Years of watching Jacob come in and out of their shared apartment in the arms of other men has only led Sangyeon into a distasteful bitterness that sits on his tongue. He’s happy , objectively, for Jacob—because he deserves to be happy, and if that’s what it takes, well, he can do his best to support his best friend.
But— he also can’t deny that it upsets him when he sees Jacob stumble into the apartment alone, much too late to have been out, with the scent of alcohol on his breath. And he knows . He knows without fail another lover has left Jacob in the dust, moved on to another target. What he doesn’t understand is why.
Jacob is— well, he’s perfect. Subjectively and objectively, Jacob is perfection. Sangyeon honestly can’t even figure out why he’s lucky enough to have Jacob as his best friend, his roommate of four years.
Some people have told them it’s weird that, instead of separating and moving on, they choose to live together. But honestly, Sangyeon doesn’t care. He likes living with Jacob, random conquests aside, and he definitely likes paying much less for utilities and rent.
And he’s sure Jacob loves living with him too—at least, he loves it enough to stay. Every year Sangyeon reminds him that he can back out, that renewing the lease isn’t necessary, and every year Jacob stays. Waves off his concern and gives him that sweet little smile that never fails to charm anyone.
And so they live together, happy and content to work around each other and their various needs and ideals. Sangyeon doesn’t bring anyone home, ever, because he’s frankly way too invested in his one-sided love affair with Jacob to care. Jacob brings his boys home, whoever is content to be on his arm for the week, month, year they stick around—but inevitably they always leave.
There was Kevin, young and dorky and almost as in love with Jacob as Sangyeon is—except, he got a job offer far away and moved countries, and his year long relationship with Jacob fizzled out as he left. Sangyeon remembers the absolutely broken pile of human he had to pick up and put back together, weeks on end of Jacob wallowing in a thick depression he wasn’t sure he would ever escape from. It had taken months of telling Jacob that—as much as he didn’t want to lose him—if he wanted to follow Kevin across the ocean to Canada, well. Sangyeon would support him.
Secretly, he’s glad Jacob had chosen to stay.
After Kevin came Sunwoo, even younger and a lot more childish. He was too young for someone like Jacob—but he thrived off of the attention Jacob gave him. Sunwoo was as much of a joy to have around the apartment as he was a pain in the ass, all loud mannerisms and little class to balance it out—but Jacob loved him. It fizzled out over time when it became apparent that neither of them wanted the same things, but this time, Sangyeon didn’t have as many shattered pieces of Jacob to collect and super glue back together. It was more of a small, hairline fracture that slowly but surely built up over the years, numerous failed relationships only adding more and more cracks until it inevitably shattered.
After Sunwoo came a string of no-name individuals, none of them really worth Sangyeon’s time to learn. Each of them added onto the slowly crumbling façade Jacob had so masterfully held together over the years—one that he could only hold together for so long.
None of them ever stuck around for long, in and out of Jacob’s life in a whirlwind of destruction,leaving self hatred in their wake— and it hurts Sangyeon . It hurts him to watch Jacob slowly self-destruct as the weight of his failed relationships pile on top of him and bury him deep in an endless stream of bullshit. Because that’s what it is. It’s bullshit, what Jacob’s exes have done.
Somehow they’ve all found a way to blame their problems and lack of commitment on Jacob, to the point where even Jacob considered himself the problem. Sangyeon has been there through the relationships though, and he knows for a fact that Jacob is anything but a problem. His best friend is always the one going above and beyond, dedicating a piece of himself to each faceless man who leaves him behind, only to slowly lose himself in the process.
The worst part is that through all of this, through all of the heartbreak and tears and boys moving on—he’s still in love with Jacob. But how can he tell him, when he’s never expressed any kind of interest in Sangyeon, when he goes out night after night on the hunt for another boy to call his own? How can he, when his duty as his best friend is to protect and care for Jacob, not to be selfish?
