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won't you be my kissaroo?

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ONE.

 

Hwang Hyunjin had been the bane of Han Jisung’s existence since the beginning of high school -- and quite possibly, since the very moment he was unfortunately brought into this world at the same year and same place as his fated archnemesis.

They’ve always dismissed each other’s existence as children, but at the arrival of high school, it’d gotten harder to ignore Hyunjin considering his exponential growth in the popular scene that fueled his infuriating narcissism and superiority complex. He grew taller than the rest of their classmates, became eye-candy for the girls, was generically great at sports, and most of all -- was unfairly fucking handsome.

While Hyunjin was on his way to becoming some effortless child model, Jisung was still stuck with disproportionate and awkward limbs, terrible voice cracks, acne, and hair growing in the most outlandish of places. He wasn’t popular, could barely talk to girls, had the attention span of a squirrel, and the only sport he played was running away from his feelings. That was like social suicide in a milieu of dumbass jocks that were desperate in wanting to salvage their impression of being tough through being an asshole.

Hyunjin was no exception. He was an asshole, albeit pretty, and Jisung wasted no time targeting him at every opportunity. And thus -- began their mutually destructive hatred for each other.

Jisung’s circle of friends found their parasitic relationship amusing despite Jisung’s adamant attempts in badmouthing Hyunjin to the ends of the earth. He’d spend hours upon hours thinking of names to throw at Hyunjin whenever they passed by each other in the halls or were forced into group work.

“I hate your giraffe looking, T-rex looking, palm tree looking musty ass,” Jisung had grumbled, one time, when they were paired together for a lab during their chemistry class.

“Hm?” Hyunjin barely even looked at him as he spoke with a condescending inflection. “Need a stool? I couldn’t hear you all the way down there.”

Jisung could take a lot of things, but the moment Hyunjin insulted his relatively average (not short, mind you) stature had been the last straw. He knew he had to do something.

“Don’t you think this is kind of unnecessary?” Felix asked when he watched Jisung furiously type HOW TO DESTROY YOUR ARCH ENEMY into the address box of a search engine on his phone. “What if it tells you to poison him by sprinkling cyanide in his food?”

“Dude.” Jisung frowned. “I’m actually hurt that you think I would turn to means of murder. What am I? Hannibal?”

“Then why’re you looking up ways to physically destroy him?”

“Not literally. I just hate seeing him -- you know, socially succeed during these trying times of adolescence! Aren’t you tired of seeing him recycle girlfriends every week? Disrespecting women like that as if they were disposable? I’d die happy if I got to hold a girl’s hand but he just fucking walks around like he owns the place and everyone in it! And since when did he find himself so important that he has to remain student council president every year? What about the time he took away the anime club because they were ‘low on funds’ and there weren't enough people to keep the club going when it was clearly an attack on my personal interests?”

“There were only two people in the club,” Felix said flatly. “It was legit just you and me.”

“So?” Jisung grumbled.

Felix rolled his eyes skyward and stood up from the floor. “Have fun plotting his demise, Jisungie. I’m on library duty today.”

Jisung took Felix’s best wishes as a means of enablement. He perused through the web and avoided the reddit posts because he wasn’t a murderer, and in the end, ended up going on his trusty website with the most credible answers: Yahoo.

Most of them were shit and too legal, but a particular answer caught his eye. He was dubious at first, but the more he thought about it, the more he could see it as a weapon he can put within his artillery against Hyunjin. It actually made sense. It was brilliant. Utterly magnificent! It spoke to his soul and made his hands shake with excitement, because of-fucking-course.

BIG BUSSY PAPI (10:57 AM)
mfs y’all are so stupid the only way u can defeat ur enemy is by FLIRTING. be a hoe and ruin their life <3

Never in his life would Jisung have expected to be so grateful for some user named Big Bussy Papi, but here he was, feeling grateful for a user named Big Bussy Papi.

The glaring hole in the plan was that Jisung had never flirted in his entire sixteen years of life, but he’s seen enough romcom movies to sustain that drowning department. Besides, it wasn’t like he was actually trying to genuinely woo his archnemesis. He just needed to, you know, be smooth enough to retaliate.

So the next time he saw Hyunjin, Jisung believed that to be a sign from the stars. He threw his hall pass down on the floor of the boys’ washroom and took the chance.

“So,” Jisung said as he leaned his shoulder against the wall, “you come here often?”

Hyunjin wordlessly stared at him as he flung his hands dry in the sink. Jisung wanted to punch him in the face.

“Ha-ha. You know, it’s going around that you stole a beat. You’re a lot of things dude, but a thief?” He raised his hands as a gesture of good will. “No way. Wait. Actually, nevermind. Maybe yes way. I can see you as a thief. You have a thief-y face.”

Hyunjin furrowed his brows and stood to his full height, crossing his arms. “Beat? What are you going on about now, dumbass? What beat?”

“My heart beat.”

Thick silence followed. Jisung was sweating bullets. Hyunjin startled back as if he’d been burned, and his mouth flopped open and closed like a dead gaping fish. He stared at Jisung in shock until a light shade of pink began to spread up his neck and to his face and then to the tips of his ears. Without a single rebuttal, Hyunjin stumbled back, turned on his heels, and sprinted out of the washroom so fast he could have rivaled that of Usain Bolt.

Jisung blinked. He had not expected that.

But it worked, so Jisung didn’t stop.

At every insult Hyunjin threw his way, Jisung responded with an exaggerated wink. Whenever Hyunjin tried to get a rise out of him, Jisung translated all his anger into complimenting the fuck out of Hyunjin so hard that everyone else around them thought he’d been replaced by an anthromorphic alien. If Hyunjin called Jisung out and tried to make fun of him like he usually did in gym class, Jisung would laugh and blow him a sleazy kiss.

Needless to say, when Hyunjin dragged him to the back of the school after classes had ended one day and demanded answers, Jisung sent his silent kisses of gratitude towards the sky for Big Bussy Papi’s existence.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Hyunjin scowled.

Jisung blinked innocently. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“You do! You’ve been doing all that weird shit and I know you’re just trying to embarrass me. And newsflash asshole it’s working, so can you please fucking stop with that -- that stuff that you’re doing and go back to verbally harrassing me like you used to?”

Oh, how the angels sing for him! To think that Hyunjin would beg for things to go back to the way they used to be! Jisung might be on cloud nine at the moment.

Instead of doing what Hyunjin wanted, Jisung grinned impishly and danced a weird jig on spot. “Oooo, I bet you wanna kiss me right now, don’t cha? You wanna plant a big fat one on my lips, right? Right? Hwang Hyunjin wants to kiss meeee!”

Hyunjin sputtered. “What? No!”

“I can see it in your face, dude. The longing. The yearning. The tenderness! Ah, yes. I’m touched by the warmth of your ways of affection.” Jisung dramatically clutched his chest with one hand as he rested his other on his forehead like a lovesick maiden looking into the distance. “To think these years of brutal fighting was a way to cover up your uncontrollable feelings for me? That’s so toxic, bro. But anyway, I’m so flattered. Honestly, you could have just -- “

“If you don’t shut the fuck up right now,” Hyunjin hissed, red-faced, as he lifted up a fist, “I will hit you so hard that all your front teeth will fall out.”

“Better make sure you kiss your knuckles before you punch me in the face, then.”

Hyunjin was rendered speechless at that. He blushed furiously and seemed to become self-conscious every passing second Jisung was smiling triumphantly at him, and slowly, Hyunjin dropped his fist into the pocket of his jacket. He was glaring down at the ground, the tips of his ears burning red like lava.

Jisung was about to taunt him and rub his victory in Hyunjin’s face when realization struck him in the face instead: the wavering confidence, the blushing, the slight panic, and the flustered stammering whenever Jisung flirted with Hyunjin -- holy shit.

“Wait.” Jisung blinked at Hyunjin. “Wait, wait. Wait. Do you like me?”

“No!” Hyunjin shrieked. “I’d rather die before I develop feelings for you!”

“Fuck off. Then, are you like -- are you into dudes?”

Hyunjin opened his mouth with what seemed like a vehement denial sitting on his tongue, but no words came out. He looked absolutely mortified.

“Oh, bro. Brooo.” Jisung had not expected that either. “I can’t believe I’m your first gay flirting experience.”

Then Hyunjin was up in his face, hands gripping onto the collar of his t-shirt and nearly lifting him up from the ground. Curse him and his height. “No, I -- I still like girls. I just -- if you tell anyone -- “

“Dude,” Jisung said as shoved Hyunjin’s face away until he let go of his collar. “I’m an asshole but I’m not that much of an asshole like you motherfuckers. Why would I even tell anyone? I think I like guys too.”

Hyunjin stared at him, wide-eyed, and he looked less like a caged bird desperate to escape. “You -- what? You -- really?”

“Yeah, man,” he said, “so I’m not surprised. You totally put the bi in bitch.”

Much to his surprise, Hyunjin actually laughed at that, and Jisung laughed too because his laughter was infectious, and then the both of them were laughing together until their stomachs hurt and Hyunjin was literally rolling on the ground. Never had Jisung expected this to become the turning point in their relationship. Jisung realized that they actually had a lot in common -- from debilitating relationships with their absent fathers, to secretly shopping for rainbow-themed accessories for the sake of hiding them under their beds.

And, well. After that, Jisung didn’t have the heart to bear much of a grudge against Hyunjin anymore when he started to understand why Hyunjin acted the way he did.

Hyunjin sought for attention and validation in a place that could easily give him all that when he didn’t get any from home. He feared ostracization and simply wanted to be loved. He wasn’t like Jisung, whose mom loved him in place of his father, because Hyunjin didn’t even have a mom. Hyunjin molded himself into a strange shape from trying to fit in, and though he was successful with his many flings with pretty girls in his circle of heterosexual popular friends that reeked of toxic masculinity -- he wasn’t happy.

Messing with Jisung, on the other hand, was an outlet for his anger. And Jisung couldn’t really blame him. Jisung was pretty infuriating. That was one of his many charms.

It was jarring but eye-opening to the many facets of Hwang Hyunjin. Jisung decided that rather than archenemies, maybe they could be frenemies instead: friends that talked shit and got hit, but didn’t actually hate each other.

(“Dude, what the fuck?” Felix asked incredulously when he witnessed a civil nod be exchanged between Jisung and Hyunjin as a greeting.

“I’m dreaming, aren’t I,” Seungmin said, awestruck. “What did you do for that to happen? Sell your soul?”

And very seriously, Jisung told them, “I flirted.”)

Jisung had been fine with how things were, but they didn’t become actual friends until the last year of high school when Jisung was passing by a couple of Hyunjin’s friends huddled near a locker in the hallway, and overheard them talking shit. At first, he could stomach it, but then one of the jocks brought up his family situation and started making bizarre assumptions, and oh did he feel his fingers twitch and curl into a fist.

A vein popped in his forehead. Something in him snapped because only he could talk shit about Hyunjin and nobody else. He couldn’t let his job be taken away by a bunch of cruel reprobates that gave putrid air-polluting nauseating assault on the senses. So, the next thing he knew, Jisung was marching up to them and slamming a hand against the locker beside them to grab their attention.

“How about you all go shopping for new lives that I’m pretty sure are on sale instead of standing here talking shit about someone who’s supposed to be your friend and your -- “ he points at the girl with horrifically long acrylic nails that could poke his eyeball out, “boyfriend, behind his back? Like, come on! Can’t you stupid heartless motherfuckers stop seeing him for who you expect him to be and just let him be for once in your miserable lives?”

When Jisung gets punched in the face by the freakishly buff jock, he punches right back, and when they start going at it in the hallway, Jisung gets sent to the infirmary for his bloody mouth and bruised cheek while the jock gets scolded by their old petite English teacher. Though he was in a fuck ton of pain, he felt pretty happy that he got into his first ever fight and came out victorious. He felt like he could take on the whole world, at that point.

But then Hyunjin came to see him, quiet and a bit meek, and Jisung felt like maybe he fucked up their frenemy status by blatantly defending him in front of his friends. Jisung pressed the ice bag to his cheek a bit too roughly and let out a string of curses.

“You’re really stupid,” Hyunjin said.

“Yeah, I’m stupidly strong is what you mean.”

“Why did you defend me?”

“Because you’re stupid,” Jisung said. “Don’t you get it now? No matter how good you are to people, it won’t make them good to you.”

Hyunjin didn’t grace him with a reply. He took the ice bag out of Jisung’s hand and gently pressed it against the bruise that was the size of an apple on his cheekbone. He was quiet for a contemplative moment before he quietly asked, “Do you think it’s too late to start over?”

Jisung spit out the bloody cotton pad he was pressing against the inside of his cheek after he’d accidentally bit it when he got punched in the face onto the floor, startling Hyunjin who pulled a disgusted expression. “Dude. What the fuck are you talking about? It’s never too late, you fucking idiot. Do it! Do it, you microphallic bastard!”

Thus, when Hyunjin dropped his entire friend group within a single day and plopped down beside Jisung at his usual spot with his friends during lunch, and caused Felix to almost inhale the entirety of his carton of strawberry milk and Seungmin to choke on his sushi burrito, their mutual hatred had been replaced by the start of a beautiful friendship.

