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Changkyun stares at himself in the bathroom mirror. Wild-eyed, messy-haired, on the brink of some kind of crisis. Everything hinges on this — make it or fucking break it. Not for the first time, he wonders if he’s making a horrible mistake. Are these the kind of odds that make stockbrokers kill themselves? He braces his hands on either edge of the sink and hangs his head, trying to take deep breaths. Maybe, realistically, maybe it’s not that big of a deal, and regardless of what happens next, things will remain just fine. Or maybe it’s the end of the world. Nothing in-between. Changkyun breathes, breathes again, and lifts his head to meet his own reflection’s gaze.

“Man up,” he says, voice low. “Or— whatever the non-sexist version of that is.”

Christ, what is he doing? He swears under his breath and abruptly releases the sink, runs his hands through his hair and inadvertently makes it even wilder, wavers right in front of the door, tries to think of literally any kind of self-directed pep talk, but he can’t think of anything at all. He’s too nervous. His hands are cold and clammy, his stomach is in knots, and he can’t catch his breath. Even his vision is beginning to blur. If this goes badly, he thinks, I’ll just drop dead on the spot. Or I’ll run away to live in the woods like I’ve always wanted. Just as that thought is beginning to calm him down, he hears a noise from outside the bathroom and jumps about a foot into the air and has to clutch a hand over his heart until it stops racing.

“Come on,” he mumbles. He teeters, reaching once again for the doorknob. “Come on. Live a little. Now or never. Now or never. Now or— fuck.” He grabs the knob, wrenches it open, and stumbles out, for better or for worse, to meet his fate.

 

 

~~~

 

 

Freeze-frame, record scratch. You’re probably wondering how he got into this situation. It all began, as all the best stories do, at Whole Foods.

 

 

~~~

 

 

God bless the Whole Foods in Venice for being open until 10. Granted, all of them are open until 10, but Changkyun appreciates this one specifically. It’s closest to him, and it always has his favorite flavor of mochi ice cream in stock. And at the moment, he’s in a severe mochi-craving phase, but even though it’s 9 o’clock, all he has to do is pull on shoes and make his way five blocks up Rose Ave., and he’s good. He may as well pick up some actual food while he’s here, so he grabs a shopping basket at the door and pauses the podcast playing in his AirPods on his Apple Watch. Fuck, he feels like such a tool, but he agrees with his brother — if the conveniences of modern life are comfortably at his disposal, it’s almost worse not to take advantage. But still, Changkyun prefers to be able to focus when he’s grocery shopping, no disrespect to the podcast host, and he figures he’ll start in produce and make his way over to the freezer aisle gradually.

Apples, oranges. Why not get both? Then some vegetables, which he grabs more or less at random. In the first of the five dry goods aisles, he picks out cereal and crackers. What else does he eat? Dried mango and dried pineapple, pretzels, pretzel buns. His basket is starting to get a little heavy, and he really only came here for mochi, so he forcibly removes himself from the snack section and makes his way along the aisles with purpose, keeping his eyes pointed straight ahead so he doesn’t get distracted by the hummus. He checks his Apple Watch and is very nearly proud of himself: that had only been eight minutes of diversion, and he’s already back on-track. That’s gotta be some kind of personal record. Feeling pleased with himself, he picks up the pace so he can be home in under half an hour total, and then, of course, disaster strikes.

“Oh God,” Changkyun says, ricocheting backwards. “Oh, God, I am so sorry.”

“It’s okay, it’s okay, I’m so sorry!” laughs the girl — woman — goddess — he’d bumped into. Caught unawares, she’d opted to save the two bottles of Barefoot rosé she’s holding, but her bulk kale chips and macarons have spilled across the floor, unsalvageable. “Wow, I’m so sorry, are you alright?”

She has a very light Australian accent and is literally the most beautiful creature Changkyun has ever laid his unworthy eyes on. He knows he’s goggling at her like an idiot, but he didn’t know they made people this beautiful anymore, or ever. “Me?” he clarifies, taking his AirPods out even though nothing is even playing. “Oh, I’m totally fine. Jeez, your kale chips.”

“At least the wine’s okay,” she says with another angelic laugh, tossing her long, summer-bleached tresses over her shoulder as she leans down to assess the damage. How does she look like that? How? Changkyun blinks very hard to ensure she’s not a mirage, then also leans down, setting his stupid shopping basket on the floor, so he can deal with the macarons whilst she scoops the kale chip smithereens into a pile.

Impossibly, she’s even more stunning from up close. He’d knelt down with the intention of picking up the crumbled macarons — by the looks of it, pistachio, chocolate, and strawberry, she has amazing taste — and returning them to their crumpled plastic box, but he finds himself unable to move or do much of anything at all, just staring at her. Her sweet, doll-perfect face, her princess hair, her crop top, her leggings, her French-manicured nails. Thankfully, she doesn’t seem to notice, just glancing up at him and giving him a dazzling, shy smile which he does his best to return, but when they’ve both finished, he hands her the ruined container and their fingers brush.

“Oh, sorry,” she smiles. Her cheeks are pink. She’s perfect, the perfect woman. He’s almost reluctant to let go, but he does anyway, and they both stand up in synchrony. She’s still smiling — in fact, she hasn’t stopped this whole time, and it does such lovely things to her already-lovely face that Changkyun thinks he might die if this interaction stops right now.

“I like your—” Shit, what can he compliment that won’t make him seem gay? Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay, obviously, seeing as he’s bi, but he wants to make it very clear that he’s hitting on her. “…Wine choice,” he concludes, nodding at the bottles clutched against her chest. “Rosé all day.”

“I couldn’t agree with you more,” she says with another small laugh. How does she make her eyes do that sparkling thing? She’s like a real Disney princess — a confection made human. “Actually, that’s my nickname. Rosé.”

“What about your real name?” Changkyun says and immediately feels very macho, because it makes her undeniably blush, tucking her hair behind her ear.

“Chaeyoung,” she says, looking up at him warmly. Is this working? Is he doing it? How is he doing it? She is so out of his league, but he’ll be damned if he just quits before he’s even thrown his hat in the ring. “Or Roseanne. Some people call me Rosie. Take your pick.”

“I’m Changkyun,” he says. On a roll now. He doesn’t know enough sports metaphors to keep them going, but he thinks he might have a fighting chance after all. “It’s very nice to meet you, Chaeyoung.”

She ducks her head for a moment, and he can see her smile. “It’s very nice to meet you, too, Changkyun,” she replies, and when she lifts her head again, she’s biting her lip, just a little.

Holy shit, she’s flirting back — he’s pretty sure. He cannot blow this. “Please let me pay you back for those,” he offers, gesturing to the boxes. “It’s the least I can do.”

“Oh, you really don’t have to, it wasn’t your fault!” Chaeyoung disagrees, but Changkyun shakes his head, his expression grave, so intentionally serious that it makes her giggle, tucking her hair behind her ear again. Is he dreaming? The arms of the shopping basket are pinching into his skin — he can’t be dreaming. The most drop-dead gorgeous woman to ever glide along the face of this disgusting planet is giggling because of something he did. “Are you sure? I promise it’s okay, I’m not angry at you or anything.”

“Let’s keep it that way,” Changkyun nods, then extends a hand like he’s escorting her to a royal ball, showing her in the direction of the bulk food aisle. Against all odds, and against all laws of the known universe, she seems charmed by this and goes where he indicates, smiling to herself, and by the time they’ve re-selected her kale chips and macarons (he’d guessed all the flavors correctly, which is almost certainly a cosmic sign), they’ve learned that they’re both Aquarians, both left-handed, both foreign-born Korean-American, and both Venice residents. Changkyun also learns that Chaeyoung is in charge of restocking snacks for a girls’ night in that she and her friends are currently having (and that you’re keeping her away from, you monster, says the voice in the back of his head) and that she’s the perfect woman, the latter of which he already knew. As they’re walking to the check-out, he realizes that he forgot his mochi, but who gives a fuck? He’s come across something far more special, and he can’t turn back now, not when they’re play-fighting at the cash register over who gets to go first. He lets her go ahead in the end, of course. Not because of some kind of chauvinistic ideals of women being weaker, and therefore needing to be allowed ahead — just because the thought of inconveniencing her was unbearable, and besides, she’s only got two bottles of wine and he, like an idiot, has a full basket of shit he doesn’t even want. The check-out guy asks for Chaeyoung’s ID and she hands it over, and while he’s examining her birth date, she pulls a face at Changkyun, as if asking can you believe this? And he’s so starstruck by her that all he can do in response, rather pathetically, is wink.

She likes it. She likes it! She’s smiling to herself, biting her lower lip once again, as she waits at the end of the check-out for him to get his items scanned. He makes sure the kale chips and macarons go through first, gallantly passing them to her, and her eyes are warm. He can’t stop smiling, and all he can do is hope he doesn’t look too crazed. While the rest of his groceries are going through, she pulls out her phone, and his mind is reeling for ways to ask for her number, or maybe her hand in marriage. It’s a good sign that she’s waiting there even though she’s ostensibly gotten what she needs from him, right? Mentally, he wills the check-out guy to hurry the fuck up, but, Murphy’s Law, he only goes slower, and Changkyun sends Chaeyoung an apologetic grin, in response to which she just shakes her head easily, her entrancing hair cascading with the motion. He pays for his food, which costs a hilariously high amount considering he’s got fewer than 15 items; when he’s done, he finds that Chaeyoung is taking a Boomerang of one of her bottles of rosé.

“Watch,” she murmurs, tilting her phone to show him the screen as she types in the caption, written in pink neon: Rosé all day~

“Nice,” he smiles, so happy she’d liked what he’d said, so nervous about whatever he’s going to say next, but before he can say anything at all, the check-out guy, unsung hero of tonight coming in at the last moment to save the day, says, “You two have a good night.”

Chaeyoung’s eyes widen, and she looks at Changkyun, who is already looking at her. It’s cliché, but Changkyun can feel the spark run between them, and it makes them both shiver, and neither one of them bothers to correct the check-out guy that they’re not even there together. Aren’t they, now? Changkyun steps to the end of the conveyer to collect his bags, and Chaeyoung posts the Boomerang to her Instagram story. “Hey,” Changkyun says, no plan, completely winging it, “tell your friends I said sorry for making you get stuck here for so long.”

“I will,” Chaeyoung smiles. She is so, so pretty. “Don’t eat all your pretzels tonight, you know you’ll regret it if you do.”

“Oh, definitely no promises on that one,” Changkyun says, and Chaeyoung laughs, swaying her shoulders for a moment. Fuck, what else can he say to her? She could be leaving right now, she should be leaving, but she’s lingering, and so is he. “Tell you what,” he continues, emboldened by the fact that she’s still not leaving, “I can’t sleep at night if I think someone’s mad at me, so what’s your Instagram? Please tell me what your friends say. You don’t even have to follow me back, but if you do, you can write it off on your taxes as a charitable donation.”

If Chaeyoung’s smile had been brilliant before, now it’s blinding, and the afterimage shines behind his eyelids every time he blinks, the whole speed-walk home.

 

 

~~~

 

 

[imnameim]: so did your friends accept my apology?

[rosesarerosie]: They said it depends…

[imnameim]: on what?

[rosesarerosie]: On whether you messaged me or not 😂😘

[imnameim]: so i guess that means i’m in?

[rosesarerosie]: I guess so

[rosesarerosie]: 🥰🥰

[imnameim]: 🖤🖤🖤

 

 

~~~

 

 

Their first date is coffee and ice cream. Their second date is evening drinks on the beach. She lives with her friend Jisoo, and apologizes that she can’t take him home for a nightcap, but they both know he lives in Venice, too, so it’s really just a way for her to invite herself over. Luckily, he planned ahead and spent all day scrubbing every inch of his place to make it presentable. She doesn’t wear a purity ring anymore, she tells him, but she still doesn’t want to “go all the way so soon, but I like you, I really like you, I hope it’s not a problem that I want to go slow?”

