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Tuesday Afternoons in the Music Room

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Hyukjae flicked the light switch, revealing a modestly-sized and decorated room with an upright piano sitting snugly in the corner.

Shivering from the cold, he turned on the heating. It was a Tuesday afternoon in mid-November, his first winter in college, and it was getting way too cold for him to practice dancing on their dorm's rooftop like he had been doing since he arrived here. This quaint little music room in their dorm was the only alternative he could think of after being constantly yelled at by his roommate Kyuhyun for making a ruckus in their room and not having luck trying to match up the school's only dance studio's free schedule with his own.

He gave the room a cursory glance over. It seems alright, Hyukjae thought. If he moved the chairs in the middle to the side, there would be enough space for him to comfortably practice even some moving choreography. Plus, the room was soundproof, so for once he might be able to dance to some properly blastin' music.

So he did just that. He took off his coat and scarf, moved the chairs around, blasted some damn music through a portable speaker, and moved. He had been working on this choreography for the dance club's spring freshmen showcase for a while, and it was one of his proudest works to date.

As the music intensified—Hyukjae was completely swallowed in the moment, all his senses nullified and his head focused on every detail his body can make—his popping became more erratic, until finally—

"Oh, sorry!"

Hyukjae whipped his head to the offending disturbance and found a slender young man at the door.

"Sorry, sorry. I'll get going."

"No, no, it's okay," Hyukjae turned the blaring music off and took a better look at the guy. He had a pencil tucked behind his ear and a tattered notebook in his hand, and he was wearing nothing more than a faded-out shirt, loose checkered shorts, as well as a pair of thick-rimmed glasses.

And he was very, very good looking. His skin was as clear as the midsummer sky, his light chestnut hair dropped down to eye length and curled slightly. His square jaw—

Said guy held up a hand. "It's okay, I can go somewhere else for now so feel free to use the room."

Then he closed the door and left before Hyukjae could say anything.

Suddenly Hyukjae became more aware of the breath he was heavily trying to catch and the loud thumping of his heartbeat in his ears. His entire body felt warm. It's because of the dancing, isn't it? It's because of the dancing.

Shrugging it off, he turned the music back on and danced some more.

 


 

The next Tuesday afternoon, Hyukjae was back there again. He had been using this room a couple times now, whenever he had some free time, and he had gotten quite acquainted with it. As usual, he moved the chairs to the side, turned his music on, and danced. The basic choreography was done, he just needed to add more details.

After a while, he took a couple of minutes to catch his breath and drink some water.

And that's when the door opened again.

"Oh, sorry!" The same attractive guy, wearing roughly the same thing as last time, said the same thing as last time.

"No, no, it's okay," Hyukjae also replied with the same thing as last time and managed to say another thing before the guy ran away like last time. "Do you usually use the room at this time?"

"Ah, yeah, I guess. Maybe for the past couple of weeks. But if you—"

"No, I mean, if you've been using the room before then I should be the one to give up the room..."

Hyukjae looked at the man still standing at the ajar door. Wearing nothing but a thin T-shirt and shorts, his legs were shivering from the cold of their unheated dorm corridors.

"At least come in first and we can talk about it, it's so cold out."

The guy stared at him for a while—Hyukjae started to hear that loud thumping again, from the dancing, must be from the dancing—and decided to walk in, closing the door behind him.

"You're dancing here?" He asked, observing Hyukjae's drink and towel and sweaty body.

"Yeah, see, I'm also already using this room for not what it's supposed to be used for." Hyukjae chuckled in between his deep breaths. "I used to practice outside, but it's way too cold out now."

"I see. Yeah, you'll get sick if you practice out now."

Hyukjae felt his face getting warmer. From the dancing? From the dancing.

He noticed that the guy again only had a pencil and the same tattered notebook with him. "Are you here to use the piano?"

"Yeah, I... I'm writing a song."

"Really!" Hyukjae looked up from the towel his sweaty face was buried in. "That's so cool."

The man shook his head. "Nah, I don't have anything good yet, I still need to work on it a lot more."

"Tell you what. Since you're here anyway," Hyukjae said, "let's just share the room. You can use the piano, I'll just use earphones. I can go fetch them in a sec."

Hyukjae felt bad about it, too. He could dance anywhere as long as he has his body with him, but there's only one piano here that the other guy can use for free. Maybe he was a little disappointed about not being able to blast his music, but that's fine.

Plus, I will get to see this guy once a week

The man looked at him, and there was some doubt in his eyes. "If you don't mind, of course," Hyukjae quickly added. "Like, if it bothers you—maybe you need some quiet to get inspiration, or—"

"No, no, I mean—" He looked at the piano, then sighed. "I mean—okay. Let's do that, then."

Hyukjae nodded and left to get his earphones from his room, earning a curious stare from Kyuhyun that he chose to ignore.

When he came back to the music room, he could hear faint piano sounds from inside. The chords had a jazzy feel to it, going to sevenths and augmented, up and down.