Fast forward to now, where they were all in the same university and suffering from classes and weekly existential crises together. Jisung had a pretty neat glo-up, Hyunjin was still ever popular but was learning to express his true self more, Felix was still the funky little diplomat (or dipbromat) everyone would die for, and Seungmin became more of a witty shit. Life was great.

Well. Except for one thing.

“Come back here and let me fucking kiss you, you piece of shit coward!”

Jisung watched Hyunjin dive to the floor and away from his free affection when he tried to peck him on his cheek. It was supposed to be an honest to God innocent little smooch, but when Hyunjin saw Jisung leaning forward from the corner of his eye while mindlessly watching a documentary by the National Geographic, Hyunjin booked it like he was next in line at the Olympics.

Like, come on. They were the brotagonists of each other’s lives! Jisung kissed his friends all the time because he liked receiving and giving affection. He even gave Jeongin kisses and the kid hated public displays of affection, but when it came to trying to kiss Hyunjin, homeboy avoided him like he was the revival of the fucking plague.

“Stop trying to kiss me,” Hyunjin complained as he crawled all the way to the other side of Jisung’s room. His blonde hair was dishevelled after rolling around in a desperate attempt to get away from Jisung. “All I see is your puckered lips trying to attack me at any given chance. Can I not sit beside you without fearing you’re gonna jump me?”

“I just like kisses!” Jisung exclaimed, throwing his hands up out of frustration. “Why won’t you let me kiss you? You’re all over Seungmin on a good day but you won’t let me give you a kiss? Don’t be brophobic!”

Hyunjin wrinkled his nose. “I’m not brophobic.” And then he had on the look of someone trying to bullshit his way out of doing something. “What if your roommate walks in?”

“Dude, I’ll be kissing you on the face cheek, not your ass. And Changbin lets me kiss him all the time. He won’t care. He’s, like, a homosexual straight person. He’s not a dudebro. He’d probably let me blow him if I propositioned him correctly and offered -- “

Hyunjin gagged and plugged his ears. “I don’t wanna hear it, please.”

Then let me kiss you!

Hyunjin wrinkled his nose. He stood with a guarded poise, as if he was bracing for Jisung to attack him any moment now, but Jisung sat there admiring how much Hyunjin had changed since high school days.

Jisung couldn’t help but fondly reminisce at the most randomest times. The moment Hyunjin had entered university, it was like he shed off the entirety of his old, fake persona, and learned to disentangle himself away from social pressures and be who he really was, which was an absolutely nerdy dweeb. It was kind of endearing -- except for the times Hyunjin condescendingly criticized his illiteracy -- and Jisung supposed he could see why Hyunjin continued to maintain his popularity. Being a star basketball player with a soft heart? Boyfriend material.

“Why are you staring?” Hyunjin narrowed his eyes in suspicion, covering his chest. “What are you planning?”

“I’m planning how to gobble you up in a hundred and fifty different ways,” Jisung deadpanned. “Thought you were bro, but you’re just fam.”

Hyunjin sighed and opened his arms. “I’ll give you a hug instead. How about that?”

Jisung perked up. Beaming, he sprung from his bean bag chair and launched himself at Hyunjin and took him in a full-armed, affectionate, face-in-the-neck snuggling hug of doom. Though he couldn’t kiss him, sometimes hugging was enough, and he liked how Hyunjin was taller than him and always rested his cheek against the top of Jisung’s head. Hyunjin was warm and solid, just like his character.

But when Jisung tried to sneak a kiss on his cheek, Hyunjin smacked him on the nose and tossed him to the floor. Jisung screeched about how he’d possibly broken his ass while Hyunjin devilishly cackled from above him.

Yeah. He’ll kiss that stubborn bastard one day.

 

 

 

TWO.

 

 

University was a mistake.

He should have known the very moment he stepped foot onto campus, and his advisor had referred him to the registrar and then the registrar referred him to admissions and admissions referred him to both the registrar and his advisor. Jisung realized he’d spoken to two people who did not exist and one who had been dead for ten years, and that should have been a blaring red signal for him to drop the fuck out and live a life in the countryside milking cows and picking strawberries.

Was studying music therapy even worth it anymore, when all he wanted to do was hollow out a fresh baguette and lay in it for a month?

Jisung groaned and banged his head against his textbook on the table.

“Hey,” Felix said, “can you OD on vitamin D?”

“That’s how Icarus died.”

“Huh. Did you know vitamin C tablets make your pee glow like a chernobyl sunset?”

They were seated in the corner of a quaint little cafe that they discovered once upon a rainy day. It was their go-to study location since it was quiet and there weren’t a lot of people, which made it even more convenient for Jisung since he didn’t like crowds. But he was also easily distracted, which also made it counterproductive. There was never a win-win situation for him.

“You’re in library studies.” Jisung glanced up. “In what course of library studies do you learn about vitamins?”

Felix miserably looked at his laptop. “None. If I have to look through the Library of Congress’ catalogue one more time, I will literally lose my mind. Man, high school was such a joke. That’s why I’m being academically -- “

“Challenged?”

“No, I’m being academically harassed,” Felix grumbled and he jabbed his finger on the power button of his laptop before slamming it shut. “Fuck school, and capitalism, and studying! I’ve come to accept the fact that I am biologically unwired to comprehend higher academic prose within my field of studies. I’m going to retire to a forest, become a Maenad, and join the Bacchanalia.”

“What’s that about the Bacchanalia?”

Minho was a friend of Hyunjin’s captain, Chan, who was introduced to them last year at the end of their spring semester. With a resting bitch face and an eccentric sense of dry humour, it was easy to mistake him as someone who was purposefully cold and scary -- when, really, his heart was as big and plump as his ass. They had hit it off immediately.

And now, in his big black sweater that was fuzzy with cat hair, Minho was dragging a chair from a nearby table to sit beside Jisung, placing his cup of coffee down beside Jisung’s unintelligible notes. “You do know that the queen of the Maenads tore off the head of her own son because she mistook him as a lion, right?”

“No,” Felix whimpered.

“The Maenads also killed Orpheus in one version of his myth.” Minho shrugged helplessly. “So, unfortunately, I don’t think the Bacchanic lifestyle is for you, little man.”

“Dude,” Jisung said, staring at Minho with confusion but mostly admiration. Always admiration. “I don’t know half of the shit that came out of your mouth but it all sounded fucking smart. Let me kiss you, you cat man.”

Minho rested his face on the palms of his hands in a petal pose as Jisung smooched his cheeks. Satisfied with the affection, Minho grinned and patted Jisung on the head. “I knew I could count on you to validate the extent of my intelligence.”

“Would you still love me if I told you I thought herpes was a Greek god when I was a kid?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Where’s my kisses?” Felix complained. “We’ve been friends longer!”

Jisung grabbed Felix by the face and landed a big, wet smooch on his forehead with a loud smack. As if he was revitalized through the sheer power of friendship, Felix’s eyes sparkled back to life with a new sense of purpose. While Felix was booting up his laptop again, Jisung closed his textbook and moved it aside.

“I’m retiring from my school work for today,” Jisung said as he stretched his arms. “Shit’s due tomorrow, but more like do tomorrow, am I right?”

When he received a lack of enthusiastic responses, Jisung grumbled underneath his breath. He leaned back in his chair and turned his attention to Minho, who was making a futile attempt to pick out the fur sticking to his sweater. “What brings you here, hyung? I thought you’d be busy preparing for your art showcase. You seem like you’re holding onto sanity just fine.”

“Now, children,” Minho said as he crossed his legs and spoke with the affectations of that of a wiser, old man, who’ve seen too much in the past twenty-two years of his life, “I may look like I walk around like everything is fine, but deep down, inside my shoe, my sock is sliding off.”

“I don’t really understand,” Felix said, open-mouthed, “but I kind of do.”

Minho picked up his coffee and wistfully looked out the window. “Physically I am here, but mentally I am standing on a big boulder on the shoreline when the storm is about to come and you can feel the first drops of rain, before you run back barefoot through the wet grass to your cottage and then you make hot tea as the thunder comes rolling in and the rain hits hard and loud on your uninsulated wooden roof and -- oh, hey. There’s Hyunjin.”

Jisung whipped his head out the window and zeroed in on the object of his constantly rejected affections. Hyunjin was walking across the quad carrying his duffel bag around a shoulder, his blonde hair tied back in a half-ponytail that gleamed a shade of pale gold underneath the warm, liquid sunlight. Attached to his hip was a pretty girl who had cat-like eyes and a bright smile, and trailing after them were a few of Hyunjin’s teammates.

Jisung narrowed his eyes. He wondered if it’d be too embarrassing if he were to run out at this very moment to try and land one of his many kisses on Hyunjin’s face in front of his friends. But the expression he had on his face seemed to be misinterpreted when Minho threw an arm around his shoulder as a comforting gesture.

“I’m sure you’ll find someone who reciprocates your feelings one day, Jisungie,” he said with a sympathetic frown. “No need to send them the look of a scorned lover. You’ll get wrinkles that way.”

“What?” Jisung reeled back. “I’m just thinking about how to fucking kiss him! I could care less about who he dates.”

“Oh, they’re totally dating,” Felix supplied as he showed them the screen of his phone. It was Hyunjin’s post on Instagram where it was a photo of him and the girl smiling together in the empty space of the basketball court. They were both in uniform and a little sweaty, and that’s when Jisung realized she was a cheerleader for the team.

Right. Not only was Hyunjin adored by a majority of the student body in his department, but he was also stupendously popular on social media as well. From the amount of likes and the teasing comments underneath the post, the glaring evidence seemed to point at a more-than-platonic relationship between him and the cheerleader.

“How come he didn’t tell me?” Jisung snatched Felix’s phone and squinted at the photo. Then he looked back out the window, where she was waving goodbye to Hyunjin and his team before running into the arts building. “Friends are supposed to tell each other these kinds of things! I tell him all the time how much of a virgin I am and how I might as well be an experienced virgin since I can hear Changbin’s porn blasting through his headphones every single fucking --”

“I mean, it was literally posted fifteen minutes ago -- “

“Wait.” Minho looked at Jisung in disbelief. “Since when were you a virgin?”

But Jisung wasn’t listening as he was already swiping all his things into his backpack. “Come on, folks. It’s time to confront him about his blatantly obvious attempts to conceal his relationship from his best friends!”

“Me too?” Minho asked dubiously when Jisung was tugging him up from his seat by the wrist. Felix was carelessly shoving his laptop into his bag and downing the rest of his latte, almost tripping over the chair leg when he was trying to follow after them.

As he menacingly approached Hyunjin and dragged the other two behind him, it was as though the presence of three, vertically challenged homosexuals had been so overwhelming that it chased off the rest of Hyunjin’s athletic friends -- except for Chan, because he was standing there waving happily at him while the rest of his team scattered like they’d been burned by excessive levels of gay aura. Much to Jisung’s surprise, one of them stayed behind as well. He faintly remembered his name to be Daewhi.

Hyunjin, on the other hand, looked on in horror. He quickly ducked when Jisung hurled himself at him with puckered lips.

Yeesh,” Hyunjin yelped, shielding his face. “Is this how you’re gonna greet me every time now, Hannie?”

“That one was for not telling us about your girlfriend!”

“Girlfriend?” Hyunjin repeated in confusion. He glanced over his shoulder to look at Chan who helpfully mimicked shaking pom poms in the air. With a gasp of realization, Hyunjin whirled around and exclaimed, “You mean Yeji? But we’re just friends.”

“Everyone else thinks you guys are dating,” Daewhi contributed, though he was staring intensely at Jisung. He was starting to think there was something incriminating on his face and he slowly went to hide behind Minho’s shoulder.

Hyunjin griped, “But we’re not!”

“Hi,” Felix belatedly piped in.

“Okay, I’m too old for this.” Minho rubbed his temples. “I’m going to go back to the studio and continue sculpting Perseus’ thick dummy ass that could probably crush Thanos between his butt cheeks.”

“I honestly didn’t need that visualization,” Chan laughed in pain as Minho playfully knocked their shoulders together. Jisung shouted goodbye at him and received a blown kiss in return. When Jisung looked back at Hyunjin, he was pouting.

“Okay, okay, we’re just teasing. Don’t give me the puppy look,” Jisung relented, patting Hyunjin on the shoulders. “But, I mean, I gotta admit -- you guys do look pretty good together. Am I right, am I right?”

“For a boy who likes other boys, you sure do provide a lot of heterosexual commentary.”

“You’re gay?” Daewhi asked.

“No, I’m GAY,” Jisung emphasized. “Gratefully Accepting Your donations to me via Paypal. Please, I’m broke as fuck.”

Daewhi hummed. Jisung didn’t think his intense staring could get even more intense, but it did, and it made Jisung squirm out of discomfort. Now that Minho was gone, he went to hide behind Hyunjin’s tall figure instead, wrapping an arm around his waist in a semblance of a half hug. Hyujin darted his eyes between the two, also uncomfortable with the vibe they had created. Chan, on the other hand, was standing there clearly lost with the conversation while Felix was blatantly staring at his very toned and very strong arms.

Silence passed. Then --

“I’m gonna go to the washroom,” Hyunjin announced, trying to pry Jisung’s arm off of his waist only for Jisung to hold on even tighter as he was being dragged along with him.

“Me too!” Jisung shouted. “I need to take a big fat gnarly shit!”

Felix cupped his hands around his mouth as he called out to them, “Different strokes for different folks!”

