“You’re breaking up with me, at a bar?”
Junhyung watches with narrowed eyes as his now ex-girlfriend flips her long, chemical-filled, red hair nonchalantly. “I figured you’ll need to get drunk after hearing this news from me. Don’t worry, I’ve already instructed the bartender to charge your drinks to my tab. Good night.”
Without waiting for his response, she picks up her purse and sashays off as if she hadn’t just broken his heart. Junhyung really couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry. Maybe he should just drink his misery away like she suggested.
Admittedly, he’s been through many different break-ups. There’s been girls who cheated on him, moving on to bigger fish once they’ve fully utilised the benefits of being the girlfriend of K-POP’s top singer slash songwriter slash producer. There’s also been girls who felt disappointed when he didn’t live up to the image they had of him. And then there are those who were just in it for the sex and leave once they get bored.
It was some time later - Junhyung’s not exactly sure how long since he was too busy enjoying free booze to keep track - when he sees a movement from the corner of his eye, indicating someone settling into the adjacent seat. Junhyung doesn’t even need to look to figure out who it was, the familiar scent immediately prickling his senses. He scowls. Clearly, he wasn’t drunk enough.
“Go away, asshole.” Junhyung spits out just as a hand reaches for his drink. The other drinks what was leftover in the glass before Junhyung could stop him. “Yah! Yang Yoseob! What the fuck? I drank from that. That’s like an indirect kiss.”
“Stop being childish and go home before you get alcohol poisoning.”
“Oh, as if you would care.” Junhyung snorted. “I’m entitled to free drinks all night long, and I ain’t drunk yet. In fact, I’m going to be generous and let you enjoy this benefit I was so lucky to get!”
Junhyung signals the bartender over and orders another two drinks. He pushes one towards Yoseob, before grabbing his own and raising it in the air. “Cheers.”
Yoseob knocks his own glass against Junhyung’s. “Last one, alright?”
“No, no, no, no, no.” Junhyung wags his index finger at the other. “She’s paying for this. I gotta make sure the bill chalks up to as much as one of those stupid branded bags she made me buy for her.”
“Why can’t you just write another break-up song and move on, like you have with all your other failed relationships?” Yoseob rolls his eyes.
“Has anyone told you that you’re excellent at comforting a heartbroken soul?” Junhyung puts a hand to his heart melodramatically. “Only Kikwangie would call you kind-hearted. That idiot.”
“You make it hard for me to sympathize with you, when you behave like a jerk towards me 100% of the time.”
Junhyung frowns, staring at his empty glass. “I gave you free alcohol and you’re calling me a jerk. How ungrateful.”
“Ok, 99% of the time. I suppose this is that 1% you’re actually nice. Probably because you’re drunk off your ass.” Yoseob pulls out his mobile phone. “I’m calling one of them to pick you up.”
Junhyung waves, before trying to reach out to grab the mobile phone away but Yoseob’s reflex was faster. “Don't call them. Kikwangie and Yoon Doo both have very early schedules tomorrow. I’ll just call a cab later.”
“If you’re even conscious enough to call a cab.” Yoseob sighs, but holds back from calling his friends.
“Then you can call a cab for me. But not now. Later.”
“What? You expect me to sit here until you’re ready to leave?”
“It’s the least you could do in exchange for free drinks.” Junhyung shrugs, before passing another drink to the other. “Look, I’m drunk and actually being civil with you. Appreciate it. Kikwangie should be proud of me. He’s always asking me to be nice to you. See? I can be nice. Although it’ll be great if you could just keep quiet and drink the booze.”
“You’re assuming I don’t have anywhere else to be?” Yoseob raises an eyebrow.
Junhyung laughs. “Please. If you did, why the heck would you choose to sit next to someone you don’t even like? What? Did you get dumped too?”
“He’s with me.” A new voice interrupts. Junhyung turns to see an unfamiliar, tall, sleazy-looking dude, who now had an arm around Yoseob’s shoulder. Despite his vision starting to blur, he could still recognise the look of disdain on Yoseob’s face, as the latter shrugged off the intruding arm, only for it to curl around the other’s waist. He watches silently as Yoseob pushes off the other guy.
“If you ask me, you look like you are being rejected by Yang-sshi here.” Junhyung pointed a finger at the intruder. “He looks more willing to have my company than yours. And mind you, I’m probably the last person he would want to talk to. We legit hate each other’s guts.”
“What’s your point?”
“Are you slow to catch on or something? My point is, if he’d rather tolerate me instead of going with you, clearly this is a message in bright neon blinking lights that you might wanna fuck off to somewhere else?”
Junhyung’s actually expecting a punch. He kind of wants to get punched right now. Maybe it’ll help him wake up and move on from this stupid heartbreak? He didn't even like her that much so why's he feeling so stupidly sad?
The other guy must have said something but Junhyung cannot be bothered to pay attention, really. The next thing he knows though, Yoseob has grabbed his wrist and pulled him away from the bar and from the intruder, stomping towards the exit. The little guy was stronger than he anticipated, and somehow he finds himself being manhandled into a car. He mumbles off his address when Yoseob asks, too drunk to fully process what was going on.
When the surroundings starts to get more familiar, Junhyung finally manages to get his bearings and realises that Yang Yoseob, his ultimate nemesis, was actually driving him home. He turns to stare at the other, oddly impressed.
The car pulls to a stop in the basement of his apartment block, away from any potential paparazzi cameras.
“Yong Junhyung. We’re here.”
“Uh-huh.” Junhyung just nods as he stares at Yoseob.
“Please tell me you’re able to get yourself upstairs without further assistance. I think I’ve had enough of your presence tonight to last me for a lifetime.” Yoseob sighs dramatically. Strangely it sounds like Yoseob was singing his line. Junhyung must really be drunk. He also thinks all that musical stage acting has spilled over into Yoseob’s real life mannerisms, which only further emphasizes the other’s lack of authenticity.
A hand waves annoyingly at Junhyung’s face. “Are you even listening to me?”
“Hey, Yang Yoseob.”
“Oh good, you’re awake. Please get out of my car now.”
“I got dumped.”
“I know. I saw what happened. She gave you unlimited free booze as a parting gift. Now go upstairs and write another hit song about it.”
“I keep getting dumped. I’ve lost track of how many times. I know you don’t like me but I’m actually a soft-hearted guy, y’know?”
Yoseob sighs, a hand sliding through his hair in frustration. “Look Junhyung, we’re celebrities. You’re extremely popular. That means you’re more susceptible to meeting people who might take advantage of you. Or maybe they didn’t want to take advantage of you at first but things just somehow don’t work out the way you want it too. But I believe that one day, you’ll find the right one. It just hasn’t happened yet.”
“That’s cheesy as fuck.”
“Yah! I’m trying to be nice to you! And you’re a songwriter and probably cheesier than I am. I bet you say such dumb shit to all your fangirls and fanboys.”
“Since you’re trying to be nice to me, why don’t you date me?”
“What?” Yoseob’s eyes widen comically. “Seriously, how much did you drink?”
“No, listen. It’s just for a week, starting now. So that I can dump you after that.”
“Because I won’t have any regrets dumping you after all. And it might even feel good. So yep, that’s it.” Junhyung nods to himself, proud of his plan.
“You're even more drunk than I thought.” Yoseob sighs, giving Junhyung a judging look. “Are you so heartbroken that you've gone and turned gay suddenly?”
“I just want to try being the ‘dumper’ instead of the ‘dumpee’ for once.” Junhyung explains his drunken logic. “Alright, let's start now. Good night, sweetheart!”
He unbuckles his seatbelt and without thinking too much, leans forward to peck Yoseob on the cheek before getting out of the car, leaving the latter to stare after him with a baffled expression.
Needless to say, Junhyung wakes up the next day to one of the worst hangovers in his life.
“How does this sound?” Kikwang starts reciting one verse of lyrics from his notepad. He's seated with his feet on the couch in Junhyung's living room, knees bent and notepad resting on his thighs, a pen in his hand waving around in the air as the words fall off his lips.
Junhyung listens intently, waiting for his friend to finish and thinking about what constructive criticism he could give. Kikwang’s lyrics are about finding love in the last place he thought of. It's sweet and happy and basically not what Junhyung is in the mood for since it's only been three days since the break-up, but he was the one who insisted he was fine with helping out his best friend as he usually does, despite Kikwang offering to postpone their session.
It's about an hour later when they decide to take a break, Kikwang helping himself to the TV remote. He stops at the channel showing Immortal Song, and Junhyung vaguely recognises the two singers as members of an idol group that were special MCs on Music Bank during his comeback. Admittedly he doesn't recall their names and he feels a bit bad as they were very polite kids, but he's usually too busy trying to maintain his coolness on broadcast instead of revealing his socially awkward self.
“They make me feel old.” Kikwang comments when the singers finish their duet.
Junhyung snorts. “They're probably close to Dongni’s age and you still look younger than Dongni though.”
He turns back to the screen and freezes when he spots Yoseob sitting there in the room. “What?”
“Oh good, I was worried I'd miss his turn but he's up next.” Kikwang says as he pulls out his phone, taking a picture of the TV screen just as there was a close-up of Yoseob.
“Seriously, do we have to watch this? We're in my house right now.” Junhyung says irritatedly. Memories of how Yoseob had been somewhat nice enough to send him home, and how he had drunkenly declared Yoseob his one-week boyfriend only served to make Junhyung feel more irritated than usual.
Kikwang, so used to Junhyung's complaints, ignores him in favour of making a quick post on Instagram. Junhyung's own phone beeps at the notification of Kikwang’s post. Instinctively, he retrieves his phone from the table as his best friend turns his attention back to the show.
“Yah, Lee Kikwang, did you have to mention that you're watching this in my house?” Junhyung whines. “I should downgrade your best friend status.”
“Then you'll be left with Doojoonie as your only best friend.”
“You have a point there.” Junhyung grumbles. “But why did you tag both of us? Now I have to see my username next to his.”
“Shhh, he's going to start singing.”
“Yah, is this your house?” Junhyung glares but Kikwang continues to shush him as Yoseob’s voice filters through the speakers.
It's not that Junhyung doesn't know Yoseob could sing. But the latter has always limited his work to musicals so it’s probably the first time for Junhyung to see him singing a non-musical song, live on TV. Junhyung even avoids attending any of Yoseob’s musicals despite the numerous times his two best friends have asked him to join them. Yoseob's good, Junhyung has to begrudgingly admit. He's not even surprised when Yoseob wins at the end.
He is, however, surprised, when hours after Kikwang left and he's about to go to bed, he receives a text message from Yoseob. Whose number he only has because Kikwang forced the both of them to save each other's numbers, and Junhyung’s been too lazy to delete it. Who would have thought Yang Yoseob was as lazy as him.
[from: devil incarnate]
Didn't expect you to watch me on the show.
Was I good enough for the almighty Yong PD?