“Of course not,” Changkyun frowns, very carefully and very respectfully taking her by the waist. They’d already made out on the beach, but even though he feels brave enough to touch her, just like this, he kind of still can’t believe he gets to, that she wants him to. “Why would that be a problem? We can go as slow as you want, Rosie, I just want you to be comfortable.”

“Ooh, no fair, you’re going to make me change my mind,” Chaeyoung pouts and leans in, up, to kiss him. Her lips are so soft — everything about her is soft, even the way she smells. Changkyun feels himself going weak at the knees, and they end up on his sofa, Chaeyoung in his lap, her hair falling around him like a canopy curtain until she puts it up in a messy high ponytail with a scrunchie she had around her wrist. They stick to her wishes and don’t go all the way, but she’s breathless and overheating, their hips rocking together, his hand up her shirt, and her body is amazing, her tits are amazing, her legs are a mile long, she’s like some kind of nymph or fairy or angel but she’s here and kissing him, her sweet Australian accent only getting stronger when she’s turned on. He can’t hide that he’s hard, and he’s a little embarrassed about it, but she doesn’t mind, and even rubs him over his jeans a couple of times before, finally, whining and pulling away. “I’m sorry,” she sighs. “I don’t want you to think I’m a tease or frigid or anything.”

“I would never,” Changkyun reassures her, slowly sitting up and putting a decorative throw pillow in his lap to protect his dignity. “Seriously, please don’t worry about it, I’m just happy you’re here. Can I get you a drink? Water, Keurig?”

“I’d love a cappuccino,” she says, blinking her big eyes at him, still with a kind of nervous air like she’s worried he, a pathetic and miserable worm of a man who doesn’t deserve to be within twenty feet of her, could ever be mad at her. “And then do you want to watch a movie or a show?”

“Sounds perfect,” Changkyun replies. Hesitantly, he leans across the couch to kiss her one more time, then hands her the TV remote. She beams up at him as he goes to the kitchen to put the Keurig on, and they cuddle chastely through all of The Princess Bride, his arm around her and her head leaned on his shoulder and their legs entangled. When it’s over, she checks the time and regretfully says she has to go or Jisoo will be worried, and Changkyun walks her out to meet her Lyft, so reluctant to be without her but knowing there’s nothing he can do to stop it. He’s almost frightened that she’ll stop existing if she leaves his sight — how can someone this good be true? She kisses him before getting in the car and he waves at the retreating taillights until they’re pinpricks in the distance.

 

 

~~~

 

 

[rosesarerosie]: I had so much fun tonight 💖

[imnameim]: so did i, youre amazing

[imnameim]: i really mean that, im amazed by you and everything about you

[rosesarerosie]: You’re so sweet, stopppp 😘😘😘

[rosesarerosie]: ▶️ Photo

[rosesarerosie]: Sorry for leaving you hanging. I hope this helps a bit 😘

[imnameim]: oh wow

[imnameim]: you are beyond gorgeous

[imnameim]: dont even have the words for it. youre stunning

[rosesarerosie]: 🙈

[rosesarerosie]: Send one back! I wanna see you

[imnameim]: ▶️ Photo

[imnameim]: i miss you already

[rosesarerosie]: Awww babe 💖

[imnameim]: part 3 this weekend?

[rosesarerosie]: Absolutely!!!

[rosesarerosie]: Let’s sext

[imnameim]: yes

 

 

~~~

 

 

From there, it’s smooth sailing. They even literally go sailing at one point on Chaeyoung’s best friend’s yacht. Chaeyoung’s friends, whom Changkyun meets for the first time at brunch shortly after their two-month anniversary, are all improbably beautiful, skinny, and terrifying, and none of them seem to like Changkyun very much. Evidently, they agree with him that Chaeyoung is out of his league, and every time he sees them or every time she mentions them, he fights the urge to beg forgiveness for desecrating their high priestess. And the kicker is is that he likes them a lot — sleepy (or possibly stoned) roommate Jisoo, fast-talking fashion lesbian Lisa, frosty Getty-money-rich Jennie. But they all look like him like he’s something sticky on the sole of their Louboutins. He can’t blame them — he can’t believe he’s her boyfriend, either. However, the point is: he is her boyfriend. They’ve gone all the way (hundreds of times); they’ve made it official. Chaeyoung even tags him in Instagram posts, and she’s over at his place more nights than she’s not. If Changkyun had to pick three words to describe their relationship, they would be “hot and heavy.” If pressed for more information, he’d begin to wax poetic about how Chaeyoung is an ethereal being with the intellect of a Nobel Prize laureate, the looks of a Veela, the sense of humor of SNL in its golden era, and a pussy like an apricot in August. She’s flawless. From head to toe, from inside out. She has abs. He accidentally says he loves her after they finish fucking one day, and she’s very gracious about it, which dampens the blow of her not saying it back, but why would she? She’s only slumming it, going through some kind of charity-case phase, and she’ll get tired of it eventually and go steal David Beckham away from Posh Spice like she should have done years ago. He looks at her the way people aren’t supposed to look at the sun, with no care whatsoever for what it’ll do to his retinas. Eats her up with his eyes, and then goes in with his mouth for good measure, since she’d expressed some surprise that he was so interested in giving head. If nothing else, at least Changkyun is confident in his skills in that area, and Chaeyoung never has anything but glowing praise for him there. They’ve fucked on just about every surface of Changkyun’s apartment, including in the shower. She’s bendy and insatiable, a bit of a pillow princess but he likes that, and there’s nowhere he’d rather be than wrapped up in her glorious legs. How long is the honeymoon phase supposed to last? He feels like it might never end — prays it doesn’t. Actually does pray, since he grew up just as Christian as she did and approximately remembers how it works. Our Father who art in Heaven, please make sure Roseanne Park and her bangin’ body never get bored of me. Plus, she was so chill about the whole bisexual thing when he finally dared to tell her. Where are the flaws? Do they exist at all? Could he possibly want anything more?

 

 

~~~

 

 

He’s in his final year of grad school at UCLA, which might have complicated things for them come fall had it not turned out that she’s a full-time Instagram influencer, which means her schedule is as flexible as she is. She gets a big kick out of meeting him on-campus whenever he’s done teaching for the day, and when he tells her that some of his students have noticed her, he’s heard them gossiping behind his back, she’s practically glowing. She’s so fucking cool, and it’s so effortless for her, she can’t help being cool any more than he can help being pathetically in love with her. He takes pictures for her Instagram after getting a stern masterclass in camera angles and adjusting the exposure, and any time he gets a notification that she’s posted and he recognizes one of his own photographs, he’s walking on air the whole rest of the day. At Changkyun’s apartment, she wraps up in Changkyun’s shirts and boxers, complains to him about collabs gone wrong, teases him playfully for how bad he is at washing dishes. “When’s your nearest holiday?” she pouts, sitting on the kitchen island and swinging her bare legs around. “I miss having you all to myself all the time.”

“November 12th, I think,” Changkyun says, handing her a mug to dry. “I had an idea for this weekend, though, since I miss you, too. Was thinking we could rent a car and drive up to Santa Barbara. Get in on Friday, nice hotel room, nice dinner, and then on Saturday, we can hike up to Inspiration Point and you can take some pics for Anthropologie. Beach day Sunday, back that night. How does that sound?”

Chaeyoung doesn’t say anything, and Changkyun suddenly worries that that was too much, coming on too strong, too desperate. He turns off the faucet and looks up at her to see whatever her reaction is, and finds that she’s staring at him with a mildly glazed expression. “Danny,” she says, which she only calls him either when she’s feeling very fond or when he’s in trouble (it’s only happened a couple of times, blessedly, and it hasn’t ever been anything a good hour of her sitting on his face couldn’t fix).

Instantly alarmed, Changkyun dries off his hands and comes to stand between her parted knees. “What is it? You don’t want to? It’s fine, it was just an idea,” he says. “We can do anything else. Whatever you want.”

Chaeyoung shakes her head and reaches down to cup his face in her small, soft hands. “I love you,” she says. “You know that?”

Oh. Changkyun immediately goes red and bashful. “I hoped,” he says quietly.

“I can’t believe I haven’t told you yet,” she says, giving his cheeks a small squeeze. “Do you still want to take me to Santa Barbara this weekend even though I’m the worst girlfriend ever?”

“You—” He steps in closer, grabs her around the waist, and scoops her into his arms; she shrieks delightedly, clinging onto him— “are the best girlfriend ever, and I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.”

“How about you start with the bedroom?” she suggests coyly, and, well, her wish is his command.

 

 

~~~

 

 

They don’t move in together — her beachfront lease with Jisoo is too convenient — but other than that, they’re about as committed as two young people with no serious intentions of marriage (yet) can be. They see each other every single day. She loves him — and of course he’s in love beyond human comprehension. How did he get this lucky? She could have anyone, any man in the world, and she’s chosen him. Five foot nine, bookish, mumbly, with a possibly-ongoing emo phase, which she somehow finds endearing rather than repulsive. At least he’s been going to the gym extremely regularly to keep himself in shape for her, but other than that, what’s he got going for him? He can’t believe his good fortune, but he lives with it anyway, because she gets sad if he says any of this out loud. It’s been more than six months — they did early Christmas together before he had to fly home to Boston and she to Melbourne. The time difference is hell on Changkyun’s nerves, but they FaceTime every day, and she says she misses him so much that he actually believes it. He’s bundled up and snowed in while she posts bikini pics — that’s how it is when they’re at home, too, he watches her Instagram lives from glamorous nightclubs while he sits at home grading papers — but where someone else in his position might be jealous, he just feels proud. They all want her, but he has her. When she gets back (he’d returned to LA early in anticipation of the spring semester starting again), Jennie’s meeting her at the airport and Changkyun manages to convince her to let him tag along, which is the singular most awkward car ride of his life, but he’s so happy to see Chaeyoung, beautiful and fresh even off an 18-hour flight, that he doesn’t even care. She jumps into his arms, he twirls her around, and not even Jennie’s glare is enough to make Chaeyoung let him go. Against all odds, she loves him. He knows that; he feels that; he’s comfortable in that awareness, and it’s the best feeling in the world.

He’s so comfortable, in fact, that shortly afterwards, he makes the first in a series of very big mistakes and nearly locks himself out of paradise for good.