Damn, this man is writing a bop.

He knocked before coming in so as to not shock the other guy, even though it didn't get any less awkward, and the sudden silence plus occasional hesitant piano notes as Hyukjae set his music up also didn't get less awkward.

"It sounds nice," Hyukjae said to break the ice.

"Does it?" Finally, the other guy looked a little brighter.

"Yeah. I like jazz."

"Thank you," the guy simply said before going back to his piano, this time with an added confidence.

Hyukjae, too, blasted his music in his earphones and went back to dancing, working on the killing part that was just way too fun to dance and cool to watch.

That day, Hyukjae was so absorbed in his dancing that he didn't realize the other guy had left earlier.

 


 

The next time it happened—another Tuesday afternoon—both of them exchanged greetings when Piano Guy came in after Hyukjae, already expecting each other. It had gotten even colder, and Piano Guy's steps were hasty as he walked into the heated music room, still clad in his usual thin T-shirt and shorts.

"Yah, it's so cold out now, you shouldn't walk around wearing that."

"Ah, my room is right upstairs on the second floor, so." The guy set down his thermos bottle on the piano top. "It's a pain to take my coat with me just to take it off a minute later. You want some warm coffee?"

"Is it okay?" Hyukjae asked, a little bewildered that an almost stranger would just bring coffee for him, and the guy proceeded to pour some coffee into the thermos lid cup. The coffee filled the room with a fragrant smell, and the air in the room shifted immediately. It felt a lot more comfortable. Almost... romantic, one might say.

He took a sip, and the warmth of coffee flowed through his body. "Oh, this tastes so good."

"Doesn't it?" The guy smiled, excitement in his eyes. "I'm a little peculiar about my coffee."

Wanna get coffee with me? Hyukjae almost said, almost. The thought entered Hyukjae's head and he almost said it, that smile made Hyukjae flustered and he nearly damn said it.

"Thanks for the coffee," Hyukjae said instead, passing the cup back. That's when he noticed a scrap of paper taped to its side. "Lee Donghae-ssi."

"Oh," Donghae, the man, laughed. "Yeah. We haven't even introduced ourselves properly yet. I'm Donghae. Nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you, Donghae," Hyukjae also laughed. "I'm Lee Hyukjae. Freshman. Math major."

The small talk continued for a while. Hyukjae found out that Donghae was also a freshman, and he was studying English. He had been writing songs since high school and this song he was writing was for the school band's spring performance. Hyukjae found out that he came here from Mokpo—explains why he's too nice to strangers—and he said that it gets colder way quicker in Seoul. Hyukjae found out he could also play guitar, and Hyukjae also found out that he was going to leave earlier that day.

"I have group work lined up later tonight, so I need to get my dinner early," he said.

Wanna get dinner with me? Hyukjae almost said, almost. It was already there on the tip of his tongue. He just needed to say it.

"Then you better get back to work, don't let me interrupt your time," Hyukjae said instead. Donghae dismissed the claim, saying that it was not a bother at all, but sure enough, he then shifted his full focus to his tattered songwriting notebook.

Hyukjae went back to dancing, too.

 


 

Another couple of weeks of Donghae coming into the music room with coffee every Tuesday afternoon passed, and one day, Hyukjae had his music paused to work on some details when he noticed Donghae was also not making much noise that day.

"You're not making much noise today," Hyukjae said, thoughts verbatim.

"I'm done with the melody." Donghae gestured to the scribble-filled music notebook in front of him. "Now I just need the lyrics, but I'm a little stuck."

"Hmm. I'm not good with lyrics either," said Hyukjae, even though no one really asked for his opinion.

Donghae looked at him for a bit, then turned back to the piano. "Here, let me play a little bit for you and see if you have anything."

He played it all the way to the chorus. The chords were the same as before—they had a jazzy, pop feel, and they weren't cliche 4-chords. It gave him sort of a Michael Jackson feel, that funky groove. It was just Hyukjae's kind of style.

"Dude, this song is really nice," Hyukjae complimented after, in turn making Donghae form a sheepish smile. "I think you can be a little cheeky with the lyrics. Or put a concept to it."

"Concept?" Donghae asked, and Hyukjae turned to Donghae only to find Donghae had his full attention on him. Hyukjae felt heat pooling in the pit of his stomach. "Like what?"

"Like... like putting something that's usually not about love, then making it about love." Hyukjae sounded like he was the top expert on love songs, even though he in reality did not know jack and only spouted things to impress Donghae. Maybe it worked. Maybe it didn't. At least he tried.

"Hmm." Donghae considered for a moment. "Like... what?"

Hyukjae laughed. "I don't know. Honestly, I was just saying whatever was in my head. A math kid like me is bad with stuff like this."

Donghae crossed his arms in thought, and Hyukjae could see how toned they were. The heat in the pit of his stomach responded accordingly by burning the hell up.

He thanked Hyukjae for the lyrics input anyway and went back to work. At some point, Donghae left the piano bench to sit leaning against the wall, jotting away at his notebook and occasionally singing out a tune.

