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do flightless birds dream of flying too?

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Every university student is entitled to an existential crisis. Who am I? What am I to become? Is there a God? Am I in the right place? Am I doing the right thing? Will I forever be alone? Who hasn’t asked these questions to themselves? Who has actually found an answer?

Beomgyu thinks he has. His existential crisis comes in the form of Choi Yeonjun.

Some background:

First, Choi Yeonjun is a third-year Dance major, close friend, and the object of his affections for the past two years (Soobin would interject, love at first sight, with disgust, though Beomgyu disagrees).

Second, this big fat crush he’s been harboring is preventing him from living his life to the fullest. College is supposed to be the time to explore, date and learn what you want in a relationship. He can’t do that when he’s only got eyes for one person.

Third, given the first two points, he’s come to the answer that he just needs to get over Choi Yeonjun.

The question is: how?

When he tells Soobin of his idea over lunch, Soobin doesn’t take him seriously. Mouth full, Soobin says, “You say that like you haven’t been trying, since you saw him going on a date with someone else.”

Beomgyu frowns at his bowl of noodles. That had been the first time he’d realized that nothing was going to come out of his feelings. To Yeonjun, he was just a friend.

And that’s fine, Beomgyu thinks. He’s had a year to accept that, and now it’s time to do what he can to move on. “I haven’t really tried hard enough,” is what he tells Soobin.

“Why do you think that is?” Soobin asks, putting his chopsticks down.

Beomgyu pouts, “Do you really have to put your psych major hat on right now?”

Soobin snorts, “I’m genuinely asking, and I’m sincerely curious what’s going to be different this time around.”

“I’m determined this time,” Beomgyu smiles, “Don’t you think someone as handsome as me deserves to have a fun love life?”

In response, Soobin sighs aggressively picking his chopsticks back up, and Beomgyu grabs his hand and whines, “Hyung, come on, give me some good advice!”

“The best way to move on is to tell him how you feel,” Soobin says, sternly, “You’re the type of person that needs to hear the rejection or else you’ll just keep hoping.”

“What hope are you talking about? I don’t actually think Hyung would ever date me,” Beomgyu says casually. The way one would talk about the weather or as one would list certain facts that they are certain to be true. Beomgyu wrinkled his nose at the suggestion, “I don’t need to be rejected, so I definitely don’t need to confess.”

Soobin rolls his eyes, “So what do you want to do? The only other option is to fall for somebody else, but how are you going to do that when you compare everyone to Hyung?”

When Beomgyu opens his mouth to deny, Soobin raises a hand to stop him, “Do you know how many people you’ve rejected? Too many. And every time I ask you why, it’s always like, he’s not as cool as Hyung, or you feel like it’s not romantic enough. Real life doesn’t move like your k-dramas.”

Beomgyu pouts, “Then what do you want me to do? It’s not like I can date him just to get it out of my system—”

But what if there is a way to do that? In movies and dramas, there’s always like, some insane plot that leads to the main leads dating. And these days, fake dating is a really popular trope. Although, Beomgyu doesn’t have any reason to actually fake date someone and he’s too much of a bad liar and actor to concoct a situation so ridiculous that it’d convince Yeonjun. But maybe something similar to that would work.

Beomgyu grins, eyes lighting up and Soobin groans, “No, whatever you’re thinking, it’s a really bad idea.”

“You haven’t even heard what I’m going to say,” Beomgyu whines and Soobin just sighs.

Soobin knows him well enough, so he just nods, as if to say go on.

Beomgyu straightens his back, coughs into his hand to clear his throat, and declares, “I’m going to ask Yeonjun-hyung to be my practice boyfriend.”

“Terrible idea, Yeonjun-hyung would never agree to it.”

 


 

“Sure, I’ll do it,” Yeonjun says, casually, when he asks.

Beomgyu blinks. He had been prepared to grovel, shed tears, and pull out a powerpoint presentation on why Choi Yeonjun should be his practice boyfriend. He had even made sure to do it when he was in the middle of eating (read: some poor college student’s risotto cooked up from numerous ten p.m trips to the convenience store) to ensure that he’d be in a good mood. And here he is, not even looking up and agreeing? Something’s not right.

Safe to say, Beomgyu is suspicious. "Oh," Beomgyu scratches his head, "Just like that?"

Yeonjun looks at him, in the middle of slurping some noodles, and doesn’t even take his time to finish chewing and swallowing before responding, mouth full and cheeks puffed up, “Well, you’re going to treat me, right?”

It hurts Beomgyu’s pride that his gross manners still makes him unbelievably cute.

“Ah, there’s the Yeonjun-hyung I know!” Beomgyu claps his hands and smiles when Yeonjun predictably glares at him.

“Nevermind,” Yeonjun says, turning away from him and taking his meal with him too. “You are clearly not grateful enough. It is sad, because I am so kind.”

Beomgyu wants to laugh again, but he hides it with a cough. “Hyung, please,” he whines, “I’ll treat you food.”

Yeonjun turns back to him, but only partially. But Beomgyu knows he’s successfully baited him already. “How much food?”

“As much as my minimum wage job can procure,” Beomgyu promises, but with the intent to break it. Yeonjun was a garbage truck when it came to food, and he was going to be broker than broke if Yeonjun wasn’t given set limits.

Yeonjun nods, reaching out to fist bump to conclude their agreement. Beomgyu cheers and meets his fist.

And Soobin thought Beomgyu wouldn’t even get Yeonjun to agree. It is really all too easy.

 


 

But then Beomgyu didn’t really think that far on what this practice dating would entail. He’s easily swept away by grand ideas and tends to forget the details for execution. Worry not, he is already working on fixing this.

“You may be wondering why I’ve called you in for a meeting,” Beomgyu begins, sitting primly at Yeonjun and Soobin’s dining table. (To call it a dining table is like calling a child a man, but this is not Beomgyu’s apartment, so he can’t judge too hard.)

“In my own apartment?” Yeonjun slides into the chair, so that they’re facing each other, “Do you ever stay at your own place?”

Beomgyu narrows his eyes at him, “Of course, I do. Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about the practice boyfriend thingy—”

Yeonjun leans back, smirking, “The practice boyfriend thingy?”

Beomgyu pulls out a piece of paper, huffing and trying hard not to regret his decision, “So I just think we should probably write down some ground rules on it, especially if you’re going to do in exchange for compensation—”

“Did Kang Taehyun coach you through this—”

“Are you going to let me finish talking?” Beomgyu waits for Yeonjun to finish miming the zipping of his lips, before continuing, “Also, no, I did not learn this from our favorite pre-law student. This was in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I figured it’s probably good to write down what we’re both comfortable with and what kind of lessons we’ll be doing?”

Yeonjun looks at him thoughtfully, “Well, in terms of lessons, that’s up to you, right? Like what do you want to practice?”

When Beomgyu thinks about relationships, pretty idyllic images of first dates, holding hands while walking underneath cherry blossom trees, and kissing. He’s sure Yeonjun would bully him if he actually said this out loud. So vaguely, he says, “Just dating in general, I guess? The thought of going on dates makes me nervous. Like what do I do? What do I wear? What’s a good place for a date?”

“These things you kind of have to experience to know?” Yeonjun says, slowly, leaning forward and propping his chin on the palm of his hand, “Like we should probably just go on an actual date and you can be as bad of a first date without repercussions. I think that’s the best way.”

Beomgyu nods, letting the idea sink in, “That could work.”

Yeonjun nods, “You can pay me back easily with a meal too,” and then he grins, “so I was thinking you should take me out somewhere expensive—”

Beomgyu kicks his leg under the table, “Please remember how I’m a college student like you.”

Yeonjun doesn’t even bat an eye at his violent reaction. “Is that it?” Yeonjun steals the paper and pen from his grasp and writes the word dates in a comically small font on the blank page.

Beomgyu scratches his head, “I don’t really have any experience, so I don’t really know what I need to know. I’ll just trust you on this, hyung. You’re the one who’s been on a thousand dates.”

He laughs when he sees the expression on Yeonjun’s face, displeased. “You make it sound like I’ve dated a lot, it’s just a couple of times.”

“It’s just a couple of times,” Beomgyu mocks, “Hyung, I’ve seen you at parties. You’re the biggest flirt I know.”

His own desensitization at Yeonjun’s flirtatiousness is a testament to how many times he’s seen it. He’s long accepted defeat. Yeonjun leans back in his chair and smiles, “Is that why you came to me? You clearly admire my talent.”

“That is so not it,” Beomgyu rolls his eyes. And then because he likes to get the last word, even at the cost of being vulnerable, he glances away and admits, “It’s because I trust you the most. That’s why I asked.”

He peeks at Yeonjun’s reaction and feels a weird sense of delight at the taken aback look on his face. It’s got him feeling like he’s won something for once.

“Oh,” Yeonjun says softly, and then he just looks heart wrenchingly kind. “I’ll take care of you.”

His heartbeat ricochets off to the horizon. There is perhaps no winning against Choi Yeonjun.

 


 

The first date doesn’t come for a while, and Beomgyu almost forgets about the whole thing. He says almost because Soobin reminds him of it every once in a while, like an evil Duolingo owl. But midterms season comes at them hard, and all the practice dating business is swept under the rug.

For the sake of his grades, he puts himself under the tutelage of Kang Taehyun, dear friend and also the scariest person he knows. As long as Taehyun is watching him, he knows he’ll stay focused on work.

Like now for example, it’s a Wednesday night, which typically means watching a new episode of Kingdom at Yeonjun and Soobin’s apartment. They had found it recently and for once, Soobin was interested in a drama they had suggested. He hopes they’re not watching it without him tonight as he slaves over his studies at the library.

He peeks over at Taehyun, who is studiously outlining his textbook and comparing it with the notes he had taken in class. He looks so at peace studying, it must be why they chose him as the model for the university’s pre-law program.

Taehyun must feel Beomgyu looking at him forlornly, because without even looking up from his textbook, he asks, “What’s up?”

“Nothing,” Beomgyu says, going back to his textbook. But the history notes he’s trying to study are looking blurrier by the second. He wants a break already, but they’ve only been here for an hour. Still, he tries to persevere.

A moment later, his phone buzzes and is delighted to see that it’s a text from his group chat with Soobin and Yeonjun. He swipes to see the notification:

From Soobin: Where are you? Are you really studying? >:(

Beomgyu snorts at Soobin’s doubt and replies: you’ve caught me. i’m actually on a date with kang tae <3

He gets a response immediately: Taehyun is too good for you. He would never!!

Followed by a message from Yeonjun: are you :o cheating on me already?

He shakes his head at Soobin’s predictability. He is so obvious with his massive crush on Taehyun. He ignores Yeonjun’s message. The teasing is an unfortunate side effect of asking him to be his practice boyfriend.

He opens his camera and points it at Taehyun, “Taehyun-ah, Soobin-hyung wants a proof shot that I’m actually studying with you.”

“Is Soobin-hyung your mom?” Taehyun drily asks but poses cutely nonetheless.

Beomgyu smirks, immediately sending the pic to his group chat. “No, but he nags like he is,” is what he tells Taehyun. He locks his phone and pretends to look at his textbook as he waits for the notifications to come in.

He doesn’t have to wait long. His phone buzzes so much that he has to switch it to silent mode at Taehyun’s judgemental look. He smiles sheepishly and unlocks his phone to see what Soobin has to say.

Soobin is crying in his messages: He is sooooo cute ;-;

Though almost immediately, he sends another message full of his suspicions: How do I know he didn’t send this to you?

Yeonjun decides to add on to his previous message: wow, so you’re really cheating on me :(

Beomgyu rolls his eyes at both of them and types furiously: Why would Taehyung send me a selfie of himself studying to fool you? Also, please be quiet, Yeonjun-hyung :-)

But his response doesn’t even make a difference. Soobin texts back: I think I have to go over there to check for myself.

While Yeonjun texts: Buy my silence. For the price of one buldak ramen, I will be quiet for the five minutes it takes me to eat—

Beomgyu puts his phone down, refusing to read any further. Apologetic, he turns to Taehyun, “Hope you don’t mind, but Soobin might be stopping by.”

Taehyun shakes his head but it’s more good-natured than anything. He smiles, “Fine. But tell him to bring coffee and snacks with him.”

“You want your usual coffee?” Beomgyu asks, and Taehyun hums affirmatively. He sends one last text to his group chat, basically telling Soobin to get him and Taehyun snacks and food as well as their location within the library.

He figures he’ll get nothing done once Soobin comes around, so he actually seriously studies in the meantime. Beomgyu isn’t that bad of a student anyway; he just needs to study with someone strict like Taehyun, so his brain won’t wander endlessly. You should see him in his actual music classes, he is very studious.

Half an hour later, he sees the impact of Soobin’s arrival first — in front of him, Taehyun brightens considerably and when he turns around, he sees Soobin walking like he’s the male lead of a K-drama. He must have brushed his hair, changed his clothes from the pajamas Beomgyu for sure knows he was wearing to a stylish outfit, and his smile is in full force. Beomgyu cannot stand him. He did not get dressed this nicely just to check in if Beomgyu was actually studying.

Soobin barely looks at Beomgyu, instead his attention is fully on Taehyun as he cradles the coffee he got for him. “Hey, Taehyun.”

“Soobin-hyung,” Taehyun greets, tone sweet enough to replace sugar in coffee, “Is that my coffee?”

Soobin nods, handing it over, “Yup, one caramel macchiato.”

Taehyun thanks him with starry eyes and a smile. It’s then Beomgyu notices that Soobin only had one coffee with him, and he fights the urge to whack Soobin with a textbook. Beomgyu settles for glaring at him, “What about me? Where’s the coffee I asked?”

Soobin shrugs, “I don’t have it with me. I’m sorry I accidentally dropped it, but it’s okay, you’re mom told me you shouldn’t be allowed to drink coffee past dinner—”

Just as Beomgyu is about to retort, somebody’s hand places an iced americano in front of him. Beomgyu looks up wide-eyed to see Yeonjun cooly winking at him, “Ah, so you were actually studying.”

“Yeonjun-hyung,” Beomgyu is surprised to see him as he didn’t say he was coming by too, “What are you doing here?”

Yeonjun pinches his cheek, “I wanted to make sure we were pausing our Kingdom watch for a good reason.”

Beomgyu pouts, “I’m actually studying, so you guys don’t have to check up on me.”

“Lesson #1,” Yeonjun sighs, “Practice boyfriends should check up and bring coffee as support.”

Beomgyu flushes at that, tugging at his ear that was surely turning bright red. “Well, thank you.”

Yeonjun thankfully turns his attention to Taehyun and Soobin, while Beomgyu starts sipping his coffee to distract himself from the way Yeonjun is pressed to his side, and how his hand is playing with the hair at the nape of his neck.

He doesn’t know why he’s getting so affected by these things. He’s always been touchy with Yeonjun, never really worrying that he’ll look too affectionate, as he acts this way with everybody. But now, it’s like the same things are felt through a different lens. Is it because Yeonjun is saying he’s doing things as Beomgyu’s“practice boyfriend”? Beomgyu really doesn’t know.

Once Soobin is done flirting with Taehyun and has thanked Taehyun for helping his poor friend study, Yeonjun does a small laugh and turns to Beomgyu again. “Think you’ll ace your midterms?”

Beomgyu sighs at the reminder but smiles up at him, “With enough motivation, I should be able to. Taehyun will make sure of it.”

Yeonjun leans down and Beomgyu thinks it’s to kiss his head goodbye as he always does, but instead he leans close to his ear. He whispers so that Taehyun and Soobin can’t hear, “If you do well, I’ll take you out on that date. That should be enough motivation, right?”

“You’re so full of yourself,” Beomgyu bristles at the suggestion, but Yeonjun just smirks as he pulls away. Where does he get the confidence and the shamelessness to say all these things?

Nevertheless, he hopes all of this satisfies his heart enough, so by the time it’s over, he can easily move on and let this infatuation go.

The way his heart clenches tells a premonition he refuses to acknowledge, though.

 


 

Before Beomgyu knows it, midterms seasons pass and Beomgyu has actually done well enough for himself. It’s all thanks to Taehyun and his hard work. He’d crashed hard at Soobin’s apartment and threw himself at Soobin’s arms, whose owner had groaned and complained that he was too heavy now to be doing stuff like this. Beomgyu usually ignores Soobin’s complaints, because his actions are typically the opposite of his words.

Once he’d gotten his dose of comfort from his best friend, he happily moves on, ready as ever to put that harrowing experience aside. He won’t admit it out loud, but he had taken midterms a bit more seriously this time. He has never been the type to put too much pressure on himself to do well for these non-major types of classes, but there was a prize waiting for him this time if he did well.

A date, he thought with a giddiness that had him rolling around his twin sized XL dorm bed and almost falling to the floor.

He hopes his grades reflect his hard work and high hopes for once.

A week later, as he’s getting coffee with Taehyun, he gets the notification that his grades are up.

“Oh my god,” Beomgyu exclaims, surprising Taehyun beside him.

“What’s wrong?” Taehyun looks at him concerned.

Beomgyu shoves him his phone, “God, I can’t look, you look. Tell me that I passed.”

Taehyun takes his phone from him and Beomgyu can see him click through the screen. Suddenly, Taehyun frowns and Beomgyu immediately panics, “Oh god, what’s wrong? How bad is it—”

Taehyun hands his phone back to him, “It needs your login information.”

“Taehyun, god,” Beomgyu could have screamed. He puts his login information quickly and hands it back to Taehyun, “Open it already.”

Taehyun is patient enough that he doesn’t even roll his eyes at Beomgyu’s demands. Beomgyu’s heart is pounding, jaw tense, and then suddenly, Taehyun looks at him with a bright smile, “Hyung! You did really well—”

Beomgyu grabs his phone back to look for himself and right there on the screen shows his midterm grades for his classes, and they’re all surprisingly decent? They’re not just passing scores either, some of them are in the 90s range. “I can’t believe this,” Beomgyu wraps his arms around Taehyun in a tight hug, “Me, doing well in all my classes? Sounds fake.”

Taehyun pats his head, “See? I told you that hard work never lies. We should celebrate, preferably with some ice cream.”

Beomgyu laughs, “You and Soobin-hyung have the same taste. But okay, today Hyung is paying. Anything you want, Taehyunnie.”

Taehyun does a quiet little cheer with both his hands. “I know a place,” he says, then starts leading the way.

Beomgyu screenshots his scores and sends it to the person that’s been on his mind all day, worried that if he doesn’t do that now he’ll forget (as if he could). He mutes his phone’s message notifications immediately after sending it, because he’s nervous of what Yeonjun will reply with. He’ll check it when he’s ready.

That time happens to come when he’s made it back to his room and he’s happily showered and in bed. Clutching the stuffed Ryan toy he sleeps with at night, he finally opens his messages and sees that there’s a couple messages from Yeonjun.

The first text says: good job!!!!!!!!!

And the second text says: should hyung keep his promise :^)

Beomgyu rolls in his bed to scream into his pillow. When he’s let whatever emotion Yeonjun has inspired out, he calmly composes his reply: thank u and yes you should!

Yeonjun replies immediately: ok. be free and cute on saturday. my treat.

Beomgyu’s heart flutters at the text message and hates how his brain can’t differentiate this practice date from something real. He responds: but i am already cute all the time!!

well, Yeonjun’s final text message says, be even cuter. it’s a date.

Beomgyu falls off the bed this time around. But if no one saw and the only evidence is that it takes him an extra five minutes to reply (his butt hurts and it’s distracting him from choosing an appropriate emoji), then did it really happen?

Beomgyu’s calm, cool, and collected response: it’s a date 🕺🕺

 


 

Saturday comes soon enough, but not without Soobin pestering him for details. It was a mistake to decide to meet at their apartment. Beomgyu is not even early, but Yeonjun had seen his outfit and then stomped back into his room, yelling, “Choi Beomgyu, you forgot to tell me what you were wearing!”

Beomgyu looks down at his clothes, a plain black shirt, some nice straight blue jeans, regular vans and a fluffy white fleece jacket. Is it not cool enough to pass Yeonjun’s fashionista taste? Whatever, Beomgyu thinks, settling down on the couch next to Soobin, who turns to him and says, “Can’t believe this is really happening. My baby’s first date—”

“It’s not a real date,” Beomgyu says cooly, “It’s for practice, stupid.”

“Oh?” Soobin raises his brow, and then pulls out his phone, “Then why were you texting Taehyun for date advice?”

Beomgyu purses his mouth and fights the temptation to stick his tongue out, “Why do you know that? Why is Taehyun snitching on me to you?”

Soobin does not fight the temptation and sticks his tongue out. What a child. “We were hanging out, and he just mentioned it. I thought you were trying to keep it a secret.”

“I thought Taehyun could keep his mouth shut,” Beomgyu grumbles, sinking back against the couch cushions. “What’s going on with you and Taehyun?”

“Nothing,” Soobin shrugs, nonchalant. “We’ve just been hanging out a lot. He’s super fun and friendly, and he likes sushi.”

Beomgyu rolls his eyes, “Everything I’m not.”

Soobin claps his hands with delight, “Oh? You said it, not me.”

“God, Yeonjun hyung, hurry up before I kill your roommate,” Beomgyu calls out, turning away from Soobin’s ugly face. He jokes, “You already look beautiful, please, I’m hungry…”

Soobin snorts, leaning closer to whisper, “Hey, try not to sound like you’re absolutely in love.”

Thankfully, Yeonjun decides to grace them all with his presence, walking out in a very similar outfit to what Beomgyu is wearing. Beomgyu stands up, surprised. “Oh, we’re matching?”

Yeonjun smiles proudly at himself, extending a hand towards Beomgyu, “Cute, right? It’s not a date if we’re not wearing a couple look. This is lesson number one.”

“Well, you should have said so,” Beomgyu pouts, putting his hands on his hips.

“Ah, stop pouting,” Yeonjun whines, shaking his outstretched hand for Beomgyu to take, “Come on, I’m hungry we should eat already.”

Beomgyu shyly takes his hand, but Yeonjun intertwines their hands without hesitation and pulls him out of the door. It leaves Beomgyu stuttering out a goodbye to Soobin, who sends him two thumbs up while mouthing, stay strong!

Tell that to his runaway heart, Choi Soobin. A couple look and they’re holding hands already? It's only eleven in the morning and there's only one word for the state Beomgyu is in: shambles. Beomgyu is in shambles.

Beomgyu doesn’t know where Yeonjun’s taking them, but he's content to just follow for now. As shy as it makes him, he's glad to be holding hands too. It's a chilly morning, even with the sun high and shining. And holding hands is good for warmth, amongst other things Beomgyu doesn't have the current mental capacity to dwell on right now.

Yeonjun squeezes their joined hands, "Sincerely, congrats on doing well in your midterms. I remember everything gets harder beginning your second year."

"Thanks, hyung," Beomgyu gives him a dimpled grin, "But, yeah, I already miss being a first year. Now I can't even skip classes."

"You shouldn't skip classes in the first place anyway," Yeonjun nags at him, but Beomgyu just bats his eyelashes at him, innocent, and then Yeonjun sighs, "Okay, fine, I'm not going to lecture you when I've done my share of skipping—"

Beomgyu intentionally bumps his shoulders against Yeonjun's and laughs, "Good, that's better. You were starting to sound like Soobin. No offense, but only Taehyun is allowed to nag at me about school."

"Full offense," Yeonjun deadpans, "Why do you respect Taehyun, who's younger than you, but never listen to Soobin and me, huh?"

"Because Taehyun can crumple me with one hand," Beomgyu says easily. "He invited me to go with him to the gym once and the guy was lifting weights heavier than me. I think he invited me for a specific reason…"

Yeonjun throws his head back laughing, "I know Soobin doesn't work out, but I do. And I definitely lift weights heavier than you. Why aren't you scared then?"

Beomgyu smiles angelically and steels himself for the potential backlash, "Well, hyung, I know you adore me. Why would I be scared of you?"

Immediately, Yeonjun reaches over with his free hand and pinches Beomgyu's cheek hard, "You think just because you're cute you're not gonna get beat up one day?"

Beomgyu tries to pull away, but Yeonjun evidently works out. Stuck in place, Beomgyu sticks his tongue out, “When that day comes, let me know and I’d like to see you try to catch me.”

Yeonjun frowns at that, letting Beomgyu go and pats his cheek, “Hey, you’re not saying stuff like this to other people, right? You’re really going to get beat up one day if you are.”

This is exactly why Beomgyu isn’t afraid. Yeonjun underneath all the smirks, all the posturing, and the daredevil attitude, is a sweet, caring person. He could have said that in the first place, but well, where’s the fun in that?

Beomgyu changes the subject, “Sure, hyung, now what about food?”

“Almost there, it’s just up the street ahead.”

They come to a stop in front of a cafe, with floor to ceiling windows, wooden tables and tons of greenery. Yeonjun pulls open the glass door and gestures to Beomgyu to go in first, and Beomgyu does with eyes flitting upon every pretty thing in the cafe. What catches his eyes is the way the light filters in from the windows and falls; what is muted becomes bright.

“Beomgyu,” Yeonjun calls him over, already looking at the menu, “What do you want to eat?”

“Woah,” Beomgyu marvels at the menu, it was a simple one page, but there were watercolor renditions of each item they served. “Those pancakes look good, should we get that?”

“Which one? Do you want the one with fruits or with chocolate?”

Beomgyu hums in thought, “Let’s go with fruit, since the strawberries look good.”

“Okay, cool,” Yeonjun says, then points at the drinks, “Did you have coffee already?”

“No, but I kind of want the fruity drinks instead. That strawberry lemon tea looks good too,” Beomgyu murmurs, scanning the menu. “Ugh, why does everything look good?”

Yeonjun laughs, “I think I’m going to get just an Americano.”

“Should I do that too?”

“No, you should get what you want,” Yeonjun gently pushes him to the counter, so they can start ordering.

Beomgyu does end up ordering the strawberry lemon tea and orders for Yeonjun as well as their shared pancake. Just as Beomgyu is about to pull out his wallet, Yeonjun reaches over him and tells the cashier to take his card instead.

“But—” Beomgyu means to interrupt,  but Yeonjun just winks at him and any protests he has dies down. “My treat, remember?”

When they finish paying, they take a table in the far corner of the cafe, right by a window. Beomgyu lets out a pleased sigh, looking out into the street, “This is so nice, how did you find this place?”

“A friend suggested it,” Yeonjun says vaguely, “I’ve actually been meaning to try it for a while, but just never had the chance.”

Beomgyu nods, “Thanks for paying, by the way. Even though I’m supposed to pay…”

“Don’t worry, we can go out to eat at another time, and you can definitely pay then,” Yeonjun says, cheekily. “Just say thank you, hyung. You’re the best, hyung.”

“You’re the best, Yeonjunnie-hyung,” Beomgyu says, a touch too sincere for a practice date at eleven am. Well, he’s never hidden his affection for Yeonjun that well anyway. He doesn’t need to when Yeonjun interprets it all as brotherly love. Some things are better lost in translation.

Yeonjun glows with the praise, patting his own shoulder, “I know, wait until the food gets here, then you’ll be even more amazed.”

And Beomgyu is amazed when the food gets to their table. The server approaches them with their drinks that look as dreamy as their watercolor counterparts, and the pancakes are covered in powdered sugar so fine it looks like snow. When their server sets the food on their table, Beomgyu is surprised to see actual watercolor paints, brushes and paper with their meal.

“Ta-da!” Yeonjun excitedly cheers, “This cafe is actually known as a place you can paint at with an order of a drink.”

Beomgyu is starry-eyed at the array of colors the cafe has provided them with. Beomgyu turns to him, pouting, “Hey, why are you unfairly good at everything?”

Yeonjun sips his Americano and shrugs, “Some people are just perfect. What can we do?”

“Alright, alright,” Beomgyu is hungry, he’ll eat first, before Yeonjun eats all of it by himself.

Beomgyu cuts himself a piece of the pancakes, makes sure to get each element of the dish on his fork, and finally eats it. He wiggles happily at the sweet taste, “This is so good. I’m happy.”

Yeonjun laughs, “I’m glad.”

They are so hungry, they finish the pancake in just a couple of minutes. He lets Yeonjun have the last piece, “Since you paid, you can have it.”

Yeonjun shakes his head, “No, since it’s my treat to you, you should have it.”

Beomgyu purses his lips, “I’m full. Seriously, you should eat it. I’m going to start painting.”

“You eat like a little bird,” Yeonjun says, amused. But he ends up finishing up the last bite of pancake, so really, Beomgyu pays him no mind. He’s been itching to play with the watercolor paints since the beginning.

He grabs a pencil to try and sketch out a scene for him to paint, but his mind comes up blank. Beomgyu hums quietly in thought, “What should I draw?”

“Draw me,” Yeonjun suggests, striking a pose, “Paint me like one of your french girls.”

Beomgyu laughs, “I’ve never actually seen that movie.”

“It’s a classic. I think even Soobin has seen it,” Yeonjun pushes their trays of food to the side, bringing his own watercolor supplies closer to him.

“Don’t like tragic endings. What’s the point? If you’re gonna write a love story, might as well make it happy.” Beomgyu watched Brokeback Mountain once. It was devastating and vowed he’d never do it again. “Also, sure I’ll draw and paint you, if you do the same for me. But if it’s ugly, I’m going to be real sad.”

Yeonjun’s jaw drops, offended, “I’ve taken an art elective once. No need to be judgy, Picasso. If mine turns out ugly, I’ll be really mad. If this was a real date, I’d be mad enough not to want a second date.”

Beomgyu copies what he said in a mocking way and laughs when Yeonjun tries to grab him from the other side of the table. “Okay, be quiet. I need to concentrate, so I can earn this hypothetical second date.”

Yeonjun snorts before copying what Beomgyu said in the same mocking tone. Beomgyu laughs again. They get along so well.

They do end up focusing on their drawings, promising not to reveal to each other what it looks like until they’re both finished. Beomgyu realizes that they’ve both been too focused on painting that they’ve gone quiet for a while. “Hey, shouldn’t we be talking? Is that what people do on dates?”

“Yes and no,” Yeonjun answers, without looking up from his work, “You should just be having fun and getting to know the other person on a date. There’s not really a lot of rules.”

“Hmm, I am having a lot of fun not hearing your voice,” Beomgyu smirks, but gets a deserved kick in the leg for it. “Ow, that hurts!”

“Lesson number ten, you probably shouldn’t insult your date,” Yeonjun says.

Lesson number ten, you probably shouldn’t insult your date,” Beomgyu copies again in a mocking way, “Also, how are we at lesson number ten already? And how am I supposed to get to know you, when we’re already friends?”

“I’m not keeping count, I just choose whatever number pops up in my head,” Yeonjun says, dipping his brush in water to wash out the color that he’s using, “Anyway, to your other question, there’s always more to know. For example, first impressions?”

“I should be asking you that,” Beomgyu snorts, “Pretty sure, you hated me when we first met.”

Yeonjun laughs out loud at that, “That’s just my face when it’s resting. Also! You were the one who hated me. Always hanging around in my apartment with Soobin, and whenever I said hi, you’d just nod coldly!”

“Because!” Beomgyu laughs too, “You were scary and intimidating. If only you’d cracked your lame dad jokes earlier…”

Yeonjun finally looks up at him, “How was I scary and intimidating? I remember I offered you oranges. I was so nice!”

“And when I peeled them, you demanded I give you some,” Beomgyu says, all matter-of-fact.

“I asked nicely! I didn’t realize it was the last orange and I was hungry,” Yeonjun explains.

“I was under duress, what if you kicked me out if I didn’t give it back?”

“Wow,” Yeonjun says, “You really thought your best friend was rooming with such a scary person?”

Beomgyu smiles, a gesture of mock comfort, “Don’t worry, I don’t think that at all anymore.”

Yeonjun glares at him, before sighing. Beomgyu thinks it’s so funny when he does that, knowing he’s the cause. Yeonjun goes back to finishing up his painting, “So? When did your perception of me change then?”

It is an essay worthy question.

Contrary to what Soobin thinks and claims, it really wasn’t love at first sight. Beomgyu doesn’t believe in that kind of thing anyway. He thinks about when it all changed for him. It’s not a lie to say that his first impression of Yeonjun was that he was scary and intimidating. After all, Yeonjun was already popular in their University’s School of Arts, of which the dance department was under. He’d heard the rumors of a Choi Yeonjun, who was considered the top student of his grade and was one of the best in the whole department even as a second year at that time. Who wouldn’t be intimidated?

And then, Beomgyu had first seen him in person when he had visited Soobin’s apartment for the first time. He’d been sitting on the couch with Soobin, and this guy walks out, dark ripped jeans, black long-sleeved sweater, and piercing dark eyes half covered by his hair. If Beomgyu had to use one word to describe him, it would be captivating.

Beomgyu hadn’t been able to look away from him and even when Soobin officially introduced them to each other, Beomgyu had been so nervous, he could only nod at Yeonjun.

“Beomgyu?” Yeonjun breaks him out of his thoughts, “Is it something to think so hard about?”

“I’m trying to remember when too,” Beomgyu lets his thoughts wander to the answer, as his hands busy itself with the finishing touches on his work. He switches to the color black, just to give the drawing emphasis by outlining.

Could it have been that very first movie night, when Soobin had chosen an old horror movie that had them both screaming into Soobin’s shoulders?

Was it that random night he had fallen asleep on their couch and woke up covered in blankets and his head cushioned by pillows? He’d asked Soobin about it, but he’d denied it was him.

Was it any of the numerous times Yeonjun had complained how hungry he was and yet had never hesitated to share his food with Beomgyu? Or any of the numerous times Yeonjun had let him borrow a jacket, or a hat, or even a pair of gloves?

Beomgyu can’t remember. Maybe he just woke up and just knew the inevitable: there’s some people you’re just meant to fall for.

He ends up giving Yeonjun a bullshit answer, pretends to think hard, “I think it was when you got really scared of that movie we watched. What was it, the Grudge?”

Yeonjun covers his face in embarrassment, “Hey, that was scary for everybody. You slept over that night too!”

“Oh,” Beomgyu squints, “Was that the night we all slept on the living room floor, because we were all scared of sleeping by ourselves that night?”

Yeonjun nods, smiling at the memory, “I think that was even scarier, because I didn’t know you talked in your sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night wondering who you were talking to, and then had a mini freak out when I realized nobody else was there.”

Beomgyu scratches the back of his neck, “Yeah, that happens…”

Yeonjun doesn’t make fun of him for it and just moves on, “I’m done with my painting of you. Do you need more time?”

Beomgyu shakes his head, pulling up his canvas and making sure Yeonjun can’t see it just yet, “Nope, shall we do the grand reveal?”

“Should hyung go first?” Yeonjun asks, and then smiles when Beomgyu nods his head. “Okay, then,” he says turning his canvas over. “What do you think?”

Yeonjun’s painting doesn’t look like Beomgyu at all. It’s a cute little bear with a little orange slice in its claws surrounded by orange peels around it.

Beomgyu frowns, “How is that me?”

Yeonjun gasps, dramatic, “What do you mean? That bear is you.”

“I don’t look like a bear,” Beomgyu pouts, “Why is it eating oranges?”

“Because we were talking about first impressions right? This is literally my first impression of you. Ah, you were so cute and so round. You still had your brown hair then,” Yeonjun sighs happily. “Okay, your turn now. Show me what you got.”

Beomgyu turns his over, carefully watching Yeonjun’s expression as he takes in the art. Beomgyu had drawn a cartoon version of the Yeonjun in front of him right now, white fleece jacket and blue hair and all, with a little red fox sitting beside him, with snow falling over them both.

“It looks warm,” Yeonjun says, and Beomgyu thinks, what an odd thing to say about a snow scene. “You drew me so cutely and all the little details. And the color! I think you’ve captured it very well.”

“I just pay attention,” Beomgyu shrugs, “Do you like it? It’s titled, foxes in the snow.”

Yeonjun nods, utterly endeared by it, “I love it.”

Beomgyu hands the canvas to Yeonjun and watches him continue to admire the work. There is something revealing here too. I pay attention, he had said like it was nothing. But that’s something of an admission, right? And if attention was the beginning of devotion, then what does it mean that Beomgyu has always looked at him, right from the very start?

 


 

Nothing really changes much between them after that. Although it’s weird to have the experience of a date between them. Some friends were exes once, some have even gone on dates, and inevitably, at least once in the course of history, friends must have practiced dating, right?

He wonders how different it would be if they were actually dating.

Would they have ended the date with a promise for another one, instead of giving each other a bro hug goodbye?

Would they have looked at each other shyly in their couple outfits, instead of watching all the other couples around them in theirs? (Beomgyu was so embarrassed on everyone's behalf; the couple outfit was cute on him and Yeonjun, but not everyone can pull it off.)

Beomgyu really wouldn’t know beyond what his mind comes up with at night, when he’s alone in his bed.

As for what happens next, Beomgyu will let Yeonjun decide what other practice dating things they can do. Beomgyu will just go along with the ride.

Besides, it’s Wednesday.

And Wednesdays are reserved for Soobin and Yeonjun and one episode of Kingdom. Maybe some snacks too.

Beomgyu excitedly climbs up the stairs to Soobin and Yeonjun’s shared apartment. He’s wearing comfy clothes already, and he even brought his toothbrush over too, just in case, they end up watching something else and decide to stay over. It wouldn’t be the first time.

He gets to their door and knocks a sweet little beat on the door to announce his presence. At the lack of response, he knocks again, this time it’s no sweet beat but pure rage in a knock. He eventually hears someone yell, “Hold on!” but it’s cold outside and what is more important than letting Beomgyu in? That’s right — nothing. So, he keeps knocking.

The door opens up suddenly, and Soobin looks at him so unimpressed, “I said hold on.”

“But it’s cold,” Beomgyu pouts, shouldering his way in. Their apartment is nice and toasty warm; Beomgyu sheds his jacket, placing it over the back of the couch, and going immediately to the kitchen for a drink.

“Did you eat already?” Soobin asks, coming to stand with him in the kitchen, “Yeonjun-hyung said he wanted to order some fried chicken and tteokbokki, do you want to join in?”

“I already ate dinner, but I wouldn’t mind a couple bites. How much are you guys ordering?” Beomgyu finds the barley tea that he stored in their fridge for safekeeping with the excitement of a scavenger looking for gold.

Soobin shrugs, “I think he said he was doing three half orders of chicken, one original, one honeybee, and one spicy.”

Beomgyu frowns, “And you’re getting tteokbokki on top of that?”

“And snacks,” Soobin confirms, “Hyung said practice was so tiring, and then said he needs to cheer himself up with food.”

Their Yeonjun-hyung has always been a hard worker. Soobin and Beomgyu work hard on their own respective majors too, but it’s the way Yeonjun’s craft is so physically demanding and consuming. Even outside of his practice, his body moves like it’s still caught up in the music. Half the time, when Beomgyu’s eyes land on him, he is dancing to some beat playing in his head. There’s talent and there’s hard work, Beomgyu thinks, and it fills him with awe to be able to witness both in someone he can call his friend.

This sentiment stays with him through the rest of the night, even when they’ve settled in on their couch and are waist-deep in the show’s plot filled with political intrigue and well, zombies. On the television screen, the drama’s main lead, the Crown Prince Lee Chang barely escapes the Crown’s army once again. The three of them are sitting side by side on the floor, with Soobin and Yeonjun on each of his sides, mindlessly eating their chicken takeout as they’re gripped by the scenes unfolding on the screen.

It’s kind of gross, Beomgyu thinks, watching the dead bodies pile up on screen parallel the pile of chicken bones piling up in front of him. He had claimed his three pieces (one of each flavor) and felt full (benefits of actually having dinner), so he felt content to lean back against the couch and just watch.

“How long do you guys think you’d last in a zombie apocalypse?” Beomgyu wonders out loud.

Soobin snorts, “I think I would die pretty early on.”

“I think I would make it pretty far,” Yeonjun interjects, then points a chicken bone at Soobin, “You should stick with me, you’ll live longer.”

Beomgyu smiles sympathetically at Soobin, “Hyung, I think you would die early too. You’re the self-sacrificing type, so I’ll make sure to stick with you. I know you’ll save me.”

“Wow,” Soobin frowns at him, which would be more impactful if his mouth wasn’t glistening with chicken sauce. “If I become a zombie first, I’ll make sure to eat you first,” Soobin pinches his cheek, aggressive enough that Beomgyu yelps, “I’ll bite you right where the fat is.”

Beomgyu pulls away, rubbing his cheek. He glares, “You think I won’t shoot you in the head first? You won’t get even close enough to bite me.”

“Ha,” Soobin scoffs, the side of his mouth quirking up into a smirk, “As if. You’d be crying over my pre-zombie infected body. And you’ll be so sad that you won’t even notice I’ve turned already and then you’ll be bitten.”

Beomgyu rolls his eyes and laughs mockingly, turning to Yeonjun, “Are you hearing this?”

But Yeonjun just starts laughing at them both instead, his clean hand coming up to cover his mouth. Soobin reaches over with his socked foot, across Beomgyu’s lap, to poke at Yeonjun, “Hey, is the hypothetical cannibalistic deaths of your favorite friends so amusing?”

“The two of you,” Yeonjun says, swallowing the food in his mouth, “are so damn funny.”

Beomgyu bites his lips, trying to hold back a smile. It’s devastatingly easy to earn Yeonjun’s laughs, and Beomgyu will do all kinds of stupid to be the cause of it. He turns to Soobin, shaking his head in disappointment, “Wait, till we’re both zombies and we come for him.”

Soobin shakes his head too, “Look at him eating so well. That’s right, eat up! You will be so tasty when we turn to zombies and eat you.”

Yeonjun is unfazed by their threats, just keeps chuckling as he picks up at another chicken drumstick on his hand. They turn back to the actual show playing before them, as it’s close to the end of the episode by the looks of it. Beomgyu knows what cliffhangers look like.

Here’s a cliffhanger: there’s a small spot of honeybee chicken sauce right at the corner of Yeonjun’s mouth. Who’ll get to it faster? Yeonjun or Beomgyu?

Even Beomgyu doesn’t know how this ends, but what he knows is his own self-restraint. Or is it his own fear of being known? Either way, the stupid little spot mocks him and makes itself known even from the corner of his eye.

His hands feel restless in his lap and it would be so easy to grab the napkins that came with the delivery order and make his move. This means nothing. Wiping someone’s mouth is something that could be considered a super friendly gesture. Actually, his big brain interjects, you don’t even have to wipe it yourself. You could just point it out. And at that, his mouth moves faster than whatever doubt his mind can further conjure, “Yeonjun-hyung, you’ve got something on your face.”

“Hmm?” Yeonjun turns to him, hands holding both ends of the drumstick, “I do?”

Beomgyu nods and points to where it would be on his own face, “Like around right here?”

Yeonjun stupidly looks at his own hands, sees how dirty it is, and like he’s possessed by all the gods who are conspiring against Beomgyu’s happiness and success, he says, “My hands are dirty. Can you get it for me?”

Beomgyu could fucking sigh, but all he actually does is nod, casual and overly non-chalant, “Yeah, sure.”

He grabs the napkin and watches Yeonjun angle his cheek at him, while keeping his eyes on the television. Beomgyu gently cups his cheek and leans close, carefully dabbing the spot away with the napkin. He makes the mistake of looking at Yeonjun’s eyes as he does it, only for Yeonjun to catch him doing that.

Beomgyu pulls away immediately and feels his ears turn hot as he discards the napkin. “There, I got it.”

Yeonjun smiles, something shameless and sharp, “That was so heart fluttering, Choi Beomgyu.”

“Shut up,” Beomgyu covers his ears, burying himself onto Soobin’s side. “You’re so annoying.”

His response just makes him look even more pleased. So, Beomgyu corrects himself. One thing has changed — Yeonjun’s flirting with him, and Beomgyu knows it’s not serious, but he still turns red every time. It’s a new discovery that Yeonjun will clearly not let go any time soon. It’s dangerous.

And here’s the real cliffhanger: how long is Beomgyu going to last before Yeonjun makes his confetti filled heart burst?

 


 

It’s a small world.

Soobin had mentioned he was inviting Taehyun over for dinner and that Taehyun would be bringing a friend. Beomgyu doesn’t mind, of course. Taehyun is his friend and any friend of Taehyun is automatically a friend of his. In addition, he likes it when Soobin chooses to branch out of his small circle of friends and make new ones. It’s good for him.