 

 

~~~

 

 

They’re watching Deadpool. “They’re both so hot,” Changkyun comments, feeding Chaeyoung a piece of kettle corn. “I was obsessed with her in Firefly.”

“I’ve never seen it,” Chaeyoung says.

“Oh, it’s so good, I have the DVD boxset,” Changkyun says. “We can watch it, if you want. She’s basically playing the exact same character. What a random thing to get typecast as, right? I wonder how she feels about always playing tragic, awesome prostitutes.”

“Mmm. You know so many things,” Chaeyoung says, snuggling up closer to Changkyun and kissing him on the cheek.

“Sorry, I’ll shut up,” he laughs and feeds her another kernel, then eats one himself. Isn’t this the life? Netflix and chilling with his out-of-this-world gorgeous girlfriend, who won’t roll her eyes when he calls Ryan Reynolds sexy but will, instead, agree with him. They’re not far into the movie, currently in the middle of the Vanessa-Wade meeting scene, and Chaeyoung is having a great time, laughing or groaning at the more irreverent jokes. It took Changkyun a long time to get used to the way she watches things; she’s so open about her reactions, so unconcerned with having the correct response to something. Whatever she feels, she expresses. He doesn’t even notice, but he’s just gazing softly at her rather than at the screen, and she glances over to him and scrunches up her nose to tell him to watch the movie instead, and he grins and turns his head to face forward once more.

Then Vanessa and Wade start fucking, and Changkyun, rapidly and all at once, remembers exactly why this is his favorite Marvel flick. Oh, God. It’s not unlike watching footage of the Hindenburg at 7 PM, knowing it’s about to explode in less than half an hour. Yes, the rest of the movie is hilarious, yes, it’s very well-done, but the best part is that, in the middle of a montage of fun and exciting honeymoon phase sex, Vanessa gets the strap and fucks her boyfriend in the ass to celebrate International Women’s Day. Changkyun has this one on DVD, too, not trusting YouTube rips to provide him with the scene he cares about. Had he intended this to be some kind of litmus test for Chaeyoung’s attitudes towards pegging, maybe he’d have planned ahead a little better, but of course that had slipped his mind completely, and now he’s sitting there, frozen in terror, as onscreen, Vanessa and Wade fuck through Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year, and, finally, here’s the scene, Changkyun practically has it memorized — Ryan Reynolds on all fours, Morena Baccarin behind him in a leather bodysuit, her whisper as she leans down to bite his ear, “Relax — and happy International Women’s Day,” and then the shocked, whimpery gasp of a coward who doesn’t know what’s good for him.

Changkyun holds his breath.

And by his side, Chaeyoung squeals out a laugh that’s as scandalized as it is repelled, pulling her knees up to her chest, almost covering her eyes with her hand. “This film is crazy,” she giggles.

“Sure is,” Changkyun agrees with a weak laugh of his own. He sits numb and silent through the next few scenes, barely remembering to comfort Chaeyoung when she inevitably gets emotional about Deadpool’s cancer diagnosis, and tries to think of how the hell he’s going to spin this one.

 

 

~~~

 

 

Rewind a few more frames. There’s something Changkyun has been leaving out of his own internal narration. It hasn’t had the chance to come up — such a ludicrous improbability that he’d very nearly forgotten about it completely. But all of a sudden, it’s come into glaring focus and become unavoidable. Now he can’t stop thinking about it. How could he have forgotten? It was, for a time, his greatest fantasy, something that got him off so hard he’d be dizzy for an hour afterwards. And, considering everything about him, it’s not even that surprising. Of course a red-blooded bisexual boy who sleeps with women normally but exclusively bottoms for men would want to get pegged. It’s the hottest concept in the world, to him: a woman, long-haired and pretty-faced, with a sweet, soft voice, holding onto his waist with her small, elegant hands, the exquisite shape of her hips accentuated by the leather of a strap-on harness, the strap-on itself swaying when she moves closer to him, pushes him over, spreads his legs, thrusts into him over and over and over. Sometimes, he wants it so badly that it’s beyond a craving — more like a need. The best of both worlds. He’s never found anyone willing — honestly, he’s never brought it up with anyone at all. Certainly never with Chaeyoung. He hadn’t even thought of her in that context until just now, right this second. She’s just not the type to want to try it. Too traditional, and too — in the most complimentary of senses — basic. None of which is a bad thing, he loves the way that she is, but pegging is certainly off the table, and yes, she loves him, too, and yes, she wants to make him feel good and accepts him for who he is and has proven herself open to trying new things such as non-diet soda and taking the bus, but no, no, it’s not an option. She wouldn’t want to try it. He shouldn’t even ask. It’s a nonstarter.

…Unless?

 

 

~~~

 

 

By the time the movie’s over, he’s faking his calmness pretty well, and they’re both a little misty-eyed over the happy ending. “That was so good,” Chaeyoung sighs, leaning her head on his shoulder again. “I’m glad we watched it.”

“Me, too,” Changkyun says, unnaturally bright. He can feel it in his throat — he’s going to say something, he can’t stop himself from saying something, but warring with that feeling is the panic of potential rejection, so he grasps for anything else at all that he can say, anything to stave off the inevitable, even for another hour, and what he comes up with is: “Do you want to watch the sequel?”

So they watch the sequel, and it lulls him nicely into a false sense of security. They both cry in the middle — it’s okay, she loves me, she likes that I cry at movies, Changkyun has never been this comfortable with a girlfriend before — but then there’s a brief callback to the International Women’s Day scene and Changkyun is on-edge again. The rest of the movie may as well be white noise. His mind is going too fast, running through every possible outcome, and what he keeps coming back to is — she loves him, accepts him, for who he is. In all the time they’ve been together, she’s never once laughed at him, mocked him, or pushed him away when he was just being sincere. What’s the worst that could happen — she says no? He can handle that (possibly). But the best-case scenario is so good that, well, he simply has no choice but to take the risk. Now, it’s only a matter of wording it correctly.

Deadpool 2 ends, and Changkyun gently kisses Chaeyoung’s slightly tear-streaked cheeks and turns the TV volume down while the end credits play. “I forgot how dirty those movies are,” she says, “but I also forgot how sweet!”

“They really do have a lot of heart,” Changkyun nods. “Marvel’s not all explosions and bad color grading — some of their writers do a great job.”

Chaeyoung smiles at him, putting her arms around his neck and leaning in for a small kiss. “I know, right? Like, Deadpool and Vanessa? Relationship goals! Why is everyone so obsessed with being like Harley and the Joker when that’s right there?”

Is this his opening? Changkyun sees the glimmer of a chance and leaps for it. “Goals, hm?” he prompts, pulling her closer, almost into his lap.

“Well, minus the cancer and running away and dying, obviously,” Chaeyoung giggles, kissing him again. “They just love each other so much, you know? And they’re on the same wavelength. Just like us. Definitely relationship goals.”

“So does that mean you’ll peg me?” Changkyun blurts out.

Chaeyoung laughs, and he can’t blame her, because it sounds like a joke. “Is that what that’s called? Oh, they’re crazy,” she sighs. Another kiss. Changkyun is going numb. Reaching the point of no return. Shovel in hand, digging his own grave. But he’s one foot in it now, no turning back, so he doubles down:

“Yeah, that’s what it’s called. Was that a… yes?”

Fuck, he’s doing this all wrong. All, all wrong. Chaeyoung must realize he’s not joking, because she pulls back from him, blinking her long lashes. “Wait, you’re serious?”

Changkyun wants to laugh, or scream, or die, or, ideally, all three at once. “Um, yes,” he says. “I think you’d be really great at it.”

Chaeyoung has an expression he’s never seen on her before: confusion, maybe, but the dim light in his living room is making it look like disgust. “Changkyun, I… I don’t know what to say,” she says.

This is where Changkyun should stop, laugh it off, back himself up to before this all happened and say he was just joking. This is where he could fix everything. Instead, this is where Changkyun shrugs, his panic by now making him function on automaton, and says, “It’s just an idea. If you wanted to try something new. Like I said, I think you’d be a natural.”

“So— does that mean you don’t like the kind of sex we’re already having?” Chaeyoung frowns. By now she’s pulled back a little, and when she says that, she gets out of his lap completely. That strange expression has changed into a small, upset pout. “I don’t understand. You want to spice things up, because they’re boring now?”

It’s like a switch flipping, or a string being cut. He wakes up as if from a dream, sees the hurt on her face, and reaches for her, all his own wants and fantasies forgotten completely. “Baby— baby, no, that’s not what I’m saying at all,” he says. She’s reluctant, but she lets him take her hands, which is a good sign, which heartens him. She isn’t mad, this is just a miscommunication, and he can reassure her, explain what he means, he can still save this. “It just… seems like it could be fun. If you wanted to try it.”

Jesus, man, let it go! “Oh,” Chaeyoung says. She frowns again, eyebrows furrowed, lips pursing and pulling to the side, and looks down at their linked hands. “I don’t know, Changkyun. I don’t think I’m into… that. I’m sorry.”

“No— no, I’m sorry,” Changkyun says, letting go of her hands first and moving back to the other side of the couch. “Sorry, I— yeah, forget it, just, never mind.”

“It’s okay,” Chaeyoung says, but she sounds uncomfortable, and Changkyun is definitely uncomfortable. They both just sit there in excruciatingly awkward silence, because the movie’s end credits are over by now, and Changkyun feels like he’s going to be sick. Chaeyoung clears her throat slightly and picks up her phone from the arm of the couch to check the time and her notifications. “Oh, it’s late, I should go home,” she murmurs.

“You don’t have to!” Changkyun says, looking over at her with a significant degree of desperation. If she walks out right now, who knows if she’ll come back? “I don’t have class tomorrow, we can sleep in!”

“But my landlord’s coming over in the morning to fix the screen door, and Jisoo has a hair appointment first thing so she can’t let him in,” Chaeyoung explains apologetically. She stands — he watches her as though from underwater. “Did you still want to get dinner after I’m done with yoga?”

It feels like an olive branch, and he grabs for it like at a lifeline. “Yes, definitely,” he nods, standing up as well to accompany her to the door. Then his panic kicks back in, and he can’t help but hesitantly clarify, “Um… did you?”

“Of course, babe,” Chaeyoung says. She looks up at him and holds out her hand, and he automatically holds out his arm so she can brace herself whilst she pulls her kitten heels on. After how stressful the last five minutes have been, her touch is like ice on a bruise, and he exhales shakily and holds himself as steady as he can, letting her lean on him. She kisses him good night, and they even get a little carried away — he’s kissing her with a kind of frantic, needy energy, which she doesn’t match but doesn’t reject, at least, just winds her fingers in his hair and melts against the doorframe — as they always do, until the Lyft driver honks at them and he reluctantly has to let her leave.

As is by now their tradition, he waits on the street for her car to vanish from sight, but this time, he stays outside long after it has gone. Half-hoping she’ll tell the driver to turn around, bring her back, back where she belongs, with Changkyun. But she doesn’t. He feels his phone buzz in his pocket with her text, saying she made it home safely. He’s so out of sorts about the events of the night that he’s on the verge of hysteria, and he finally drags himself back inside, falls into bed, tosses and turns all night. He hates sleeping without her — there aren’t even any silvery two-foot-long hairs on his pillow in the morning, so what’s the point of being alive? So unable to sleep peacefully, he’s up at dawn and texts her good morning and is on tenterhooks, nail-bitingly tense, until she replies in kind at 8 o’clock. Nothing is amiss in her text — she uses all the same emojis she always does, sends him an adorable woke-up-like-this selfie (and he’s seen it in real life enough times to know she really does wake up like that), and he can exhale, slightly.

Miraculously, he makes it through the day. She sends him a follow-up selfie from her favorite juice bar, and then from the gym, and then a joint one of her and Jennie at the nail salon. Jennie, of course, is unsmiling, and normally Changkyun really doesn’t care what Jennie thinks of him (usually, he agrees with her, as stated earlier), but today, he’s petrified, terrified that Chaeyoung told her about last night’s conversation. Now Jennie is probably telling her that he’s a freak, a pervert, and a degenerate, and that not only should she dump him right this instant, but that she should also call the police on him and have him committed to a mental institution. He tries to grade undergraduate papers to calm himself down, but one of them is all about “queering heterosexuality,” so that only further inflames his already-fevered imagination. It can never be, he thinks, mournfully, as he gives the paper a 92. Our heterosexuality will remain forever unqueered.

Because of course he doesn’t want to be pegged more than he wants to stay with Chaeyoung. She’d reacted badly to the idea; there’s no way he can bring it up again, no way she’d come around if he did. He would never want to be the kind of guy who bothers his girlfriend, pressing her to do a certain sex act, until she’s sufficiently worn down and concedes, resentfully. He’ll never mention it again. He’ll scrub it from his mind. Well, unless she brings it up first. But she won’t. There’s no point in hoping she will, because she won’t. He gets dressed for dinner, cleans his apartment even though it’s already clean, and meets her at their favorite Tuesday night sushi bar, trying not to feel like a man going to his own funeral.

Her mood doesn’t seem funereal, though. She’s glowing from yoga and she has her hair up, and they kiss hello. “I missed you today,” she hums, waiting for him to pull a bar stool out for her. “How was your day off?”

Well, she doesn’t seem like she’s spent the day preoccupied by thoughts of their awkward pegging misalignment. He tries to make himself seem that way, too. “Pretty uneventful,” he answers. “Graded papers, listened to NPR, missed you. How was yoga?”

“I got voted best in the class again,” Chaeyoung tells him, biting her lip in a cute approximation of modesty, and he doesn’t care that they’re in a crowded sushi bar, he whoops and hugs her tightly — the way she laughs, delighted, in his ear is the sweetest music.

“That’s my girl!” he says, kissing her soundly on the cheek, then again for good measure, since she’s letting him, since she’s not acting strange, since the past is long behind them.

“That’s me,” she agrees, and kisses him in return, with so much warmth on her face. That breath he’s been holding all day leaves him in a rush, and he sits back down, takes her hand, and orders the chef special for both of them, along with a small bottle of sake to celebrate.

Over dinner, she tells him all about Jennie’s latest personal soap opera, a new brand deal she might have in the works, a funny interaction she had with the “juice-rista” at the juice place. In turn, he summarizes some of the papers he’d graded, but mainly he just gazes at her. It’s as though last night never happened at all — like a hideous dream, a cloud of noxious smoke hanging in the air but shortly blown away by a summer breeze. Once he’s paid for dinner and they’re walking out, there’s a brief moment where he’s not sure what’s happening next, if he’s really out of the doghouse — if he’d ever been in it in the first place — but she curls her hands around his arms and looks up at him with those eyes, and he knows they’re good.

“I really did miss you today,” she moans softly, up against the wall in his entryway, while he kisses her neck, runs his hand up her shirt. “I knew you were here all day doing nothing, I should have just— just come over. It would have been way more interesting than my conference call with Sephora.”

“Do it next time,” he replies, nosing under her ear, moving another hand down to grasp her leg and pull it up around his waist. “Don’t even call ahead. I got a key cut for you — I’ve just been waiting for the — right time to give it to you.”

She pushes at his shoulders to make him ease off, looking at him wide-eyed. “Really?”

He nods and lets her go but takes her by the hand to lead her to his kitchen, to his junk drawer. She latches onto his arm again, chin tucked around his tricep, to watch, and a few seconds of rifling through results in a small white paper envelope with Rosie written on it in his very messy handwriting — the o is a heart. He gives it to her, chewing on the inside of his cheek anxiously. Thank God; the only thing he really needs to get himself over a worry is a new worry. “Is it too soon?” he asks softly. “I didn’t know when would be appropriate. And I was… too shy to ask.”

Chaeyoung opens the envelope and shakes the key out into her palm. For a second, Changkyun mentally transposes her facial expression from last night, after he’d metaphorically shot himself in the foot, onto her face now, but she looks nothing like that — she looks radiantly happy, and she sets the key down on the counter and pulls Changkyun in by the back of the neck for a deep, loving kiss. “I love you,” she murmurs. “Silly bunny, why were you shy? You know you can always ask me anything.”

He very nearly lets “not anything, though, right?slip out, but instead, he kisses her back, pulls her so close, breathes, “First question — where were we?”, and savors the way her responding laugh turns into a sigh when he slides his hands down to grasp her perky little ass and rub her up against him.

They stumble together to the living room, at least, but don’t even make it to the couch. Shedding layers as they go until they’re naked on the floor, her hair spilling down from its bun, her back arching up off the freshly vacuumed rug. He bows down, tongues her nipple, puts one of her legs over his shoulder so he can slide into her, easy as anything with how wet she is. She feels like a dream, and she looks even better, her tits bouncing a little as he fucks her, and her moans are the sweetest melody, high and pretty and musical, no care whatsoever for any of Changkyun’s neighbors — they should consider themselves lucky, he thinks, that they get to even know that she exists. This feels so urgent, like make-up sex even though ostensibly they weren’t even actually fighting. He has to make it the best she’s ever had, and judging by the way she’s moaning, her nails digging into his back, he’s pretty close. He’s getting in over his head, too, he can’t get enough of touching her, kissing her, petting anywhere his hands have time to reach. Her leg is still up over his shoulder, so he kisses the side of her knee, then leans down to kiss her mouth — she’s so flexible that she doesn’t even notice her leg, previously at a 90-degree angle, ending up against her own chest. She’s gasping, moaning, telling him how good she feels. How dare he want anything beyond the precious gift she’s already given him? She comes first, oh yes oh yes oh don’t stop Changkyun, and even lets him come inside, since being together for seven months and her IUD mean he gets to do that now. Plus, she already needed to shower after yoga, and Chaeyoung is a big believer in multitasking. She all but purrs into his mouth when he kisses her, both of them lazy and tongue-heavy, but when he starts to pull out, she stops him. “Wait,” she murmurs. He feels the brush of her eyelashes on his cheeks and draws back barely enough to see her face. She’s heavenly, her cheeks flushed as rosy as the rest of her, and she’s smiling small and private even though her eyes are starting to get serious. “You know I love you, right?”

“I love you, too,” he says, leaning back down to kiss her again, and she kisses back, then urges him to pause with a soft noise. So he props himself up on his elbows so they can look at each other while they catch their breath. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I just— I really love you,” she repeats, her smile fading into sincerity. “And I love us. Just the way we are.”

Ah. He understands. “So do I,” he nods, meaning it with every fiber of his being. “I’m really, really sorry again, about last night. Please just forget I said anything, okay?”

“Don’t worry about it, babe,” she says, so graciously, so warmly, and her smile returns and she tilts her head up to get another kiss. “Let’s go shower.”

And it’s as simple as that. Crisis averted.

 

 