But sometimes, late at night when the apartment is empty and quiet except for him, he dreams. He dreams of a time when he isn’t so spineless and he manages to tell Jacob how he feels, how he’s always felt. Sometimes, even still, in those dreams—he cries. Because as much as it hurts him to watch Jacob stumble through the door with his lips against another, the idea of Jacob turning him away only hurts more.
A boy named Hyunjae takes them both by storm, flying into Jacob’s life like a dart and tearing them both apart as he leaves. It’s a love to write about in all of the worst ways—the highs and the lows and the in-betweens that lead nowhere. He has to watch from the sidelines as Jacob falls in love with a boy made of self destruction and blasphemy, crinkled notes and dollar bills rolled on the table the only thing left behind.
Their relationship is nothing but volatile even in the short time it blooms, its intensity bringing fighting and anger into the cramped apartment. And while Sangyeon is content to be the proverbial doormat for Jacob and his conquests, he’s not going to let whichever boy of the week it is treat him like shit.
But when Sangyeon comes home for the fourth night in a row to see the living room trashed and dirty food containers laying around, the sound of moans echoing from down the hallway—he’s angry. He’s angry that he let it get to this point, that he allowed himself to care so fucking much about someone who only sees him as a friend. He’s angry that he’s held back for so long, that he’s failed Jacob.
He’s angry that he’s standing on the edge of a busy street and he’s not sure when the red light comes. When it’s safe to cross—when it’s safe to leave it all behind and dive selfishly into traffic to chase after Jacob’s runaway dreams.
He hangs his keys on the little hook with contempt, collecting armfuls of disgusting take out boxes and his favorite glassware set, dirtied and left to rot, on his way through the living room. In another life, Sangyeon would be petty—would storm into the room through the door left ajar with his armful of trash and dump it on the floor. Would avert his eyes from the writhing bodies on the sheets sure to halt at his intrusion—would avoid seeing Jacob in all the ways he’s heard him.
But instead, he sets about cleaning up the mess and trying in vain to salvage the glasses from their nightmarish contents.
He’s elbow deep in soap suds and water as he scrubs angrily at the kitchen counter when Hyunjae steps out of Jacob’s bedroom, dressed in nothing more than a skimpy pair of boxers and a shit-eating grin.
“Oh, thanks for cleaning up, we were going to get to it but we got a little busy,” Hyunjae smirks, eyeing the room.
Sangyeon’s always been someone who prides himself on his patience—but now, with this snarky little shit standing in his kitchen and acting like a bastard, his patience is rapidly wearing away. Busy, he snarks to himself, rolling his eyes as he scrubs intently at the dishes piled up in the sink. It’s been a few days since anyone has done them, Sangyeon thinks, and it usually falls on him — because Jacob is busy.
To make it worse, Jacob peeks out from his room down the hall and flinches at the sight of Sangyeon twitching with barely contained anger as Hyunjae goads him on. He determinedly looks away from Jacob’s wide eyes, shaking the water off of his hands and storming into his room with a decisive slam of the door.
He doesn’t want to sit there and deal with Jacob or Hyunjae’s bullshit right now—not when he’s had a fucked week at work and heard rumors of a certain someone not being as personable as he pretends to be. The rumors of another boy on a thin, pale arm—of another boy in Hyunjae’s life.
He hates that he’s in the middle of it. Why is it him? Why is he never free of the crippling hold Jacob—and by extension, Hyunjae—has over his life?
Every single time he tries to tell Jacob there’s something not quite right with Hyunjae, he’s blown off and told he’s being overdramatic. He’s told by Jacob that he loves him and that he’s really hoping to make it work out. He’s told that Jacob loves Hyunjae and there’s got to be a reason.
So he bites his tongue. But he can only hold it back for so long, and it’s on the edge of boiling over. Because he’s not going to be made the bad guy here—not when he’s been here the whole time. Not when he’s been the one trying his best to hold everything together.
A knock on his door drags him from his thoughts and he sighs. “What?” he snaps, uncaring about his rude attitude bleeding through from the exhaustion.
Jacob shuffles on the other side of the door, voice quiet when he asks if he can come in.
