings for Minkyung are his, and his alone. No one else can know about it. “Nah. Minky’s not going to do it. She doesn’t even watch my videos.”
“Your best friend doesn’t watch your videos?” Wonpil pries.
“She said she already sees enough of my face, said she won’t watch unless I watch with her so she can make fun of me. And she knows for a fact that I hate watching myself.” Jae states. It’s hard not to be even a little disappointed about the fact that Minkyung couldn’t be bothered watching his videos, but he tells himself it’s not a big deal. She still supports him in other ways and it’s not like the songs he sang were dedicated to her (well, not all of them). And even if they were, she’d have no idea. “She shares the videos on her social media accounts at least.”
Sungjin bites off the crust of his pizza with a snap. “That’s perfect though, at least she won’t have to watch herself after.” He tells Jae like it’s a good enough reason to do it. Funny thing is, Jae actually considers.
“It’s perfect. And it’s Thanksgiving next week. You guys can do like a Thanksgiving special.”
There’s an idea. Minkyung spending Thanksgiving with him and his family is nothing unusual at this point in time. Her family still follows very Korean traditions at home, so for them it’s pretty much just a typical few days.
Jae imagines having Thanksgiving dinner with his parents, with Minkyung pitifully handcuffed to him while he vigorously saws through burnt turkey trying to tune out his mom’s invasive questions such as: why isn’t he a doctor, or why hasn’t he discovered a cure for cancer yet. And the worst one of all, why doesn’t he have a girlfriend yet.
The notion is silly and taunting for a second, but then his thoughts quickly transpire into hopeful territory, where there are no handcuffs involved and his mom doesn’t need to ask that last question because his girlfriend is right there with him, and she is Minkyung.
Bad. That’s bad. He promised himself he wouldn’t let himself fall into the gaping hole of hope, where there’s only uncertainty and yearning, so much yearning.
Minkyung is his best friend. That’s enough. Not just for now, but for ever.
Jae huffs. “So which one of you idiots would like to get featured in my Whisper Challenge video?”
After excruciating deliberation, Jae decides that following Sungjin’s suggestion might actually be the way to go.
To his credit, the decision was made after spending night after night watching videos with titles including the words handcuff , and best friend . Sungjin wasn’t kidding about the entertainment value, and not to mention the overwhelming amount of support they garner from internet patrons. It’s a little strange, but something tells Jae he shouldn’t question it.
The thing is, deciding what video to do was only the first hurdle. How the hell is he going to get Minkyung to agree to do it with him?
He doesn’t know why his palms are sweating so much. This is Minkyung . She’s his best friend. It shouldn’t be this hard to ask her if she would be okay to be handcuffed to Jae for a day.
This is ridiculous.
“You okay dude? You’ve been spacing out for at least thirty minutes. We’re getting weird looks.” Minkyung informs him from behind her Macbook.
“Sorry. I was just—” he shakes his head.”What are you doing?”
“It’s okay.” Minkyung beams at him before running her fingers through her hair. It looks like she still isn’t used to having significantly less of it, and frankly, neither is Jae. Not that it’s bad. But it’s definitely new. Minkyung has had long hair for almost the entirety of their friendship, so this is something that might need some adjusting to. “I’m updating my resume to fit the taste of white corporate slavers.”
“Do you want to do a video with me?” Jae asks abruptly before Minkyung could actually finish talking.
“Uhm, what?” Minkyung looks at him incredulously. Jae swallows.
“I need something to boost my views and subscribers and my friend suggested this thing. I mean, it’s going to sound stupid—”
Minkyung scoffs. “I’m sure it is stupid. Let’s hear it.”
“I’ll show you instead.” He sets his caramel frappe aside and turns Minkyung’s laptop to face him. He opens up a Youtube video and bites his lips before rotating the laptop back to her.
He watches nervously as Minkyung’s eyebrows furrow at the screen. She’s severely quiet, and it takes a minute or two before she finally speaks. “You’re kidding right? You want me to do this with you? It’s so extra!” She exclaims.
“Well I’m extra and you’re friends with me. This really shouldn’t be shocking to you at this point.” Jae replies, his voice all high and scratchy.
“It looks embarrassing.”
“That’s because it probably is. But we’d be embarrassed together so like, it’s all fun. Come on, Minky.”
“What’s in it for me?” She asks before hitting the spacebar on her keyboard, pausing the video. “What do I get for embarrassing myself like this?”