~~~

 

 

It is not as simple as that, and the crisis is not averted in the slightest.

 

 

~~~

 

 

Or, at least, it would be, were it not for Changkyun’s overactive imagination. He’s not going to do anything, or even say anything, but he regularly reads a sex advice column that says there’s nothing wrong with fantasies — that fantasies and real life often are, and maybe even should be, entirely separate. That we can’t control our fantasies, and trying to only leads to internal strife. He treats that as iron-clad gospel, because if he didn’t, he’d never be able to live with himself for the things he thinks about.

Because he thinks about it constantly. Now that the dam has burst, he just can’t stop the thoughts from flooding out. When Chaeyoung hugs him and her hands land on his hips. When they’re in bed and she spoons him. When they wait in line at Sweetgreen and she absently puts a hand in his back pocket. When she puts on her flimsiest black panties, not much more than two skinny silk ribbons and a scrap of lace, and his brain expands them into something far more functional. One morning, he’s cooking eggs for her, and she comes up behind him and slips her arms around his waist and he nearly chokes on his tongue to keep from moaning. It’s all he can think about. It haunts him day and night. When she puts her hair up, he’s not thinking about a blowjob, he’s thinking about her bending him over his dining table. They celebrate their birthdays together, and when they’re collectively making a wish and blowing out the candles, the only thing spinning through his mind is I wish you’d fuck me senseless when we get home. She’s athletic — she could go for hours, he thinks. It’s a curse. Does he need therapy? Should he go to confession at a local church? She offers him a lick of her $8 organic guava popsicle and he has to decline because he knows he’d need to throw a glass of cold water in his own face afterwards to keep his thoughts from getting too impure. He’s suffering. And there can be no outlet for it, none whatsoever. Maybe if he were single, he’d just go down to the nearest non-skeevy sex store and buy himself a dildo to satisfy at least a fraction of his needs, but as it is, Chaeyoung is over at his apartment every day and he doesn’t even have time to finger himself in the shower. Thankfully, their sex life hasn’t taken any sort of hit — he’s been able to repress everything very well, all things considered. And she definitely hasn’t noticed. It’s fine; he can handle it. Pining is one of his strong suits. He won’t die if he doesn’t get pegged, right? He’ll be totally fine. He still has Chaeyoung, after all, God’s most perfect woman, and that’s more than he’s ever had in his life. He can handle it — wanting more would be greedy, illogical, and punishable by excommunication from polite society. So he’s fine. It’s fine, he’s fine.

 

 

~~~

 

 

He’ll definitely die if he doesn’t get pegged.

 

 

~~~

 

 

Chaeyoung has to spend a week in New York City, flown out by Glossier for a modeling opportunity. Changkyun, unable to join her due to his class schedule, sees an opportunity, too, and as soon as he gets the notification for her Hello, Big Apple ❤️🤍🖤 story update, he rushes to Cupid’s Closet and buys himself a travel-sized bottle of lube and a 6.25” dildo called “Best Friend.” Not vibrating or anything — he doesn’t want to get too carried away. He has a test to write, homework of his own to finish, but none of that matters, not right now — feverish and feeling a little bit demonically possessed, he throws himself into bed with abandon, and fucks himself until his wrist is sore. He can’t quite get the angle right, but it’s worth it when he gets into a rhythm and closes his eyes, head spinning, and imagines that Chaeyoung is there. He can all but feel the brush of her hair on his back, lipstick kisses on the side of his neck, hear her sweet voice in his ear, her Ozzie accent, as she tells him to take it like a good boy. He comes so hard he actually cries, hyperventilating into his pillow, every inch of him trembling. How is he going to survive, when she gets back? When he has to stop doing this? He fucks himself no fewer than twice a day for good measure the whole time she’s away. She returns, he and Jennie meet her at the airport again (Changkyun is limping slightly; no one notices), and when she asks him if he missed her, he says, “I was miserable,” which is absolutely true.

 

 

~~~

 

 

They get back into their usual routine. He feels unhinged all the time, but it’s fine. Hilariously, while his mental state has never been worse, his relationship with Chaeyoung and her friends, too, has never been better: he runs into Lisa at a bookstore in WeHo and they get tea, because why not? When he comes to Chaeyoung and Jisoo’s apartment to pick her up for a date and Chaeyoung isn’t ready yet, he and Jisoo sit in the living room chatting about Led Zeppelin for twenty minutes. As for Jennie, well, no luck, but that’s just a fact of his existence. Beyond Chaeyoung and her bright, sparkling universe, his everyday life is going great, too. Encouraged by Chaeyoung, he buys a car. He’s on-track to graduate with an excellent GPA, and one of his advisors has been hinting that he’s the top contender for the open adjunct professorship. And Chaeyoung loves him, she tells him every day, and Changkyun is the happiest he’s ever been, and yet there’s a permanent ache in his chest that doesn’t go away no matter how much Chaeyoung holds his hand, kisses him, and gives him random little compliments. It’s outrageous. But he can live with it; he’s come to terms with that. Yes, it’s painful — yes, it’s terrible. But if this is how he is to live, if he gets to have Chaeyoung, it’s worth it, and he is, in a way, at peace.

 

 

~~~

 

 

So imagine his surprise when Jennie, Changkyun’s self-proclaimed nemesis, is the one who ends up turning his luck around.

 

 

~~~

 

 

“Hi, babe,” Chaeyoung sighs, followed by the clatter of her keys into the dish by the door, and the soft rustle of her taking off her running shoes.

“Hey, babe,” Changkyun calls back, closing the final February issue of The New Yorker. “How was it, did you manage to come to a consensus?”

“Yes, finally— we’re doing pre-drinks at The Ivy, just the four of us, and then having the real party on Jen’s boat.”

“It’s big enough?” Changkyun says, raising his eyebrows as Chaeyoung comes in. “Sorry, I don’t mean to neg the yacht, but… didn’t you say Lisa wanted to invite, like, two hundred people?”

“She does,” Chaeyoung shrugs. “So not that boat, her other boat.”

“Oh, of course, silly me.”