Yeonjun was up for it too and was highly amused, “I like how you say you invited someone for dinner, like you’re cooking for them. But you’re actually just sharing take out and eating it at our small dining table.”

Soobin had slapped him on the back and groaned, “Stop, I’m so worried how we’re all going to fit on that table. Should we eat on the floor? Ugh, I can’t make Taehyun and his friend eat on the floor.”

Beomgyu had been confused, “Why not?”

“Yeah, why not?” Yeonjun was curious too. “We make Beomgyu eat on the floor all the time.”

“Well,” Soobin had said, “That’s Beomgyu and this is Taehyun. Some people deserve better.”

Beomgyu had to beat him up to maintain his pride while Yeonjun laughed. But Yeonjun, acting like the oldest person in the room for once, had assured Soobin that it was going to be fine. Taehyun was a college student and wouldn’t mind.

As such, on the night of the dinner, Soobin has Beomgyu vacuuming the living room carpet floor as he fusses over what Spotify playlist to have playing in the background. This is probably the cleanest the apartment has been over the two years Beomgyu has been over at their place. At Soobin’s request, Beomgyu also brought over some of his candles, so it smells like what a vacation in Hawaii would theoretically be. Pineapples and coconuts. This isn’t even Beomgyu’s apartment.

Yeonjun manages to escape most of Soobin’s requests by putting his foot down and taking full responsibility for getting the food. He arrives back at the apartment with enough time to spare for setting everything up on the floor.

Beomgyu gives him a tired wave from where he’s lying down on the couch, “Hey, welcome back.”

“Yo, it smells good in here,” Yeonjun exclaims, breathing deeply as he switches the shoes he has on with their house slippers. He shrugs his jacket off next, placing it on a chair, and then dropping the plastic bags of takeout on their dining table. Beomgyu weakly grunts in agreement.

Yeonjun laughs, going over to him and lifting his feet off the couch so that he could sit down too. “What happened to you?”

“Please be quiet. Soobin is driving me crazy,” Beomgyu closes his eyes and sighs when Yeonjun starts massaging his ankles. “Taehyun won’t even care that much. He’s not fussy like that.”

“Forgive him, he’s just nervous. You get like that too,” Yeonjun says, like a mother telling his eldest to be more patient with his immature younger sibling. “Besides, think about how funny it’s going to be watching him interact with Taehyun. He’s going to be so embarrassing.”

Speaking of the devil, Soobin comes out of his room panicking, “Guys, they said they’re gonna be here soon. Look normal.”

Yeonjun and Beomgyu make no moves to get off the couch. Soobin whines, shaking Yeonjun’s shoulders, “Hyung, go set up the food.”

“Noooo,” Beomgyu whines, “He’s massaging my foot, get your own Yeonjun-hyung.”

Soobin frowns, “We have joint custody of Yeonjun-hyung, so you can’t call him yours, fool.”

Yeonjun is saved from hearing this argument continue by knocking on their front door. He pushes Soobin towards the door, “Go get that, we can all set the table together.”

Soobin hurriedly rushes to the door, but before he opens it, he turns back to them, fluffing up his hair and putting a questioning thumbs up. Beomgyu laughs and jokingly gives him a thumbs down which is negated by the encouraging double thumbs up Yeonjun gives.

He finally opens the door, revealing Taehyun all bundled up, clutching his own plastic bag of takeout. What makes Beomgyu sit up is the tall person trying to shyly hide behind Taehyun. Soobin lets them in, “Hey guys, I’m glad you were able to easily find the place.”

Taehyun gives him a hug, “Yeah, it’s actually only five minutes away from our own place. This is Huening Kai, by the way.”

Soobin smiles, bright and charming, and comes over to give Kai a hug. Kai timidly returns the hug, which is kind of funny. He’s never seen anyone act overwhelmed at the presence of Soobin. Soobin lets him go and turns to his two friends on the couch, “And that’s Yeonjun-hyung, who’s my roommate and the other person you see lying there is—”

“Oh,” Kai says in surprise, when he meets Beomgyu’s eyes, “Beomgyu-ssi.”

The other three people in the room look on curiously. They have never heard Beomgyu’s name said with so much respect before.

“Kai, I didn’t know you were friends with Taehyun,” Beomgyu says, standing up.

“Friends and roommates,” Kai says, shrinking at the attention everyone is giving him in the room.

Taehyun loops their arms together, “How do you guys know each other?”

“We’re in the same music composition class,” Beomgyu responds, and then he notices what’s inside the plastic bag Kai was carrying, “You guys brought dessert?”

“Yeah, we got ice cream, some pastries, and some fruits,” Taehyun responds and then goes over to the kitchen to put the bags down. “I know you’re a picky eater, so you have to like at least one of the things we bought.”

Yeonjun comes over to take a peek at what they brought and gasps, “Oh my god, you guys bought mint chocolate chip ice cream?”

Soobin visibly shudders and Beomgyu pretends to gag. Taehyun snorts, pointing at Kai, “It’s for him! He’s the one who likes it.”

“I like it too!” Yeonjun exclaims and comes over to hug him, “I’ll eat it with you. Nobody else understands how good it is.”

For the first time that night, Kai smiles easily and the effect is immediate. The room brightens just at the appearance of it. “I’m glad you like it, Yeonjun-ssi.”

Yeonjun ruffles his hair, “Just call me hyung.”

Soobin claps his hands once but loudly to call everyone’s attention. And when everybody turns to him, he smiles and points to the living room area, “Shall we start eating then?”

People begin migrating over, with Yeonjun grabbing their takeout to set up on the floor. As they set up, Taehyun asks, “Can I put the ice cream in the freezer? And do you guys want me to clean the grapes now?”

Beomgyu shakes his head, “Just put the ice cream in the freezer, and we can wash the grapes later. Come here already.” When he sees Kai awkwardly looking for where to sit, Beomgyu pats the space beside him, “Just sit with me. It’ll just be like how it is in class. And then, Taehyun can sit beside you.”

Just like that they all end up in a circle: Beomgyu, Kai, Taehyun, Soobin, and Yeonjun. Inside their circle formation, Yeonjun had laid out their large order of cheese tteokbokki, the kimchi fried rice, fish cake soup, fried tempura set, and korean sausage. Honestly, eating with Soobin and Yeonjun, Beomgyu is used to seeing such a large feast in front of him, but he can tell by Taehyun’s wide eyes and Kai’s jaw dropping that they aren’t.

Taehyun wonders, “Can we even finish all of this and the dessert that we brought?”

“Yeah,” Beomgyu confirms, breaking his chopsticks apart and rubbing them against each other to shave off potential wooden splinters. “Don’t worry, Yeonjun-hyung will finish everything.”

Beside him, Yeonjun’s already stuffing himself with the kimchi fried rice, while Soobin is eagerly filling Taehyun’s plate, who is trying to tell him that he can do it himself.  Beomgyu hopes he doesn’t look as desperate as that when it comes to his own crush.

The food tastes amazing, so much so that the first few moments of eating together, the only sounds that can be heard are of them eating. That is until Soobin whines about how spicy the tteokbokki is, “Ugh, I forgot to grab water.”

Since he’s sitting the farthest from the kitchen, Beomgyu offers to get some for him, “Anybody else want anything?”

Mouth full, Yeonjun raises his hand and tries to chew faster, but Beomgyu already knows, “Cola?”

Yeonjun’s eyes crinkle in happiness, nodding while sending him a flying kiss. Beomgyu smirks, “Taehyun? Kai? Do you guys want anything?”

“If you guys have juice, I’ll take it, but if not, I’ll stick to the water that I have.” Taehyun says, trying to see what’s in the fridge.

Beomgyu opens the fridge, “Hmm, we only have barley tea and more cola. Kai, do you want either of those?”

“I would like some barley tea,” Kai says, politely. Beomgyu grabs that for him, along with two bottles of water and cola. He throws one bottle of water to Soobin, who barely catches it, and sets the cola next to Yeonjun. The bottle of barley tea, he hands to Kai who receives it with both hands. “Thank you, Beomgyu-ssi!”

Taehyun laughs after watching the interaction, “Hyuka, you don’t have to act so formal with Beomgyu-hyung. You guys are even in the same class, right?”

“It’s true,” Beomgyu smiles, finding how shy Kai gets very cute. “Just call me hyung.”

“Okay, hyung,” Kai says, and then averts his eyes and goes back to eating. Beomgyu wants to pinch his cheeks. He finds that sentiment reflected on everybody else’s faces. How can a person so tall look like such a baby?

Beomgyu opens his water bottle to drink and as he drinks it, Yeonjun makes a comment, “You’re not going to have your nightly barley tea?”

“Oh, there was only one left,” Beomgyu shrugs, putting the cap back on, “Remind me to buy more, by the way.”

Yeonjun eyes the bottle in Kai’s hand and nods, “I see…”

Beomgyu laughs, hitting him lightly on the shoulder, “I can be sweet too, hyung.”

“I never said you couldn’t be,” Yeonjun says, “It’s just the first time I’ve seen it.”

Soobin hums thoughtfully, “Surprisingly, when Beomgyu is being nice and sweet, he’s very quiet about it. He’s loud about everything else though.”

Beomgyu rolls his eyes, “I’m not that loud.” But Soobin just rolls his eyes back.

“Is hyung really that loud?” Kai asks, tilting his head to the side. “I feel like I can’t imagine that.”

At that, Yeonjun, Soobin, and Taehyun both look at him like he’d grown another head. Yeonjun puts his arm around Beomgyu, squeezing his shoulder, “He’s so loud that I feel like I can hear his laughter ringing in my ears hours later.”

“He gets invited to parties because he’s the best person to hype everyone up,” Soobin adds on.

Taehyun frowns, “What’s he like in class for you to say that?”

Kai gives a cautious side glance at Beomgyu, before speaking: “Beomgyu-hyung is really serious in class. Our classmates said he’s kind of scary to be partners with for projects.”

“Scary?” Yeonjun says in disbelief, “What’s so scary about him? He’s just a cute little kid.”

“Now, I can’t picture it,” Taehyun says. “Our Beomgyu-hyung? The one I have to lecture at the library on why he needs to study more to pass his midterms?”

“The Beomgyu that will freeze up and yell at you to kill a cockroach for him? That same Beomgyu?”

“He gets it!” Beomgyu huffs, shrugging Yeonjun’s arm on his shoulder. “Also, I’m not surprised they’re saying that. I think I was kind of...too strict in past group projects and our department isn’t really that big.”

Kai shakes his head, “It’s not just that...you’re well known in our department for your high standards, so you do come off as a bit...intimidating.”

“Well, I’m not going to deny the first part, but don’t be intimidated.” Beomgyu smirks, “In fact, why don’t you be my partner for the next group project?”

Kai’s eyes widen and at the expectant look from Beomgyu, he sighs, “Sure, let’s do it.”

Beomgyu cheers, meanwhile Taehyun holds Kai’s hand in his, comfortingly, “Don’t worry, if he’s mean to you, just tell me. I’ll get revenge for you.”

Beomgyu sticks his tongue out, “Soobin will protect me.” He sends him two finger hearts with kisses, but Soobin playfully and metaphorically slaps the hearts away.

“No, I won’t,” Soobin smiles, sweetly. “I hope you get beat up. Get your practice boyfriend to protect you.”

Soobin is dead to him. With big watery eyes, he turns to Yeonjun and carefully holds his free hand in his. “My Yeonjunnie-hyung will protect me, right? My Hyung who is so strong and nice and good, unlike that guy over there.”

Yeonjun can barely look at him, and that just cannot do. Beomgyu puts himself in Yeonjun’s line of vision and flutters his eyes, whining, “Hyung.”

It only takes one glance and Yeonjun sighs immediately, “You’re not gonna need my help. Taehyun wouldn’t beat you up. But sure.”

Beomgyu turns back to Taehyun and sticks his tongue out, giggling. But Taehyun just looks unimpressed, “What the hell is a practice boyfriend?”

The question stops Beomgyu’s laughter immediately. How the hell is he supposed to explain his dumb idea to Taehyun?

Thankfully, Soobin steps in, “It’s what it sounds like, Taehyunie.”

“How bad are you at dating that you need to practice?”

Beomgyu pouts, “Don’t make me say it, Taehyun. You know I’ve never dated before.”

“You’ve never?” Kai asks, dumbfounded, “Like not even one date? Or confession?”

Beomgyu feels his ears reddening at Kai’s questions and he covers them with his hands to avoid anybody seeing them. Soobin sighs dramatically, “Oh, Kai, what you need to know about Beomgyu is that he’s a true romantic at heart. If the confession doesn’t pass typical kdrama standards, he’ll reject it.”

Beomgyu throws a balled up napkin at Soobin, who yelps when it hits him. “Don’t listen to him, Kai. Some people are just unlucky in the dating scene. It’s not me, it’s everybody else.”

Taehyun is looking at him like he’s reading every thought running through Beomgyu’s mind. What comes out of his mouth though is another question, “And Yeonjun-hyung is helping you practice? What kind of practice?”

Yeonjun who’s been silent since Taehyun’s inquisition began finally contributes, “We just went on like a practice date. And you know, I gave him tips…”

“Why do I feel like I’m being tried in court,” Beomgyu mutters, “Yeah, we went on a practice date. The works, holding hands and he paid for me.”

Of all the things, Beomgyu expected him to say, it was not this: “That’s it? What are you supposed to learn on one practice date? That’s all you’ve done?”

Beside Beomgyu, Yeonjun starts to get defensive, “I’m just doing what Beomgyu asked. He said he wanted a practice date, so we went on one. Case closed.”

Taehyun sighs, “If it was really practice, then Beomgyu-hyung should initiate it. Also, being a boyfriend or dating isn’t just one date. It’s composed of many things — like caring for each other, supporting each other, being physically affectionate, giving each other presents, and spending time with each other!”

The room takes a moment to digest Taehyun’s rant, and Taehyun in turn gets shy at his outburst, hiding it with a cough, “Sorry, I’ve watched too many movies…”

“It’s okay,” Beomgyu tells him. He feels like his mind has just been opened. He clears his throat and pats Yeonjun’s hand, “Hyung, I think he’s got a point. Write those things down.”

 


 

Taehyun has never done wrong in his life and he’s not going to start now, Beomgyu is sure of it. The brightest mind of their generation. A kindred soul with a heart for romance similar to Beomgyu’s own. It’s why when they revise the practice dating contract Taehyun sits with them, the way a lawyer would for a celebrity couple signing a prenuptial agreement.

“Okay,” Taehyun says, picking up the piece of paper Beomgyu calls a contract. It’s a little wrinkled and it took Beomgyu a hot minute to find it, because he couldn’t remember which textbook he’d slipped it in. “When you said contract, I was really impressed, but hyung, this just says the word ‘dates’ on it.”

Beomgyu pouts, “Come on, Taehyunie, you’re the pre-law major here. If we knew how to do everything, then we wouldn’t be here asking you.”

Yeonjun sighs for the fifth time since they’ve sat down. Beomgyu elbows him as a warning, but he doesn’t even react. Taehyun sighs too, picking up a pen and adding to the contract, “So first, if you want to be a good boyfriend, you should be physically affectionate...”

 


 

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Yeonjun asks, looking at Beomgyu with concern.

They’re standing outside of Yeonjun’s apartment, both of them all bundled up as the sun’s down and the evening air is more than a touch cold. Beomgyu barely hears his question, as he’s busy struggling to close his jacket.

“Ya!” Yeonjun yells with frustration, before sighing and zipping Beomgyu’s jacket himself. “Why didn’t you wear a thicker jacket?

Beomgyu shivers, but smiles brightly at him, “But hyung, look, this way we’re matching!”

The hard look on Yeonjun’s face acquiesces to something much softer, “Is that so? Did you plan this?”

“Like it’s that hard to predict what you’re going to wear,” Beomgyu smugly says, “I’m a slow learner but I do learn. You should wear couple looks on dates!”

Yeonjun flicks his nose, chuckling when it crinkles immediately under his touch. “Who says this was a date?

“I did. A convenience store date with my practice boyfriend. To practice physical affection,” Beomgyu recites, trying to imitate Taehyun’s tone when he’d said it.

“And you’re going to be okay with it? You know how touchy couples usually are, right? Holding hands, sitting close together, touching all the time—”

“Are you going to be okay with it?” Beomgyu raises a brow at him, “I know I’m an airhead but I do understand what I’m asking. And I know you, you’d never do anything that would make me feel uncomfortable. And despite how I act and how often I joke around with you, I’m not going to do anything you’re not okay with either.”

You can back out, Beomgyu thinks. Just say the word, and I’ll let you go, Beomgyu holds his breath.

“I know you won’t,” Yeonjun says softly, “And of course, I’ll be okay with it. Should we go then?”

Just like that, Beomgyu exhales, tendrils of misty air escaping from his mouth. Maybe, there’s relief too. Before Yeonjun can start walking though, Beomgyu stops him, “Wait—”

“What is it?” Yeonjun tilts his head to the side.

Beomgyu scratches his head, feeling his cheeks heat up, but shoulders on, “Can we hold hands?”

Yeonjun chuckles and extends a hand, “Yes, come on. The store is going to be closed by the time we get there at this rate.”

Beomgyu wordlessly takes it. Warmth overtakes him — he doesn’t remember the last time he’s asked to hold someone’s hand, nor the last person (outside of Yeonjun) whose hand he’s held. Maybe his mother? In any case, it’s shaking his heart. He wants to lecture his heart; why are you beating so rapidly? It’s just a hand, you fool.

But it’s Yeonjun’s hand, his heart responds back. And well, Beomgyu can’t say anything towards that. He likes that hand.

Nevertheless, there’s so many inconvenient things about holding hands. First of all, it means you only have one free hand to use at all times. There are so many things you need two hands for, like holding a heavy basket, inspecting snacks, and even the act of pulling out one’s wallet to pay. Then there’s the hand holding itself; is it just his own nervousness or does everyone’s hands get so sweaty? He hopes Yeonjun doesn’t mention it.

And then, when he inevitably has to let Yeonjun’s hand go, does he have to ask him again to hold hands? Will it be as humiliating and as nerve-wracking as the first time?

(The answer? Yes. But only for the second time. The third time he asks, Yeonjun just laughs and says, you don’t have to ask every time.)

But despite all the reasons he’s outlined above, Beomgyu completely understands why people hold hands, why it’s worth writing a song over. Holding hands, from movies to books to songs, is such a publicized affair, but it’s the closeness, like holding a secret out in the open. Who else knows the warmth and weight of Yeonjun’s hand?

It can be a fun little game too. Like when they’re sitting next to each other on the couch and Yeonjun lets him play with his hand underneath the blanket covering their lap, or when they go out to eat at a restaurant and he holds Yeonjun’s hand underneath the table.

It’s thrilling — to hold something, briefly and without anyone else knowing.

 


 

“Next,” Taehyun hums, “Couples typically support each other, right? Maybe practice being supportive of each other, like bring each other coffee in the morning even when you yourself don’t like it—”

Beomgyu smirks, “Oh, kind of like the way Soobin-hyung buys a caramel macchiato every morning even though I’m pretty sure he doesn’t drink coffee?”

Yeonjun tries to hide a chuckle beside him and sneakily lays out his hand for a high-five. Beomgyu eagerly meets it. Taehyun is unimpressed.

“This isn’t about me,” Taehyun rolls his eyes, writing supporting each other in neat strokes and dotting his i’s with hearts. “Do you guys have any ideas on how best to practice this?”

Beomgyu looks at Yeonjun with consideration. Yeonjun winks at him. This bastard thinks he’s so cute.  “I’m sure we can come up with something.”

 


 

It takes them a couple of tries to come up with something.

“I don’t think this is going to work,” Beomgyu sighs, leaning his head against Yeonjun’s shoulder, “I don’t get why I have to wake up so early to walk you to class. Why are you taking a class as early as 9 am, huh?”

“It’s yoga for the elective requirement, and it’s a nice way to start the day,” Yeonjun ruffles his hair, “And this is to support me, remember?”

Beomgyu lifts his head and barely manages to refrain from rolling his eyes, “Do you feel supported? Do you even need support?”

Yeonjun pinches his cheek, and Beomgyu pushes his hand away, annoyed, “I feel supported by this bright attitude you’re giving me. Won’t you give hyung a smile?”

Beomgyu gives him the blankest face he can muster, and Yeonjun stops walking, “If you’re going to be super grumpy about it, then why did you even bother getting up and going through with it?”

“Because,” Beomgyu fights the urge to yawn, “I wanted to try it just once.”

Yeonjun sighs, “Go back to bed, Beomgyu.”

Walking each other to class, as a first attempt, was a failure.

Related to that, they also tried picking each other up from classes, but their schedules just didn’t work out. It cut too close to Yeonjun’s dance practice and Beomgyu had his own shift at work to get to. Yeonjun had then joked that maybe Beomgyu could move into their apartment and start contributing to rent, but Beomgyu had sulked so severely over the comment that Yeonjun took it back immediately.

So what if Beomgyu was always around their apartment? He elevates the usual sad vibes! He makes their fridge look fuller by stocking his drinks in there! He lets them borrow a candle or two, so their apartment can smell better! And in exchange, Beomgyu gets the privilege of lounging around on their couch? Beomgyu should start charging them for his presence.

For now, he will continue taking advantage of their couch space. Maybe he will continue to think about how to practice supporting his ‘boyfriend.’

He sighs.

He sighs again, this time louder.

He huffs, and then takes the biggest breath only to release it all in the loudest sigh he can muster.

And then — he finally hears Soobin step out of the kitchen with an open bag of chips, “What do you want?”

Beomgyu pats the space beside him on the couch, “Sit with me, hyung. I feel like I haven’t seen you in a while.”

Soobin walks over to him, while munching on a chip, “What, you miss me?”

“No, I just wanted some chips,” Beomgyu eyes the bag, trying to reach for it but Soobin keeps it away from him.

“Hyuuuuuung,” Beomgyu whines with grabby hands; it makes Soobin snort, finally sitting down beside him.

“I’ll share, but only because I know you actually really miss me,” Soobin brings the bag close to Beomgyu, who eagerly grabs a chip and eats it to hide the growing smile on his face. Soobin knows him too well.

Beomgyu rests his head on Soobin’s shoulder and sighs, “Seriously though, I feel like I’m hanging out with Yeonjun-hyung more than you. Are you trying to give us more alone time?” Beomgyu lifts his head and looks at Soobin, touched, with a hand on his heart, “Hyung, I’m touched. You really do love me!”

“You are so,” Soobin pauses, “creative. You truly belong in the arts. But it’s not intentional! Taehyun and Kai have been inviting me to join them for late dinner slash snacks at their apartment.”

Beomgyu frowns, “My poor Kai. Why are you guys making him third wheel?”

Soobin sticks his tongue out at him and then sighs, “I’m the third wheel. Have you seen the way Taehyun looks at him? I wish he’d look at me like that.”

Beomgyu looks at him and feels his heart drop.  He knows first hand what that feels like. To have your heart set on somebody who’s heart is with someone else. Although, Beomgyu doesn’t think this is such a case. He has seen how Taehyun looks at Kai, but Beomgyu has also seen the way Taehyun looks at Soobin. Beomgyu has a PhD in yearning and can definitely tell the difference. But an insecure heart can’t see that. Beomgyu cuddles up to him, “It’s okay. They’re not dating, right? And he keeps inviting you to have dinner and snacks with him? If he was in love with Kai, he would try to get as much alone time with him. But he doesn’t.”

“That’s...true. I won’t join the lonely hearts club yet,” Soobin sighs, resting his head on top of Beomgyu’s.

“That’s fine. Population will stay as one then,” Beomgyu smiles. Soobin’s heart is pure like a child and it should stay that way, Beomgyu thinks. “Anyway, do you want to get some boba? Doesn’t a taro milk tea sound so good, right now?”

Soobin hums, “It does, but I don’t want to get up. It’s too cold outside and it’s nice and warm here.”

“I am not paying for delivery. The delivery fee is going to be double the total amount we have to pay,” Beomgyu reasons from experience.

Soobin groans, “What should we do then? I really want it now that you’ve mentioned it.”

“If only someone could pick it up for us. If only someone was so kind and so generous and loving. If only—” Beomgyu grins, pulling out his phone, “I have an idea.”

Beomgyu’s bright idea materializes an hour later in the form of a displeased Choi Yeonjun, carrying two cups of boba and his duffel bag. “I can’t believe you made me pick up your damn drinks! You guys said you were sad! But instead the two of you are out here having the time of your life!”

The two of them were on their phones, giggling and cuddling on the couch. Beomgyu gives him his best pout, “But hyung, we were sad when we texted you! Didn’t you see the picture we sent you?”

Yeonjun rolls his eyes, “Which one? You sent me so many messages. The lies...the manipulation…”

Beomgyu hits Soobin on the shoulder, whispering look sad, dumbass, and Soobin immediately schools his expression into something heartwrenching, “Hyung, how could you accuse your favorite people on Earth of such bad things?”

Beomgyu nods and in a cutesy voice says, “Don’t you love us, hyung? And that’s why you picked up our milk teas? Out of love?”

“You guys are lucky I’m too tired to beat you guys up,” Yeonjun huffs, dropping his duffel bag to the floor and their milk teas on the kitchen counter. “Come here at least. I draw the line at putting the straw in your mouth. I feel like a single mother of two.”

Beomgyu shoves Soobin off him and Soobin yelps as he falls to the floor. Beomgyu skips happily to his drink, fully ignoring the high pitched yell of his name by Soobin. He does a little hehe as he tears the straw open from its package and stabs it into his drink. Immediately, he takes a sip and does a little wiggle of happiness.

Soobin gets his revenge a second later by flicking the back of Beomgyu’s head and immediately hiding behind Yeonjun when Beomgyu moves to hit him back. Yeonjun’s just standing there, minding his business and drinking his water.

Revenge is a lost cause. Beomgyu gives up on it for now.

His eyes focus on Yeonjun instead, how pink his cheeks are, like fresh white peaches. Beomgyu wants to eat him. “Was it cold outside, hyung?”

Instead of responding, Yeonjun presses his hand to Beomgyu’s cheek, causing him to yelp. It’s colder than the dead.

Soobin laughs at him and he holds himself back from glaring. Beomgyu chooses to be the better person and ignores him. To Yeonjun, he says, “Hyung, as a thank you for picking up our milk tea, what if I bought dinner for tonight? Is there anything you want to eat?”

Yeonjun pretends to think, “What about...sashimi?”

“Yes! I want that too,” Soobin says, gleeful to have somebody on his side bullying Beomgyu.

Beomgyu huffs, pouting while pulling up his phone, “If that’s what you want…” He sniffs, plenty pitiful, “I guess I’ll just have ramen for tonight.”

Yeonjun finally laughs, stopping him from pulling up the delivery app on his phone, “I’m just kidding. I’m good with anything. I’m just hungry.”

“Hyung,” Soobin scolds, “You can’t just give in to him when he starts pouting. It’s a fake pout, hyung.”

“But he can’t eat sashimi anyway, and it’s not fun to eat when not everyone can eat. Pick something else,” Yeonjun says, kindly.

“What about Chinese? I can do jajangmyeon and tangsuyuk? Or even pho?” Soobin suggests.

Beomgyu nods, “I’m good with either. We can do chinese tonight and then get pho tomorrow night.”

Yeonjun shakes his head, “No, let’s do pho tonight with those spring rolls. You guys can do Chinese tomorrow.”

“Oh?” Soobin looks curiously at him, “Are you not eating here tomorrow night?”

Beomgyu holds his breath and tries not to let the apprehension show in his face.  Instead, he smirks and snidely asks, “Oh, why? You got a hot date tomorrow?”

“No,” Yeonjun raises a brow, and then a slow smile spreads on his face, “Unless you’re asking me out?”

Soobin groans, grabbing Yeonjun by the shoulders, “Please do not flirt in front of me. I don’t care if it’s practice, please I think I’m going to puke—”

Meanwhile, Beomgyu is standing there, with the smirk wiped off his face and his face flaming red. Yeonjun’s just cackling, “Man, I still got it.”

This is so humiliating. 

Beomgyu covers his face with one hand and turns away. He hates him, he hates him, he hates him! How could he let someone so embarrassing have so much power over him? Beomgyu doesn’t know what he did in his past life to suffer like this. To himself, he mutters, “You could have asked Kai or Taehyun or even Soobin, but nooooo, you had to ask Choi Yeonjun to be your practice boyfriend. This is your fault, Choi Beomgyu—”

Yeonjun hugs him, still laughing, “I’m sorry I couldn’t help it, your face looked so funny. But also take notes, that’s how you flirt with someone.”

“Beomgyu, I beg you,” Soobin says clasping his hands in front of his chest, “Don’t take flirting tips from him. That’s how you actually get water thrown at your face.”

Beomgyu ignores them both and just quietly starts putting his order in. And just as quietly, he passes the phone to Yeonjun. He sips his boba. He chews on a pearl. He questions his existence, briefly.  How did he end up here really, with his pride in shambles and his face redder than the worst fruit on earth (tomatoes)?

Yeonjun hands the phone to Soobin and stands beside Beomgyu, elbowing him gently, “That was good, right?”

Beomgyu doesn’t understand how a man with an ego this big constantly needs reassurance. “It was alright.”

“Just alright?” Yeonjun repeats, with a slight whine. “But I was so smooth and cool. You didn’t think so?”

Beomgyu ignores him, opting to stare blankly at the fridge. It’s decorated in random magnets, their class schedules printed out, numerous take-out menus, and an assortment of polaroids taken by Beomgyu’s camera. Soobin and Yeonjun aren’t too fussed about decorations, but Beomgyu thinks that’s just sad. It’s nicer to come back to a place that looks like home.

Yeonjun elbows him again, a pout in full bloom on his face. Sometimes, Beomgyu wisely thinks, the best way to deal with Choi Yeonjun is by ignoring him. He seriously hates it. At the same time, Soobin finishes his order and hands the phone back to Beomgyu. And just with a touch of his finger on his screen, their order is in.

Yeonjun eventually gives up on him and moves on to Soobin, snuggling up to him and asking if Soobin found him cool. Soobin whines and tries to push him away, but Soobin is far kinder and softer than Beomgyu is. He eventually gives in, nodding half-heartedly, and Yeonjun immediately brightens, turning to Beomgyu with his chin up, as if to say, see, somebody agrees.

What a fool, Beomgyu thinks.

A fool who cheers too loudly when their food gets delivered. A fool who eats too fast and too much and talks even when his mouth is full. A fool who’ll do kind things like pick up boba for his friends even when he’s too tired from practice.

A fool that Beomgyu likes. A fool that Beomgyu has a lot to learn from.

He must have been zoning out for a moment as they eat that Yeonjun interprets his silence as him being done eating, “Hey, are you not going to finish your spring roll? If not, can I have it?”

Beomgyu smiles, pushing his plate towards him, “Yeah, you can have it.” 

Soobin shakes his head as he watches Yeonjun take a huge bite of the spring roll,, “What are you going to do for your evening practices, huh? Who’s unfinished food are you going to eat?”

Yeonjun shrugs, “I’ll figure it out. It’s not like practice won’t let me out to grab a quick snack.”

“It’s not practice I’m worried about,” Soobin mutters, exchanging a glance with Beomgyu. Beomgyu knows what Soobin is trying to get at. Knowing their Yeonjun-hyung, he’s too much of a perfectionist that he’ll forget about break times and just keep going and going. He’ll drink water to fill the hunger and it just won’t do. Beomgyu wants him to eat well.

He remembers then, his earlier dilemma of supporting his practice boyfriend and how best to show it. He has an idea.

That next day, after he finishes his own dinner, he gets himself dressed up in a warm sherpa lined denim jacket and beanie that he found lying around on his floor, so he’s ready to brave the cold night. He skips his way to the convenience store and picks up an energy drink, several samgak kimbaps, and a cup of fruit. He makes sure to ask for chopsticks and napkins when he pays.

The dance department’s training rooms aren’t that much farther from the convenience store. It doesn’t take Beomgyu a long time at all, even when he takes his sweet time to enjoy the nice stars that are twinkling in the dark night sky. He’s in a bright mood when he reaches the training room Yeonjun’s practicing at. He can’t go in just yet since they’re in the middle of a routine, but he doesn’t mind — he gets a free show after all.

Beomgyu’s always been fascinated by the arts, if that wasn’t obvious enough by his chosen major. But dance is a whole other beast. There’s something about the physicality of it, how it commands your whole attention, whether you’re the artist or the audience. Then, there’s also the undeniable partnership dance has with music. A dance can be something of a love letter to a song. How good that song must have been to be chosen for a dance. Beomgyu is enamored.

Before he graduates, he hopes to take at least one dance class. He finds himself looking at Yeonjun, on the way he moves his arms, the nice line of his body, and finds himself wanting to copy the dance moves. He stands there for a bit of time, until the person who must be the dance captain claps his hand and calls for a ten minute break.

He waits for Yeonjun to turn around, watches as he wipes the sweat off his face with his arm, before he knocks on the door to signal his presence. This catches the attention of multiple people, including Yeonjun, who looks surprised to see him.

“Oh, Beomgyu, what are you doing here? Is everything okay?” Yeonjun says as soon as he comes to the door.

Beomgyu playfully pouts, “Can’t I visit you, hyung? What if I just wanted to see you?”

Yeonjun laughs, throwing his head back, “I understand I have that effect on people.”

“Okay, tone it down,” Beomgyu rolls his eyes, and then he pulls up the plastic bag of snacks he bought, “I did have a reason for coming here.”

Yeonjun’s eyes widen, “Oh my god—”

Dramatically, Beomgyu wipes a fake tear from his own cheek, “I was thinking about my Yeonjunnie-hyung, not eating three portions of a meal for dinner, not having anybody who’d let him steal food from, and it made me so sick to my stomach—”

Yeonjun doesn’t even look mad, too happy about the food, so Beomgyu drops the act, “I didn’t get much, since I figured you’d at least have dinner. But you’re burning a lot of calories, so it’ll be good to replenish it by eating! But don’t eat too much, because you might get a stomach ache if you go back to practicing. Choi Yeonjun, are you listening?”

“How could I not listen when my practice boyfriend cares so much about me?” Yeonjun teases, taking the plastic bag from Beomgyu’s hands. “Wearing my jacket, buying me food. My heart almost fluttered.”

“Almost?” Beomgyu is practicing hard at training himself to get used to Yeonjun’s flirting. He thinks he’s semi-succeeding when he can sigh and faux disappointment in response, “I should try harder next time then.”

Yeonjun pinches his cheek lightly, “There’s always room for improvement.”

“But I still did good, right?” Beomgyu asks, unable to help it.

“So good,” Yeonjun says, ruffling his hair. “Should hyung brag about it? Everyone’s going to be so jealous—”

“Hyung, no, shut up—” Beomgyu tries to stop him, but when Yeonjun means to be insufferable, he just can’t be stopped.

“Guys, my cute dongsaeng brought me some food! Personally delivered. I have never even seen your boyfriends or girlfriends bring you guys anything—”

Beomgyu’s face gets so red from the attention and Yeonjun’s antics, he barely feels cold on the way back home. But he thinks about the happy surprise on Yeonjun’s face and thinks maybe the embarrassment is worth it.

Or maybe the true fool here isn’t Yeonjun. It’s Beomgyu.

 


 

Taehyun rolls his neck, sighing when he feels it crack, “Man, you should be paying me for this.”

Beomgyu makes a heart with his hands, “I only have love to give you.”

“Hmm,” Taehyun hums, not hearing him, and Beomgyu nudges Yeonjun with his elbow, while maintaining the heart pose. Yeonjun purses his lips, a hint of annoyance, but copies Beomgyu’s pose, even adding an air kiss to send to Taehyun.

But Taehyun just raises a brow at them. Beomgyu sighs, turning to Yeonjun, “What do you think?”

“I only have five oranges and an expired banana milk in the fridge,” Yeonjun whispers.

Beomgyu furrows his brows, trying to think hard about what they could offer. Yeonjun snaps his fingers, and Beomgyu looks at him excited, “You have something?”

Yeonjun nods, “Soobin owes me a favor, so we can volunteer him.”

Beomgyu nods at that, pleased. They turn to Taehyun and offer exactly that, “Whatever you want, Soobin will provide.”

“Oh?” Taehyun eyes turn from full moons to happy crescents, “Would he be okay with that?”

“Taehyun, please,” Beomgyu snorts, “Soobin would be honored. Anyway, what’s next?”

“Well, this is kind of similar to the last point. I kind of want to expand upon it. There’s supporting each other, right? You could do that by giving gifts or by expressing your appreciation for them in words. But I think one of the true marks of caring for your partner is just going out of your way for them. You give up your own time to do these things just to make them happy.”

 


 

There was one night in October, where him and Soobin had been too lazy to go out on a Friday night and instead, they had each opened a bottle of beer and turned on the television. He doesn’t even remember how they ended up on the National Geographic Channel, but before they knew it, they were sucked in by a program for Emperor Penguins of all things.

Cute little birds, Beomgyu and Soobin had cooed, bodies warm from the alcohol.

The camera follows the life of a single Emperor penguin, and they watch, riveted, as the baby chick emerges from its egg, underneath the male penguin’s pouch. They watch as it gets fed it’s first meal of krill and fish, as it takes its first step out of the warmth of their parents, and then eventually, being left alone in a creche of penguins while their parents go out to hunt for food.

The documentary tugs at their heartstrings, making it feel for this penguin they’ve watched grow up right before their eyes and in the span of a couple minutes no less. It’s heartwarming to see it make friends and learn how to bear through the cold as it waits for its parents to come back. And then, the narrator started to announce that it was time for the baby penguin to go off on its own with the other baby penguins and start hunting for food for itself.

Beomgyu remembers Soobin sitting up straighter then and asking him, “Already? But they’re just babies!”

Beomgyu agreed but shushed him, so that they could see what happens. Their baby penguin was reluctant to go and needed to be pushed by its parents to join the crowd. The narrator cruelly mentions, it needed to learn or it would starve.

It’s a slow waddle for the baby penguin and its comrades to the ocean. A treacherous road too; the show had shown a small segment where the babies had been followed by a skua bird. Their baby penguin almost gets picked on, but the other penguins had quickly made a barrier around it and an Adelie penguin comes to save the day and finish escorting them to the water. Through the ordeal, Beomgyu’s heart had beat fast, and Soobin must have been nervous too, with the way he was clutching tightly to the pillow. They hold their breaths as it finally reaches the blue waters, watched as their baby penguin hesitates the slightest bit, and then a video montage of its journey from birth, its trials and wins, everything it took to get there plays. There’s some orchestral strings in the background to support the scene, and it tugged hard at the heart.

Before they knew it, the penguin was a baby no more and it jumped into the ocean, off to fend for itself in search of food. Beomgyu felt his eyes water, doesn’t know why he was so touched by the growth of a little bird. He turned to Soobin to make excuses of why his eyes are so watery, but Soobin was wiping his eyes too. And then, they both started crying, inexplicably so.

Maybe it was the alcohol, which had made them a little bit loose, a little less guarded. For when they settled in Soobin’s bed to sleep that night, Beomgyu had said, “I’m glad I’m not a penguin.”

“Why?” Soobin had asked, softly in the dark.

Beomgyu shrugged a little, eyes almost closed, “I don’t think I could’ve just left home like that, so young. It was just a baby.”

Soobin laughed, “But we did. Eighteen is young. We looked like babies at the beginning of university.”

“I guess,” Beomgyu acquiesces. And then another question: “Do you think the baby penguin misses home?”

Soobin was almost asleep but he still answered, “I think so. It looked back just before it left. That’s how you know.”

“Know what?”

“When someone is longing.”

Beomgyu snorted, “That sounded really deep. Are you sure you don’t want to be a poet?” And also, Beomgyu mumbled, “What does that say about us? We both got on the high speed rail to Seoul and never looked back.”

Soobin made a soft noise of disagreement, “We do. We do it all the time. When you stop in the middle of the street because you smell something like your mom’s perfume. Or when, I see a puppy that looks just like Sean back home. We miss it.” Soobin reached over and patted Beomgyu’s chest, “And it aches, just slightly, right here.”

Beomgyu touched the hand on his chest, patting it, “What should I do then, when it aches? What do you do?”

“We call our moms and tell them we miss them. Maybe look at the moon. When that’s not enough, I just look at you though.”

“Why look at me?”

“Why not? You’re my oldest friend. My childhood friend. If nothing else, you feel like home.”

Beomgyu had been so touched when Soobin said that, he prayed that Soobin had fallen asleep immediately as he said that, so he can emote properly in peace. But Soobin never lets him live and never lets up whether Beomgyu is embarrassed, crying, or angry. Soobin had cooed at him, half-asleep, voice hoarse, and said, “Aigoo, that baby penguin is braver than you.”

But it’s true. Beomgyu is made of puffed air bravado. And sometimes, when he runs out of it, Soobin is the only person who knows him well enough to grab him aside, cheer him up, and reassure him that everything’s going to be okay. Soobin is the lighthouse of his universe, his home away from home.

So it becomes a habit, that when he’s missing home, it’s Soobin he turns to. And Soobin will pull him tighter, be more affectionate, and let him sleep over without Beomgyu even needing to ask.

These days, though, Beomgyu tries hard not to lean on him so much. He knows Soobin is secretly stressed out about his classes, that he’s been spending his time between working harder to do better and hanging out with Taehyun. And Beomgyu just doesn’t want to add on to Soobin’s plate.

Homesickness is a disease that hits the hardest in the middle of a semester, so if Beomgyu is feeling a little blue, a bit more quiet, a shade more dim, everyone’s thankfully a little too busy to notice. It feels nice in a way, to carry the loneliness in a corked bottle, only to pull it open when alone. This way, it ferments like grapes, turning something sour into something dark and bitter and sweet, good enough for Beomgyu to savor in a dark room lit by the moon.

Some things Beomgyu shouldn’t share.

But the moon can only witness so much, and there is only so much loneliness Beomgyu can carry before his own hands get too tired. With each passing day, he has less energy to pretend everything’s alright. He wants to just stay in bed and count down the days till he gets to go home. But there’s classes, and clubs, and work, and homework — Beomgyu is just so tired of it all.

The only thing getting him through it are his friends. Even if they don’t know what’s going on with him, just by being with them and making them laugh brightens his day. He gets this thought in his head, as a joke he says brings everyone to tears with laughter, that he’s getting good at this, masking loneliness. 

And just when he thinks that, he gets the biggest surprise when Yeonjun asks him to stay back at the end of a get together between their newly formed dinner-on-the-floor group. He had intended to go home, passing on the invite to get dessert from Soobin, Taehyun and Kai, but Yeonjun had held him by the hand to stop him and asked, “Can we talk? Just us?”

They’re sitting on Yeonjun’s bed, and Beomgyu is wondering what the hell Yeonjun wants to talk about. Was it about the practice dating? Was he getting sick of it? Did he want to stop doing it? Beomgyu tries to act nonchalant, looking everywhere but at Yeonjun, who was maybe trying to brave his way through breaking Beomgyu’s heart.

“Beomgyu,” Yeonjun says, taking Beomgyu’s hand into his lap and interlacing their fingers, “Is there something that’s been bothering you?”

The question catches Beomgyu off guard. He blinks as he digests the question, before carefully asking back, “What makes you ask that?”

“It’s nothing,” Yeonjun sighs, looking down at their hands, “It’s just that you’ve been a bit more quiet lately and I know that could mean nothing, but I figured I’d ask.”

“I thought I’ve been acting the same?” Maybe Beomgyu wasn’t as good of an actor as he thought himself to be.

Yeonjun shrugs, “I don’t know. Maybe I thought wrong. It just felt like you didn’t have that glow you usually have.”

Beomgyu doesn’t know why, but that makes him snort so loud, “I glow? Hyung, you think I glow? Like I have a light around me? Bro...that is so romantic…”

“Fuck you,” Yeonjun scowls, letting go of Beomgyu’s hand, but Beomgyu is quick to grab them back in his hold, laughing the whole while. He laughs and laughs, finds himself falling over Yeonjun, his face onto Yeonjun’s shoulder. And then something terrible happens.

Somehow, his laughs subside into tears, like rain starting to fall on a bright sunny day. It shocks both of them, leading both of them to fumble: Beomgyu away, desperately trying to shield his eyes, and Yeonjun closer, unsure hands hovering over Beomgyu’s frame.