“I never know what the fuck is going on,” was the last thing Jisung heard from Chan when they finally escaped their vicinity and the overwhelming pressure of Daewhi’s unrelenting stare. As soon as they’re halfway through campus grounds, Jisung finally let go of Hyunjin but kept his bruising grip on his arm.

“Dude. Does your teammate want to eviscerate me? He wouldn’t stop staring! I don’t think he even blinked. Did I have crumbs on my face or something?” Jisung stopped Hyunjin in his tracks as he pointed at his frowning face.

Hyunjin leaned forward, squinting, before he grabbed at Jisung’s cheeks and pulled. “Nope. I think he was just interested.”

“Wha?” Jisung spoke through his cheeks being abused. “Whaddya mean?”

Hyunjin let go of him, though he kept his hands on the sides of Jisung’s face, gently running his thumbs over his cheeks that were red from being pinched. “He likes boys too. I’ve seen how he, um, acts when he’s interested in someone. So, I think he was checking you out.”

“Ha! No way. Like, I know nobody can resist this magnificently handsome face of mine, but seriously? There’s no way I could attract athletes. They’re, like, an entire cesspool of toxic masculinity in a single body. Even if he is gay, I’m pretty sure he’s gonna balk at some point because there’s no way gay and sports mix. Also, he needs to seriously fix his way of checking people out, because I felt like I was staring into the soul of Lucifer after I asked him if he fell from heaven ‘cause you know, he’s hot, but like also literally, ‘cause he actually did fall from heaven.“

Hyunjin hummed and absentmindedly brushed away Jisung’s bangs from his eyes. He let his fingers linger at the shell of his ear, tugging at it lightly, before he abruptly let go as though he realized what he was doing. Jisung watched a pretty shade of pink colour Hyunjin’s face. It was a nice flush against his skin’s complexion.

“Um.” Hyunjin sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck. “Want me to give you his number?”

Jisung was shameless. “Yes please.”

When Hyunjin texted him Daewhi’s number, Jisung tried to plant a kiss on his cheek as a show of gratitude, only for Hyunjin to push his face away. “You’re so annoying, Hannie!”

“But you love me anyway.”

“Doesn’t make you any less annoying.”

Jisung stuck his tongue out. He’d kiss that insufferable bastard one day. One day.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

So, maybe grabbing Daewhi’s number had been a bad idea.

He no doubt had a staring problem, but over the course of a few days did Jisung realize how much of a nice kid he was. Though he was only a year younger, he was mature and had an inexplicable yet spectacular ability in time management. But he was also really -- bold, for lack of better words.

The first time they decided to meet up and hang out, Daewhi had eyed him up and down and called him as beautiful as Adonis. Jisung, being the suave and charismatic person that he was, could only reply with, “Schlip schlop babatoop hnnnuhngh?”

The remorse settled in after their second date, when Daewhi took him by the shoulders and declared with utmost sincerity after Jisung finished nerding out over the Fate/stay series over dinner: “Jisung, I think I may be in love with you.”

“Wow,” Jisung had said, “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”

Needless to say, it was a bad situation. Jisung had absolutely no dating experience but he knew for one thing that being confessed to after literally two (2) dates that was as meaningless as his life’s purpose wasn’t supposed to happen. Jisung felt nothing but platonic companionship with the guy and an extreme need to establish personal boundaries. He needed to make a plan to diffuse Daewhi’s infatuation stat.

That was why in the midst of his dilemma did Jisung decide to march right into the library’s study hall, storm across the tables, and insert himself into the table of where Hyunjin was seated with his pretentious pile of 20th century novels.

Hyunjin glanced up from his book, his round reading glasses sliding down his nose bridge. “Are you actually studying for once in your life?”

“No,” Jisung said breathlessly, “it’s a love crisis.”

Hyunjin listened in as close as possible since they had to keep their voices down. Throughout Jisung’s dramatic retelling of what had happened so far with his outings with Daewhi, his forehead had puckered and his nose had wrinkled in displeasure. Once Jisung was finished, he looked at Hyunjin eagerly for any wise, helpful advice to be bestowed upon his desperate soul.

“Um,” he whispered, “you can ask for a restraining order, maybe?”

Nevermind. Hyunjin was as useful as a hand knitted condom. “Gee thanks, idiot.”

“Idiots don’t read Pride and Prejudice,” Hyunjin retorted petulantly as he held up his novel to show proof of his non-idiocy. “And you don’t read at all, so you’re the idiot. Why can’t you just tell Daewhi that you’re not interested and that you’re better off as friends? He may seem overbearing but he’s honestly a really nice guy.”

“The guy literally professed his entire love to me!” Jisung harshly whispered. “You think I have the heart to crush his innocent dreams of marrying me when we turn twenty-five and ride off into the sunset with nothing but a bag of half-eaten Reese’s pieces and eighty-three cents in our pockets? You should have seen his face, man. He was literally swooning.”

“You do know that you are the first guy he’s ever gone out on a date with, right? So that could explain why he’s a little -- you know, excited. Just let him down nicely, Hannie. You’re already a gentle guy.”

“I don’t like the look on people’s faces when I let them down,” Jisung grumbled. “That’s why I rather live the rest of my adulthood in space. Space doesn’t care about me. It’s literally impossible to disappoint the sun.”

“And me,” Hyunjin piped in. “It’s impossible for you to disappoint me too, Hannie, except for the time you used 2-in-1 shampoo.”

“Okay, I really doubt that.” His brows knitted in disbelief, but Hyunjin didn’t say anything else in the matter -- he merely just smiled and went back to his novel.

“Hey, hey,” Hyunjin said as he pointed at a passage Jisung could barely understand a single line of. “Mr. Darcy lived in Derbyshire, so he’d sound like Lizzeh, ah luv yew moost ahhdentleh. Right, right?”

“Wait. The places in Pride and Prejudice are real?”

Hyunjin whimpered. He looked like he was on the verge of tears. “I can’t believe you just asked me that.”

Right. Moving on.

The next time he and Daewhi went out together, Jisung decided it was the time to end this one-sided unofficial relationship and to firmly introduce the concept of friendship. He’d prepare himself the night before, practicing words and gestures of comfort to say and use if the rejection just so happened to include waterworks, but much to his surprise, Daewhi merely nodded and shrugged in acceptance. Jisung could only blink at him with an empty mind.

“Dude, seriously, I’m fine,” he reassured for the nth time. “I just think you’re really cool. I’m actually not in love with you, by the way. Yeah, uh -- I might have been delirious the other day. I took some edibles before we met up.”

“Oh, thank the Lord,” Jisung barked out a laugh of immense relief. “Please don’t take edibles the next time you go out with someone. Seriously. Marijuana? More like marijuanah. Okay, sorry. That was bad.”

Daewhi rolled his eyes. “Anyway. I kinda knew you were already in love with Hyunjin, so I just wanted to see how things would go and if I’d have a chance. Obviously, I didn’t.”

“Ha, right. Well thanks for being so understanding and -- “ Jisung stopped with a croak. He stared at Daewhi like he was certain he heard wrong. “Hold up. What did you just say?”

“That I knew you were already in love with Hyunjin? Duh. It’s hard to not notice. You talked about him all the time during our dates.”

“What? No I didn’t!”

“Uh, ya,” Daewhi deadpanned, “you did.”

Jisung sputtered in denial and tried to think back to his dates with Daewhi to confirm if such an allegation was true, but the more he thought about it, the more Daewhi’s baneful accusation seemed to add up. He actually did talk about Hyunjin -- like a lot, like how on their first date Jisung wouldn’t shut up about how Hyunjin couldn’t drink tea with any milk or sugar because he was a spawn of the devil, therefore the reason as to why he always chose Americano as his go-to coffee drink which was a fetish for the old and joyless.

And it went on from there. There was eggplant in a dish they ate? Oh, Hyunjin hated eggplants. There was a shooting star in the sky? Jisung would wish out loud for Hyunjin to let him kiss him one day.

There was a mural of a dog on one of the brick walls belonging to some run down building? Oh, yeah. Hyunjin once drove all the way to his aunt’s place in the middle of the night to take care of their dog that needed to be fostered for the weekend, then drove back to campus and gallantly sneaked into the dorms for a few minutes just so Jisung could see Kkami because he hadn’t been doing so great.

Yeah. Jisung couldn’t deny it. If they hadn’t talked about anime, then Jisung was talking about Hyunjin for the remainder of the night. Holy hell was that embarrassing as fuck.

But just because he constantly talked about Hyunjin didn’t mean he was in love with him. They were friends -- former foes, for God’s sake. Couldn’t bros just lovingly talk about each other without being romantically associated?

“I’m not in love with him,” Jisung denounced. “No, seriously. I’m not. We’re bros, man. Just really good bros. Broooos. Bros. Hashtag bros, you know? That’s -- wait. Hey, move your ass to the side -- no, the other side. Is that a bookstore? And they’re having a sale on all hardcover books? Oh my God, okay, we need to go in right now. I’ve been trying to figure out what to buy for Hyunjin’s birthday that’s coming up and I’ve been stuck like a piece of caramel in the tooth!”

Daewhi sighed as Jisung dragged him into the vintage bookstore. “You’re so in love, admit it.”

Pfft. In love? More like in love with himself. There was no way Jisung could ever be in love with Hyunjin. Jisung made sure of it like how he made sure one day he’d kiss the asshole.

 

 

 

THREE.

 

“Hey,” Changbin said, “name a word with e’s in it.”

Jisung was dead serious. “Book.”

Changbin stared at him. Jisung stared back. They stared at each other. Then, Changbin said, “You’re so dumb.”

“Okay, but when I’m dumb it's 90% of the time on purpose. I'm sacrificing my intellectualism in the name of comedy for your enjoyment. There is such a thing as an intentional bimbo. Also, stop lifting bro, or else I’m gonna have to listen to Jeongin secretly salivate over your arms for another two hours over Slack.”

Changbin blinked in surprise. “He talks about me? I thought he hated my guts.”

“Dude. You’re so oblivious about these things! He doesn’t hate you, he just hates how he’s attracted to you. Don’t you remember the time you got asked out by that weird underground rapper dude who wanted to reach into your guts with his weapon of ass destruction?”

Changbin screeched in red-faced fury and slapped Jisung on the back with a firm, decisive impact that almost knocked his eyeballs out of his skull. “Jesus fuck, dude. Do you ever think before you speak?”

“No, because thinking is for nerds,” he huffed.

Changbin rolled his eyes and offered Jisung a few grapes. “Take some. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you eat a single fruit since we roomed together.”

And so, Jisung ate exactly three grapes and could immediately feel his cells multiplying. His blood was cleaner, safer, and his skin was less dry. He was well. He was nourished. He was at peace. The surface tension of the grapes were phenomenally satisfying when he felt his incisors pierce through them like needles popping a balloon.

He thanked Changbin and his strong, tattooed arms by kissing him on the cheek, and though Changbin squirmed a bit, he had a giddy smile on his face that indicated his weakness for affection.

Changbin was an oddball in the sense that he literally looked like he knew how to murder you in a hundred different ways when, in reality, he knew how to cuddle you in a hundred different ways. Don’t let the tattoos scare you off -- he sleeps with a Snorlax plushie and was studying to be an elementary teacher. He could punch a new hole in your face but because he had nothing but kindness in his heart, he won’t. The dichotomy between his appearance and actual personality was cute, and at most, endearing.

Fondness swarmed in his chest. Jisung couldn’t help but grab Changbin and pull him into a suffocating hug despite his protests. He was overcome with immense gratitude to have such great and handsome (not as handsome as him, of course) human beings by his side. What did he do in his past life to deserve such a supportive circle of friends?

Jisung could feel a tear trickling down his face until he looked up at the sound of a knock on their door. Hyunjin peeked his head in. His hair was pushed back with a blue headband. He had on his practice clothes and was carrying his duffel bag in his arms.

“Um.” Hyunjin looked concerned. “Hannie, are you crying?”

Changbin squealed in horror. “Crying?”

“No.” Jisung sniffled. “I’m just a tad bit emotional about my friends.”

Hyunjin seemed relieved at that. He entered their dorm and crouched down beside Jisung. He wiped the single, comical tear away from Jisung’s cheek before flicking him on the forehead. “You’re like a little plant, thriving off your own tears.”

“Oh, fuck off. Don’t you have practice?”

“In an hour, but I wanted to bother you first!”

Jisung harrumphed and waved flippantly at his bed which was the top bunk. “Fine. You can just go sit on my bed and I’ll pause in the middle of my existential crisis so I can come up there and cuddle with you after I finish my loving embrace with my roommate.”

“Good,” Hyunjin said as he dropped his bag onto the floor and went up the small ladder to reach Jisung’s bed. “I always knew I was a top.”

Changbin started coughing when he choked on his own spit. Jisung let go of him and watched as he literally somersaulted his way out the door without a word. He could still hear the poor guy hacking his lungs out down the corridor.

Disgruntled, Jisung stood up from the floor and started to make his way up to his bed. “Oh, so you can make jokes like that but you won’t let me kiss you? What kind of bisexual are you?”

“I’m byesexual,” he beamed, as if he was waiting for this exact moment to happen for years, “as in bye, don’t touch me.”

“You’re an absolute comedian,” Jisung deadpanned.