“Silly you,” Chaeyoung murmurs with a smile, bending over to give Changkyun a kiss. She sits next to him on the couch, an uncommon occurrence after she’s just gone out with the girls — usually, that makes her energetic, and she wants to go right back out again — and he smiles, too, putting his arm around her. She sighs softly and snuggles into him. “Mmm, hi.”

“Hi,” he says, kissing the top of her head and holding her more tightly. “You okay? What else is new with them?”

“Well, Lisa got a haircut, Jisoo finished writing the next chapter of her novel, and Jennie—” Chaeyoung goes silent, a tiny frown on her face as she looks for the words. “Well, you know that guy she’s been seeing?”

“The Skarsgård cousin?”

“Yeah, Anders.” Chaeyoung fidgets. Something’s really bothering her; Changkyun frowns, too, starting to get concerned, but before he can ask again if she’s okay, she continues, “She said that last weekend, when they were up in DC, she— well—” She huffs, struggling with her sentence. The tips of her lovely ears are just a little pink. “She pegged him,” she finally concludes, pronouncing it like a word in an alien language.

Changkyun goes very, very still. “Oh?” he says after a moment, cautiously.

Chaeyoung nods, continuing to frown. “And everyone was talking about it like it was old news! Lisa’s very familiar, of course, but I knew that already so it wasn’t a surprise, but Jisoo, too! Apparently, that’s all she and Marco used to do before he moved to Seattle. Can you believe it?”

Changkyun can’t believe any of this, actually, but he knows no matter what, he has to tread very carefully. “Wow,” he says, then internally winces. What a lame response. But he can’t really come up with a better follow-up; he still can’t get a read on what Chaeyoung is feeling about all of this, whether she’s disgusted, jealous, or intrigued.

Fortunately, Chaeyoung doesn’t keep him waiting for too long. “And then when Jennie figured out that I was the only one who hadn’t tried it — I mean, she was so shocked,” she sniffs, crossing her arms. “She said— oh, don’t get offended, okay?”

Changkyun’s lips twitch into an involuntary smile. “Promise I won’t,” he nods.

“She said,” Chaeyoung continues, “and I quote, ‘I can’t believe you’d keep that boy around if you haven’t been pegging him. In fact, I thought that’s the only reason you kept him around at all.’ Only she didn’t call you a boy, she called you something not as nice.”

Her Jennie impression is very good, down to the nuances of the New Zealand accent, and Changkyun would love to know what, exactly, Jennie called him, but he’ll save all that for later. “That’s… funny,” he tries, continuing to be totally unsure of Chaeyoung’s attitude toward the matter. “I’m—”

“And then they all agreed with her,” Chaeyoung finishes, her voice almost wobbling, and Changkyun’s stupid selfish desires vanish into the background as he tightens his arm around Chaeyoung again. “I felt so stupid.”

“You’re not stupid at all,” Changkyun soothes. How is he supposed to comfort her if he has no idea what she’s really thinking? Just try something, idiot. “It’s… um… just one of those things, I guess. Some people do it, other people… don’t.”

“Everyone does it except me, evidently,” Chaeyoung says, frowning even harder, and then Changkyun abruptly understands what’s wrong: Chaeyoung has never been behind the trends before.

It makes perfect sense in retrospect. Maybe the first and only time it came up, she balked because she’d never heard of anyone of her caliber trying it; now, she’s stunned that she’s managed to miss out on something so popular. Of course. Not that it would have helped him to know that; he’s not going to be the “c’mon, everyone else is doing it” douchebag. But at least now he can help her through this, specifically, and he makes a small, comforting noise and kisses the side of her head, feeling very much like a martyr, a willing sacrifice for a noble cause. “Just because they’re doing it doesn’t mean you have to,” he points out softly. “I’m sorry they made you feel bad.”

Chaeyoung shakes her head a little bit and burrows even closer to him. “It’s not that, really. I know doing things only because other people are doing it is wrong. It just— I don’t know, I suppose it got me thinking.”

For the second time, Changkyun stills. “About… what?”

“I love my friends,” Chaeyoung says reasonably, “and I trust their opinions on very nearly everything. So if all of them say they like something, then that must mean it’s wonderful, right? So…”

Changkyun’s stomach drops out, the planet does a quadruple lutz, and his heart goes off like a gunshot. “Do you want to try it?” he offers, his voice as low and hesitant as it can go. It’s been more than two months since their ill-fated miscommunication after Deadpool; naturally, neither one of them has so much as skirted around the topic since. But she looks up at him, and it’s clear from the look in her eyes that she hasn’t forgotten a word either of them said that day.

“You really think I’d be good at it?” she asks, and, unhesitating, he nods. Scared to say too much, to spook her away again. If this is going to happen, she has to take the lead. And now she’s looking at him, biting her lip slightly, and she seems uncertain, bruised, but — it’s there, he can see it, she’s interested. “Okay,” she says, after what feels like an eternity. “Let’s do it.”

He shudders, just at hearing her say that, nothing more. “Okay,” he agrees, hoarse.

They blink at each other. He can feel his pulse throbbing hard underneath his skin, and he hopes his heart isn’t beating loudly enough for her to hear. “So—” Chaeyoung swallows slightly. “I don’t… I mean, I’ve never even really thought about it before.”

“I’ll get everything we need,” Changkyun assures her. “Then we can do it whenever you want. There’s— you don’t need to know anything in advance, it’s pretty straightforward.”

Chaeyoung’s perfect teeth pinch into her lower lip. “So you’ve done it?” she clarifies, sounding odd, and he realizes that she’s jealous and can’t help but smile.

“Not that, exactly,” he says, leaning in to kiss her cheek. “But, I mean. It’s probably not that different. To how it is with guys.”

“Oh, right,” Chaeyoung says. She’s cool with the bi thing, but does tend to get a little flustered and unsure of what to say whenever it comes up in conversation. “Alright. Well, just— keep me posted.”

She still seems somehow nervous, although she’s not the one with any reason to be. She’s not the one being offered everything she’s ever wanted, and with it, the terrifying possibility that it’ll all go wrong. “Would it help if we set a date?” Changkyun suggests. “Any day you want. It doesn’t matter when. Just so neither of us is caught unawares.”

“That’s a brilliant idea,” she says, sounding relieved. “Hmm. How about next Friday, is that too soon? I’m… not sure what you need to get, so if it’s too soon…”

Six days away. Six days to change the world before the world changes. “That’s perfect,” he nods. To soothe her nerves further, he kisses her, and she sighs, melting and slipping her arms up around his shoulders. He can’t help it, he’s mildly worried this is all an elaborate prank, so even though comforting her should be the priority right now, between kisses he asks, “You sure you want to?”

“I’m sure,” Chaeyoung says, with a surprisingly short period of hesitation. “Thank you.”

“Thank you,” Changkyun corrects — be cool, rein it in, don’t scare her off. “I mean, you have nothing to worry about. It’s still just me.”

“And I do love just you,” Chaeyoung agrees, smiling into their next kiss.

Kissing is always so nice. But Changkyun can’t fully lose himself in it — he’s hyperaware of her body, the present, the unfathomable future. To keep himself from saying anything worse, he nudges her lightly and says, “C’mon, what did Jennie call me?”

Chaeyoung rolls her eyes. “She’s so mean about you,” she pouts. “She— well, she usually calls you it, actually. Er. If you promise not to be offended… Fine, it’s ‘the worm.’”

“The worm!” Changkyun repeats with a laugh that has a high note of hysteria in it, and though Chaeyoung immediately showers him with praise, adoration, and reassurance that there’s nothing wormlike about him, he’s thinking Holy shit, I owe Jennie Kim my life — she can call me a worm all she wants forever.

He spends the next few days barely holding it together outwardly, all his molecules vibrating with excitement inwardly. It’s a frantic rush of strap-on shopping, coinciding badly with a round of midterms, but he picks the perfect make and model, in the end. An unadorned leather harness, the best-reviewed one he could find, and an equally simple dildo. Not anatomical — he figured that might intimidate her. Not too big, either, which might intimidate her as well. He’d agonized over the color for half of his six days, but finally settled on a gentle sky blue with an almost pearlescent sheen and an utterly neutral shape: no ridges, bumps, or swirls. Already his mind is running away with itself as he stands, zombie-like, in the dildo aisle, imagining her picking out the next one for them — maybe this thick one that vibrates, or maybe this one with a 3D spiral circling down its impressive length? He blinks to un-glaze his eyes, says, “Uh, this one,” to the salesclerk, and the very knowing look he gets from them as they ring up his items makes him feel like he’s on fire. Later, when he gets home, he opens the bag from the store and finds that a tiny pamphlet titled Pegging like a Pro has been slipped into it, and he laughs hysterically until he cries a little bit. He’s under a lot of stress; he can’t be blamed for his reactions.

The next time they see each other, they don’t let on whatsoever that anything is planned for the day after the day after tomorrow, but when she’s leaving for barre class, he coughs and says, “Something by the door for you,” and at first she’s confused but then she sees the plain, unmarked bag, and says, “Oh!” in a strange, pinched tone, but at least they both manage to smile at each other before she goes. She takes the bag with her and doesn’t bring it back when she comes over again later. The anticipation is killing him — a stiff breeze would kill him at this point, probably. He can’t stop imagining her reaction to unboxing his purchases, and for a second, he imagines her doing a proper unboxing video of it for her Instagram, which sets him off on another jag of hysterical laughter. Hey, guys, I just got a super special strap, and I can’t wait to use it on my super special boyfriend! God, Changkyun is so excited. Is this real life? He wants something, and then he gets it, somehow? And something he’s wanted for so long, no less, with the woman he loves so much. For the millionth time, Changkyun just can’t believe his luck. Evidently, he still hasn’t learned how to be careful what he wishes for.

 