“Oh no,” Yeonjun says, worriedly. “Did I fuck up? God, Soobin is going to kill me—”

“I’m okay, I’m okay,” Beomgyu assures him, hastily wiping his eyes with the long sleeve of his shirt.

Yeonjun sighs with worry, “No, no, you’re not. Why are you trying to comfort me? What’s wrong? Do you want to talk about it?”

Beomgyu nods, but when he tries to speak, he just gets all choked up. Like he’s trying to summon the feeling, but it’s stuck right in his chest. It’s this goddamn ache.

Yeonjun decisively hugs him then, wrapping him in his arms and his warmth, patting him on the back, shushing him, “It’s okay, we can talk about it once you’re ready. I’m not Soobin, but I’ll listen, okay? I’m here. I’m here.”

It takes an embarrassing amount of time for Beomgyu to pull himself together. He’s sorry, so sorry to Yeonjun and the spot of tears he’s made on his right shoulder. But it’s nice to have someone to lean on. The loneliness was so heavy, yet here in Yeonjun’s arms, it feels light like a cloud. Beomgyu sniffles, “Do you think you could close the lights and then we can talk? It’s embarrassing, I-I don’t want you to see my face.”

“What happened to I’m so handsome the gods would want to steal my face?” Yeonjun jokes, hoping to pull a laugh, but Beomgyu only pushes him to the light switch. “Okay, okay. I’ll turn it off.”

The light had been so unforgiving, and when Yeonjun turns the lights off, Beomgyu just feels like he can breathe better. Yeonjun comes back to bed and Beomgyu reaches for a hug immediately. The way they’re seated makes the position awkward, though, and Yeonjun scratches the back of his head, “Do you wanna lay down instead? It would be easier to, you know…”

“Yeah, we could,” Beomgyu says, feeling around in the dark. Yeonjun feels his distress and simply maneuvers them both, so that Yeonjun is lying on his back and Beomgyu is in his arms, head laying on his shoulders, and a blanket pulled over their forms. Timidly, Beomgyu says, “This is nice.”

“I’m glad,” Yeonjun sighs, and when he exhales, Beomgyu feels it with his own body. Have they ever been this close? “Do you want to talk now?”

Beomgyu nods, and Yeonjun must feel the movement with his own body too. “Yeah, I just feel like you’re going to be mad at me when you hear the reason, it’s like not a big deal at all—”

“Why would I be mad? Whatever it is must be really important to you for you to be keeping it in and then suddenly crying this much. It’s just me. You trust me, right?”

Beomgyu sighs, finally letting any mask he has on drop. “I just miss home. A lot. I want to go home so badly, but I can’t. I miss my mom, my dad, my baby parrot, and even my stupid brother. I miss how my mom smells, especially when she’s cooking. Ugh, I sound like a baby.”

“You are a baby,” Yeonjun says, fondly, “What else do you miss? What does Daegu have that the great city of Seoul doesn’t have?”

Beomgyu pouts, “It’s not as cold for one. Daegu winters are much nicer. Also, the people there are much friendlier and everybody has the same accent as me.”

“Is that so?” Yeonjun says, like he’s talking to a baby, words dripping like honey, “But how good can Daegu be, when it doesn’t have this one thing that Seoul has?”

Beomgyu closes his eyes, “If you’re going to say Daegu doesn’t have you, I don’t want to hear it—”

“Whyyyyy,” Yeonjun whines, his fingers pressing to Beomgyu’s side. A threat to tickle, if Beomgyu ever saw one. “It’s true.”

“You need to come to Daegu, by the way. You need to see the great high-tech railway system that we have—”

Yeonjun sighs, “Listen, when I asked if you came here by way of a tractor, you know I was kidding, right?

“Anyway,” Beomgyu ignores him, lost in his memories, “And the cherry blossoms! There was a long line of trees outside our middle school, and I felt like I was in a korean drama every time I walked to school. I got really interested in photography back then, and I’d take lots of photos of the streets at that time. I have soooo many photos of Soobin-hyung, he wasn’t that tall then…” When Beomgyu gets going, he sometimes doesn’t realize how long he’s gone on talking, and there’s just so much to say about Beomgyu’s idyllic childhood.

But then he realizes he hasn’t heard Yeonjun speak in a while, so he stops mid-sentence, wondering if Yeonjun had fallen asleep. “Hyung? Did I put you to sleep?”

“Hm? No, no, you’re okay,” Yeonjun replies, in a low voice. He sounded like he was close to sleep. “You can keep talking. I’m listening.”

But Beomgyu feels bad continuing when it’s obvious Yeonjun’s tired, “It’s okay, I don’t want to burden you with it, I usually talk to Soobin about this kind of thing—”

“Seriously, it’s okay,” Yeonjun insists, but Beomgyu is already trying to get up. He fails though, for Yeonjun’s arm around his waist tightens and his face smacks against Yeonjun’s chest.

“Hyung,” Beomgyu whines.

“Beomgyu,” Yeonjun says in the same tone, and Beomgyu can tell he is rolling his eyes, “Come on, you’re not a burden. Not to me.”

Beomgyu knows he means it as a friend, that it speaks of how Yeonjun likes to take care of him the way a big brother would, but Beomgyu’s traitor of a heart flutters anyway. “Really?” He asks, just to make sure he heard it right.

“You know I adore you, right?” Yeonjun says, sounding rather shy. He’s getting brave and nice, all because it’s dark. Beomgyu wants to see his face. “Even though all you do is prank me, and bully me, and love Soobin over me—”

“I get it—”

“What I’m trying to say is, you can lean on me too. I’m sure Soobin is way better at comforting and you’ve known him for much longer, but you have me too, okay? You don’t have to keep it all in.”

Beomgyu doesn’t know what to say, overwhelmed once again by the affection he feels for Yeonjun. Instead, he just snuggles closer and says, “Okay, thank you.”

He then feels the lightest pressure on his head, followed by hands running through his hair. Belatedly, he realizes Yeonjun must have kissed the crown on his head, for Yeonjun says, “Good, it hurts Hyung's heart to see you sad.”

Yeonjun doesn’t stop petting his head, and he finds himself being lulled to sleep in Yeonjun’s arms. There’s nothing else to be said; after all, Beomgyu has a heart that only needs to be held.

Yeonjun doesn’t think so though.

Beomgyu gets a random text message from him that Sunday, asking him if he’s already eaten lunch. Snarkily, he replies: it’s 2 pm on a sunday...i’ve only been awake for ten minutes so far...

Yeonjun replies with two messages. One was a text with three ellipses. The second just said: well come over and eat with me.

Beomgyu is not going to say no to a free ticket for his first meal of the day (he’s not going to say no to Yeonjun either, but he doesn’t need to know that.)

When he arrives at Yeonjun’s apartment though, he’s surprised when he doesn’t see the usual take out boxes or even empty packages of Shin ramyun littered around the kitchen. Instead, there’s a lovely spread of dishes, bracketed by two bowls of rice, on their small dining table. It’s an understatement to say that it smells delicious. Beomgyu’s mouth is watering.

Yeonjun is smiling at his reaction, “Hungry?”

Beomgyu is just amazed, nodding, “Wow, hyung, where did you get all this?”

“Sit first, come on,” Yeonjun pushes him to take a seat, and then takes the seat opposite his. “So yesterday, after you left, I went back home and visited my mom. I asked her if I could bring back some of the food she cooked for dinner last night, and she gave me so much.”

And there is so much: Yeonjun points it out one by one: “Mom made galbi jjim last night, and she pretty much gave me everything that was in the pot. Then, she sent over tupperwares of different banchan, like these seasoned quail eggs, steamed eggs, fish cakes, seasoned spinach, etcetera.” 

Beomgyu doesn’t even know what to say. Like, it all just looks so good? Has spinach ever looked so deliciously green? Has galbi jjim always looked so succulent, with the meat looking like it’s about to fall apart from the bone? It’s a feast for the eyes.

“Why aren’t you eating yet?” Yeonjun asks, and Beomgyu smiles, sheepish, “I don’t know what to eat first.”

Yeonjun huffs a laugh, mumbling so cute, before placing a chunk of beef from the galbi jjim on top of his rice. “There, eat that first. Your first meal of the day and you’re starting it with me and galbi jjim. Oh Choi Beomgyu, you are so privileged.”

Beomgyu smiles at his bowl, too touched by Yeonjun’s gesture to be bothered by the teasing. Yeonjun points again at his bowl, “Hurry up! I’m trying to let you eat first and you’re making it very hard for me.”

“Okay, okay!” Beomgyu says, picking up the beef with his chopsticks and finally, under Yeonjun’s gaze bites into it. God, the beef is just so tender, and mixed in with the spicy, nutty, sweet sauce is just an explosion of flavor. His eyes widens at the taste, nodding in approval at Yeonjun, who’s smile just widens at Beomgyu’s reaction. Beomgyu swallows, “Hyung, this is so good. Tell your mom I love her. Home cooked food just tastes differently.”

Satisfied with Beomgyu’s reaction, Yeonjun finally starts eating too. The two of them are quiet eaters; there’s not much talking to be done. All you can hear is the sounds of chewing, metal chopsticks clanging against ceramic bowls and saucers, and the pleased sounds coming from both of them. Beomgyu’s not one for gluttonous eating, but he stuffs himself far more than what he usually eats. It’s so rare for him to eat home cooked meals, and galbi jjim at that. He thinks he probably ate more than Yeonjun, who had wordlessly refilled Beomgyu’s bowl with side dishes or more meat. At one point, Yeonjun had put a potato in his bowl, and Beomgyu had to move it back to Yeonjun’s bowl due to his distaste for it.

By the time they've cleared everything and left barely any for the trash, Beomgyu could die happy. He could also go back to sleep, feeling like he’ll pass out from being so full. Maybe he will take a nap after he helps Yeonjun clean the dishes.

They stand side by side in the sink, with Yeonjun washing the dishes and Beomgyu rinsing them with water and letting it dry on the rack. Already, Beomgyu feels sleepy again, so happy and content, “Hyung, thanks for sharing the food. It probably would have lasted longer if you didn’t share it with me.”

“That’s true, but going home would have been pointless if I didn’t share the food with you.”

“Huh? What do you mean?” Beomgyu turns to face him fully, but Yeonjun just continues scrubbing. “Didn’t you go home to visit your parents?”

“You’re...not wrong, but I specifically went home, because I knew my mom would cook a lot of food. And that she would definitely pack a lot of food for me.”

Beomgyu still doesn’t understand, “What does that have to do with sharing food with me?”

Yeonjun purses his mouth for a second, then shuts off the faucet and turns to Beomgyu. “Do I have to spell everything out for you?"

“Spell what out?”

“The other night,” Yeonjun begins awkwardly, eyes shifting to a point beyond Beomgyu’s stare, “you know, when you were talking about missing home?”

“Yes…” Beomgyu is biting his tongue. He thought that was going to remain unspoken between them. It sure had felt that way, when he woke up to Yeonjun’s sleeping face barely an inch away from his. That morning had been quiet, the air was cool and accepting, and the sun brought back the light, taking away any remnants of the previous night’s vulnerabilities.

Yeonjun shoulders on, “And how you missed your mom’s cooking? I’m not sure if I was helpful at all that night, but I thought what if I could get something close to your mom’s cooking?” Yeonjun stares at Beomgyu, hoping he could stop explaining by then.

But Beomgyu looks at him expectantly, so Yeonjun sighs again, “Okay, so I went home, whined at my mom to cook something good for me, brought it all back, so that I could feed you a nice home cooked meal. Because you miss home.”

Beomgyu’s mind hurriedly calculates the implication of all of this and nearly shuts down at the result it arrives at. He bites his lip, “Because you thought it would make me happy?”

Yeonjun scratches his head, sighing heavily, like he can’t believe Beomgyu is making him say it, “Did it make you happy?”

Beomgyu doesn’t know what compels him, if it’s the inadequacy of the word thank you or what, but he leans and gently kisses Yeonjun’s cheek. When he pulls away, he’s met with the stunned look on Yeonjun’s face. Beomgyu gives him his best smile, his brightest, all teeth and crinkled corners at the eyes, “Very happy.”

“What was that for?” Yeonjun asks, but Beomgyu just shrugs, a smile still on his face, and turns back to the dishes waiting for them in the sink.

After realizing Beomgyu wasn’t going to respond, Yeonjun can’t help but just smile back, pressing the back of his hand against Beomgyu’s cheek, before turning back to finish the dishes.

It’s an odd way to express how he feels, but it’s like standing underneath a pool of sunlight when it’s cold and grey. Beomgyu could pocket it and take it out like an umbrella on dark days. He looks again at Yeonjun beside him, and he’s got a smile on his face too.

This is nice, Beomgyu thinks. This is a good day.

He remembers the practice dating contract suddenly (are all his thoughts an infinite loop that begin and end with Yeonjun?) and thinks about how this is what Taehyun had wanted Beomgyu to practice. Going out of one’s way to make your partner happy. He brings it up to Yeonjun and says, “I should be the one trying to make you happy.”

Yeonjun laughs, “It’s okay, some things you can’t practice until the right moment comes. We’ll just say you learned and understood by watching and receiving.”

Beomgyu pouts, “I guess.”

Yeonjun shakes his head, putting both his hands on Beomgyu’s shoulders. There’s a playful look in his eyes that doesn’t match the serious set of his mouth, whatever he’s about to say is bound to be troublesome. Yeonjun gazes deep into Beomgyu’s eyes as he says, “As your practice boyfriend, you don’t even need to try. I’m happy because you’re happy.”

Beomgyu slaps his hands away, turning around to face away from him. “That was terrible!” Beomgyu groans, “Stop quoting the dramas we watch together. God!”

Yeonjun laughs and laughs and laughs.

Memory can be a faulty little thing, Beomgyu’s heard. It misremembers, it blurs, it shapes, and it’s wearing a blindfold as it decides which details to keep. Beomgyu won’t know what he’ll remember in the future, but he can take a guess. Here’s what will linger: the taste of galbi jjim, the gentle press of Yeonjun’s hand against his cheek, and the fullness (both stomach and heart).

 


 

“Oh, there’s one more thing,” Taehyun says, picking up the pen again, “I feel like couples typically show each other off, you know? Because they’re proud of each other or even just because you want to let everybody know that this person is yours.”

Beomgyu shakes his head, “I can’t do that. Yeonjun hyung’s ego is already so big, it would be a crime to inflate it.”

“It’s called being secure in your identity?” Yeonjun easily retorts, “Also, think about how much clout you’ll get from telling people you’re dating me—”

“Isn’t it the other way around? Think about how much clout you’ll get when they find out you’re dating me—”

Taehyun sighs, unable to hear more of this. He passes them the contract back and says, “My job here is done. All you need to do is sign it both. I’ll collect my Soobin payment when I need it.”

 


 

There are moments so rare that one must take advantage of it without hesitation.

One such moment is Soobin agreeing to come to the party hosted by the dance team. It doesn’t need to be said, but Yeonjun is obviously going. Beomgyu’s been invited three separate times by different people each time, so he’s also going. Yeonjun had then extended the invite to Kai and Taehyun, who were both excited to go. Soobin usually says no to going to these events, often preferring to stay at home and chill by himself.

But Taehyun and Kai didn’t know that. They had simply looked at Soobin, stars in their eyes, and asked if he was coming too. Beomgyu and Yeonjun watched with interest as Soobin stuttered and fumbled and then eventually nodded, saying, “Yes, I’m coming too.”

For Soobin’s sake, the two of them stayed quiet about what their thoughts on that were until Taehyun and Kai left their apartment, and Beomgyu had barely waited two seconds before pouncing on Soobin, “Ya, you’re actually going?”

Soobin struggled to push him off, “Stop, I’m already regretting it! I don’t go to these things for a reason.”

Yeonjun saw that Soobin had almost gotten Beomgyu off him, so he piled himself on top of them, pushing Soobin down to the couch. Soobin groaned pitifully, “Get off meeeeeeeeee.”

“It’s going to be fun! People always ask me why you never come, and I have to explain every time that you’re not into parties,” Yeonjun explained.

“I never go, because it’s awkward. And everybody is so loud and drunk and that includes the both of you. I haven’t forgotten last time I came with you guys, by the way—”

Sandwiched between Soobin and Yeonjun, Beomgyu griped, “Hey, I apologized for that already. I really didn’t mean to throw up on your shoes—” 

Yeonjun laughed and Beomgyu tried to push him off in retaliation, all while Soobin suffered underneath them both,  “Okay, this is what I mean! I don’t like going if I’m going to have to take care of you both.”

“But you won’t have to!” Beomgyu assured him, “Hyung and I have been to more parties since then and we can handle our alcohol just fine.”

“If Beomgyu gets wild, I’ll handle him,” Yeonjun promised.

“How?”

Beomgyu patted Soobin’s head, “He says, he’ll handle it. Besides, you know who you should worry about? Our cute little freshmen.”

“Oh god,” Soobin covered his face with his hands, “Oh god.”

“I won’t be handling that,” Yeonjun said, contributing nothing.

Either way, it’s Soobin’s crisis to handle. Beomgyu thinks it will absolutely be fun, especially with Soobin there. He’ll have to ply him with a couple drinks to loosen up and he’ll have to let Taehyun and Kai in on his plan to get Soobin to have some fun. Gonna be a blast.

His plan begins a couple of hours before the party. The five of them are planning on getting together to pre-game before the party, but before then, Beomgyu had wanted to get ready at Soobin and Yeonjun’s apartment. He also had plans to crash at their place after the party (just in case things were to go south; a precaution if you will). As such, he just brought a duffel bag of everything he’ll need for the night.

When he finally arrives at their place, though, he finds Soobin lounging on the couch. He’s in sweatpants and eating ice cream, like he’s got no plans for the night.

“Um, hello?” Beomgyu says, dramatically dropping his duffel bag to the floor. “Are we partying tonight or what?”

Soobin rolls his eyes, “There’s three hours until the party. I’m gonna relax until then.”

Beomgyu shakes his head in disappointment. This cannot do. “Do you have an outfit? What are you going to wear? Also, I told Taehyun and Kai to come by in an hour for our pre-game.”

“In an hour?!” Soobin sits up, startled, dropping some ice cream on his lap. “Why are you guys pre-gaming two hours early?

“You guys?” Beomgyu raises a brow, “You’re pre-gaming with us, stop excluding yourself. Also, It needs to be two hours, because we’re accounting for travel time, people arriving later than what we tell them to, and for the alcohol to hit. I am not arriving there sober, and neither are you, if I get my way.”

And Beomgyu will get his way. Soobin does get off the couch and starts to get ready, complaining the whole time that now he’s feeling pressured to look good. Beomgyu follows him to his room and flops down on Soobin’s bed, watching as Soobin rummages his closet for what he is going to wear.

When Beomgyu sees Soobin pull out a familiar shirt, he groans immediately, “Hyung, you can’t wear that.”

“Why not?” Soobin pouts, putting the shirt to his body, “I like this shirt.”

“You wear that shirt all the time,” Beomgyu flicks his hand, urging Soobin to keep searching.

Soobin pulls out another shirt, but Beomgyu immediately rejects it. This cycles through a couple more times, before Soobin glares at Beomgyu. “Can you spare me and get up and choose then? Why are you vetoing everything I choose?”

Beomgyu sighs, “But I don’t want to get up. Also, everything you choose is comfortable. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but everybody else is going to be all dressed up. You’re not going to the convenience store, you’re going to a party.”

Soobin sighs, “Okay, then what do you have in mind?”

“What about that white turtleneck I gave you for your birthday?”

“No,” Soobin rejects, “That’s so revealing.”

“It’s a turtleneck, my friend.”

“You know what I mean! It’s like tight on me—”

“You mean, form fitting—” Beomgyu cuts himself off, “Do you want to look sexy or not?”

“I don’t need to look sexy,” Soobin rolls his eyes, “I’m not Yeonjun-hyung.”

Well, Beomgyu can admit, that’s fair. No one else has such inclinations. “Fine, not sexy. But I want you to look good, so you can feel good. I don’t want you to sit in the corner on some dirty couch and wait for us to have our fun and then leave. I miss you and I want us to have fun,” Beomgyu puts his hands together, folded like a prayer, “Please? Just put it on and if you really hate it, then you can wear something else.”

Soobin sighs, and Beomgyu knows he’s won. It’s a little underhanded to bring up missing him, but Beomgyu doesn’t feel bad because it’s the truth. As Soobin looks for the turtleneck, Yeonjun walks into the room with a yawn. His hair is all messy, his cheek has the imprint of his pillow, and he gives them a mumbled greeting as he joins Beomgyu on Soobin’s bed.

“Oh god,” Soobin says, “Here’s another critic.”

But Yeonjun is moving with one foot still in a dream; he fluffs up one of Soobin’s pillows, so he can prop his head up as he lays on his side, pressing himself to the warmth of Beomgyu’s back. Beomgyu tries hard not to shiver, as Yeonjun’s arm snakes around his waist. When he meets Soobin’s eyes, he’s met with a raised brow and Beomgyu gives him a look that says, i’ll tell you later, i promise.

“Hyung,” Beomgyu says to the heat-leech behind him, “Why’d you wake up so late?”

Yeonjun sleepily blinks at him, “Bed was too nice and warm. Are the kids coming soon?”

“I’m not worried about you, you can get ready and look good in five minutes,” Beomgyu says, turning his attention back to Soobin, who has finally found the damn turtleneck after searching for five years.

“Hey!” Soobin says, affronted, “I’m trying here. Now, tell me which pants I should wear with these.”

Beomgyu pats the hand on his waist, “What do you think will look good with that turtleneck?”

“Hmm,” Yeonjun hums, closing his eyes, “Something dark, skinny, wear a belt. I forget what Soobinnie owns.”

Soobin purses his mouth, then turns to his closet to pull something similar to that description. Beomgyu idly plays with Yeonjun’s hand, absently fiddling with his fingers. Such soft hands. Soobin makes an ‘aha’ sound, excited to have found something. “Can you guys leave so I can change?”

“Uh, no,” Beomgyu says, “I’m pretty comfy here. Also, I’ve seen it all, Soobin. What is there to hide from me?”

Soobin doesn’t budge, though, “It doesn’t mean I want you to see it. Can you close your eyes at least? Or turn around?”

“Fine!” Beomgyu turns around easily, but then he realizes, he’s then face to face up close with Yeonjun, who opens his eyes at Beomgyu’s movement. He looks like he's caught in a dream, baby face resting on a cloud. Come back to reality, Beomgyu wants to say, poking a cheek. What Beomgyu says instead is this: “Don’t fall asleep again or we’ll end up leaving you behind when we can’t wake you up.”

Yeonjun lets him and just chuckles, “You wouldn’t.”

“Hmph,” Beomgyu flicks Yeonjun’s forehead, which leads him to reach up to the spot and cover it from further assault, “Try me.”

But Yeonjun is not even the least bit threatened, "You'd miss me too much. You'll be like, where is Yeonjun-hyung? I wish he was here, the dance floor isn't the same without him—"

"Be quiet," Beomgyu glares at him. Yeonjun is right, but he shouldn't be allowed to gloat about it. But Yeonjun just keeps chuckling, seeing through him. It's amazing how well he can read Beomgyu and still not know so much.

"Okay, guys, you can look now," Soobin calls out.

Both of them turn to him and Beomgyu feels his jaw drop as he takes in Soobin. From his messy black hair, to the way his turtleneck emphasizes his broad shoulders and small waist, all the way to how his black jeans make his mile long legs longer.

"So?" Soobin asks, self-conscious at their silence.

"Before I say anything, what do you think? Do you like it?"

Soobin looks down at his clothes and shrugs with a smile, "I guess it's not too bad. I think it looks good on me."

"Hyung," Beomgyu smiles, couldn't even bother to cover it with a pout or something, "You look amazing. Seriously."

Soobin struggles to tamp down a smile, "What do you think, Yeonjun-hyung?"

"Really handsome, Soobinnie. I'm this close to swooning," Yeonjun says, "My heart is actually pounding so fast—"

Soobin finally laughs, eyes turning to crescent moons, "Okay, you've both convinced me. One of you will have to fix my hair, but now I can lie back down again."

"I don't want to get up," Yeonjun says, wrapping himself like an octopus around Beomgyu, so he can't get up either. "Just come join us. Let's have a cuddle party instead."

"No thanks, Beomgyu and I have those all the time."

Yeonjun gapes at him, "And you don't invite me? Am I nothing to both of you?"

Soobin doesn't even look at him, choosing instead to pick up all of his clothes that are lying on the floor, "It's not like I've been invited to your cuddle parties with Beomgyu, so I think we’re even."

Beomgyu could throttle him. Beomgyu knows he's been sitting on this knowledge for days now, but couldn't he have waited till they were alone to bring it up?

"That's different," Yeonjun claims, releasing Beomgyu from his hold, and moving to a sitting position, "You weren't even home when we went to bed."

Beomgyu stays quiet.

Soobin nods, accepting Yeonjun's explanation, but not without a challenge, "Okay, invite me next time then."

This conversation pricks at his skin. Beomgyu stands up, "Please don't involve me. I am shutting down all cuddle parties."

Soobin laughs, throwing his head back, "If you say so, Beomie-ah."

Beomgyu doesn't stay to hear what Yeonjun could possibly say. He needs to change anyway. He grabs his duffle bag and brings out his clothes. It's a bit flashier than what he usually gravitates to. He's partial to neutrals or pastels, but tonight is a good night to be daring in his red jacket and a sequined green sleeveless top. He wants to glimmer.

He had wanted to try putting some glitter on his eyes, but he wasn’t confident enough to put it on by himself without looking like a clown. His friend, Ryujin, had promised to put it on for him at the party, so that will just have to wait.

As he looks at himself in the bathroom mirror and tries to style his hair in a way that looks messy but stylish, he thinks of Soobin’s comment from earlier. Soobin is someone who’s generally pretty updated on Beomgyu’s life. If Beomgyu had a bad shit that day, it’s something that Soobin would unfortunately know. Not because Soobin is disgustingly nosy, but because Beomgyu never really needs an invitation to share his daily life. It’s something Soobin has both learned to adore and bear.

But increasingly, there’s just some parts of this practice dating thing he’s doing with Yeonjun that he doesn’t want to share. A part of it is that to name something would make it real. Practicing dating with Yeonjun is a dream, built out of a nice set of rules Beomgyu has had a hand in making himself. Every rule in the contract had been nerve-wracking to follow at first. Is this okay? Can I—? Are you sure—? But the thing with practice is that eventually you’ve done something enough times to get used to it. Where Beomgyu was shy, he’d become shameless. He’ll hold Yeonjun’s hand in front of their friends, bring him food during his late night dance practices, and monopolize Yeonjun’s bed, all because it’s ‘practice.’

It’s sleeping together where he draws the line at sharing, and even then he hasn’t been particularly honest about everything else. There’s the cheek kisses, there’s Yeonjun bringing him his mother’s food, there’s crying on his shoulder. And Beomgyu is sure it means nothing but being a good hyung to Yeonjun, but the moment Soobin hears about all of this, he’ll know about Beomgyu’s heart. It is becoming increasingly tender. It is starting to want something it can’t have.

He needs to talk to Yeonjun before it’s too late. And today might be the perfect time for it. The party tonight is a perfect excuse. Yeonjun can go and have fun with someone else for the night, and Beomgyu will have so much fun he won’t even get a chance to think about the end of a beautiful dream. It’s perfect, he assures himself. It’s perfect.

But just as he exits out the bathroom, he realizes that Yeonjun has locked himself in his room to change. It’s fine, he thinks, he can just wait for him to finish changing. He nervously fiddles with the earring he’s wearing, shaking his leg.

There’s suddenly a very loud knock on the door and he nearly jumps out of his seat, not expecting it. He checks the time and is surprised to see that it was already the time for Taehyun and Kai to arrive. Where the hell did time go? He yells at Soobin, “I’ll answer the door!”

He’s greeted by Taehyun’s bright smile and Huening Kai holding double peace signs, “Guys, welcome, welcome!” He gives them both a tight hug, with Kai lifting him off the floor with his hug. He opens the door wide when he’s let down and lets them both in. “Go wait on the couch. Soobin-hyung and Yeonjun-hyung are making themselves look pretty.”

Kai laughs, “I’m surprised Soobin-hyung didn’t just get ready in five minutes. He said he was just going to wear sneakers and a hoodie, when I asked what the party attire was.”

“Oh Kai,” Beomgyu sighs, “You don’t even know how much begging I had to do, so he wouldn’t show up in that.”

Taehyun snorts, running a hand through his hair, “I’m surprised you’re already dressed up. You’re usually late to things.”

“I just got too excited. Everyone’s going to be there, and there’s so many people I haven’t seen in a while,” Beomgyu explains, “Also, I need you guys to do something for me.”

“What is it?” Taehyun asks.

Beomgyu grabs one hand from each of them and looks at them both meaningfully, “I need you guys to help me make sure Soobin-hyung is having fun. Let’s get him hammered. Get him on the dance floor. I don’t care. I just don’t want him sulking on the couch, okay?”

“That doesn’t sound hard,” Kai says, “Soobin-hyung is so easy going.”

“I agree,” Beomgyu says, “Just bat your eyelashes at him. He’s weak for small, cute things—”

“Beomgyu!” Soobin’s voice calls out from his room and seconds later, he steps out with a glare and one hand in his hair, still trying to get it to look the way he wants it, “Are you talking behind my back again?”

“No,” Beomgyu smiles, innocently, but is immediately ignored in favor of Soobin greeting Taehyun and Kai with a hug. It’s funny how he looks like he’s bending his body in half to hug Taehyun, before moving to hug Kai. What’s funnier though is the look on Taehyun’s face as he takes in the entirety of Soobin’s outfit. Beomgyu has to bite his lip to hide the smirk threatening to come out, but he wants to gloat. It is not everyday someone just stuns Taehyun speechless.

Kai on the other hand teases Soobin immediately, “Oooooh, hyung. You look so nice I could barely recognize you.”

“Yah,” Soobin hits his shoulder lightly, “What are you trying to say?”

Taehyun clears his throat, “You look handsome, hyung.”

Beomgyu watches as Soobin flushes pink, looking shy at the compliment. “Thanks, Taehyun. Beomgyu and Yeonjun-hyung helped pick it out,” Soobin says, reaching to ruffle Beomgyu’s hair.

“Hey! Don’t mess up my hair,” Beomgyu complains, “It took so long to get it artfully tousled.”

“Beomgyu,” Soobin raises a brow, “That’s the most douchebag-y thing I’ve ever heard you say.”

Kai and Taehyun laugh and Beomgyu opens his mouth to reply, but he hears Yeonjun finally exit out of his room, dramatically walking into the living room like a contestant in the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant. He waves a hand at his hypothetical fans and bowing with a flourish to everyone in the room. Kai kindly claps for him.

“Thank you, thank you for waiting,” Yeonjun says, blowing flying kisses in the air, “It takes time to look this good, so—”

He stops mid-sentence when his eyes land on Taehyun, who’s wearing the exact same outfit as him. “Oh.”

Beomgyu snickers, and Taehyun nods, rubbing the back of his neck, “Yeah, this is kind of awkward.”

Yeonjun deflates and nods too, “Yeah, I think I should go back in there. Get changed into something else. Right?”

“Yeah, you should,” Taehyun says, looking away, “People are gonna think we’re going for a couple look or something. No offense, but I don’t want anyone to think that about us.”

Yeonjun is beginning to look grumpy, and god, they are not going to end up pre-gaming for another hour at this rate. Beomgyu takes this matter into his own hands, “Yeah, he’s my practice boyfriend. If anything, we should be matching. Thank you for looking out, Tae.” He then starts pushing Yeonjun back into his room, “Soobin-hyung, be a good host and start pouring drinks. We’ll be right back.”

Yeonjun sighs and shrugs off the leather jacket he was wearing. “What am I going to wear now?”

Beomgyu snorts, as he stands in front of Yeonjun’s closet. It’s bursting with clothes. "Just pick something. Anything will look good on you."

Yeonjun smiles at him, "I'll never deny a compliment, but seriously, come help. You have an eye for pretty things."

Beomgyu starts going through his closet, pulling a shirt or a jacket out for a closer look. Beomgyu sighs, "Everything you own is nice. Just wear a jean jacket with some jeans and I'm sure it'll be okay."

But Yeonjun isn't satisfied with his answer, "But that's so plain. You were working so hard to put Soobin in a nice outfit, why not the same for me?"

Because you look nice in everything. Because I don't want to dress you up all nice for somebody else to see. Because I can't focus when you stand too close to me.

Beomgyu can't say any of that, so he grumbles back into looking through Yeonjun's closet and picking a plain oversized denim jacket and jeans of a similar wash out of spite. "Here," Beomgyu says, "Wear this with that silver drop earring and maybe a similar necklace?"

Yeonjun pouts at him, "Pick something that matches your outfit at least."

Beomgyu goes to his bed to take a seat and sighs, "I don't want to wear matching outfits."

"But couples should match," Yeonjun says, playfully. "Rule number one, BG."

Beomgyu averts his eyes, choosing to pick on a fraying string in the rips of his jeans. "Hyung, I wanted to talk to you about that. I don't know if we should keep doing this practice dating thing."

"Why not? We haven't even gone through all the bulletpoints in the contract. You haven't even bought me a meal equivalent for all the things I've done."

"I'll buy you a meal, whatever you want, if that's your main concern. I just don't think I'm comfortable with going through the rest of it. Like, hyung, do you really want to tell people you are dating me? Think about it."

It starts sinking in for Yeonjun that Beomgyu is asking seriously, for he stops looking at his closet and turns to Beomgyu with a troubled expression on his face.

"Did I," Yeonjun says hesitantly, "do something that made you uncomfortable? Because if I did—"

"Oh no, no, no, you didn't. Hyung, you could never. I would've said something."

"Then why?"

"Because," Beomgyu struggles, "Well, hyung, first of all, don't you want to date? I don't want people to misunderstand nor I don't want you to feel like you can't date because I'm relying on you. And I don't even want to go on about how I feel like I'm just using you—"

"Woah, woah," Yeonjun stops him, kneeling on the floor in front of where Beomgyu was sitting, "Beomie, come on, take a breather.”

Yeonjun locks eyes with him and guides him to breathe in and breathe out, “Okay?”

“Hyung—”

Yeonjun shakes his head, “Let’s go through all of that one by one, alright?”

Beomgyu nods, “Okay.”

“First, you asked if I wanted to date?” Yeonjun holds his hands gently, the way one would hold a small bird in their hands, “Honestly, I don’t really have time to go out and meet people. I don’t really like anyone right now either. So, that’s not even an issue.”

Beomgyu frowns, “Okay, but what if you meet someone tonight or later? Or it doesn’t even have to be a date, like, ugh this is so awkward to say, but like if you wanted to hook up or something…”

Yeonjun smiles encouragingly as Beomgyu struggles to get his words out, “I know I look like a frivolous person to you, but you know I don’t really like to get involved with people that way, right? It’s messy and I’ve heard too many horror stories of people having to see their hookups all the time. And listen, if I find someone I really, really like, then I’ll let you know. But I highly doubt it.”

“Okay,” Beomgyu says.

“Your next point, who cares if people misunderstand? I don’t. This is between you and me. We are not even going to entertain the idea that you don’t want people to think you’re dating me, because it doesn’t even make sense.”

Beomgyu laughs and Yeonjun looks pleased at the sound. “I know, I know. It’s laughable. Who doesn’t want to date me? Anyway, your last point—”

“I don’t think we should talk about that—”

“No,” Yeonjun cuts him off, “I think this is the most important thing we should talk about. Why do you feel like you’re using me?”

“I just,” Beomgyu sighs, wanting to escape from Yeonjun’s unrelenting gaze, “I feel like you’re not getting anything out of this. Hyung, the food I’ll buy you doesn’t seem worth it.”

Yeonjun holds his hands, “I think you overestimate how hard it is to do this with you, and underestimate how much I love free food. You’re thinking too hard about this. You think I’d do something I don’t want to do?”

Beomgyu pouts, “No…”

“That’s right,” Yeonjun says, with cheer, “Anything else?”

Beomgyu shakes his head, and Yeonjun gives him a stunning smile, “Good, now tell me. Do you think it’s too sexy if I just wear the jacket without a shirt under or no?”

“Hyung, please wear a shirt. Soobin and I won’t even acknowledge you if you don’t.”

“Come on!”

To Beomgyu, it feels like they’ll never make it to the party at this rate. But they eventually do. And he’s nicely tip-toeing the line between tipsy and drunk by the time he gets there.

During their pre-game, Yeonjun had introduced a couple drinking games. That was a mistake, especially when it becomes evident how competitive Taehyun, Yeonjun, and Kai are. The goal of drinking games is to actually get as drunk as possible, not actually win the game. There’s too much cheating (on Kai’s part), yelling about the rules (on Yeonjun’s party), and actual threats being made (on Taehyun’s part). Soobin and Beomgyu don’t care enough and are actually the true winners, often having to take a sip of their drink or a straight up shot. Soobin was giggling with him on the whole ride on the way to the party.

When they enter the house, there’s some nice early 2000s music playing in the background, and the place is packed already. Yeonjun leads the way, cutting through the crowd easily. Beomgyu holds onto Soobin’s hand tightly and follows, with Taehyun and Kai following closely behind. Beomgyu doesn’t even know where they’re going, but the music is poppin’ and the vibe is wicked good.

Where they do end up though is the kitchen, where Yeonjun casually opens the fridge like it’s his own home and grabs a couple bottles of beer. “Okay, guys, I have to go greet some people, but call me if you need anything, okay? I’ll meet up with you guys again later.”

Soobin shoos him away, but Yeonjun just rolls his eyes. Right before he leaves, he pulls Beomgyu aside, “Don’t get him too drunk, okay? I don’t want to carry his deadweight all the way to the apartment tonight.”

Beomgyu pushes him away, “Go already. I got it. Stop nagging at me, you old hag.”

“Behave,” Yeonjun warns him, playfully.

“Yeah, yeah,” Beomgyu turns to his friends and sighs, “Okay, kiddos. I, too, have to make my rounds. Please, please, have fun. Taehyun, you’re in charge. Okay, bye.”

As soon as he walks away, he can already hear Soobin shit-talking behind his back, “Finally, the two evils are gone.”

Classic Soob.

He walks around and sees many familiar faces. The dance department is, after all, under the same School as the music department. Everyone practically knows each other. He’s first accosted by Jeongin, who hugs him from behind, “Dude! When are you going to stop arriving fashionably late?”

Beomgyu turns around to give him a proper hug and laughs, “Never. Were you waiting for me?”

“You wish,” Jeongin pulls away with a smile. “Ryujin was asking for you earlier, though. I told her not to expect you for another hour.”

“You are so dramatic,” Beomgyu rolls his eyes, “Must be why we’re such good friends. Where is she?”

“You’re ditching me already?” Jeongin pouts. “I even requested ABBA with the DJ for you.”

Beomgyu coos, “You did? What a good friend. Now where is she?”

Jeongin wraps an arm around his shoulder and points to the direction of the backyard area, “Saw her with Yeji-noona in the back.”

“Thanks, Jeongin!” Beomgyu grabs his hand and squeezes, “I’ll see you around.”

Once he gets to the backyard, it’s not actually that hard to find her. Shin Ryujin stands out in her blue-black bob, white leather jacket, and sequined black top. She stands out even as she’s surrounded by the top people in their School. When people talk about dance, there’s usually only two names mentioned. It’s Choi Yeonjun and Shin Ryujin, and it’s even more impressive when you think about how Ryujin is a year below Yeonjun.

But the reason that she’s the coolest is actually because she’s both the funniest and most down-to-earth person Beomgyu knows. “Ryujin!” He calls out, “Jeongin said you were looking for me.”

Ryujin smacks him with her bag, “Where have you been?”

“Doesn’t matter. I’m here now. Can you still do my eyes for me?” Beomgyu pouts, and Ryujin laughs at him.

“Stop that. You’re not that cute,” Ryujin says, and Beomgyu presses a hand to his wounded heart. “But yes, let’s go somewhere with better lighting.”

They sneak into a random bathroom in the upstairs area and Ryujin orders him to sit down on the closed toilet bowl, so she can easily do his eyes. Ryujin complains, “Next time, just come by my apartment. It’s such a hassle to carry makeup with me.”

Beomgyu just quietly closes his eyes and sweetly says, “You’re the best, Ryujin.”

Ryujin huffs out a laugh, “I know. Now tilt your head up.”

Beomgyu doesn’t wear makeup that often, he doesn’t even know how to put it on himself. But a lot of the dancers often wear stage makeup for the performances. Last party, he’d seen Ryujin with her glitter on her eyes and it had just looked so good, he wanted to try it on for himself. Ryujin was nice enough to offer to put it onfor him.

Ryujin has a careful hand as she applies the glitter gel on his lower lash line. It tickles a little bit and even more so, when she blows air on his face so that it dries quickly. And then, he feels a pencil drag along his lid, tracing his upper lashes. Feels her do the same to his other eye. Before he knows it, Ryujin says, “Open your eyes?”

His eyes flutter open, adjusting to the light again and he’s met with Ryujin’s concentrated face, which melts into something more satisfied, “I think it looks good. Look in the mirror.”

Beomgyu does and wow, he’s amazed at what a little makeup can do. When he turns his head a little and blinks, it looks like his eyes are shining like stars. “It’s pretty. Like really pretty.”

“Cool, right?” Ryujin smirks, putting her makeup back in her bag, “One day, I’ll teach you how to do it yourself.”

“You have to, so I don’t ask you to do it every time,” Beomgyu laughs, “Okay, let’s go back out.”

He parts ways with Ryujin soon enough; her girlfriend Yeji finds her on the way back to the garden. The party is in full swing at that point, and the night flashes like polaroid pictures being taken.

Tomorrow morning, he’ll remember a couple things from tonight. 

That he actually does fulfill his promise and dances with Jeongin, dancing with him for a couple songs

That he made his way back to Soobin, Taehyun, and Kai, who he had all drunkenly pulled onto the dance floor. How Soobin had twirled him again and again, until he collapsed on his shoulder, laughing with such dizziness. How Taehyun had dragged Soobin to come with him to the bathroom. Huening Kai and their adventure to get cocktails with cute umbrellas sitting in them. Taehyun’s red face when he came back with Soobin.

The little pee break he took, that took longer than it should, because he started taking bathroom mirror selfies.

The stupid guy by the water cooler.

Pause.

That’s something he actually does not want to remember.

Imagine this: Looking as amazing as Beomgyu did, with his sparkling eyes and cool fit, just minding his own damn business, trying to refresh himself with water. He was having so much fun too, something he’d wanted to help take his mind off school and the other things stressing his life. It was the makings of a great night. Then suddenly, this bastard with his stupid Justin Bieber haircut, button up shirt with too many buttons unbuttoned, and the douchebaggiest flip-flops Beomgyu has ever seen on a man, walks up to him too close. With breath smelling like beer, this guy says, “Hey, I’ve never seen you around here before.”

Beomgyu doesn’t even want to look at this guy. He is close enough that Beomgyu can almost feel how sweaty he is. Beomgyu wants his space back, but he doesn’t even want to lay a hand on this guy nor for the sake of his pride want to back up. Beomgyu side eyes him, tone entirely unfriendly, “Funny, I’m friends with one of the dance team members, so I’m usually always here.”

Maybe it’s the alcohol, but this guy can’t read the hostile body language Beomgyu is emitting. Instead, this guy takes Beomgyu’s response as an invitation, “Think I’d notice someone as pretty as you if that were the case. And which one? Ryujin? I saw you guys talking earlier.”

Beomgyu finally turns to this guy at that. “You’ve been watching me?”

“Couldn’t take my eyes off of you,” says the bastard. Hearing that come out of this guy’s mouth just makes his skin crawl. “And wow, am I relieved to hear you say Ryujin.  I half-expected you to say Choi Yeonjun or something.”

“Oh?” Beomgyu says with interest, “What about Choi Yeonjun?”

The guy’s smile widens, thinking he had finally found some common ground with Beomgyu, “Well, I’m just sick of hearing his name. I don’t even think he’s that good at dancing for everyone to be fawning over him. He’s not even that good-looking.”

Beomgyu looks away, a gesture one might take as demure up close but from far away, one would be able to tell how annoyed he is. “Oh, really?”

The guy nods, reaching up to touch the collar of Beomgyu’s jacket, “Yes, the cockiest motherfucker I’ve ever seen with nothing to back it up. Who the fuck dyes their hair blue? Anyway, enough about him. I wanna hear about you.”