Hyunjin’s soft laugh was muffled by the covers. Jisung flopped down beside him and Hyunjin wrapped his arm around Jisung’s torso and brought him closer, burying his nose into his neck. Jisung sputtered as he was greeted with a mouthful of hair; his shampoo smelled like rosemary.

“Hey, don’t fall asleep,” Jisung reminded him. “Chan’s gonna rip me a new asshole if he finds out I’m the reason you’re late to practice.”

Hyunjin half-heartedly hummed. He felt like a giant cocoon of warmth or one of those marshmallow plushies Jisung constantly saw were on sale on Amazon. Sometimes, Jisung wondered what his fourteen year old self would say if he foresaw what would happen between him and Hyunjin. Former enemies cuddling, of all things? His younger self probably would have had a mental meltdown. Then again, teenagers nowadays weren’t really alive until the age of five before emotionally dying after twelve.

It was kind of strange how his childhood had felt like forever, and then suddenly he was twenty years old and the world became an hourglass and he was watching the sand pile up at the wrong end. Jisung didn’t know he’d ever grow up as a little kid. He thought he’d stay as a child forever, even if there were times being a child sucked and he wanted to grow up and get away from everything at home. But being an adult was even scarier. Sure, he could pull good grades out of his ass if he tried hard enough, but what was waiting for him after?

Would he and everyone else still be friends? He couldn’t imagine a life without them. He’d gotten so attached that the thought of being away from them for a month, even, would put his heart right through the mud.

“Hannie,” Hyunjin said, jolting him out of his thoughts, “you’re thinking too loud.”

“Huh?”

“Your heartbeat’s like a kick drum at a rock show. I can hear you thinking about irrational things.”

Jisung snorted. “Why be rational when you could grossly overthink everything all the time?”

Hyunjin sighed. He loosened his grasp around Jisung’s waist and scooted back so he could face him. Then, he took Jisung’s face in his hands and squished his cheeks together with a look of determination. “Hannie, what are you?”

“Uh.” Jisung blinked. “An insignificant expendable asshole?”

“Falsehood!” Hyunjin pulled his cheeks until Jisung shouted for mercy.

“Ow! Okay, okay! Fine, ask me again, you stupid brute!”

“What are you?”

“I’m a loved and cherished person and my life is important,” he muttered.

Hyunjin grinned until his eyes curved into half-moons. He looked at Jisung with such fondness that it made him want to crawl out of his skin and hide underneath the blanket. “Yeah, dumbass.”

He was gently caressing the side of Jisung’s face now, before his hand traveled up to his hair, carding his fingers through his unkempt waves. Jisung let his hand rest on Hyunjin’s hip and for a moment, they laid there staring at each other with nothing but silence and a certain kind of intimacy Jisung couldn’t bring himself to put a name to.

But when Hyunjin leaned forward and pressed his lips against Jisung’s forehead, his heart skipped a beat, and he might have died if not for an immediate thought gripping onto the strings of his consciousness. Jisung stared at Hyunjin with wide, disbelieving eyes, before spluttering, “Why did you kiss me?”

Startled by Jisung’s reaction, Hyunjin stilled. His hand retreated from Jisung’s hair and he scooted back until he hit the wall. “Um.”

I’m supposed to kiss you!” Jisung yelled, sitting up. His face was hot and he wanted to punch the living daylights out of Hyunjin. “So you can kiss me but I can’t kiss you? I see how it is. Come here, motherfucker.”

Cue the next five minutes of them wrestling each other as Hyunjin desperately defended himself against Jisung’s advances. When Hyunjin literally tossed Jisung over his shoulder, he was teetering off the edge of the bed until all of time and space suspended for a single moment as he watched the growing horror on Hyunjin’s face. Then the next thing Jisung knew, he was splat on the floor with a sharp pain in his tailbone and a cluster of stars in his vision.

Shrieking, Hyunjin climbed down the ladder and immediately checked up on Jisung. “Are you okay, Hannie? How many fingers do you see?”

“I’m temporarily indisposed, not blind,“ Jisung retorted. “Don’t you think you owe me the privilege of kissing you now that you’ve literally broken me in half?”

Hyunjin scrunched up his nose. “I’ll never understand your severe obsession of wanting to kiss me.”

“Well, when you put it that way, that just makes you sound terribly self-important.” Jisung then pointed at his forehead. “Do it again.”

“What?”

“Do it again, bastard.”

Hyunjin laughed and he kissed Jisung on the forehead. Then again, and again, until he’s peppering tiny kisses all over his face to fulfill his adamant requests for physical affection. Jisung wrinkled his nose when Hyunjin kissed the tip of it. With his belly now warm and full from the affection, Hyunjin finally helped Jisung up from the floor and patted him around to make sure he was wholly intact.

After reassuring that he was fine with no apparent broken bones, Hyunjin looked at his phone for the time and said he had to leave for practice. But as he grabbed his duffel bag from the floor, he made no move to leave the room. He stood there looking at Jisung with an indecisive expression, as if he was conflicted over the next few words that were sitting at the tip of his tongue waiting to be rolled out.

Jisung waited patiently, tilting his head out of curiosity. “What’s up?”

“Do you -- do you really think we look good together?”

He blinked. “Uh. Who and what?”

“Me and Yeji,” Hyunjin said, darting his eyes to the side.

Jisung studied the way Hyunjin hunched over himself to appear smaller, and it reminded Jisung of a guilty little kid who got caught stealing candy from a store. Sometimes, he forgot about Hyunjin’s occasional inherent lack of certainty in his own actions because of the constant air of confidence he presented himself in. And always did Jisung forget that that air of confidence was, at most times, a bluff.

“Well. Do you think you two look good together?”

“I don’t know,” Hyunjin muttered. “Everyone keeps saying that we do, or that we should date already even though we’re genuinely just friends. It’s just -- what if I just do what they want?”

“You shouldn’t date just because other people say so. You should start dating if you two actually like each other,” Jisung firmly said. “If the teasing gets too much, then tell me, because I’m not afraid to march down to the basketball court to beat up some stupid motherfuckers. I’ve done it before and I can do it again!”

“Oh, that isn’t really necess -- “

Jisung didn’t let him finish. He put his arms akimbo and continued at the top of his lungs, “You shouldn’t see yourself through other people’s eyes, man! People are always gonna think certain ways about you and think you should do that or do this, but that’s when you have to put your foot down and tell them that you’re your own person and you’ll do whatever the fuck you want! If you want to punch their balls? Do it! If you want to date her because you actually like her? Do it! If you want to give me ten thousand dollars because I’m broke as fuck? Do it!”

“I don’t even have a hundred in my chequings,” Hyunjin mumbled sadly.

“What I’m saying is -- don’t cave into the pressure! Sure, you play basketball, and you’re hot, but that doesn’t mean you have to be like every other macho athlete out there. You literally respect women, okay, and that’s such a huge glow up since high school.”

“But I’ve always -- “

Jisung marched up to Hyunjin and grabbed his face. It was his turn to squish his cheeks together and ask, “What are you, Hwang Hyunjin?”

“Um. As Oscar Wilde once said, to define is to limit -- ow!”

“WHAT ARE YOU,” Jisung yelled.

Hyunjin looked pink in the face as he reluctantly muttered, “I’m also a loved and cherished person and my life matters.”

“That’s what I like to hear. Now go to practice and crush them by the nuts, you absolutely lovable piece of shit.”

Hyunjin was looking at Jisung with a mixture of dismay but mostly amazement while he rubbed his red cheeks. But slowly, the edge of his lips lifted into a tiny, fond smile, and he leaned forward to give Jisung a peck on the forehead again -- just the faintest brush of his lips that Jisung could barely feel it.

“Thanks, Hannie,” he said, his eyes warm. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

When the door closed behind Hyunjin, Jisung didn’t move from his spot. He stood there in wonder as he touched his forehead where Hyunjin’s lips had lingered; Jisung could still feel it, somehow, the feathery warmth that tickled his skin and the smell of his shampoo that remained in the air despite Hyunjin no longer being in the same room as him.

“Huh,” he murmured, looking down at his chest. The caterpillars inside his stomach had grown into a flurry of butterflies that fluttered from the pit of his stomach before travelling all the way up to his rib cage. He swallowed loudly against the silence of his room. “That’s not good.”

Fourteen year old Han Jisung would have definitely protested against the mere idea of liking Hwang Hyunjin as more than a friend.

 

 

FOUR.

 

 

The thing about studying for Jisung was that usually a week before midterms, he’d hype himself up and prepare an immaculate study plan. He’d tell himself that he’d study so hard, get A’s, and be the top of his class. Fake it ‘til you make it, right?

But then the night before the exam, he became a vessel of pessimism. Success and failure were human constructions and weren’t real. He was less than a speck in the entire known universe and all of time. Time itself was a construct of humans. They were all going to die.

Changbin was usually the unfortunate victim to Jisung’s nightly nihilistic views. That was why he decided to organize Jisung’s study sessions for him so that he and his same-year friends could come over and motivate each other to get things done and memorized, while Changbin left for the night to camp out in Chan’s room.

At first, Jisung had dubbed the idea as genius, but then he slowly began to regret it when he realized that putting them all in the same room resulted in nothing but unproductive chaos.

Such as now.

“Is it cold in here or is it just my heart?” Seungmin asked as he came into their room carrying packs of beer in his hands. He put the packs down and took off his jacket, hooking it over Jeongin’s head like he was a clothing rack.

“It’s just your heart,” Jeongin said as he flung the jacket onto the floor. The kid had the self-preservation of someone who has met God and was gravely unimpressed.

Seungmin sent him a blank look before flipping him off. Then he walked over to where Jisung was watching Castlevania on his laptop instead of studying for his psychology midterm. “Dude. I’m allergic to PDA.”

“What?”

“Publicly Displayed Anime.”

Jisung grabbed the pillow off of Changbin’s bed and smacked Seungmin on the shoulder with it, to which he only wickedly laughed and shielded his face. “Oh, fuck you. Felix, say it too.”

“Fuck!” Felix exclaimed happily, taking a can of beer out from its pack and desperately opening it. He took a long swig and let out a contented sigh. “I love you, Seungmin. Marry me please.”

“Marry Chan. He was the one who bought them for us,” Seungmin replied, ignoring the way Felix stammered and turned red. “We talked about communism in class today.”

Jisung frowned at him. “Since when were you taking politics?”

“No, it was in biology.”

Jisung could see why Seungmin dropped off the face of the earth from time to time if his classes were constantly a cesspool of political discussions rather than the mitochondria. He’d have to take note of which professor to avoid when the time for him to take his required biology course comes later in the year.

“Ugh. I am but a vegetable medley and God is sautéing me on high heat,” Jeongin said miserably as he stared at the screen of his laptop while his pile of notes were scattered all over the floor in front of him. “I’m so angry at school that I think I’m hearing the heavens sing to me at this moment.”

“Imagine being in such pure white rage that angels start singing in the background as you astral ascend,” Felix said. “Wow, I could never.”

Jisung snorted. He draped himself over Seungmin’s shoulders and sighed. “Should we even study then if you brought beer? We’re not even gonna get anything done. Hyunjin is gonna be drunk too ‘cause he’s gonna be coming back from a banquet -- something about starting the season off with festivity or some shit.”

“Don’t you usually take a date to a banquet?” Seungmin narrowed his eyes. “I thought he’d ask you.”

Jisung laughed at that. “Dude. Sports are hella straight. Who do you think he took?”

“Yeji,” Felix piped in, bringing his beer up in the air as though he was making a toast for her sheer existence. “She’s cool. She told me about the time her ex told her it was a bad idea to wear red bottoms to a heritage site but she told them that she wasn’t walking a mile unless it was in those specific Louboutins.”

“You are such a lightweight,” Jisung said. “Remember to pace yourself or else you’re gonna throw up all over the floor like last time.”

“I was just excited!”

Seungmin was still hung up over Hyunjin’s date ordeal. “It shouldn’t matter if sports are straight. He isn’t. He’s evil and bisexual. Remember the time he came out to us?”

Ah, yes. Who wouldn’t? Jisung remembered it vividly. It was during their first year and first semester in university when everyone still had enough time in their lives to meet up for lunch. Jisung would have slept in if it weren’t for the fact he showed up as moral support for Hyunjin who looked like he wanted the earth to open up and swallow him whole. Jisung had spent the entire night before in a sleepy stupor reassuring him that everything would be fine since Felix and Seungmin were far from the straight stratosphere.

But of course, Hyunjin being Hyunjin -- he got cold feet.

(“Guys, I’m bi -- “ Hyunjin stopped, then laughed, “-lingual. Bilingual. Ha-ha. Annyeonghaseyo.”

Felix let his tea dribble down his chin. Seungmin stared passively into the distance. Jisung facepalmed.)

It was pretty memorable. Nobody could forget about it.

“Of course I remember. I made fun of him for an entire year after that,” Jisung answered Seungmin. “But I don’t see why it’s such a big deal. Let him bring whoever he wants. Besides, he told me before that he wasn’t interested in Yeji that way.”

When someone was ignorant, Seungmin often gave them a stare that exuded the vibe of: are you serious? And that was exactly the stare that Seungmin gave Jisung when he didn’t reply and merely looked at him in disbelief for a good two minutes.

“What?” Jisung shrunk. “Why do you look like you want to kill me and study my entrails like a freaky scientist?”

“I’m just thinking about how stupid you are. Although you do have very pretty teeth. It would be so easy to identify you when you’re dead.”