 

~~~

 

 

And now it's all caught up with him. The frozen frame starts again: the bathroom mirror, his crazed eyes, his messy hair, his clammy, nervous hands. He just got out of the shower, and he knows Chaeyoung is waiting in his bedroom. She probably has everything on already — he’s keeping her waiting, she’s hard and waiting for him and he’s giving himself the worst pep talk in the history of time. He wrenches open the doorknob and stumbles out of the bathroom, and though he’s momentarily blinded by all the lamps Chaeyoung had turned on earlier, his eyes adjust fast, and he sees that she is indeed waiting, on the bed, no less. Like Changkyun, she’s in an oversize t-shirt. Unlike Changkyun, she has a pillow in her lap, and his cheeks flame bright red when he realizes why.

“Hi,” he says, fidgeting in the doorway.

He’d opened the door and come in so quietly that she didn’t even hear; now, her head jerks up and she looks over at him, gone all pale with nerves of her own. But nervousness, just like everything else, looks good on her, and he’s soothed as he always is by her beauty. Slowly, he comes over to the bed and, for lack of anything bolder to do, sits down by her side. He’d considered coming out in some sort of silk robe like a floozy, but keeping her comfortable is the name of the game, so he’s just in boxers and a tee and resolutely not looking below her waist as he settles, both of them with their backs against the headboard and their legs stretched straight. Her hands are atop the pillow, and Changkyun folds his own across his stomach, chewing on the inside of his cheek. He has too many thoughts buzzing through his head — how can he even begin to express any of them? He’s staring at the opposite end of the room, as is Chaeyoung, and finally, Changkyun clears his bone-dry throat and says, softly, “Are you sure?”

“I think so,” Chaeyoung says after a moment. Changkyun turns his head to look at her, and she looks at him, too. The absurdity of the situation very nearly hits Changkyun in the face, but her eyes, as loving and beautiful as ever, help him dodge — it’s just her, really, and what could he possibly have to fear?

“Good,” Changkyun says. “I’m sure, too.”

They smile at each other for a moment, a note of wistfulness running between them as though they’re reconciling after a divorce rather than about to try a fairly common sex act, and Chaeyoung bites her lip, looking down at the pillow across her thighs. “So… how do we…”

“Just forget it’s there,” Changkyun suggests, although he certainly can’t. “Let’s just— you know, like we’d normally start, and then…” He can’t get the words out. “Just kiss me, okay?”

Chaeyoung seems relieved by Changkyun’s well-intentioned verbal fumbling, and she does as he requests, leaning to close the small distance between them and seal their lips together. Maybe scheduling this was a mistake; their sex life has always been incredibly spontaneous, just short of tearing each other’s clothes off the second they get alone, so they’ve never had to manufacture an erotic atmosphere intentionally before. But as they kiss, Changkyun’s concerns about clinical unsexiness vanish — it’s Chaeyoung he’s kissing, after all, naturally and effortlessly attractive, the sexiest woman in the world. Her lips are soft and he puts his hands on either side of her neck to hold her, to kiss her deeper, and she sighs in that melodious way she has when she’s starting to melt for him, and they slide down the headboard so they can both be horizontal.

He slides his hand over her chest, a natural position to take when they’re kissing, and she sighs again into his mouth, wriggling closer to him. For a moment, it’s awkward to line up their bodies what with the pillow still between them, but it’s almost like they’re making out with her in a voluminous crinoline skirt, if he doesn’t think about it too hard. He knows she likes it when he gets shirtless first, so he breaks the kiss for a moment to tug his tee off over his head and toss it to the side, and he sees the flash of her smile before he’s leaning down to kiss her again. They get lost in it, kissing and touching and pulling each other close, and it really is how they normally start — it feels familiar, easy. But there’s an insistent thrum of excitement under Changkyun’s skin that gets him harder than he normally would be at this stage, and Chaeyoung’s mouth is warmer, too, her eager little breaths coming more urgently. The thought that she’s thinking about what’s about to happen, that it’s getting her excited, cycles right back around and has him nearly whining, and his face is doubtless already a deep pink running down to his neck. He’s still mostly coherent, though. Mostly in control of his own mind. He sucks at her sweet lower lip for a moment and is about to start taking her shirt off for her when she moves, reaching down between them to cast the pillow aside, and when she pulls him back in to kiss him, their hips bump together, and he feels it, he feels it—

“Fuck,” he gasps, electrified at once, a powerful shudder tearing through him. He clutches at her shoulders, now he’s the one to cast a leg around her hips, and he ruts forward shamelessly to feel the hard ridge of her strap grinding against his dick. “Oh, fuck. Rosie—”

“Are you okay?” she asks, starting to loosen her touch on his waist, and he moans so desperately at the prospect of her pulling away from him that she stays right where she is. “Is this okay?”

She expects him to talk? With immense mental effort, he pulls a few words through the thick, heavy veil of arousal clouding his faculties. “Yes,” he says, low and urgent, kissing her again, sloppy with his tongue. “Yes, it’s okay. Is it— does it fit— the harness— is it fine, comfortable?”

At least, that’s approximately what he thinks he says, but it must come out all garbled and wrong, because she laughs quietly into his mouth. “Babe, I can’t understand you.”

“Please fuck me,” he manages. That, at least, he can pronounce. “Please.”

He’d thought that he could wait, that he’d be able to keep a clear head about this, guide Chaeyoung through the unfamiliar motions. But all that’s left is need, an uncontainable forest fire ravaging through him, he’s ready to beg for his life and she hasn’t even gotten him undressed yet. He hopes he’s not scaring her with the way he’s moaning and clinging to her, but he can’t help it one whit; by now, he’s so hard that he’s going to start leaking through his boxers soon, and he rolls his hips again to chase the friction of the silicone cock while she’s still not moving to flip him over. His mouth has fallen open — he can no longer kiss. “Please,” he repeats, weaker, and Chaeyoung kisses his slack lips and pulls away.

“Move up,” she tells him, and he nods frantically, going as quickly as he can though his limbs feel leaden.

She hadn’t specified a position — he’ll have to choose one anyway. He yanks off his boxers with shaking hands, flings them off the bed, and turns away from her, on his knees with his fingers curling around the top of the headboard. They’d picked this one out together, at West Elm, and he’d looked at her significantly and said, “This seems durable,” and she’d laughed and blushed. At the time, never in a million years would he have been able to imagine that one day, he’d be the one holding onto it for dear life. Now, he gets a good grip and turns his head to look back over his shoulder at her. “You— you good?” he says, grasping at the last straws of his sanity, and the sight he’s met with steals all the breath right out of his lungs and leaves him trembling all over again—

Because while he was setting himself up in position, she’d taken her shirt off, too, and now she’s in nothing but the harness. Her willowy waist, her perfect, perfect tits, the line of her shoulders up to her neck, her hair spilling like spun rose-gold down her back, everything he loves the most, and now the added bonus: black leather, pearl-blue silicone, at the tops of her mouthwatering thighs. The straps are playing peek-a-boo, a hint of her pink pussy showing underneath. It looks perfect — she looks perfect. Like she’s always been meant to end up like this, like it was only a matter of time. Tears prick at his eyes and threaten to spill over, and he’s still practically untouched.

“Roseanne,” he breathes, like a prayer.

She blushes, following his gaze to look down at herself. Very hesitantly, she moves her delicate hand and circles her fingers around the heavy strap, like she would were it a real cock, and Changkyun’s body throbs. “You… like it?”

“Love it,” Changkyun says, struggling not to just beg. “Rosie, please. The lube is in my nightstand, please just—”

She starts moving before he can get really frantic, and he can’t take his eyes off her, can’t stop staring at the way it bobs between her legs. “Here?” she murmurs, opening his nightstand drawer, and her nose crinkles at the mess within — such a her reaction that his breath hitches in his chest with adoration. But then she takes the bottle of lube out, visibly daunted, and he has to squeeze his eyes shut for a moment and swallow back a whine. He just wants to get fucked, he needs it, but he has to talk first.

For her, though, he can do it. He can do anything. “You only need about — a quarter-sized amount,” he tells her, breath heavy. “Into your hand. Then stroke it on, make sure it’s all coated. It’s snug? Against you?”

“Very,” Chaeyoung says. Her cheeks are pink, too, and her eyes, behind her long eyelashes, are bright. She looks down at the bottle of lube and follows his instructions, squeezing clear gel into her fingers, and then she grips the strap and strokes it the way she’d stroke his dick, finally, a motion that she’s used to. But it’s so different in this context, so filthy that it makes him gasp for air again, and he has to touch himself, he has to, he turns his head to bite at his own bicep for some semblance of self-control while his other hand releases the headboard and rubs, just momentarily, at his cock. He can hear that she exhales, or half-laughs, or has some kind of small reaction, but he can’t get the image of her stroking herself out of his head, and he uselessly spreads his knees wider, pleading for her without words to come and take him. What’s he going to do when she actually touches him? Will he be able to handle it? How? Fuck, he’s shaking, and he tries and fails to hold his body still.

He closes his eyes and forces himself to breathe deeply, counting to 7 for the inhale, 11 for the exhale, and he’s so focused on that that he nearly misses it when she does touch him, her hands suddenly on his hips, and he twitches as if electrocuted, back arching immediately. “You don’t have to go slow,” he says, his voice sounding raw and unfamiliar in his own ears. “I’m ready for you. Please, please fuck me. You won’t hurt me, just do it, please.”

A wet sound — the slick motion of her lubed hand over the strap. “You’re ready?” she murmurs, and a sob claws its way up his throat — how many more ways does he have to say it? He lets his body talk, then, pushes his hips back and spreads his knees wider, presents himself to her, completely at her mercy, and then he feels blunt, firm pressure exactly where he needs it, but so wet between the two of them that she misses the first time and mumbles “Damn,” then tries again.

His knuckles go white on the headboard. Again, just like in the bathroom, his head drops to hang down between his arms, and he pants harshly, air burning through his lungs. When he’d said she doesn’t have to go slow, that she wouldn’t hurt him, he’d meant it; he’d spent twenty minutes opening himself up in the shower earlier, he can take the roughest handling. Still, somehow he hadn’t expected that she’d take him seriously, and he certainly hadn’t expected what she does next, namely just drive forward, slide all the way into him, and his moan is an incoherent cry for relief, breaking near-involuntarily from him, when she bottoms out. It’s exquisite — it’s perfect — it’s torture, because she’s not moving. Why not? Isn’t she supposed to love him? Why is she acting like she despises him, then? “Please,” he keens, high and desperate. “Please— more.”

Maybe it’s undignified to beg this much, but he’s past the point of dignity, and it works, she tightens her hold on his waist and flexes her hips — he can picture it, the way she must be moving, and his eyes roll back in his head from the mental image as much as the sensation. “Oh,” she says, behind him. “Oh, Changkyun— that’s—”

“Don’t stop,” he begs, and, angel girl, she does the opposite, starts to speed up, fucking him like she might mean it. He’s moaning, whining, panting, and it’s all involuntary, he couldn’t control these sounds or keep them in if his life depended on it, but in-between noises, he can hear her breathing, too, high and tense and tight, almost like she’s getting off. Very, she’d said when he’d asked if the strap-on was sitting snug against her body. He bites his lower lip hard to silence himself temporarily so he can listen, and sure enough, each time she thrusts into him, a little sigh punches out of her — the base of the strap must be grinding on her clit with her movements.

The realization makes him delirious, his mouth falling open again. “It’s good?” he struggles to say. The headboard rattles slightly against the wall; the bedsprings are creaking. Of course she’d be able to fuck him this hard, this good, the woman spends half her waking hours working out. “For you, it's good?”

Yes,” she pants back, immediate and just as urgent as he feels. “Come here—” Her hands move up from his waist to his chest, pulling him back, and he releases the headboard and slumps back against her, barely able to stay upright but held tightly in her arms. She tucks her chin over his shoulder, steadies him, her hands on his chest and abs, and he feels the press of her lips to the side of his neck and the brush of her hair and nearly shoots off just like that, but then he knows this might be over, and that thought is so devastating that, through sheer force of stubborn will alone, he manages to tamp down his impending orgasm. He leans his head back, gasping, and feels that she’s reaching for a kiss, her open mouth dragging over his jaw.