This fucking bastard. It’s not enough to just kick him to the floor. Funny enough, he spies the man of the hour at the corner of his eyes. He prays he stays there for a little bit longer, just so he can watch what Beomgyu is about to do. Beomgyu laughs, ‘accidentally’ spilling his water on this guy’s hand and smiling prettily in apology, “Sorry, that was so clumsy of me.”

“No, no, it’s okay,” the guy says with a smile back, although he looks a little bit put out. The nerve. He’s already drenched in sweat, what’s a little bit more water? “So I was saying, I want to talk about you instead. Like, what’s your name? You have your eye on anybody tonight?”

Beomgyu laughs again, running his hands through his hair. He is just in disbelief at this guy. He pouts, flutters his eyes a bit, “But I wanna hear more about this Choi Yeonjun. Like does he really have blue hair? I just want to know what he looks like.”

The guy rolls his eyes, “I’m surprised you haven’t met him. But seriously, there’s nothing good about him. Come on, baby, can I get a name?”

“Oh, I thought you were just flirting with me when you said you haven’t seen me before. You really don’t know me?” Beomgyu says, tone light. “Why do you need a name?”

The guy moves close and for a second, Beomgyu fears that this guy is moving for a kiss, but he just moves close enough to his ear to whisper, “Wanna know the name of the boy I’m kissing tonight.”

That’s the last straw for Beomgyu, who can barely hold his disgust in anymore. When he looks off to the side, where he knows Yeonjun is, he’s surprised to see Yeonjun already looking at him. He winks and tries not to smile at the frown growing on Yeonjun’s face. He turns back to this stupid bastard and smirks, “Ah, if you really want to know, I’ll call over someone who can tell you.”

The guy looks confused at that, but his confusion soon turns to horror when Beomgyu waves at Yeonjun, “Yeonjun-hyung, come here!”

Yeonjun is looking at him like a prayer; that is to say, praying to whatever God out there that Beomgyu isn’t going to give him a headache. His prayers will, unfortunately, not be heard. Once he’s close enough, Beomgyu smoothly pushes the man that’s been bothering him for too long and clings tightly to Yeonjun’s arm. Yeonjun looks warily at the douchebag, but he turns to Beomgyu who looks too smug, “What’s up, Beomgyu?”

“Hyung, do you know this guy? He’s claiming he knows you,” Beomgyu rests his head on Yeonjun’s shoulder, turning to the douchebag, who’s looking at him increasingly with regret.

Yeonjun looks at the douchebag again, confused, “No, I don’t think we’ve ever met.”

“Hmm, that’s interesting. He talks about you like he really knows you.” Beomgyu puts on his thinking face, pretending like he can’t remember, “Hey, what were you saying earlier?”

“Uh, I don’t think—”

Beomgyu snaps his fingers, “Oh! You were saying how he’s not that good at dancing, right? That he was cocky...and that he’s not even that good-looking? Called his blue hair ugly? Is that ringing a bell?”

Beside him, Yeonjun straightens up, standing at his full height, when usually he’d cooly slouch. Beomgyu finds nothing about him terrifying, but he can imagine how it could be when Yeonjun looks at you with a cold glare. His height and presence towering. "He did?"

By then, the douchebag was stuttering, but he was ballsy enough to deny it and angry enough at being fooled that he targets who he thinks he can handle: Beomgyu. He grabs the collar of Beomgyu's jacket, "You little rat, you set me up!"

Beomgyu rolls his eyes, "You set yourself up. How dare you talk shit about someone you don't even know? You're not even half the person he is."

"Why you—" He raised his hand to swing, but Beomgyu doesn't even blink. Go ahead, he smirks, give me an excuse to kick you to the floor.

But the punch never comes. Yeonjun pushes the guy away so strongly that he almost stumbles to the floor. But Beomgyu had to give it to the guy, he doesn't know when to give up. He tries again to come at Beomgyu, but he comically slips on the water Beomgyu had spilled on him earlier.

It's an asshole move but Beomgyu can't help but laugh. "This must be so embarrassing for you. You should go."

Yeonjun puts his foot down, "That wasn't a suggestion. You have to go. Before I tell my hyung and he bans you forever."

Beomgyu almost feels sorry for the guy, whose name he will never know. He doesn’t even care enough to watch him slink away pitifully out of the house. What he does realize is that they’ve attracted an audience, but Yeonjun pays them no mind. He looks worriedly at Beomgyu, checking to see if he was harmed in any way, “He didn’t hurt you, right?”

Beomgyu shakes his head, instantly warmed by the concern, “I’m okay. He was all talk anyway.”

“Did you have to make him mad though? What were you going to do if I wasn’t here?” Yeonjun lectures.

“I would have handled it. I only look weak, you know that,” Beomgyu sighs. “But thanks for kicking him out, anyway. I’ll savor the look on his face when he realized he’s been shittalking to the wrong person. Calling you untalented and ugly,” Beomgyu scoffs, “He’s untalented and ugly and gross.”

Their friends apparently saw the whole exchange too, for Soobin rushes over to him and pulls him in a headlock, “You are such an asshole! That was so funny.”

“Soobin, you can’t encourage him—” Yeonjun sighs, but Soobin is too drunk to care about anything but the sheer hilarity of how it all went down. “Does anybody care that Beomgyu was going to get beaten up?”

“Beomgyu’s not a baby,” Soobin refutes, “Also, he’s friends with half the people here. He’s more resourceful than you think, hyung.”

Beomgyu laughs, “Thank you, Soobinnie. And he was so gross! He told me he’s been looking at me all night, like some stalker. For a second, I thought he was going to kiss me. He thought I was going to kiss him. Ugh, gross.”

Soobin gasps, with the dramatics that only a drunk person can do with sincerity, “Without your consent? Your first kiss?”

“Uh,” Beomgyu says, mind blanking—all the euphoria he was experiencing from putting that bastard down dissipates like smoke.

Yeonjun turns to him with shock, “You haven’t had your first kiss yet?”

Soobin shakes his head, smooshing Beomgyu’s cheeks with one hand, “Nope, our Beomie here has never been kissed. Even though he’s so pretty. Why is that, my little Beomie?”

Beomgyu wants to throttle him, but settles for pushing his hand away from his face and massages his cheek, “Some things just don’t happen for others, okay? Shut up before I bite your hand.”

Thankfully, the conversation moves on fast, but Beomgyu continues to avoid looking at Yeonjun directly in case he sees judgement in his eyes. It’s embarrassing to be so inexperienced, and Yeonjun already knows he’s never dated, never had a boyfriend, but to not have his first kiss either? He sounds like a loser that nobody’s ever wanted.

He shakes his head, trying to forget the events that just happened and tries instead to enjoy the rest of the night. He drinks some more alcohol and manages to revive his buzz, sticking with their group for the rest of the night.

He doesn’t know if it’s because Yeonjun’s concerned he’ll start another fight in order to defend his honor, but Yeonjun sticks close to him for the rest of the night. He doesn’t mention the first kiss thing at all and Beomgyu is so grateful, he begins to relax under his touch. It is so pleasant and welcome in comparison to how that douchebag touched him earlier. Drunk Beomgyu is typically loud and a firecracker, ready to light up the room in sparks; a tipsy Beomgyu is a different animal altogether. Closer to the end of the night, he mellows and just becomes affectionate, and any affection received, he matches with fervor.

So, if Yeonjun puts his arm around Beomgyu’s shoulders, Beomgyu wraps an arm around Yeonjun’s waist. If Yeonjun ruffles his hair, Beomgyu leans into his hand and rubs his cheek against his shoulder. If Yeonjun looks at him fondly, Beomgyu meets that with, well, affection as well. It’s all fine for Beomgyu to do this, because if anyone asks, he can easily say, it’s the trick of the light, it’s the freedom of the night, it’s the alcohol and nothing more than that.

But if Beomgyu’s doing the asking, there’s some things that can’t be blamed on any of those aforementioned things.

He doesn’t know what to do with the way Yeonjun had looked at his mouth, with the almost possessive way he’d stuck to Beomgyu’s side. That was during the party. There’s other things too, after the party. How he had shouldered on the task of carrying Soobin up the stairs to their apartment, even though he’d threatened Beomgyu earlier of making him do it all by himself if he got Soobin too drunk. How he’d taken care of Soobin while Beomgyu was getting himself ready for bed.

How he grabbed Beomgyu’s hand and asked if Beomgyu wanted to sleep with him instead. He’d said it with such gentleness and softness, that even if he hadn’t explained it was in case, Soobin gets up in the middle of the night to puke or something and wakes you up, Beomgyu had already made up his mind to say yes.

Beomgyu settles comfortably in Yeonjun’s bed. This bed that’s steadily becoming familiar to him, enough that he’s routinely chosen a side for himself (Yeonjun gets the side pressed to the wall, and Beomgyu the other). It’s dangerous to get used to it, he knows that, but it feels so nice, especially when Yeonjun finally climbs over him to get to his side. It’s dangerous, but it’s hard to care when Yeonjun cuddles up to his side and rests his arm on his waist.

“Good night, Beomie,” Yeonjun murmurs to him in the dark.

This is dangerous, his mind says again. But it’s so tender, his heart says instead.

“Good night, hyungie,” Beomgyu whispers back.

Sleep claims him before he can answer the question: what is this? what is this? what is this—

 


 

The next day Beomgyu is woken up by heavy movement at his side. It feels too early and he hasn’t gotten enough sleep yet; he’s in the middle of a beautiful dream and it’s not too late to get back into it. So Yeonjun better stop moving, before he blows a fuse. No amount of affection can save him from waking him up too early.

But then his shoulder is shoved to the side and his eyes flash open in anger and shoves back. He’s surprised when he looks at Yeonjun though; he doesn’t expect to see Soobin there sprawled on top of Yeonjun. Soobin looks at him with betrayal, “Why would you push me so hard?”

Beomgyu shakes his head, trying to make sure he’s not seeing wrong, “Soobin, what the fuck?”

“You are so unkind to your best friend,” Soobin pouts, taking this opportunity to make himself at home in Yeonjun’s bed, wiggling until he’s comfortable. It’s stupendous that Yeonjun sleeps through it all. “I just wanted to join your little cuddle party.”

“Well,” Beomgyu grumpily says, “You weren’t invited. Also, why do you get to be in the middle?”

“Because,” Soobin rests his hands on top of his body, looking at peace, “I’m the one who needs comforting.”

Beomgyu sighs, laying back down but on his side. Yeonjun’s bed wasn’t made for three tall boys. “What’s wrong? Why do you need comforting?”

At his question, Soobin lets out an anguished sound, covering his face with his large hands, “Last night, how could you get me that drunk and leave me unsupervised?”

Beomgyu snorts, “You were having a great time last night! Also, I left you in Taehyun’s supervision. He’s more responsible than me.”

“That’s exactly the problem! How could you trust me to act uninhibited around Taehyun? Could you not see what a disaster that was going to be?”

“Ah, so this is a love problem,” Beomgyu concludes. He reaches over Soobin to poke at Yeonjun’s shoulder, “Hey, Yeonjunnie, wakey wakey.”

Yeonjun just makes a noise but it’s clear he’s still in dreamland. Beomgyu wishes he was too. To Soobin, he says, “Help me wake him up. We need someone with wisdom in this area.”

“What’s he going to say? Soobin, you just gotta own your actions,” Soobin grumbles, but he still wakes him up anyway, “Hyung, wake up! I need your help.”

Yeonjun just makes a noise again, but still doesn’t move. Soobin and Beomgyu look at each other knowingly. Wordlessly, Beomgyu reaches over to the bedside table where a glass of water sits for him and dips his fingers in it. Then, he reaches over to where Yeonjun is and presses his wet fingers on his face. Yeonjun’s face scrunches, but it’s not enough.

“Should we just,” Soobin whispers, miming a hand pouring the glass of water on Yeonjun’s face.

Beomgyu nods. If anything, it would be really funny. So, he does, carefully tilting the glass until water falls on Yeonjun’s face. Yeonjun jolts, waking up like the sarcophagus in the Mummy movie, and Beomgyu pulls away the glass of water too late. Yeonjun zeroes in on his hand and immediately grabs at him with both hands.

Soobin is just laughing between them.

A moment later, Yeonjun gives up on murder and settles back into bed, especially when he realizes that Soobin is in bed too, “What’s going on? Why are we all here? Is it food?”

Soobin’s joyful expression immediately turns to worry, remembering what he came here for, “Hyung, I’m having a crisis.”

Yeonjun sighs, “Can we have this crisis over some food? Are you not hungover?”

“Hyung, concentrate!!” Soobin yells, but the effect of it is broken by his voice cracking. “I have a Taehyun problem.”

Yeonjun stares at the ceiling the way a man would stare at a camera if he was a star on The Office, full of exasperation. It’s only ten in the morning. “Okay, start from the beginning.”

“It started when Beomgyu and I became teammates when we were playing drinking games yesterday. If Beomgyu wasn’t my teammate and wasn’t planning my demise, I wouldn’t have been so intoxicated—”

“Soob,” Yeonjun cuts in, “I don’t need context. I was there. Fast forward to what actually happened with Taehyun.”

Beomgyu snickers, but he stops when Yeonjun turns his head and glares at him. He pouts against Soobin’s shoulder, the owner of which continues his story, “Well, Taehyun and I went to the bathroom, right? And then we couldn’t find Beomgyu and Kai for awhile, so Taehyun suggested it’s better to just stand at one place rather than keep moving around and miss each other—”

Beomgyu is listening, but Soobin’s voice as he tells his story is soothing, he closes his eyes.

“But I don’t know, he was just standing there, and he looked so handsome in his jacket and he was smiling up at me, and I told him that he was so beautiful I can’t believe he’s real, and then he let me hold his hands, and then I told him I’m having a hard time.” Soobin pauses to breathe, a deep one that Beomgyu can feel as he lies there beside him.

Yeonjun hums, showing he’s listening and that Soobin can continue when he’s ready. Soobin does, “And he asked me why I was having a hard time and I said, it’s because he’s standing there looking so beautiful and it’s so hard not to kiss him—”

Beomgyu opens his eyes to squeal, hitting Soobin in the chest, “Yah, my heart almost fluttered. Soobin, I didn’t know you were such a romantic—”

“It’s cringy,” Yeonjun interjects, “Also, whenever I say things like that to you, you’re always complaining about how cheesy it is.”

“Well, yeah,” Beomgyu interjects, “That’s cause you’re teasing me, but Soobin-hyung is being completely genuine.”

Yeonjun quiets at that. Soobin carefully looks at the two of them, before continuing, “Yeonjun-hyung is right, though. Just thinking about it now, the embarrassment is really rolling in, how am I going to look at him?”

Beomgyu hums in thought, “Well, it depends. What did Taehyun say when you said that?”

Soobin groans, closing his eyes as he must be replaying the memories of last night, “He just seemed surprised that I wanted to kiss him, and I just couldn’t believe it. Who doesn’t want to kiss him? He’s, he’s Taehyun.”

Beomgyu meets Yeonjun’s eyes again, the two of them wide-eyed with surprise at the emotion in Soobin’s voice— there’s gravity in it. Beomgyu prods him further, “And then what happened next?”

“I told him I was another drink away from begging for it, and then he bites his lip, like he wants to drive me crazy,” Soobin sighs, utterly helpless, “I almost kissed him. I wish I did, but I’m glad I didn’t.”

It’s the type of thing Beomgyu would make fun of Soobin for, but he can’t. He’s never seen his best friend this lovesick before, and he doesn’t know what advice to give him. He looks to Yeonjun, who seems to be in a similar predicament as him. Soobin is their favorite target to tease, but in the face of such genuine yearning, how could they?

Yeonjun purses his mouth, as if thinking over what to say, before asking another question, “Do you regret it then? That you said something?”

Soobin thinks it over too, before shaking his head, “I only regret the way I had done it, but it’s something he should know. Deserves to know. I just don’t know why I had to be so embarrassing about it. I just want to know how he feels about it all.”

Beomgyu pats Soobin’s head, “I think that confessing your feelings will always be embarrassing, so forgive yourself already. Second, if you don’t talk to him, you’ll never know, right?”

“Beomgyu’s right,” Yeonjun nods, “You might as well own up to your actions and intentions. Nothing worth it is easy and without risks.”

Soobin nods, taking in their words and closing his eyes. He still looks worried though, so Beomgyu gives him a hug, “I shouldn’t tell you this, because I think this was said in confidence. But I remember when you guys came back, Taehyun’s face was so red and I didn’t get it then, but now I do. He said you were dangerous.”

Yeonjun laughs, cooing at Soobin, “You hear that, Soob? You’re a dangerous man.” Yeonjun moves to hug him too, and it pulls a laugh from Soobin.

“Maybe I do have to thank you guys for dressing me nicely.”

“You’re welcome,” Beomgyu says, “You should let us do it more often.”

“I think as thanks, you should go treat us to some ramen. I’m so hungry.”

Soobin laughs, uncontrollably fond, “I hope the two of you never change.”

 


 

Post-brunch, post-Soobin crisis, Beomgyu is thinking again.

He had told Yeonjun that he needed a practice boyfriend, so that he wouldn’t get dumped immediately for being a bad, inexperienced boyfriend. He had told Soobin that he needed to just experience what it’s like dating Yeonjun, so his heart can move on easier. But the truth is, if he was being honest with himself: he just desperately wanted Yeonjun to look at him like he was his, even if it was all just pretend.

He’s hanging out with Yeonjun in his room again, as Soobin has left to go out and get some fresh air as he thinks about what to do about Taehyun. It is then when Yeonjun breaks the silence and says: “I have a question.”

Beomgyu looks up at him from where he’s lying on the bed. Beside him, Yeonjun is sitting with his back against the headboard of the bed.

“At the party last night,” He starts and Beomgyu starts pulling the duvet covers over him to hide his face, but Yeonjun only laughs. “You haven’t even heard my question!”

“I knew you would bring it up eventually! The moment Soobin blabbed with his big mouth, I knew this would come back to embarrass me later. You would never pass up an opportunity to tease me, you demon,” Beomgyu continues to hide under the blanket, but Yeonjun slides down to lie beside him and yank the blanket down.

Yeonjun props his head on his hand and pinches Beomgyu’s cheek, “Why are you calling your practice boyfriend a demon? And what’s so embarrassing about not having your first kiss yet?”

Beomgyu slaps a hand over Yeonjun’s mouth, sighing when Yeonjun forces his hand off, “Of course it’s embarrassing! Most people get their first kiss in high school, and I’m already in my second year in college…”

“It’s okay,” Yeonjun says, brushing the strands of Beomgyu’s hair away from his forehead, “You should just go at your own pace. There’s really no timeline of when you should have these things done.”

“I know, but it doesn’t mean the thought of it makes me nervous,” Beomgyu complains, “like what if I’m bad at it?”

Yeonjun laughs, “If it’s your first kiss, you’re definitely not going to be good at it.”

This time, Beomgyu definitely smacks him in the face with a pillow, and Yeonjun yelps, trying to grab the pillow from him. Beomgyu rises to a sitting position and leans over with the intent to suffocate Yeonjun into silence. “You are so mean! Why can’t you just lie and tell me it’s going to be fine?”

“Stop hitting me!” Yeonjun manages to grab his wrists, sitting up too so that Beomgyu couldn’t loom over him and hit him with a pillow. “What’s wrong with telling the truth? You can’t be good at something you don’t know how to do. My first kiss wasn’t good either, if it makes you feel better.”

Beomgyu sulks, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning back against the headrest, “I find that hard to believe. I’ve never seen you be bad at anything. That’s what makes you so annoying.”

God, he can’t even insult Yeonjun without complimenting him. It’s infuriating. From the corner of his eye, he can see Yeonjun trying to tamp down the smirk on his face. Yeonjun slings an arm around his shoulder, his thumb moving in circles as a gesture to soothe, “It really is fine for it to not be good or for it to just be okay. I think what matters more is the feeling.”

When Beomgyu doesn’t budge, Yeonjun sighs and then asks a question that Beomgyu never thought he’d hear come out from his mouth, “Want to practice kissing with me?”

“What?” Beomgyu turns his head so quick and is surprised to see the serious considering look on Yeonjun. “You’d kiss me?”

“Yeah, I’m already your practice boyfriend, remember?” Yeonjun averts his eyes, picking a stray hair off of the sweater Beomgyu had on, “It just means that I’ll be your first kiss.”

Beomgyu’s head spins with the thought and tries to answer in a way that isn’t overeager. “Lucky me,” he says, willing his voice to sound sarcastic, but he’s losing against his own longing. This is dangerous, but he doesn’t know how to say no against a mountain made of his want. He’s dreamt of this. “Okay, how should we do this?”

“Oh,” Yeonjun meets his eyes, as if not expecting Beomgyu to agree. The thought makes him heat up for some reason.

The air between them saturates with tension and Beomgyu exhales, licking his lips, and groans, “But we ate ramen earlier and my lips are dry.”

Yeonjun bursts out laughing, his arm slipping off of Beomgyu’s shoulders, “I have gum and chapstick if you want.”

“You’d let me use your chapstick?” Beomgyu asks, and Yeonjun only gives him a look, “Right, right, okay, where’s your gum? Also, we need some background music.”

It’s a testament to how much Yeonjun is used to his antics that he barely bats an eye at all of Beomgyu’s requests. He lets Beomgyu ruffle through his desk in search of gum, while he patiently scrolls through his phone to play some music.

The time it takes for him to find gum, chew it fast enough to get rid of any bad breath, and apply chapstick liberally, is enough for reality to set in. He’s going to have his first kiss with Yeonjun. Some sad r&b song plays softly in the background and he complains about the poor song choice to cover for his nerves, “I’m going to change the music. Why does it sound so sad? Pick something more romantic.”

“You are so picky,” Yeonjun groans, rolling his eyes. He unlocks his phone and hands it over to Beomgyu. He has the perfect playlist in mind for this. When he presses play, Yeonjun blinks at the song choice, “Do you really want to kiss to Taylor Swift?”

Beomgyu shrugs, “This is Taehyun’s playlist. And why not? It sounds romantic enough.” He sits cross-legged back on the bed and looks unsurely at Yeonjun.

Yeonjun’s expression turns soft, “Are you sure about this?” He offers his hand and Beomgyu takes it, lacing their fingers. This they’ve done numerous times before, but his heart still flutters when Yeonjun squeezes his hand.

I want this, I want this so bad, Beomgyu thinks. This is dangerous, he thinks once again. He doesn’t know what it will cost him. He will pore over the damage another day; not now, not in front of Yeonjun’s pink mouth.

“I trust you,” Beomgyu says instead, heart beating wild in his chest.

Yeonjun exhales and uses his free hand to cup Beomgyu’s cheek, “Just follow my lead, okay? And if you want to stop at any time, just stop me.”

Beomgyu nods. Yeonjun moves impossibly closer, like the moon when it swallows the sun and all Beomgyu can see is him. This close...Beomgyu should close his eyes. He feels like an arrow on a bow, taut and waiting to be fired.

He waits and then he feels lips press to his cheek and he makes a noise, confused. He opens his eyes, but he feels rather than sees Yeonjun’s smile against his cheek, “It’s cause you looked tense. Breathe, breathe.”

Beomgyu huffs, “Just get on with it. I want to be kissed before this song ends.”

“This is so not romantic,” Yeonjun teases, “Although, this song is pretty romantic.”

Beomgyu shrugs, “Is it? Good, I was mostly going off the sound and I can’t understand the lyrics.”

“I can,” Yeonjun says quietly, with feeling, and before Beomgyu can ask, Yeonjun kisses his cheek again, swift and light. Then, Yeonjun detangles their interlaced hands, so he can cup Beomgyu’s cheeks with both hands. It feels like an eternity of waiting and then Yeonjun says, “Close your eyes.”

His first kiss is simple, small and soft, just the hint of a pressure lingering on his lips. When he opens his eyes, Yeonjun is looking at him, asking with his eyes if it was okay. When he nods, Yeonjun sighs and leans back in, and this time, when Yeonjun kisses him, he kisses back.

He kisses how he feels at first, that is to say, unsure. Yeonjun kisses him slowly, mouth moving against his; it’s warm and wet and a lot of things people have never told him about kissing. Nobody had told him about hands and where to place them (wherever you want and wherever he lets you), or how to breathe (through your nose, but don’t exhale too hard or Yeonjun will laugh at you), or how many different ways to kiss there are (a quick smooch on the mouth, or a succession of kisses, open-mouthed and long and—)

But it’s fine, Beomgyu thinks, that nobody has told him. There’s just things that are supposed to be known first-hand. When Yeonjun pulls away and Beomgyu thinks that’s it, Yeonjun surprises him. He leans against the headboard and pats his lap. “Come here,” he says, and all Beomgyu can do is flush red and follow.

He’s sat on the other’s lap before, but it’s never like this. He straddles Yeonjun’s lap, hands on his shoulders, with Yeonjun’s hands on his waist. It’s interesting to kiss this way, to have Yeonjun look up at him, and for Beomgyu to look down at him and his pink, spit-slicked mouth. This time, it’s him, who tilts Yeonjun’s face up and meets his mouth eagerly.

Nothing about this feels like practice. How easily he parts when Yeonjun licks against the seam of his mouth. How addicting it is to pull sounds out of Yeonjun when he sucks on his bottom lip. How he’d let Yeonjun kiss his jaw, then his neck, even when his true feelings can be easily found out with Yeonjun’s mouth against his drumming pulse.

It’s so good and real and later when the high wears off and he’s sober from such intoxicating kisses, he’ll finally admit how fucked he truly is.

He is the farthest from moving on from Yeonjun.

 


 

Here’s the problem with Beomgyu. He doesn’t know when to draw the line. He’s more of the daring type. He needs to see how far he can take something, stretch a string so far out until it’s to the point of snapping.

The logical part of him that sounds suspiciously like Kang Taehyun says that he should maybe start thinking about the consequences of his actions. But then he gets a text from Yeonjun asking if he wants to come over for dinner. And well, he can reflect on his feelings later.

When he knocks on Yeonjun and Soobin’s apartment door, he’s surprised that he’s greeted by Soobin wearing an apron. “What are you up to?” Beomgyu says, in lieu of a greeting.

Soobin rolls his eyes, “No how have you been, best friend? I missed you, best friend?” But he pulls Beomgyu into a hug anyway.

“We had class together yesterday and I texted you this morning,” Beomgyu says, squeezing Soobin tight enough for him to yelp. “Also, seriously. Why are you wearing an apron?”

“I’m cooking dinner,” Soobin lets him in and closes the door behind him.

Beomgyu sees the evidence of his statement when he goes to the kitchen and sees a pot on the stove, steam rising from whatever’s cooking. The barely used countertops are filled too. There’s an empty package of rice cakes, used spoons and onions on a cutting board. Beomgyu wants to give Soobin the benefit of the doubt, but he’s never even seen Soobin cook.

Beomgyu narrows his eyes, “Yeonjun-hyung let you cook unattended?”

Soobin glares at him, “Wait until you taste my cooking, and then you will eat your words, Choi Beomgyu.”

Beomgyu sticks his tongue out, “Where is he anyway? Is he getting takeout?”

“He’s in the bathroom washing his eyes,” Soobin says simply, stirring the boiling pot of soup base while ignoring Beomgyu’s bewildered look.

“Why would he be washing his eyes…” Beomgyu mutters, heading towards where their shared bathroom was. He hears the sound of the faucet running and when he reaches the entrance, he sees Yeonjun furiously rubbing his eye with water. He sing-songs, “Yeonjunnie—”

“Beomgyu, is that you?” Yeonjun stands up straight, but he struggles to open his eyes without tearing up.

Beomgyu goes to his side, cupping his face to get a better look. “Why are your eyes watering so much? Are you crying because you missed me?” He asks, cheekily.

Yeonjun smacks him for the latter comment, “I was helping Soobin cook, so we wouldn’t starve for dinner. But the onions…”

Beomgyu takes pity on him and wipes his tears with his thumbs, “It’s okay, just bear it.”

Yeonjun huffs, his mouth shaped into a pout, and Beomgyu wonders if all the kissing that happened the last time they were together was a one time thing. There was no indication that there would be repeat opportunities. They’d parted ways the same as they always did, with Yeonjun kissing the top of his head.

He’d never ask though. No amount of kisses is worth the humiliation of asking and subsequently getting teased about it.

When the effect of the onion fumes settle and Yeonjun manages to blink without feeling like his eyes are burning, Yeonjun reaches over to turn the sink off and he reaches over Beomgyu to grab a paper towel to wipe his hands and face. Worriedly, he says, “I think Soobin is going to burn the kitchen down if we leave him alone for another minute.”

“He’s not that bad at cooking,” Beomgyu rolls his eyes, grabbing the paper towel from Yeonjun’s hand to help him get the spots he’d missed. “I think he could survive for another three minutes alone. Five minutes tops.”

“Oh? Should we stay here for five more minutes then? What should we do?” Yeonjun teases, and Beomgyu hates the fact that he’s set himself up for it. His heart flutters at the insinuation too, and he makes sure to avoid meeting his eyes, dabbing his face harder with the paper towel.

Yeonjun yelps, grabbing his wrist to stop him from hitting his face. Beomgyu sticks his tongue out, “On second thought, I think we should go and save him.”

Yeonjun laughs, pinching Beomgyu’s reddening ears, “Ah, you’re so easy to tease.”

Here it is. A string at the edge of snapping. 

They do go back to the kitchen and Soobin is just quietly cleaning up the kitchen. Yeonjun sighs dramatically, “Choi Soobin, why couldn’t we just do take-out?”

Soobin smiles brightly, clapping his hands together, “Hyung, we’re already halfway through it. I even put the rice cakes in already.”

Beomgyu peers into the pot and is surprised to see that it actually looks kind of good. It’s the right shade of red, which lets you know the flavor isn’t diluted, and it’s not too far off from how it usually looks like when he sees it being sold from the street vendors near the University. “Maybe we don’t need to do take-out. Hey Soobin, I’m really proud of you.”

“This is the type of support you should always give me,” Soobin wiggles, gleeful, while Yeonjun frowns, “Hey, where’s my compliment? I did seventy percent of the work.”

Beomgyu and Soobin stare at each other for a moment, before cooing at Yeonjun excessively, “You are so talented, Yeonjunnie. The absolute best. Number one in our hearts.”

Yeonjun bats them both away and they laugh, because they can see how much Yeonjun is biting his lip to hide his smile. Beomgyu thinks he’s the easy one. Always the first to compliment himself, but also the first to seek it. It’s cute.

They let the tteokbokki simmer down to enhance the flavor, but when it’s ready, Soobin excitedly shoos them both to their small dining table. Yeonjun and Beomgyu exchange small hidden smiles.

Beomgyu rests his chin on his hand, elbow propped on the table, “I think somebody has kidnapped our Soobin. But I think I like this Soobin better. Let’s keep him.”

“I asked him why he wanted to cook earlier,” Yeonjun mutters, eyeing Soobin sprinkle some chopped green onion as garnish on their bowls, “He said he was practicing.”

“Practicing for what?” Beomgyu questions, “Gordon Ramsey?”

Yeonjun mock whispers, “No, Kang Taehyun—”

He’s cut off by Soobin placing their dinners in front of them. “You guys are lucky that I’m in a good mood, or I would have spit on your food.”

Beomgyu snorts, “I think Yeonjun-hyung would still eat it, so. Empty threats.”

Both Yeonjun and Soobin stare at him with mouths half-open, and Beomgyu shrugs, “What? Am I wrong?”

“First of all, the thought of Yeonjun hyung consuming my spit willingly is so so gross, I can’t believe you would even suggest that—”

“You’re literally the one who said you’d spit in our food!” 

“I wasn’t actually going to do it—”

Between them, Yeonjun starts eating, too used to the bickering. This is, after all, a typical hang out when all three of them are together. There isn’t one quiet time where Soobin and Beomgyu haven’t argued.

It usually ends with one person huffing and the other sticking their tongue out at the other. It’s their love language. And it ends just like that tonight too.

Contrary to what Yeonjun and Soobin claim, Beomgyu does live, sleep, and study in his own dorm room. So when he sees that it’s getting late, he makes a motion to leave.

Soobin jokes, “Leaving when it’s time to do the dishes? Classic Choi Beomgyu move.” But he gives Beomgyu a hug anyway. “I’ll see you in class tomorrow. Don’t be late or I’ll give your seat away.”

“You love me too much,” Beomgyu says confidently, and moves towards the door. He turns around to wave goodbye to Yeonjun too, but he sees him following closely behind, with full intent to see him out properly.

Oh, it makes him pause just outside of their apartment door. Yeonjun stands half-way through the entry way, with the door closed against his back.

Beomgyu looks at him expectantly, waiting for him to say something, but Yeonjun is just biting his lip and looking at him. Unable to take the waiting, Beomgyu jokes, “You wanna walk me home, hyung?”

But instead of Yeonjun scoffing, he does the opposite:  Yeonjun looks worriedly out into the night sky before turning to him, “Should I? It is getting pretty late.”

It makes him nervous. He shakes his head, “I was kidding, hyung. I don’t need you to walk me home. I’m a big boy.”

Yeonjun’s worried look melts into an indulgent smile. His eyes do a slow scan down that lights up Beomgyu’s insides, “Oh yeah? Then what’s all of this?”

His ears are surely red, but Beomgyu always has enough bravado to pretend he isn’t affected. Beomgyu huffs, crossing his arms over his chest, “You are only two centimeters taller than me, you fool.”

“Why are you calling your practice boyfriend names? Again? After everything we’ve been through?” Yeonjun pouts, putting a hand over his heart, “That hurts you know?”

Beomgyu steps closer and in an effort to annoy, he coos, “Oh? Where does it hurt? Should I kiss it better?”

And again, just when he expects Yeonjun to laugh and push him away, Yeonjun purses his lips and points at it, “Yes, kiss it right here.”

Beomgyu’s eyes widen and his mind spins. Is Choi Yeonjun serious? Is he actually serious? Beomgyu tilts his head to the side and dubiously, he asks, “For practice?”

Yeonjun nods, looking absolutely like a child with his pursed mouth. Beomgyu shrugs internally; he doesn’t really need that much persuading for a kiss, especially when Yeonjun is asking. “Okay,” Beomgyu murmurs, going on his tiptoes, and pressing a quick smooch to Yeonjun’s lips.

He watches Yeonjun’s eyes flutter and fights hard not to burst out in a big smile, even if his stomach is doing somersaults. And because he can’t help but always ask for Yeonjun’s approval, he asks, “Was it good?”

Yeonjun pretends to be in thought and then just because he is the way he is, he says, “It was just okay I think—”

Beomgyu kisses him again and can’t help but giggle against Yeonjun’s mouth at the way his body jolts in surprise. He pulls away, “Is that better?”

“I think that was way worse,” Yeonjun complains, and Beomgyu rolls his eyes, “Okay, practice boyfriend, you show me how it’s done—”

Yeonjun cups his cheeks and Beomgyu giggles again, “Okay, stop giggling! Stop it—”

But before Yeonjun can do anything, the door behind them swings open and Soobin’s looking at them with the most unimpressed face in the world. “What are you guys doing?”

The two of them straighten up and it’s Yeonjun who tries to shoo Soobin away. “Don’t worry, we’re not talking about your planned love confession to Kang Taehyun.”

Stoooooop,” Soobin covers his face in embarrassment, “Don’t tease me, I already want to back out.”

Beomgyu giggles again and they push Soobin back inside, with Yeonjun stepping back inside the apartment fully. Soobin is so cute and easy to tease, it makes Beomgyu so happy to see him be made a fool at the simple mention of Taehyun.

He figures that’s that and calls out a goodbye, so he finally starts walking towards the direction of the exit. He makes it a couple steps before he hears someone running towards him. When he turns, he sees Yeonjun come to a stop before him, but before he can ask, Yeonjun cups his cheeks again and says, “You forgot something,” before kissing him square on the mouth, soft and sweet and just long enough to leave him wanting more. All Beomgyu can do is clutch tight at Yeonjun’s shoulders, as his heart gets swept in its fervor.

When Yeonjun pulls away, he’s sure that he looks dazed because Yeonjun just smiles proudly at himself. “Okay, good night,” Yeonjun says, before walking back to his apartment like he did not just wreak havoc.

Irresponsible, Beomgyu thinks, dazedly touching his mouth. That last kiss plays in a loop, like a broken film spun and spun, and his heart flutters with its angel wings the whole way home.

 


 

Beomgyu concludes that kissing is the worst thing that’s happened to him.

Contrary to popular (Soobin) belief, Yeonjun is not the only thing that occupies his mind. He’s got projects and worse, those projects have deadlines. Some people think being a music major would be so easy, but there’s something uniquely difficult about creating emotion out of essentially a bag of musical notes.

There’s the typical chord progressions they can rely on, of course, and centuries worth of music to draw inspiration from. But to make something theirs? Terribly difficult.

And Beomgyu thanks his lucky stars that he’s partnered with Huening Kai for their duet project. He’s got unique ideas for their performance and Beomgyu hasn’t felt this excited about a group project in a long time.

He does feel sorry for Kai, because his mind is all over the place. He’s been suffering a serious case of absent mindedness the whole day, and it’s all because of Choi Yeonjun and his stupid mouth. If he thinks about it long enough, he can perfectly relive the feel of his lips against his and that’s enough to send his heart on a stuttering rampage.

“Beomgyu hyung?” Kai says, bringing him out of his daydreams. “Are you okay? You’re looking kind of red.”

“Am I?” Beomgyu lightly touches his cheek, feels it warm under his touch. “I guess I am.”

“Is everything okay? We can practice at another time,” Kai suggests, but Beomgyu shakes his head.

“No, sorry, I just need to pull myself together,” Beomgyu slaps his cheek and Kai winces at the sharp sound. “I just need to get it out of my system.”

Kai pats the seat beside him in front of the piano, “Do you want to talk about it?”

“God yes,” Beomgyu sighs in relief, taking the seat Kai offered. Beomgyu knows he’s got a best friend for these kinds of things, that Soobin will hear him out and offer comfort and advice just like he always has. But again, there’s something about this thing he has going on with Yeonjun that just doesn’t feel right sharing it with Soobin just yet.

“Is this about Yeonjun hyung?” Kai asks.

Beomgyu is sick of himself, “Is it ever not about him?”

Kai laughs and Beomgyu is glad one of them is getting a kick out of it at least. “What did Yeonjun hyung do this time?”

“Can you promise not to tell Taehyun? He’s going to beat me up for being so stupid,” Beomgyu extends his pinky and Kai links his with him, their thumbs meeting each other as a gesture of promise.

“Taehyun would never beat you up,” Kai says, but Beomgyu rolls his eyes. Kai would say that, because Taehyun is in his sweetest, nicest form when he’s with Kai.

“He absolutely will because I have a special talent in riling up even the most patient people,” Beomgyu says, “Look at Soobin. Anyway!” Beomgyu claps his hands to signal the end of that train of thought. “So I fucked up. You know how Yeonjun hyung is helping me practice dating?”

Kai nods to indicate that he follows, so Beomgyu continues, “Well, that’s a fake reason that I used to help me get over him. By dating him as practice. To get it out of my system.”

Kai shakes his head to indicate that he doesn’t follow.

“It’s to get over him! By giving myself a fake chance at dating him!” Beomgyu explains, feeling increasingly embarrassed the more he speaks. He never said he was the smartest tool in the box.

“What if you fell for him even more? Isn’t that risky?” Kai asks, scratching his head.

Beomgyu refused to think about that. “It’s a calculated risk I was willing to take,”

“But hyung, you’re bad at math…”

“Be quiet!” Beomgyu covers Kai’s mouth with his hand, and when he’s sure that Kai won’t interrupt him anymore, he takes his hand back and continues, “So well, we kissed. We’ve been kissing.”

Kai’s eyes widen and Beomgyu laughs, self-consciously tugging on his bangs. “Was that part of the practice dating thing you guys had going on?” Kai asks to prompt him further.

“Yes,” Beomgyu says, before deflating, “Not really, but he asked if I wanted to practice kissing? And then I said yes, but it doesn’t feel like practice? Kissing is weird. But it could just be me, I’ve never really kissed anybody else, so I don’t know if people are supposed to feel the way I feel when I kiss him?”

Kai raises a brow, “And how does it feel?”

“Like the way my heart is when I’m at the highest point of a rollercoaster and we’ve just dropped down,” Beomgyu feels that same way just at the memory of it.

Kai looks a bit green, “Yeonjun hyung kisses that well? I don’t need to know that.”

Beomgyu hits him for that comment, “But it isn’t just the kissing itself, it’s like even the way he looks at me before, it gets my heart racing.” It’s his big brown eyes that look at him with so much warmth, it’s the sound of his voice when he says, can i kiss you, the gentleness in his hands; these are what Beomgyu wants to point out, but he doesn’t want Kai to think him even more lost. “Are all kisses like that? That’s what I want to know.”

“I guess we won’t know until you kiss someone who’s not hyung,” Kai concludes, mind wandering, his fingers absentmindedly tapping the piano keys.

Beomgyu considers him, “Is kissing like that for you too?”

The piano makes a wretched sound underneath Kai’s hands at the question, “Huh? Why are you asking me?”

“You’ve kissed people, right?” Beomgyu hones in on Kai’s panic, “What was it like?”

Defensively, Kai says, “I’ve only kissed one person, and it was special, so I can’t speak on that either.”

Beomgyu pouts at that, “So we’re in the same boat? I need someone with experience.”

“Hyung, why don’t you just kiss someone else? There’s always someone willing at parties,” Kai says, exasperatedly.

“But that’s next week! I want to know now,” Beomgyu shakes his head, “And that’d be kind of weird, since we go to the same parties. What if he sees me kissing someone else?”

“Are you guys exclusive? Is he kissing somebody else?” Kai asks, but Beomgyu is unsure.

“I don’t know. I mean, it’s not like it’s a real relationship, you know? And he said he would tell me if he found somebody else?”

Kai just sighs turning back towards the piano, but Beomgyu isn’t ready to drop the topic. “So, who did you kiss?”

“Hyung,” Kai whines, “It’s just someone special, you don’t need to know.”

Beomgyu raises his hand in surrender and Kai sighs in relief, thinking Beomgyu has given up on it. Beomgyu places his hand on top of Kai’s on the piano and in the suavest tone he can muster, he says, “Do you want to try kissing me?”

Kai looks at him with a mix of unimpressed and disgust, “Please tell me that’s not how you learned it from Yeonjun hyung.”

“No,” Beomgyu slumps, sticking his tongue out at him, and Kai laughs.

“What’s Yeonjun-hyung going to do with me if he finds out I’ve kissed you, huh?”

“Nothing,” Beomgyu promises, “He probably wouldn’t care. I am not actually his boyfriend, you know?”

“If you say so,” Kai says with some doubt, but he seems convinced enough, because he says, “If you ask me with aegyo, I’ll kiss you.”

Beomgyu fights the urge to roll his eyes. This is for science; if he has to do aegyo, he will. He makes his eyes bigger and puffs up his cheeks, then with a high pitched voice, he asks, “Kai, heart heart, can we kiss? Buing-buing.”

“I should have videotaped this,” Kai says, laughing especially hard when Beomgyu drops the cute act and makes a complete flip, looking super dead inside. “Okay, I’ll kiss you, but only once.”

“Oh, Huening Kai,” Beomgyu says, airily, “I don’t know if you can only kiss me just once. I’m actually scared you’ll fall in love with me—”

Kai ignores him and instead grabs his hands to pull him closer to him, sliding on the piano bench. “Are you nervous?”

Beomgyu snorts, “No, but I think it’s because it’s you, Ning.”

“Shut up,” Kai cups his cheek and Beomgyu quiets down for once. He thinks back on how he’s felt each time Yeonjun has done the same action to him, and...it’s just different. Kai’s hands on him are gentle and his eyes are warm, but he doesn’t feel like he’s about to melt. Looking into Kai’s eyes, Beomgyu fights the urge to laugh, because Kai looks so focused.

“Okay,” Kai says, and Beomgyu echoes it. “I’m gonna kiss you now,” Kai says, as if he’s hyping himself up but it also sounds like a warning. Beomgyu closes his eyes just as Kai begins to lean in, and soon enough, he feels the soft press of Kai’s mouth against his.

