The word is heavier today. Hyungu feels it weighing his tongue down, keeping his lips sealed. Yonghoon takes the jacket off his shoulders, leaves it hanging there while he straightens the shirt —there's no need to, the stylist did the exact same thing earlier— before moving it up again. It falls on his shoulders like it's made for him —not made but adjusted, tailored maybe— and this time he doesn't accidentally drag the shirt up.
When his gaze finds Hyungu, there's an eagerness in his eyes, a question, maybe, for his opinion. Hyungu has started to notice, these past months; an eagerness for Hyungu to acknowledge him in a different way. He knows Yonghoon wasn’t this way a year ago, has seen it progress slowly, and it’s getting harder to ignore.
“Do I look handsome, Kanghyun-ah?” He asks, cheeky little smile adorning his lips.
Hyungu knows his face won't betray him. So, he sighs, a bit theatrical, as he reaches for the collar of Yonghoon's shirt —it's perfectly put together— idle fingers unfolding and folding again. He makes a point of not looking at Yonghoon, but at the rest of the outfit instead.
It's black. Black patterned shirt, black pants, black jacket; it suits him, and it makes the newly dyed strands of red in his hair look even more vibrant. There's a belt around his waist, yet to be buckled, so Hyungu continues to help him with it. As he does, he casts a quick glance towards the vocalist. “Don't go around moving so much this time,” he says, “Or they'll have to do it again.”
Yonghoon makes a noise of agreement that doesn't leave his throat. Hyungu takes a step back, gives a friendly pat to Yonghoon's shoulder, “Looks good now.”
They get through the rest of the day with ease. It's been like that lately. All falling into place —not that it wasn't in place before but— after the album release, after they wrapped up promotions without major incidents (besides a flying shoe), and having an upcoming online concert, a demo album, a music video. Hyungu feels good about it. Likes how they've been able to keep their spirits up throughout a year that only seems to know how to be hostile.
But seriously, Yonghoon is handsome.
That's an objective fact by now, not at all related to what Hyungu thought —or still thinks— about his hyung. He'd always been the first to acknowledge it, feels no shame at telling interviewers and fans as much. Maybe it's because he is good at pretending to be unaffected, unbothered.
That's why the actual issue starts to manifest now, and not when they met, nor when they debuted, nor when they learned to trust and confide in each other. It all begins because Yonghoon wants Hyungu to call him handsome. To him, directly. Personally. Not because he is making content for their fans but because it's true. It doesn’t truly bother Hyungu, but the fact that at some point this year Yonghoon stopped hiding is... concerning.
There's a way to Yonghoon's personality, to his behavior. Hyungu doesn't intend to start calculating and speculating about him. About his friend, nonetheless, but he believes there is a… a pattern, maybe? A constant in his acctions that has Hyungu paying more and more attention to Yonghoon’s way of carrying himself through life. The further he thinks about it the clearest it becomes:
Yonghoon begins... in tiny.
It translates to everything he does. If there's the smallest of doubts, or empty space, he will proceed with caution. Some days he sits beside Dongmyeong and curls into himself; such a lanky man folding his own body to take less space. Dongmyeong is affectionate, but he also gets a bit snappy when his bandmates —specifically them— approach him without a heads up. So Yonghoon sinks into himself until he knows he is being acknowledged, reads all the cues before he's engulfing the other between his own long limbs.
It's not just with people though. His songs always feel small at the beginning. On the rare occasions Hyungu has gotten the privilege to read unfiltered lyrics, fragmented songs, he's always overwhelmed. The words raw and stripped down to their core. They’re small in the way they lack, instrumentation, they’re small in the way the communication itself is faulty. They are a lot —just like he is— but can only say so much without closing into themselves.