Sangyeon doesn’t really want to talk right now — but he knows he needs to. It’s pretty much now or never, and as unwilling as he is to break Jacob’s heart for the first time—it’s apparent that the only way to show that Hyunjae is up to no good is to prove it.
With heavy feet, he clicks the lock on the door and drops himself back on the edge of his bed, not even looking as Jacob lets himself in.
“I sent Hyunjae home,” Jacob says. And—okay. He shrugs, because really, what is he supposed to say? Congratulations for kicking your shitty boyfriend out of the house? “What’s on your mind? You’ve been… tense, lately.”
He snorts at that. Tense —as if it’s as simple as that. He’s been tense since approximately four months after he met Jacob, when he realized he was developing romantic feelings towards a boy who couldn’t care any less about him in that way. It’s hard not to be tense around someone so outwardly bright, around someone who you want to give the world to at any point.
“Your boyfriend’s a piece of shit,” Sangyeon huffs, ignoring Jacob’s attempts at objection. “Don’t argue with me. He’s always trashing the apartment and never once has he considered not doing that, and frankly, I’m kind of tired of picking up his mess. Not to mention the way he talks to people, the way he talks about you .”
Jacob frowns, staring down at Sangyeon like he’s grown a second head. “What do you mean? He’s nice to me-”
“He’s nice to your face, Jacob. He’s not nice to his friends.” Sangyeon interrupts, biting back the words threatening to spill past his tongue. He’s cheating on you , he wants to say. He doesn’t even love you . Those words play around in his head on constant loop and he feels guilty. He hates that he knows the cruel, sordid details of Hyunjae’s indiscretions and he wishes he could offer Jacob the peace of mind—but he’s never been a liar.
“Do you know something I don’t?” Jacob questions, that low hint of fear creeping into his voice. Sangyeon hates it when he sounds like this—when he sounds like he’s on the edge of crying, when deep down, Jacob knows it’s not what he wants to hear.
“I won’t tell you the details of what he says, because you don’t deserve to hear it. But—Jacob, listen to me. He’s been cheating on you the entire time you’ve been sleeping together.” There it is, out on the table. He wishes it didn’t leave him feeling so hollow, so empty, almost as if he’s the one suffering.
The silence is deafening as Jacob processes—prepares an excuse on the tip of his tongue. But unfortunately, Sangyeon’s one step ahead of the game and he’s holding Jacob’s heart in his greedy hands. Because that’s half of his problem, the greed he feels burning inside him at the violent thought of making Jacob his for once.
But right now that doesn’t matter—Jacob isn’t his. Jacob is Hyunjae’s and Jacob should be free.
Jacob makes a wounded noise, reaching for the phone Sangyeon is holding out sadly. He doesn’t want to share this, wishes it didn’t have to be like this—but he knows Jacob doesn’t believe him. Jacob wants to believe in the best in people, even when it hurts him.
Jacob is good.
On the phone are the texts he’s received from his coworkers, friends of Hyunjae who have seen him out and about with a pretty boy hanging off his arm and lips. It’s plain to see that the boy in the photos isn’t Jacob, and it’s frustrating to watch as Jacob tries to rationalize it to himself.
He can almost see the way Jacob is trying to place himself into the photos, and he hates that he can see the moment Jacob realizes with certainty that he’s lost again.
Every game is a losing game.
He’s watching in real time as another heartbreak cripples Jacob, and this time it’s half his fault. But—he can’t. He couldn’t just sit there and let it keep happening, let Jacob find out from a stranger.
“I’m sorry,” Sangyeon sighs, opening his arms. As much as it hurts him, he’s Jacob’s only comfort right now, and the least he can do is be there for him. He’s always there for Jacob, no matter what.
After Hyunjae leaves, things are tense for a while around the apartment. Jacob has pretty much shut himself in his room, leaving very little room for Sangyeon to offer any kind of support.
He knows it’s best to give Jacob the space he needs, but even still—it’s weird.