“Uh, internet fame?”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” She closes her laptop shut and shifts on her seat. Jae panics.
“Wait, wait!” He ponders for a brief moment. “Oh!” He snaps his fingers. “I’ll play at Nunu’s wedding for free. I’ll play a whole set if I have to.”
That seems to pique her interest as she leans back against her seat and crosses her arms over her chest. She looks like she’s actually contemplating it, and Jae thinks this shouldn’t be as suspenseful as it.
Minkyung groans. “Fine. I’ll do it. Only because Nunu thinks you have the voice of an angel and we could use the extra money for other things for the wedding.” She sighs.
Jae pumps his fist in the air, overjoyed. “Awww yeah!” He cheers. “It’s going to be fun, I promise.”
“That set better be good.”
“Are you ready?” Jae asks while holding up a pair of handcuffs. The question might be more for him than it is for Minkyung.
Minkyung steals it from his grip and examines it. “Where the hell did you even get these?”
“Let’s just say I have some really kinky friends.”
“Oh ew!” Minkyung tosses it right back at him.
“Chill! I disinfected it!”
“This is ridiculous.” Minkyung comments while Jae fixes his camera on the gimbal.
“No backing out.” Jae tuts.
Minkyung moves to sit closely beside him. “Just hurry up and let’s get this over with.”
Jae sets the camera down on his desk and hits record. “Okay, we just have to film an intro first.” He pauses to check if both of them are clearly and fully within the frame. There’s a brief moment where he takes in the sight of him and Minkyung on the viewfinder screen. They’re sitting so close together a hair wouldn’t fit in between them. It feels strange and natural at the same time, and it’s been like this since he realized his feelings for her. He wonders if it’s going to stay like this forever, but he decides he wouldn’t mind as long as he gets to keep her around.
Minkyung nods. “Okay Mr. Youtuber.”
“Hello beautiful people! It’s Jae.” He starts, putting his hands together. “Happy Thanksgiving!”
As expected, they garner a few strange looks as soon as they step out of Jae’s apartment in handcuffs. But it’s not nearly as bad as what Jae had anticipated. He guesses people are kind of used to seeing these types of flagrant displays of millennial culture on the streets by now.
“We’re going to walk from point A to B to C etcetera today because my car is in the casa and there’s a lot of places we can go to just by walking.” Jae explains to his future viewers.
“His car is in the casa because he’s a terrible driver.” Minkyung teases.
“What? Nah I’m a great driver. That lamppost was just at a very unfortunate spot when I happened to feel like driving towards a laundromat.”
“Uh-huh. You suck. I’m the better driver.”
“I taught you how to drive!”
“The student has become the master.” Minkyung says with a smug face before giggling.
“Aight...fine. She’s the better driver.” Jae admits.
“I am!” Minkyung cheers.
A few minutes in and they arrive at their first location. They already had a set itinerary for the day even before they decided to film, and Jae figured these mundane activities would be perfect for the vlog.
“Our first stop, is…” Jae aims the camera at Minkyung who is scratching at her wrist.
“The grocery store!” Minkyung announces with feigned excitement. “Jae is useless with grocery shopping on his own.”
“That’s right. One time, I mistakenly bought regular milk instead of the lactose-free one. So, yeah, you all know what happened afterwards.” He winks and then bursts out laughing. Minkyung is shaking her head in the background.
People hardly even spare them a glance this time when they enter, and a part of Jae is weirded out but a bigger part of him is relieved.
“I’m going to be cooking Jae an early Thanksgiving dinner before we go off to his parents’ place on actual Thanksgiving.” Minkyung states as she browses through a selection of Korean spices.
“Yep, Minky here is a great cook. She’s going to make me a Chuseok special dinner.”
“Yes, Korean Thanksgiving.” Minkyung beams at the camera. Jae fights back his excitement.
“I’ll be committing everything you cook to memory before I have to eat my mom’s stuffing.” Jae makes a face. “Love you mom.”
Minkyung snickers and playfully hits Jae. “Auntie’s cooking is good! But I’ll bring food over just in case.” She whispers before she and Jae share a wholehearted laugh.
Shopping goes pretty smoothly save for the few times they kept unintentionally heading towards the opposite direction, resulting in unwelcomed jolts from either of their handcuffed wrists. Although it quickly stopped being a problem after Jae had decided grocery shopping is and will always be Minkyung’s area of expertise and that he should just follow wherever she goes.