There's even a selca after the message, with Yoseob doing an aegyo pose, something he knows Junhyung hates the most about him. Junhyung’s about to delete the whole chat without replying, when his phone buzzes again and another picture coupled with consecutive messages come flooding in.
[from: devil incarnate]
I didn't post this one on SNS.
Only for you, boyfriend.
The second picture was normal, no aegyo, and bare-faced. Junhyung finds himself saving it before he deletes the chat conversation. He tells himself it's because it might be useful blackmail material in future.
Junhyung's so bored he visits Doojoon on set. He doesn't even feel inspired to write anything, despite how previous failed relationships usually lead to emotional outpouring of lyrics and music.
He spies his best friend in the middle of a take, and heads towards the food trucks (plastered with Doojoon's face) instead. Some staff recognise him, one even asking for a selca and autograph. He entertains the requests before finally getting himself a coffee. Junhyung's finishing his cup when he sees Doojoon walking towards him.
“What are you doing here?”
“Came to be a supportive friend.” Junhyung lies easily, as he gestures vaguely at the coffee truck behind him. “Got this for you.”
Doojoon snorts. “No, you did not. That's from Yoseobie.”
“Fine. I didn't send anything this time. But... My presence is more sincere.”
“You're just bored and no one is free to entertain you, isn't it?” Doojoon replies knowingly. “Filming ends early for me today, so you're in luck. But I’ve got to head back to the office for a while.”
Junhyung hangs around in Doojoon's trailer while waiting for the latter to wrap up filming for the day, typing random words on his notes app in hopes of coming up with a song idea.
Somehow, he ends up coming up with a potential trot song using Doojoon’s name. He keeps the idea in mind to put together a track later, maybe to give it to Doojoon as a birthday gift.
A notification alert appears and his phone buzzes just as he's saving his notes.
[from: devil incarnate]
You haven't been replying to me.
Do you not love me anymore?
Are you breaking up with me?
Junhyung can't stop the laugh that escapes. Now that he thinks about, it's been exactly a week since the start of his ‘relationship’ with Yoseob. After not receiving any other texts from the other since the goodnight selca, he figured that was the end and wasn't expecting Yoseob to actually play along up to this point.
Well, he supposes he should initiate the break-up he wanted.
[to: devil incarnate]
Yes. We're better off going separate ways.
It's not me, it's you.
Junhyung can't help laughing again when he receives a selca of Yoseob showing him his middle finger. He saves it again for blackmail material.
“Why are you smiling at your phone?”
Doojoon’s voice breaks him out of his reverie. Junhyung shrugs as casually as possible, quickly schooling his face to an unreadable expression.
There is absolutely no way he can let Doojoon know about this thing with Yoseob, or he'll never hear the end of his teasing. And Kikwang would find out too which might lead to Kikwang’s favourite dongsaeng Dongwoon finding out. If Dongwoon finds out, his group mates and best friends Woohyun and Kibum would learn about it too. Once Kibum finds out anything, the whole agency would probably know, and he'll be the last to find out that he's officially dating Yang Yoseob, only being informed when he sees an official statement released by his agency.
Junhyung shudders at the thought.
Doojoon looks at Junhyung with an expression that's half judging and half amused. Junhyung braces himself for insults and interrogation and basically childish banter the two of them always engage in.
“I suppose it's a good thing you can still be smiling even after what happened.” Doojoon says instead. Junhyung blinks in surprise as the other continues jokingly. “Maybe you'll have a happy break-up song this time?”
Apparently being heartbroken has it benefits. Junhyung sees an opportunity to change the subject and seizes it. “I wrote something for you, actually. Ideas came to me while waiting for you. Just need to organise and record a guide.”
“Really?” Doojoon’s eyes widen.
Junhyung nods. “Maybe you could sing it at your fan meet.”
Doojoon scrunches up his nose. “Er, not sure about that.”
“Why not? Your fans all know about how you were almost going to debut with me in a duo but abandoned me to pursue your acting dreams instead. I'm sure they've been curious to hear you sing.”
“If you apologise again about ancient history I’m going to chop off your balls.”
Doojoon raises both hands up. “Ok, ok. I'll think about it when I hear your song. Let's just go back to the office then we can eat after that.”
Junhyung gets up from his seat, keeping his phone where he hopes Doojoon is unable snatch it to check what he had been looking at. Granted his phone is usually locked but Junhyung’s paranoid so he rather not take the chances.
It's on the way to the office in his car when a thought comes to him and he speed dials Doojoon's number, putting the latter on speaker.
“Yang Yoseob won't be at the office today, right?”
Even though he can't see the other, he could literally hear Doojoon rolling his eyes. “How ironic that you hate him so much, you think of him all the time.”
“I do not!” Junhyung protests. “I just don't want the sight of him to ruin my appetite later.”
“Do you check with your manager every time you head to the office?”
“His manager and mine know how to try to schedule work such that we see as little of each other as possible. Of course there are always times when it's unavoidable though.”
“Huh? You're serious?”
“No, I'm not, you idiot.” It's Junhyung's turn to roll his eyes. “And you haven't answered my question.”
“Ask his manager, not me.”
“You're so helpful.” Junhyung retorts.
“You're so childish.” Doojoon shoots back. “The two of you need to get over whatever problem you have. Kikwang and I get along with the both of you just fine, so it's illogical how much you two dislike each other.”
“It's not illogical. It just means the two of us actually have a mind of our own in deciding who to befriend, instead of succumbing to peer pressure.”
“Are you actually complimenting Yoseobie?”
“No. I’m not. Stop making things up.” Junhyung thinks it's a good thing Doojoon isn't sitting next to him right now, or he might let go of the steering wheel to kill his best friend, only to inadvertently kill himself by not paying attention to the road. “I'm hanging up since you're not going to say anything useful.”
“Laters.” Doojoon replies and hangs up on him first.
Junhyung questions himself for the nth time why he has best friends who annoy him on purpose. As for Yoseob, he figures he could just pretend he didn’t see him. He has his sunglasses with him after all.
A bunch of trainees greet him as Junhyung drags his feet along the corridors of the office. He nods at them, and hopes he doesn't come across as too aloof. It's early and he spent last night recording down some tunes he managed to come up with for a potential new song. He's still tired from the little sleep he got and probably needs a shot of caffeine for the early meeting his manager scheduled at the last minute.
When he enters the room, he sees Yoseob and almost laughs bitterly. Wasn't it just a week or two ago when he joked to Doojoon that their managers made sure to schedule work so that the two could avoid each other whenever possible?
He notices then that Yoseob is alone in the room though, neither of their managers in sight.
“Did I get the wrong room?”
Yoseob shrugs. “I wouldn't know. Was just told to come here.”
“Where's your manager?”
Yoseob shrugs again, lifting his phone in the air slightly. “Not replying my messages.”
The wheels in his head start whirring. Could this be some stupid prank by Yoon Doojoon? Or did he get the date wrong? Or the time? Junhyung checks his phone and nope, he didn't get it wrong. He scans the ceilings of the meeting room suspiciously.
“Do you think this is a hidden camera prank?” Junhyung asks, frowning as he takes a seat at the table. “Couldn't they at least get us some coffee or cola if they want us to deal with each other this early in the morning?”
“I can tell you're really ecstatic to see me, ex-boyfriend.” Yoseob deadpans.
Junhyung immediately shushes the other. He whispers. “Don't call me that. If there's a hidden camera they would catch what you said.”
Yoseob rolls his eyes. “Quite sure no one would take it seriously. And it's not like I'm outing you or something.”
“There's nothing to out, anyway.” Junhyung replies.
“Precisely. You have enough girlfriends to prove your heterosexuality, so there’s no need to get all worked up.”
“I'm not worked up. And it's not like I have a thing against homosexuality, don't make it sound like I do. I'm just saying that what you said might mislead people and I don't want people to misunderstand.”
“Could I remind you that you were the one who asked me to date you for a week? Calling you my ‘ex-boyfriend’ isn’t exactly incorrect per se.”
“That was a joke and you know it. You were the one who decided to play along.”
“You were the one who called me ‘sweetheart’ and kissed me on the cheek.”
“I was drunk and didn’t know any better. You and I both know that you’re the last person on Earth who I would willingly date.”
“I know. I’m not even of the right gender after all. You were just stupidly drunk and heartbroken.” Yoseob turns away to look at his phone, clearly uninterested in continuing the conversation.
Junhyung narrows his eyes as he tries to figure out if Yoseob had taken offense. Sure, he didn't like the other, but he had nothing against the sexual preferences of others. It's none of his business after all. The only reason he even knew was because he'd accidentally overheard a conversation between Yoseob and Kikwang about some relationship problems that Yoseob was having a few years ago. It was why seeing some guy hit on Yoseob the other night didn't really surprise him. He could see the appeal if he swung that way.
Ok, stop right there. Junhyung makes a mental effort not to carry on that train of thought.
He hesitates and considers apologising to Yoseob for any potentially offensive thing he might have said without realising, but just as he was about to speak, the door to the meeting room opens and their chairman strolls in.
Junhyung's gut feeling tells him that he's not going to like what he's going to hear.
“I'll get straight to the point.” The chairman begins after they have gone through their greetings. “Yoseob, you did a very good job at Immortal Song. The feedback from the general public was very good.”
“I know in the past you actually auditioned to be a singer and even trained for a short while, didn't you?”
Yoseob nods carefully. He had been training together with the rest back then, which was how the four of them got to know each other in the first place. Somehow, despite being a good vocalist, the agency had decided early on that Yoseob wasn't suited to be an idol and he was sent for acting lessons to train to be a musical actor instead. He had been disappointed back then, since it wasn't the first rejection he had faced, but being offered an alternative was better than being kicked out completely.
“Well, we've decided to give you another chance. We've been receiving tons of requests for you to release a song, so we're going to let you have a solo mini album.”
“And this where Junhyung comes in.” The chairman continues. “Junhyung is famous for being a singer-songwriter, and producing his own songs on top of that. So, he's going to help write, compose and produce the songs for your mini album.”
“I am?” Junhyung blurts out.
“Yes. So far, you've only produced for yourself and helped out Kikwang a bit with songwriting. With others, you've only featured on their songs. But to-date, you've never fully written and produced an album for anyone else. We think it'll be a good to broaden your portfolio.”
“I've written a song for Doojoon. I'm going to get him to sing it at his fan meets.”
The chairman raises an eyebrow. “Well, that, I’ll leave it to Doojoon to decide since it’s going to be unreleased and only event-specific anyway. I'm talking about a proper CD release here, with music show performances and everything. I’m also thinking that there should be a duet included, or at least a song where you feature some part.”
Junhyung glances at Yoseob who appears to be speechless. “I'm not sure we can work well together.”