It's how Hyungu comes to learn this is Yonghoon's way to find a comfort zone. It's him folded into himself, so he can construct proper observations, proper interactions. Yonghoon is a lot more sensitive to social cues than he gets credit for. Hyungu himself used to think the complete opposite: had seen his hyung make a fool of himself too many times, had cringed, had even wished Yonghoon would stop talking a fair share of occasions.
Turns out Yonghoon is not unaware at all, he just enjoys stepping over the lines. That’s what he does once he’s settled, isn’t it? He likes to push certain limits. It’s like a game: how many personal emotions can this song contain without oversharing? How much mess can he make before Kiwook calls him out on it?
And lately: how much space can he take up in Hyungu’s daily life before it makes him lose it?
It’s honestly infuriating.
Hyungu doesn’t want to put excessive trust on his own judgement. But it is, for the lack of a better wording, too damn obvious. Yonghoon has always made a conscious effort with Hyungu, to a point that he could be burdensome, in the past. Hyungu doesn’t know whether that changed, or whether he’d grown accustomed to the attention. He doesn’t mind Yonghoon’s tendency to get out of his way to be around Hyungu, that’s okay, they are friends, of course that’s fine.
It’s the flirting that’s throwing Hyungu off. It’s the way Yonghoon’s attention is suddenly directed at him, unapologetically, loud and clear. Because it changes… everything. It’s how Yonghoon can keep his eyes trained on Hyungu’s face so long, it’d be impossible to miss. It’s the insistence in his gaze, while Hyungu has to look away —because he has never been a huge fan of eye contact, and he is not about to become one now.
It’s how weird he feels about being around Yonghoon for the easiest tasks. Like asking for vocal advice, even though he’d done it twice last week without a problem. The knowledge that no one besides them is around lingering at the back of his mind. It’s in how late it gets before they have to assume the day is over (three in the morning, by ONEWE standards) and Hyungu can’t tell if Yonghoon has fallen asleep on their sofa or is very focused on those lyrics. But when he approaches him, Yonghoon stirs as if he could sense him, bleary eyes looking up at him.
Yonghoon is reaching for his hand, but Hyungu does his best to keep himself out of reach without looking like he is escaping, “Hyungu-yah?” Yonghoon’s voice is soft and sleepy, and Hyungu is not panicking.
“Kiwook-ah wants me to go see his progress on the song I sent him the other night,” no he doesn’t, “just wanted to let you know.”
Yonghoon wiggles around on the couch to sit properly. Well... questionable, but somewhat properly. His right foot grazing Hyungu's ankle. He pouts. No words needed. He's been begging to see this song for a while.
“You should consider going back to the dorm, you were asleep anyways,” Hyungu takes a step to the side, away from Yonghoon's foot.
There's more pouting, Hyungu huffs under his breath in disbelief. Shakes his head as his last answer and turns away from the sight of Yonghoon's crossed arms.
“I'll wait for you to be done,” the singer says, right before Hyungu hears the door click closed.
Waiting is so unnecessary, Hyungu thinks, as he makes his way through the hallways. The blue lights are turned on, but no one seems to be around at all. He actually doesn't even know if Kiwook has gone home, but the door to the producing room isn't locked, so someone must be still around.
He knocks softly on Kiwook's door but is startled by another door opening around him. Youngjo's tired face peeks out of his studio.
“Oh? Hyungu-yah? I heard noise and thought Kiwook-ah was leaving,” he laughs, “You're looking for him?”
“Yeah, I didn't know if he'd left though.”
“If he did I must've missed it,” Youngjo disappears back into the studio as quickly as he appeared, wishing him a good night.
Hyungu pushes Kiwook's door open until he can see his bandmate working with his headphones on. He seems focused, and Hyungu feels a little guilty at the thought of disturbing him. Not that he has to anyways, it was just a stupid excuse, so he closes the door again, softly. He takes a bit of a detour on his way back, peeking inside the empty rooms. Turns off a few forgotten lights in the process.
It isn't until he is back at their studio room that he figures he is being as frustrating as Yonghoon. Well, maybe that's impossible, but he is sure going to get close if he continues acting like this.