It’s different in a good way. If a kiss can be described using the wind, it’s a breeze, easy in the way it feels calm. There are no hurricanes being made here. He kisses back, raises a hand to cover the hands cupping his cheek. And then just as suddenly as they began, Kai pulls away soon enough.

It takes a second or two for them to process. Beomgyu watches the flutter of Kai’s lashes and concludes, “That was nice.”

Kai turns red at that, embarrassed, and awkwardly says, “Thank you, thanks, that was nice for me too.”

Beomgyu smiles, reaching over to pinch Kai’s cheek, “Did you fall in love with me?”

“No,” Kai vehemently denies, “It wasn’t that good.”

Beomgyu jokingly glares at him, before it fades to a small frown. Briefly, he wonders: are first kisses supposed to be like that instead? Easy, breezy (covergirl, his mind can’t help but joke), and innocent. It would be the perfect kiss to look back on, with fondness but not special enough to ruin every other kiss he’ll have. Not like his first kiss.

Kai looks at him curiously, “Did that answer your question?”

Beomgyu bites his lip. He doesn’t have to think long and hard about it, because it’s glaringly obvious. “Yes,” he answers eventually and then says nothing more.

Beomgyu is grateful Kai spares him the question of what the answer is. Beomgyu is not ready to say it out loud.

 


 

Even now, Beomgyu puts off addressing the growing problem of his feelings.

Later, he’d said at the night of the party. Later, he’d said when Yeonjun first kissed him.

He’s saying later now, as Yeonjun pushes him to sit down on the couch and straddles his lap.

Let’s backtrack a little bit.

Beomgyu knows it takes a much longer time to form a habit, but once he’s started kissing Yeonjun, it doesn’t take long for them to get used to the practice. Of course, the first few times after what he had subsequently dubbed as the ‘tteokbokki kiss,’ he had still been unsure of the frequency of the kisses, and so, he’d savor each one like it’d be the last time.

But the kisses don’t stop coming, and they’ve stopped feeling like the first drop of rain each time. It always begins the same way; that is to say, Yeonjun always starts them. Whether it’s pulling him back by the hand to ask for a good night kiss or to tease him about needing more practice, Yeonjun always takes the first step and Beomgyu follows with his mouth.

This time, though, it was Beomgyu who had started it.

All day, he had refused to kiss him — no good morning kisses, no reactions to his teasing, not even a kiss on the cheek. It was hard to say no, but it had been worth it for the disappointed look that appeared on Yeonjun’s face. The cute little pout he’d sport. The way he’d lean in expecting a kiss and falter awkwardly when he received none. It feels good to know Beomgyu wasn’t the only one who’d gotten used to it.

Then, at dinner, Beomgyu had made his move (a part of it anyway). They’d gone out to get bossam, because of Yeonjun’s cravings. The whole time, he’d made it a point to stare at Yeonjun’s mouth, even taking initiative to wipe his mouth after they were done. Yeonjun had just stared at him with increasing frustration each time he’d catch Beomgyu staring. Beomgyu would just smile in return, very pleased with his reaction.

On their walk back to Yeonjun’s apartment, Beomgyu had even made sure to tuck his hands in his jacket, even though they typically hold hands these days when it’s just the two of them. Yeonjun had put an arm around his shoulders instead, and Beomgyu had to improvise and shrug his arm off, playfully walking faster. They arrived at the apartment in no time.

When they walk in, Beomgyu could tell Yeonjun was annoyed, and he works hard to tamp down the smile from his own face. He takes off his shoes and shrugs his jacket off and asks, “What time are you sleeping, hyung?”

“Probably later than you,” Yeonjun replies gruffly, grabbing some water from their fridge and drinks it.

“Ah, is that so?” Beomgyu pouts, looking sad. “I kind of wanted to sleep over, but that’s okay! I’ll ask Soobin-hyung. He typically sleeps earlier too, so I can sleep with him instead. He doesn’t move around in his sleep that much either, which is nice! And he’s cuddly and warm—”

Yeonjun shuts the fridge a little too strongly and says, “Then sleep with him then.”

Beomgyu raises a brow at him, “Aren’t you a little too tense, hyung? What’s wrong? You know you can tell me anything, right?”

Yeonjun glares at him and then, Beomgyu can’t help but laugh at his expression, “Don’t laugh at me, you punk! You’re the problem! All day, you’ve been hot and cold. One moment, it’s like you want me to kiss you and then the other it’s like you don’t want me to touch you. Make up your mind!”

Beomgyu comes up to him and loops his arms behind Yeonjun’s neck, “Why? Were you disappointed? You wanted me to kiss you that bad, huh?”

Yeonjun rolls his eyes, looking away, “Shut up, I taught you everything you know—”

“Fine, I admit that,” Beomgyu hums, smiling fully now, “You taught me so well and now you can’t go a day without receiving my kisses?”

But Yeonjun doesn’t move, glaring at a random spot on the wall. Beomgyu presses a kiss to his cheek to get a reaction, “Are you gonna stay mad at me? Are you really not going to look at me?”

“I’m not that easy,” Yeonjun huffs, but Beomgyu doesn’t give up that easily either. He continues to press tiny little smooches on Yeonjun’s face, stopping just short of the corner of Yeonjun’s mouth.

Beomgyu pulls away and cups Yeonjun’s face with his hands, forcing him to look at Beomgyu in the eyes. “Hyung,” he whines, eyes flickering down to his mouth, “Are you really not going to let me kiss you? Soobin’s gonna come home and then we’ll miss our chance.”

“We make out even when he’s home, we just do it in my room,” Yeonjun corrects him.

“That was one time, and I,” Beomgyu emphasizes, “didn’t know he was home.”

Yeonjun shakes his head, “Nope, it’s been more than once.”

“That’s gross,” Beomgyu grimaces, “The thought of him walking in...humiliating.”

Yeonjun frowns, “What, you think getting caught kissing me is humiliating?”

“It’s not you,” Beomgyu leans to kiss the frown off his mouth, “It’s just Soobin. He’d feel the same if I ever walk in on him kissing Taehyun. I don’t want to see, I don’t want to hear.”

“Really?” Yeonjun softens, finally wrapping his arms around Beomgyu’s waist to pull him closer.

“Really, really,” Beomgyu nods, leaning so close that when he speaks, his mouth moves almost against Yeonjun’s, “Kiss me already. We have to make up for the whole day.”

Yeonjun smirks, “Now, who’s fault is that?” But he doesn’t give Beomgyu a chance to answer, finally erasing the remaining space between them and kisses him. This is the nth time but Beomgyu’s heart still flutters. Before he can kiss back though, Yeonjun pulls away, "That's the good morning kiss you said no to."

Another kiss, "That's for when you didn't kiss me during lunch."

Another kiss, "That's for when you avoided me even though I looked so cute and deserved a kiss."

Another kiss, "That's for staring at my mouth all through dinner and not doing anything about it—"

Beomgyu laughs, "Okay, I get it, I get it. I'm in kiss debt. I'm the worst."

He cups Yeonjun's cheek to hold him still and kisses him the way he's been wanting to all day. He loves kissing, doesn't know how he went his whole life without it. And he's only ever kissed two people in his life, but he's convinced kissing Yeonjun will trump kissing anybody else each time. It's Yeonjun’s goddamn mouth, his lips pink and plump like a peach, slick and soft against his tongue, that parts open for him so easily.

He tilts his head to kiss Yeonjun deeper, tongue dipping in his mouth, and it has Yeonjun gasping, his hands fisting the material of Beomgyu's shirt. Yeonjun meets his tongue eagerly, all practiced finesse determined to turn Beomgyu into putty in Yeonjun's hands.

Beomgyu will surely melt, but Beomgyu will be damned if he doesn't do the same to him. Mid-kiss, Beomgyu walks them back, so Yeonjun's pressed against the kitchen counter. Yeonjun steadies himself by holding onto the counter behind him, and Beomgyu takes advantage of it by lining his whole body against Yeonjun's, standing on his tiptoes and losing balance. Yeonjun laughs against Beomgyu's mouth, before pulling away much to Beomgyu's dismay, "Should we text Soobin and ask him when he's coming home?"

Beomgyu barely hears him, eyes zeroed in on Yeonjun's swollen bottom lip. He doesn't even notice himself leaning in, until he's kissing Yeonjun again, sucking on his bottom lip. Yeonjun holds him by his chin, pressing against it lightly to pull him away. Beomgyu blinks, grabbing Yeonjun’s hand from his chin and holds it gingerly up to his mouth, pressing kisses to his knuckles. “No, don’t text him. He won’t answer. Text Taehyun instead.”

Yeonjun watches him, releasing a breath he didn’t know he was holding. He reaches for his phone in his pocket and types a message to Taehyun. When he sends it, he places the phone on the counter behind him. Yeonjun licks his lips, “Hopefully, he responds fast.”

“Yeah,” Beomgyu says, eyes flickering back to Yeonjun’s mouth, not even bothering to be subtle about it. He doesn’t do anything though, just smiles sweetly as he averts his gaze elsewhere, “Hopefully.”

The air is thick and heated, and in the silence that comes with waiting, Beomgyu can only think of Yeonjun and Yeonjun and Yeonjun. He swings their intertwined hands together as they wait for a notification from Taehyun regarding Soobin’s whereabouts and ETA. What’s taking so long?

Yeonjun tugs at his hand, and Beomgyu tugs back to be annoying. Yeonjun rolls his eyes, smiling. “Come back here,” He loops his hands behind Beomgyu’s neck, pulling him closer, but lets out a yelp when his back gets pushed against a drawer handle. “This is probably not the best place to do this.”

“But I’m comfortable here,” Beomgyu pouts, not really wanting to move. He gets an idea, “What if you just sit on the countertop?”

Yeonjun raises a brow, dubious at the idea, “Don’t think you could reach me if I do…”

“You are literally only two centimeters taller,” Beomgyu rolls his eyes, “Just try it.”

“I really don’t think it’s a good idea—” Yeonjun cuts himself off, when Beomgyu takes it into his own hands and lifts him onto the countertop easily. Yeonjun grasps onto his shoulder in surprise and is met with Beomgyu’s smug smile when he realizes he’s only a couple centimeters taller than Beomgyu. It’s certainly a doable distance.

“Hehe,” Beomgyu giggles, “I told you so. Even if you were too tall, it would have at least been funny.”

Yeonjun pouts, “I was just trying to protect your pride.”

Beomgyu smiles at that, booping Yeonjun’s nose, “You’re always trying to protect me. I can take care of myself just fine.”

 “It’s my job to protect you, my cute little baby,” Yeonjun boops his nose back. It wrinkles under his touch.

But who’s gonna protect me from you?

Beomgyu grimaces, “Don’t refer to me as your cute little baby. That’s weird, your tongue was literally in my mouth a couple seconds ago—”

Yeonjun defends himself, “Baby is a legit pet name—”

“Yeah, but you don’t mean it like that. It’s supposed to sound hot—”

Baby,” Yeonjun says in a low voice, but Beomgyu is unphased. Yeonjun purses his mouth, looking away, “Maybe I’ve been flirting with you too much, you’re not affected anymore. Are you used to this handsome face? This is unbelievable. I think we should stop seeing each other for a while, so you can get back to being in awe—”

Yeonjun’s monologue is interrupted by the notification sound on his phone. Immediately, Yeonjun picks it up and reads it out loud, “We are still going to go out and get ice cream. Maybe in another hour or so? That’s what Taehyun said. Let’s set a timer for an hour.”

“Fifty minutes,” Beomgyu says.

Yeonjun raises a brow, “What, you need ten minutes to pull yourself together?”

Beomgyu doesn’t answer his question. All this time, with this practice dating thing, he’s followed the advice of everybody else. The holdings hands, the caring, the supporting one another and all that sweet stuff. But there is one thing Beomgyu wants to learn. Something he is super curious about that he didn’t realize could possibly be on the table until recently. And now that it’s in his head, he can’t get it out.

He bites his lip, looking down at the ground and making sure his expression looks as forlorn as ever. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you, by the way, but I don’t know…”

“Hmm?,” Yeonjun asks, “What is it?”

Beomgyu meets his eyes briefly, before looking down again. His finger coyly traces patterns on Yeonjun’s thigh, “There’s actually something I want to know how to do, but I’m shy…”

“Are you trying to act cute?” Yeonjun snorts, but Beomgyu pouts at him before looking away again. “I’m not as shameless as you, there’s some things I can’t just ask without getting shy…”

“Just tell me,” Yeonjun says, cupping Beomgyu’s cheek with one hand and trying to get him to look at Yeonjun. But even when Beomgyu’s face is turned towards him, his eyes still avert their gaze. “Beomie, come on, I promise I won’t laugh.”

“Well,” Beomgyu sighs, reaching up to fiddle with the drawstring of his hoodie. “The thing is I really, really, really learn how to give a hickey.”

Yeonjun looks at him, like he didn’t hear him right. Beomgyu tamps down his smile by biting his lip and touches his neck, pretending to be lost in thought, “Like that bruise people get on their neck, like right here? Do you know what I’m talking about?”

Yeonjun’s hand is warm when he touches that same spot on Beomgyu’s neck. How is his touch so different from Beomgyu’s own? “You want it right here?”

Beomgyu looks up at him, finally meeting his gaze, “No. I want it right here,” Beomgyu gently touches the right side of Yeonjun’s neck. “Can you teach me?”

Yeonjun swallows and Beomgyu follows the movement without fail. Yeonjun nods and in a soft voice says, “Yeah, I can, but not here.”

He pushes himself off the counter and holds Beomgyu’s hand as he brings them to the living room. “Here?” Beomgyu asks, pointing to the couch. Here where they spent Wednesdays watching Kingdom on Netflix? Here on Fridays where they get take out and get together with Taehyun and Kai?

“It’s comfy here,” is all Yeonjun says, before kissing him. It catches Beomgyu off guard, not expecting it, but he adjusts. His mouth is made for Yeonjun’s kisses after all. Beomgyu is easy, he admits that, but so is Yeonjun. They match each other well. They do a good job of getting lost in each other, kissing languidly, like they have all the time in the world and all that time needs to be spent here.

But they don’t have all the time in the world. They have less than fifty minutes.

Yeonjun pulls away and pushes him to sit down on the couch, without any preamble. Beomgyu barely processes it, and as if the world is moving in slow motion, he watches Yeonjun climb his lap. They have never been in this position before. It's only ever been the other way around.

Beomgyu burns. Is this allowed?

Yeonjun pulls out his phone and sets a timer, showing the countdown on the screen to Beomgyu. "It's enough time," Yeonjun says confidently.

Beomgyu nods, unsure of where to place hands and waits for further instruction. "You know best, hyung."

"It's actually really easy. Takes less than a minute to give one."

"Yeah?" Beomgyu asks. Yeonjun could say the Earth was flat and he'd believe it right now. "Then we won't really need the fifty minutes?"

"I didn't say that. Maybe you're a shitty student. Maybe you'll need the full fifty."

Beomgyu shakes his head to deny, but it's half-hearted. He doesn’t care if he’s branded as a shitty student. There are better prizes out there. He wants the full fifty minutes.

Yeonjun smiles, full of charm, "But I don't think so. You've done pretty well the past few times. Besides, I was being too simple. It doesn't take time to give someone a hickey."

Yeonjun looks at his neck with consideration and Beomgyu tries not to shiver when Yeonjun brings his hand to his neck. "But it does take time to make it feel good and to do it well. And because I'm teaching and you're practicing on me, I want both. Are you following?"

Like Beomgyu can think about anything else right now. Beomgyu nods, and Yeonjun smiles, "Okay, the most important thing is consent. Some people might not want to get one for multiple reasons. It could be hard to hide too. So, check with the person first."

Yeonjun gives him a tiny little smooch, and it tastes like a sweet promise and a warning at the same time. "So can I mark your neck up?" He asks, the same way he'd ask Beomgyu for a drink of cola in the fridge. Like it's not about to haunt Beomgyu every time he sits on this couch in the future.

"Yeah," Beomgyu says, clearing his throat. "Do your worst."

Yeonjun chuckles, "So anywhere is fine? You'd be good with a big fat hickey right where everyone can see?"

Beomgyu sputters, "You're planning on leaving something that big? Where's your conscience?"

"That's exactly my point! You have to be specific or else you'll end up with a gigantic hickey. And people will know because the only way you can hide it is because you're wearing a turtleneck or a scarf when it's so hot outside."

The detail raises a brow, "Are you sure you're not speaking from experience?"

"No," Yeonjun says, in a tone that leaves no room for further argument. Yeonjun looks at his neck thoughtfully, "Where did you say you want it again?"

"Wherever," Beomgyu shrugs, "It's not like I'm getting a tattoo. You can pick."

Yeonjun nods, "Okay, just...pay attention to how I do it and then ask questions after. That sound good?"

Beomgyu gives him a thumbs up. Yeonjun chuckles, murmuring a soft 'cute' under his breath, before slanting his mouth against Beomgyu’s. Yeonjun takes his sweet, sweet time kissing him, pulling at his bottom lip, the same way Beomgyu had done earlier. He has one hand tangled in the strands of hair at Beomgyu’s nape. Beomgyu tries hard to keep up, but Yeonjun is set on leaving him breathless. When Yeonjun pulls away, Beomgyu’s chest is heaving, noticeably so that when Yeonjun moves to kiss his cheek, he can feel him smile against his skin. Smug bastard.

Yeonjun lightly tugs at his hair, tilting his head to side to show more of his neck. Beomgyu feels like a live wire and at the first press of Yeonjun’s lips on his neck, he whimpers. It sounds so loud in his ears and Yeonjun surely hears it too for he pauses; Beomgyu just knows, knows, knows he’s never going to live it down and he shuts his eyes, preparing for the verbal teasing that’s about to come.

But it never comes.

Instead, Yeonjun lowly asks, “Sensitive?” before continuing his trail of kisses down Beomgyu’s neck. His neck isn’t that sensitive and it isn’t the first time it’s been kissed, but the anticipation has him trembling. Every press of his mouth feels like a brush of a feather, until it isn't— there, in that spot just a bit below his ear, Yeonjun opens his mouth and licks the heated skin, before sucking lightly.

It’s unexpected and he jolts. Immediately, Yeonjun pulls away, a worried expression on his face, “Did I hurt you?”

Beomgyu shakes his head, reaching up to caress Yeonjun’s shoulder, “No, you didn’t. I just didn’t expect it to feel like that.”

“Did you like it?”

“Yes,” Beomgyu nods, pulling Yeonjun back to his neck, “It feels good, you’re so good—”

Yeonjun avoids the spot from before and presses open mouth kisses upon open mouth kisses all over his neck. Beomgyu melts against the couch under his touch and he’s anchored only by his grip on Yeonjun’s shoulder, his other hand threaded in Yeonjun’s hair. And then — Yeonjun inches his way back again to the sensitive spot under his ear, presses lingering kisses, and sucks, just a little bit harder than the first time. It stings just the tiniest bit, but it’s worth it for the tiny gentle kisses Yeonjun presses after.

Yeonjun pulls away, thumbing the mark he’s made. Beomgyu reaches up to touch his neck too, but he’s just dazedly looking at Yeonjun. Yeonjun smiles, that soft indulgent one reserved just for him, and says in a throaty voice, “There you go, baby, your first hickey.”

It turns out, Beomgyu doesn’t need to spend time away from Yeonjun, because the pet name does its magic. It’s his voice, it’s the look in his eyes, it’s his mess of a hair (a casualty of Beomgyu’s wandering hand). It’s the way he’s got Beomgyu so completely unbound under him while still having the nerve to look so goddamn attractive. Calling him baby is so stupidly hot, Beomgyu hates himself for being this affected.

Beomgyu can barely form words to respond, and Yeonjun’s sweet smile digresses into a smirk soon enough. “It’s okay,” Yeonjun says, “Take your time. I’m gonna grab some water.”

“I’m processing,” Beomgyu says to Yeonjun’s retreating back. “Trying to see if I have any questions.”

He hears the fridge swing open and the sounds of Yeonjun digging for the water bottles that they’ve stuck behind the cans of soda and cider. He hears the snap of the plastic cap and sees Yeonjun walk back into the living room as he drinks the water. He takes a seat beside Beomgyu, a little reprieve from the almost suffocating closeness, and passes the water bottle to him once he’s done with it.

Beomgyu downs it, and only then does he realize how dry his mouth was after all the kissing they’ve done. He feels a little resurrected too, even as he's in the middle of stamping his embarrassment down. He screws the cap back on the bottle and places it on the ground.

Yeonjun is sitting facing him, with his side pressed against the couch cushions, an arm propping his head up. “So,” Yeonjun starts, tongue pressed against the inside of his cheek, “Any questions?”

Beomgyu studies him, the smug vibes he’s emitting, and thinks about how he needs to knock him down a peg or two. Nothing drastic, just drag him down back to Beomgyu’s level.

Beomgyu shakes his head, “Nah, I think I got it. The instruction was very, uh, detailed.”

Yeonjun laughs, fully relaxing against the cushions, “Okay, do you want to practice then?”

“Yeah,” Beomgyu says, moving closer until there’s barely any space between them. He mirrors the way Yeonjun’s sitting, so that they’re facing each other. He rests his hand on Yeonjun’s hip and and the other cups his cheek, tenderly stroking it. Carefully, he watches as Yeonjun flushes pink at the gesture.

From what Beomgyu’s seen, Yeonjun is a top notch flirter—  he’s good at being playful, knows how to move in a way that looks absolutely stunning, and leaves you wanting more. But he doesn’t know what to do with clumsy, sincere affection. He crumbles at shows of tenderness but he receives it with so much hunger. If Beomgyu wants to ruin him, he only needs to let his own yearning off its leash.

“Yeonjun-ah,” Beomgyu breathes and holds back a smile when Yeonjun bristles at the lack of honorifics, “Can I—”

“Hyung,” Yeonjun corrects him, but Beomgyu just ignores it, looking at him imploringly instead. Yeonjun sighs, “Yes, of course, you can.”

Beomgyu slowly closes the gap between them, kisses him like lovers do — with desire as wide as the ocean. Beomgyu can’t bear it, how good it feels to have his mouth pressed against Yeonjun’s, can’t get enough of his lips moving against his, of his tongue in his mouth. He’s driven by the need to get closer, so he presses close to kiss him deeper. But it’s not enough, it never is.

He squeezes Yeonjun’s hip and then slides his hand down to the back of Yeonjun’s thigh, pulling to get him back on his lap again. When Yeonjun doesn’t move, he whines, “Come here.”

Yeonjun laughs, complying with his wishes and straddling his lap, “Okay, okay, you really liked it that much, huh?”

“Yeah,” Beomgyu says, not even denying it, and Yeonjun blinks at his honesty, “I really, really liked it.”

Beomgyu wastes no time pulling him back down by the nape, guiding him back to his waiting mouth. It feels so right to have the weight of him on his lap, hot and heavy and real. Beomgyu lightly bites on his lip, gently tugging in an effort to get him to open up. Yeonjun opens up and Beomgyu licks into his mouth eagerly. He kisses with something fierce and it’s only when Yeonjun pulls away to catch his breath that he remembers his original goal.

He first kisses down the line of his jaw, all while marveling at the contrast between the sharpness of it and the fullness of his cheek. Then, he goes down his throat, taking special time to gently kiss the curve of his Adam’s apple. And then he eyes the exquisite ridge of his collarbones, where it dips, and that too, he maps out with his mouth. By the time he’s done dabbling in cartography, Yeonjun’s gripping onto his shoulder, all wound up.

Beomgyu gives him a peck and pulls away just as fast. Just because he can. He licks his lips, “Where do you want me to mark you up?”

Yeonjun’s eyes flicker down to Beomgyu’s neck, where the mark he had made earlier is now in full purple-red bloom. “Let’s get matching ones. You can leave it in the same place I left yours.”

Choi Yeonjun should not be allowed to speak. Beomgyu bites his lip at the suggestion, “That’s oddly cute of you...to suggest. Also, no one’s going to know we have matching ones anyway if we’re gonna cover it up.”

“Yeah,” Yeonjun shrugs and reaches to touch the hickey on Beomgyu’s neck. When he presses on it, it hurts a little, still a bit tender. “But we’ll know. It’ll be a fun little secret.”

“Secret,” Beomgyu repeats, and Yeonjun nods, smiling in encouragement as he tilts his head to the side, “Come on, Beomie, show me how much you were paying attention earlier.”

Beomgyu can’t help but answer to his taunt; Yeonjun certainly knows how to push his buttons. Beomgyu just goes for it, pressing open mouthed kisses in the area Yeonjun had wanted in. He follows the way Yeonjun had done it, thinking about how good it felt when it was done to him and how badly he wants to make Yeonjun feel that good too. He licks over the spot with his tongue and lightly blows, eliciting a shiver from Yeonjun. Cute, he thinks. He kisses it over one more time and then sucks the skin into his mouth. It looks a bit red when he releases it from his mouth.

Beomgyu blinks at it, but Yeonjun doesn’t let him just sit there and watch. He pulls him back for a final heated kiss, one that lasts until their timer alerts them that their time is up. Yeonjun pecks his lips one last time before pulling away and turning the timer off.

Beomgyu can’t take his eyes off the mark on Yeonjun’s neck. It stands out against the long line of Yeonjun’s pale neck. It makes him think of his own mark on his neck and wonders how it looks. He’ll have to get somebody’s help to hide it or maybe just wear a turtleneck. Luckily, it was still cold enough outside to justify it.

He likes it. He likes being marked so much that he’s a little bothered by the fact that he has to hide it. He wants the world to see it, wants to tell them, look, Choi Yeonjun kissed me. Choi Yeonjun sat on my lap and kissed me until I was breathless and left a mark on my neck just because I asked. And he let me do the same to him.

But that’s a little misleading, isn’t it? Because this isn't proof of Yeonjun’s desire; it’s Beomgyu’s. Beomgyu is the one with yearning so rabid he has to keep it on a leash. Beomgyu is the one with feelings so deep, one can’t tell its true depth.

He thinks of Yeonjun’s words from earlier, how he had called their matching hickeys a fun, little secret.

There is nothing funny or little about how much he wants this to be real.

Beomgyu can’t put off acknowledging his feelings any longer. He’s run out of laters.

He needs to talk to Soobin.

 


 

Beomgyu is thankful Yeonjun is pretty busy with dance practices. It’s easy to get Soobin alone and invite him out.

He invites him out for two reasons: the first is that he can’t talk about what they did on that couch in that apartment. Just looking at the couch sets his face aflame and there’s the matter of Yeonjun accidentally coming home early. Beomgyu won’t be able to breathe in that apartment. The second is that this conversation is a long time coming and he feels so sorry for how much of a headache it’s going to be, he might as well treat Soobin to some food while they’re at it.

They’re in some small, almost empty dakgalbi restaurant, sitting at a table in the corner of the room. Soobin sits in front of him, waiting for the cheese to completely melt on top of the spicy marinated chicken before digging in.

Beomgyu quietly picks at his rice, eating it one grain at a time. He is waiting for Soobin to ask the question.

But Soobin is too focused on the food. Beomgyu waits with apprehension as Soobin gets through half their order of dakgalbi before saying anything. And when he does, it’s to reprimand Beomgyu for not eating enough.

Soobin uses his chopsticks to place chunks of chicken and tteok on his plate, “You invited me out, but you’re not going to eat anything? You like making me worry about you, huh?”

Beomgyu frowns, watching as Soobin wrangles with the string of cheese that got stuck on his chopstick, “Aren’t you going to ask me about Yeonjun-hyung?”

Soobin shrugs, “I have been expecting this ever since I caught you sneaking into his room to sleep over instead of mine. When I got your message about needing to talk about the Yeonjun problem, I was relieved. I’m just waiting for you to bring it up yourself, because you’ve clearly been mustering up the courage to tell me all this time, right? I can wait a little more just to see you eat something.”

Beomgyu sighs, taking a spoonful of the dakgalbi and putting it in his mouth. He chews with exaggeration and Soobin reaches over and ruffles his hair, “There you go. Knowing you, you were probably too stressed to eat, huh? What would my cute little Beomie do without me?”

“Probably survive the same way as I’ve been doing,” Beomgyu grumbles, but Soobin laughs and eventually, Beomgyu can’t hide the smile from growing on his face either. Soobin can always see through Beomgyu. “You first then, what ended up happening with you and Taehyun?”

“Taehyunnie,” Soobin says, and the way he says his name is breathtaking, with a smile that holds the force of a sunrise— nothing could stop it from rising. “We talked. I told him that I meant it, every word and he was so happy to hear it. He told me he likes me, but he said he wants to take it slow. How I need to wait after three dates before I can kiss him.”

Beomgyu laughs. He loves hearing Soobin talk about Taehyun. This is the type of love movies had promised. Requited in all its cherry blossom pink glory. They never talk about how rare such a thing is, which makes it all the more precious and sought after. Beomgyu is jealous. “That’s wonderful, hyung. I’m really happy for you.”

Soobin sighs, lost in his thoughts, “I really can’t believe it. We went out the other night right, and it was just us getting our usual ice cream order, but Hyuka didn’t come with. And Taehyun said, this is our first date, now hold my hand.”

Soobin covers his face, clearly relieving the moment, and Beomgyu does the same too. “Man,” Beomgyu says, “You’re in trouble. Taehyun is setting the standard really high.”

“I know,” Soobin says, but he sounds so happy about it. “I’m never going to let him go. You’re invited to our future wedding. I’ve chosen him to be my soulmate and I’m going to be heartbroken if he disagrees.”

Beomgyu laughs, “Okay, hyung. I better be Best Man.”

Soobin raises a brow, “Who else would it be? Yeonjun-hyung? He’s going to include a dance performance in the speech and then I’d have to drown myself in champagne to forget about the secondhand embarrassment.”

“It wouldn’t be too bad I think. It would give us all a laugh,” Beomgyu defends, “Knowing him, he’ll probably be super famous in the future and everyone will just be amazed.”

“You can’t even shit talk about him properly anymore, huh?” Soobin leans back against his seat. “I’ve lost you, Beomie. I can’t believe I have to rely on Taehyun and Kai now to deliver the sickest burns.”

Beomgyu’s mouth quirks up, just briefly, “It is kind of funny in a way, right? Did you ever imagine it would get to this point?”

“What? That you would get so infatuated with my roommate that you’ve lost the ability to clown him?” Soobin deadpans, “No, Beomgyu. I thought more highly of you.”

Beomgyu snorts, “Yeah, I thought more highly of me too.”

He guesses it’s time to talk about the Yeonjun problem. There’s no putting it off anymore. Beomgyu sighs, “It was never supposed to get to this point. The practice dating was never supposed to lead to this—”

“What’s the ‘this’ that you’re speaking of?”

Beomgyu struggles, “I want it to be real, hyung. I’ve always known it was helpless, which was how I was comfortable asking him to do that practice dating thing. Nothing was ever going to come out of it. And it would actually help me move on—”

“You know,” Soobin cuts him off, “I’ve never quite agreed with that reasoning. When you brought it up at the pho place that very first time, I never even thought hyung would go along with it, so I didn’t even say anything. But Beomgyu, it never really made sense how this was supposed to help you move on.”

“But it did make sense…” Beomgyu mumbles, “I’d get a taste of what it would feel like to date him and satisfy the curiosity and get dating practice out of it at the same time.”

Soobin looks at him, so very tired. He calls the ahjumma at the front, “Could we get two bottles of soju please?”

Beomgyu gapes at him, “Hyung, it’s like Wednesday night.”

“We both need it,” Soobin reasons. When the ahjumma comes back with the soju and glasses for two, Beomgyu sighs, opening it and pouring for the both of them.

Soobin brings his glass closer to him and raises it, “Okay, let’s both drink it. It’ll help with providing clarity, okay?”

Beomgyu raises his too and the two of them clink their glasses together and downs it in one go. Beomgyu coughs at the bitterness, feeling the liquid go down like lightning.

“Now,” Soobin says, wiping his mouth, “Should we break what you just said one by one?”

Beomgyu nods, knowing there’s no other way.

“Okay, do you really believe that it would help you get over Yeonjun-hyung by seeing what it’s like to date him? Unlike your appetite for food, your curiosity has always had a big mouth. Remember that time you said you were just going to check out one episode of FullMetal Alchemist? And you ended up watching all sixty-four episodes straight because you needed to see how it would end? Or that time when your brother beat you up because you wanted to see how much you could get away with before they’ve had enough?”

Beomgyu stays silent and Soobin continues, “I say this full of love, but Beomgyu, you have always toed the line if the line existed. And if it didn’t, you’d keep going until somebody drew it for you. So no, it was never just going to be one date. It was never going to just be whatever you guys had in that silly contract. It was never going to be enough for you. It makes sense you’d want it to be real. Now that you’ve seen what he’s like in a practice relationship, it’s not enough, right? You’re thinking, what would it be like if this was real? And that’s where you are now.”

It takes Beomgyu a while to process it, feeling Soobin’s words settle in him like a rock falling deep in the ocean. It’s true, Beomgyu can’t deny it. It’s true. “Am I a liar then for telling him that I needed help with dating? Are you saying I intentionally misled him? Hyung, am I so bad of a person?”

“No, no, no. Beomgyu, that’s not what I meant,” Soobin grabs his hand, squeezes it tight, “How can you be honest with Yeonjun-hyung, when you couldn’t even be honest with yourself?”

Beomgyu silently pours them both another glass of soju. Letting the silence fill the conversation for once. Such truths need time to be comprehended, need space to balloon and fill the air.

“The way I saw it,” Beomgyu says, tracing the rim of the soju shot glass, “I thought it was hopeless. Even with my own vanity, I never thought he’d look my way.”

“That’s the most surprising thing about love,” Soobin says, “It can’t exist without hope. A small part of you had lived for the hope of it all. And in some way, it’s been rewarded by all this practice dating thing you guys were doing.”

“Yeah,” Beomgyu says, putting his head in his hands. “This practice dating thing, god, I don’t even know where to start…”

“It’s half bad and half good,” Soobin says, “On one hand, it’s helped you realized the extent of your feelings, but on the other hand, would your feeling be so deep if you hadn’t come up with this idea?”

“I definitely wouldn’t be this far out the deep end if it weren’t for the things we’ve done,” Beomgyu says, “Everything he does just makes it even more impossible to move on from him. And worse, it feels like there’s something between us. I know what you said about hope and I agree with it, but hyung, I’m starting to think that there’s hope for me. Tell me I’m being delusional.”

Soobin looks at him with pity, “Beomie, I don’t want to call you delusional, but don’t you think it’s possible that you’re confusing the practice dating and Hyung’s actual real platonic affection for you as feelings?”

Beomgyu lifts his head up to look at him, “Hyung, you know I’m the first person to put myself down when it comes to these delusions. But I don’t know how else to explain how he’s acting. I’m so confused, but at the same time, I don’t know how to stop it. What if it’s my only chance to be with him? So I go with it—”

“I’m confused. Taehyun told me what the contract says. Aren’t you guys just holding hands, walking each other to class, buying each other food?” Soobin frowns, “What else are you guys doing?”

Beomgyu raises his glass of soju once again and drinks. Soobin does it too, although with much wariness. “Do you remember the party we went to where you got massively drunk and told Taehyun all of that stuff?”

“Yes…”

“Do you remember how you blurted out loud that I haven’t gotten my first kiss yet, in front of everyone?”

“Barely...but go on.”

“Well,” Beomgyu hesitates, fiddling with the scarf he was wearing. “Yeonjun-hyung offered to help me practice kissing. And I took it.”

Soobin looks at him with horror, “Beomie, you didn’t—”

“Taylor Swift was playing in the background. He shared his chapstick with me. It was the peak of romance,” Beomgyu jokes.

“You said you wanted your first kiss to be really special,” Soobin grabs his hands and looks at him with so much sadness, “Beomgyu, you shouldn’t have—”

“It was special,” Beomgyu corrects him, but takes no offense at the way Soobin had reacted. He wasn’t there. He didn’t see how gentle Yeonjun had held his cheek, how he’d made sure Beomgyu felt okay every step of the way. “I don’t regret it. If I ever get a do-over, I’d still kiss him.”

“If you say so,” Soobin purses his lips, looking like he’s got so much more to say. But instead he lets him continue, “What else happened?”

Beomgyu sighs, talking lightly, “Well, we kissed again and again and again. We made all kinds of stupid excuses to do it. And the sleeping together thing...that’s something you already know.”

“We sleep together all the time,” Soobin reasons, “What makes it so different?”

“It’s like,” Beomgyu struggles again to put the magic of the moment into words, but it’s so hard. “how I imagine it’d be if you and Taehyun sleep together. It’s just different. And maybe it’s all the sneaking too? If it wasn’t supposed to mean anything, then why didn’t we just outright say I was sleeping over with him?”

“Why didn’t you? Also, you are not sneaky at all, by the way. I could hear the two of you giggling very loudly.”

“We didn’t tell you, because it was ours. When I sleep over with you, it’s because we’re childhood friends so comfortable with each other. It doesn’t mean anything more than that. But me and hyung, we don’t have that long-standing friendship. How can we explain why we wanted to sleep together and not invite you to it?” Beomgyu thinks it over, suddenly unsure, “At least, that’s what I thought it was. We never really discussed why, it was kind of just unspoken. I was sleeping over so often that we had started coordinating our sleeping schedules.”

Soobin stays quiet, mulling it over. But Beomgyu feels like he is spilling out: “There’s a bunch of other things too that are confusing. The flirting for once, but I know how he’s about that. He takes care of me so well too, like that first night I slept with him...it was because I was really homesick and he comforted me. And then he even went out of his way to bring back home cooked food from his mom to make me feel better. And hyung, I tried to end it...I really did. That day of the party, when we were all getting ready, I told him that I was scared that I was using him and that we should probably stop what we were doing. And he said that he didn’t mind, that he doesn’t care what others think, that this was between him and me.”

“So hyung, tell me, because I’m so confused. What’s going on here?”

“I…” Soobin shakes his head, “I don’t know, Beomgyu. This is a lot, like I didn’t realize this was all going on. I don’t know. I’m sorry, but I just don’t know. Hyung definitely loves and cares for you, in the same way that he does for me, and in the same way, I do for both of you. But how much does that cover for what you just said? I don’t know.”

Beomgyu laughs, but it sounds pitiful, “God, you and me both. I don’t know either.”

“But Beomgyu, there is something I have to tell you that,” Soobin starts, hesitantly, “This is hard for me to say, especially because of what you just said and all the kissing, but the other day, I saw Yeonjun-hyung come out of his room. And he had a hickey on his neck? I don’t know if you talked about if you guys were going to be exclusively kissing each other but—”

“Soobinnie,” Beomgyu cuts him off, unraveling the scarf around his neck and thereby, revealing the hickey on his neck, “I gave that to him.”

“Oh,” Soobin says softly, and then once that got processed in his brain, he makes a face of disgust, “Oh, gross. I did not need that imagery. Seriously? Why does yours look so similar to his?”

“This is embarrassing for me to say, but he said he wanted matching ones. So…” Beomgyu trails off, feeling steam come out of his ears.

“God,” Soobin says, pressing his hands to his face, “That’s like the grossest thing I have ever heard. I don’t know if that’s further evidence of there being something between you or further proof of how much brain damage Yeonjun-hyung got from watching Kissing Booth 1 and 2.”

Beomgyu laughs, “Hyung and I are the same terrible type of romantic. Taehyun loves those too, by the way, so prepare yourself.”

“I can’t believe I have to disappoint him so early in the relationship,” Soobin sighs. “I can’t reveal this until he’s let me kiss him. I can’t afford that.”

Beomgyu appreciates the laugh. He feels so drained from this entire conversation and he still isn’t any closer from deciding what he should do. “Can I get your advice then on what I should do to figure this out?”

Soobin considers him, “You know what’s confusing about all of this? It’s the fact that everything is happening under this guise of practice dating. You’d be a lot less confused if you ended it.”

“But then, what if everything ends with it?” Beomgyu asks.

“You have to tell him why you’re ending it and that means telling him how you feel.” Soobin says, sternly, “Now, I’m never one to tell you what to do. You’re your own person and you’ve always been good at following your heart. How long can you keep doing this and not knowing? Or can you keep doing this if you knew it meant nothing to him?”

Soobin pours him a drink, “Think of a future that is not only bearable but happy. Then you do what you have to do to make it come true.”

 


 

There is a lot to ponder.

When Beomgyu was younger, he had been obsessed with the story of the little prince. His mother would often read it to him and his brother, and they would listen to it starry-eyed as they’d imagine themselves as the little prince who would travel across planets to ease their loneliness. Beomgyu had loved the story so much, he would read it even as his brother had outgrown the stories and his mother had deemed him old enough to be told bedtime stories.

As a child, his favorite scene from the book was that scene about sunsets, how the little prince liked to look at it when he’s sad. Back then, he had identified more with the beauty of sunsets. His childhood room had a window that faced the west and when the day would end, his white room would be bathed in orange light, though sometimes, it was pink.

How he had wished then to be on a planet and wish to see forty-two sunsets in one day. How he’d move his chair again and again to be bathed in gold for as long as he can.

Soobin had asked him once what his favorite book was and when he had told him all of this, he had gone momentarily quiet, like he was turning over an idea in his head. What is it, Beomgyu had asked, but Soobin had only shaken his head. It’s nothing, Soobin said, I just think it is so you to sit quietly and feel.

He likes his solitude to be accompanied with watching beautiful things and to feel the color of the view. Beomgyu isn’t religious, but maybe if it’s for the sky, he too can indulge in worship.

He thinks about that now as he sits quietly in his room. There isn’t a golden sunset now, and instead the room is bathed in blues. It’s just as beautiful in his eyes. This beauty and this solitude is exactly what he needs right now as he thinks about the conversation he had with Soobin the other night.

It had felt so good to hash everything out with him. It’s easy for Beomgyu to get lost in those moments, like getting caught in the rip current of the ocean of his emotions. He felt like he’d been spit out on the shore, unsure of everything. Talking to Soobin hadn’t given him all the answers, but what it had given him an opportunity to take everything out of his head and just lay it all out. Somebody to tell him that all of that was real. Somebody to set it all straight. Somebody to tell him: follow your heart. All this time, Beomgyu has been stamping his feelings down, laying concrete all around his heart.

But his feeling had bloomed anyway, through concrete, like dandelions in the spring.

This is not how he’d imagined romance to be. Beomgyu is a romantic and this is not what he’s been promised. Where are the heartfelt confessions under cherry blossom trees? When will he be the subject of someone else’s yearning? Who will fight for Beomgyu’s love? All of it tinged pink with dramatic overtures and a heartbreaking OST by Ailee.

He wants to be the main lead of a drama, so at least his struggles would be beautifully packaged for the screen. His anxiousness and nervousness at falling for someone alone should at least look pretty. But what he has is none of that.

What should be pink is all blue. All he is is a boy curled up in his bed, alone with the blue light of the moon and a tangled ball of red yarn for a heart.

He has been trying to untangle it for days now. He goes to his classes, to work, and attends to all his obligations, but rather than spending all of his free time with his friends, he’s choosing to spend some time by himself, playing a metaphorical cat’s cradle game with his heart.

It means not seeing Yeonjun for a while. It means making excuses about not being able to hang out, about being too busy with schoolwork, and a whole lot of missing him. You don’t realize how much time you spend with a person until you aren’t. It becomes harder by the fact that Yeonjun is in everything— his favorite buldak ramen (Yeonjun and him share the same favorite flavor), the sweaters in his closet (some gifts and some stolen from Yeonjun), and even when he looks in the mirror, Yeonjun is there (the piercings in his ears and the mark on his neck, they’re identical to Yeonjun’s).

It’s sickening. Yeonjun entered his life barely two years ago and there’s traces of him in everything. Sometimes, Beomgyu wonders what he’d be like if they’ve never met. How much of him would stay the same and how much would change? But Beomgyu doesn’t want to follow that train of thought. Choi Yeonjun out of his life? It’s unfathomable.

It brings him then to Soobin’s words from the other night: Think of a future that is not only bearable but happy.

He’s been thinking about what that future could look like for a while now. He thinks about how he has an answer, but he doesn’t know how believable it is. How reachable or realistic. Maybe he should ask Taehyun— he is his most realistic friend. (He thinks Soobin will disapprove of that, though. He wants Beomgyu to reach for the star. What will he do then when Beomgyu misses and crashes back down to Earth?)

What future is reachable? Where does he draw the line in his daydreams?