Feeelix,” Jisung whined, flopping onto the floor. “Seungmin called me stupid!”

“I think I’m drunk,” Felix drawled as he stared at the can of beer in his hands. It had been his first can of beer. It was still his first can of beer. He was completely red in his freckled face.

Guys,” Jeongin interrupted them in a high-pitched voice as he looked down at his notes, slightly panicking, “What year did the War of 1812 start?”

With that alone, all intentions of studying were abandoned by the presence of beer and Minecraft. Jisung couldn’t remember the amount of times he screamed at the sighting of a sheep while they were out mining for gold or how many times he accidentally killed Felix because he couldn’t stop whacking at any moving object. He was starting to think he’d see Enderman in his dreams, that night.

Meanwhile, the others progressively got more shit plastered -- even Jeongin, who usually didn’t drink much or at all, but he must have had immense second thoughts on his decision as a history major considering he tossed his textbook to the side and downed two beers within a minute. Seungmin, on the other hand, started proclaiming how Shrek’s ass was full of serotonin, and Felix wouldn’t stop crying over the fact that he genuinely wanted to feel Chan’s pecs. It was a little weird.

At some point in the night, Minho was suddenly there. And then Chan. And then Changbin. They were all there after somehow bribing the dorm monitors into letting them mingle, and here they were now -- drinking and singing into oblivion. Felix wouldn’t stop ogling over everything Chan did and Minho looked like he didn’t know whether to kill or kiss Seungmin out of sheer hatred if it weren’t for the fact there was a literal child (Jeongin) in the same room.

“Half of Rome was burnt down during the funeral of Julius Caesar and honestly, if my funeral isn’t that lit, I’m gonna be so pissed,” Minho grumbled.

“We should play a game,” Felix suggested. “A drinking game.”

“Hey, Minho,” Seungmin said, “spell ICUP.”

“Sorry, can’t spell.”

“Good, you illiterate bitch.”

Chan threw himself over Minho’s lap to prevent him from unleashing his fury. “Murder is prohibited! Do you know how hard it is to get blood out of the carpet?”

“I don’t want to know why you know that,” Jisung groaned.

Changbin burped as he squinted at his phone screen. “You know, from Hozier’s album photos, I have to make the assumption that he doesn’t quite grasp the concept of swimming.”

“Where’s Hyunjin? Is he still not here?” Jeongin slurred his words, blinking out of his drowsy stupor as he sat up. “It’s been four hours. How long does a banquet take?”

As if on cue, the door opened. Hyunjin stumbled in and leaned an arm against the wall to prevent himself from falling. His blonde hair was slicked back with a few strands falling askew over his flushed face, and he was loosening the black, wrinkled tie around his collar. His eyes swept across the room in one motion before knitting his brows in confusion. “Are you -- are you guys having a party without me?”

“Oh, heck yeah,” Felix beamed. He wasted no time springing up from the floor to drag Hyunjin down with them. He motioned everyone to sit in a circle and handed each person a beer -- except for Jisung, who was handed a half-finished water bottle. “Now that everybody’s here, we can play! Okay, okay. I’ll go first.”

“What are we playing?” Hyunjin frowned. He stared at the beer in his hands like he’d never seen one before in his entire life. “Are -- are we all drunk?”

“No.” Jisung wrinkled his nose. “I’m literally the only sober one here.”

"Huh? Why? Why -- why aren't you drinking?"

"My meds, dumbass."

“Oh. Oh yeah. Right. But why are you sitting all the way there? Why am I sitting here and not with you?”

“Jesus,” Changbin said as he began to stand up. “Just switch places with -- “

“NEVER HAVE I EVER,” Felix bellowed, “SUCKED A DICK.”

Speechless, Jisung stared at Felix. He couldn’t believe one of his best friends would keep such important, life-changing information from him. They were supposed to tell each other everything. “Do I even know you anymore? When the fuck did you suck a fucking dick?”

“Uhhh. Rememeber that -- uhh. It was the guy from first-year cataloguing. Remember him?”

No, because you never fuckin’ told me!”

“Dick is alright, but have you tried filling your mouth with the words of the Lord?” Minho challenged, making Changbin accidentally snort his beer.

“Dicks are so ugly,” Jeongin said. “Why would you wanna put a mayo shooting hotdog gun in your mouth?”

“I hate this game already,” Seungmin mumbled.

Chan was surprisingly shy; he covered his red face with a hand as he took a sip. Hyunjin, on the other hand, only stared at Jisung.

The game moved on. Jisung had his ears covered most of the time because all of them were weird and way beyond unholy, and by the time it was Seungmin’s turn, Jisung had a bit more faith in the direction of the game since Seungmin most often used his head over his libido.

But Jisung could see the mischief brewing in his shifty eyes as he tapped his finger against the can; he raised it, and with a grin of deviltry, declared: “Never have I ever crushed on Jisung!”

Then, he drank. So did everyone else.

Except for Hyunjin, who looked like a rabbit caught in a snare as he stared intensely at the floor. But Jisung was too busy gaping at everyone else with his eyes blown wide with complete shock, his mouth flapping open and closed in an attempt to string together a sentence but ultimately failing to do so, to notice.

Felix was grinning like an idiot as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Jeongin looked completely drunk but solemn as though questioning his past taste in boys. Changbin went red and stammered about how it was natural curiosity, and Minho wiggled his brows while making weird faces at Jisung. Chan was laughing bashfully while hiding his face behind Minho’s shoulder.

Jisung wanted to immediately ske-fucking-daddle. This was really weird. Reaaaaally weird.

“Wait,” Felix said as he looked at Jeongin. “You crushed on him?”

“It was only a millisecond of a crush! I thought he was cute until he opened his mouth.”

“Same,” Changbin mumbled. “He needs to learn how to fuck the shut up.”

Seungmin leaned back with a playful smile as he slanted Hyunjin a glance. “The only thing I’m curious about is why -- “

“I need fresh air.” Hyunjin hastily sprung from his seat and staggered towards the door.

“What? Dude, you’re way too drunk to go out alone. Hey!” Jisung called, but by the time he stood up, Hyunjin was already down the hall and gone from their sight. Frowning, he looked back at the circle of incapacitated horny pseudo-adults, and wondered if it was a good idea to leave them all alone unsupervised.

Jisung could have lived a peaceful life without knowing that all of his friends have had a crush on him. He didn’t even know why. He struggled from womb to the tomb, had an allergy to any form of exercise that’d merit sympathy from a total stranger, and all he did was either hibernate or forfeit all mortal possessions for a single chocolate milkshake at his favourite diner. Where was the appeal?

He scratched his head. What a strange goddamn night.

“Okay, um. I’m flattered? But please, let’s never talk about this ever again,” Jisung pleaded.

“A-fucking-men,” Jeongin said and raised his can of beer, but burped with the heedful force of someone who was worried he’d vomit. Seungmin grimaced and inched away from him while Felix patted the younger on the back out of concern and fear.

Jeongin’s potential barf fest turned the tide of the conversation and the circle dispersed. Jisung took that as a good enough sign to leave them be, so Jisung grabbed his jacket and left the room to find Hyunjin, hoping he wouldn’t find his friend passed out in the fountain or whatever in the middle of the night.

Campus serial killers were a real thing and Jisung took such threats very, very seriously.

It was chilly outside. Jisung glanced up at the tarpaulin of stars dappled across the dark sky where the moon seemed to dangle like an ivory tusk. When he couldn’t find Hyunjin around the dormitories, he wondered where he'd wandered off to. There weren’t many particular spots Hyunjin favoured enough to repeatedly visit -- he was busy and booked as a star athlete and a literature major.

Jisung walked past the student services building, which was a tall plexiglass semi-skyscraper that towered over the zelkova trees. Farther ahead across the large field was a lake; a strip of trees probably meant to hint at forestlike depths, even though the highway was just on the other side of it. Or maybe a golf course. But when he walked up the slope of the hill that faced the trees, he saw a head of pale gold and felt his entire body sag in relief.

Hyunjin was sitting on the grass with his knees pulled up to his chest. He always had the habit of making himself look smaller than he actually was when alone.

He let himself be known through his footsteps. Jisung settled down behind Hyunjin, encasing him between his legs and snaking his arms around his waist. Jisung rested his cheek atop his shoulder and noticed how his neck was a bright shade of red. Even the tips of his ears were flaming. He must be really drunk.

“Hey.” Jisung said. “A penny for your thoughts?”

Hyunjin was silent for a moment. Jisung could feel the rise and fall of his chest. Even from his clothes Jisung could still smell the alcohol sticking to the fabric. He scrunched up his nose at the stench, but when he heard Hyunjin let out a shuddery breath, he perked up attentively.

“Did you know I haven’t let anyone hug me this much since my mom was alive?”

Jisung blinked. “Um.”

“I -- I kind of always had this fear since I was a kid that if I let the universe know I cared about someone that it’d come and steal them away again,” he said. “But I -- I like it when we hug so I’m -- wow, I’m so happy you’re still here. Yeah. Mmhmm. Hmmm. Hannie, I think I might be an emotional drunk.”

Well, shit. "You know what, I actually forgot to bring my -- "

“I drank too much and I didn’t even wanna drink but everyone else was drinking and the coaches from the other schools were telling me to drink so I drank and almost threw up in the back of the bus.” There was a sharp intake of breath, then a tiny wobbly voice, “I don’t like being drunk.”

“Um. Please don’t cry. If you do, I’m -- oh God, you’re crying.”

“No, listen. Listen. Forget about the hugging thing ‘cause I’m -- I’m a big boy now! But Hannie, aren’t -- aren’t you ever scared of leaving this world without making a mark on it? One day you’ll be gone and nobody will remember you. I’m so scared of that. That’s why I used to be so desperate in wanting to be understood that I just shoved anyone I could into my heart because that meant more people would remember me. But it always hurt.”

Jisung expected Hyunjin to be more of the life-of-the-party drunk rather than the emotionally-damaged drunk. He also didn’t expect Hyunjin to start spilling his guts about things Jisung had never heard much about since they became friends. Either way, he probably should have seen this coming considering their somewhat similar backgrounds. He sighed and hugged Hyunjin a little bit tighter. “Enlighten me. Why would it be scary?”

“I dunno. It’s like -- there would be no proof you ever existed. Nobody will know about you at all. So, in a way, it’s like you never lived.”

“Oh, that is so total bullshit,” Jisung scoffed and ignored the way Hyunjin made a noise of complaint. “Who cares about the rest of the world? You made a mark in my world. Don’t you think changing a person’s life by just being in it is huge in itself?”

Hyunjin was silent for a moment before he sniffled. “How can you say that so shamelessly?”

“Because you’re one of the few who put up with me. You’ve seen me at my worst and you’ve still stayed by my side. You’re literally my soulmate at this point and that says a lot when a whole Felix exists -- though I’m pretty sure he’s either passed out by now or making out with your captain. Who knows?”

Hyunjin gagged. “Ew.”

“Exactly. So don’t say that type of shit when you have me and those other fucking dweebs getting plastered in my room,” Jisung said, knocking Hyunjin on the back of his head. “I only argue with you because you don’t have a brain. You have a festering cesspool of doubts. And I love you so goddamn much anyway.”

Hyunjin twisted around in Jisung’s arms to look at him. Snot was dribbling down his nose and his eyes were glossy. “What? You love me?”

“Dude, I’d kiss your stupid little face right now if you weren’t drunk becuase I want you to feel my affection sober, you lucky bastard,” Jisung said petulantly. “But yeah. I love you, dumbass.”

Against the backdrop of the night sky that hung over the ribbon of trees, the glow of Hyunjin’s smile could have outrivaled that of the moon. Hyunjin buried his nose deep into Jisung’s neck and Jisung couldn’t help but complain that his jacket had not been freshly laundered for Hyunjin to wipe his tears and snot all over it. Hyunjin’s shoulders trembled from faint laughter before the sound waded into tiny giggles.

“I might take that the wrong way,” Hyunjin whispered, his lips ghosting the skin beneath his jaw. “So you’ll have to take responsibility.”

“What?” Jisung startled, but Hyunjin was already unwinding himself from Jisung’s grasp to stand up. “That was so ominous, dude. What do you -- “

“Thanks, Hannie,” Hyunjin interrupted him with a broad smile that made his dimples appear. “Talking to you always feels like a breath of fresh air! I feel like I can take on anything now. You should really be a motivational speaker. I mean, I honestly might wake up tomorrow feeling like shit like usual, but I always remember the words you say to me because they’re important and you’re important and -- “

Jisung watched as Hyunjin clamped a hand over his mouth. When he whirled around and upchucked his entire dinner onto the poor patch of grass, Jisung had never been more thankful to be unable to drink. He just knew he’d have the same fate if he was ever allowed the tiniest sip of alcohol.

“I hate this so much,” Hyunjin griped, sounding as though he was on the verge of tears again. Jisung caught him by the arms and supported him like a pillar of flimsy strength when he started to stumble backwards.

“Yeah yeah, just shut up,” Jisung mumbled. He threw Hyunjin’s arm around his shoulder and began dragging him up the hill and back to the dorms.

From the smell of it, Jisung certainly was going to need to wash his jacket again.