Hyungu gets back to the dorms after visiting his family and finds Yonghoon sulking in their room. He knew he would find him like that, received a text message from Harin hours ago saying Yonghoon was being weird. For Harin, weird Yonghoon usually means sad Yonghoon. And just like he expected, Hyungu finds him with the curtains closed, the only light in the room coming from Yonghoon’s phone, giving the atmosphere a gloomy tone. He is lying on Hyungu’s bed, and when he catches Hyungu lingering at the door, his lips twitch to form a faint smile. It’s a genuine smile, for all it lacks sentiment, and he takes it for the attempt it is.
The room is warm and stagnant.
Hyungu turns his back to Yonghoon, walks through their shared mess. He moves Harin’s shirt from the floor to a chair, leaves his own phone and wallet lying around, he occupies his hands on a false notion of bringing some kind of order to the space. He hears the faint rustle of the bed covers.
“Hyungu-yah?” Yonghoon’s voice is tentative.
“Wait,” Hyungu says, and he’s aware he sounds a little upset, a little stern. He closes his eyes and wills himself to stay calm. Dealing with a sulking Yonghoon always sets him on edge for all the wrong reasons. It’s not Yonghoon’s fault, it’s his own traitor brain that overthinks the closeness, the intimacy. It won’t even be that bad now, but later. When he is alone and starts questioning his own behavior. Sighing, he pulls his sweatshirt over his head and lets it land somewhere on the floor.
Yonghoon has moved closer to the wall, leaving enough space for Hyungu to fit besides him. He lies on his side and Hyungu does the same, facing him. Yonghoon’s hands are tucked under the pillow. The air between them is awkward, so Hyungu closes his eyes once again before speaking.
“What is it?” he whispers.
“It’s stupid,” Hyungu feels Yonghoon wiggling closer.
He can’t help but smile a little, “You always do stupid things, so it’s okay.” Hyungu watches him through his eyelashes. Yonghoon’s expression stays serious, bottom lip trapped between his teeth. Hyungu pokes at his sides, pretends it’s an accident when his hand stays there, fingers tangling on the fabric of Yonghoon’s shirt. “I’m joking, hyung.”
“Yeah, I know.” Yonghoon takes one of his hands out of the pillow, reaching for him. But he doesn’t touch him at all until Hyungu gives a little nod, and Yonghoon goes to move Hyungu’s hair from his forehead. Heat surges through Hyungu’s body, starting from the skin Yonghoon’s fingertips accidentally touch, then running down all the way to his stomach.
Yonghoon is back to studying Hyungu’s face, eyes flickering with something deep and unguarded he doesn’t want to name. Features softened by the lack of proper illumination. With a last quick look at him, Hyungu closes his eyes again and allows himself to tug at Yonghoon’s shirt, signals him to get closer. Yonghoon adjusts to him like a magnet, arm nestled around his middle, nuzzling into Hyungu’s hair, chin digging into his scalp painfully until Yonghoon figures out how to position himself better.
Yonghoon doesn’t tell him what’s wrong, but Hyungu is used to that.
There's a few things Hyungu can't categorize, or prevent, or at the very least, explain to himself. Things that go beyond Yonghoon's flirty tendencies or his love for poking into Hyungu's personal space. Things that started to happen so often Hyungu doesn't think he can keep going on pretending he hasn't noticed.
He is busy; he was supposed to be working. Dongmyeong wanted to do a cover and Hyungu still hasn’t even listened to the suggested song. But it’s one of those days he can’t put his head to work at all. He should be glad there’s so much to do, and prepare, and practice. The online concert may be over, but they have yet to release the music video for Parting, and they keep making slight changes to their not-quite-finished acoustic version. He is glad they have work. But, fuck, he can’t focus.
How could he? Yonghoon is fast asleep cuddling his purple hoodie.