Beomgyu scoffs, thinking about what Soobin had suggested. End the practice dating and confess.

Easier said than done. It’s asking Beomgyu to jump off a cliff. To take a leap of faith. For why? For why? He has no reason to jump. Or does he? Does he—?

A notification from his phone interrupts his thoughts. 

He rolls in his bed in order to reach his phone that’s sitting on his bedside table and when the screen lights up, he notices that it’s a text message from Yeonjun. His heart clenches in his chest.

He’s asking if they can hang out.

Beomgyu is already in pajamas and he’s lit his aromatherapy candles and he can’t be half-assed to get out of bed now. More importantly, he’s supposed to be avoiding him for now until he figures out what to do with himself.

When he tells Yeonjun that he can’t come over, he gets numerous sad emojis and Beomgyu can hear him pouting all the way from his apartment. Before he can reply, he gets a call from the man himself and answers it with a laugh.

“Are you really not going to come over?” Yeonjun whines, and Beomgyu thinks about how his mouth must look. “Soobin invited Taehyun and Kai over, and I’m feeling extremely single. Are you really going to let me experience this alone?”

Beomgyu shifts in bed, getting himself comfortable, “If Kai is there, then you won’t be third-wheeling alone.”

But Yeonjun just lets out the heaviest sigh, “Beomgyu, I don’t know how to explain this to you, but I am literally fourth-wheeling. If I have to watch the three of them for five more minutes, I think I would puke.”

“Well, close your eyes then. There’s no way I’m getting up from my nice bed.” Beomgyu responds, leaving no room for any arguments.

Yeonjun is silent for a moment, and then he asks, “Can I come over instead, then? Just for a little bit, until the three of them are done.”

Beomgyu should say no. Seeing Yeonjun would only confuse him more. But how bad would it be to see him just for a little bit? What are the chances that seeing him would actually give Beomgyu the answer that he was searching for? Once again, he is losing to his own longing. He sighs and says, “Sure, come over.”

Yeonjun cheers and says, “Cool, I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

And arrive he does. He hears a knock on his door and self-consciously checks his hair out at his wardrobe mirror, fluffing it up and hoping it looks artfully, on-purpose messy. When he opens the door, he finds a smiling Yeonjun, wearing pajamas too, “I come with snacks! Aren’t I the best?”

Beomgyu opens the door wide to let him in, “Did you stop by the convenience store before going here?”

“Of course,” Yeonjun brags, “I’m a good guest, so I can’t come empty-handed. Although, my presence alone is already a gift.”

Beomgyu rolls his eyes, choosing to be the better person and ignores the comment. “Welcome to my room, by the way. Don’t think you’ve ever been here.”

It’s oddly true. Beomgyu admits it, the running joke about always being in Yeonjun and Soobin’s apartment is mostly true. Soobin has been here a couple of times, but all of the hang outs are always at their apartment. It’s no surprise then that Yeonjun has never made it here.

Yeonjun takes a look around, eyes wandering from Beomgyu’s messy bed, to the postcards and art prints on the walls, to the surprisingly neat desk set up he has on the corner and the rugs. “This is surprisingly nice.”

“Why?” Beomgyu says, crossing his arms, “I have nice taste.”

“I know you have nice taste,” Yeonjun teases, reaching over to ruffle his hair, “It’s just that I feel like you’re our third roommate back at my apartment that I’m surprised your own place looks this nice and lived in.”

Beomgyu relaxes, which surprises him. He didn’t realize he’d been tense at what Yeonjun had to say about his room. He wonders why.

Yeonjun takes a seat on the floor and Beomgyu busies himself with turning some music on, settling on a random lo-fi hip hop playlist on Spotify. Then, he joins Yeonjun on the floor. “What’s all this stuff about fourth-wheeling?”

Yeonjun opens up a bag of chips and starts eating it. “It’s weird because Taehyun and Soobin are dating, right? I thought it would be fine, since it seems like Kai is always hanging out with them. But BG, get this. I walk out into the living room and the three of them were like, Yeonjun-hyung, come watch a movie with us,” Yeonjun imitates with a high-pitched voice intended to sound like Kai or Taehyun. “But like, the three of them were cuddling on the couch, and Soobin was like, sandwiched between the two of them. Where was I supposed to sit?”

Beomgyu’s eyes are gonna fall out of their sockets by how hard he’s rolling them. Yeonjun is so dramatic. Beomgyu snorts as he looks through the snacks Yeonjun brought, settling for the Pocky. “You should’ve just said, move over! I am joining this relationship now. Cuddled with them or something.”

“Stop,” Yeonjun sighs, “Soobin and Taehyun were also holding hands the whole time. I caught them kissing in the kitchen while they were waiting for the popcorn in the microwave.”

“That actually sounds...cute,” Beomgyu says, unable to keep the wistfulness out of his tone. The pure domesticity of it all, Beomgyu wants it for himself. But he smiles because Soobin has it. “Soobin deserves it. I can’t believe he snatched up my friend like that for himself. But I forgive him, because they’re being so cute about it.”

When he looks over at Yeonjun, he finds him eating his chips, lost in thought too.

“Soobin,” Yeonjun starts, “I’m surprised it took this long for him to get with someone.”

Beomgyu snorts, “It feels like he’s been in love with Taehyun since forever. Primary example of love at first sight, if I ever believed in the concept.”

Yeonjun looks at him curiously, “You don’t believe in love at first sight?”

“I have grand ideas of love,” Beomgyu starts, defensively, “but isn’t love too big of a word to be throwing around about someone you’ve just met?”

“Never been in love, so I wouldn’t know,” Yeonjun shrugs, and that admission brings an odd mix of hurt and relief. It’s another thing he’ll file away and pick apart later. “What would you do then if somebody came up to you and said that they’ve been in love with you from the moment they met you?”

“I guess I’d just say thank you and leave it at that. I think it’d be rude to tell them that they’re probably not in love with me.”

Yeonjun looks at him like he’s seeing him in a new light, “That’s…”

Beomgyu wants to end this conversation, wants to run as far away from it, because they are getting too close to a truth he can’t afford to name. “You can’t love someone you don’t know,” he says as a final note on the topic, but he hates how he sounds when he says it. Like someone who knows.

The vibe feels off in the room and Beomgyu knows Yeonjun feels the same, because they’re just sitting quietly waiting for the other to speak. He is grateful then when Yeonjun asks about his recital, “How are things coming along?”

Now, this; this is easy. Beomgyu brightens, “It’s so exciting, hyung. I was really nervous at how it was going to go, but Kai is really talented and easy to work with? And he has some really good ideas on our performance.”

Yeonjun's smile is utterly indulgent, “That’s good to hear. What song are you guys thinking of doing?”

“We’ve actually been writing our own song for it,” Beomgyu says shyly. “It’s like still a work in progress, and it’s a little scary because I can see the deadline on my calendar. But Kai is so brilliant? I can tell why he got into a second year musical composition class as a first year.”

“It’s funny,” Yeonjun says, “He doesn’t look like the serious type, since he’s always so silly when I see him. But wow, you guys are writing your own song? That’s amazing.”

Beomgyu smiles, looking down and busying himself with tearing open the pocky box in his hands, “It could totally sound bad. It’s a big risk for a recital too. What if nobody likes it? What if we get booed off the stage?”

“Impossible,” Yeonjun says, immediately, “Knowing you, you wouldn’t even perform it if it’s bad. Also, if people start booing you, I will personally beat them all up.”

Beomgyu laughs, “You promise?”

Yeonjun laughs, “Maybe not. I’d get kicked out and then who will be number one in the dance department? Soobin, Taehyun, and I will just cheer super loud, everyone will have to follow suit.”

“I see,” Beomgyu pouts, “Although, I’m sure there’s a lot of takers for number one. My friend Jeongin’s sexy boyfriend is apparently really good.”

“Sexy boyfriend,” Yeonjun says, unimpressed, “Why are you calling other people’s boyfriends sexy?”

“Why can’t I? Jeongin says I could keep looking,” Beomgyu snorts, taking a bite of a pocky stick.

Yeonjun frowns, “What about me?”

“What about you?” Beomgyu challenges.

“Am I sexy?” Yeonjun asks, raising a brow.

“God,” Beomgyu groans, “Not this again. Why do you always do this! Other people can be sexy and it doesn’t detract from your own, you know—”

Yeonjun laughs, playfully hitting him on the shoulder, “Come on, you’re avoiding the question—”

“You don’t need the ego boost, Yeonjun-hyuuuuung,” Beomgyu whines.

“Please?” Yeonjun pouts, “I’m going to get hurt, Beomie. My heart is literally breaking as we speak—”

“Fine! If it makes you shut up, you’re so sexy,” Beomgyu yells at him, throwing a packet of gummy bears at his face. Yeonjun narrowly avoids it, falling to the floor laughing. “I can’t stand you—”

This is what Beomgyu means by how easily it is to get lost in the moment. It is so fun and so easy to be with Yeonjun, and Beomgyu knows it’s a byproduct of being friends, but he can’t help but think how well they match each other. The two of them can play for hours like this, just talking about everything and nothing.

At some point, they find themselves talking about music again.

“You know how people say they’d die for something?” Beomgyu asks, “I want to say the opposite about music. I love a lot of things, but I think I could live on music alone. And then I think about how I have favorite songs, or songs that I spend hours listening to. Someday, I want to make music good enough for somebody to say, that’s my favorite song.”

“I get that,” Yeonjun says, and Beomgyu knows he does, because he’s an artist himself, “A bit different for me, since I’m a dancer. But to create something out of nothing? To make people feel something with what we do? I absolutely get that.”

“Right?”

“Another question then: what type of music do you wanna make? I feel like you listen to everything.”

“It’s hard to say. I feel like it’s too early to box myself in one thing. But if I have to put it into words, I’d say I want to make music that feels the way food makes you feel. Full.”

Yeonjun slow claps, and Beomgyu laughs, “What, did I impress you? I have always been this cool, Choi Yeonjun.”

They talk some more after that and again, Beomgyu wants to emphasize, this is something he’s always loved about spending time with Yeonjun. How easy it is, how they have the same views about art, the same sense of humor — he makes minutes feel like seconds, and hours feel like minutes.

There has to be something here. If there wasn’t, why does it feel like they are two halves of a whole?

Their conversation comes to a halt when Yeonjun gets a text from Soobin. Beomgyu peeks over at his phone, “What did Soobin say?”

“Says the movie is done and that I could come back, although I was never kicked out,” Yeonjun summarizes, and Beomgyu feels a little disappointed. It was nice having him here, sitting on the floor of his dorm room, and just hanging out. This wasn’t something he had allowed himself for the past few days and he missed it. Even tonight, he was only supposed to let himself hang out with Yeonjun for only a little bit of time. He shouldn’t be disappointed, but he is.

Here is something he hates about spending time with Yeonjun: how he makes the hour feel like minutes, and the minutes into seconds. The time they spend together never feels long.

“Oh,” Beomgyu says, finally, “Are you going to go back then?”

But the question is a formality and he starts cleaning up on the snacks they’ve eaten, throwing stuff in his trash can.

“I should,” Yeonjun says, getting to his feet. “It’s pretty late, huh?”

“Yeah,” Beomgyu drags the word, if to prolong the goodbye, but neither of them make the short move to the door. “Yeah,” he says again.

“I could stay a little longer though, if you want,” Yeonjun suggests, and Beomgyu says, “It could be dangerous if you walk home later though.”

“Oh,” Yeonjun says, disappointed, “Then yeah, I should probably go home—”

“Or you can sleep over?” Beomgyu, thoughtless and stupid and never thinks before he speaks, suggests, and at the surprise on Yeonjun’s face, he backtracks, “I mean, I’ve stayed over at your place a couple of times, and I don’t think it’s weird to share a bed, right? Or you could also just go home if you want—”

“I’d like to stay, if you let me,” Yeonjun cuts him off and Beomgyu stills, letting out a soft, “oh.”

The both of them go quiet again, fidgeting a few steps from the door. Beomgyu chances a look at Yeonjun, who is looking at the floor. His ears are pink.

Beomgyu laughs, scratching the back of his head, “Why are we like this?”

“Like what?” It comes out muffled because Yeonjun’s covered his mouth with his hand and Beomgyu snorts, what is he hiding?

“We’ve done a lot of things together that normal friends usually never do,” Beomgyu reasons, making reference to all the practice dating they’ve been doing. “Why are we being shy about this?”

“Because!” Yeonjun says, in lieu of an actual answer.

Beomgyu is so pleased about Yeonjun’s embarrassment for once that he doesn’t make him say it. He wants to spend more time with me, Beomgyu thinks giddily. Is it so genuinely honest and real that he can’t say it out loud? “For someone who flirts as a second language, you’re oddly not as shameless as I thought you would be.”

Beomgyu turns his back to him and walks over to his bed, and it’s only then that Yeonjun responds to him, “Some things are implied, you know?”

“I know,” Beomgyu says, climbing on his bed and getting under the covers. “It would be nice to hear, though. I like spending time with you, Beomgyu. I adore you, Beomgyu. You have such pretty eyes, Beom—”

Yeonjun scoffs, and walks over to join him. “Scooch over, my butt hurts from sitting on the floor—”

“Wait,” Beomgyu puts a hand out to stop him from climbing in.

“What,” Yeonjun asks, suddenly looking unsure, “Do you want me to sleep on the floor instead? You’re not even going to offer cuddles? Wow—”

Beomgyu rolls his eyes, “Shut up, you can come join me after you turn the lights off.”

Yeonjun grumbles all the way to the light switch on the wall and he can hear him talk to himself into not tripping in the dark. Beomgyu giggles too and Yeonjun calls out to him, “I know you’re praying for my downfall, Choi Beomgyu. I know you are.”

He does make it to the bed safely, though, and it’s different from all the times they’ve shared Yeonjun’s bed. For one, his bed is much smaller. It’s a tight fit to lie on their backs, shoulders pressed too closely to each other. Beomgyu has to adjust himself to lie on his side and when his eyes adjust to the darkness, slightly aided by the moon shining through the window, he finds himself looking into Yeonjun’s eyes.

“Hi,” Beomgyu says, voice tiny.

“Hi,” Yeonjun says back, hand automatically settling on Beomgyu’s waist. “Are you sleepy already?”

Beomgyu shakes his head, but as if on cue, he yawns and Yeonjun laughs fondly. “If you’re tired, you can go to sleep.”

“Then what are you gonna do?” Beomgyu asks, rubbing his eye, “I know I’m stunning, but don’t watch me sleep.”

“You are so funny,” Yeonjun says, deadpan. “I’d just sleep too. I had a long day too, you know?”

Beomgyu hums, and then pats around between them in the dark to hold Yeonjun’s hand. “Yeah? What did you do today?”

Yeonjun’s hand finds his instead and he feels their fingers intertwine as Yeonjun tells him about his day, “Just a lot of dance practice. The showcase is coming up, so they’re encouraging us to practice longer. I might have to cut back hours for work to manage it all.”

“Really? It’s that bad already?”

“No, but I feel like I should just put more hours into practice. I’m already in my third year, and this is the perfect time to start getting noticed. I can’t just be good. I have to be perfect.”

Beomgyu wants to comfort him by saying, you already are, but he knows Yeonjun well enough that when it comes to performances, Yeonjun needs more than compliments. He won’t rest until the final product is spotless. He knows this, because they’re cut from the same cloth when it comes to their craft. So he encourages him instead, “I believe in you. I’ve seen you dance, and nobody else shines as much as you do on the stage.”

“Yeah?” Even in the dark, Beomgyu can hear the smile shine through.

“Obviously. Some day, you’ll be so big, you’ll be too busy to even hang out with us.”

“Impossible,” Yeonjun says immediately.

“You don’t think so?”

“I mean,” he fumbles, “I’ll always have time for you...all of you.”

Beomgyu wishes he didn’t pause. He is dangling morsels in front of his leashed yearning. Again, he wants to be realistic, but it’s hard when Yeonjun can’t draw a clear line. He does things like this, that cross the line of friendship and then crosses back over to somewhere safe. What are they doing here? Can they put a name to this or are they inventing something new?

He must have been quiet for too long, because Yeonjun softly pats him with the hand that had made a home at his waist, “Did you fall asleep already?”

Beomgyu did close his eyes, they had felt heavy. But he makes a noise of disagreement, “No, I’m still awake. Keep talking.”

Yeonjun chuckles, voice deepening as it becomes tinted with sleep. “Just sleep if you want to.”

“No,” Beomgyu says, stubbornly, but his body feels so relaxed. He always sleeps more easily when he’s with Yeonjun. He feels safe; distantly, he wonders if this is the product of all the times, Yeonjun had acted like a big brother or if it’s the product of all the times Beomgyu has given him a little piece of his heart. Yeonjun surely has enough of it— does his body feel at peace knowing its heart is so close?

It’s quiet for almost too long that maybe Yeonjun has fallen asleep too, but then he feels Yeonjun shift, a bit of restless energy trying to escape. “Can’t sleep?”

Yeonjun hums, “Snacked too hard.” It makes Beomgyu laugh, and Yeonjun hits him, so lightly it barely deserves the verb. “Tell me a secret.”

Easily, Beomgyu replies, “I hate tomatoes.”

“That’s not a secret,” Yeonjun prods at him, “Tell me something else.”

“You already have all my secrets,” Beomgyu teases.

“That is so not true,” Yeonjun is unrelenting, and well, Beomgyu agrees. The biggest secret is right under Yeonjun’s nose, but this isn’t the time and place for that. Every other secret he has is tied to that.

Beomgyu hums and thinks of something, though it is hard to think when Yeonjun keeps playing with his hands. But there is one thing—

“Okay, I have something and it’s not really a secret, but more of a surprise,” Beomgyu starts.

“Huh?” Yeonjun says, “What is it?”

Beomgyu sits up and reaches over him, to where he had placed his phone on the bedside table. “But you have to promise not to make fun of me for it. And if it sucks, you have to lie to me.”

Yeonjun sits up with him too and their faces are suddenly illuminated by the phone screen’s light. It’s too much and Beomgyu immediately turns the brightness down. “You’re making me too curious now, what is it?”

“Promise first,” Beomgyu says, sternly. He must look serious enough, because Yeonjun easily agrees. He even draws an x over his heart as he says, “Cross my heart and hope to die.”

“Okay, don’t say anything,” Beomgyu opens up a file on his phone and just before he hits play, he confesses, “I wrote you a song.”

And then, the sound of tinkling piano keys begin to fill the room, soft like snow would be if it had a sound and warm if music had hands to hold you. The melody came to Beomgyu one afternoon, when he had come to wait for Yeonjun to finish with his dance practice so they could grab some dinner right after. He had stood mesmerized then, watching Yeonjun twirl with light movements. How can someone like him move like bubbles floating through the air?

He agonized over the notes over and over, wondering what would be perfect enough to capture the essence of Yeonjun dancing. It feels weird now, hearing those same notes as he shares it with the person who’s inspired it. By now, the sound of the piano is joined by the guitar, just some light strumming, as light as a breeze ruffling wind chimes. All of it tinkling.

Beomgyu is grateful for the dark night, that it’s kind enough to lend some light. Though he must admit, it is weird hearing a song so yellow in a room so blue.

The song ends softly, with the same piano notes it began with. How he wishes his heart was as light; Yeonjun’s been quiet this whole time.

He’s been told more than enough times that when he’s nervous he rambles. And now is not an exception, “It’s so short I know, and it sounds rough, because I’m not so good at mixing yet. But I wanted to try, because I saw you dancing and this melody just formed in my head—”

“Beomgyu,” Yeonjun stops him, holds both of Beomgyu’s hands in his and only then does he realize that his hands are trembling, “You wrote me a song?”

Beomgyu sighs, “Yes, I wrote you a song—”

“Look at me,” Yeonjun implores, and it takes all the courage in the world for Beomgyu to lift his head up and look at Yeonjun. And when he does, he nearly drowns from the emotion in his eyes, “Nobody’s ever written me a song.”

Beomgyu bites his lip, “I’ve never written anyone a song before.” He doesn’t know if that’s the right thing to say. He still doesn’t know how Yeonjun feels about it. “Do you like it?”

But instead of answering, Yeonjun just leans closer and closer and before he knows it, he’s being kissed. There’s an emotion here that can’t be fully expressed in words, but here he is trying anyway. He’s been kissed often and well, and mostly by Yeonjun, but it feels different each and every time. How does a mouth moving against yours feel like a string being plucked? Like his whole body singing a tune directed by Yeonjun alone.

Yeonjun pulls away soon enough and he has to shake himself out of the spell. Every kiss is not enough, every time Yeonjun is teaching him how to want. Beomgyu helplessly sighs, “What was that for? And you never answered my question.”

Yeonjun chuckles, utterly endeared, “Beomgyu, of course, I love it.”

“Seriously?” Beomgyu asks, still doubtful. “Are you sure?”

“Why wouldn’t I love it? How many people can say they have a song written for them?” Yeonjun says incredulously, like he himself can’t believe it.

Beomgyu finally sighs in relief, “I’m glad you like it, although I stand by my earlier statement that it’s not that good.”

“Nope,” Yeonjun shakes his head, “You’re not allowed to put down my song.”

Beomgyu lies back down, feeling the exhaustion hit him now that the nervousness has passed. He expects Yeonjun to lie back down with him, but he’s still sitting up, expression in awe. “Hyung, come on. Let’s get some sleep.”

“How am I supposed to sleep?” Yeonjun complains, but his voice is full of happiness. “You really wrote me a song,” he says more quietly, as if he’s just talking to himself.

“Hyung,” Beomgyu groans, getting embarrassed, pulling at the soft cotton material of Yeonjun’s shirt. Yeonjun turns to him and with something akin to reverence, he leans down and presses a soft kiss on Beomgyu’s forehead, then to his nose, and then, at long last, on his mouth, right where he belongs.

Beomgyu blinks up at him in surprise. Yeonjun sighs, “Beomgyu, sometimes, you are too good to me.” And then finally, he lies down beside Beomgyu again. This time, there is no hesitation when he pulls Beomgyu towards him, wrapping his arms around him.

Beomgyu hums, tucking his head on Yeonjun’s shoulder. “No,” Beomgyu sleepily says, though it comes out a little muffled with the way his cheek is pressed on Yeonjun's chest, “I think I am good to you in just the right amounts.”

He falls asleep just like that, without hearing a response from Yeonjun. All he gets is a kiss on the crown of his head and a quiet murmur of, “Sweet dreams, baby.”

He has no dreams that night that are sweeter than the way Yeonjun had kissed him last night, though. Maybe that’s why he wakes up early that next morning. It’s early enough that twilight has not even come. He wakes up beautifully warm, even when the morning air feels freezing cold. Here, where it’s quiet. Here, when the world is still blue and dark and briefly, briefly gorgeous, he can admit it, right?

There is a steep, steep learning curve to admitting you’re in love and not feel the need to apologize for it. To say it out loud and not feel like a fool. He’s let the emotion stew inside him long enough, simmering and simmering and praying it won’t boil over. First, he names it for what it is: love. And then, he tries to find the voice to say it out loud. He thinks of Yeonjun’s eyes, the attention in it. He thinks of Yeonjun’s hands, the way it’s wrapped around him even now, the warmth of it. And then he thinks of last night, how he had kissed Beomgyu without making excuses. How he had pressed the heat of his body against his with no hesitation. Their legs tangled together, the touch of it sincere. The shape of him, all blue.

Isn’t this his answer? At the end and beginning of every day, isn’t this all what it comes down to?

The realization makes him feel brave and reckless. And so, bravely, recklessly, he says in a soft, tiny, careful voice to a sleeping Yeonjun, “I love you.”

 


 

It’s funny.

He’s spent so long trying to bury the words I love you down his throat, and now that he’s said it out loud, the words refuse to stay in his mouth. Certain words have special qualities to them; I love you demands to be heard, to be felt, and it petulantly sits heavily on his tongue until Beomgyu has no choice but to spit out.

And bless him, they were so heavy to carry. No wonder now that he’s said it out loud he feels an extraordinary lightness, he might as well be a tiny piece of dust floating in the air. If he jumps off that cliff now and takes that leap of faith, he might not even crash into the water. Maybe he’ll fly.

He tells Soobin first, because when something happens in his life, it’s always Soobin there by his side. So he calls him, as he walks to class. It is just after lunch, with the sun high up in the sky. Perfect time for good news. Soobin answers within three rings, “What’s up, Beomie?”

“Hyung, I think I’m going to do what you said,” Beomgyu says, “I’m gonna end it and tell him how I feel.”

“Beomie-ah,” Soobin says, and the phone can barely translate the emotion in his voice, “I’m proud of you. I think this is the right decision.”

“Yeah…” Beomgyu agrees. He stops under the shade of a tree’s leafy arms and whispers, “Hyung, I’m in love. I just...wanted to let you know.”

Soobin breathes, “I know. I’ve known from the very start.”

Beomgyu just laughs. How jubilant it is to have a friend who knows you better than yourself.

Beomgyu does not want to rush into it though. There are still matters that need to get taken care of before he can tell Yeonjun how he feels. The most pressing of which is the stupid practice dating contract. The original copy of which sits somewhere on Yeonjun’s desk. Yeonjun insisted that he kept it lest Beomgyu accidentally uses it as scratch paper for his music composition class. It was proof of Beomgyu’s indebtedness and Yeonjun’s reward for helping him practice dating.

When Beomgyu tells Yeonjun he loves him, he wants a clean slate. He doesn’t want it misconstrued as anything but what it is.

So, on another Wednesday afternoon, he asks Yeonjun over text if he’d like to go eat grilled meat with him, his treat. He sets his phone aside, figuring Yeonjun won’t respond for a bit. But as soon as he puts his phone down, it vibrates immediately. Beomgyu laughs to himself and picks it up to respond, but not even a second later, he gets a phone call from the man himself.

“Hello?” Beomgyu answers.

“Is this a serious offer?” Yeonjun says, “Or are you teasing me? If you know how I feel, you know that meat is no joking matter to me.”

“Hyung, I know you,” Beomgyu says solemnly, “I would never joke about meat with you.”

“Oh my god,” Yeonjun groans, “I’m gonna be thinking about this the whole day. When? Tonight? Dinner? What time are you done with everything today—”

Beomgyu laughs, “Calm down, I’m not going to take the offer back and change my mind. This is me, paying you back for all the practice dating you helped me with.”

“Oh?” Yeonjun says, “I forgot about that.”

“Well, I didn’t!” Beomgyu says, “And I’m actually done for the day. So I can meet you at your apartment whenever you want.”

Yeonjun snorts, “If you think I’m going to be able to concentrate on whatever I’m doing after mentioning free meat, you’re funny. Get your ass here now. Before Soobin comes home. I am not sharing with him—”

“Okay, okay,” Beomgyu laughs again, standing up from his chair and stepping away from his desk. He grabs his jacket and begins to put his shoes on, “I’m coming. Give me like ten minutes.”

“Five minutes,” Yeonjun tries to convince him, but Beomgyu snorts. “No, I’ll be there in ten minutes. I’ll see you soon,” and then hangs up.

Just because he likes to make Yeonjun sweat a little, he takes his sweet time walking to their apartment. His good mood is at an all time high, and not even the future emptiness of his wallet is enough to detract from it.

When he arrives at their apartment, he knocks on their door to announce his arrival and he can literally hear Yeonjun running to the door. He’s greeted by a relieved Yeonjun, “Beomie, you’re here!”

Beomgyu does a little cheer, “Yes, I’m here! Should we go? Are you ready?”

“I’m born ready,” Yeonjun says, and he doesn’t even let Beomgyu inside. He just steps out and locks the door behind him, “Let’s go. Time is of the essence here—”

But then, the both of them hear the distinct sound of Kai’s laughter and seconds later, they hear footsteps round the corner into the hallway where their apartment door is on. It’s Soobin, with Taehyun and Kai.

Soobin waves at them, while Taehyun and Kai bound to them with excitement. Taehyun tilts his head to the side, “Are you guys going out or going in?”

God, Beomgyu thinks, why did they decide to meet at their apartment? He can already see how this is going to end. They’re both such bad liars. He doesn’t mind if his wallet is emptied because of Yeonjun, but to pay for three more people? He can’t afford it.

Yeonjun tries to save their dinner, stuffing his hands in his oversized denim jacket to look casual, “Yeah, we’re just going out.”

It’s not a lie and it’s smart to keep it vague. Good going, Yeonjun. But they’ve never been able to hide something from Soobin successfully. He just knows them too well.

Soobin narrows his eyes at them, “Dinner?”

Beomgyu feels himself shrink behind Yeonjun, trying to avoid eye contact with all three of them. Soobin alone can read through him, and any excuses they have about wanting to eat by themselves will be shut down by Taehyun.

Yeonjun shrugs, unable to give up without trying, “We haven’t decided yet. We’ll probably get something along the way?”

“Really?” Soobin says, slowly, like he’s giving them time to confess before he unmasks them like Scooby-Doo villains. “We were wondering what to do about dinner, so maybe we can just tag along?”

Beomgyu cringes and then accidentally makes eye contact with Kai, which is possibly the worst person he can make eye contact with. Kai looks at him so innocently and smiles so nicely, “Don’t you want to eat together, hyung?”

Beomgyu has a conscience. He sighs and tugs at Yeonjun’s sleeve, “Hyung, let’s just take them with us.”

Yeonjun looks at him betrayed, mouth in a full pout, and whines, “But my meat!”

It only takes Soobin half a second to realize, “You guys were going to get barbecue without inviting us? Oh my god, seriously—”

“Soobin, I can explain—” Beomgyu tries, but Soobin just dramatically puts a hand up, “I understand that I’ve been replaced by this, this Sonic the Hedgehog wannabe—”

“Oh my god, calm down!” Yeonjun says, rolling his eyes, “Also, you did not just call me Sonic the Hedgehog. For your information, I look amazing with this blue hair—”

Soobin rolls his eyes this time, “I’ve heard that a million times, but funny enough only from you—”

“Many people have said so! Beomgyu thinks so!” Yeonjun yells, running his hands through his hair in a way he thinks is attractive.

“Beomgyu doesn’t count—”

Beomgyu wishes they would both calm down and shut up.

This goes on for a while, and then it skirts the line of too long when Beomgyu feels a headache oncoming. He looks, pleading, at Taehyun, who just looks amused at the whole thing.  Taehyun mouths, what do you want me to do? and Beomgyu glares and gestures for him to stop this.

Taehyun exhales deeply, before rolling his shoulders and getting in between Yeonjun and Soobin and pulling both their ears.

“Ow!” “Ouch!” They both turn to Taehyun with glares, but Taehyun doesn’t even flinch, which is comical considering how short they make him look.  “Can we go eat? Can you guys argue by yourselves later? We’re all hungry.”

Beomgyu cautiously sidles up to them and says, “We can still get barbecue. One round of meat on me.”

It’s Kai who gets them going, linking his arms with Yeonjun and Soobin and dragging them towards the exit of their apartment complex, “Cheer up everyone. You’re all just hangry. Like what that commercial for a Snickers bar said, you guys are not you when you’re hungry—”

Beomgyu links his arms with Taehyun and their bad moods sizzle away as Kai chatters happily all the way to the restaurant.

Taehyun breathes in the cool spring air and sighs happily, “Feels like I haven’t talked to you in a while.”

“Just you wait,” Beomgyu says, “Once finals season comes, you’ll be so sick of me. But I get what you mean. The five of us hang out often enough, but we haven’t really hung out by ourselves in a while.”

“We should change that,” Taehyun says, “Let’s go to a noraebang just the two of us. Ditch Yeonjun-hyung for once, okay?”

Beomgyu laughs, “You’re the one with the real actual boyfriend. Which is so unfair, by the way. I was your friend first, and now, you prefer Soobin over me.”

“That’s only half true,” Taehyun says, “I like you both in different ways. Also, how’s the practice dating thing going? Do you feel like you’re going to do great at the real thing?”

Beomgyu sighs, looking ahead at where Yeonjun is, still being dragged by Kai along with Soobin. They’re up farther ahead than them and as long as Beomgyu isn’t yelling, they probably won’t hear their conversation. “It went too well, I think. But I’m planning on stopping it soon. Think it’s time for the real thing.”

Taehyun gives him a side-long glance, “Finally. It’s been time for the real thing for a while now. You’re the bravest person I know.”

“That’s not true. You’re braver than me. You got together with Soobin, first,” Beomgyu explains.

Taehyun shakes his head, “That’s not brave at all. I only said something because Soobin-hyung was being too obvious. I would have to be blind to not know. If I was unsure, I don’t think I would have said something. But you, you’ve always leaped without checking where you were going to land.”

Beomgyu hums, considering what Taehyun had just said, “Maybe I am brave. I think every person in love has to be.”

“And are you?” Taehyun asks, “In love, I mean?”

Beomgyu sighs, “Head over heels, dude.”

And Taehyun laughs, bright and twinkling, “Good for you, hyung. Congrats. You have what all the songs on the radio can’t stop singing about. Finally, you can stop singing TWICE’s What is Love? when we go to karaoke.”

“You’re the one who always puts it on!”

And just like that, by the time they’re sitting down, have ordered, and for plates of real meat to get there, the only thing sizzling is the samgyeopsal that Beomgyu is in charge of cooking.

They’re seated like this: Yeonjun and Beomgyu on one side, and then Kai, Taehyun, and Soobin on the other side. There’s something about the smoke going up in the air, the smell of meat, the sound of glasses clinking all around them. Nothing else matters; the stress of the day melts away and what lingers is the promise of something good.

Already, everyone’s anticipating the first batch of meat to be done. Beside him, Yeonjun peers over the grill, chopsticks attempting to grab one for himself, “I think it’s ready.”

Beomgyu blocks his attempt with tongs, “No, it’s not.”

Soobin snickers, and Yeonjun sticks his tongue out to him. Beomgyu’s the youngest between all three of them, but sometimes, he feels like he’s the oldest. How can two adults turn into children when they’re with each other?

He busies himself with cutting the samgyeopsal into smaller pieces, then pushing it to the side to make room for the intestines they ordered too.

“Beomgyu-hyung,” Kai calls out to him, and Beomgyu hums in acknowledgement, “What’s up, Kai?”

“How do you know when the meat is done cooking?”

Beomgyu looks up and smiles, “Well, Kai, I just follow my heart.”

“Hyuuuung,” Kai whines, and god, Kai shouldn’t be allowed to be this cute. Beomgyu laughs, “I’m kidding, okay, look,” Beomgyu uses the tongs to pick up a piece that’s a moment away from looking done, “typically, you just have to wait until it looks golden and crispy on both sides. So this one, one side’s done already and this side, probably just needs another minute or two.”

Kai nods, “I see, I see. I never know when it’s done. Taehyun just says it’s better if it’s burnt than not cooked enough.”

Beomgyu laughs, turning to Yeonjun and putting a hand on his shoulder, “Yeonjun-hyung says the same thing. I’m not a fan of burnt meat, so I always have to cook when we go out.”

Yeonjun tilts his head, so it’s resting on Beomgyu’s hand. He chimes in too, “It’s the only time I’ve ever seen Beomgyu cook.”

“I cook ramen all the time,” Beomgyu rolls his eyes, snatching his hand back, “You rarely cook too!”

“That’s cause I’m too tired to cook,” Yeonjun says, rolling his neck slowly and sighing when he hears it crack, “Between classes and dance practice, take-out is the most pleasing option.”

“Oh, dance!” Kai exclaims, leaning forward, “I heard you’re really good, hyung. Taehyun and I are planning on getting tickets to the dance department’s showcase.”

Really good is an understatement, Beomgyu thinks but keeps to himself. Yeonjun will certainly speak for himself, anyway. Like so: Yeonjun scratches the back of his head, but the compliment makes him look like a pleased little cat, eyes disappearing into slits and mouth curving into a satisfied smile, “Thank you for supporting! I think I’m pretty good too.”

Kai laughs at the lack of denial, “Wow, you don’t hear that often. Usually, people deny and say they’re not that good.”

Yeonjun shrugs, “It’s good to be confident? Like I’m not saying that I’m the best right? There’s always room for improvement and for each performance to be better.”

“Oh?” Kai slyly looks at Beomgyu as he asks, “Are you a scary perfectionist too?”

“No?” Yeonjun asks, glancing at Beomgyu, “Is Beomgyu still that scary in class?”

“No, I’m not,” Beomgyu snorts, transferring the cooked pieces of pork belly onto Kai’s plate, so he would shut up. “Be quiet.”

At hearing his favorite person about to be bullied, Soobin zeroes in on their conversation, “Beomgyu is scary. When he’s mad, he bites.”

Taehyun beside him gasps, eyes comically wide, “Our cute Beomgyu-hyung? It’s always the innocent looking ones who are truly hiding something.”

“Stop,” Beomgyu whines, “I am literally the kindest person you know.”

Taehyun shakes his head, “Kind people don’t have to say that they’re kind.”

Soobin also adds, “Also, Kai is the kindest person I know.”

“I can’t believe you guys are bullying me when I’m slaving over the grill for you all,” Beomgyu complains, although he doesn’t falter in transferring the cooked pieces to people’s plates. Beomgyu snorts when everybody shuts up and starts eating. His friend group are all the same. Nobody talks when they’re eating. He gets started on a different cut of meat right away, adjusting it to sit more closely to the middle of the grill.

Yeonjun reaches out and rubs Beomgyu’s shoulder, “You should eat first. It’s not going to burn if you leave it alone for like five minutes to eat.”

Beomgyu looks at him and then at his own plate, “Oh, I forgot to leave some for myself. It’s okay, I’ll just wait for this next batch to finish.”

He gets this way sometimes; when he’s too focused on something, he forgets his own surroundings and even himself. Oh well, he can eat some of the kimchi jjigae in the meantime. He uses the ladle to fill his bowl up, making sure to grab some of the beef, tofu, and the kimchi. But when he looks over at his plate, he sees a couple of pieces of the pork belly on his plate.

He turns to Yeonjun, but whatever he was going to say disappears at the sight of Yeonjun making a wrap for himself — on the palm of his hand sits a perilla leaf and he’s piling rice upon meat upon sauce upon kimchi. Beomgyu can’t help but wonder how in the world Yeonjun is going to fit all of that in his mouth. Sometimes, as weird as it sounds, watching Yeonjun eat can be so entertaining. The man could simply make two smaller wraps and eat the same amount, but that would just be too easy. He watches with morbid curiosity as he finally tucks everything inside to close the wrap. But instead of putting it in his mouth, he turns to Beomgyu and says, “Say ah—”

“Hyung,” Beomgyu eyes the wrap with horror, “No.”

“But Beomgyu,” Yeonjun pouts, pushing the wrap closer to him, “I made it for you. With love.”

Beomgyu covers his mouth, “Hyung, you made that for yourself. Do you want me dead?”

In front of them, Soobin hurriedly makes a wrap too, before turning to Taehyun, “Taehyun, say ahh—”

Taehyun turns red, glancing at Beomgyu and Yeonjun, before shyly opening his mouth and eating the wrap Soobin made for him. It would have been cute if it didn’t make Yeonjun even more determined to feed him. To make matters worse, Kai also hurriedly makes a wrap and cutely says, “Soobin-hyung, say ahh,” and shamelessly, Soobin opens his mouth to eat it.

He’s being ganged up on. AGAIN.

Yeonjun presses the wrap against his closed mouth and says in a cutesy voice, “Baby, say ahh—”

And Beomgyu has no choice but to do it, though let the record show he’s doing it out of spite. If he chokes and dies before he can tell Yeonjun he loves him, then that’s on everybody on this damn table. He opens his mouth and by some miracle, the wrap actually fits inside his mouth— albeit it makes him look like an extra for the Alvin and the Chipmunks live action movie.

Everyone on their table cheers, while Beomgyu carefully chews through it. He feels like five years has passed by the time he manages to swallow the whole thing. Immediately, he downs his cup of water, glaring at Yeonjun, who was happily eating his way through the meat he’d placed on his plate earlier.

“Stop watching me eat, sicko,” Yeonjun says, without looking at him. “This is why you’re gonna run out of food again.”

Beomgyu huffs turning back to his plate, “I’m not watching you eat. I was glaring at you, there’s a difference.”

Yeonjun rolls his eyes, “You’re so obsessed with me.” And then he stands up and checks on the meat, “I’ll do this next round, so just eat. The food tastes better when everyone is happy.”

Beomgyu sniffs, “I see your secret motive. Teasing me like this when you really want me to just sit down and eat. I see you, hyung. My heart is touched. I didn’t realize you could be this warm—”

Yeonjun pretends he doesn’t hear it, but Beomgyu can see his ears are red. His cute hyung can dish it out, but he can never take it. Since he’s in a good mood today, he’ll let him live for now. But it won’t stop him from looking like a pleased little cat as he eats his food.

When it’s time to order their next batch of meats to grill, Kai eyes the menu and asks, “Do you think we can get some shrimp?”

“I want shrimp too,” Soobin’s eyes widen in excitement, but then he deflates, “But we shouldn’t. Beomgyu can’t eat shrimp.”

“Also, this is a meat restaurant,” Yeonjun pipes up, as his hand reaches for Beomgyu’s under the table, “it’s probably more worth it to get seafood some other time.”

Yeonjun smiles comfortingly at Beomgyu, and he’s touched once again at how Yeonjun is taking care of his feelings. Beomgyu wants to kiss him in front of everybody in this restaurant. He settles for intertwining their fingers under the table. He does feel a little bad though, when Kai pouts about the shrimp. He doesn’t really care that much and he’s got a lot of other things to eat, so he tells him, “It’s fine. Go ahead and order it, as long as you get me a cut of the pork shoulder.”

“Really?” Kai says, “It’s really okay, hyung.”

But Beomgyu just nods and can’t help but laugh when Kai cheers. Soobin is pleased too, “I see. When Kai asks, it’s okay. But all the other times we’ve eaten out and I wanted shrimp, it’s a noooo—”

“Shut up,” Beomgyu says, shoving a piece of pickled radish into Soobin’s mouth. “I’m in a good mood today. Also, I have to be good to people who are younger than me.”

“I don’t know about that,” Soobin raises a brow, “If they’re being bratty, I think you have to bully them and teach them a lesson—”

Beomgyu gasps, “Is that so? Should I tell Yeonjun-hyung about how you think he’s a pig for—”

Soobin glares at him, shoving a chock full of rice into Beomgyu’s mouth, “I never said anything like that, you traitorous fool—”

Yeonjun looks at peace, not even minding them. It’s just the way Soobin and Beomgyu operate, and he’s learned early on not to interfere, lest he wants them to gang up on him instead. In any case, they get settled once more food is brought to their table. Everything looks so vibrant and mouthwatering. It makes Beomgyu feel so grateful and happy to be here with everyone, even if the original plan was to just have this with Yeonjun.

Eventually though, this beautiful feast does end and Beomgyu is so afraid to look at the bill. He comes up to the front of the restaurant where the register is and asks for their tab. He sighs as he pulls out his card, thinking about all the shifts he worked at the music department’s office. Capitalism sucks.

When the restaurant worker hands him their tab, he decides he’s not actually going to look at how much it is. It’s not like it’s going to change anything, so he just puts his card down. But just before he hands it back to the worker, somebody grabs it out of his hands. When Beomgyu turns towards the culprit, he pouts, “Yeonjun-hyung, no. This is my treat.”

Yeonjun shakes his head, pulling out his wallet, “It’s your treat to me only. So, you’re only allowed to pay for the amount that you and I have eaten. I’ll pay for the rest of theirs.”

“But hyung,” Beomgyu whines, “The point is you not paying for anything. And tonight was fun, so I can do it.”

“Don’t worry,” Yeonjun smiles, wrapping an arm around Beomgyu’s shoulders and pulling Beomgyu towards him. “I’m sending Soobin a big fat Venmo request for it. It’s too much money for you to shoulder by yourself.”

“Okay,” Beomgyu sighs with resignation, but he’s rewarded for it with a kiss on his nose. He blinks up at Yeonjun who laughs at his expression, “You’re being very cute today. Why is that?”

“I’m always this cute,” Beomgyu says, throwing a peace sign up to his face.

They get their cards back from the register and they sign it both, pocketing their respective receipts. Their other three friends are waiting for them outside.

Taehyun perks up when they see them walking out of the restaurant, “Did you guys want to grab dessert? Just something small to balance the savory meal we’ve just had.”