How is she managing to roll her hips so smoothly, stroking in and out of him so naturally? He’d been trying to kiss her, but he can’t, he’s shaking too hard. When he opens his eyes ever-slightly, he sees that one of her hands is curving around his pec, grasping tight, and the other sliding down his body towards his dick — why does this feel so familiar? They’ve never done this before, but he knows these moves, he knows what to expect, and he inhales with sharp anticipation a second before she curls her fingers over his dick and squeezes in time with her next thrust. He can’t shake the feeling of déjà vu, rolls his hips to match her, get her to fuck him deeper, and the huff of her breath on his ear is what finally jumpstarts recognition: she’s fucking him the way he fucks her.

Hands-down the hottest thing that’s ever happened to him in his life. It’s so hot that it’s past surreal, it’s beyond human comprehension, and something in him snaps and he laughs, breathless and free, and moans again when she rubs his nipple between her fingertips and lets his cock slide through the circle of her other hand. “You love this so much,” she observes, her voice vibrating through him from the way her chest is pressed against his back, and he shakes his head, shaking all over.

“I love you so much,” he corrects, barely coherent. “I love— you— fuck!” She’d angled her hips and hit his prostate, either through sheer luck or through having read about it online and come prepared, and he’s so weak, so devastated, that has to throw a hand out to brace against the headboard again so he doesn’t just collapse.

And just like that, this isn’t life-or-death, do-or-die; it’s fun, like sex with them always is. He still feels overwhelmed like never before, seeing heaven each time she spears him open, but now he knows that when he shatters into pieces, she’ll just put him back together again. She’s kissing his neck, she’s touching him, petting, stroking, and he’s never felt this loved before — this wholly supported, seen, cherished, and desired by another person. And all from a 6-inch hunk of silicone pumping in and out of his ass, but it’s more than that; it’s the way she’s staying so close to him, her tiny moans gasping in his ear at the friction, the fact that she’d been willing to try this at all, no matter how long it took her to be ready. Finally, he manages to get enough mastery over his body to turn his head and kiss her over his own shoulder, tongue-first, swapping spit, and he can feel that he’s getting too close, he won’t be able to stop himself this time, but the words he tries to tell her come out as helpless whimpers.

They’ve been together for nearly eight months, so by now, she knows his body very well and she can tell that he’s close. Impossibly, she fucks him even harder, even deeper. Her lips on his neck, brushing up to his ear. Her hands pulling pleasure out of him, exactly right. Her breathy, excited noises, muffled only slightly in the side of his neck. He can feel her breasts against his back, her silky-soft skin, and her hair is still brushing against his shoulders when she thrusts particularly hard. And then — and at first, he thinks this part must be a dream — her voice, her voice, saying, “Are you going to come for me?”

Yes. He comes so hard some drops land on the headboard. He’s shaking uncontrollably, and the way he’s moaning must seem outlandish, like he’s faking it, but he’s never come like this before, every atom of him stimulated, every neuron firing. He trembles, and she holds him even tighter — she fucks him through it, doesn’t let up, because he’d told her he could take it and he’d meant it. But finally, when his sounds begin to get hoarser, broken, she slows, and her breathing is ragged. She moves, and he panics at the prospect of the loss, rushing to grasp her arms tightly. “Don’t— please, please just stay, like this,” he moans. “Stay in me.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” she murmurs, and she sounds lower, husky, a register he’s never heard her speak in before. An aftershock ripples through him and he shudders, and since she’d said she wouldn’t move, he lets go of one of her arms and moves his hand back instead. Under any other circumstances, he might find the angle awkward, might be aware of the potential wrist soreness, but now, he pushes his fingers down between the straps of the harness and finds that the leather is slick from her, she’s practically radiating warmth, and, his head still leaned back against her shoulder, his eyes fluttering closed, he lets his muscle memory kick in as he slides his fingers along her pussy.

She tightens up and shivers, hugging around him more tightly, the motion of which sends the strap itself deeper inside him, but he loves the overstimulation, he doesn’t mind. She’s soaked, so turned on she’s twitching against his fingertips, which is incredible, nearly incomprehensible — she got this hot just from fucking him? His sweet, traditional girlfriend liked pushing him around and making him her bitch this much? He moans softly, curls his fingers, manages to fit his knuckles just barely up against her clit, but she hadn’t been kidding, the strap really is sitting snug. As such, there’s hardly any room to move, but he doesn’t have to move much — the position he’s put his hand in means she’s the one that can grind herself off, now, riding his hand with small rocking movements — still fucking him, still fucking him, like she’s going to fuck him until she comes — and she sounds almost surprised in his ear, so different from her usual luxurious, indulgent moans. “Changkyun,” she pants, her fingernails digging into his hips. “Changkyun— ah— gonna, oh my God, I’m gonna come.”

“In me,” he breathes.

She chokes on her next inhale, almost squeaking out her moan, and he feels the way her orgasm pulses through her — she’s throbbing on his hand, and still rocking into him, mindless, chasing her own feeling. Her grip on him is so tight — fuck, he hopes it leaves even one bruise. She always comes big and dramatic, and this is no exception; she’s clinging onto him, shaking, riding it out, little erratic bucks of her hips taking her all the way. He curls his fingers to stroke a different facet of her pussy, something that sometimes sends her into a consecutive, but she’s coming so hard by the sound and feeling of it that it doesn’t even make an impact, so he concedes a glorious defeat and just lets her ride his hand, fuck him, until it’s over.

After a normal round, they’re both ready to go again within a quarter hour, but (as much as it pains him to admit this) he knows that this was too intense, too taxing physically and mentally, to have an immediate follow-up, and he reluctantly slips his hand away from her pussy to let her rest. By now, she’s propped her cheek on his shoulder and is catching her breath, and when he finally opens his eyes just enough to catch a glimmer of light, he sees that her hands, on his hips, are shaking slightly, too. She steadies them by just hugging him, and he’s exhausted, fucked so good he feels it through his bones, but he does his best to return the embrace, leaning into her and running a hand over to slot their fingers together on his stomach. Chaeyoung says something, maybe “Is that it now?” or “I get it now,” if he’s thinking wishful, but he can’t really hear her, he’s losing energy fast, not able to do much but moan faintly and quiver when she finally pulls out of him.

Left without anything to hold him up, he almost immediately crumples to the bed, and he can hear her continuing to speak, maybe soothing him or cooing at him, maybe making fun? He honestly can’t tell — he’s in a blissful fog, his brain is shutting off. He’s sweaty and still overheated, and there are various fluids in various places, but he couldn’t care less. All he cares about is that he loves his girlfriend, his girlfriend who just fucked him, and she covers him with the sheets so he can be cozy and cuddly while she goes off to parts unknown — probably just the bathroom. The back straps of the harness make her already-bubbly ass even perkier, and he makes an appreciative noise although he can only keep one eye open, and even that’s barely focused. When was the last time he felt this light? Unencumbered by anxiety or concern? Has he ever felt this good? He doesn’t think he could ever feel better, but then, an undefined amount of time later — he’s drifting, hazy — she gets back in bed with him and slides into his arms, her small, sleek body fitting so perfectly with his, and life outdoes itself once again.

He presses his face into her hair, feeling so much gratitude and love and joy that he can’t even begin to express it. She’s not saying anything, just breathing, and for once, there’s an absence of overthinking or panic about whether she’s actually gearing up to break up with him or not. Even the absence feels nice. And he doesn’t mean to fall asleep, but he’s warm and well-fucked and with the woman he loves, so it just sort of happens. But then he wakes up alone; so much for not panicking.

It’s 6:30 AM. Chaeyoung has texted him: Good morning babe! I’m jogging. Gotta go back to mine after because I have 3 meetings today, but I’ll see you later! Love you so much 😍😍 In her selfie, she’s smiling as she always is, and though his vision is blurry first thing in the morning, he zooms in on every pixel to try and see if there’s any hint of tension on her face. He can’t find any, but that doesn’t mean much, necessarily; Chaeyoung is a pro at taking selfies that look beautiful regardless of how she might be feeling. The fact of the matter is — he’d fallen asleep last night, they hadn’t had the chance to debrief about what had happened, and this morning, she’s gone. Just jogging, then busy with meetings, but she’s gone. Feeling more than a little deliciously sore below the waist, Changkyun gets out of bed unsteadily, takes a panicked, short shower, goes over his own lesson plans for the next week or so, and jumps out of his skin every time he hears his phone ding with a notification.

But it’s fine; he’ll see her later. She said so. She’ll come over after she’s done with her meetings. How is it fair that she’d just given him the most incredible experience of his life less than 24 hours ago, and now he’s already right back to unfettered panic? Normally, he’d feel comfortable asking her for some kind of reassurance, but this feels like too big of a deal. Once it’s dinnertime and he still hasn’t heard from her, he can’t take it anymore, and, boldly pathetic, he texts her: want me to pick up chinese? miss you so bad, come any time

Half an hour later, her reply: Omgosh babe I forgot to tell you, I can’t come over tonight 😢 I miss you too!!! The girls say hi! And a selfie of the four of them, as if that’s going to soften the blow.

Changkyun hates himself, but he saves the picture before he nose-dives into his pillow and groans, bemoaning his misfortune. Of course — she’d warned him that she was going to have a busy week, what with Lisa’s birthday party at the end of the month and her in charge of planning. Plus, Glossier is making various demands, and she’s been putting more energy into her vlog channel than ever before, so that’s eating up her already-precious time. But what’s he supposed to do now? What if that was it, the last time he ever sees her, because by the time she’s done being busy, she realizes that she’d rather date a fellow underwear model, one who won’t cry with pleasure at the thought of her fucking him from behind? At least there’s something to hearten him, though; the strap-on and the harness are gone, having mysteriously vanished from his bedroom along with Chaeyoung this morning. Surely if she weren’t interested in ever repeating that performance, she’d have left it all there for him to dispose of, but if she took it with her, maybe she’s going to treasure it and store it appropriately until she’s ready to bring it out again? Or maybe she’d taken it away to throw it out herself. Fuck, there goes his silver lining.

He sleeps, alone and despondent, and hopes he can see her tomorrow, but she calls him from the gym, breathless on the treadmill, to break the bad news. “Hi, babe!” she says. She’s panting slightly, and he tries his best to keep his thoughts PG-13. “I miss you! But it’s another mad day, I don’t think I can see you today, either!”

“Are you going to be at home? I can just drop by,” Changkyun says, keeping his voice down since he’s at his own gym, but sitting in the locker room. “Or whatever you want. I miss you.”

Somehow, it sounds so much more desperate when he says it. Two weeks ago, he was fine with that, he was comfortable, but now he’s overanalyzing every interaction, every inflection in both of their voices. But he doesn’t have to read too far into the way she pouts, a tiny line forming between her eyebrows when she frowns. “I’m sorry, babe, I’m just too busy,” she says. “Next week, though, yeah? I promise!”

“You promise?” Changkyun mumbles, and she smiles for him, lifting a hand to show him her lovely pinky finger. He does the same, brushing his hand over the screen and wishing he could touch her skin. “Okay. Good luck with all your projects, let me know if there’s anything I can do to—”

“Oops, Hollister’s calling, gotta go!” she says and hangs up on him, and Changkyun buries his face in his hands so nobody in the locker room sees the tears in his eyes.

Well, life has to go on, although he feels very much like it shouldn’t, if not only is he never going to get pegged again, but also Chaeyoung seems to be ghosting him. He’s going out of his mind — solitude is very bad for him, but having to teach and seem remotely functional in public is only making it worse. He occupies himself, instead, with various random tasks he’s been putting off forever, such as buying a new shower curtain, stocking up on mochi ice cream (he nearly has a breakdown in the Whole Foods where they met, missing her so badly), and, impulsively, getting something for Jennie to thank her for her contributions to his life.