He also managed to score some good, vlog worthy footages of Minkyung roasting him in every possible aspect of life and him just taking it all like a good sport because, well, there’s nothing he could possibly say about Minkyung that’s bad; except for maybe when she snores in her sleep—which doesn’t really count because Jae finds that absolutely endearing.
“Okay, we’re almost done I just have to—“
“Minky!” He didn’t mean to interrupt her, but when he saw a lady pushing her cart in the narrow aisle without looking where she was going, he had to pull Minkyung away so she doesn’t get hit by the cart.
“Sorry,” He says after he had abruptly pulled Minkyung by her free hand which caused her to be lightly pressed against him.
“It’s okay, thanks.” Minkyung softly says. There’s that almost nauseating smell from her hair again from being so close, and Jae wishes they didn’t have to break apart.
“Wait—,” Minkyung abruptly reaches up to fix his glasses on his nose, causing Jae to freeze. “There. It went a little crooked.”
“Thanks.” He croaks. It takes a few seconds before Jae finally releases her.
“Eggs. I need eggs.” Says Minkyung casually.
“Okay so we’re just going to take these groceries back to my apartment then we’re heading back out to the mall.”
He cuts the recording from the time they walk back to his apartment and then resumes when they’re in the back of a cab headed to the mall. They only got one curious look from the cab driver before they’re off.
“We’re going to do a bit of shopping and hang out. Which is kind of our usual thing like once or twice a month.”
“Yeah, I come with him so I can watch him purchase the same plaid shirts he already has sitting in his closet. And he comes with me to critique my fashion sense even though, again, he’s a person who exclusively owns plaid shirts and a couple of oversized hoodies.” Minkyung informs the viewers.
“What’s wrong with plaid shirts? You say that like you don’t steal mine whenever you come over.” Jae whines, but the image of Minkyung wearing his clothes threatens to put a smile on his face.
Minkyung pauses and then lets out a small laugh. “Okay ok I guess they are comfortable.”
“Of course. Honestly? Comfort over fashion.”
They stroll around the mall, and again, people don’t really seem to take notice or care about the fact that they’re walking around handcuffed.
“Can we go to that store? I want to try something.” Minkyung points towards a little boutique with mannequins in sparkly little dresses on display.
Jae contemplates for a second before agreeing to go. He props up his camera, thinking he might as well try and get the most filming out of this day as possible.
“Jae, can we unlock these for like one minute? I want to try on one dress. I might wear it to Eunwoo’s bachelorette party.” Minkyung whispers to him after they (Minkyung) had finished browsing the selection.
Jae pinches his eyebrows. “We had a deal, Minky. We can’t remove the handcuffs. Can’t you come back another time?”
Minkyung frowns. “They said it’s their last piece in my size. Dude, I really want the dress.” She reaches over to clutch at Jae’s sleeve. “Please? It’s not like the viewers would know. You even cut the recordings and plan on editing shit out. We’d put the cuffs right back on afterwards.”
She does have a valid point. Also Jae had seen the dress, and he wasn’t blind to the way Minkyung’s eyes lit up when she lifted it up against her frame and saw her reflection. It was a beautiful-looking dress, and he’d be lying if he says he doesn’t want to see his best friend actually try it on.
“Alright. Fine. No one can know we cheated this, okay?”
“Yeah, I swear.”
Jae takes the key out of his wallet and unlocks the handcuffs. Minkyung rubs at her wrist before muttering a soft thanks and rushing to speak with the saleswoman.
“Come on, let’s see it.” Jae urges.
“It’s a little girlier than what I usually wear!” Minkyung says from behind the curtain.
“I know, I’ve seen it. But I’m sure it looks good on you.” You always look good he opts not to say.
“Okay,” Minkyung says before finally slipping out.
Jae has his camera ready to film her (It’s not for the vlog. It’s mostly just for him) but then he almost loses his grip on it when he finally sees her.
“Wow.” He mutters as he pushes his glasses up. “You look,”
Minkyung straightens out the fabric on her thighs. “Terrible?”
“Absolutely Hideous.” He mutters slowly, and his words are supposed to mean the complete opposite. And Minkyung knows this.
Her face collapses into a wide grin. “Thanks.”
He mindlessly stands up, his camera nearly rolling off his lap in the process. She is stunning, and she’s not even completely made up. She’s just always beautiful, and it kind of hurts to look at sometimes.