He is just… there. Doing some poor attempt of a fetal position, hands hidden inside the hoodie. But the couch is too small, his neck is bent in an awkward position, lips parted, cheek smudged against the purple fabric. Hyungu hadn’t noticed when Yonghoon got to the studio, because he’d been busy staring at the computer screen and pretending to concentrate on the guitar guide he wanted to put together.
The thing is: the hoodie wasn't on the couch before. Hell, it wasn't even at the studio. Hyungu remembers folding it after doing laundry and putting it away just like he did the rest of his clothes. Which means... Yonghoon stole his favorite hoodie, took it to their studio, and fell asleep there, on the couch, not even attempting to hide. It's ridiculous.
Blood rushes to his cheeks, and Hyungu brings his hands to cover his face even though there’s no one to witness his moment of weakness. This is wrong. This is disproportionally unfair —Hyungu would give anything to stop feeling like his heart is about to crawl up his throat— Yonghoon looks so calm, but he has to know what he’s been doing. It’s unfair, because Hyungu is trying so hard not to think about it, yet here he is again, struck by how every little careless action Yonghoon does has his chest tightening.
He doesn’t understand Yonghoon’s insistence. Everything is so good right now, with the band, with their lives. They are doing perfectly okay, and Hyungu’s scared of how easy it could crumble were he to lean into Yonghoon the same way he’s been leaning into Hyungu. He can’t afford this.
“Yonghoon-hyung?” he calls, keeps his hands pressed to the sides of his body. Yonghoon’s eyebrows twitch in recognition, but he doesn’t move. Somewhere in his mind is the thought that the singer must be really tired, that he should let him rest. “Yonghoon?”
He wakes up startled, eyes going over the whole room before settling on Hyungu, heavy with sleep, “What?”
Hyungu doesn’t know what. But he can’t keep doing nothing, he’s going to lose it.
“Did you steal my hoodie?” It’s what comes out of his mouth, and it’s really not where he should be going with this.
Yonghoon looks at the fabric between his arms, then at Hyungu. “Maybe?”
“Give it back,” Hyungu says, extending his hand, palm up. Yonghoon purses his lips, sitting up and holding the hoodie closer to his chest. He looks good, despite the pattern of the fabric marked on his cheek, tiny red lines. His eyes are still glazed over by sleep, but there’s growing stubbornness in his expression; it makes Hyungu all the more impatient. “Give it back,” he repeats, and hears the waver in his own voice.
After a long second, Yonghoon frowns, and says, “No.” As if it was the only valid answer he could find. Hyungu sees Yonghoon’s knuckles turning white where he is gripping at the hoodie, “You already have one.”
“You already have a sweater,” Hyungu bites back.
Yonghoon hums, licks his lips, “I can give you my sweater if you want, Hyungu-yah.”
He is well aware Yonghoon is trying to provoke him. And it’s working.
“Hyung, I just want my hoodie back,” he insists, going more for an exhausted tone. But he is sure Yonghoon is seeing right through him, knows his cheeks are getting warmer, knows the tension in his shoulders probably gives him away.
Yonghoon finally stands up from the couch, and Hyungu resists the urge to take an immediate step back. There isn’t a lot of space between them, and there’s a smile tugging at the corners of Yonghoon’s mouth. It’s like a game, and Hyungu knows he isn’t going to win.
“Let’s make a deal,” Yonghoon says, and he has that face he makes when he wants to be serious, but excitement is trying to betray him. “Give me the hoodie you have now in exchange.”
Whatever expression Hyungu’s face is making, Yonghoon finds it hilarious, because his body bends forward with laughter, pressing his forehead to Hyungu’s shoulder first, steadying himself by pressing his hands on Hyungu’s hips next.
“Unfair,” Hyungu breathes out, without meaning to.
And when Yonghoon calms down, and Hyungu expects him to move away, he presses closer to the crook of his neck, the tip of his nose cold against Hyungu’s skin. Makes him shudder. “It’s just a hoodie, Hyungu-yah,” he mutters, words warm.