It’s not like him to shut himself away like this—through all of the heartaches and breakups Sangyeon has witnessed, it’s never hit quite like this. He’s not sure what made Hyunjae so different in that aspect, but it doesn’t matter, because he’s still going to care for his best friend. He’s still going to put his own selfish thoughts aside and make sure Jacob is okay.
So, here he is, knocking on Jacob’s door with a bowl of homemade soup in one hand and his heart on his sleeve. There’s no answer, as there hasn’t been in a few days, but when Sangyeon tries the doorknob, it twists open to his own surprise. He’s not sure if this is overstepping, or if he even wants to see Jacob’s nightmares—but it doesn’t matter. Only Jacob matters.
When he steps inside and sees Jacob’s prone form on the bed, his heart drops. He looks as if he hasn’t moved much aside from turning over, and he can see Jacob’s red-rimmed eyes from this far away. His heart breaks anew at the sight of his best friend so beaten and broken down.
“Jacob,” Sangyeon whispers, moving to sit at the edge of the bed. Jacob barely even acknowledges his presence, just sniffles a little bit and continues staring off into the distance. If he had thought Kevin leaving was bad, well, this seems to only be rivaling it.
It’s probably not even entirely because of Hyunjae, and more of a combination of all of the heartache piling up and then overflowing. It’s clear that Jacob had reached his limit, had reached his breaking point—and Sangyeon just hopes he can bring him back.
Hopes he can coax Jacob into coming back to himself, into falling back into the happy and sweet boy he loves with his heart and soul.
Bowl of soup set aside, Sangyeon fits himself into the space behind Jacob on the tiny bed, pulling him into his arms with a soft sigh. It’s been a common position throughout the years and it’s familiar in all of the worst ways—he wishes it didn’t feel so natural to have his arms thrown around Jacob like this.
The boy in his arms barely does anything more than heave a breath, body shaking with the force of it as he settles back in the embrace.
It’s scary to know just how affected Sangyeon is, how affected he always has been. He’d fallen so hard for Jacob, and it almost feels like he’s standing on a ledge looking at the long drop before him with no railing in sight. But as terrifying as it is to be in love with his best friend like this, he’s always prided himself on not being afraid of heights.
“I think I’m broken,” Jacob whispers, a fracture of sound in the void around them. “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”
Jacob sounds so pained, so broken, that it physically hurts him to listen to it. The defeated tone of his voice, the weight of the tears behind his words and choked back in his throat.
“You aren’t broken,” Sangyeon breathes, squeezing Jacob just that little bit closer. He’s not sure if he’s lying or not, isn’t even sure if he wants to be. If he tries hard enough, he can ignore the way Jacob’s hair tickles at his nose, the way he so badly wants to bury his head in the soft curls at the back of his neck and leave a kiss there. He can’t though, because Jacob is hurting and he’s nothing more than a friend. “You’re a little bit damaged, but you aren’t broken.”
Maybe he can’t fix him, but he can at the very least be by his side as he recovers. He can be there for Jacob as he picks up the pieces of himself and clumsily mashes them together. He can do that much, he knows it.
After all—he’s got plenty of practice.
Things don’t miraculously get better after that.
They do get marginally better though, as Jacob slowly puts himself back together enough to leave the room, to go back to life as if Hyunjae had never been there. Sangyeon can’t shake the worry that still holds him down though, the way he can still see the bags under Jacob’s eyes from lack of sleep and overall exhaustion.
He can still sometimes hear it when Jacob cries, late at night when he thinks Sangyeon is sleeping. But how does he tell Jacob he hasn't been sleeping because he’s been listening for him, listening for the nightmares that have started plaguing his sleep? He never sleeps—because if Jacob needs him, he needs to be there.
It’s like a reverse codependency; he’s dependent on Jacob being dependent on him and it feels wrong.
He just hopes that Jacob can— can overcome this. He hopes that, no matter what, Jacob doesn’t just give up.