“You look great.” Jae says, genuine.
Minkyung smiles, and it’s a smile that can be described as shy, maybe even flustered. It almost resembles the one she had on when they’d first met. And it’s a smile he hasn’t seen on her since they became as close as they are.
He backpedals, not wanting to misinterpret anything. “You should get it.”
Minkyung nods. “Yeah, I will.” She purses her lips and slowly makes her way back behind the curtain.
Jae releases a breath he didn’t know he was holding.
“So yeah I bought a t-shirt without trying it on for obvious reasons.” Jae raises his hand with Minkyung’s pretty much attached to it to show the camera.
“And I bought a really nice dress and something for my friend which is supposed to be a surprise but Jae filmed it anyway. So I hope he makes the right decision to edit it out.” Minkyung sends him a pointed gaze.
“Okay but how are people going to see which one of us has the better taste? Because my choice was way better.”
“Please edit that out, I really need it to be a surprise and I know Eunwoo sometimes watches your videos.” Minkyung tells him.
He wants to say something petty in response, something about Minkyung not watching his videos but he doesn’t. Probably a smart decision.
“Aight, let’s go back to my apartment.”
Apparently cooking with someone handcuffed to you proves to be quite the challenging task. Jae keeps wanting to help and Minkyung keeps asking him to imitate a weightless plastic bag.
After a couple of incessant trash talking and spilled condiments though, they somehow make dinner.
For the fun of it, they decided to eat dinner in handcuffs too. They might as well since they already survived the hardest part. Eating should be child’s play compared to actually preparing and cooking all the food. And true enough, Jae had only managed to drop two of his sweetened baby potatoes while Minkyung’s meal was pretty much unscathed.
Jae had even caught a few footages to include in the video. So overall he feels satisfied and can’t wait to see the final output.
“Remember when my first serious boyfriend broke up with me and I cried to you?”
“How could I forget? You ran all the way to my office lobby and had me called to deal with the quote-unquote heaping mess of a girl downstairs.”
Minkyung practically guffaws. They’re back sitting on his living room floor now after eating dinner. “That’s right. You were panicking so much.”
“Minky, I literally thought someone died .”
“To be fair, I think a part of me really did die that time.” Minkyung says, forlorn, before taking a large swig off her canned beer.
“Dramatic.” Jae laughs, and pretty soon Minkyung is laughing too.
“Hey, hey, just because you can’t relate doesn’t mean I’m being dramatic. You’ve never even had a serious relationship.”
Okay, so maybe it’s true that Jae hasn’t been in a relationship above the extent of watching movies and hooking up in a long time, but it doesn’t mean he’s never tried to be serious about any of the girls he’s gone out with. Sometimes things just don’t work out, and maybe he’s just a little too in love with his best friend, even in times he didn’t know he was.
“Hey, I went out with the influencer girl for like three whole months.” Jae points out.
“Jennie? You guys barely saw each other. And I’m pretty sure she was seeing like four other guys at the same time.” Minkyung informs him with a scoff.
“Okay, I might have known that the entire time we were dating but hell she was hot and she said she liked me so,” Jae shrugs.
“Yeah I’m sure she did. Still doesn’t count as a serious relationship.”
Jae slaps his hands together. “Okay, Lim! From uni. We definitely hit it off. I was pretty serious about her. We dated for a while.” Jae tells Minkyung about Hyelim who was the kindest, sweetest and most studious person he ever dated in college. She was a great influence on him and he thinks they could have been something serious. It’s just, she had her priorities. Even though Jae had been fine with not being on top of the list, Lim wasn’t. So she broke it off, saying Jae deserved better. Something like that. Jae has long stopped dwelling on it.
“You really liked her, huh?” Minkyung nudges his arm.
Jae snickers. “I did. We liked each other.” He shrugs. “Though I wonder how things could have gone if I tried to like, fight for it. Maybe things would have been different.” Maybe he wouldn’t have let himself fall hard and deep into Minkyung.
Minkyung chews on her lower lip and takes another sip of beer. “Maybe.”
It’s suddenly quiet, so Jae clears his throat. “Yeah, I mean, if there’s someone you think is worth fighting for then go do it. Just do it.” He says in that faux wisdomous way, when in fact he doesn’t know what the hell he’s saying and he isn’t qualified to give such advice because he’s never fought for anyone in his entire life. And at the rate he’s going, probably not anytime soon.