“Well, I have the confidence that the two of you can. You've known each other since the time you’ve joined us, and I've known you two for as long. Have a little trust in yourselves.” The chairman smiles, then stands up to signal the end of the discussion. “I’m giving you two creative freedom as well to decide on the song style and theme you want to have for the album. As long as it's nothing that's going to cause a controversy, of course. But I expect some ideas and progress over the next few weeks.”
The two of them nod, both knowing that there was no room for argument.
After the door closes, silence befalls them once more. It's Yoseob who breaks the silence.
“This would have been better off as a hidden camera prank.”
“I'm still waiting for someone to run in laughing and telling us that we got played.”
“Maybe give them a couple more seconds and they'll come bursting in.”
“Yeah, sixty seconds, tops.”
Sixty seconds pass and the reality finally sinks in, when the two are still left alone.
Junhyung puts both hands to his face, the weariness setting in. “I'm going to need caffeine for this.” He stands up, ready to leave the room.
“Wait.” Yoseob says before he could turn around. “Let’s- Let’s talk.”
“I mean… If we need to work together, maybe we should talk? We don’t have to be friends but we need to at least get over the issues we have with each other, otherwise we’ll both just have a hard time.”
“Look, I can’t work with you.”
“We haven’t even tried.” Yoseob points out. “You never know. It might not-”
“It’s not about trying.” Junhyung cuts in, sighing in frustration. “You’re not even similar to the other people I have worked with on music. You’re a musical actor, not an idol. It’s not that you can’t sing, but singing in musicals and singing as an idol are two different things.”
“I know that. But it’s just one CD, I’m not turning into an idol. I don’t think anyone expects me to be an idol? Maybe more of a ballad singer?”
“Idol, ballad singer… it’s still different. Yeah, there are idol singers who participate in musicals as well but not all of them can transition between the two well. And you also need a kind of stage presence, an X factor.” Junhyung tries to explain. “I know you aren’t that strange looking kid you were back then, and you have more muscle now, but that doesn’t automatically mean you have the X factor now just because you look different. I’ll be honest, I haven’t watched a single one of your shows, but I’m quite sure performing on a musical stage with all the colourful sets and everything, is different from performing on Inkigayo. It’s not that I don’t think you can sing, but I just don’t think you’re cut out to be a recording artist. Seriously, if people are so interested in hearing you sing, why can’t they just go to your show?”
Junhyung can see that Yoseob is standing up and glaring angrily at him now, and he can’t recall ever seeing the other being this angry at him before. He has a sudden flashback to years ago, when Yoseob had told them he was no longer going to train to be an idol while Junhyung had tried to shut out Doojoon’s incessant complaints about how looks were temporary and the management did not know what they're missing.
Junhyung thought that after so many years, Yoseob has long gotten over the disappointment, but seeing how Yoseob is looking at him with a mixture of anger and hurt, Junhyung realises he’s touched on a sore point and might have gone too far this time. He opens his mouth, ready to apologise, but Yoseob interrupts even before he could say anything.
“Thank you for your honest opinion. I’ll speak to management and let them know that I’m turning down this project. It’s clear that this is doom to fail, so no point wasting everyone’s time and money on this.”
The apology ends up caught in his throat. Junhyung doesn't know what he should say. This was what he wanted after all, even if he feels bad about how blunt he was.
Seeing no response, Yoseob stalks past Junhyung to the door, and stops with his hand on the knob, but doesn’t turn back. “Yong Junhyung, did you know that I used to think that we could be friends?”
“Yeah, but I was just being stupid. Thanks for putting me in my place. I now know how far below your level I am. I will make sure to stay out of your sight from now on.”
The door opens and slams shut so quickly and hard that it rattles. Junhyung feels like the worst person on Earth.
“Good, you’re alive.”
Junhyung walks out of his studio to find his best friends lying on the couch. It’s way past midnight, and Junhyung has no idea exactly what time it is, but seeing their sweaty bodies, he figures the two had come over after a soccer game. He scrunches his nose at the sight. He shouldn’t have given them the passcode.
“Why are the two of you polluting my studio with your body odor and sweat?”
“You’ve hardly replied to our messages and rejected us curtly every time we asked you to hang out. Dongni says he dropped by a few days ago to visit and it looked like you’ve hardly left your studio these past few weeks so he’s worried.” Kikwang explains. “As your best friends, it’s our duty to make sure you’re still alive.”
“Well, now that you can see that I am, you can leave now.”
“You look like you haven’t shaved or washed often enough.” Doojoon points at Junhyung’s face. Junhyung swats his invasive finger away.
“I don’t care. I wear my mask when I travel back and forth so no one is looking anyway.” Junhyung replies as he flops down on the empty single seat. “And yes, I bathed. Daily. I am also eating. Thanks for worrying, but I’m ok. I’ve just been busy.”
“You had a comeback not long ago, and I don’t think you’re due for one yet, right?” Doojoon asks, confused.
“A musician like me doesn’t stop writing just because I have no comeback scheduled.” Junhyung rolls his eyes.
“At least management isn’t hounding you.” Kikwang says. “I should be the one under pressure since my comeback is soon, but I seem to have more free time than you, and it’s not even much?”
Junhyung doesn’t want to say, yes, management isn’t hounding him because Yoseob managed to convince the chairman to cancel the project. He doesn’t want to say that the project got cancelled because he was an insensitive bastard. He doesn’t want to say that he’s the one pressuring himself to complete as many potential tracks as possible, for Yoseob, and how he plans to convince management to put the project back on the table.
“Maybe I just didn’t feel like seeing your ugly faces.” Junhyung says instead.
“You and Yoseob have been equally antisocial these days.” Doojoon replies, letting Junhyung’s insult slide off easily. “Did you two fight again?”
Junhyung inwardly curses at the fact that Doojoon and Kikwang are friends with them both, and know them long enough that it was difficult hiding anything from them. He feels bad sometimes, letting the two get caught in the middle. This time though, he actually feels extremely guilty, and if the two found out what he had said to Yoseob, they would probably beat him up for it. Which he probably deserved anyway.
(But Junhyung hates pain and likes his face to be bruise-free, so no, he wasn’t going to risk it even if he completely deserved it.)
The two of them groan loudly. “What is it about this time?”
“Look, I’ve been reflecting and I do realise how immature we might have acted all these years, so I’ll sort it out with him, ok?” Junhyung begins. “Just not now. But soon. After I’m done with my tracks. Cos y’know, this self reflection also inspired some stuff and I need to get this done before it all goes away.”
Kikwang nods, but Doojoon wiggles his eyebrows. “Are you saying you’re writing love songs about Yoseob?” He then launches into dramatic laughter, pointing at Junhyung as he almost falls off the couch while laughing.
“What? No!” Junhyung wishes he had a cushion within reach to throw at Doojoon. Of course, he did think of Yoseob while determining the key to use in the songs, but it’s not like that meant he was writing about Yoseob.
“Forgive him.” Kikwang sighs. “We won our game so he’s still a little high on adrenaline or something.”
“I think he’s just an idiot.” Junhyung retorts.
Kikwang chuckles as Doojoon tries to calm himself. “Anyway, since we’re here, do you need us to listen to what you’ve come up with so far?”
“Oh.” Junhyung pauses. Usually, he doesn’t mind asking them for their opinion, since they were always willing to provide constructive criticism. But this time, he felt like Yoseob should be the first to listen. “Not yet. Sorry.”
“Sure, no worries.” Kikwang waves. “But can you go home now? I think you really need a break.”
Junhyung knows the two of them will probably stay at his studio until he leaves, and will probably stay over at his place too just to make sure that he’s resting and not secretly working on his computer at home. He nods reluctantly.
The next morning, as Junhyung sits at the kitchen counter and Doojoon makes breakfast for the three of them, he stares at the cans of cola and energy drinks on his table. Inspiration hits him, and he can already vaguely imagine the mix of his and Yoseob’s voices in his head. He itches to rush back to his studio.
“Faster!” Junhyung whines at Doojoon, who just side-eyes him.
“Be patient, you ungrateful punk!”
“Hey. It’s me. Erm, before you turn this off and throw this CD away, I just wanted to say that I'm sorry. And uh, I came up with a couple of demo tracks for you, y’know. So I hope you at least give this a listen. And, if you do like the songs, maybe you could come by to my studio to record some stuff? You don’t have to, of course. But yeah, just… just listen first… and I hope you like it.”
Junhyung stops the recording. He’s not pleased with how he sounded like a stuttering, awkward idiot (his true nature, some would say), but after many previous attempts, he decides that this would have to do. He checks through everything before burning a copy on an empty CD. When it’s done, he plays the whole disc once through to check it one more time, before slotting it into the case and into a bubble-wrapped envelope he had managed to get from the office.
He pulls out his phone, checking Yoseob’s address which he had gotten from Kikwang, and grabs his things before heading to his car. It doesn’t take him long to find the location and identifies himself as Yoseob’s colleague to the security guard, who recognises him and lets him in easily. It does take him a while to find Yoseob’s mailbox though, and he double checks the unit number against what Kikwang gave him before shoving the envelope into slot.
Now, he just has to wait.
Junhyung waits six days and six hours before he finally receives a text from Yoseob. It was in the middle of his dinner with Sunggyu, his same-age friend and fellow solo artist who'd debuted a year after him.
[from: devil incarnate]
Junhyung stares at his phone, waiting for more messages, but none seem to be coming. He frowns. That’s it? Even an insult or something would be less cryptic than this. He takes a deep breath. Now wasn’t the time to be getting annoyed at someone he was trying to seek forgiveness from.
[to: devil incarnate]
So… what did you think?
Junhyung thinks that he may have to wait another six days and six hours when there was no immediate reply, but apparently glaring at his phone hard enough helped, as his phone buzzes again.
[from: devil incarnate]
I heard you have a puppy.
Yanggaeng needs a new friend.
[to: devil incarnate]
I can bring him over to the studio.
If you’re coming over...
[from: devil incarnate]
Text me the time and address
Junhyung’s not sure what to think about the fact that Yoseob had avoided his question regarding the songs, and asked him about his dog instead. But Yoseob didn’t say ‘no’ when invited to his studio, so he supposes there’s some improvement.
He quickly sends over the address and confirms the time before Yoseob could change his mind, separately texting his mum about going over this evening to fetch Hyung-nim. Without putting too much thought into it, he scrolls through his photo gallery and finds the cutest picture of himself and his dog to send it over to Yoseob too.
When Junhyung receives a picture of Yoseob’s dog without its owner in sight, he doesn’t know why but he finds himself slightly disappointed. He sighs, not understanding why he feels this way.
“Have you gotten yourself another girlfriend already?”
Junhyung startles at Sunggyu’s question, forgetting that he’s in the midst of dinner with his friend.
“Potential girlfriend then?”
“No.” Junhyung rolls his eyes. “Do I look like a playboy who gets over relationships easily?”
Sunggyu shrugs nonchalantly. “You do have a rather exciting dating history. I'm not even sure how many girlfriends you’ve had.”