But is it? Hyungu wants to ask.
They both know it’s not just a hoodie. It was just a hoodie, but now it smells distinctly like Yonghoon. Which is why Hyungu has taken it off and laid it besides him instead, despite the cold. He knows he’s being stubborn, perhaps a little childish, but Hyungu is starting to feel like he has lost the plot. If there ever was one.
The plot he’d decided to follow was simple, leads to a bitter ending, but he can live with that.
He is in love with Yonghoon, and Yonghoon loves him back. It could be a pretty love story, but Hyungu isn’t sure they can afford that. Hyungu isn’t sure he wants to afford that, the same way Yonghoon is set on bringing attention to the issue.
“Hyungu-yah, you’re shivering,” the singer points out.
They are waiting for the others to come back after they took a break from practice. Hyungu had decided to stay and read, except that he hasn’t been able to move past the first page of the book in his hands. He closes it a tad forcefully, and Yonghoon stops the mindless tune he’s been playing on the guitar, shooting a quiet glance towards Hyungu. He must’ve sensed Hyungu’s sour mood from earlier, because he’s been less talkative than usual.
“It’s cold,” Hyungu responds, crossing his arms to keep a little warmer. It’s abnormally cold, actually, and he’s starting to wonder if maybe he’s going to get sick. That wouldn’t be very nice.
Hyungu feels the air around them shift when Yonghoon catches sight of the discarded hoodie. “I would offer you my hoodie but I doubt you’d want that one, either,” he says, words laced with bitterness.
It makes alarms go off all over Hyungu’s brain. “What is your problem?” Hyungu says, and it may be the biggest acknowledgment of the situation he’s provided to Yonghoon yet.
“Am I wrong?” Yonghoon asks, sincere, leaving the guitar to the side and rolling his chair closer.
And Hyungu can’t find the purpose to Yonghoon’s actions any more. This is how far his understanding reaches. What happens now? After he has successfully gotten under Hyungu’s skin, to a point where he is doubting his own conviction to let the feelings go. Part of him wishes Yonghoon would confess already, get it over with. But that would leave all the weight of the decision in Hyungu's hands, and Yonghoon wouldn't do that to him either. Or, at least, Hyungu doesn’t expect him to. He is too kind hearted for it.
“What do you want, Yonghoon?” Hyungu asks. His leg has started bouncing.
For a second, Hyungu thinks Yonghoon is about to say something awful. Like he is going to lean closer and whisper, you. The idea alone makes a shiver go down his spine, leaves him frozen. Yonghoon’s lips part to speak, and whatever he says gets lost in the loud bang of Harin busting through the door, shoved inside by both Dongmyeong and Kiwook.
“We saw the cutest puppy at the store!” Dongmyeong screams, shoving his unlocked phone into Yonghoon’s face. There’s a photo of Dongmyeong and a big black, wolfish-looking dog.
Hyungu witnesses how Yonghoon’s answer dissipates entirely, their conversation frozen and cut by the horror in Yonghoon’s face. Yonghoon shrieks loudly, standing up and away from the picture. “That’s not a puppy!”
In Yonghoon’s defense, Hyungu also thinks the dog does look way too big to be a puppy. It’s cute, though.
Back to the beginning: Yonghoon is handsome.
Not only because it’s accepted as a somewhat universal truth but because Hyungu is, in fact, attracted to him. But he is not just handsome. Yonghoon is also annoying, and loud, and writes painfully sad lyrics sometimes. He is terrified of four-legged animals, tries very hard to keep others and himself happy. Gets massive joy from making Hyungu react in the tiniest, least significant ways, by doing unwarranted boyfriend-like things —then has the nerve to look embarrassed by it. And, to make it worse, Hyungu trusts him. A lot.
Hyungu trusts him enough to start reconsidering.