When he got back to the dorms, he found the six of them all passed out on the floor. Jeongin was curled up with a pillow in his arms; Changbin looked like he wanted to reach for his laptop but had knocked out cold in the middle of doing so; Felix was snoring on Chan’s lap while the latter slept with his back against the wall; Minho was sprawled inelegantly on the floor like a starfish and Seungmin was lying beside him with his hand resting on Minho’s left tit. On the bright side, at least he didn’t come back to a murder scene.

He dragged Hyunjin around the sleeping bodies and tossed him onto Changbin’s bed. With the covers, he aggressively tucked Hyunjin in until he looked like a big sushi burrito. Jisung watched Hyunjin’s nose crinkle when he brushed the messy strands of hair away from his face.

“One bottle of Gatorade gives you all the electrolytes you need for a full jerk off session,” Hyunjin drunkenly murmured.

Jisung might have thrown up a little bit in his mouth. “I hate it here. Seriously.”

Just as he was about to retire for the night at his own bed, a hand around his wrist stopped him. Jisung glanced over his shoulder and found Hyunjin looking at him with eyes slightly glazed over.

“Hey, hey, hey,” he whispered, tugging Jisung towards him. “I have to -- hey. Hey. I need to tell you something.”

“Tell me what? That Willy Wonka is just Saw for children?”

Hyunjin only giggled. Jisung sighed and leaned forward until he was at the exact distance Hyunjin wanted him to be, and unamused, waited patiently for whatever Hyunjin wanted to say while he patted Jisung on the cheek with a sleepy smile.

“Don’t be sad, Hannie.”

“And just why would I be sad?”

“Because I didn’t drink like everyone else did,” he said in a conspiratorial tone and closed his eyes. “But you know I didn’t drink because Seungminnie said it in the past tense, right? So, don’t -- don’t be sad, okay?”

Jisung blinked. The room was percolated with shadows from the dim glow of the lamp light. Before he could ask for clarification, Hyunjin was already layers deep into slumber, his mouth falling open as he snored, so Jisung tucked his arm back inside the blanket before he shut the lamp and went up the ladder to reach the top bunk.

As he laid there with eyes wide open at the ceiling, it didn’t click until he looked out the window where the first star of the sky flickered into life from afar, faintly bright as the pink on Hyunjin’s cheeks.

 

 

 

FIVE.

 

 

When Jisung had found the perfect gift, it was so perfect that he couldn’t help but vaguely brag about it to the recipient of said gift via text message in the middle of the night.

You (12:54AM)
HAHAHA GUESS WHAT I’M ABOUT TO GET

Llama Dweeb (¬_¬) (12:54AM)
On my nerves

You (12:55AM)
oh ok. gargle these nuts bitch

 

Llama Dweeb (¬_¬) (12:56AM)
aren’t you supposed to be asleep??

You (12:56AM)
I’m supposed to be a lot of things but i live to disappoint

 

Jisung hadn’t bothered to wrap the gift since it was too much of a hassle. Birthdays weren’t as celebrated as they had been before now that all of them have tasted the life of an endlessly working adult. Who had time to party when they had multiple assignments due consecutively after each other? At this point, Jisung could receive a single peanut shell and he’d still be so grateful. Cheesy or not, his friends were enough of a present for him.

Either way, Jisung hadn’t been able to see Hyunjin as much for the past few weeks since practice and games took up most of his time, and if he wasn’t practicing, he was in the study hall trying to catch up with the lectures and homework he’d missed out on from conflicting schedules.

They also haven’t talked about Hyunjin’s little drunken spiel that night, considering Hyunjin forgot about most of the things he rambled on about. He couldn’t even remember what happened at the banquet other than being poured drink after drink, and -- well. As a master of overanalysis and a chronic avoider for interpersonal and emotional confrontation, Jisung simply let it go. He frankly already forgot about it by the time everything went back to normal.

(He was lying. He didn’t forget about it, but you didn’t hear it from the deepest and darkest part of his subconscious.)

And so, that left Jisung in a withering state of Hyunjin-deprivation for the next few days.

“Do you think the ocean is salty because the land never waves back?”

Seungmin looked over at him and deadpanned, “I despise you so much, sometimes.”

Jisung felt like he was in the Sims where it took 5 hours just to make pasta before immediately heading to bed. He’d woken up that morning with the resolve to get through most of the readings in his tonal music theory classes, but after he remembered that he had his therapist appointment right smack in the middle of the day, he could no longer divide his attention. He had to prepare for it even though he had four hours left -- and by preparing, he meant lying on the floor while mentally composting and waiting for time to pass by.

But at least he had company. Seungmin and Felix were happy to mentally decompose with him in his room like the best friends they were.

Jisung scoffed. “Don’t be jealous, man. You hate me because you know I’m funnier and sexier than you. When I jingle my little clown bells and do my silly little jester dance, it fills you with immense rage that I can be so funny and also so sensual in my enormous clown shoes.”

“I will literally beat you up. I could rip your little twig body asunder right at this moment.”

“How, when you are but a mere myopic and chronically flatulent tasteless creation of dross?”

“The fuck does that mean?”

Jisung pointed at Seungmin and declared, “It means eat my dick, fool!”

Felix slammed his book shut, startling the both of them into silence, and he leaned forward on his knees to look at them with a desperate gleam in his eyes. “I’m imploring you -- no, I fucking beseech thee to shut the fuck up right now. Please. I’m trying to finish this book about some dude who turns into a bug so I can write a political analysis of its rigid communist ideology and its underlying theme of depression that’s due in less than three days and I can’t focus if you guys are arguing about eating each other's dick!”

“Who are you? Hyunjin?” Jisung narrowed his eyes. “Damn. All you dark academia hoes be like ‘ah the inherent romanticism of blah blah in fall’ meanwhile all I get in the fall is depression.”

“It’s for my required English class,’ Felix groused, lowering his voice to a grumble, “I’m not even pretentious.”

“Hyunjin would beat your ass if he heard that,” Seungmin snorted.

“Ha! Looks like the gods are on my side today because he isn’t here, is he?” Jisung jutted his chin arrogantly. “He’s too busy playing with his balls.”

Seungmin muttered something underneath his breath as Felix rolled his eyes and returned to his nearly finished book. Jisung pouted at the glaring lack of attention and resorted to spamming Hyunjin out of boredom instead since it was always fun to get a rise out of him. Jisung could only hope Hyunjin had his phone on silent since he was most likely at the study hall if Jisung remembered his schedule correctly.

He opened up their messages and almost grimaced at the amount of spam he’d sent him earlier in the day already, which was basically just a bunch of birthday wishes and confetti emojis. Hyunjin might genuinely kill him for blowing up his phone, but he had nothing to lose -- right?

You (11:33AM)
hey did you know that all pennies minted prior to 1982 are pure copper pennies and not copper plated and are technically actually worth 2 cents

You (11:34AM)
you’re sitting on top of the christmas tree because YOU are the star
:3c
yes i three-faced you

You (11:36AM)
literally three years have passed and you still hvenn’t let me kiss you
like dude come on
so you can kiss me but you can’t even let THE homie give u a lil kiss?
#onlybros #justbros #nohomobromo #fivefeetapart

You (11:37AM)
I am currently reducing my physical form to a low poly render so i can no longer be known or perceived

You (11:37AM)
a cough is just a crunchy breath

You (11:39AM)
communism

 

His texts being ignored made Jisung feel like an aging opera singer singing passionately to a dark and empty theatre he once conquered. He was inclined to spam some more when he heard heavy footsteps approaching from down the hall until his door burst open. Hyunjin stood there in his tracksuit with a blatant lack of amusement written across his face; he looked like he was running on 300 grams of caffeine and four hours of sleep.

“Hannie,” he said with the threatening aura of a harmless prairie dog, “do you wanna die? I got kicked out of the library because my phone wouldn’t stop going off. I didn’t even have the time to turn it on silent because the technicians were already throwing my bag out the door! Hey, don’t laugh, Seungmin! I’ll kill you too!”

Jisung wasn’t listening. He scrambled up from the floor and jumped onto Hyunjin, crushing him with a full-force body slam of a hug as he shouted, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”

While Seungmin and Felix chimed in with less than enthusiastic birthday wishes, Hyunjin yelped as they stumbled backwards and hit the door. Jisung was rocking them side to side before he pursed his lips and attempted to land a kiss on Hyunjin’s cheek, only for Jisung to have his face be pushed away by Hyunjin’s sweaty palm that smelled like old parchment paper. Jisung squawked and finally let Hyunjin go.

“Oh, come on,” Jisung complained. “Not even on your birthday?”

Hyunjin wrinkled his nose in distaste. “A day where I grow another year old doesn’t give you any special privileges, Hannie. Besides, you got me kicked out of the library when I was in the middle of studying. Do you have anything to say about that? Because I don’t have a lot of time left before I have to go to practice.”

Jisung deflated. “You’re always at practice. Do you prefer your balls over your own bros now?”

“Oh, shut the -- “ Hyunjin couldn’t finish his sentence. He resorted to smacking Jisung on the arm, his face growing red. “You’re such a kid! Nevermind, I’m leaving. I’m heading to practice early and I’m going to imagine your face on the ball while I throw it down the garbage chute.”

Hyunjin was in the middle of reaching for the doorknob when Jisung stopped him with a shout, “Wait!”

“Ugh. Now what?”

“It’s too dangerous to go alone!” Jisung grabbed his jacket where his gift had been hidden since the day he bought it and quickly put it on. Then, he hurried back to Hyunjin with a wide, shit-eating grin. “So take this,” he beamed, and put his hand in Hyunjin’s.

Jisung pointedly ignored Seungmin gagging in the background. He took more interest in watching the blush bloom across Hyunjin’s face as he struggled to keep his expression at bay -- his brows twitching and his eyes darting between Jisung’s face and their hands with his mouth gape. It was a little funny to see someone who was so expressive try to be the exact opposite.

“I’m stealing that so I can do that to Chan,” Felix said.

Seungmin hummed. “But would Chan do you is the question.”

“I’m literally going to fucking murder -- “

“Anyway,” Jisung said as he tugged Hyunjin out of his room and left the two to their own devices. He trusted them to not kill each other while he was gone. “Let’s go!”

He happily led Hyunjin out of the building, passing by familiar faces who lived in the same hall as him. Much to his surprise, Hyunjin was still too dumbfounded to string together a single, cohesive sentence, and his hands were growing sweatier by the minute, so as soon as they stepped outside, Jisung dragged him to the bench alcove located behind the building and sat him down.

Hyunjin’s mind had travelled all the way to the edge of the world, so Jisung poked him in the cheek. When he garnered no reaction, he pulled his cheek like he was stretching a piece of chewed gum, and successfully startled Hyunjin back to reality.

Ow,” Hyunjin whined, wincing as he smacked Jisung’s hand away. “What did you do that for, you stupid shart box?”

I’m not the one who spiritually ascended elsewhere.”

“I didn’t -- “ Hyunjin bit his lip and glared down at his hands. “I was just thinking.”

Jisung snorted. Now that he finally had the opportunity to give his gift to Hyunjin after hanging onto it for weeks, he excitedly reached into the inside of his jacket and took out the gift. He held it out for Hyunjin to take while restlessly bouncing his legs. “This is for you.”

It was a small, dark blue book with a linen hardcover and thin golden curlicues embedded at the spine. Jisung gravitated towards it at first because of its relatively pretty and simplistic appearance, but when he had turned to the title page and saw that it was a book of poems by one of Hyunjin’s favourite authors, and was told that it was one of the very first published editions to still be found in a store, he bought it immediately with no qualms even if his bank account suffered from the price.

And now, he watched in jumpy eagerness as Hyunjin tentatively took the book into his hands and ran a thumb over the cover. He flipped open to the title page and his eyes widened slightly; Hyunjin looked up at Jisung with disbelief etched across his face.

“Pretty cool, right? It’s like -- like those rare old books you’d find in a museum, maybe. I don’t know. But it’s pocket-sized so you can carry it around with you and be a nerd wherever you go! You like this author, don’t you?” Jisung smiled, waving his feet from side to side with his heels on the ground. “Your mom did too.”

“Yeah,” Hyunjin laughed softly, his eyes crinkling down at the page. “She did. She loved this guy a lot. I -- you didn’t have to do this. These kinds of vintage editions must have been really expensive.”

Jisung scoffed and waved the concern away. “Friendship has no price. Go on! Turn to the next page.”

Hyunjin squinted at him in suspicion before he did as he was told. His eyes trailed over the little note Jisung had written on the blank page, and with a sigh, read it out loud in a flat voice, “I’ll kiss you once for every star that lines the sky if you stopped being such a brophobic motherfucker.” He glanced up at Jisung, unimpressed. “Seriously?”

Jisung grinned puckishly and shrugged. “D’ya like it?”

Hyunjin’s eyes softened and he closed the book. “I love it. Thank you, Hannie. Your heart is so big.”

His heart swelled a little from the way Hyunjin looked at him. Alone, his smile was genuine -- tender. And as he sat there, half in the shade, the skylight streamed down on him and illuminated the crown of his head. His eyes looked amber, almost golden, in the dappled light.

Jisung audibly swallowed. The mayhem of butterflies fluttered around in his stomach.

He couldn’t handle the way Hyunjin looked at him anymore or how the mole underneath his eye made him look unfairly pretty, and because Jisung was HOT (Hard to love, Obnoxious, Terrible), he resorted to his primary defense mechanism as a way to diffuse the tension in the air by saying, “Ha. Ha. You know what else is big? The Naruto fandom, the gaping void in my life, my dad’s alcohol stash, and that purple man from Kuroko no Basket. Oh, and my dick -- ow, I was joking!”