“Including or not including my fans?”
Sunggyu snorts. “We may be eating Italian but please tone down on the cheese. We're not on a variety show right now. Not that you go to those in the first place.”
“You're the variety king. If I go on those shows as well, wouldn't I be stealing your rice bowl?” Junhyung says, turning his attention back to his food. Of course, he doesn't tell Sunggyu that he avoids variety shows like the plague, simply because he has an image to maintain. Good thing his management agrees with him too.
“Fine, I should be grateful that the great Yong Junhyung is letting me earn my income.”
“I'm your sunbae, mind your tone.” Junhyung jokes.
“Yes, yes.” Sunggyu nods humbly. “So, is the new girl the cute type or the sexy type?”
“There's no new girl. Not so soon, anyway.”
“You were so engrossed in your texting earlier, you forgot I was here. C’mon, no need to give me names. Description will do.”
“It was work.”
“Duet with a sexy female singer.” Sunggyu concludes with a grin.
Junhyung laughs. “The farthest from that, honestly.”
“Ah, so it's the cute type this time.”
“Stop making assumptions. It's work, and obviously I can't tell you anything more about it since you're from a different agency.”
“Just don't clash with my comeback. It was no fun being second place every show when we last made a comeback at the same time.”
“Ah, your comeback this time is in about two weeks, isn't it?” Junhyung asks. At Sunggyu's nod, he continues. “Didn't you hear that someone from my agency is making a comeback too?”
Sunggyu scowls. “Thanks for the reminder. Damnit, please tell sunbaenim not to strip on stage. I won't be able to put up a fight if he does that.”
“Kikwangie’s fans love it though.”
Sunggyu sighs as he pats his stomach. “Well, maybe I can win Music Bank at least? Doubt he's allowed to strip in KBS.”
“Yeah, it's good to have a positive mindset.” Junhyung snickers as he pats Sunggyu comfortingly. “Anyway, I have to leave soon. Gotta fetch Hyung-nim.”
“You sure you're not ditching me for your new interest?”
“I would be if you don't shut up and finish your food.”
“Touche. Will sunbae be paying?”
Junhyung rolls his eyes. “Fine, fine.”
The dogs take after their owners, it seems, both canines unwilling to get closer and insisting on maintaining a healthy distance between them. It's rather funny when Junhyung thinks about it.
With that said, he does prefer if the two dogs could at least attempt to get along, as it would make the situation a lot more comfortable. Instead, Junhyung finds himself sitting across from Yoseob in the comforts of his own studio, but still feeling like he's at some interview setting where he has to be mindful of his words.
It's disconcerting, as Junhyung never had to worry about how he behaved around the other, never had to maintain his cool and aloof image in front of someone who has known him for close to a decade now. It's not as if he particularly cared about what Yoseob thought of him after all, since they both already had less than stellar impressions of each other.
Maybe it's because Junhyung actually feels bad about the last time they talked face to face. That and, he knows Yoseob does boxing and can pack a mean punch.
Junhyung grabs his water bottle and takes a huge gulp, Hyung-nim having run away from his embrace to trudge round the studio. He clears his throat, and Yoseob looks up at the sound. “I'm sorry.”
“You’ve already apologised. In the CD.” Yoseob says. Junhyung notices that the other’s hold on his puppy tightens, seeming like a protective stance. “I came to say thank you, actually.”
“You liked it.” Junhyung remarks, and he can't help letting out a small smile.
Yoseob nods. “At first I thought, how good could it be? You were so reluctant to be involved in any collaboration with me, I figured you were threatened by the guys into doing this or something. I mean, here's a guy who hates me since day one, surely any song he writes for me, supposedly, can't be any good. But then I realised how wrong I was. They're really good songs.”
“Thanks.” Junhyung can't help but feel proud, considering the praise was coming from someone who didn't like him very much. “We could record some tracks now. Then we can show it to management and convince them to get the project back on track?”
The other shakes his head. “I’m really grateful that you wrote all these good songs but I am not going to sing them. I think you should keep them for yourself. It's definitely good material for your new album.”
“Why won't you sing them? I wrote them for you, not for myself.”
“Well, I'm not really interested in becoming a singer.”
“I call bullshit, Yang Yoseob. Becoming a singer has been your dream even longer than I've known you. If you'd given up on it, you wouldn't have gotten upset with what I said.”
“You talk like you know me very well.” Yoseob retorts. “If you think I hate what I’m doing now, I don't. I enjoy my work and feel happy.”
“Maybe that's true, but you're just settling for the next best thing, aren't you?” Junhyung argues. “You shouldn't keep lying to yourself.”
“I'm not. I just learnt how to accept that not all dreams come true. It's called being realistic.” Yoseob states firmly. “On the same note about being realistic, we all know that the songs would definitely sell better if you released them yourself.”
“Pft.” Junhyung rolls his eyes. “If I cared about that, why would I listen to your performance on repeat just to get your voice stuck in my head, so that I would know your tone and range and compose according to the characteristics of your voice? I think at least a few hundred views on that YouTube video came from me. So either you sing them, or they're just going to have to sit in some folder on my storage disk.”
Yoseob stares at Junhyung, confusion written across his face. “You know this means working closely with me for a period of time, right? Why would you want that? Sometimes it doesn't even take five minutes in each other's presence for us to get annoyed with one another. Look at us, we're arguing right now.”
“This is mild for our standard.” Junhyung waves dismissively. “You said you once thought we could be friends.”
“Yeah, that was ages ago, when we were still trainees or something. Quite sure there’s no hope for us now.”
“Ok, friends might be pushing it a little, but we're both talented professionals with the same goal in mind. I think we could work well together.”
Yoseob narrows his eyes. “Just a while back you said we couldn't work together. What are you up to? What are you getting out of this?”
“Nothing. I just felt like doing this after all. It'll be a good experience, for both of us.” Junhyung replies. Honestly, he's not even sure why he's being so insistent. He supposes it might have to do with the fact that he hates backing down from an argument with Yoseob, so giving in and letting Yoseob have the last word is not an option.
Yoseob, on the contrary, seems to be thinking about going along with Junhyung’s plan. Hyung-nim starts barking then, and Yanggaeng barks in return. The two dogs are actually making eye contact now. Junhyung guesses that maybe they're having some weird conversation about their owners.
“Or they're just hungry.” Yoseob’s voice cut through his thoughts. “Yeah, you said that out loud, actually.”
“But… Maybe this could work.” Yoseob says, more to convince himself. “I mean, even our dogs look like they are starting to get along…”
“See? Let's start recording something now. Any preferences on which song to start with?”
Yoseob shrugs. “You're the expert here.”
“Look, we agree on something already.”
Yoseob scoffs. “You know I can punch you, right?”
Working together turns out different from what Junhyung expected, but in a surprisingly good way.
Junhyung’s never produced songs for others before, the closest being when he occasionally sits in for Kikwang’s recordings and gives some feedback. With Yoseob having no experience in the recording studio, Junhyung was assuming he would have to take the lead.
It wasn't that Yoseob ended up taking the lead though. Rather, Yoseob wasn't afraid to let Junhyung know some of his ideas, even from the point when they recorded the guides. His inputs could be about parts of the songs where he felt like it was ‘really good but too Junhyung’ and could be ‘more Yoseob’ if it went a certain way, adding his own flavour into Junhyung’s tracks.
And it worked, with the songs turning out better than the previous versions, and management readily accepting their proposal to continue with the collaboration.
For the title track, Yoseob initially wanted a ballad, something safe, but management convinced him that ’Caffeine’ would make a better title track, that duet that Junhyung came up with and his favourite of all the tracks produced. It meant that he had to tweak the arrangement so that Yoseob had more lines, but considering how much material he had recorded, Junhyung found that it didn't even take him that long to switch things up.
At dance practice was when Junhyung thought Yoseob would struggle the most, but Yoseob picks up dance moves quickly, surprising the choreographer. Memories of their trainee days come back to Junhyung, as he recalls how Yoseob basically has a good memory for details and is good at copying others.
Watching Yoseob’s progress, Junhyung can't help but admit that he was too quick to judge weeks back. Sure, Yoseob wasn't a polished performer like Kikwang or himself, occasionally seeming a bit awkward with some of his dance movements, or adding too much of a musical feel in his singing. But overall, Yoseob still comes across less like a rookie than many of those Junhyung has seen, and not as out of place as Junhyung had imagined.
The main thing though, after spending countless of hours in each other's company and actually enjoying it, is that Junhyung realises that Yoseob isn't really that bad after all.
Well, better late than never.
Junhyung’s playing with his sleeves, looking around mindlessly and calming down the usual stage nerves before a performance, when he sees Yoseob standing by a corner, away from where people were bustling around backstage. He strolls towards the other, about to make fun of how Yoseob looked as stiff as a statue, when he notices Yoseob's heavy breathing as he nears the latter.
“Hey. Are you ok?”
Yoseob turns to stare at him, mouth open slightly as if to answer, but no words seem to fall out. It only makes Yoseob panic more, breathing getting heavier. Junhyung’s eyes widen at the reaction, and steps closer, putting both hands on Yoseob's shoulder to turn the latter towards him.
“Ok, slow down. Breathe.” Junhyung says, trying to stay calm because two singers panicking just fifteen minutes before their performance wasn't going to help things. “Yang Yoseob, look at me. Tell me what's wrong.”
He waits patiently as Yoseob's breathing slows down a bit. The other gulps, before he manages to speak. “I don't think I can do this.”
Junhyung furrows his eyebrows. There was no way they could back out now. And where the fuck were the managers? He looks around, noticing a few people glance their way. Not wanting to cause a scene, he tugs lightly at Yoseob's wrist.
Yoseob doesn't protest, seemingly eager to escape the room. Junhyung leads him to the staircase he knows is private enough, or at least somewhat private. He really hopes he doesn't stumble upon other idols having secret relations there, and almost breathes a sigh of relief at the emptiness.
“Ok, Yang Yoseob, we have maybe about ten minutes before people come looking for us.”
“Are we escaping through here?” Yoseob asks, sounding like he sincerely means his question.
“No.” Junhyung tries to keep the exasperation out of his voice. “We are going to perform like how we've practised. It's a pre-recording, so even if we screw up the first time we can record again. Unlike musicals where you have only one chance. Less pressure, right?”
“It's not that. I mean, seriously, why am I releasing a solo album? Like you said before, I'm a musical actor not an idol.” It's obvious that Yoseob is starting to lose it, with his hands waving around like crazy as he continues rambling. “Doing a performance on Immortal Song was nerve-racking enough but at least it was a one-time thing. Now I’m expected to do multiple music shows and talk shows and events. I am not even popular, why is the agency scheduling fan signs? What if no one turns up? Maybe my CD will only sell because you're featured on it, but why would any of them need my autograph? The only interaction I ever have with fans is through SNS, I don't do all these shows or fan meetings or whatever it is you do. Maybe the followers I have don't bother with this kind of thing either. And right now probably more than half the audience are your fans actually, and they probably wonder why the heck a loser like me is performing with their oppa.”