Beomgyu is honestly way too full for it, but he wants the good vibes to continue, so he nods. “Sure, I’m down,” and the rest follow suit.

This time, Taehyun leads the way, with Yeonjun walking beside Soobin. Naturally, Beomgyu and Kai fall right into step with each other. Kai lightly bumps his shoulders against his, “You look really happy today, hyung. Did something happen?”

Beomgyu smiles, “Everybody has been commenting on that. Is it that obvious?”

Kai shrugs, “You just seem less worried in general. At ease?”

“Yeah, that’s actually pretty true,” Beomgyu agrees, “You know how I asked you for that one thing that one time?”

“Huh?” Kai looks at him with confusion, “Can you be more specific?”

“That thing,” Beomgyu says, puckering his mouth, “You know? Remember?”

“Oh!” Kai laughs, “It’s related to that?”

“Yeah, I’ve found the answer I was searching for.” Beomgyu says, staring at Yeonjun’s back. “Finally admitted it to myself.”

Kai follows his stare, “Ah, I see, I see.”

“Turns out, kissing someone you love just makes the whole experience better,” Beomgyu whispers, and Kai snorts, “I could have told you that, hyung.”

“Yeah, but I was in denial then,” Beomgyu admits, “What about you? What are you going to do about your special first kiss?”

Kai flushes, his eyes shifting to where Taehyun is leading their group, and Beomgyu immediately understands, looping his arms with Kai’s. “Say no more, Ning. Say no more.”

There is no one that understands more than Beomgyu, the need to touch just to see if it would burn. He’ll be there for Kai when he figures his own stuff out. Kai lightly bumps his head against Beomgyu’s in thanks for not saying anything more, and Beomgyu does him a solid by changing the topic to their recital project instead.

Eventually, they arrive at a Baskin Robbins, one that Soobin, Taehyun, and Kai clearly frequents a lot, by the way the workers at the place greets them with familiarity. Beomgyu was just going to steal some from Soobin’s order but decides against it when he sees what flavors Soobin got. He figures he’ll be able to eat at least a kid’s size, so he gets that with a single scoop of chocolate ice cream.

He doesn’t regret it when he gets his order and takes a delicious bite off it. He lets out a pleased hum, shivering in delight at the rich, decadent flavor that hits his tongue. He can’t help but do a little dance, as they walk back to their apartment.

Yeonjun laughs at him, “You’re really in a good mood, huh?”

Beomgyu jokingly turns his nose up when he sees Yeonjun’s ice cream of choice, “It’s what happens when you get the superior ice cream flavor.”

“I know that’s not true, because you’re not eating mint chocolate chip,” Yeonjun says, “But I’m happy for you. What’s the cause of this good mood, huh?”

Beomgyu eyes the way Yeonjun takes a spoonful of his mint chocolate chip ice cream into his mouth before flickering back up with a smile, “That’s a secret, hyung. I can’t tell you yet.”

“Why not?” Yeonjun pouts, “Is it that important?”

Beomgyu goes back to eating his own ice cream, “It’s the most important thing to me right now. I’ll tell you soon enough.”

“When?” Yeonjun whines, “I bet Soobin knows already.”

Beomgyu rolls his eyes, “Soobin knows things before even I find out about it. Also, I don’t know? Maybe, I’ll tell you...tomorrow?”

“Ugh,” Yeonjun says, grabbing another spoonful of ice cream, “Fine. I’ll hold you to that, but now, I’m really curious.”

Beomgyu laughs, but he’s distracted by the way Yeonjun slowly drags the spoon clean of ice cream from his mouth, like he’s really savoring the taste. “I’m curious too.”

“Hm?” Yeonjun turns to him confused.

Beomgyu bites his lip, gesturing to the ice cream in Yeonjun’s hands, “What makes that ice cream so good to you?”

Yeonjun rolls his eyes, taking a spoonful for Beomgyu to taste and brings it to Beomgyu’s mouth, “Here, you should’ve just said you wanted a bite.”

Beomgyu opens his mouth and closes it around the spoon, feeling the strong creamy mint taste hit his tongue. He looks into Yeonjun’s eyes as Yeonjun slowly pulls his spoon out of his mouth. Beomgyu watches the way Yeonjun follows the movement of his lips, especially the way he wipes it clean of any ice cream with his tongue.

“It’s less appalling than usual,” Beomgyu says. He wonders if it’s because of the ice cream or the fact the spoon had been in Yeonjun’s mouth before.

Yeonjun just eats another bite of his ice cream, keeping the spoon in his mouth, as he gives Beomgyu a small distracted laugh. He wonders what he’s savoring this time, if it’s the ice cream or the fact that it’s been in Beomgyu’s mouth.

One thing’s for sure: Beomgyu is savoring all of this, this precious in between, this slow lead up to the first confession of his life.

 


 

Today is going to be cinematically beautiful.

Beomgyu should go ahead and mark it on his calendar, because today is the day he’s telling Yeonjun he loves him.

He has a set idea of how he wants it to go; he’s going to ask Yeonjun to meet him at his room, where he’s going to set up a feast consisting of all the food Yeonjun likes to eat. It’s a terribly long list, but Beomgyu’s narrowed it down to his top picks which are ramen and pho. Beomgyu would also get him some essential side dishes like rice and kimchi, his favorite drink cola, and maybe some macarons for dessert. It seems overkill, but it’s so essential to Beomgyu that Yeonjun eats well. Because a full Yeonjun is a happy Yeonjun.

After they finish eating, Beomgyu will bring up the practice dating contract. He wants to thank Yeonjun for helping him with it, but also, he will need to tell him that he doesn’t need to practice dating anymore. He’s ready for the real thing and he wants it with Yeonjun. Because he loves him.

Before they can get there though, he needs to get everything set up. Plus, he still has to do his routine visit to Yeonjun’s dance practice where he brings him snacks. It’s something that he had started doing because of the practice dating contract, but it made Yeonjun happy enough that he just kept doing it. Besides, it’s a nice excuse to watch him dance. Another one of Beomgyu’s favorite past times.

Anyway, Beomgyu doesn’t get too many snacks this time. It’s one of the few days where Yeonjun’s practice ends earlier, and Yeonjun has a large feast waiting for him anyway. Beomgyu simply picks up an energy drink and a couple pieces of choco pie, and then he’s on his way to Yeonjun’s practice room.

He walks with his bag of snacks and a brightness that turns the whole world golden. It’s the way the light filters through the little spaces between every tree’s leafy branches, creating little pockets of brightness. It’s the shyness of these same trees, their crowns of leaves stopping just a breath away from another, creating skylit gaps in the sky. The beauty of the world turns his heart tender, as if the world is holding it in its hands and cheering it on as it takes its first flight. Spread your angel wings, little bird.

He arrives soon enough to the building the dance department is in and he barely has to think as he makes his way to the area where all the practice rooms are located. When he gets to their practice room, he has surprisingly arrived at a time where they’re actually having a break. Guess he won’t get a free performance today.

He knocks on their door and peeks through the little window to signal his arrival. Yeonjun doesn’t notice him at first, but one of the other third years, Choi Yoojung, sees him and waves at him to come in. She’s seen him enough times to know who he’s here for, so she yells at Yeonjun, “Hey, Yeonjun-ah, your dongsaeng is here for you.”

Yeonjun perks up, turning immediately to the door. Beomgyu makes a cute little heart with his hands as Yeonjun walks towards him. Yeonjun grabs him by the arm and brings him out of the practice room, back into the empty hallway. Beomgyu doesn’t know why he does that, but it works out well enough for him, especially with what he wants to ask Yeonjun.

“Hi, hyung,” Beomgyu smiles up at him, “I didn’t get you much today, but I hope you like it.”

Yeonjun takes the plastic bag from him and peers into it, “Oooh, that’s okay. You know I like whatever you bring.”

“Classic human incinerator, Choi Yeonjun,” Beomgyu teases and Yeonjun jokingly glares at him, hands creeping up Beomgyu’s waist and pressing them where he’s ticklish.

“Hey, no, I was just kidding—” Beomgyu says, trying to shy away from Yeonjun’s hands, but finds that he’s backed up against the wall and he has no choice but to be under the mercy of tickle monster, Choi Yeonjun. 

Beomgyu giggles, as his side gets poked. Yeonjun smugly says, “Take that back! Who are you calling a human incinerator?”

“No one—” Beomgyu barely gets out before twisting in laughter, “No one! I only know Dance God, Choi Yeonjun, stop it—”

Beomgyu manages to grab ahold of Yeonjun’s hand, gripping them tight between their bodies. Yeonjun triumphantly smiles, “This is why you respect your elders, Beomgyu. This is what happens—”

“Ooh, I’m so scared,” Beomgyu exaggeratedly shivers in fear.

Yeonjun thankfully just rolls his eyes, too used to his disrespectful behavior. “What are we doing for dinner tonight? I’ve been thinking about it since lunch when Soobin told me he’s going on a date instead.”

Beomgyu gasps, “We’ve been ditched again? What happened to putting your homies first? I won’t forgive him for this.”

“I know,” Yeonjun says, conspiratorially, “He gets a boyfriend and he barely remembers his best friends. It really shows us what kind of person he’s become. He’s changed, he’s not the old Soobin we’ve known—”

Beomgyu laughs and Yeonjun can’t help but laugh too. Beomgyu figures now is a good time to ask him about tonight, “Seriously, though. For dinner, do you want to come have it at my place then? I’ll take care of food.”

“You will?” Yeonjun asks, “What’s gotten into you, Beomie? The wallet is being opened so much lately. Remember when all you did was leech from us?”

“I was not that bad!” Beomgyu denies, rolling his eyes, “But anyway, will you come over then? Please? I need to tell you what you were asking about the other day.”

“Yeah, I’ll come over,” Yeonjun says with curiosity in his eyes, “Do you mean the cause of your very good mood the other day?”

Beomgyu nods, “Yeah!” and Yeonjun reaches up to brush the hair out of Beomgyu’s eyes, a soft smile on his face, “Okay, I look forward to it then.”

“Okay,” Beomgyu says, “I’ll see you later then?”

“Yeah,” Yeonjun breathes out. Beomgyu makes an awkward gesture with his hands, pointing the direction of the exit, but he doesn’t really move from his spot. Yeonjun doesn’t either.

“I’m gonna go then,” Beomgyu says, still not moving, and Yeonjun just nods, “Okay, goodbye.”

Beomgyu pouts, “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

“What,” Yeonjun says, blankly, “You want a hug goodbye?”

Beomgyu rolls his eyes, but he’s not going to fall into Yeonjun’s trap, “Nah, nevermind. I’ll see you later.”

He finally makes a move to leave and Yeonjun pulls him back as he bursts out laughing, “Ah, come on, stop being cute. I’m just teasing. Come here, Beomie. I’ll give you the kiss you want.”

“I’m fine,” Beomgyu says, but it’s no use, Yeonjun gives him a big smooch on his cheek. “You’re so gross!” He says, wiping his cheek. “I’m going home.”

“No, where’s my kiss?” Yeonjun says, puckering his mouth. “Hmm?”

Beomgyu glares at him, but he knows Yeonjun won’t let him leave without a kiss goodbye. He hates himself for finding his antics cute. He hates how he doesn’t hate it all. He petulantly gives Yeonjun a quick peck on the lips, “There!”

“Worst kiss ever!” Yeonjun complains, “I can’t believe I have to show you properly how it’s done. Again!”

Beomgyu tries not to laugh, he really does, but it’s impossible to stay mad at him. Not when Yeonjun is smiling so happily at him, not when Yeonjun cups his cheeks, not when Yeonjun kisses him stupid to the point where he almost says, fuck it, i’m not waiting until tonight to tell him i love u.

But he manages to hold back as Yeonjun pulls away satisfied once again by the mess he’s caused. “Okay, now you can leave. I’ll see you later.”

Beomgyu is left watching him walk back into the practice room with his heart in his mouth.

He dazedly walks out of the building, with his brain trying to restart, and when he’s calmed down enough, he realizes that he’s forgotten to ask Yeonjun what time he can expect him to be done with practice. He guesses he can just text him for that answer, but at the same time, he’s close enough to go back and just ask.

He rolls his eyes, knowing Yeonjun is going to make some joke about how Beomgyu just can’t get enough of him. You want me so bad, Yeonjun would say. He’s right, but he shouldn’t say it.

He does hurry back to their practice room though, in hopes that their break hasn’t ended. To his luck, it looks like they were all still lounging around and the door was still wide open. Their instructor wasn’t back yet either. Beomgyu is about to knock on the door again, but pauses when he hears his name being spoken by one of the dance members.

“Beomgyu is too nice. How come he brings you food all the time?” The voice is one he can recognize, a popular student named Lee Mark. “Can he bring enough snacks for the whole team next time?”

There’s laughter to be heard at that. He hears another member chime in, this time it’s a teasing voice from one he recognizes as Kim Yerim. “That’s cause Beomgyu is his boyfriend, Mark. Why don’t you get your rich corporate boyfriend to sponsor our team, huh?”

Beomgyu blushes at the comment, stepping closer to the wall to hide himself lest he is seen eavesdropping. Mark says something, but he misses it. He does hear Yeonjun’s response, “Oh my god, he is not my boyfriend.”

“That’s not what I heard,” Yerim pipes up, “I’ve seen you guys at parties and you guys are always together.”

Another dancer comments, “I haven’t seen you go on a date this whole semester either. Oh...are you, like, working your way up to asking him out—”

“No—” Yeonjun denies, but this other dancer continues, “Because I would hurry. I have a couple friends who were talking about him, wondering if he was single.”

“Shut up, it’s not like that between us. But also, which friends of yours?” He hears Yeonjun ask.

“Why, why, why?” Yerim teases, “If you’re not dating and not interested, then why are you so curious?”

Yeonjun scoffs, “Because he’s my friend? And a younger one at that. I have a responsibility to take care of him, he’s like my little brother. Now, tell me, so I can vet them—”

“No, thanks. I’m no snitch.” The unnamed dancer says.

Beomgyu listens to all of this, feeling like he’s sinking into a dream. He hears the words, he’s processing them, and he knows the meaning of all the words separately but he’s having a hard time putting them all together. It’s like Yeonjun is speaking in a language he doesn’t understand. This is a dream.

And just like in any old dream, Beomgyu feels like he’s moving to the tune of an invisible maestro. He wants to leave, he wants to wake up, but he can’t move. The music is not done.

He hears Mark speak again, “So what you’re saying is you’re single? Dude, you should have told me! I’ve been telling people you were dating somebody. They’ve been asking me to set them up with you.”

He hears a bunch of jeers at that comment. Beomgyu feels like they’re personally directed at him. His heart tightens in his chest and wonders, wonders what’s next. Yeonjun speaks again, “I can’t date right now though. I’m...tied up with somebody else right now and not really sure when it’s going to be done.”

“Look at him making excuses,” Mark laughs, “I’m giving them your number anyway. I’m sick of being a middle man. I’m telling them you’re single but waiting to mingle—”

He hears someone groan at the comment, but Beomgyu barely hears whatever is said after. His heart is pounding hard in his chest and he tries to swallow the lump welling at his throat. He needs to get out. He needs to leave before he hears any more of this.

He hears footsteps at the other end of the hallway and the sudden possibility of being recognized by someone brings him to a panic, and finally then can his body move. He walks, almost like he’s possessed by somebody else, out of that building, with his head down. He can’t afford to be seen. He can’t.

The only thing that is running through Beomgyu’s mind right now is that he has to get home immediately. He prays nobody talks to him, nobody touches him accidentally, and that nobody gets in his way. And thankfully, nobody did. He barely remembers that walk home; his whole body was united in its effort to walk as fast as he could. But there isn’t even relief when he reaches his apartment door and he doesn’t even notice that his hands are trembling until he fishes his keys out his pocket to unlock it.

It takes him several pathetic tries and almost breaks down when he drops his keys to the floor. When he finally gets it right, he throws himself inside the apartment, locks the door closed and sinks down to the floor.

The floor is hard and cold and when Beomgyu lays his forehead against it, it feels very much real. This isn’t a dream. As his mind replays the words he wasn’t meant to hear, he concludes pitifully that perhaps the last few months was the dream. And now he was awake.

How could Yeonjun say that?

How could Yeonjun kiss him the way he did and moments later say that?

He can’t unhear it no matter what he does.

I have to take care of him. He’s like my little brother.  Yeonjun had said. Even wanted to take a look at the people who were interested in Beomgyu to vet them. And then, he had said he was tied up with somebody and cited that as the reason he couldn’t date.

It doesn’t make any fucking sense.

He had explicitly asked Yeonjun about ending it and he made it sound like he was shackled to Beomgyu. All because of a crumbled up piece of paper organized by a pre-law student. He had said that he would tell Beomgyu if he wanted out at any time. And he didn’t. Instead, he’d let Beomgyu hold his hand, share his bed, and mark his neck all in the name of taking care of him. He is so fucking kind.

It fills Beomgyu with a wicked sense of fiery rage with barely no outlet to release it to. It’s eating him up from the inside. He’s been burning since the moment he stood frozen outside of that practice room.

He is so angry he feels tears well up into his eyes and once the first tear falls, it doesn’t stop coming. The ocean of his desire has become a storm of his anguish, and all he can think about is how foolish he had been the past few days. How he was planning on telling Yeonjun he loves him tonight. He wonders how that would have gone if he hadn’t heard Yeonjun’s answer prior.

In his mind, he had imagined being able to finally hold Yeonjun’s hand proudly in front of all their friends. How they wouldn’t have to kiss behind closed doors or away from the prying eyes of everyone else. He wouldn’t have to keep tackily adding the word ‘practice’ in front of ‘boyfriend.’

He had foolishly thought Yeonjun would be his.

And that’s what actually hurts the most, isn’t it? Underneath all this rage and resentment is this percolating hurt. That’s the problem when you open your heart, you leave it vulnerable to the viciousness of the world. And it hurts, it hurts, it hurts.

What does Beomgyu do when the fire runs out of fodder to burn and he has to feel the entire pain from the open wound he’s bleeding from?

There’s just too much of it.

He barely hears his phone beep and Beomgyu has half a mind to ignore it, when he suddenly remembers how he had told Yeonjun to come over for dinner. He uses the sleeve of his cardigan to wipe his tears and gets up to sit on his knees, as he pulls his phone from his pocket.

It’s a text from Yeonjun asking him what time he should come over.

Beomgyu replies to it with a detachment he didn’t know he was capable of.

Sorry, hyung. Something came up. Let’s do this another time.

He switches his phone off. There’s not going to be another time.

Beomgyu gets up and sinks to his bed. He doesn’t even bother getting under his duvet. He just lies there, cheek pressed against his pillow, and tries not to think of the last time Yeonjun had been here. He fails miserably and he cries again and again and again.

There is nothing beautiful about this, he thinks as he drowns in his own resentment. (Resentment for who?) All the songs and movies that package a broken heart into something palatable are liars.

What’s beautiful about a flightless bird?

 


 

Beomgyu wakes up to bright sunlight shining on his face and an emptiness he doesn’t know how to grasp. But still he grasps; it is like getting your teeth pulled, not the before where it is all hummingbird anxiety, not the during where you’re knocked out and being pried open, but the after, when you wake up with barely any feeling in your body and all you have is the hazy knowledge that you’ve lost something

But Beomgyu didn’t lose anything, not really. To lose something you must have had it first, and he’s never had Yeonjun.

Distantly, he remembers how he didn’t even eat anything last night. How is he not hungry? He did not wash up either, for he was still wearing yesterday’s clothes. He feels that maybe he should take a shower and warm up his body. He should probably get something to eat, however small. Anything to get rid of this dreadful emptiness.

So he gets up, for what else is he to do. He goes to his closet and tries to find something to wear. Something as mindless as this should not be this difficult, but it is. He doesn’t want to wear anything that reminds him of Yeonjun, doesn’t want him close. He knows that it’s impossible for Yeonjun lives inside his heart, but let him have this. Let him pretend for a while.

He eventually finds a sweatshirt that Soobin had bought him once upon a time. It’s soft, Beomgyu thinks as he brings it up to his cheek. He hasn’t worn it in months. He wants to go back to the person he was, the one who last wore it.

He showers with water a touch too hot and thinks of nothing, but the way his body is turning pink all over. He gets dressed, takes his phone, wallet, and keys, and steps out into the world. Everything looks as it was yesterday, and Beomgyu feels betrayed by it. How can the world look unchanged when Beomgyu feels like he’d been chewed and spit out?

He walks to the small stall just down the street that he lives on. He buys a freshly made sandwich from the ahjumma that mans it. He decides against walking back to his apartment, it feels like a graveyard in there. Instead, he walks to a nearby park. He sits on an empty bench, quietly unwraps his sandwich and takes a bite. It is good, but it doesn’t remove the taste of bitterness in his mouth. Why is that?

He finishes it after a while and wonders if he should continue sitting there. He doesn’t think he should go to any of his classes today. It would be a waste of time, since he’ll most likely absorb nothing. He doesn’t think he has it in him today to pretend that nothing’s wrong in front of so many people. He doesn’t know how he’ll answer anybody’s questions of are you okays or what’s wrongs. Yes, he thinks, he will just lay in bed today. Sink against his sheets. Play some music and close his eyes.

So, he does. He spends hours listening to mono. on repeat. He watches the sky turn from light to dark, counts the amount of airplanes he sees pass by. When that has lost its appeal, he finally turns his phone on and holds his breath. He has been ignoring it all day.

There’s several missed calls and numerous text messages. Some are from Yeonjun, but there’s a bunch of ones from Soobin too. One from Taehyun. One from Kai. None show too much concern, which is good. Beomgyu doesn’t want any of them to think anything is wrong. He isn’t ready for them to see his wound. He wants it to fester a little bit more before he shows it.

He sends a general message to their group chat instead: busy!! i’ll see you guys soon.

His response causes chaos in their group chat and he’s bombarded with messages. He skims through them, and one message catches his eye. It’s Taehyun asking if he’s still coming to the party tomorrow night.

He thinks about what would be the best for him. What would Soobin want him to do? He probably wants Beomgyu to cry it all out. He’d tell Beomgyu to spill his heart out to him. He’d say, I’m sorry it didn’t work out, Beomie. And then, Beomgyu would start crying harder and Soobin would hug him to sleep until Beomgyu has no tears left to cry.

But Beomgyu doesn’t want what’s good for him. He wasn’t given this body to eat vegetables, lightly seasoned. He wasn’t given a heart that only wants what’s allowed. Flightless bird who jumps when he can’t fly.

He wonders if that’s why Yeonjun can’t love him the way he wants to be loved. He’s always had his eyes on beautiful, perfect things.

It doesn’t matter. Beomgyu can’t change who he is.

He tells Taehyun he’ll see them there.

 


 

Beomgyu arrives at the party alone.

It’s in full swing as it usually is when he arrives. The music blasts loudly with some hit k-pop song that he’s heard playing in a convenience store. It’s so loud he can feel the bass like it’s a heartbeat inside of him.

It might have been annoying in normal circumstances, but to Beomgyu who’s piss drunk, it doesn’t matter. He welcomes it and thinks deciding to go to this party is the best decision he’s made all week. No matter that he drank by himself to pregame it. Soju is his new best friend.

He moves his body to the music, swaying lightly as he makes his way to where people are dancing. His friends are most likely not there, so he feels confident as he joins the mass of bodies. Here he is no one. He’s just another boy dancing to the beat.

He spends however long dancing. He doesn’t know how long. He’s not keeping track of the time. Maybe three songs? Four songs? It doesn’t matter he’s having a good time.

This good time is only interrupted when he suddenly feels a hand on his waist and he nearly jumps out of his skin, heart caught in his throat. When he turns to see who it is, he’s so relieved he drops his head against this person’s shoulder, “Jeongin, you have to stop greeting me like this.”

“Beomgyu,” Jeongin shakes his head, “I wouldn’t have to if you’d just greet me first. You came late again.”

Beomgyu shrugs, “I was busy, but that’s not important. Aren’t you glad I’m here?”

“I am,” Jeongin snorts, spinning him around so they’re facing each other instead. “We need to stop seeing each other at parties, by the way. Hang out with me properly for once.”

“I will,” Beomgyu pouts, “Now stop nagging, Jeongin. It’s not a good look for you.”

Jeongin loops his hands behind Beomgyu’s neck, “Fine. By the way, you need to start telling people when you plan on arriving. I don’t know why people think I keep track of your schedule, but every time they ask me if I knew where you were—”

“Tell them to get lost,” Beomgyu says, closing his eyes and getting lost in the music, “I arrive when I arrive. I’m unpredictable, unknowable—”

 Jeongin scoffs, “No offense, but I’m not telling Yeonjun-hyung that. He’s scary looking.”

Beomgyu freezes, opening his eyes in concern, “He’s looking for me?”

“Yes…” Jeongin says with a frown, “Are you avoiding him?”

Beomgyu looks away, “I’m not. I just don’t want to see him.”

Jeongin pulls him closer and brings his mouth close to Beomgyu’s ear, “If you are avoiding him, then you better do a better job at hiding. He’s busy talking to somebody right now, but he was standing by the door earlier. It looked like he was waiting for you.”

It takes all of Beomgyu’s will to not look around for him. It’s a good exercise. He’ll need to be good at it in the future. Beomgyu scoffs, “Good luck to him. Let him try coming to me.”

Jeongin looks at him worry, “Beomgyu, is everything okay?”

“No, Jeongin. It’s not,” Beomgyu sighs, the beginning of annoyance growing within him, “I don’t want to talk about it. I came here to forget and have a good time. Are you going to join me or not?”

Jeongin sighs, and Beomgyu smiles prettily at him. There’s a reason why he’s Beomgyu’s favorite partner in crime. “Alright,” Jeongin says, “We’ll have a good time. How much have you drank already? Do you need more shots?”

Beomgyu cheers, “I’ve drank...not enough. Let’s do shots.”

And so they do shots. Beomgyu does enough that his throat doesn’t even burn anymore when he knocks one back. The room is spinning a little bit, but he feels so loose, so free. Jeongin is giggling against his shoulder and Beomgyu doesn’t even remember why. He doesn’t remember anything.

At some point, a song they both like starts blasting on the speakers and they can’t help it. The dance floor is calling them. He tells Jeongin to twirl him so that the room stops spinning. Jeongin tells him that he needs to start drinking water, because he’s not making sense anymore. He twirls Beomgyu anyway.

But it’s the worst idea in the world, because Jeongin accidentally lets go of Beomgyu’s hand and he spins out of orbit and accidentally bumps into somebody else. He almost falls to the floor if not for the stranger’s kind arms.

Beomgyu giggles, tries to steady himself by holding onto their shoulders, “Oopsies, sorry, I’ve drank just a little bit too much—”

“It’s okay,” The stranger says in a voice too familiar it has him freezing. He knows this voice, would know with his eyes closed, can pinpoint where it comes from even when it’s placed in a chorus of a thousand voices. He doesn’t need to look up to know who it is. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you, Beomgyu.”

 Beomgyu pushes his hands off him, “I told you I was busy.”

“I know. That’s what you texted. Two days ago.” Yeonjun says, trying to hold Beomgyu’s hands. But Beomgyu refuses. He doesn’t want to be touched, so he tucks his hands behind his back. When he turns to Jeongin, he sees that his friend is looking at him in panic. He shakes his head and gives him a smile. Jeongin’s done enough.

Beomgyu stubbornly looks at his feet, “So? I’ve been busy.”

Yeonjun cups his cheek with so much familiarity it opens up a fissure of ache in Beomgyu’s heart. “Why won’t you look at me? At least look at me, when you’re trying to lie to my face.”

Beomgyu breathes, “It’s not a lie. Besides, I don’t need to report everything I do to you.”

“Beomgyu,” Yeonjun says with trouble, “Why are you acting like this? You don’t need to report to me. But you can’t just give straight radio silence for almost a full day and expect me not to worry.”

“I’m peachy. I’m feeling so fantastic. There is no need to worry,” Beomgyu says, like he’s reciting lines for a commercial. With all the muster he doesn’t have. He shrugs Yeonjun’s hand off his face, “Anyway, I have to get going. I think I need to drink more—”

“Beomgyu!” Yeonjun yells at him with frustration, and Beomgyu’s shoulders rise to his ears in panic. People are starting to look. Yeonjun notices that too, for he softens his voice when he speaks next, pleading, “Just please, look at me when you tell me you’re okay.”

He’s never heard Yeonjun sound like this, with so much desperation. Beomgyu thinks it’s funny how he wants Beomgyu to look at him. Beomgyu has been looking. For months, he’s looked and look where it got him.

But fine. Beomgyu knows he can’t avoid him forever. He didn’t even try hard enough to do it. If he had a little more self-preservation he wouldn’t have come. He’s well aware of the hold Yeonjun has on him. Just the sound of his voice is enough to pull him out of the numbness he’s been swimming in. This voice that lights him on fire. This is the voice that said, I don’t like him like that. He’s my little brother.

Beomgyu turns to look at him and fights hard not to be affected by the worry on Yeonjun’s face. “I’m fine,” Beomgyu says, heart twisting in his chest, “Is that good enough for you?”

Yeonjun’s mouth trembles, as his eyes pore over Beomgyu’s face. “Baby,” he says, like Beomgyu is something precious, like Beomgyu is breaking his heart, with all the tenderness in the world in one word. How dare he? “What’s wrong? Talk to me.”

Beomgyu is shaking, from what he doesn’t know. Anger? Resentment? Hurt? The several shots of alcohol his body probably can’t process because he barely ate today?

“Why do you call me that?” Beomgyu asks instead. “You’re not my boyfriend. Don’t call me that.”

“I-I,” Yeonjun stutters, stunned at the question. “I’ve called you that in the past and you’ve never had a problem with it. But if that’s what you want, then fine. I’ll never call you that again.”

“Good,” Beomgyu breathes out, but it doesn’t feel good at all. This feels like the beginning of a graveyard, and Beomgyu is digging graves for things he’ll never get to have again.

But it’s better this way. This thing, whatever it is, was always meant to end. It’s only right that the person who started it is also the person who ends it.

“Okay,” Beomgyu nods, “If you want to talk, let’s talk. But not here.” Beomgyu doesn’t need an audience for what he’s about to do. There’s nothing noteworthy here.

He starts walking through the throngs of people, not really waiting to see if Yeonjun follows him. He reaches the house’s backyard and is relieved that there’s less people out here. There’s a secluded little spot to the side of the house and he finds himself leaning against the wall to steady himself. If he had known he was going to confront Yeonjun tonight, he wouldn’t have drank so much. Or did he drink so much, knowing he was going to do it? Beomgyu can’t keep track of his own decisions anymore.

He raises his head to look at Yeonjun, to find him looking at Beomgyu already. There’s a part of him that knows he can still back out of this. That he doesn’t have to end things this way. There are many ways to take down a house. You don’t have to burn it down. Beomgyu could casually just tell him he’s done with the practice dating thing and move on.

But he’s not good enough person to do that. Maybe if he was, he would have been loved.

“You…” Yeonjun starts, hesitantly, like he can’t find the right word. “you were so happy the last time I saw you. And you were going to tell me what it was.”

Beomgyu clenches his fist at his side and lets out a derisive laugh, “I don’t think it’s a cause for happiness anymore. You’d hate to hear it.”

“I sincerely doubt that,” Yeonjun says, earnestly. “If it made you that happy once, then it’s something I’d like to hear about.”

“Trust me,” Beomgyu smiles sardonically, “You won’t.”

“No. Trust me,” Yeonjun says.

“Can I? Should I?”

Yeonjun looks at him with such troubled eyes, as if it pains him to hear Beomgyu ask that., “You can. Beomgyu, of course you can. You know, I’m always right with you, every step of the way.” He pats his own shoulder, as if to say, you can lean on me, and smiles though it looks frailer than he’s ever seen it. “I’m your Yeonjunnie-hyung.”

Beomgyu tilts his head to the side, “Then why didn’t you tell me you’ve been purposefully not dating because of me? Am I that pitiful to you? Did I look like I needed that much help to you?”

“Huh?” Yeonjun says, utterly confused.

“Do you remember when I said I don’t want to feel like I’m using you? That I’d hate to become a burden to you? And that if you wanted to date you’d let me know?”

“But that hasn’t changed—”

“Don’t lie to me,” Beomgyu rubs his face with his hands, “You wanted me to talk to you. You wanted me to look you in the eye and be honest. Don’t I deserve the same from you?”

Yeonjun stands his ground though, “But there really isn’t anybody I want to date. What did you hear that makes you think otherwise?”

“The other day when I brought you food...I overheard you say that you couldn’t be set up with somebody right now, because you were tied up with someone to date. That someone is me, right?”

Yeonjun looks at him like he still can’t understand what the problem is, “Yeah, but you’re making it sound like you’re forcing me to do this. It’s literally fine, because I want to do this—”

“Hyung,” Beomgyu says, feeling incredulous, “Do you hear yourself? You’re literally preventing yourself from dating because of me. Because of some contract that a pre-law student drew up on a crumpled piece of paper. Why?”

Yeonjun looks at him in disbelief, “Because you asked for my help? What do I care about some random person who wants to date me? You’re more important to me, so yeah, Beomgyu. I’m going to prioritize you. Is it so bad that I want to take care of you?”

“I’m not a child,” Beomgyu spits, “You don’t have to bend over backwards to take care of me.”

“I’m not saying you are. Wanting to take care of you doesn’t mean I don’t think you can take care of yourself. You’re my best friend. You are so, so dear to me. You know that. I’d bend over backwards for you because I want to. Why is that so bad? Soobin can do it for you, but I can’t?”

Beomgyu scoffs, “Soobin’s different.”

“Yeah,” Yeonjun says with disdain, “He’s always different.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Beomgyu bristles.

“Nothing,” Yeonjun shakes his head, “It’s just that sometimes I wonder why you asked me of all people to practice dating with. You’re clearly more comfortable with Soobin. Maybe that’s what this is. I’m sorry I’m not Soobin, let me get him for you—”

Beomgyu cannot believe what he’s hearing right now, “What the fuck are you going on about?”

“You clearly want nothing to do with me right now,” Yeonjun says, pitifully. “Maybe you want somebody else to comfort you—”

“I swear to god, Choi Yeonjun, you are not going to make this about you.” Beomgyu grabs him by his arms, “This is between you and me. Don’t you dare drag somebody else into it.”

Yeonjun bites his lip, looks at him with wide eyes, and Beomgyu continues, “You asked me if it’s so bad to want to take care of me. It’s how you’re taking care of me that’s the problem. Let me ask you this: do you think it counts as taking care of me when you kiss me?”

“Beomgyu...that was practice,” Yeonjun says, sounding infuriatingly patient, like he’s explaining it to a child.

“The first time sure. Maybe even the second time. Maybe when I asked you to teach me how to give a hickey. But what about all the other times?”

Beomgyu looks at his mouth as he waits for an answer, but he doesn’t think it will come, “What about all the times I slept over? How many times do I need to practice cuddling? Until when should we have kept sleeping with each other? Because at a certain point, I’m not learning how to be a good boyfriend anymore. I’m just practicing how to be yours.”

“Is that the problem then? You...you are tired of practice dating?” Yeonjun asks unsurely.

“No, god,” Beomgyu pulls away, wishing he had something to hit, “Hyung, what I want is the real thing.”

Yeonjun’s brows furrow together in confusion, “Then why didn’t you just say so? Why drag me through the mud? Did you want me to end the practice dating myself?”

“You are so fucking—” Beomgyu nearly screams in frustration, “No, you’re not understanding what I’m saying. I want the real thing with—”  

“Go for it then,” Yeonjun says, exasperated although he’s doing his best to sound kind. “You’d be a good boyfriend and there’s clearly not a shortage of people who want to date you.”

He’ll regret it later, how he says the words like it’s a knife to weild. But what can he do when Yeonjun just doesn’t understand? He isn’t normally this obtuse, and it hits Beomgyu that maybe he doesn’t understand because he can’t fathom a world where Beomgyu is in love with him. In Yeonjun’s world, Beomgyu is so clearly boxed in under the label friend that he can kiss him so boldly, hold him so tightly, and care for him this greatly without even thinking it’d mean something more.

The realization is incredibly devastating that it leaves Beomgyu grasping for anything that isn’t this overwhelming pain in his chest and uses it to anchor himself. It’s this need to hurt him back, this petty vengeance in the grand scheme of things; it’s the frightened response of the soft animal that’s wounded inside him. He locks on to the kindness on Yeonjun’s face and immediately hates it. No one should look that kind when they’re breaking your heart. Look mean for small mercies at least.

How do you hurt someone that loves you, but doesn’t love you the way you want them to? How do you hurt someone good and kind?

Beomgyu can lie and say, i’m okay, i’m fine, but he’s tired of the lying and the secrets. In fairy tales, the magic fades when the clock strikes 12. Here, in the corner of some shitty frat boy’s yard, Beomgyu just becomes honest. The truth is the sharpest knife he can yield.

“I can’t,” Beomgyu says, letting the ache color his words, and looks at him the way an archer aims at a target, “because I’m in love with you.”

It feels so good, watching the emotion ripple through Yeonjun’s face as he digests Beomgyu’s admission. But it only feels good for a moment, especially when Yeonjun just looks so troubled, like his whole world has tipped on its axis and every memory they’ve had through this practice boyfriend games is being seen in a newer light. Yes, Beomgyu thinks, look at how you’ve hurt me.

This is the last thing he’ll let Yeonjun have and it’s probably the only thing he should have given him. But he isn’t done.

“It had to be you,” Beomgyu turns soft, fighting hard to keep everything in (the embarrassment, the pain, and most of all the shame) bottled in. But pain, just like the rain, refuses to be held back. “I’m hurt by the way you treat me because you love me so well, but not the way I want to be loved. You are looking at me, but not seeing me. Just once,” Beomgyu’s voice breaks, “I thought I should like to feel how it’d be like to have you.”

“And you were so good,” Beomgyu smiles, watery, “I’d started believing it was real. But it’s clearly not—”

He watches as Yeonjun struggles with what he’s just said, and it finally hits him that he’s finally said it out loud. I love you and Yeonjun can’t say anything, out of what? Horror? Disgust? Beomgyu can’t take it. Every second of silence is another second that his heart spends trying to jump out of his mouth.

“Let’s not practice anymore. Let’s end this, before I regret you even more.” Beomgyu presses his hand against his chest, right where it hurts, and tries to breathe, “I’m going to go home.”

When he tries to walk away though, he almost stumbles and Yeonjun goes to him immediately. But Beomgyu pushes him away, “Please don’t.”

“Beomgyu, you can barely walk,” It’s the first thing Yeonjun says after all of that, and he’s still trying to be his Hyung, pleading with him and trying to grab ahold of his hands.

Beomgyu scoffs. He won’t let him. He can barely hold his tears at bay, and there’s absolutely no way he won’t break down at Yeonjun being kind to him right now. And crying in front of Yeonjun is the last thing he wants — he’s given Yeonjun his feelings, he’s made a fool of himself, but he won’t give him his tears.

If this is what Taehyun calls being brave, Beomgyu doesn’t want it. Beomgyu wants to be a coward. He wants to keep his heart whole and locked away. What is the point of receiving all this tenderness when all it does is crack him open?

Beomgyu sways on his feet and Yeonjun carefully follows the sway of his body, making sure he doesn’t topple over. Beomgyu hates it, he can’t stand it. He can’t breathe under all the pity he knows is in Yeonjun’s gaze. “Hyung, please, leave me alone,” he pleads, trying to move out of the border that Yeonjun’s body has made.

“I just want to make sure you get home safe,” Yeonjun explains, trying to persuade him to stay, but Beomgyu shakes his head. Over Yeonjun’s shoulder, he sees the figure of Huening Kai and nearly sighs in relief.

He pushes against Yeonjun’s shoulder and thanks his body for being able to move fast despite the alcohol’s influence. He’s fast enough to move past Yeonjun and straight into Kai, who barely holds in a yelp of surprise. “Beomgyu-hyung?”

“Kai, where is Soobin?” Beomgyu asks, desperately. He sees Kai look past him, from where Yeonjun must be standing, before looking back at Beomgyu.

“Soobin-hyung is with Taehyun, and I don’t know if you want to get in between that…” Hyuka trails off, “What’s wrong? We’ve been trying to reach you for the past two days.”

“Please help me get out of here. Don’t let hyung near me,” Beomgyu pleads, clinging to him like a lifeline, “I told him. I ruined everything, Kai. I ruined everything, please get me out of here—” 

“We can text Soobin and Taehyun later,” Kai brushes a hand against his hair and Beomgyu nearly cries at his touch. Nothing has felt this safe. “Do you want to come home with me for now?”

Beomgyu nods but not before looking back to where Yeonjun was. It’s once again a mistake. He looks beautiful, even in the wreckage of it all. He shouldn’t be allowed to look like that. It’s not fair. It’s not right.

The cold air outside hits him with much needed soberness. The inside of the house was suffocating for a multitude of reasons, and for the first time that night, he felt like he could finally breathe.

Gulps of air, moments of peace - away from Yeonjun’s orbit.

Kai guides him inside a stopped car. It must be an Uber he had ordered while Beomgyu was trying to anchor himself to the ground. His body sags against the plush seat of the car and Kai quietly reaches over to put his seatbelt on for him.

This small kindness is enough to break him and before he knows it, the tears he had held in for so long just won’t stop falling. “Oh no,” Kai whispers, using the sleeve of his jacket to wipe his tears, “Hyung.”

“I’m so stupid, Ning,” Beomgyu sobs, “Why did I have to fall for him? It could have been anybody else in the world. Why him? Why?”

“You can’t call yourself stupid for things that are out of your control,” Kai holds his hand and squeezes tight.

His chest feels tight, feeling a physical ache, and he tries to massage his chest to ease the pain but it’s persistent. His first heartbreak and he learns the word isn’t some metaphor. “What’s worse is that I’ve ruined our friendship. I was so ugly to him. I told him I love you and then I told him I regretted him. This is why I’m unlovable, and now, he won’t even want to be my friend—”

But Kai is firm, comforting and utterly sincere, “You are not unlovable. If you love him, then he’ll surely forgive you. Do you know how I know that? It’s because you love him that I know he’s kind and good. A pure heart like yours can only love good things.”

Sometimes, when pain is too raw, too fresh, one can mistake it as grief, even when the wound isn’t bone deep. It shouldn’t hurt this much but it does, so much so that the ride home is a blur. His mind swims and swims in a river of all the future possibilities - where does he go from here? what does he do with all this pain? and he’s tethered only by the seatbelt and Kai’s hand clasping his so tight.

They arrive at Kai’s apartment, the one he shares with Taehyun, and when he looks back on this memory years from now, he’ll always be thankful for the way Kai holds him through it, up the stairs, and through his apartment. How gently he talks to him and sits him down on his couch, how he pours him a glass of water and murmurs, my mom used to make me drink water when i cried, said you couldn’t do both, and just being there.

By then the alcohol’s hold had lifted and with it came drowsiness like a gift. Kai lends him some blankets and his lap as a pillow for Beomgyu’s head. Beomgyu snuggles to him and pats his own hair, “Could you just run your hand through my hair?”

Kai complies immediately and it soothes him — he closes his eyes and prays for a dreamless sleep.

He doesn’t realize it then either, but Kai had even contacted Soobin and Taehyun. They come back to Taehyun’s apartment together, with worried questions and he hears Kai try to shush them, trying to keep him asleep, but it’s no use. The moment he sees opens his eyes, the first thing he sees is Soobin and his sad eyes and sad mouth.

Beomgyu doesn’t know how, but he finds it in himself to joke, finger peeking out of the blanket to poke Soobin’s cheek, “Why do you look more sad than me? Who broke your heart?”

Soobin mouth trembles, “You’re breaking my heart.”

“Well, stop it. Heartbreak doesn’t look good on you,” Beomgyu focuses on the tiny mole on Soobin’s cheek, “I’m pretty good at that, breaking hearts.”

Soobin grabs Beomgyu’s hand and clasps it between his hands, presses it close to his chest, “Are you okay? I knew there wasn’t something right when you hadn’t answered your phone for hours.”

“I’m not okay. Not at all.” Beomgyu shakes his head, “But it’s nothing I didn’t see coming. I deserve it. I was stupid, reckless, and shameless—”

“No,” Taehyun, who he had barely noticed and who had taken a seat on the couch’s arm, right next to Kai, denies with such vehemence, “I don’t know what happened in full detail, but I know that it’s not deserved. Sometimes, I wonder if you eat the sun for breakfast, because you shine so bright.”