“Actually, I opened the topic because something happened.”
“What?” Jae looks at her incredulously.
“My ex—Seunghyub has been contacting me lately. He wants to fix things between us.” Minkyung informs him, the tip of her thumb etched between her teeth as she does so.
“Wait,” Jae recoils slightly at her words. “Seunghyub? The guy who dumped you because apparently you weren’t mature enough Seunghyub? That Seunghyub?”
“He—he’s been really sweet and he apologized and he wants to give it another shot.” Minkyung explains, voice uncharacteristically weak. Jae can’t believe what he’s hearing.
“Are you actually considering it?” He asks, trying hard to be calm.
“I was thinking hard about it. And that thing you said about you and Hyelim. And how maybe things would have been different if you fought for it. I figured maybe I shouldn’t be stubborn about giving Seunghyub a second chance.”
Jae wants to scream. Did he really just unintentionally encourage this? From talking out of his ass?
“Wow.” Jae practically gasps. “I mean,” He sighs. “Do you still love him?” It hurts his chest to ask, and he doesn’t think he’s even ready to hear the answer.
Minkyung pauses, appearing to be deep in thought.
Jae remembers how heartbroken Minkyung was when the guy had broken up with her. He remembers how he had spent several nights watching sad movies with her and listening to depressing break up songs in his own car when she was riding shotgun.
But then he also remembers how Minkyung had gotten back up and steadily moved on with her life. It was fulfilling to see, and even if Jae would like to take credit for a little bit of it, he knows most of it was Minkyung, because she’s strong and willful like that.
And if she had to go through that to prepare herself for another round with Seunghyub, then Jae guesses he can get on board with that.
“You know what, don’t answer that.” Jae waves a hand. “If he makes you happy then, give him that chance. You’re the strongest person I know, so I’m not worried. And yeah, whatever happens I’m still here and I’m still your best friend.” Jae smiles. It stings like hell, but he loves her too much. And he’d rather be locked up in a room forced to watch the series finale of Game of Thrones repeatedly than be the cause of Minkyung’s unhappiness.
So this is what loving someone unconditionally feels like.
Minkyung looks back at him with glossy eyes. She’s biting her lower lip like she’s stifling a smile. She must have been worried about what Jae was going to say. She looks so relieved. And Jae thinks, damn that Seunghyub is one lucky bastard.
“Thanks, Jae.” She mutters before suddenly wrapping her free arm around him in a tight embrace.
He softens up and pats her back soothingly. “Hey, you don’t have to worry about what I think. I just want you to be happy.”
When Minkyung pulls back, her eyes are filled to the brim with tears. Jae mildly panics before wiping his sleeve over her face in a clumsy attempt.
“Woah woah. Why are you crying?”
“Nothing, I’m just—I’m so lucky to have a best friend like you.” Minkyung says through a tiny sob.
“Hey,” Jae smiles.
He doesn’t say anything and just unlocks the handcuffs.
Minkyung looks up at him, confused. “It’s not yet 24 hours.”
Jae shrugs. “I know but I think I’ve got more than enough footage. And you’ve obviously had enough of my BS.” He snorts. “Also, like you said, they wouldn’t even know.”
Minkyung rubs at her wrist. It’s a little red all the way around, and Jae feels bad. “Aww, this is sad. I was actually starting to get used to the chafing.”
Jae laughs. “Thank you.” He tells her softly.
“What, for dinner or for letting you use me to boost your Youtube views?”
Minkyung looks up to meet his gaze. It’s a little different from how she’d look at him. He wants so badly to move closer and kiss her. But of course, he knows better than to do something so risky and inappropriate.
Jae’s heart might be a little more broken than it already was but the fact of the matter is and will always be: best friend or nothing.
“So let me get this straight.” Brian stops pouring milk into his cereal bowl midway. “You’re head over heels in love with her but you told her to get back together with her ex-boyfriend.” Jae watches him on the screen as he sets down the milk carton in favor of sending Jae a disbelieving look.
“Well that’s not exactly—“
“Did I get it wrong?” Brian scoffs.
Jae shifts in his bed where he’s facetiming with Brian. “No, actually you pretty much nailed it.”
Brian shakes his head and resumes preparing his breakfast. “That is tough, my man. If I were you I would have told her how I felt right then and there.”
“Well, you’re not. I’m me . And I’m not going to risk our friendship like that.”