Junhyung waits a few seconds after Yoseob stopped talking, making sure that he was done, before he begins. “I won't argue your point about being a loser.”
“Oh, so you finally agree with me on something.” Yoseob rolls his eyes, but at least he’s breathing more normally now, Junhyung notes.
“We both have the same best friends so that's another thing we agree on. Also, we did agree on many things while working on the songs. The fact that we're both alive and neither of us are in jail for murder says a lot.” Junhyung says.
“Maybe you should kill me now, so that I don't have to perform.”
“Listen. The agency believes that your debut would be a success, because you have me, number one solo artist in K-POP writing and producing songs for you, so there's no way a loser like you can fail even if you tried to.”
There's a brief silence between them. Junhyung observes that Yoseob is now a lot more calmer than he was, and takes a quick glance at his watch to make sure that they are still going to make it to the stage in time.
“Alright, I guess the worst that could happen is for me to fail and hopefully go back to my comfort zone of being in musicals.” Yoseob says, trying to shrug as casually as possible although Junhyung could still see the slight worry in his features.
“Seriously, there's some media outlets who have labeled me as the President of K-POP, so things can't go that wrong with me around.” Junhyung tells him, reaching out to massage Yoseob’s shoulders lightly. “You can pretend that you have a character to play, a role to immerse in like your musicals.”
“You mean like how you act all cool on stage when you're totally not like that off stage?” Yoseob asks.
“Not everyone can accept my endearingly awkward self, unfortunately.” Junhyung sighs dramatically. “Now, let’s go now and get this first stage over and done with, so that we can come back next week to collect our trophy.”
Yoseob snorts in response, but there's a slight smile after, a silent ‘thank you’ behind it. Junhyung thinks it's the first time he's seen Yoseob direct a smile at him, and is caught a little off guard, a strange feeling in his tummy.
Junhyung doesn't have time to dwell on it though. He's got a song to perform, and a point to prove Yoseob. That things would turn out well. He wasn't the ‘President of K-POP’ for nothing after all.
A simple black jacket over white t-shirt and denim jeans, Junhyung hopes his clothes are low-key enough not to draw attention, especially since he only has a mask and a pair of glasses on his face. Good thing his hair’s currently black too.
Junhyung stands between a pillar on the second floor and an old couple who were more curious than anything about the excitement on the ground floor, where Yoseob’s first fan sign is currently ongoing. The other had managed to perform through all the music shows in the first week without further mental breakdowns, but had seemed uptight after the last recording ended this afternoon, which seemed odd to Junhyung until he recalled that the fan sign event was today.
The crowd gathered wasn't as big as the ones Junhyung’s used to, but it does remind him of how things were when he first debuted. From where he stood, Junhyung actually has a clear view of Yoseob’s face. The other was smiling brightly at every fan, and any outsider wouldn't be able to find any signs of nervousness, but Junhyung knows better.
Things appear to be moving smoothly though, so with only a few people left in the queue for Yoseob's autograph, Junhyung thinks it's time for him to make an exit as subtly as possible. He was about to turn to the corridor to the carpark entrance, but startles when there was a huge scream followed by many others, and he sees some girls running around squealing.
Junhyung wonders if he's been caught, when he realises that the attention is still on the ground floor, with girls rushing past him and not towards him. He slowly takes the least crowded escalator down to find out what the commotion is about, still trying to be as discreet as possible. When he finally gets somewhat near enough, he sees two guys standing in front of Yoseob, who is laughing brightly, anxiety clearly no longer on his face, replaced by relief.
“What’s this? Why’s he smiling so happily at other guys? Who are they?” Junhyung mumbles to himself. As if someone heard his question, he hears the fangirls scream the identity of the two guys.
“Aish.” Junhyung mutters under his breath. He spots Yoseob signing a bunch of CDs and the two taking their turns to sign on them as well. “Huh, why are they signing for? They're not even featured in it.” He also makes a mental note to himself to check if the two actually paid for the CDs or got them for free.
The two intruders introduce themselves to the audience (unnecessarily, Junhyung thinks) and talk about how they were here to support their best friend, and that they were each going to keep one signed copy, but the rest would be given to one lucky random fan in each fansign.
“Limited edition, best friends copy.” Kikwang states, waving the CDs.
“Thank you for coming, but why are you deciding things on your own? Are you my manager?” Yoseob chuckles.
“What, do you want us to auction these off and make a profit instead?” Doojoon asks.
“What about Junhyung-oppa?” One fan shouts.
“Yong Jun? Ah his signature is very expensive, we're not sure he's willing to give it away so easily.”
The fans laugh. Another fan asks if they are going to celebrate.
“Of course, Yoseobie is going to treat us right?” Kikwang looks at Yoseob, putting a bit of aegyo into his request.
“If anyone is deserving of a treat from Yoseob, shouldn't it be his producer?”
Screams answer the question as everyone’s focus turn to Junhyung, who walks out from backstage, mask taken off from when he identified himself to the staff at the venue.
Yoseob looks stunned for a few seconds, before asking. “What are you doing here?”
Junhyung shrugs. “I happened to be passing by and thought I'd come over to see how things were going.”
“Awww, Yong Junhyung actually cares.” Doojoon says mischievously. “But what I think is, shouldn't the one with the highest income give a treat?”
Kikwang nods his head repeatedly, both of them grinning at Junhyung while Yoseob still looks a little surprised by Junhyung’s appearance. Doojoon signals to the audience to cheer, and everyone bar Yoseob and Junhyung starts chanting for Junhyung to give a treat.
Junhyung lifts a hand to signal everyone to stop, and everyone does so immediately.
“Ok, I'll pay for today. Yoseob can give me a treat separately another time.”
Everyone applauds and cheers while Yoseob just raises an eyebrow at Junhyung, who raises an eyebrow in return.
On the way to dinner, Yoseob walks next to Junhyung. “You didn't tell me you were coming.”
“I told you, I happened to pass by.”
“Hmm.” Yoseob hums.
“Yoon Doo and Kikwangie didn't inform you in advance either right? So it's not like I needed to either.”
“I really didn't plan this.”
“Didn't say you did.” Yoseob says, eyes twinkling in amusement. “By the way, about that dinner treat, were you serious about it?”
“Of course. I'm the one most deserving of a treat right?”
“I can't disagree with that, unfortunately.”
“You sound reluctant.”
“No, it's not that. I just thought you were joking about it, since it sounded like you wanted me to give you a treat without anyone else joining?”
“It's not like dumb and dumber,” Junhyung signals at Doojoon and Kikwang who were far ahead of them, “contributed anything to this, other than randomly turning up at your event and signing on CDs they did not even partake in. They're already getting a free meal from me for doing practically nothing.”
“Hmm, you do have a point.” Yoseob chuckles. “So just you… and me?”
Junhyung nods as Doojoon shouts at them to hurry up because he's starving.
It's only hours later when Junhyung’s at home that he realises he just volunteered to spend time alone with Yoseob, outside of work obligations.
“Hyung-nim, what have I gotten myself into?”
Hyung-nim just stares at him judgingly.
Junhyung startles awake from his slumber when the car door opens, his vision still blurry as he tries to get a hold of his bearings.
“Sorry, it's just me, you can go back to sleep.”
Turning to the voice of the person who just got into the seat behind him, the one in the opposite corner and furthest from where he sat, Junhyung furrows his eyebrows in confusion.
“What are you doing in here?”
“Oh, sorry, I thought your manager told you.” Yoseob replies sheepishly. “My manager is sick so he asked yours to pick me up on the way to the venue. Is that ok with you?”
“Ah, I see.” Junhyung nods slowly as he recalls his own manager saying something to him when he got into the car, but clearly not having registered a single word before he dozed off. “We're going for the same schedule anyway.”
“Ah ok, thank you.” Yoseob replies, still a little unused to Junhyung actually being fairly nice to him in recent weeks since they started working together. “I'll wake you up when we arrive. Sorry to wake you up just now.”
“Why do you keep saying sorry?” Junhyung asks, confused. “Nothing to apologise about. You should get some rest too.”
Yoseob nods, and pulls out his earphones while Junhyung goes back to his nap as the car starts moving again.
Junhyung’s not sure how long he slept before he heard soft singing from the back. He’s not sure if Yoseob realises he's singing, but decides to keep quiet about it. Instead, Junhyung continues to keep his eyes close, listening to the other.
After spending hours together, Junhyung's become accustomed to hearing the other’s singing voice in his head even when they're not together, but hearing the real thing was still different. He’s not sure what song Yoseob is singing, but it has a calming effect, something he needed with the strange bout of nerves he's been feeling since the night before.
It's the second week of promotions, and he's checked out the charts to know that there's a possibility of the song being nominated for first place on this week’s music shows. Junhyung finds it somewhat hilarious that he's more nervous about this than when he releases songs on his own.
When they reached the venue, Junhyung goes into auto-pilot. They go through rehearsals and by then, Junhyung feels more confident than nervous. They're not doing pre-recordings this week, instead performing on the live shows. He finds himself glancing at Yoseob to make sure there was no impending meltdown from the other, but Yoseob was awfully calm about it all too.
“You seem a lot more confident this week.” Junhyung remarks as they wait for their turn to perform.
“You’re here.” Yoseob smiles. “I figured that if I make a mistake, your presence will be enough to distract everyone.”
“I think this is the first time I hear that you're actually glad to be in the same vicinity as me.” Junhyung comments. “You’ll be fine anyway. Just pretend it's a musical.”
“You said before that performing in musicals and on music shows are very different.”
“Geez, why is your memory so good about such things?”
Yoseob laughs. “It's fun reminding you of the nasty things you said to me.”
“Are you trying to guilt-trip me?” Junhyung narrows his eyes in mock suspicion.
“Oops, you've got me.” Yoseob grins. A staff signals for him to go on stage. “See you.”
The performance goes without any hiccups. There's one or two more performances after them before it's the end of the show and the results of the winner were to be announced. Junhyung stands behind Yoseob at first, but the latter reaches behind him to tug Junhyung forward so that they’re standing side by side instead. He doesn't let go of Junhyung’s hand.
Yoseob doesn't win.
Junhyung can't help but feel disappointed, yet he tries to put on a smile to congratulate the girl group who won instead. With his status, showing a scowl on his face was sure to make headlines, even if this wasn't his award to win. Yoseob seems to be doing a great job at maintaining his smile, congratulating the winner and bowing at everyone as they make their way off stage. His smile even looks genuine.
How ironic, Junhyung thinks. The one he used to think was all fake smiles and fake persona turns out to be a lot more genuine than himself. He drops his smile once the two of them made it to their dressing room, door closing shut.