“Taehyun,” Beomgyu says, eyes beginning to water again, and then Soobin just adds to it, “You have a child’s heart and you love so bravely. I adore that about you.”

Kai joins in too, “You are quiet when you’re being kind to me, which is the best type of good. Because then underneath all the teasing, I know you do it because you genuinely care.”

“This is so unfair,” is what Beomgyu ends up saying, as his tears pour like the rain, even when what he means to say is thank you, “Why can’t you be nice to me like this all the time?”

It makes them all laugh and it hurts to laugh like this in the same way that it’s good to laugh like this. Kai suggests they all sleep together on the floor and Taehyun takes all of their blankets and pillows and Beomgyu finds himself eventually sandwiched between Kai and Soobin, with Taehyun on Kai’s other side. He has his hand on Soobin’s chest, with Soobin patting it absentmindedly in the way a mother would to a baby.

He’s run out of tears for now and he aches at how tenderly he’s being held by everyone like this. And then his mind turns to Yeonjun, because the last time he was held tenderly like this was with him and because the heart is a hard-headed fool.

He hopes his friends are right, that there is something to salvage of him, that not all is lost. In the morning, he’ll sort through the debris. But for tonight, in the arms of his friends, he’ll try to sleep knowing there’s love here too.

And maybe it’s not the love he craves, but it’s enough.

 


 

He wakes up to the feeling of Soobin carefully trying to untangle himself from him.

It’s cold in the space he used to be and Beomgyu turns over to his other side, trying to grasp a little bit more warmth. He hears the door open and wonders if Soobin is going to grab breakfast for them.

He isn’t. His eyes flash open as he hears the clear sound of Yeonjun’s voice filter through the apartment, “You guys weren’t answering your phone. I just want to know if he’s okay—”

He hears Soobin shush him, but Soobin has always been a terrible whisperer, “Don’t be too loud, he’s still sleeping. Kai found him crying and trying to get away from you. What the hell happened—”

“I don’t know,” Yeonjun’s voice is wobbly and weak. “I didn’t know, Soobin, I didn’t mean to—”

“Hey,” comes Kai’s quiet voice from beside Beomgyu. Beomgyu turns to him and finds him already looking. Kai gently covers Beomgyu’s ear with his hand and shakes his head. “Don’t,” he mouths, and Beomgyu nods and closes his eyes.

He’s not ready to face Yeonjun again after all that happened last night. His voice sounds pained and Beomgyu feels all cut up inside to be the cause of it. A part of him wants to take off Kai’s hands, as if bearing witness to Yeonjun’s pain would be exactly what he deserves for causing it. But at the same time, he knows all too well the damage of overhearing something that’s not meant for your ears.

So he focuses instead on listening to his body. He feels so weak, and it’s the sum of the damage he’s done to himself in the past couple of days. It’s starving himself, then consuming copious amounts of alcohol, and not to mention the emotional toll of repressing his heartbreak. He needs to recover, and so he sleeps.

When he eventually wakes up, it’s to Soobin stroking his hair. It’s only just them now on the floor, and Beomgyu finds himself burying his face against Soobin’s chest. “Soobin,” he cries, “What did I do? How am I supposed to fix this? I didn’t know it would end like this—”

“It’s okay,” Soobin says soothingly, rubbing his back, “There are worse things in the world than falling in love with our Yeonjunnie-hyung. He’s a little fool, but you couldn’t have picked someone kinder than him. This is fixable, okay? We’ll talk about it later when you’re ready. Okay?”

His Soobin. What would he do without him?

He finds later that Kai and Taehyun had gone out and bought food for them. When he gets up from their makeshift bed in the living room, he sees that Taehyun is finishing up on setting bowls and utensils on their dining table, while Kai transfers the food to ceramic bowls.

Beomgyu’s mouth waters at the smell of garlic, ginger and something savory wafting in the air. He takes a seat at the table, just as Kai places a big bowl of dakjuk in front of him. “Eat up, Beomgyu-hyung!”

Beomgyu smiles at him gratefully, but waits for everybody to take a seat before digging in. “Wow,” Beomgyu says, amazed, “Why do we always eat at our apartment when your table is much bigger?”

Taehyun shrugs, “I think Soobin-hyung likes to host.”

Soobin’s nose scrunches as he pinches Taehyun’s cheek, “I like to see Taehyun eating on the floor. It brings him to the level of us mere mortals—”

“Stop,” Taehyun scolds him, but his cheeks are turning as red as his hair, “Go eat before your food gets cold.”

Beomgyu hides his smile behind his spoon and nearly cries when he brings the porridge to his mouth and burns his tongue. “Ouch,” he pouts angrily at his spoon, and he hears Kai snicker in front of him. Taehyun elbows him, but it only makes him laugh harder.

It makes Beomgyu laugh too, and soon enough, all of them are laughing. Beomgyu wonders why on earth he didn’t come to them first in the first place, when he had first found out about Yeonjun’s true feelings about him. What was so good about crying by himself in that dark room? It surely had felt good to savor the pain, but was it healthy? Definitely not. He feels so grateful to all of them for being there. He doesn’t even know how he would have gotten home without them.

Beomgyu finishes his meal first, settling comfortably in his chair and waits for everyone to finish. It’s a little weird for him to say this, but he likes watching his friends eat. They eat so well, with their cheeks all puffed up and their single-minded focus on what’s in front of them. It’s how they place food on each other’s plates without words, as if saying, this is good, i want to share this with you.

It’s only in this kind of environment that Beomgyu can feel he can speak and share what happened without judgement. When they are all done eating, when Soobin has licked the last spoonful of his porridge, when Kai has drunk his water, and Taehyun has wiped his mouth, Beomgyu clears his throat.

“I just wanted to say thank you for taking care of me last night,” Beomgyu says, looking down at his hands on his lap, “I was a wreck last night and I drank so much and I was crying buckets—” Beomgyu stops himself, “It must not have been easy, so really thank you.”

“It’s nothing,” Kai says, and when Beomgyu looks up, he finds Soobin and Taehyun nodding with such warm eyes, “You would have done the same for me.”

Beomgyu feels his eyes water and tilts his head towards the ceiling to stop tears from falling, “Don’t be so nice to me, I’m gonna start crying again.”

Soobin laughs, “I think we all know how much of a cry baby you are. So, you might as well just let it out.”

Beomgyu scoffs but laughs anyway, wiping some tears that had fallen with the sleeve of the sweater he was wearing. “Anyway, I think I owe you all an explanation. It’s been a terrible couple of days, but it all started—”

He starts with what they last knew to be true: how he had been planning on confessing his feelings for Yeonjun. How excited he was and how he was planning on buying him all his favorite foods. As he tells it, he realizes how unreal time is. That felt like months ago, but really it was only really the other day.

He then goes on to tell them of how he’d heard Yeonjun deny any feelings for him, how he’d thought of Beomgyu as a little brother. It was a clear rejection that Beomgyu wasn’t meant to hear, but a rejection nonetheless. He also mentioned how before every line between them got blurred, about how he actually wanted to end the practice dating between them. For fear that he was taking advantage or preventing him from dating other people. And then how Yeonjun hadn’t even cared about not being able to date because of Beomgyu. How confusing everything was, is.

He skims over what he’d done after that and skips over to the party where Yeonjun had wanted them to talk. There, it gets a little bit hard to talk. It’s a fresh wound and he’s utterly ashamed of how he’d behaved. But he’s perfectly honest about what had been said. He recounts every mean thing that came out of his mouth, even as his voice cracks all over when he describes the way he had said I love you. That he said he regrets him.

By the time he’s finished saying his piece, Soobin is holding his hand, stroking the back of it with his thumb, “Hey, I’m really glad you shared that with us. Thank you for trusting us with it.”

And Beomgyu shakes his head, “No, thank you for listening. It’s messy and all of you are hyung’s friends too. I’m just sorry...to everybody for worrying you all and mostly to him.”

Kai frowns, “It’s not your fault that you fell in love with him—”

“But it’s not his fault either for not being able to love me back.” Beomgyu says back. “But I treated him like it was. I was the one who got confused, I was the one who asked to do this stupid practice dating in the first place. I really should have confessed properly in the first place, but now look at where we are.”

Taehyun hums, thinking out loud, “I just don’t understand how it ended up like this. I was so happy for you because I could clearly see there was something, that it wasn’t unrequited—”

“No, Taehyun,” Beomgyu says, looking at him resolutely, “That’s the kind of thinking that got me here. I heard it from Hyung’s mouth himself. He doesn’t even like me like that. He doesn’t see me like that.”

Taehyun looks like he wants to say more, clearly disagreeing, but Soobin gives him a look. Kai carefully asks, “What are you going to do now? What do you want to do?”

“I…” Beomgyu sighs, “I need to talk to him. I need to apologize and own up to what I said. I hate how I handled everything, and I think it would be good for me to talk to him after I’ve done some thinking, some processing, and definitely not with so much alcohol in me.”

Soobin nods at that, “I think that’s a good plan. Are you planning on going back to your place? I can stay with you if you don’t want to be alone. I..also was wondering if you want Yeonjun-hyung to know how you are doing? I don’t know when you’re planning on talking to him, but you know how he is…”

Beomgyu thinks of Yeonjun’s voice from this morning. How miserable he had sounded. He doesn’t deserve to be ignored the way Beomgyu had in the past, “Tell him, I need space, but that I’ll talk to him soon. When I’m ready.”

It takes him a while to be ready for that conversation though.

He sits on it far longer than he should. He’s scared, he isn’t ashamed to admit that. He spends an inordinate time lying in his bed and looking at the moon. He drinks too many bottles of lukewarm barley tea. He throws himself into his work and studies. All of this he does trying not to think of Yeonjun. All of this he does while failing at that.

He decides there won’t ever be a time that he’ll be completely ready to have this conversation. It’s incredibly human to make mistakes, but why is it so hard to own up to them? Why does looking people in the eye and saying I’m sorry feel the same way as someone slicing your heart open and gutting it clean?

About a week after that fateful night, he crafts a message in the dead of the night:

Hi hyung, can we talk? Could you make some time for me tomorrow?

He gets a reply not even a minute later.

Yes, any time you want. Anywhere.

Let’s meet at 9 pm at the park near your apartment. By the bench in front of the mermaid fountain. He finally sends and shuts his phone off.

Beomgyu isn’t a firm believer in religion. He prays only when he needs something and makes wishes on fishbones, shooting stars, and airplanes. He truly believes only on things that are constant, the way the moon and Soobin are in his life. But that night, he prays to every god he knows, promising he’ll be good, that he’ll be kinder and better and work harder, if only to make sure tomorrow goes well. He asks for bravery too, because starting tomorrow, he’s letting go.

 


 

Beomgyu arrives early to their meeting spot. He couldn’t bear sitting in his apartment all anxious, and he finds it much better to simply wait and breathe in the fresh air.

There’s a local urban legend about the mermaid fountain on their campus. It’s said that if you throw a coin in the mermaid fountain on the first night of your first year, any wish you make can come true. Soobin had heard about it from Yeonjun and then promptly dragged Beomgyu to it in the middle of the night.

Beomgyu didn’t make any wishes about love then, praying only for a happy and successful university experience, but there’s something about the potential of this place, like Beomgyu will absorb some of its magic by proximity. He wonders what Yeonjun wished for. He wonders if it’s come true yet.

The park is empty, save for a random cat prowling around. As such, he knows exactly when Yeonjun arrives, hearing his footsteps approaching first before he sees him. The sight of him takes his breath away. My god, Beomgyu thinks, is this what love does to you?

Yeonjun stops a couple of feet away from him, hesitating to come close, so Beomgyu makes the first move. “Yeonjun-hyung,” Beomgyu greets, “How have you been?”

“Not too good, if I’m being honest,” Yeonjun says, one side of his mouth pulling up in a sad attempt of a smile. “Can I—?”

“Oh,” Beomgyu stands and then awkwardly gestures to the seat next to him, “Yeah, yeah, please sit.”

“Thanks,” Yeonjun says, tightly, taking a seat. Beomgyu takes a seat too. They’ve never been this quiet or tense with each other, not since the beginning when they barely knew each other. It doesn’t feel right.

Beomgyu had so many thoughts and practiced so many times what he was going to say when this moment came. He finds all of those thoughts had flown away, out of his head, leaving him fidgeting with his hands on his lap.

In the end, it’s Yeonjun who breaks the silence, turning to him with such glassy eyes and speaks to him in a voice thick with emotion, “Beomgyu, I don’t want to lose you. Over the past few days, I’ve thought about the worst possible scenario and I’ve landed at that. I don’t want it. I can’t afford it. I can’t lose you—”

“Hyung,” Beomgyu reaches for his hand, squeezing it tight, and softly says, “Yeonjunnie-hyung.” Earnestly, he says, feeling the same emotion in Yeonjun’s eyes well up in him, “My Yeonjunnie-hyung. You won’t lose me, okay? Don’t cry. You won’t, I promise, you won’t. That’s why we’re doing this, okay? I’m trying very hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“You’re my best friend,” Yeonjun says desperately, “Even if you still like Soobin more than me—”

“There you go bringing up Soobin again,” Beomgyu laughs, watery it may be, “Even when you’re the one I’m in love with. You can afford to not be number one, you know?”

It’s amazing how Beomgyu can joke about this. It means so much even if no one’s laughing. Yeonjun just looks at him sadly and Beomgyu thinks he can’t have that. He’s tired of this Atlantean struggle of carrying his heavy heart. Let’s both be happy. “I wanted to talk about what happened that night. And I want you to let me just talk, okay?”

Yeonjun nods, and Beomgyu gives him a smile for it. “Remember how I was supposed to tell you something? The reason I’ve been so happy lately?”

“Yeah,” Yeonjun says.

“It was because I finally admitted to myself that I love you. And I had decided I was going to tell you, because I was positive you felt the same. But then I overheard you talking about me, how all I am is a little brother to you. How suddenly nothing was actually real. I was so heartbroken and I lashed out. The truth is, I blamed it on you and I shouldn’t have. It’s not your fault that you don’t love me. It’s not that I was unlovable or anything. You love who you love and it just wasn’t me.”

Beomgyu looks at him when he says this, “So, I’m asking for your forgiveness—”

“Beomgyu,” Yeonjun tries to pull his hands away, but Beomgyu clings to it tight, “Why would I forgive you, there’s nothing to forgive—”

“Forgive me, anyway,” Beomgyu smiles.

“I forgive you,” Yeonjun says simply, “For what?”

“For being so ugly to you. For yelling at you. For blaming you for something that wasn’t your fault. For telling you I love you in such a terrible way. For saying I regret you—” Beomgyu cuts himself off, “This past few days, it’s been eating me up inside how it all went down. I think love is one of the most wonderful things in the world, and I just threw it to your face like that—”

“It’s fine—”

“No, it’s not. Not to me,” Beomgyu says, strongly. “So let me do it right this time, because you deserve to hear it properly.”

Beomgyu licks his lips and shakes any remaining nerves. He looks deep into Yeonjun’s eyes and says, simply and sincerely, “I’m in love with you. And I hope that you don’t feel disgusted or put-off by it. I say it not to ask for anything, but to say it, because every person deserves to hear it, even just once. I love you, because you’re the kindest person I know. I love you, because you’re a star from a galaxy thousands of light years away and I’m just a person who’s lucky enough to be this close to see it this early. I love you to the point that I’ve come to love dance, because you love it, and I’ve never seen anyone more born for it than you. I love you enough to say all of this, even though it all sounds so cheesy, but I hope we get past this and be friends long enough that one day you’ll be comfortable enough to tease me about this.”

Yeonjun is looking at him, utterly stunned. What do you say to a person who loves you, who you love but not in the way they want to be loved? “You don’t have to say anything, I mean that.” Beomgyu smiles, reassuringly, patting his hand, “You just deserved to know, okay? And I don’t regret you. I’m thankful it’s you. I couldn’t have picked a better person to have as my first love.”

They sit there quietly for a while, the type of quiet where nobody needs to speak because the silence is meant to soak up what has just been said. Only the moon bears witness.

“So where do we go from here?” Yeonjun asks.

“They say that when somebody does you wrong, you have to learn to forgive and forget,” Beomgyu says, “So now we forget.”

Yeonjun looks at him with confusion, “What do you mean we forget? We can’t just do that—”

“We have to,” Beomgyu says, in a tone that barters no room for argument, “We start over with a clean slate. We forget about all the practice dating things we’ve done. We learn how to be friends again. We can’t be like we were. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but it’s what we have to do. It’ll be awkward and weird and it won’t be like before, but we’ll still have each other.”

Yeonjun doesn’t look like he’s sold on the idea, but he has no choice. “Please,” Beomgyu says, “For me?”

Yeonjun reluctantly nods and Beomgyu smiles, though it’s frail and brittle. “Okay,” Yeonjun says, “We’ll do it that way.”

Beomgyu nods, feeling like there should be a sense of finality in the air, but there isn’t. Maybe it’s because this is just another beginning.

“Oh,” Beomgyu suddenly remembers and Yeonjun looks at him, questioning, “The song I wrote you—”

“What about it?” Yeonjun asks, warily.

“It’s nothing,” Beomgyu says, suddenly feeling shy. After everything he’s just said, he wonders how he can still feel shy. “I hope you can still listen to it. I still wrote it for you. It’s yours. Nothing has changed that.”

Yeonjun exhales and smiles at him for the first time that night, “Yes, of course. Thank you.”

Beomgyu realizes that he’s still holding Yeonjun’s hand and that he should probably let go. But this may be the last time he can do this, so he savors it, tries hard to remember the feel of it in his hand. And Beomgyu knows it’s not allowed, but he holds it up to his mouth and just barely brushes a kiss against the back of Yeonjun’s hand.

Yeonjun doesn’t say anything and Beomgyu doesn’t either. The silence speaks for itself. And then, at long last, Beomgyu places Yeonjun’s hand back on Yeonjun’s lap. Only then does he let go.

 


 

It’s odd to Beomgyu how fast the season changes.

Spring crept up like a familiar stranger, turning fallen snow into soft pink petals in the same time it took Beomgyu to break his own heart. It feels like time is on his side for once — if the world can turn anew, if somehow the trees with its creaky branches for bones can withstand winter and bloom again, Beomgyu can too, right?

It’s important for him to be able to move on. Not just for himself, but for his friendship with Yeonjun too. He’s determined to keep his promise to him. He won’t be one of those people that can’t be friends with someone they loved.

It helps that he’s surrounded by such supportive good friends.

Soobin is the best best friend one could ever ask for. He makes sure Beomgyu is eating three times a day, because Beomgyu, you can’t be sad and hungry. He asks about his day, how his music recital is going, even though he spends so much time with Kai, so he for sure, already knows. He used that as an excuse once, but it didn’t fly. Soobin had only shaken his head and said, “Yeah, but I want to hear it from you.”

It makes Beomgyu think about what a bad friend he has been. How he’d been so focused on himself, he’d lost sight of everything else. So, he starts asking how Soobin is too, what he’s been up to, how his family is doing. And then, he starts asking Taehyun these same questions, and then he begins asking Kai after that too. Maybe this is the secret to recovery: falling in love with everything else.

He falls head over heels in love with his own music, throwing himself into composing more, while trying to balance practicing for his and Kai’s recital. He falls in love with Seoul again; he goes out with Taehyun and spends way too much money singing Jung Seunghwan’s The Snowman at noraebangs. Taehyun indulges him by letting him choose all the songs and Beomgyu indulges him by staying out way past his bedtime. Beomgyu doesn’t wake up until around six in the evening that day. He becomes a tourist in this city — he lets himself be dragged to Namsan Tower, eats the spiciest tteokbokki at Gwangjang market, and once he even makes the trek to Eurwangni beach.

For the trip to Eurwangni beach, he takes Kai with him, citing that they needed a break from doing so much practice. Creative brilliance, Beomgyu had said, can only be achieved when the mind is relaxed. And so they run around the sand like children and sneakily try to push each other into the water. They take pictures of each other and when the sand clings to their ankles and the sky turns orange, they hold hands and yell at the sun for every single terrible thing that has happened to them that semester. It’s silly; they mention bad professors, terrible group projects, that one time they ran out of grape juice at the store, and a bunch of other things. Unrequited love is never mentioned.

Speaking of unrequited love, he’s getting better at living with it. It’s perhaps the kind of thing you carry, like a small child, until one day it grows up and you don’t realize but you’ve carried it for the last time. He’s also getting better at spending time with Yeonjun again, although everyone around them have taken great pains to never leave them alone with each other.

It’s hard to forget about everything that happened and to start over. They walk around their memories of each other, trying carefully not to stumble over debris and failing. But they stumble anyway— how does Beomgyu not when he’s carrying the knowledge of what Yeonjun looks like dreaming and how he likes to be kissed. There’s a secret language between them full of inside jokes and wordless but meaningful glances. Yeonjun is still the first person he looks at when he cracks a joke and Beomgyu has to train his hand until it stops reaching for Yeonjun’s hand. It’s hard for Yeonjun too, Beomgyu knows that to be true. He knows it hurts him when Beomgyu chooses to sit next to Kai instead of his usual seat beside Yeonjun, how Beomgyu lets Soobin ruffle his hair, or how Taehyun gets all of Beomgyu’s time and affection. Yeonjun always looks like he’s got something to say stuck like a little lump in his throat, but Beomgyu has never heard what that would be because he won’t let him say it.

It’s nothing personal; Beomgyu just doesn’t know how to be the person he used to be around him.

He’s trying to find a way to do that without inviting back the pain. There has to be away, but maybe there’s only one way and that’s time blurring his memories until once again he can see it all through rose colored glasses.

For now, he’ll think about their beautiful memories, the way they are tucked like pressed flowers between his favorite book. At night, he’ll pull it close to him, open the page marked by a bookmark, and experience them again, even if it’s just in his own head.

He’s still in love with love. Sometimes, Taehyun and Soobin try hard not to act like a couple in front of him when they’re hanging out, as if the success of theirs would further hurt him about the failure of his. It doesn’t and isn’t that such a relief? Love is still beautiful and magical. It makes him happy to see them happy.

He’s spending today with them too, along with Kai and Yeonjun. Kai had mentioned that he had wanted everyone to get together and have a picnic at the park, and he’d said it so cutely and with such hope in his eyes that nobody had been able to say no. Nevermind that none of them have time to cook and that they’ll end up buying food from the convenience store. Taehyun only laughed and said, it’s okay, we will buy it with love, and it’ll taste better than if we had made it.

So they each got their own assignments:

Yeonjun will bring fruit for dessert.

Soobin will bring drinks.

Taehyun and Kai will buy food.

Beomgyu will bring the blankets to sit on.

He’s the last one to get to their picnic spot, a little grassy area underneath the trees that’s close enough to the river. Beomgyu is not surprised to see them squabbling already.

Beomgyu makes his appearance known, throwing the blankets on the ground, “I thought this was going to be a wholesome picnic, what’s wrong?”

The four of them look at him in panic and simultaneously, Soobin and Kai fumble around an explanation, “Well, you see—” “Everything’s okay, we just, uhhhhhh—”

Taehyun sighs, “We forgot to buy you your sandwich.”

“That’s it?” Beomgyu tilts his head to the side in confusion, “I can just eat the fruits that Yeonjun-hyung brought. It’s not a big deal.”

“You’re just going to eat fruit?” Yeonjun frowns, and Soobin looks at Beomgyu unimpressed. “You are not just eating fruit.”

Beomgyu rolls his eyes, but before he can respond, Kai puts his hands up, “Guys, there’s an easy solution to this. We’ll just go back to the convenience store and buy another sandwich. Easy peasy.”

“Okay, picnic on pause,” Soobin declares, “I’ll go with him to make sure he doesn’t make any funny moves.”

Taehyun raises a brow, “You don’t know how to say no to Kai, so I don’t think you should go with him.”

Beomgyu doesn’t know how the three of them get anything done when they’re all hanging out. It’s amazing how there’s three perfectly working brains between them, but none of them start working when they’re together. Beomgyu sighs, “Why don’t the three of you just go to the convenience store together?”

“Huh?” All four of them turn to him in surprise.

Soobin looks at him with concern and Beomgyu will kill him if he says anything about Yeonjun. “We’ll wait for you guys to come back. Seriously, go.”

Kai looks at him worriedly too, but it’s Taehyun who pushes both Soobin and Kai forward to get a move on. “Let’s go, let’s go.”

Taehyun turns back to him to give him a reassuring smile. It puts Beomgyu at ease to not be treated like a child, who’ll break down the moment he’s alone with Yeonjun. It was bound to happen at some point. Why not now? The world looks beautiful enough.

Yeonjun stands a little awkwardly with him and he tries not to let it bother him. Beomgyu crouches down instead and starts unfolding the blanket he had brought, “Hyung, help me with this. We might as well set it up while they’re gone.”

“Okay,” Yeonjun says, coming down to his knees and taking the other end of the blanket. It flutters briefly in the air, and then they set it down on the ground. Beomgyu immediately lies down on it, closing his eyes and feeling the breeze pass through him, ruffling his hair the same way it ruffles the petals in the trees.

When he opens his eyes, pink petals fall around him like rain, like snow, like powdered sugar on cake. It is so beautiful, gorgeous, he can’t help but turn to Yeonjun but whatever he’s about to say gets stuck in his throat.

Yeonjun is already looking at him with an emotion he is afraid to name. Beomgyu blinks, determined to not read into it, “Why are you looking at me like that? I’m gonna strain my neck if you keep standing up.”

Yeonjun lets out a laugh that sounds more like an exhale and sits down, “Who told you to lie down by yourself?”

Beomgyu closes his eyes again, sighing happily as he feels the ray of the sun hit his skin. “Then lie down beside me. Let’s do what the plants do, photoshopping, was it?”

“Pfft,” Yeonjun laughs again, falling to his back to lie down beside him, and Beomgyu lets himself smile at that. It is so easy to make him laugh. “It’s called photosynthesis, dummy.”

“Same thing,” Beomgyu mutters. It’s nice to lie here quietly like this. It feels like everything will be alright. He wants so badly for it to be. It occurs to him that he doesn’t know what Yeonjun’s been up to lately. The thought has him opening his eyes and turning to his side, only for once again to see that Yeonjun is already lying on his side and looking at him too.

The last time they’ve looked at each other like this was on Beomgyu’s bed, the first time he’d said I love you out loud.

He lets himself look at him this time. He’d been afraid that his gaze was too much, that it would make Yeonjun uncomfortable, but maybe it’s okay. “How have you been—”

“I like your hair,” Yeonjun says, staring at the freshly dyed brown strands, “It was this color when we first met.”

“Was it?” Beomgyu can hardly remember, “Black was getting too boring, and everyone said I looked better with dyed hair.”

Yeonjun shakes his head, but since they’re lying down, he just ends up squishing his cheek against the blanket. Beomgyu tries not to look . “Who’s lying to you? You looked great with black hair, although it was more of a dark brown…”

“It’s the same thing,” Beomgyu claims, but Yeonjun ends up shaking his head again.

“No,” Yeonjun denies, “When you stood in the sun, it was dark brown.”

“Why would you fixate on such a thing,” Beomgyu feels bewildered at this weird turn of conversation. “Anyway, you never answered my question. What have you been up to?”

“Because I pay attention too,” Yeonjun says, with such serious eyes it makes Beomgyu’s heart pound. But he’s smarter this time around. He’s not going to read into it. He’s not.

At his non-response,  Yeonjun sits up and reaches over to his bag of fruits that he’d brought to this picnic and pulls out an orange. “And to your other question, I’ve been okay. I’ve been spending a lot of time just dancing, thinking, and listening to the song you gave me.”

That makes Beomgyu sit up too, pulling his knees to chest. The relief he feels is overwhelming, so much so that he can only say, “You have?”

Yeonjun nods, hands turning over the orange, massaging it softly between his fingers. “Yeah, it’s a beautiful song. One day, I’ll choreograph a dance for it and show you.”

“Yeah?” Beomgyu smiles, “I look forward to it.”

“Do you remember,” Yeonjun smiles, looking down at his hands, “That watercolor cafe we went to for that first practice date—”

Beomgyu’s heart jumps. “Hyung,” he says, sternly, “You can’t talk about this—”

“But can I? Just this once,” Yeonjun asks, looking up into Beomgyu’s eyes. “Just this time and then I’ll never bring it up ever again if you don’t want me to.”

Beomgyu sighs, but acquiesces, “Fine, but I don’t really see the point—”

“Beomgyu, please,” Yeonjun pouts, and Beomgyu mimes himself zipping his mouth shut. Yeonjun smiles at that, “But anyway, I brought it up because we were talking about oranges then—”

“Yes,” Beomgyu says, flatly, “You drew me as a bear eating some oranges.”

Yeonjun stares at him unimpressed, and Beomgyu raises his hands in surrender. Yeonjun sighs, “First impressions, remember? You were so round and cuddly. I don’t know if I ever told you, but I thought you were Soobin’s boyfriend at first.”

Beomgyu makes a face of disgust, “Why?”

Yeonjun laughs, “He made the same face then too, when I brought it up.” Yeonjun brow raises at the memory, “You guys were so touchy and comfortable with each other. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had a friend that I’ve been with for as long as you guys have, but you guys just acted like a couple. Holding hands, cuddling, no sense of personal space, and he always referred to you as a baby.”

“That’s just the way we’ve always been,” Beomgyu’s brows furrow, “He’s my Soob.”

Yeonjun nods, “Yeah, and you’re Soobin’s too. Well, that was my first impression of you. Round, cuddly, and Soobin’s. I think half of what I know about you is from when he’s talked about you and the other is from actually hanging out with you. Remember how I asked you when your first impression of me changed? For me, I think I’ve held that impression of you for the longest time. It colored the way I’ve treated you, and it still does now, if I’m being honest.”

Beomgyu doesn’t know where this is going. He doesn’t think he likes it. “That I’m Soobin’s? But I’m my own person, who belongs to everybody and myself at the same time. Just like you’re Soobin’s too, how you’re my Yeonjunnie-hyung, and I’m Taehyun’s and Kai’s.”

“But we belong to people in different ways,” Yeonjun argues, “The way Taehyun is Soobin’s isn’t the same way that Taehyun is yours.”

“That’s...fair,” Beomgyu finally says, “But hyung, what are you trying to say?”

“I’m just trying to paint you a picture of what I see.”

“And what do you see?”

“Two things really. First,” Yeonjun cringes, “I’ve always thought that if you were going to admit being in love with somebody, it would be with Soobin—”

Beomgyu smacks him on the shoulder, “I can’t believe you would think that, you blind fool—”

“Ow!” Yeonjun flinches back, rubbing his shoulder with a hurt expression, “Literally, your relationship has all the elements of a childhood friends to lovers romance story. There’s tons of dramas with literally the same storyline and there’s always one person pining and there’s one that’s oblivious.”

Beomgyu feels a headache oncoming, “Which one am I? The one pining or the oblivious one.”

Yeonjun blocks his shoulder, preventing any attack attempts, “...The one pining.”

Beomgyu hits him anyway, “First of all, I would be the oblivious one. Have you seen Soobin?”

“Soobin is more straightforward,” Yeonjun states simply and then mutters under his breath, “I mean, you’re the one with the practice dating scheme—”

“You’re not allowed to joke about that,” Beomgyu frowns, “Also, I’ve heard enough of this. What’s your second point?”

“Well, has it ever occurred to you that the things we were doing when we were helping you practice dating are the same things you already do with Soobin?”

“I’ve never made out with Soobin. You’re my first kiss, remember?” Beomgyu says, matter-of-factly. “There are so many things we did that I’ve never done with Soobin.”

Yeonjun flushes at the reminder and starts to peel the orange with slow and steady movements to busy himself, “I mean, other than that. Sleeping together, holding hands, lack of personal space? I think that’s why I never really thought twice about the things we did. I’ve just been treating you the way Soobin does, like you’re just my cute little dongsaeng.”

“I see,” Beomgyu says. It’s certainly...illuminating, but it doesn’t really change anything. “I guess there’s a reason why they say first impressions are important.”

“Yeah,” Yeonjun laughs, “I’ve never really had a dongsaeng, so I was pretty happy about having you as one. I thought, god, I have to take care of this little kid. I loved it, still do. And the more I got to know you, the more I wanted to. You looked delicate like this,” Yeonjun shows him the half peeled orange, before continuing on, “and I thought god, I have to be careful with him. He cries just as easily as he laughs, and I worried. Can I, with such clumsy hands, be responsible enough for you?”

Beomgyu feels his eyes well up, breathes just to fill his chest with something other than ache. “You don’t have to be. I look like this, but I’m not so helpless, you know that.”

“I know, but you trusted me and I wanted to live up to it. I wanted you to rely on me, the way you always seem to rely on Soobin.”

“You know you have this habit of bringing up Soobin,” Beomgyu says. Without fail, when they’re talking about their relationship, Soobin’s name is always mentioned. “I’m starting to think you’re the one who has feelings for him.”

“Like I said, first impressions,” Yeonjun breathes out, and then looks into Beomgyu’s eyes, like an archer who’d just released an arrow straight at Beomgyu’s heart, “The truth is I’ve been terribly jealous of Soobin. And when you asked me, instead of him, to help you practice dating, I was happy. It was my hand you were holding, my bed you were sharing, and when you were sad, it was my shoulder you leaned on.”

“That’s…” Beomgyu struggles, “Hyung, you’ve always had me. I’ve always looked up to you and have always been a good friend to you. What did you have to be jealous of Soobin for?”

Yeonjun licks his lips, “I think I just wanted that same closeness you guys have. I wanted our friendship to be like that too I guess. Or that’s what I thought until Soobin yelled at me for leading you on.”

Beomgyu’s eyes widens, “He yelled at you? That guy who can’t even raise his voice without it cracking?”

“That Soobin,” Yeonjun laughs, softly, “He was like, how long are you going to let this practice dating go on for? We were both yelling at each other. I didn’t understand why he said that until you told me you love me.”

“What did you tell him?”

“I said, however long he wants to.” Yeonjun imitates how he’d yelled, albeit it’s more softly spoken than what he imagines actually happened. “I didn’t understand why he was so mad. I was like, you’d do the same for him. And he said, no, I wouldn’t. I would have never entertained this practice dating thing in the first place.”

“Yeah, he warned me against it,” Beomgyu says.

“He talked to me too, after everything went down. Asked me how I felt and if I was okay. He helped me sort out a lot of my thoughts,” Yeonjun says. “We talked a lot about the same things we talked about just now. I even told him that I was jealous of him. You know what he said?”

Beomgyu shakes his head and Yeonjun smiles, “Same thing as you. And then he told me that I should reconsider how I look at our relationship by taking him out of it. To you and Soobin, it may not mean anything more than friendship. But it certainly doesn’t to me.” 

Beomgyu can’t move. What is he trying to say? What on earth is he—

“What does it mean that I’m jealous? What does it mean that I want your attention all the time? What does it mean that I’d never put a stop to this practice dating myself? That I haven't cared about dating ever since we started this? That I slept better when you’re next to me in bed? That I kept finding excuses to kiss you?” Yeonjun swallows, peering at Beomgyu’s expression carefully, steeling himself for any negative reaction.

Beomgyu’s been burned too badly because of reading into Yeonjun’s actions and he refuses to do it again. Beomgyu’s fingernails dig into his palms, “I don’t know, hyung. What does it mean?”

“It’s the reason why I thought I’d lose it when you gave me my song that night,” Yeonjun bites his lip and continues, almost done with peeling the orange. Its skin is in a pile surrounded by cherry blossom petals. Yeonjun laughs, half incredulous and half wonder, “The same reason a boy as small as a petal could have so much gravity to pull me to him.”

“Yeonjun-hyung,” Beomgyu says, with clenched fists in his lap, “What are you trying to say?”

This time, Yeonjun looks at him, adoration and regret in his brown eyes, and picks a petal off his hair. “It means I like you,” Yeonjun says, gently, “Maybe the L word too, but I’m not so sure on the depth of my feelings just yet.”

Beomgyu closes his eyes, tries to count one, and then two, and then three. Then he opens it again and tries not to shake, “You what?”

Yeonjun looks at him with a nervousness that is both rare and boyish, Beomgyu thinks he won’t be able to get it out of his mind. “I-I like you so much,” Yeonjun stutters, but this nervousness doesn’t last that long. “Do you want me to shout it to the world to prove how serious I am? Because I can. I can do it right now even. EVERYONE, I LIKE CHOI BEOM—”

Beomgyu immediately pulls him down and covers his mouth with his hand, “Shut up! Shut up!”

Yeonjun tries to pull his hand off, but his other hand is still holding the orange, so he is unsuccessful. Beomgyu hesitantly pulls his hand away, but Yeonjun is thankfully tamed. Beomgyu sighs and looks at Yeonjun. At his unruly hair, at his puffy mouth, at his hopeful eyes, and thinks this is the face of my first love. But this is also the face of his first heartbreak. Is this worth it? Is he worth it?

Yeonjun breaks off a slice of the orange and hands it to him. Should he take it?

But Yeonjun smiles and says, “It’s just an orange.”

But it’s not, Beomgyu thinks. Over the past few weeks, he’s thought so much. He’s over rationalized and he’s used up so much of his logic. He’s out of everything else, and all he’s got now is his heart. He takes the orange and says, “I still have feelings for you, but I’m scared. You said you weren’t sure yet about the L word, and I’m not sure I can do this again knowing there’s a possibility you’ll just decide you don’t actually feel the same way.”

Yeonjun closes Beomgyu’s hand around the orange, “That’s always a risk, right? It’s the same for me, as impossible it may seem to you. What if you decide that I’m not actually worth dating? That I’m not as good as you thought I am? What if I fall in love with you and you fall out of love for me? Can I take the heartbreak?”

“But Beomgyu,” Yeonjun says, kindly and sweetly, their hands between them holding orange slices, “Why are we jumping straight to the end, when we haven’t started? I know we did everything already, but I didn’t do it right the first time. Can we try again? Just give me a chance, we’ll take it one day at a time, or should I say...one orange slice at a time?”

It is so cheesy it makes Beomgyu laugh, uncontrollably so, and it makes him feel so light, he feels like if the wind blows strongly enough, he’ll float in the air. Yeonjun stares at him, so, so hopeful.

“You know, I’m gonna be clingy and annoying, right?” Beomgyu warns.

Yeonjun bites his lip, trying to tamp down a smile from growing on his face, “Well, so will I.”

“And I’m only going to be even more in love with you,” Beomgyu adds.

“You promise?” Yeonjun asks, putting his pinky finger up for Beomgyu to take.

Beomgyu sighs, out of excuses and reasons. He pops the orange slice in his mouth, letting its sweetness and jubilance burst on his tongue, “Let’s do everything right this time.”

“Yeah?” Yeonjun exhales, but as he leans closer, it just sounds like relief and even more like gratitude.

“Why not?” Beomgyu meets him in the middle, “Today is beautiful enough.”

 


 

In their determination to do their relationship right this second time around, they both agree to take it slow.

They have more than enough experience with dating each other that they could have just picked their relationship right back up where they left off. But there’s something to be said about putting all of that in its own separate chapter and starting afresh. It gives all of their new firsts so much gravity, and it’s kind of silly to be excited about first dates and kisses again, but they celebrate them anyway. Nobody has to know but them and their secret private lovestagram.

When Beomgyu was younger, he was interested in photography, with beautiful landscapes as his typical subject. Now that he’s older, he’s more interested in capturing these mayfly moments, no matter how ordinary or mundane they may seem. Beomgyu wants to look back on them someday and be able to say, look, hyung, we make each other so happy.

The lovestagram is easy to maintain; for Beomgyu, it’s because Yeonjun is a good subject. Simply put, he is beautiful, loves being photographed, and holds the photographer’s heart. What else is there to say?

Currently, these are the current photos:

#1: [Picture of Beomgyu and Yeonjun with matching outfits and matching headbands]

For their first real date, they go to Lotte World and buy matching headbands (Yeonjun wore the devil headband and Beomgyu the angel). They hold hands as they wait in line and scream as loud as they can when it’s their turn to go on the rides. Yeonjun buys him his favorite churros to share, and in return, Beomgyu does his best to win him a toy plush from one of the shooting games in the park. They end the night watching fireworks explode brilliantly in the sky. Beomgyu falls asleep on Yeonjun’s shoulder on the bus home. They save their first kiss for another day.

#2: [Picture of Beomgyu with a large bouquet of baby’s breath in his hands]

When the time for Beomgyu and Kai’s musical recital had come, their friends came to support them. Beomgyu had been so nervous for it, but Yeonjun reassured him that there was no need to worry. He’s right, for the crowd cheered the loudest for them. And when they meet up at the end of the recital, Yeonjun greets him with a bouquet of baby’s breath, something Beomgyu had mentioned wanting to receive once, early on when they were still friends. Later that night, as they lingered in front of Beomgyu’s door, Beomgyu finally stopped holding himself back and pressed Yeonjun against his door for their first kiss. It tasted so sweet, Beomgyu could give up honey for it.

#3: [Picture of Yeonjun leading him by the hand]

Beomgyu didn’t realize it until they started dating for real, but Yeonjun has even more terrible ideas about romance than he does. He’s always like, couples do this, so let’s try it too. Beomgyu feels embarrassed by more than half of these ideas, but he’s never been able to say no. It’s probably because of the shy way Yeonjun says, since you’re my boyfriend, as he asks that makes the embarrassment worth it. It’s why he finds himself one afternoon being led by Yeonjun through Itaewon while snapping photos. He had wanted to follow that latest ‘Hold my hand’ trend.

#4: [Picture of the two of them cooking in the kitchen]

For their last night together before the semester ends, Yeonjun had said that he wanted to try cooking together. So they did. They buy their ingredients together at the grocery store, and Beomgyu listens patiently as Yeonjun instructs him on what to do. It’s a simple pasta recipe, but there’s something about the labor of love one puts into it that makes it special. They clean the dishes together too, and get ready for bed together too. They’ve been careful about going too fast in their relationship, but they make an exception for sleeping together that tonight. With Beomgyu in Daegu and Yeonjun in Seoul for the summer, it’s a long stretch of three months away from each other. They lie side by side, memorizing the details of each other’s faces. And when Beomgyu wakes up, Yeonjun is already awake watching his eyes flutter open to the new morning.

Those are only four pictures that’s been posted per Beomgyu and Yeonjun’s curation, but there’s tons of missing photos that can only be found in the camera rolls of their phone and even more stored in their hearts.

For example, today, as their friends drop Beomgyu and Soobin at Seoul station, Beomgyu is paying great attention to the way Yeonjun is visibly pouting. Their friends are waiting with them until their train is ready to depart and takes them away for the summer.

“Are you sure you don’t want to just stay in Seoul with me?” Yeonjun asks, one last ditch effort to convince him to stay.

It makes Beomgyu smile, even as their friends step farther away from them to give them privacy. “Unfortunately, I miss home too much. I want to see my baby, Toto.”

“What about your baby here?” Yeonjun loops his hands behind Beomgyu’s neck.

“I’m gonna miss you too,” Beomgyu teases, “But it won’t even be that long. I’m only a train ride away, so we can plan dates or weekend trips. And you’re even spending two weeks down there when you get time off from your dance academy. It’ll be fall again before you know it.”

“I know, I know,” Yeonjun says, “I just can’t help but be annoyed that our timing sucks. Maybe if I had gotten my shit together earlier in the semester, we would have more time together.”

Beomgyu shakes his head, “We have lots of time. And don’t beat yourself up for it. We were both confused and then we both got our shit together and here we are.”

Yeonjun sighs, but nods. He leans close to press his forehead against Beomgyu’s and stays that way until Soobin tells him that it’s time to board. Beomgyu gives Yeonjun one last kiss goodbye and savors it, even if it’s not enough to tide them over until the next time.

What is it about love that makes even sad events like parting sweet? Is it the knowledge that someone longs to see you again that makes it all worth it? Maybe so — Beomgyu can barely wait to see Yeonjun again, but he doesn’t focus on their separation. Instead, he thinks about the imagery of Yeonjun looking for him amongst the sea of people, how Beomgyu will run towards his open arms and hear the way his whole body sighs with relief as he says, there he is, my boyfriend with morning stars for eyes.

Beomgyu isn’t worried about anything. For although spring has ended, there is so much to come.

All is well.