“Then stop being a sulky loser.” Brian tells him casually through a mouthful of Nutter Butter.
After that night, Jae had decided he needed a bit of time to process things and maybe seriously contemplate putting his feelings to rest. He meant it when he said he’ll be there for her no matter what, and his little feelings retreat wasn’t supposed to last longer than a few days. But it’s been a couple of weeks and he still can’t bring himself to face Minkyung and possibly hear her talk about her blossoming relationship with Seunghyub.
He avoided calls and left her messages unread after he’d told her his parents wanted a private Thanksgiving dinner with just him and his sister to discuss pressing family matters. It was a complete lie, and he feels terrible. But he figured Minkyung had someone else to spend Thanksgiving with, at least for now while Jae is trying to deal with his shit. It’s for the better, because Minkyung can focus on mending her relationship without Jae hanging around for no good reason.
“You really think you did something, huh?” Brian shakes his head and sneers. “You’re lucky Wendy is still asleep. She would have something to say.”
“I don’t care about your girlfriend’s opinions.” Jae rolls his eyes. “I’m doing this so I can finally move on. I need to move on so I can properly fulfill my Best Friendly duties.”
Brian sniffs. “Are you sure this is the way to go about it?”
“You’re avoiding her. She’s a smart girl, Jae. She’s going to figure out what you’re doing.”
“I’m doing what’s best for our friendship, what’s best for her.”
Brian drops his spoon in his bowl with a soft clink. “Okay, okay. Let me ask you something. How are you so sure you know what’s best for her?”
Jae wets his lips and ponders for a moment. “Honestly, dude, I don’t. I don’t know shit.”
“Then how are you so sure that you can’t be what’s best for her?”
It’s been a long gruesome few days since Jae talked with Brian. The guy was living two thousand miles away and yet he still knew how to get Jae thinking .
Editing the handcuff video was nothing short of torturous. He kept pausing at random times getting distracted by Minkyung’s smile or looping certain parts where she’d be laughing hysterically at something he’d said. It’s almost a miracle how he managed to get through all of it to form one cohesive video.
Now it’s at a hundred thousand views, which is a whole other miracle on its own. He’s surprised, but he’s far from happy. And he of all people should know why.
He doesn’t really know what he’s about to do or if any of it will come to fruition. He doesn’t even really expect it to. He’s just thought long and hard about a way to be able to throw his feelings out. Get it over with. Maybe, just maybe, he can finally let go.
So, he sets up his camera on his desk and hits record.
Jae hasn’t left his apartment in two days.
“My dude you look like shit.” Sungjin informs him when he staggers across the living room like a zombie.
Jae doesn’t grace him with a response, instead choosing to scream bloody murder into a throw pillow.
“Yikes. That bad huh?” Sungjin reaches over to pat his shoulder. “Listen, Wonpil and the others want to go out drinking. You look like you need alcohol in your system.”
Jae waves a dismissive hand. “Nah, you guys go ahead. I’m detoxing.”
“Detoxing?” Sungjin looks like he wants to press further, but then he doesn’t. “Aight. I’m going to leave you to your, uh, moping. But if you change your mind we’ll be at Jjan.
He’s about to fall back asleep on his couch when a loud banging noise pulls him back wide awake.
“What the—” He stands up, mildly disoriented. The sound had stopped, and he starts to think he might have dreamt it.
“Open up!” Someone yells from behind the door.
It sounds a lot like Minkyung.
“Oh shit.” He hisses, jumping out of the couch in a frenzy. He looks like a fucking Death Eater, probably smells like one too. He contemplates pretending not to be home, but then she’s screaming again.
“I know you’re in there, asshole.”
“Wait!” Jae yells, all throaty and weak.
“Park Jaehyung!” Jae winces. Minkyung doesn’t call him by his full name in a heavy Korean accent unless she’s pissed.
And she sounds hella pissed.
“Shit! Okay! Calm down, woman!” Jae cards his fingers through his hair in an attempt at taming the spikes and throws on a clean hoodie before getting the door.
“What the fuck, Jae?” Minkyung’s face is all red. She’s fuming. And Jae is a little confused.
She slips past him and storms into the living room. “What the fuck was that video?”
Jae closes the door behind him and offers his most bewildered gape. “What video? The handcuff one?”
“Oh don’t act stupid. You know which fucking video I mean.” Minkyung purses her lips, shoulders rising and falling in an unsteady rhythm. “She’s never going to know but I’ve been in love with her for almost three years now.”