Hyunjin huffed and held the book close to his chest. “Of course you’d ruin the moment. I was trying to be appreciative!”

“You know how else you can be appreciative?” Jisung wiggled his brows. He grabbed Hyunjin’s shoulders and pursed his lips, leaning forward with obvious intentions, before he was pushed away by Hyunjin’s hand once again as Hyunjin let out a disgusted squeal. Jisung barely recovered from the blatant rejection when Hyunjin was already leaping off the bench and running away.

“This is blatant brophobia and selective favouritism! Will you ever let me kiss you?” Jisung yelled after him as he waved a fist in the air.

“To quote Hamlet Act III Scene III line 92,” Hyunjin shouted back, “no!”

Hyunjin stuck his tongue out before he escaped. Jisung watched him go with his arms crossed, blowing a strand of hair away from his face petulantly. The cheeky bastard.

But he couldn’t really stay annoyed when his heart was in his throat and he felt like he was seconds away from fainting after getting internally attacked by a bunch of butterflies that suggested a lot of things Jisung didn’t want to think about -- not yet, at least, because at some point down the road, he’d begun to want to kiss Hyunjin on his stupid little beautiful face out of something a bit more than just friendship.

Well. Hamlet also once said: “O fuck.” And boy, was that a mood.

 

 

 

(Because Jisung liked to instigate most of the time, he texted Daewhi that night because frankly, it was his fault for making Jisung realize he may have liked Hyunjin more than platonically.)

You (1:32AM)
hey FUCK you

The Jock I Friendzoned (1:40AM)
??????//?
WHAT DID I DO

 

 

 

+1

 

Jisung tried to adopt an air of sophistication and pomposity when he attended Minho’s art showcase to try and fit into his more civilized surroundings, but when he saw Minho’s sculpture of Perseus’ thick dummy ass, he quite instantly lost all cells of decorum and said very out loud in the middle of the hall, “God, I’d smother my entire face in those ass cheeks if I could.”

Hyunjin had inhaled all of the alcohol from his champagne flute and Chan covered his face out of embarrassment. Minho, on the other hand, nodded approvingly of Jisung’s comment. “You would, wouldn’t you? Too bad he’s a total fuckwad. That’s why for my next project, I’m gonna make Medusa hold his decapitated head if my boomer of a professor could stop being such a women-hater in mythology.”

“The power of Christ compels you to chill the fuck out,” Changbin said, sending Jisung a mildly affronted look.

“Don’t you tell me to chill the fuck out, you tiny bean man.”

Tiny -- “

“Anyway,” Minho said, clapping his hands. “Who wants to come see my abstract penis art?”

The art show went relatively well -- save for Jisung’s inappropriate comments that made everyone want to commit accidental homicide. While Jisung squinted up at a painting consisting of a single streak of red across a white canvas and was pretentiously named An Eternal Camillia in the Eye of the Heart which made absolutely no sense whatsoever, Hyunjin stepped up beside him and looked at the painting with a similar look of confusion.

Hyunjin had the decency to wear a nice suit that fit his figure. Meanwhile, Jisung was direly underdressed. His nicest clothes were merely a striped button up shirt and the jeans he bought a year ago but never wore, and a pair of boots that had been collecting dust in his closet. Hyunjin had told him he looked nice, and Jisung was pretty sure he’d combust on spot if it weren’t for Seungmin distracting Hyunjin from seeing the red overtake Jisung’s entire complexion like a ripe tomato.

“I don’t understand art,” Hyunjin said with a pout. “How is that supposed to be a camellia?”

“I dunno, dude, but I agree. People should totally paint more naked men. Easy on the eyes and easier to understand, am I right?”

“I think sometimes you shouldn’t be allowed to open your mouth.”

“What do you mean? I say some pretty good shit,” Jisung retorted, slanting Hyunjin an unamused glance. He looked around and pointed at one of the paintings that looked like a jumbo cantaloupe but was actually supposed to convey the intricacies of human life on earth. “Like, you see that? It reminds me of an avocado. I could totally eat a whole avocado right now.”

“Avocadon’t.”

“How about you avocago away?”

“You’re really stupid.”

“Stupidly handsome, you mean.”

Hyunjin rolled his eyes, but the smile on his face got rid of any inkling of annoyance. “Can’t really argue with that, can I?”

Jisung grinned contentedly. He pressed their shoulders together and looked back at the painting. He supposed he couldn’t really judge the intentions behind the artist. Everyone expressed different facets of life through different images -- even if it was just a single red streak across a white canvas that looked nothing like the flower. But the more Jisung tried to justify it, the more it seemed sillier. God, he was too mundane for complicated art analyses.

“Hey,” Hyunjin said as he nudged Jisung’s elbow. “Um. So. Do you want to come to the game next week? It’s the game that determines if we can move forward in the tournament or not -- you know, championships and all -- so it’s pretty big. But there’s going to be a lot of people too and I know you’re not a fan of crowds, so if you don’t want to it’s --”

“Dude, I’d come to anything to support you, but the real issue is the fact that I’ll be inserting myself into a place where a bunch of jocks are crowded in. Why would I submit myself to such torture as if I hadn’t had enough of it back in high school?”

Hyunjin peevishly puffed up his cheeks. “They’re different from high school!”

“Still jocks to me. The only jock I like is you -- okay, and Chan, maybe Daewhi -- but the rest of them?” Jisung shuddered. “Horrible.”

“Would you come if I said you can kiss me?”

Jisung snapped his head up to stare at him, bug-eyed. A bunch of expletives were about to burst from his mouth until Hyunjin slapped a hand over it to silence him and continued on quickly, “Only if we win! You’ll only get to kiss me if we win! But that means you’ll have to be there!”

The nerve of the bastard. Jisung found such a bargain to be outrageous, brash, and frankly immoral, but that didn’t exactly stop Jisung from genuinely considering it since the secondary priority in his life was to one day kiss Hyunjin like the total no-homo bros they were.

Smacking Hyunjin’s hand away, Jisung huffed and said, “You’re a conniving little bastard, you know that? But you got yourself a deal, birdbrain. Prepared to be aggressively smooched.”

Hyunjin looked like he was starting to regret their agreement, but rather than fighting back, he flicked Jisung on the forehead and said, “Make it quick and painless, please.”

“You say that as if it’s going to kill you!”

Hyunjin was scurrying away by the time Jisung finished his sentence. Annoyed, Jisung shouted after him, “I’m gonna kiss your stupid little ass so hard, you hear me? I’m gonna kiss you like you’ve never been kissed before, you smelly rectum goblin!”

While Hyunjin cackled on his way out of the hall, Jisung burned a bright shade of red at the attention he received at his outburst from the other attendees. He crossed his arms and turned back to the painting.

The things Jisung did for that guy. What a headache.
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The week blurred by uneventfully. All Jisung could remember was sleeping through all his psychology lectures and procrastinating by trying to build a castle in Minecraft after gaining the courage to venture into random servers all alone. Then, at some point, he was completely fixated on short-eared cats and was about to knit an entire basket of toques for their big, fluffy heads, when suddenly -- the day of the game arrived.

“Since when the fuck was it Friday?” Jisung took off his earphones as he glared out the window. The sun had risen when Jisung swore it had been night, like, two hours ago. Or three. He couldn’t really remember the time he went to bed. Did he even sleep?

“Uh. When it turned midnight?” Changbin humoured him, shrugging as he piled his textbooks into his backpack.

“Bro, I am straight up not conceptualizing time.”

Changbin slanted him an understanding look before changing the subject. “Hey, you’re going to the game tonight, right? Why are tickets so expensive? Can’t I just, like, bring a can of beans as my entry fee?”

“Geez, that’d be the dream, wouldn’t it?” Jisung ruffled his hair and grimaced at how greasy it felt. “We should totally take over the government and make cans of beans the new currency for our generation.”

“Very funny. You look like shit, by the way,” Changbin said as he stood on his tiptoes to pull at Jisung’s cheek from the top bunk. “Felix brought some pancakes earlier. Eat some of them and maybe drink a whole jug of water. I’m going to class now.”

“Have fun,” Jisung sighed, half-heartedly waving him goodbye. Left alone in his room, Jisung hung from his bed like a bat until he decided it was time to get up. He headed to the communal bathrooms and took a quick shower, secretly using his bottle of 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner since it had been the cheapest thing from the retail pharmacy he passed by the other day when he was on a grocery run. If any of his friends saw what he was using, Jisung was totally sure he’d die at the hands of them.

He went back to his room to dry himself off properly and got dressed. It was sunny, but most sunny days were usually the coldest, so he threw on a denim jacket over his hoodie for optimal preservation of warmth. He left his messy hair to air dry and left for the lounge, where the plate of half-eaten pancakes surrounded by saran wrap were waiting to be devoured by his appetite.

Feeling his mouth salivate at the mere look of it, Jisung quickly sent Felix a text expressing his gratitude, only to receive a sarcastic reply in return.

Lixie (˶⸃ ⴰ⸃˶)♡ (10:34AM)
Hi there! You’ve used 100% of your sadness data for the month. Increase your sadness plan data for $22.99 by texting DEPRESSION to 123SAD.

You (10:34AM)
yo why the hell is depression so expensive

Lixie (˶⸃ ⴰ⸃˶)♡ (10:35AM)
CAPITALISM

Jisung snorted and pocketed his phone. He took off the saran wrap and balled it up, putting it aside to throw away later, when he noticed a dark blue ribbon by the plate. As he drenched the pancakes in an avalanche of syrup and shoved an entire piece into his mouth, Jisung picked up the ribbon and put it in his pocket after a moment’s worth of consideration. He could find something to use the ribbon for later. It was too pretty to throw away.

After he was done stuffing his face, Jisung threw away the trash and washed the plate. He greeted a few same-year residents he recognized from orientation and headed out to buy himself overly priced bubble tea.

Not even a few steps out of the building did Jisung realize the amount of guys in suits carrying duffel bags around their shoulders. Jisung deliberately avoided all the athletes who were most likely preparing for their game later in the day, and looking around, he spotted a familiar head of blonde hair crouching down on the entrance steps to the library. Next to him was Yeji, who was showing him her phone screen that elicited a wide smile from him.

All initial thoughts on bubble tea vanished. Jisung’s legs were taking him towards them without a second thought and the next thing he knew, he was right in front of them with his heart lurching up to his throat when Hyunjin lit up at the sight of him.

“Hannie, is that really you? I’m surprised you’re even up this early,” Hyunjin laughed in slight awe.

“I may look awake, but I guarantee you that I’m about to pass out any moment now,” Jisung said. He turned to Yeji, who was surprisingly beaming up at him with recognition in her eyes.

“So you’re Hannie?” She stood up and stuck out her hand. “Wow, it’s so nice to meet you! I’ve always been curious about who you were since Hyunjin’s always like Hannie this! Hannie that! Ah, it’s finally great to put a face to his boyfriend!”

Hyunjin sprung up from his seat with adamant objections at the same time Jisung stammered out a, “I’m -- what? His what now? I’m his what now? What?”

Yeji darted her eyes between them. “Oh, um. You two aren’t dating?”

Hyunjin groaned and covered his red face with both hands as he shrunk back down to sit on the steps. Jisung, on the other hand, felt like he was about to explode like a supernova from the misinterpretation of their relationship. “Since when the -- how did you get that? If anything, everyone else thinks you guys are dating, not me and him!”

“Oh, not anymore.” Yeji grinned. “Hyunjin told everyone to kindly leave us alone. Okay, well, he actually told them to fuck off, but he said it really nicely. I also told everybody that I have a girlfriend, so. Not in a million years would it be me and any existing male specimen on this planet!”

“Wow.” Jisung looked at her in slight admiration. “I love you, but like, no hetero.”

Yeji beamed. “I love you non-heterosexually too!”

“This is so weird,” Hyunjin mumbled behind his hands.

“Well. I’m gonna go meet my friends now, but I’ll see you guys later,” she said. “It’s nice to meet you again, Hannie.”

Jisung waved as she skipped away. As soon as she disappeared from sight, he looked back down at Hyunjin, who was still hiding behind his hands. Jisung sat down beside him and pried his hands away from his face. “Dude. Chill. She just, you know -- it was a misunderstanding! It’s fine. We’re, like, the best no homo bros on the earth.”

Hyunjin slanted him an unamused glare and slowly let his hands be tugged away. “Right. Best no homo bros. How on earth did you manage to make that uncomfortable?”

“Oh, shut up. Why’re you basketball weirdos wearing suits anyway?”

Hyunjin shrugged. “We’re supposed to dress nicely before the game since we represent the institution we’re playing for. It’s to look professional but I could really use a pair of baggy sweatpants right now. I hate suits.”

Jisung scooted back a bit to take in the entirety of Hyunjin’s appearance. His hair was slightly wavy today, and was neatly tied back in a half ponytail with a few braided strands. The more he looked at Hyunjin, though, the more an idea crept up in the back of his mind. When Jisung remembered the ribbon sitting in the pocket of his denim jacket, he gasped loudly, startling Hyunjin into covering his chest.

“What? What? Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Turn around for me.”

“Why?”

“Just turn around!”