It’s tough to shop for the girl who literally has everything, but he does his best. Starbucks gift certificate to the tune of a cool $50 and a thank-you card. She’ll hate it, of course, but he figures she can’t possibly hate him more than she already does. He tries not to treat the note he writes on the card as a goodbye note, but isn’t it? Hi Jennie, Just wanted to say thanks for talking to Rosie the other day. I know we haven’t always gotten along, but I’ve always really respected you and I think you’re awesome. Get a passionfruit refresher, or three, on me. Cheers, the worm. He figures he’ll never see her again once Chaeyoung inevitably dumps him days from now, but just in case, he tries to make his handwriting more legible, one last-ditch effort to ingratiate himself — maybe Chaeyoung will run the breakup past her friends first, and Jennie’s ice-princess heart will have been melted by this note and she’ll stand up for him. Hopefully Jennie knows what he means, anyway. Surely she will. There’s no way that Chaeyoung hasn’t told her friends about her accomplishment, especially since they had been the ones to motivate her to try it in the first place. Glumly, he seals the envelope and checks traffic — he may as well hand-deliver this, since his and Jennie’s paths never cross, and it’s not like he’s doing anything else tonight, since his girlfriend who used to love him is now acting like he may as well have never been born, so his usually Chaeyoung-full nights are completely free.

He hasn’t seen her in three days. Three days! He’s wilting. He listens to Phoebe Bridgers and Fleetwood Mac on the drive into the Hills, where Jennie lives in an outrageous mansion he’s only seen a couple of times, and he’s so numb that he doesn’t even care when he ends up getting stuck in traffic after all. Two hours roundtrip to drop off a card — who gives a fuck? What’s the point of anything? He’s walking the plank, dragging his feet on the steps up to the gallows. He almost gets lost on the twisty road leading up to Jennie’s place, but he makes it there in the end and searches through his Notes app to find the gate code; Chaeyoung had sent it to him months ago when he’d been permitted to come to Jennie’s Halloween party (the theme of which had been decades — he and Chaeyoung went as the 1920s, and she’d gasped so adoringly every time he quoted The Great Gatsby at her that he’d been able to endure Jennie death-glaring at him the whole night). Luckily, it hasn’t changed. He rolls slowly up her driveway, seeing that most of her lights are on, and he can’t decide if he’s relieved that she’s there or not. He may as well apologize, too, while he’s at it. Apologize for wasting Chaeyoung’s time, for not being good enough. He parks, gets out, fruitlessly checks his phone one last time to find nothing new from Chaeyoung, and ambles up, too sad to walk quickly, to ring the doorbell.

Of course there’s no response right away, even though Jennie’s obviously home. He glances back at his car, very momentarily entertained by how incongruous the poor Nissan Leaf looks in her driveway, then sighs when he remembers the reason he’s here, the reason he’s preemptively going into mourning, and looks at the door again. Maybe Jennie won't even open the door — she probably has security cameras pointed at every inch of this place, and she probably sees that it’s him and will make him wait here all night. Still, it’s worth another shot. He raises his hand to buzz the bell once more, but then the lock clicks and a voice that is undeniably Chaeyoung’s, from inside, brightly calls, “Food’s here!” as the door swings open.

Changkyun freezes, holding stupidly onto his envelope, all his joints locking up in terror. “Oh,” he says, cold searing through his veins.

“Oh!” Chaeyoung says, eyes wide, also stopping dead in her tracks. “Oh, um— um! Hi!”

“Do you need cash, Rose?” Jennie says from somewhere further off into the house. “There’s some under the giraffe.”

Changkyun and Chaeyoung both look over at the giraffe statue in the foyer. This whole situation is so surreal that Changkyun wants to run off into the hills surrounding Jennie’s mansion and never look back, but this is the first time he’s seen Chaeyoung in three days, and it feels like three decades. He doesn’t even know what to say to her, how to beg for an explanation without getting on his knees here and now. At an utter loss for words, he looks back at her, and she does the same, a small and nervous smile on her face. “No, it’s okay,” she says, but not to Changkyun — to Jennie, raising her voice slightly. “It’s not the food, it’s Changkyun.”

Who?” Jennie says, and they both hear the click of her footsteps along the marble floor as she comes to see for herself.

In the meantime, they just stand there, Changkyun staring at her and Chaeyoung restless, unable to make eye contact, which is a very bad sign indeed. Her hair is up in a bun and her makeup’s off. Loungewear, not pajamas, but still. She does, finally, meet his eyes, but as soon as she’s done so and Changkyun has felt the faintest stab of hope, the most gruesome of emotions, Jennie arrives, and her pretty face is spoiled by a sneer.

“Oh. I thought that’s what you said. What is he doing here?” Jennie asks imperiously, coming to stand by Chaeyoung’s side, her posture protective.

“What— what are you doing here?” Chaeyoung agrees, a little softer.

Changkyun feels so stupid, so small, and looks down at the Hallmark envelope in his hands. “I have something for Jennie,” he says and holds it out to her. “Just— nothing important, really. I didn’t know you would be here, too.” Chaeyoung’s eyes are on the envelope, though, not on him. Jennie’s lip curls as though she’s just been offered a small dead rat and she plucks the envelope from him, then slips a stiletto nail underneath the envelope’s flap to slice it open, but Changkyun quickly says, “Please don’t — not yet. When I go, okay?”

Jennie is very unamused, but she acquiesces with a regal nod, then crosses her arms. “Was that all?”

“How are you? I thought you were working tonight,” Changkyun says to Chaeyoung, ignoring Jennie’s obvious hint that she wants him off her property.

“I was! I mean, I am,” Chaeyoung says. Her cheeks are pink. She’s beautiful, she always is, but this is bad, this is very, very bad. A not insignificant part of Changkyun had been hoping that he’d been making these past few days up, that she truly was just busy, not avoiding him. But this is undeniable proof that their separation has been intentional, on her part, and that can only mean one thing: impending doom. “I just needed Jen’s advice on something, so she picked me up.”

“So are you done now?” Changkyun presses, but trying to keep it gentle, unobtrusive. “I can drop you back home?”

“Well,” Chaeyoung starts to say, faltering, and Jennie interrupts, curling her hands around Chaeyoung’s arm: “No, I’ve got it from here, thank you and good night.”

“Ah,” Changkyun says. No, no, he won’t cry in front of Jennie Kim, he won’t, even though that’s probably exactly what she wants. He sniffs slightly, scuffs his shoe along the ground, and takes a step back, down off her porch. Is this the way the world ends? With a bang, and then a whimper? “Okay. Have a good night. Love you.”

“I—” But Jennie slams the door shut before Chaeyoung can finish.

Changkyun stares at the space where Chaeyoung just was. “That’s that,” he says quietly to himself. Then he trudges to his car, gets in, and drives home in silence — no music.

His apartment is a ghost town, haunted by what he could have had if he hadn’t fucked everything up by wanting too much. Didn’t he read the Bible as a child? Shouldn’t he have known better than to covet? Even the air in here smells like Chaeyoung, imbued with her around every corner. There are shirts of hers in his closet, an Instax of her up on his fridge, an extra pair of heels she’d left behind. Her toothbrush. Her copy of Mindy Kaling’s book. He exiles himself to sleep on the couch; being in bed without her, knowing she’ll never be there again, is unbearable. Oh, yes, she hadn’t outright said anything regarding the state of their relationship, but she doesn’t have to. He can guess it all for himself and he may as well start coffin shopping now and get the discount.

It doesn’t matter how it happened. (Yes, it does.) Either her friends finally wore her down with their anti-Changkyun agenda, or she just woke up and saw the world through clearer eyes. Of course she’s always been out of his league; of course they’ve never been endgame. He was crazy for ever thinking otherwise. He was crazy for ever wanting more when he already had far, far more than he deserved. The next day, Chaeyoung doesn’t have a good morning text waiting for him when he wakes up, and Changkyun walks like a wind-up toy through his daily routine, nearly crashes three times on the freeway, puts on a video for his students to watch rather than actually teaching them. He knows this is what his life is going to be like from now on, and on his lunch break, shops around online for a therapist. Still no word from Chaeyoung, who is posting normally on Instagram and TikTok. No word from Jennie, either. Fuck, he hopes she opened the card out of Chaeyoung’s eyesight, but of course she didn’t. They probably laughed about it together while waiting on a FaceTime from Ryan Gosling. He sees her everywhere — everywhere she’s not, but everywhere she used to be. Waiting outside the lecture hall, in the passenger seat of his car, at Whole Foods. If only I could see her one last time, he thinks, despairing. Not to ask for anything — just to say a proper goodbye, a proper apology. If only, if only.

Instead, he goes to Whole Foods after all, feeling like there should be some kind of cosmic symmetry. A door opening and closing, what could have been. He buys three bottles of Barefoot rosé and five pints of ice cream, as cliché as it gets. “Whoa, looks like a fun party!” says the check-out guy, and Changkyun can’t even muster up an artificial smile.

He walks home, the bag of wine and ice cream swinging sadly from his hand. He’ll die a spinster, he decides. He’ll never love again. Certainly, he’ll never get pegged again. How can I even think about that right now? Disgusted with himself, he thinks instead of the other things he’ll never get to do again — hold Chaeyoung’s hand, wake up next to her, kiss her cheek, her temple. Hear the sound of her laugh, cover her eyes for her when he knows there’s a jumpscare coming in the movie, feel her heartbeat underneath her skin when they’re lying together in bed, not saying anything, just breathing in each other’s company. His eyes well up, and he fumbles with the keys to his apartment, nearly dropping them but catching them at the last second. Thank God, too, because if they’d fallen, he’d have fallen, too, too heavy with his grief to stand. Some more fumbling, then he manages to get the key into the lock, already thinking of how drunk he’s going to get, already planning on turning off his phone and hiding it ahead of time so he doesn’t call her, sobbing. This day will live in infamy, he thinks, turning the key and adjusting his grip on the Whole Foods bag. March 8th— fucking Pisces season. Insult to injury. Couldn’t this have happened in Virgo season? At least then I’d have had Burning Man to look forward to.

He goes into his apartment, sighing wearily. It still smells like her — it’s agony. If anything, it smells even stronger today than it had yesterday, and he has to stifle a groan of pain. When will it stop hurting? Ever? He comes into the kitchen, a lump in his throat, and sets the Whole Foods bag on the counter to unpack, get the ice cream in the freezer, and then he sees the state of his apartment, and he stops.

Rose petals on the floor. A trail. He’d trampled on some on his way in and not even noticed. Candles, too, on the kitchen island, on the coffee table. The trail is leading down the hallway to his bedroom, and Changkyun leaves the bag on the counter, the ice cream un-refrigerated, to follow it. He’s walking slowly, carefully, side-stepping the petals so as not to crush them in his haste, and his heart is beating fast but he’s trying to keep his mind as blank as possible — no hopes to dash. There’s just too much that it could mean, and he doesn’t know what’s going on; any outcome, good and bad, is right behind that door. It’s slightly open, he can see the lights are on, and if he waits for even a second longer he’ll explode, so he reaches out with a trembling hand to push it open all the way, and see what waits within.

Chaeyoung, in a silk robe. Chaeyoung, on his bed. Chaeyoung, her hair loose like a Botticelli goddess, sitting Sukhasana in a halo of rose petals. Her face is open and serene, and she looks up at him like she’s been waiting for him.

“Am I dreaming?” Changkyun whispers hoarsely.

She shakes her head. She doesn’t speak. He takes a step closer, then another, approaching slowly, not wanting to dispel this mirage. But it’s not a mirage — he can see it’s real. His heart is beating harder than ever. When he reaches the foot of the bed, she begins to rise, finally moving, and he keeps his eyes on her face, desperately searching for answers in her expression. But none come; she’s keeping her cards close. Then in his peripherals, he sees her hands moving to open the robe, revealing her marble-perfect skin, and first she frees her shoulders, her chest, and then the robe falls down her waist, pools on the bed, and she looks him in the eyes. Once she’s sure she has his gaze, she glances down and he follows, obedient, and his breath tears out of him when they collectively reach her destination.

She’s wearing a different strap-on harness, and in it, a very different strap. If the one he’d gotten her had been beginner, this one is definitely advanced. Thick, curved, a classy, glossy, cherry red. It sways heavily when she moves closer, and she circles her fingers around it — or tries to; it’s too thick, her thumb and middle finger can’t touch. Changkyun hasn’t been breathing this whole time, and his vision is starting to go dark around the edges — he sways, and her other hand snaps out to grab his arm, to keep him exactly where she is. That forces him to breathe, though it’s ragged and unsteady, and he shakes his head in mute shock, his mouth watering, his blood rushing south, his brain fizzling uselessly as thoughts attempt to form but fail.

What does this mean? What does she want? Was this what she’d been asking for Jennie’s advice about? He’s not sure — he can’t ask, he’s too scared of what her answer could be. Does this mean he wins? He gets to have his cake and eat it, too? No need for a choice, no need for a cold and solitary death? She’s stroking the strap now, slow and measured, and Changkyun bites back a whimper. Uncomprehending, barely daring to let himself dream, he lifts his eyes again to look at her face, and finds her smiling.

“Happy International Women’s Day,” she says, and he gets it.