“Wait, Minkyung, that’s not—”
“You know what, I think I’ve been in love with her even before that. But she can’t know. Because it’ll ruin whatever it is we have. It’s better this way. She already has someone else and I should be letting go.” Minkyung recites Jae’s words from the last vlog he posted in verbatim.
“You weren’t supposed to see that.” Jae says feebly.
Minkyung scoffs. “Oh, you can’t be fucking serious. How could you think I wouldn’t see it?”
“Because you don’t even watch my videos, Minkyung!” Jae says defensively.
She gawks at him, disbelief written all over her face. “Did you seriously believe that I never watched your videos? Do you actually think I’m that kind of person? That I wouldn’t be a supportive best friend? You really are an idiot.”
He messed up. He’s such a fucking tool for thinking that was a good idea. Fuck, was he even thinking? Minkyung looks so upset with him and it breaks his heart. He feels like every fiber of his being is being ripped to shreds. She hates him, and he probably had it coming.
“I’m sorry! Fuck, I’m sorry.” I’m sorry for falling in love with you.
Minkyung is crying now. “You better be fucking sorry.”
Jae doesn’t say anything, focusing on stopping his own tears from falling. This is the end game.
“I can’t believe you. Jae, I’m your best friend. I thought that meant something to you.” Minkyung cries.
Jae walks over to her tentatively. “It does! I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let it get too deep. I should have gotten over it as soon as it started.”
Minkyung looks up at him, and somehow his words had just made her react worse. “You don’t understand, do you? You’re completely missing my point.”
Jae watches as she turns away and walks to the window before pacing back.
She heaves a deep sigh. “I don’t understand why you kept that for as long as you did. I don’t get why you think you can decide what’s best for this friendship without asking me what I want. You went and made that decision yourself. You avoided me for weeks. How do you think that made me feel, Jae? How do you think I felt after hearing you say you would be there for me no matter what and then hearing literally nothing from you since then?”
“I didn’t...I…” He doesn’t know what to say. He feels absolutely horrible. “I’m sorry.”
“You were just going to move on and let go of your feelings without even telling me about them? You didn’t think to talk to me about it first before you decided to tell the whole world?”
“I just, I didn’t want to ruin our friendship, Minky. I thought if you ever found out you’d stop being my best friend. And I couldn’t lose you.”
“So you decided to ghost me? That’s a little counterproductive, don’t you think?”
“I fucked up. When you told me about Seunghyub I figured that was the sign for me to really let go. And I couldn’t do that if I hadn’t distanced myself.”
Minkyung shakes her head and lets out a sardonic laugh. “How’s that working for you? Are you all moved on now? Are you no longer in love with me?”
Jae sighs. “Minkyung,”
“The day after we filmed for the handcuff video, I told Seunghyub to get lost. I told him we couldn’t get back together.”
Her words catch Jae by surprise. “What? I thought,”
“I told him it was impossible because my heart already belonged to someone else. Someone really fucking stupid. And that someone would have known it sooner if he had answered my calls or responded to my texts. Or maybe if he had just paid attention.” She says, voice broken by her tears. “And that despite that someone pushing me away, I—“
“Minkyung, please, what are you saying?” Jae can’t believe what he’s hearing. Honestly he can barely hear anything with how loud his heart is thrumming in his ears.
“Oh my God, Jae. Think. What’s not clicking? Think of all the times I’ve spent talking to you about, I don’t know, the different types of humus, or the times I’ve spent watching stupid movies with you until I fell asleep on your smelly old couch. Think of all the times you’ve wanted to kiss me because hell I probably wanted you to.” She sniffs. “Did you really think I only agreed to do the dumb handcuff video because you offered to sing at a wedding? God, Jae. I’m in love with you.”
“Minkyung,” Jae feels his own eyes stinging from the tears threatening to fall. He understands what she’s saying, but it’s still a little hard to believe considering how long he’d been dreaming of hearing those words come out of Minkyung’s mouth. It all feels like a dream he’s too afraid to wake up from.
“Shit. I was stupid, okay? I am stupid. So stupidly in love with you that I didn’t know what to do with myself. I kept thinking my feelings were a burden and that it would ruin what we have. I didn’t realize I was actually making things worse when I pushed you away and hid like a coward.” He’d been so focused on his own feelings and his fear of losing Minkyung over them that he failed to see what was right in front of him. “And I had no right deciding the fate of our friendship on my own. I’m sorry, I don’t know what else to say.”