“Are you pouting?” Yoseob asks.
“Aren't you upset about not winning?” A little irritated that he seems to be the only one feeling disappointed.
Yoseob raises an eyebrow. “Not really? I meant what I said in the interview, that just being nominated is already an honour.”
“But it's a great song, and I thought it's also selling pretty well.” Junhyung frowns. “It feels like you didn't win only because you're not popular yet, which isn't really fair to you?”
Yoseob's eyes soften. “It’s ok, really. That's how the business works, I already know that so I wasn't expecting to win.”
“But I told you that we would collect the trophy this week.”
“As great as you are, you're not God, so I wasn't expecting you to make miracles, alright?” Yoseob chuckles, patting Junhyung on the cheek lightly. “Now stop being grumpy, or people are going to write articles about you being a sore loser, when you're not even the one who lost anything.”
“I'm the songwriter and producer and also feature in the song, so it does feel like I lost too.” Junhyung sighs.
“Junhyung, just being able to do this, I’m already satisfied.” Yoseob says. “And it's all thanks to you. Trophies, if any, are just added bonus. Now, cheer up!”
Junhyung takes a deep breath, then nods in agreement. He supposes he's become too used to winning at least one or two trophies that he’s come to expect winning even in this situation.
“Aren't you going to sing and dance to ‘Cheer Up’ if you want me to cheer up?”
“Haha.” Yoseob mock laughs. “And give you blackmail material?”
Junhyung shrugs, smiling. “Thought I’ll try.”
When Junhyung enters the BBQ restaurant after coming over from a work discussion with good friend slash co-producer Taejoo, he's immediately brought to a private room at the back. He’s met with the sight of Yoseob grilling the meat while Kikwang and Doojoon eats. Or more specifically, while Doojoon gobbles down food like no tomorrow.
“Yah, couldn't you have waited for me?”
“Oh Junhyungie, you're finally here.” Kikwang greets.
Yoseob nods in greeting, which Junhyung returns. He signals for Yoseob to hand over the utensils and takes over the grilling after settling into his seat next to Kikwang and opposite Yoseob.
Doojoon, who finally took a break from eating, replies belatedly. “Grilled meat tastes best when eaten immediately. Plus we weren't sure you would turn up.” He points at Yoseob with his thumb.
“Eh, didn't I already eat with you guys last week?”
“Well, it was only meant to be Yoseobie, Doojoonie and me. You came uninvited.”
“So you made me pay because I invited myself along?” Junhyung retorts. “Excuses. And we don't fight that much anymore.” He looks at Yoseob. “Right?”
“Yong PD’s word is the law when it comes to work.” Yoseob states solemnly. “There's no room for argument.”
Junhyung shows Yoseob a thumbs up with his free hand. “See, you’ve learnt well.” He puts a few slices of grilled meat onto Yoseob’s plate. “Your reward.”
“Junhyung, sarang.” Doojoon says, as his chopsticks move to reach for a slice, but Junhyung is quick to shove his chopsticks away. He quickly grabs the remaining slices for himself before Doojoon could attempt again.
“Junhyungie, what about me?” Kikwang asks. “I'm your best friend.”
Junhyung sacrifices a few slices for Kikwang. “I'm only sharing because I think Yoon Doo ate most of the ones grilled earlier.”
“Petty.” Doojoon grumbles as he starts to cook the meat by himself.
“Thank you~” Kikwang cheers. “So does that mean you two are friends now and we can have more meals together?”
“You could say we reached an amicable agreement.” Yoseob replies as he takes a drink.
Doojoon snickers. “If you ask me, the decade full of fighting was your strange way of flirting with each other.”
Yoseob chokes on his drink and quickly covers his mouth before he spits out anything. Doojoon just hits him on the back lightly to calm him down while Kikwang laughs, as Junhyung glares at his best friends.
“What the fuck? No one asked you for your stupid opinion.” Junhyung shoots back. “How was all our fighting considered flirting? Flirting is what Kikwang and Gayoon have been doing, not us.”
“Hey, there's nothing going on between me and Gayoon.” Kikwang protests.
“Only because Gayoon isn't interested.” Yoseob says, after he’s already calmed down. “And Doojoon, you have a strange definition of flirting. No wonder you're still single despite being the nation’s boyfriend.”
“I'm single because I choose to be.” Doojoon argues. “And don't think I didn't watch the broadcast. The two of you were holding hands as the results were announced.”
“We were? Well, it's a probably instinctive when I am anxious.” Yoseob explains. “I didn't know anyone else there so it's not like I could cling to other people.”
“Few weeks ago you two still hated the sight of each other. Now you're sticking to each other like glue. It's an extreme change!”
“We're all rather affectionate with each other though.” Kikwang points out.
“Lee Kikwang, you should be siding with me on this.” Doojoon complains.
Junhyung rolls his eyes. “Yah, Yang Yoseob, do you want to be promoted to be my best friend? There's a vacancy now since the idiot next to you just got his status removed.”
“I'll think about it.” Yoseob chuckles.
“You can't get rid of me so easily, Yong Jun.” Doojoon says as he shoves the new batch of cooked meat into his mouth with a bunch of lettuce.
“Let me know when you’ve decided.” Junhyung says to Yoseob.
“But when Yoseob becomes your boyfriend, the best friend position is available again so then I'll get it back.” Doojoon says after he's done chewing and swallowing.
Yoseob bites his lips to keep himself from smiling but Junhyung still spots the twinkle in his eye as they make eye contact, both reminded of their secret ‘one-week relationship’ not long ago.
“Can't Junhyungie just have one best friend, i.e. me?” Kikwang questions.
“Good idea.” Junhyung agrees.
“He’ll miss me too much.” Doojoon says confidently.
Junhyung just sighs loudly while Yoseob laughs heartily. It's infectious and Junhyung finds himself laughing along.
The topic is dropped when Doojoon is too busy stuffing himself with food, the conversation moving on easily to Kikwang filming Celebrity Bromance with Dongwoon, and Doojoon's upcoming appearances on food-related variety shows. Yoseob talks about taking a break after promotions are over and going on a holiday overseas. Junhyung, in the meantime, only has plans to write more songs.
“Don't you ever take a break?” Yoseob raises an eyebrow.
“I have too much free time and with no girlfriend now, naturally I just spend all my time in the studio.” Junhyung explains nonchalantly. “Don't recall the last time I went overseas for personal reasons.”
“Maybe you should go with Yoseobie.” Kikwang suggests.
The two of them immediately make a face at Kikwang’s suggestion.
“We’ll drive each other insane, no thank you.”
“But you two get along so well now.” Kikwang pouts. “I was right all along that you two would get along but you guys just refused to listen to me.”
“Don't worry, they’ll get there one day.” Doojoon says with a serious face. “The day will come when they will be stuck to each other all the time, you’ll never see one without the other.”
When Yoseob wins his first music show trophy, he immediately turns to give Junhyung a tight hug. It lasts longer than a few seconds and Junhyung almost thinks that Yoseob might cry when the latter pulls away, and gives a speech so calmly, one would think it wasn't the first time he won.
At the end, when Yoseob thanks Junhyung, he’s looking so grateful and his voice begins to shake a little, calm facade cracking. It prompts Junhyung to initiate the hug this time.
Honestly, Junhyung needs the hug too. He's feeling proud, happy, and also something familiar but which he's not sure he wants to think about. It's not the first time, getting this familiar warmth in his chest when he's with the other. It's not even as if they initiate a lot of skinship. On the contrary, Junhyung can count the number of times they've held hands or hugged on one hand. (Even including the drunken kiss on the cheek.)
Yet, as Yoseob starts shaking with tears in his hold, the realisation of winning finally hitting the other, another kind of realisation hits Junhyung.
Junhyung’s liked other people before, so he can recognise the signs. It's the first time the other party is of the same gender though, and even more confusing that it's Yoseob of all people. Doojoon may have been joking during dinner, but Junhyung is starting to wonder if he and Yoseob were indeed subconsciously flirting for the past nine years.
The music starts playing for the encore, and Yoseob pulls away from Junhyung, making sure to bow down to each of the other performers who pass by, while Junhyung just nods almost mechanically, years of practice letting himself function on auto-pilot on days he's too tired to think. In this case, his mind is too busy thinking about what he should do with his feelings.
Junhyung's broken out of his reverie when Yoseob turns his back to him and asks him to climb onto his back.
“I promised to piggyback you if I won today. Don't ask me what I was thinking. I wasn't.” Yoseob explains, then gestures at Junhyung to hurry up.
The fans scream at the top of their lungs as Yoseob carries Junhyung, the latter half worried that he might be too heavy for Yoseob, and half enjoying being carried. He even manages to rap his part before Yoseob is letting him back down onto the floor.
Immediately, Junhyung hugs Yoseob from the back, pulling the shorter against his chest with an arm around his waist. Yoseob seems to tense for a couple of seconds, taken aback by Junhyung’s affection before he relaxes into the latter’s hold. The back hug leads to even louder screams from the fans who have taken it as fan service.
As the two of them walk off stage, Yoseob leans forward a bit to speak into Junhyung’s ear over the noise.
“Can we take a selca with the trophy? I want to post on SNS, if you don't mind.”
Junhyung nods, trying to appear as nonchalant about it as possible. Sure, he's discovered his feelings for the other, but that didn't mean he should start acting like a lovesick teenage girl, especially not with so many prying eyes around. His carefully built public persona still needs to be maintained after all.
They follow each other on Instagram before Yoseob posts the picture, not forgetting to tag him. There's a long thank-you speech written in the post but Junhyung pretty much liked the post in one second before he could even read the text. He even leaves a comment.
naegastarya I told ya.
Yoseob scoffs next to him. “Yes, I should have never doubted your ability to make miracles happen.”
Junhyung smirks, before going back to type another comment.
naegastarya Thank you for singing my song so well.
Yoseob doesn't reply but Junhyung gets a ‘like’ for both his comments.
A hand taps Junhyung and Kikwang lightly on the back, before Dongwoon takes the remaining seat at the round table.
“Help yourself.” Junhyung signals to the cola cans on the table. “I heard you have a flight tomorrow, so no alcohol today.”
“Aww, I thought Junhyungie-hyung has forgotten all about me but you still care.” Dongwoon grins before quickly ordering two portions of naengmyeon and letting the older two pick the other dishes. After their order gets taken, Dongwoon goes back to their conversation. “But hyung, too much cola isn't exactly good either. There's even an article not long ago that it might affect our sperm count.”
Junhyung chuckles. He recalls Yoseob saying the exact same thing when the latter noticed how Junhyung's mini refrigerator at the studio was mainly stocked with cans of cola. Although the other also didn't miss the opportunity to sarcastically add that maybe it is to Junhyung’s advantage, so that there was a lower chance of him accidentally impregnating his girlfriends. In response, Junhyung had teasingly pointed out that Yoseob seemed very interested in Junhyung‘s sexual life and specifically his penis. Despite a slight redness to his cheeks, Yoseob had maintained his composure and calmly suggested Junhyung visit the doctor to get his penis checked.