There’s a pattern, in all those little shifts that keep happening between them. But Yonghoon is not the only one at fault, when each time he leans closer Hyungu stays. So, maybe he gets it, why Yonghoon never stops finding ways to dig deeper under Hyungu’s skin. Because he has never had the strength to stop him; he’s tried, God knows Hyungu tried, yet he found himself back into the same situation over and over again. Mind buzzing loudly as he senses Yonghoon’s eyes on him.
It’s intoxicating, as he grows bolder.
Bold enough to carefully arrange Hyungu’s hair when there’s no need for it. Bold enough to clean the corner of Hyungu’s mouth with a gentle touch of his thumb. To insistently have their hands brush in moments where Hyungu can’t tell him to stop —he can’t reciprocate, either, with the camera on them and a live audience— or to shamelessly fish for compliments. And maybe Yonghoon hasn’t been the only one bold, or reckless. Maybe Hyungu still vividly remembers leaning into Yonghoon’s touch, making excuses to himself to smooth perfect clothes, and find comfort in Yonghoon’s eager eyes, and beaming smile.
Perhaps that is the only plot they need: Yonghoon is too kind to put the weight of the decision on Hyungu. But he is not kind enough to give it up; so, he’ll push until the last of Hyungu’s reservations fly out the window, leave them behind.
The conclusion is very simple. Yonghoon finds him there, sat on their small sofa, book in hand. Finds him wearing Yonghoon’s sweater, the one he offered in exchange before. His eyes glue to Hyungu’s frame with such intensity, the guitarist feels his blood run hot, and quick —too quick— even though he hasn’t returned the stare at all.
Yonghoon trips over some cables in the rush to get to him. The yelp he lets out makes Hyungu flinch as he watches Yonghoon stumble closer.
He gives Yonghoon his best disapproving stare. “Be careful,” Hyungu mutters.
But Yonghoon has already reached the couch, not minding his words at all. His hand tangles on the hem of the sweater, and his expression is serious, but Hyungu can see unfiltered hope in his eyes. He sounds a little teary, when he finally talks. “Did you–” he scoots closer, his knee touching Hyungu’s thigh, “Did you steal my sweater, Hyungu-yah?”
There’s a lot of easier ways for him to do this, he knows. “You were wrong,” Hyungu answers instead. Yonghoon’s eyebrows draw together in confusion, so Hyungu elaborates before he is attacked by questions, “You said you didn’t think I’d want this one, you were wrong.”
Recognition flashes through Yonghoon’s face. “Does this mean…?”
Hyungu closes his book, leaves it on the armrest before fully turning to face Yonghoon properly, “It means that if you don’t kiss me right now, I may change my mind, Jin Yonghoon.”
Of course, Yonghoon doesn’t need any more encouragement. Of course, he is too eager as he surges forward, and still smiling when their mouths clash. Hyungu winces, pulling away, fingers going up to his lips, touching where pain is quickly subsiding to a faint tingle.
“I’m so sorry,” Yonghoon’s face is fully red now, to a degree Hyungu has never witnessed before.
Hyungu sighs, melodramatic as he likes to be from time to time, hand moving up to the back of Yonghoon’s head. He meets Yonghoon’s eyes as he leans in, brings him closer until their lips fit together. It’s warm when Yonghoon kisses him back, it’s warm when their noses bump, and Hyungu lets out a breathy laugh. It’s hot when Yonghoon melts against him, parts his lips, kisses him back with conviction. One of his hands is still tangled on the sweater, but the other has found its home under it, pressed firmly into Hyungu’s lower back. And it’s soft, when Yonghoon sighs into his mouth, tension leaving his body.
Things have been great for them, as a group, as a band. It all seems to be constantly falling into place, these days. Giving into Yonghoon’s game is scary, it’s a risk. It could turn their dynamics upside down. But, Hyungu guesses, maybe it won’t. Maybe he can afford to find out.