Hyunjin pouted and reluctantly did as he was told. Jisung took out the blue ribbon and began to tie it around Hyunjin’s ponytail. He made sure to loop it nicely, though it still drooped like a sad, soggy leaf, but Jisung deemed it a nice, bright addition to his overall hairstyle. He forcefully turned Hyunjin back around and cupped his face, beaming, “There! You look even prettier, now. I’m such a genius.”

Hyunjin flushed at the sudden compliment, and he blindly felt for the ribbon behind his head. “You -- thank you. Um.”

“Consider it a good luck charm for your game tonight.” Jisung grinned before he rubbed his eyes. “Well, I guess if I don’t pass out before it starts. Have you ever stayed up three nights in a row? I don’t even know why. I’m pretty sure I was mining for emerald or some shit. No, I was looking at fennec foxes and trying to learn how to knit little mittens for cats. God, cats. Dude, if we’re still single by the time we’re fourty, can we please cohabitate and get like a hundred cats? Please. We could even own a farm. Maybe specifically an eggplant farm -- ha! No, I’m joking, stop looking at me like that!”

Hyunjin rubbed his temples. “You’re so lucky I like it when you run your mouth.”

“Yeah? Well, my mouth is prepared to do many other things to you.”

Hyunjin’s eyes bulged and he stood up abruptly from where he was seated. “Do you ever think before you speak?”

“What? What did I say?”

Hyunjin’s face looked so red that Jisung was certain somebody could fry an egg on it. “You -- ugh! You’re so dumb! Stupid! Pea brain! You idiot-festering nincompoop!”

Puzzled, Jisung could barely get a word in as he watched Hyunjin snatch his bag up from the ground in a crossly manner and hurried off without a goodbye. He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly and wondered what he said to have angered him. All he implied with his mouth was that he was going to kiss him. What else could it be?

Jisung shrugged to himself. Leave it to Hyunjin to be vague and flustered. He’d always been the type to be embarrassed by the smallest things.

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Jisung had never stepped foot into their university’s gym before, mostly because he did everything he could in his life to avoid anything sports-related, so when he handed in his ticket and was allowed to enter, it was kind of cool to take in all the bright lights and the shiny floors and how the university’s logo was shaped out by the colours of the bleachers.

Jisung didn’t like the raw, human smell of sweat, though. He almost gagged.

He found his friends huddled near the top of the bleachers. Minho had his arms around Seungmin’s neck from behind while Felix was blatantly following Chan -- who was in the middle of warming up with his team -- with his eyes. Changbin was scrolling on his phone and had let Jeongin rest his head on his shoulder as he shared his screen with the younger.

“When did this happen?” Jisung asked in disbelief as he motioned between Minho and Seungmin.

“Simple.” Minho smiled calmly. “I wanted to use a dead body in my art like in the horror movies. What better body is there to use than his?”

“Yeah, he’s gonna kill me,” Seungmin said blandly while studying his cuticles. “He’s gonna poison my body with expired plastic and chemical juice.”

Jisung looked at them in concern but interpreted such strange, mild hostility as their love language. He sat down beside Felix, who was sighing dreamily while resting his chin on his palm. “Dude, did you know Chan recycles? He recycles. He cares about the earth! What other man out there does it like him?”

“I’m not even gonna reply to that. Have you asked him out yet?”

“No,” Felix mumbled sadly. “He’s way out of my league.”

“Dude. He’s a jock.”

“Just saying,” Jeongin piped in, “but being friends with all of you has made me realize that history majors will be the only people to survive the apocalypse because all of you are dumb as shit.”

While the rest of them attacked Jeongin, Jisung boredly swept his eyes across the court and met eyes with Hyunjin, who had been watching them with a starry-eyed look on his face. Jisung perked up and waved enthusiastically to the point of almost knocking Felix out with his elbow. Hyunjin’s eyes crinkled from his shy smile, and he gave a tinier wave back. Jisung then dramatically pursed his lips, making Hyunjin scrunch up his nose. He made an obscene gesture with his hands just for the sake of embarrassing him, and it worked, because Hyunjin gawked at Jisung in immediate disgust and turned away, almost tripping over his own two feet in the process.

Basketball had always been a bore to Jisung. He lost count of how many times he yawned and tried to keep his eyes opened if it weren’t for the loud blaring of horns, shrill whistles, and the constant yelling from the audience. It was stifling and uncomfortable from how crowded the gym was, but Jisung found solace in his friends, especially since Felix made it his temporary job to hold his balmy hand for all four quarters of the game.

Most of the time, Jisung watched Hyunjin play. He didn’t know anything about the rules of the sport, but he knew Hyunjin was good. He’d never seen him play before, so seeing a serious -- almost scary -- side to him was pretty amazing, if not mildly attractive, but Jisung kept that thought to himself.

“If you want to know if you broke a bone,” Seungmin said during a time-out when one of the opposing team’s player limped back to their benches, “you should inject Diphenyl Oxalate into your bloodstream and Hydrogen Peroxide into your bone marrow so that if you did break a bone in your body, it would cause a chemiluminescent reaction and you would, theoretically, become a human-glow stick.”

“I hate biology majors,” Jisung grumbled as he pinched his nose bridge. “Weird ass motherfuckers.”

Felix sighed. “Life is one big yeehaw and then you die, man.”

Changbin poked his head in between them with a lost look. “I never know what the fuck goes on. Why are all our conversations so non-linear?”

The game resumed. Both schools were tied in the last minute of the fourth quarter and all the players looked too tired to be moving at that point. Watching them run back and forth made Jisung’s legs hurt. But in the last fifteen seconds, when Hyunjin managed to steal the ball from the opposing team and darted past all the taller guards, he did a short jump shot that knocked his defender down at the same time of the buzzer sound.

When the ball fell through the hoop, and Hyunjin had stumbled onto his bum after landing back down onto the floor, the gymnasium erupted into absolute cacophony that nearly deafened Jisung if he didn’t clamp his hands over his ears. Everyone in the bleachers shot up from their seats in cheers, and it took Jisung a moment to process the fact that they had won.

Jisung blinked. He watched as Hyunjin’s teammates ran onto the court and piled on top of him. He felt his brain knock against his skull when Felix grabbed him into a hug and shook him around like he was a disposable teddy bear. Belatedly, he whooped and awkwardly pumped his fist in the air.

The atmosphere was still buzzing with excitement even as everyone began to pile out the door. Jisung knew Hyunjin and his team stayed behind for an extra half hour to talk with their coach and with the other team, so he let his friends know to go ahead without him to grab dinner while he waited outside of the gym at one of the benches nearby.

Jisung had been two seconds away from badly crashing on the bench when he finally heard Hyunjin calling his name. He leapt up from the bench and turned around to find Hyunjin jogging towards him with a bright-eyed smile. He’d already changed out of his uniform to a pair of sweatpants and a large hoodie; his hair was still tied up with the blue ribbon.

“Dude,” Jisung began as he held his hands up. “I’d give you a hug right now but you’re all sweaty and gross and -- oh, okay, we’re hugging.” He was smothered in Hyunjin’s chest when Hyunjin had wrapped his arms around Jisung and crushed him into a hug without bothering to let Jisung finish his sentence.

“Thanks for coming,” he murmured when he finally let go. His face was sweaty and flushed from all the earlier exertion, but he looked happy and still full of energy. His hands, which were hidden by the long sleeves of his hoodie, were still holding onto the ends of Jisung’s jacket.

“Of course.” Jisung couldn’t help but grin as he brushed a few strands of his hair that had escaped from his ponytail behind his ear. “I didn’t know what the fuck was going on half the time but I did know that you were amazing. How come you didn’t tell me you were that good?”

“It’s not my fault you never come to my games because of your whole anti-jock propaganda.”

“It’s all for a good reason! Jocks smell like drama and headaches. I mean, except you of course. And Chan, since Felix’s got it bad for him.” Jisung huffed. “Speaking of Chan, aren’t you supposed to be celebrating with your teammates right now?”

“Oh. Well, um.” Hyunjin averted his eyes to the side as he shrunk a bit. “I told them that I had plans. With you, I mean. And the others. But mostly with you. I think.”

“With me? I didn’t know we’d -- oh.” Jisung looked at him with a bit of a scandalized expression. Much to his own astonishment, he had forgotten about the deal he agreed to if Hyunjin’s team had won the game tonight. Jisung was sure he forgot about it involuntarily though considering the fact his brain had rioted against his body’s desperate need for sleep for the past three days. “Dude, if you were so desperate for me to kiss you, you should’ve let me kiss you all those other times instead of rejecting me and bruising my dignity!”

“Being evil is fun,” Hyunjin retorted as he stuck out his tongue. Then he leaned forward so abruptly that it caused Jisung to stumble back. “Well. I’m waiting now, Hannie.”

Now? Like, right here?”

“Duh. Where else?”

“Like. Kiss you. Anywhere?”

“How am I supposed to know? You’re the one who keeps wanting to kiss me, so just do it.” Hyunjin pouted a bit and closed his eyes. If Jisung imagined hard enough, he could see the tail fervently wagging behind him. His unexpected eagerness flustered Jisung because as much as he lived off of giving his friends affection, it didn’t help that Jisung also had feelings for said friend.

Whenever he looked at Hyunjin, Jisung felt like he was wearing his favourite sweater, and he wasn’t sure whether or not to stand behind the comfortable line of friendship or to cross it when things could go to hell if he did so. But then again, when Jisung thought back to it, Hyunjin had also done questionable things that hinted at something more, and -- God, did Jisung hate feelings.

After this, Jisung swore he was going to pass up any opportunity of experiencing feelings ever again, so fuck it. Here goes three years of friendship!

“Okay, well. I’m gonna kiss you now. Gonna give you a big fat kiss like the dooky I took today,” Jisung said as he tentatively cupped Hyunjin’s face with his shaky hands. “I’m gonna like, kiss you. Yup. Totally gonna do it. I’m getting closer now. I’m gonnnaaaa kiss youuu.”

“You talk way too much. Can you just shut up and do it already?”

Jisung swallowed. He closed his eyes, and with a sharp intake of breath and courage, he leaned forward and gave Hyunjin a quick peck on the lips.

He stepped back immediately and could feel the heat pooling in his cheeks. Hyunjin opened his eyes wide and speechlessly gaped at Jisung. Hot blush traveled up from his face to the tips of his ears that contrasted the pale shade of his hair, making it a lot more obvious than usual.

Jisung laughed awkwardly. “Well. Uh. You know. A kissaroo from me to you! Ha-ha. Okay. Um. Please punch me in the face. Please. I’ll take it straight as rejection and closure in one single hit. If you punch me in the face right now, I will literally forget this ever happened and we can go back to -- “

He didn’t get to finish when Hyunjin closed the space between them and brought their lips together again. Jisung was entirely unprepared and was shocked to the tips of his toes that had him digging his heels into the ground to keep himself from toppling over. All he could focus on was Hyunjin’s insistent mouth parting his lips open and the heat rushing throughout his entire body. It was long and a little sloppy and Hyunjin tasted like peppermint, but it felt nice, when Hyunjin swallowed the tiny noises Jisung couldn’t help but make.

When they finally parted, Jisung leaned forward and kissed the tip of Hyunjin’s nose, before his kisses travelled up his hot cheeks that had Hyunjin fluttering his eyes shut. Then, he firmly pressed his mouth against Hyunjin’s forehead before he pulled away and smiled at him, unable to contain the warmth in his chest.

“So I take it that you liked it,” said Jisung. “Or, correction: you like me, actually.”

Hyunjin covered his face with a sleeve and Jisung laughed, tugging his hand away so he could see his face. “I've liked you since high school.”

“You -- what? Seriously?” Jisung gawked. “Holy shit. Did my flirting really work?”

“Your flirting was fucking shit,” Hyunjin retorted. “But you -- you saw me. You really saw me. And I guess I just -- I don’t know. It just happened. So yeah, I like you as if it wasn’t obvious enough, dumbass. Do you know how many times Seungmin blackmailed me into doing shit for him? He’s the most wicked person out of all of us!”

Jisung grinned. He felt like he was on drugs though he was quite certain it was the endorphins and sleep-deprivation. “Well, hey. Can I tell you something? But don’t freak out.”

“What makes you think I would freak out as if I wasn’t freaking out already?”

“I like you too.”

Hyunjin seated himself down on the bench and covered his face. “I’m freaking out.”

Jisung cackled and sat down beside him. “That kinda explains why you wouldn’t let me kiss you all these years, huh? I could see why. If I were you, I wouldn’t let me kiss me either. I’m irresistible, after all! I mean, you’re not that bad either. I think I fell for you the moment you almost barfed all over my jacket.”

“I hate you,” Hyunjin grumbled.

Jisung grinned and threw an arm around Hyunjin’s shoulder, looking up at the sky. “You know who I thank the most, because without them, we wouldn’t have ever been friends in the first place? Yeah, that’s right. The one and only! Big Bussy Papi.”

Hyunjin looked at him with the most confused face he’s ever made in the whole of his twenty-one years of life. “Excuse me?”

Jisung grinned and kissed him on the mouth again. Hyunjin immediately reciprocated with the same eagerness, and Jisung decided he could explain Big Bussy Papi’s important role in their relationship another time.

But for now, Jisung was going to make up for those many instances of rejection, and he was going to kiss Hyunjin for a very long, long time.