“Penny for your thoughts.” Kikwang says, breaking Junhyung out of his reverie. “Looks like a funny memory you were recalling. Share the joke.”
“Just remembered how someone had said the same thing as you about the bad effects of drinking too much cola.” Junhyung explains.
Junhyung freezes. Could Dongwoon read him so easily? “Ah, yeah. How did you know?”
“Well you two spent the most time together recently because of Yoseob-hyung’s debut, so I guessed it was him.” Dongwoon shrugs. “I've always wondered why the two of you weren't good friends earlier.”
“Because he was stubborn and dumb, and slow to realise the error in his ways.” Kikwang explains on Junhyung’s behalf.
“Yah, who are you calling slow?” Junhyung glares at Kikwang. “And why do you always make it sound like I'm the only one at fault?”
“Because you are?” Kikwang rolls his eyes. “Yoseobie reacted negatively because you were antagonistic towards him only. Can't blame him for getting mad at you.”
“You side him every time.” Junhyung complains. “Dongwoon-ah, tell your other hyung not to be so biased.”
“Hmm, I'm not sure of the details so, no comment.” Dongwoon says instead.
“Aish.” Junhyung grumbles as he opens a new can of cola.
“Yoseobie’s cute and likeable. If we had all debuted in a group, he would have been the most popular member.” Kikwang states.
“He'll look like the maknae instead of me.” Dongwoon pouts.
Kikwang pats Dongwoon on the head. “Don't worry, Dongni. You're cute too.”
“You act like their mum.” Junhyung remarks. “Or grandmother.”
“Are you disagreeing and saying I'm not cute, hyung?”
Junhyung scrunches his face in disgust at Dongwoon’s attempt at aegyo while Kikwang just laughs at their antics.
“But hyung, if you really have to choose between Yoseob-hyung and me, who do you think is cuter?”
“You, of course.”
Kikwang and Junhyung replies simultaneously. Junhyung thinks he needs a better brain-to-mouth filter. Kikwang turns to Junhyung, eyebrows raised.
“What?” Junhyung asks, trying to act as nonchalant as possible. “Yoseobie is small, Dongwoonie is tall. I would use the word ‘handsome’ for our dongsaeng instead of the word ‘cute’.”
“Uh-huh.” Kikwang nods, unconvinced expression written all over his face.
“I do prefer being called handsome.” Dongwoon says.
“See.” Junhyung points at Dongwoon just as the food gets served. He's grateful for the interruption, and hopes Kikwang will forget the conversation and never bring it up again.
Except Kikwang's forgetfulness doesn't seem to apply in this situation, when he brings up the topic again after Dongwoon left first to finish packing for his flight the next morning.
“So, you think Yoseobie’s cute, eh?”
“I think you're cute too.” Junhyung says quickly.
“Hm, ok.” Kikwang says, appearing to have decided to drop the topic, for now. “By the way, Doojoonie is having a fan meeting tomorrow. Want to crash the party?”
“Oh, why didn't he tell me about it?”
“Probably because of the trot song.”
“Precisely. He's supposed to perform it at the fan meet. Tsk.” Junhyung shakes his head in mock disappointment. “Just let me know the place and time. I'll be there.”
“I wrote him a trot song. It’s called ‘Doojoon, doojoon’. But he doesn’t want to sing it.” Junhyung announces with a straight face, sunglasses hiding the twinkle in his eyes, but the words themselves don’t hide his teasing. Kikwang sits between them, grinning but not saying a word.
Doojoon sighs exasperatedly, lifting a hand up to try to stop his fans cheering for him to sing at least a bit of the trot song. He knew he should have been on high alert the moment Junhyung and Kikwang made a surprise appearance.
“Write me another song?” Doojoon asks Junhyung. “A non-trot one. You already know what music style I prefer.”
“I’m busy now.”
“You've just finished promotions that's why you have the time to come here without notice.” Doojoon points out.
“But that wasn't my comeback. I have to get back to writing songs for myself.”
“Yong Junhyung-sshi, your bias is showing.”
“You wrote a whole album of songs for Yoseobie, but wrote only one trot song for me, your long time best friend.”
Screams followed, as Doojoon sighs melodramatically to punctuate his statement.
“Well, even though you can sing, he does sing better than you.” Junhyung replies calmly and mentally claps himself on the back for maintaining his cool composure.
Doojoon shakes his head. “Fine, fine. I know I'm not your favourite anymore.”
“You were never my favourite.” Junhyung retorts, then puts an arm around Kikwang, pulling the latter closer to himself. “Kikwang is.”
“How coincidental. Kikwang’s my favourite too.”
“Stop, stop.” Kikwang raises both hands up, finally interrupting the other two instead of merely acting like a spectator. “I know I’m amazing, but please stop fighting over me.”
At this point, the screams are at an all time high with all the bromance references. The three continue to banter and Junhyung and Kikwang even join in for the games before the event ends.
Backstage, Doojoon asks if Junhyung is going to hang out at Kikwang’s house but Kikwang is quick to tell Doojoon that Junhyung can't join them.
“Uh, I am having an early dinner with Yoseob.” Junhyung scratches his head sheepishly. “He's giving me a treat before he flies off tonight.”
“You look nervous about it.” Doojoon smirks. “Is this a date?”
“No, it's not. Don't spout nonsense.”
“You are acting weird about it though.”
“I'm not acting weird about it.”
Kikwang cackles. “Junhyungie is having an early dinner with Yoseobie at the airport, and basically sending him off like a good boyfriend.”
“Yah, why do the two of you keep twisting everything?” Junhyung asks, annoyed. “He just owes me a meal and I might not be free when he's back.”
“Ok, whatever you say.” Doojoon says with a smug look on his face that Junhyung really wants to slap, but Doojoon is quick to disappear, heading off to take a shower.
With Kikwang and Junhyung left alone, Kikwang suddenly turns serious. “Look, I’m happy that you two are getting along now. Don't get me wrong.”
Junhyung frowns. “There's a ‘but’ somewhere.”
“You seem… curious.” Kikwang hesitates. “Not sure if that's the best word to describe, but I think you know what I'm talking about.”
Junhyung hates it when Kikwang is trying to be all cryptic with words (so it's a good thing Kikwang very rarely does this), but he does have an inkling as to what Kikwang might be hinting at. His friend can be perceptive at times, and knowing each other for so long makes them scarily aware of what the other might be thinking, even when nothing is being said.
“It might not be curiosity.” Junhyung says. “I’m still figuring things out.”
“Ok, as long as no one gets hurt.”
“Oh please, I won't ever have a son like you.”
“I think this is the first time I’m at the airport without any crowd.” Junhyung remarks as he takes a bite of his burger.
“Are you bragging?” Yoseob asks, without even looking up from his food.
“Just making an observation.” Junhyung replies, grinning at first, then pouting. “I still can't believe your dinner treat only amounts to this.”
“You were the one who insisted on having dinner today when the timing is tight.” Yoseob points out. “I'll treat you to chicken and beer when I'm back, then the summed total should be acceptable, eh?”
Junhyung snorts. “You aren't even offering to buy me something from Japan?”
“You go there often for your work anyway, what could you possibly need?”
“Buy me a Pokemon plushie or something.”
“Yeah. Make sure it's the official one from the store. I don't accept fake goods.”
“Yes, sir.” Yoseob salutes him mockingly.
Junhyung salutes back, making Yoseob laugh.
“Why are you flying off in the evening anyway? There's so many other flight timings to choose from.”
“Because real idols had an early morning flight today and I wanted to avoid being seen too.” Yoseob explains.
“Ah, yeah, Dongwoon mentioned he had a morning flight.”
“Anyway, I'm staying at a friend’s place and he’s picking me up from the airport, so it's not like I'm wasting one night’s worth of hotel accommodation.”
Junhyung nods, then hesitates, before finally giving in to his curiosity. “A boyfriend?”
Yoseob shakes his head. “Why? Jealous?”
“No, no, just curious.” Junhyung quickly replies, before changing the subject. “Hope you get a good rest. The big boss might schedule a comeback for you.”
“Hahaha.” Yoseob rolls his eyes. “It's a one-off thing. Don't expect too much.”
“You got good results though.”
“Hm, thanks to you.”
“Not only because of me.” Junhyung says. “A good song needs a good singer, not just a good producer.”
“Y’know, I’m still not used to hearing nice things from you.”
Junhyung sighs. “Do you prefer going back to being enemies again?”
“Nope. I like things much better now. Yanggaeng would be so lonely, otherwise.”
“So you're just using me for my dog.” Junhyung narrows his eyes.
“Well, that's just one of the benefits.” Yoseob grins. “You're also a huge softie now that I know you better. Look, you're even here having late afternoon tea slash dinner with me.”
“And all I got for my efforts was a fast food meal.”
“Ok, stop whining. I'll bring you out on a proper date when I return.”
Junhyung can't help but choke on his food at Yoseob's words. Yoseob quickly hands him his drink as he tries to calm himself down.
“Yah, I was joking. No need to choke yourself to death just because the idea of a date puts you off.”
Junhyung raises a hand as he downs his drink. When he can finally breathe properly again, he turns to Yoseob. “It's not that I hate the idea. I just wasn't expecting it, even if you were only joking. That's all.”
“So…” Yoseob stares at him. “You are fine with the idea of a date, with me?”
“Uh, yeah. It's like the Celebrity Bromance that Kikwang did right?”
“Without cameras. Not for a variety show. But an actual date.”
“Ha, isn't it funny? We were already boyfriends and broke up even without a date.” Junhyung laughs awkwardly. Yoseob merely raises his eyebrows questioningly, but doesn't give away anything else. “Ok that was just my stupid drunken idea back then. Never mind.”
Yoseob just continues to stare at Junhyung, thinking but not saying anything. It makes Junhyung fidgety and nervous. Finally, Yoseob breaks the awkward silence, pointing at the food.
“Finish up. I gotta go soon.”
“Ah ok.” Junhyung nods, avoiding eye contact with Yoseob as he finishes his food.
Later, Yoseob waves at him enthusiastically and promises to buy him lots of plushies, acting like there was nothing weird going on. Junhyung just waves back lamely, watching as Yoseob heads off to the immigration area.
He finds himself heading to the gym at night, to clear his thoughts and hopefully get a better sleep after. He even posts a quick Instagram story and picture.
When he wakes up near noon the next day and checks his phone, he sees that Yoseob has liked his picture. Junhyung can't help but breathe a sigh of relief, nor could he help that stupid smile on his face.
Junhyung learns that constantly refreshing one’s Instagram feed isn't going to miraculously load new posts from Yoseob, who seems to have disappeared from the face of the Earth since leaving for Japan five days ago.