So he encourages Jacob out of his room more often, treats him to little things that may or may not make him happy in the hopes of getting even just a tiny smile. But he’s determined in the way he doesn’t let Jacob find an escape in another person’s arms, not this time. There can’t be a rebound after Hyunjae, there can’t be any more cracks in the already feeble foundation that is Jacob’s heart right now—he needs to help himself.
He’s exhausted as well, the many sleepless nights taking a toll on him throughout the weeks. But each time he stumbles down the hall and curls himself around Jacob protectively becomes worth it when the slow and steady recovery process starts to take a hold of Jacob.
He’s been weighing the pros and cons of coming clean, of finally telling Jacob just how much he means to him. But he’s scared, so terrified that it’s going to backfire and Jacob is going to think it's a joke, that it doesn’t mean as much to Sangyeon.
It’s a necessary thing though, telling Jacob. He can’t keep pushing it off again and again. He makes a vow to himself that once Jacob is feeling better, is able to bring himself to not need Sangyeon anymore, he’ll tell him.
He’ll come clean about the weight of his love pooling emptily in his chest, the weight of his desire to hold Jacob close.
He’ll be selfish for once.
The days drag on, into weeks, months, until before either of them know it—another year has gone by. Jacob’s just celebrated his 28th birthday, and for once he’s alone. He’s not truly alone, because Sangyeon and their friends are there, but there’s no boy attached to his arm and hanging off of his lips. There hasn’t been a boy, not since Hyunjae.
Sangyeon’s so lucky that he’s been able to watch as Jacob grows, that he was able to watch as Jacob freed himself from the hole dug thirty feet deep. He’s finally reached that point, the point where happiness is vibrant in his eyes, swallowing down the loneliness and heartache of so many failed relationships.
Jacob is happy and he’s found happiness in himself.
But in the back of his mind, all he can remember is his self-made promise. That promise to confess, to explore his feelings towards Jacob with Jacob himself. Stupidly, he had hoped that maybe it would get easier, that maybe he would finally hit the point of no return and his feelings for his best friend would go away. But Sangyeon is still in love, and his heart still belongs to one man, the one man currently smiling at him from across the room filled with their friends.
It feels cruel to carry around this burden—to want to pass it off onto Jacob’s unsuspecting shoulders. But he’s beautiful tonight, every night, and Sangyeon is losing control.
The lights are shining in Jacob’s eyes in a way that makes it look as if they are dancing, lost in the swirling shades of color. Sangyeon can’t help the way he’s staring, because Jacob looks so good. He looks healthy, alive, happy, everything he hasn’t seemed for so many years. He looks unattainable—like Sangyeon is unworthy of being in front of someone so bright.
Because now, for once in Jacob’s life, he’s put himself first. Instead of clinging onto any little bit of affection someone would show him, he’s built himself up. He’s stopped letting others’ words tear him down, and he’s confident and assured that he deserves something good. Because he does deserve good. He deserves everything good.
There’s a crowd of their friends standing between Sangyeon and Jacob, some mutual and others not, and all he wants to do is shove them aside and tug Jacob into his arms and leave everything out in the air. He knows he’s run out of time to push it back down, that he’s finally hit his own limit of hiding. He just doesn’t know how to bring it up, how to look Jacob in the eyes and tell him their entire friendship was a lie on his end.
He doesn’t even remember the last time he considered Jacob just a friend.
Those eyes meet his from across the room, a softness in them that scares him. If he falls too deep into that look, he’s going to do something stupid like drop onto one knee and propose in front of everyone.
He decides then and there that once the congregation clears out of their cramped little apartment, he’ll tell Jacob. There’s no more tomorrows , there’s only tonight.
It’s equally terrifying and thrilling to know that everything is going to change in just a few short hours.
Sangyeon’s stomach is in knots as the party continues on, until eventually time catches up to him and he looks around to see Jacob guiding the last of their friends out the door. He doesn’t even know how long he’s been lost in his own mind, but now, as the door clicks shut with a definitive snap and he’s left staring into those gorgeous eyes that captured him many years ago, it doesn’t matter.