Hyukjae noticed it during his 5-minute break from practice. "Yah, if you were gonna sit on the floor anyway then why would you come here?"

Donghae avoided the question, instead saying "You really dance so well."

Donghae was looking at him in a way that just made Hyukjae want to squirm. And then it returned... the Stomach Pit Heat.

"Have you been dancing for a while?"

"Since middle school, I think. Thank you for the compliment, by the way. I'm still lacking in a lot of places, but."

"Nah, you're so cool already," he said, making Hyukjae nearly visibly blush. He then noticed the tablet Hyukjae placed against the wall, with his camera app on. "Are you recording?"

"Yeah," Hyukjae said, still looking away to drink some water because he suddenly got super thirsty for some reason. "For monitoring myself."

"Let me record it for you then." Donghae snatched the tablet while Hyukjae's mouth is still filled with water, nearly making him choke. Hyukjae tried to refuse, but Donghae insisted, already starting the video recording up.

And so Hyukjae danced, the hardest he could, the bestest he ever could, switching to stage mode and trying to hide whatever shyness he had. Professional, Hyukjae! This, too, is practicing being professional on stage. Absolutely professional.

Donghae gave a wild applause at the end of his performance, complimenting him some more before returning to his work on the notebook. Hyukjae was just glad he managed to not embarrass himself in front of his newfound crush.

That night, Kyuhyun thought Hyukjae probably suddenly found monitoring to be the most fun thing in the world, because he kept watching this one video of his and never stopped smiling as he did so.

 


 

Donghae came in the next week, and his sight made Hyukjae suck in a sharp breath that he tried to pass off as gasping from the dancing. For once, Donghae wasn't in his usual shirt and shorts combo, but in a nice shirt, sweater and chinos set, his then slightly longer hair neatly tied back to a man-bun.

"Fancy today?" Hyukjae tried to ask nonchalantly when inside he pretty much was not.

"I—aih—um, I have somewhere to go later tonight I guess," Donghae stammered, voice trailing off with every word until Hyukjae almost couldn't quite catch it. "Anyways, look. I finished the song. Wanna listen?"

Hyukjae nodded and took a seat on the floor.

"I took your tip and tried writing it about something that is not usually about love." Donghae opened his notebook proudly, like a kid showing a drawing to his parents, and set it on the sheets stand before he placed his hands on the keys. "So I wrote it about math."

"Math?" Hyukjae asked—his heart started thumping loudly—but didn't get an answer as Donghae started to play his usual jazzy intro and sang.

 

1+1 equals two people becoming one in love

1+1 equals two people becoming one

Don’t hesitate, don’t let your heart disappear

I want you, how about you? Will you tell me?

 

Before I met you, I had zero

You became fire in my heart

Love is like a vague calculation

It looks easy but it’s like a button that doesn’t fit

Wanna solve it? Our function?

Let’s match our eye level, then we’ll match our lips

 

Oh love, love, love, love

Love, love, love, love

 

Donghae lifted his hands off the piano, and Hyukjae gave him a sincere applause, heart-thumping even wilder in his chest that he didn't know what to do with. "It's so good!" he said, the only sentence his shortcircuiting brain could form.

Donghae smiled and looked at him. Hyukjae kept giving him applause and thumbs-ups.

Donghae kept looking at him. It was starting to get awkward, so Hyukjae stopped.

But Donghae was still looking at him.

"S-Something on my—"

"You... you don't have anything to say?" Donghae asked finally.

To that Hyukjae said: "What?", like a dumbass, when he had a lot to say but didn't know how to get it out of his system.

"The song has math in it."

"Yeah, it's quite fun."

"Come on, Hyukjae," Donghae said, tone starting to rise. "It's about math."

"Yeah, and?"

"You're a math student."

Hyukjae swallowed a thick lump in his throat. "A‐And so...? So—"

"Aish, come on!"

"What!" It was the first time the gentle Donghae had so much force in his words. "What—"

"It's obviously about you!" Donghae yelled out, finally.

"I—" Hyukjae shut his mouth, because his overheated brain would not say anything right and he could be making a grave mistake. This is happening. It's happening.

That's when Hyukjae noticed Donghae's pink ear tips and flushed nose, and Donghae's perfume—Donghae, wearing perfume?—and the slight trembling of Donghae's fingers.

This is happening. It's really happening.

The music room guy Hyukjae had been crushing on for the past few weeks really wrote a cheesy love song about him.

And he was getting all embarrassed about it. What a sight to behold.

"Is that—" Donghae whipped his head around when Hyukjae spoke, nearly scaring him. "Is that why you're dressed like that?"

He dressed all fancy because... he—

"You—" Donghae pursed his lips, then said: "wanna get coffee with me after this?"

 


 

Heechul stared the e-mail from his band's songwriter and cringed with every word of the lyrics.

"This hopeless Lee Donghae," Heechul sighed, "which math major does he have a crush on this time?"