It gets to a point where Junhyung is seriously considering writing a song about SNS. He taps at his keyboard furiously, writing random lyrics about his frustration with Instagram, except he can't even seem to get his thoughts to rhyme so that just makes him even more frustrated.
In the end, Junhyung decides to start spamming Instagram with a bunch of old pictures, playing around with various filters. When he was about to call it a day because it's already nearing 2 in the morning by the time he makes his last post, one of the comments catches his eye.
itzyys you must be bored without me.
It's funny how a simple comment like that from Yoseob gets him all giddy with excitement. Junhyung is glad that no one is around to see him smiling like an idiot as he hurries to reply to the comment.
naegastarya @itzyys I see that you have notifications turned on for my posts
itzyys @naegastarya really regretting it right now. stop spamming and go to sleep.
naegastarya @itzyys my fans aren't complaining though. and I can't sleep.
itzyys @naegastarya they're your fans, of course they like seeing your face.
naegastarya @itzyys I know you miss seeing my face too
itzyys @naegastarya whatever helps you to sleep better at night
naegastarya @itzyys thinking about you thinking about me helps me to sleep better at night…? not really…
itzyys @naegastarya count sheep
naegastarya @itzyys count yang? count you? why would there be more than one of you? the thought itself might give me nightmares.
itzyys @naegastarya contemplating blocking you
naegastarya @itzyys :(:(:(:(:(
djdjdj @naegastarya @itsyys are you two flirting on ig now?
acegttk @djdjdj @naegastarya @itzyys kekekekeke
acegttk @djdjdj @naegastarya @itzyys why is everyone still awake????
djdjdj @acegttk good that you got back home safely. thanks for the ride earlier.
acegttk @djdjdj I feel like a chauffeur
djdjdj @acegttk okok. I'll pay you for the gas.
naegastarya @djdjdj @acegttk are you two flirting on my ig right now? get out.
djdjdj @naegastarya you’re just being grumpy because @itzyys stopped replying
Junhyung’s about to respond when a notification pops up saying that Yoseob posted something, and he quickly clicks to see what it is. At first, he’s confused because all he sees is a black picture with a caption ”Good night, sleep well~”, then he realises it's a video. Or rather, an audio of Yoseob singing what he recognises as one of the songs from Kikwang’s recent album.
He ‘likes’ the post, then leaves the video on loop as he drifts off to sleep.
“Yah, why did you take so long to pick up?”
There's a loud sigh on the other end of the phone, before a groggy reply came through. “I just woke up.”
“Oh, it's already afternoon.” Junhyung comments dumbly. “You seem like the type to wake up early.”
“I usually do. But I just came back and am tired.” Junhyung hears a loud yawn. “Why are you calling anyway?”
“Oh, uh, erm, a huge box was just delivered to my studio. Your name’s there as the sender and apparently you sent it from Japan.” Junhyung pauses. “It's not a bomb right?”
There's silence for about thirty seconds.
“Yah, Yong Junhyung, did you seriously just call me to ask if I sent you a bomb from Japan?”
“Well I don't know what it is and I don't know if I should open it!”
“Do you hear any ticking sound?”
“No… But for all I know, the bomb only activates when I open it or something!”
“Open the box. Now.”
“No! You come over first and open it with me.”
“You’re being difficult.”
“I already posted a picture of the box and said that it came from you. So if I die from an exploding bomb all my fans will know you're the perpetrator.”
“Well it was nice knowing you. Goodbye.”
The line goes dead. Junhyung stares at his phone frowning. He glances at the big brown box again, hesitating. He knows he's being unnecessarily paranoid, and maybe a part of him was just finding an excuse to ask Yoseob to come over. Turning to his left, he stares at his pet.
“Hyung-nim, go sniff the box and see if there's anything dangerous.”
Hyung-nim just gives one look at the box and trudges away.
Junhyung’s phone buzzes, notifying him of a comment on his latest Instagram post, where he had asked his fans to guess what Yoseob had sent to him. Many fans guessed things like cola or Japanese comics, someone even guessing bags of rice. Yoseob just gave a one word reply - monsters.
Junhyung stares at the comment. Monsters?
He calls Yoseob again.
“What do you mean by monsters? Is that a code word for bomb?”
“Open the box, Junhyung.”
“Open it for me.”
“Ugh, if I knew you'd behave this way I wouldn't have bothered to ship it over. Heck I wouldn't even have bought so many.”
“So there's more than one.”
“Shall I call the bomb disposal team for you?” The sarcasm is clear in Yoseob’s voice.
Junhyung laughs awkwardly. “No, no need. I’ll open it now.”
Yoseob hangs up without a word. Junhyung takes a screenshot and decides he's going to complain about Yoseob's rudeness later. He then finally gets around to opening the box.
Pikachu is staring back at him.
Actually, not just one Pikachu. The box is filled with Pikachu in varying costumes, some even in pairs. He then recalls joking to Yoseob to get him Pokemon plushies from Japan but didn't think that the latter would have taken him seriously, much less buy him a box full of them.
Junhyung takes a few out, thinking of how best to display them so that he could take another picture.
Hyung-nim seems eager on biting them though.
“No! You can't!” He quickly moves to separate the toy from his dog, but Hyung-nim is persistent. In the end, Junhyung gives up and snaps a picture of the scene, as well as another of the contents of the box.
By the time he settles back down to post the pictures, Hyung-nim has gotten tired and let go of the toy, which was thankfully not badly damaged. Junhyung tags the Pikachu as Yoseob and Hyung-nim as himself, then captions it as Hyung-nim biting Pikachu because he likes the other a lot.
It's a confession, sort of.
Junhyung spends the next few hours being unproductive as he waits for Yoseob to leave a comment or just give his post a like. He spies Hyung-nim lying listlessly on the floor, looking forlornly at Pikachu, and laughs.
“Hyung-nim, you like him too? You miss him too?”
There's little reaction from his dog as usual, so Junhyung just snaps a picture and posts it, tagging the same way as he did in his earlier post, captioned with a sad face.
An hour later, Junhyung watches an uncaptioned video on Instagram of Yanggaeng pawing at a wrapped copy of his own debut mini album, Yoseob singing lightly to his song the backing track to the video.
Junhyung can't stop watching the video.
“Hey, I like you.”
The moment Yoseob picks up his call, Junhyung immediately blurts out the first thing on his mind. It's already been a day since the video and Junhyung thinks that he might explode from too much feels if he doesn't say something.
“I know. I saw your post.”
“No, no, I'm serious. I mean, I like you as more than a friend.” Junhyung feels even more nervous now. It's not like he is expecting Yoseob to actually say ‘yes’ but the thought of impending rejection still makes him anxious.
“Is that all? I'm in the middle of eating.”
“Wait, wait. So that's all you're going to say?” Junhyung feels confused. He wishes he didn't do this over a phone call because he can't tell if Yoseob is really as feeling as bored as he sounds, and the thought is disturbing.
“Well the way I see it… You hated for me years, then now you do a hundred-eighty. You might do another hundred-eighty and go back to hating me.”
“What? No, it's not like that.” Junhyung can see why the other might think that way, but he doesn't think he’ll hate Yoseob again. He's not even sure why he talked himself into disliking the other for so many years while no one else has affected him in the same way. “You've always been special.”
“Like if you think about it, who else can trigger such intense hatred in me for that many years? No one else but you. I probably have been hating you and loving you all this time without realising.”
There's a long unbearable silence as Junhyung waits for Yoseob's reply. Why the heck does Yoseob keep making him wait in suspense like that? First the CD, now this. He's almost about to complain when Yoseob finally breaks the silence.
“Did you realise you said you probably love me?”
Junhyung blinks as he tries to recall what he said. Love is a bit too fast, he supposes. He likes Yoseob, more than a friend, definitely. But yeah, he could probably love Yoseob.
“High probability that I do.” He says.
A very high probability if going by how he's been stupidly charmed by Yoseob’s anything and everything these days. He's never been that enamoured with any of his previous girlfriends, at least not to this extent.
“I think you're crazy.”
“Are you trying to bait me into saying something cheesy like ‘I’m crazily in love with you’?”
“Do you even remember that I’m a guy?”
“Of course I know that.” Junhyung almost rolls his eyes at Yoseob's obvious comment, but he can understand where the skepticism is coming from. “Now that I think about it, I actually always thought you were cute even when it infuriated me back then.”
“You think I'm cute and I trigger intense feelings within you so you decided to hate me for almost a decade, but have suddenly reached enlightenment and decided that you like me, and probably love me.”
“Sounds like a romantic comedy when you put it this way.” Junhyung says.
“I was just summarising what you've basically told me.” Yoseob deadpans.
“So, do you like me too?”
“I hate you.”
“Even until now?”
“I hate you so much that I bought a box full of expensive stuffed toys, had it shipped direct from Japan to your doorstep.”
“I hate you so much that I still keep all your stupid albums since your debut, though alright they're all free from the company, but I could have sold them and earn some profits since they're signed copies. I even have to hide them so that Kikwangie and Doojoonie don't find out that I have them.
I hate you so much because you're a jerk towards me and it pisses me off that you look so hot when irritated with me, and that just makes me want to irritate you even more.
I hate you so much that I still played along as your one-week boyfriend, just so that I could call you my boyfriend, even though you just wanted to break up with me.
I hate you so much because you wrote a bunch of tracks for me after behaving like the ultimate asshole, and I hate that I still listen to those versions because you sang them for me.
So no, I don't like you. I hate you. I probably have been hating you and loving you all this time because apparently I'm a masochistic idiot.”
Junhyung feels like yelling. He wants to kiss Yoseob after hearing all that, but they're stupidly doing this over a phone call and he knows there's going to be so many problems if this ever gets out.
“Wow.” Is all Junhyung stupidly says instead.
There's a loud exasperated sigh from Yoseob, and he can even imagine the cute look of frustration the other is probably sporting, due to Junhyung’s lack of an eloquent response.
“My dinner is cold now.” Yoseob grumbles.
“I haven't had dinner. Let's eat together. Go out with me. Today and tomorrow and all the days after.”
“This won't be easy.”
“Not like we ever do things the easy way.” Junhyung sighs. He knows that dating Yoseob will have to be kept a secret, that it's a lot different from all his past relationships. He may not know it as well as Yoseob since this is new territory for him, but he does know it could be career threatening. Sure, society is a lot more open-minded now, but it's still unheard of for a K-POP artist to come out of a closet. Yet, Junhyung has already wasted nine years because of stupidity and he really doesn't want to waste another day more. “I know the risks but, well I still want to do this.”
“Fine.” Yoseob replies in a tone as if he's not given a choice. “If this doesn't work out-”
“We’ll find a way to work it out.”
Yoseob scoffs. “Pretending to be all confident when you're just really an awkward idiot. That's why I hate you."
“I love you too.”
Yoseob hangs up. Junhyung laughs happily as he redials.