“Happy birthday,” Sangyeon whispers, because he doesn’t know what else to say. His heart is in his throat and he’s choking around it, around the words he’s trying so hard to squeeze out. I love you, he wants to scream. I’ve been in love with you since we met, why couldn’t you just see?
Jacob grins at him, and there it is. The dangerous skip of his heartbeat, that lump in his throat dislodging.
“Jacob-” he starts, stops. He can’t—he doesn’t know what to do, because now Jacob is looking at him with a little tilt of his head in curiosity, and now he has to say something. “I love you,” he blurts.
It’s classless and it feels weird on his lips—a phrase normally swallowed down around the onslaught of words, around the pressure in his throat. Sharing it feels…strange. Freeing, in a way.
He watches as Jacob’s face changes, curiosity morphing into confusion before settling on a decidedly unknown expression. Sangyeon’s not sure what it means—but he loves Jacob. “I’ve been in love with you for years,’ he continues, shakily meeting Jacob’s gaze. If he’s going to dump his feelings out—he might as well keep going.
There’s a sparkle in Jacob’s eyes that he’s not sure how to handle, not when he’s just left his heart out on the table like this between them. Neither of them say anything, Sangyeon shuffling nervously as he waits for Jacob to say something, anything.
“Really?” Jacob asks, sweet as ever. It’s definitely not the response he had expected, and he’s not sure how to feel. He steps just a bit closer to Sangyeon, close enough that if he wanted to, he could reach out and touch him. “I— I never knew.”
“I was good at hiding it,” Sangyeon sighs, hands clenched into fists at his sides. It goes unspoken that he never wanted Jacob to know. “But I couldn’t keep it to myself anymore. I thought you deserved to know.”
Jacob smiles, the prettiest expression lighting up his face. Sangyeon could fall in love with that smile a hundred times over, he could fall for forever and never grow tired of that smile. He has a choice—step away, give Jacob the space he deserves and move on with himself. Or he can try . He can be bold and brave and risk his heart for a new kind of love.
He chooses then, to be bold, to be brave and to reach for what he wants.
He steps closer to Jacob, nearly nose to nose at this point, desperate to be close as he holds Jacob’s gaze. He has no idea if the amount of overwhelming fondness he can feel radiating through him is loud on his face, but he imagines it is, considering the way Jacob is looking at him.
“God, you have no idea the hold you have over me,” Sangyeon says, cupping Jacob’s cheeks with a twinkle in his eyes. “You make me want to be selfish with you.”
Jacob’s eyes light up, a wild emotion flickering behind his gaze. “Then do it,” he whispers. “Be selfish with me, because I want you to.”
It’s almost as if all either of them needed was permission, a proverbial green light, because the second the words leave Jacob’s lips, Sangyeon is on him with a passion held back for months, years. He’s wanted to feel Jacob under his touch for so long that it almost doesn’t even feel real, the heat of his skin and the smoothness of his cheeks.
He’s not even apologetic for the little sob that spills out as he swallows Jacob’s harried breaths. It feels like heaven, his lips on Jacob’s, and he’s glad that for once in his life, he chose to be selfish.
Sangyeon isn’t sure if there’s anything better than having Jacob in his bed, in his arms. He’s completely found heaven with Jacob, and none of the bullshit from their past even matters. He doesn’t feel even a little bit guilty about being selfish—because he’s always been the one to let Jacob slip through his grasp time and time again, but not this time.
There’s something beyond pleasant about letting himself into their shared apartment late after work and seeing Jacob waiting for him in the living room or reading a book in bed. All those years of knowing that Jacob was curled up in his bed with someone else, of not even knowing who he was with sometimes. Now, Sangyeon is the one kissing him goodnight.
And maybe it’s a bit childish, almost caveman-like, the way his brain fixates on the fact that now he has Jacob, but— he’s completely fine with it. Jacob is too, apparently, based on the way he eagerly whispers sweet words of devotion into his ear as Sangyeon loves him good in the middle of the night.
He’s a believer in the reality of heaven now, and there’s nothing that can take that away from him, from them.