He shifts closer to her, his hands tentatively reaching for hers.
“Then don’t say anything.” Minkyung croaks, tearful gaze boring into him. He doesn’t know what to say, but for the first time in a while, he knows what to do.
He moves his hands to cup her face and pulls her in until their lips meet. There’s a brief second of reluctance, like neither of them knew what they were expecting. But that disappears soon enough, and it’s suddenly like their lips were always meant to melt into each other’s.
It’s nothing magical or electric, it’s just years of friendship melding together and falling into place. It’s all the love Jae has for Minkyung sealed into one simple kiss. It’s chaste and tender yet it means everything . It means finally understanding and finally being able to breathe. He can’t believe he’s held back for so long when he could have had this all along.
Once they pull away, he rubs the tears off of her cheeks before pressing his forehead against hers. For a few seconds they stay that way, and it’s a peaceful kind of feeling.
“Jae?” Minkyung starts.
“When...when was the last time you brushed your teeth?”
Jae pulls back, comically breathing in to exaggerate his frustration.
“I’m kidding!” Minkyung declares, hands coming up to press his cheeks together.
“You...I honestly thought I’d be the one to ruin moments in this relationship.”
Jae clears his throat. “Well, uhm, it’s something I’ve fantasized about a lot. But I guess...would you ever consider taking on a role as my girlfriend?”
“What would be my compensation?” She asks with a head tilt.
Jae chuckles. “Well the pay is a little bit towards the minimum, and not at all monetary, like, think pepperoni slices. Benefits would include free rides, once my car gets fixed of course. And then there’s unlimited smooches, cuddles, more exclusive Youtube features and stupid love song dedications. Take it or leave it.”
Minkyung hums, feigning deep thought. Her face is still a bit swollen and flushed from all the crying and Jae wants nothing but to kiss her all over.
“Wow that’s a pretty compelling offer.” Minkyung beams. “Maybe I should ask my friend.” She proceeds to unclasp something from her sling bag.
Minkyung laughs. “I know you didn’t just randomly find this, Jae.”
Jae rubs his neck. “Yeah, well—“
Minkyung throws her arms around his neck and sends him the sweetest, happiest looking smile. It makes his stomach turn from sheer joy. “I accept your offer, good sir.”
“Excellent. You can start now.” He beams back at her. and then he leans back in for another kiss.
Tonight Jae learns that his place in Minkyung’s life wasn’t a choice between being her best friend or being nothing. It was being her best friend, and being everything else he could possibly be.
( One year later )
Minkyung sits right next to him while his camera is set up on his desk.
“Okay, this is called the Whisper Challenge.” Jae starts to explain. “You’re going to guess what I’m saying while you listen to pop music at a deafening volume.”
“Sounds like a normal day at Starbucks.” Minkyung quips. “Dude this game is so 2018.”
“Shhh. Aight, here we go.” Jae fixes the headphones on Minkyung’s head and plays the music. “Can you hear me?” He asks in a normal voice.
Minkyung gestures something that tells Jae she can’t hear anything.
“Okay!” Jae yells. “First one.”
“I’m going! Okay. Minkyung Kim I’m so fucking crazy about you, you don’t even know!” Jae blurts.
Minkyung gawks at him, bewildered. “What?! That was so long!” She removes her headphones. “You’re messing with me, aren’t you?”
Jae cackles. “Okay, okay I’ll get serious.” He reaches over and puts the headphones back on for her.
He fondly watches her as she bobs her head to the music. For a brief moment, he thinks of how things were like between the two of them just a little over a year ago. He remembers how scared he was to say what was on his mind or what he wanted. He’s happy with how far they’ve come now.
“Move in with me.” He mutters.
“What? Speak up man! Syllables!” Minkyung demands.
Jae bursts out laughing, moving to rest his hands on her shoulders. He composes himself then leans in a bit closer. “I said, move in with me.” He repeats, this time enunciating and dragging each syllable.
Minkyung blinks in confusion. “Wait. What?” She reluctantly pushes the headphones off and lets it hang around her neck.
“I know you were able to read my lips, babe.” He grins.
Minkyung doesn’t say anything in response. Instead she grabs Jae by the face and kisses him roughly on the lips and then pecks his face all over.
“Should I take that as a yes?”
“Yes, a thousand times, yes.”