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two is company, three is a crowd (but not if it’s with you)

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park jihoon is six and a chubby young boy with red cheeks at school when he meets park woojin, a tan boy with a rough accent and a snaggletooth when he smiles. he’s just transferred from busan, and the teacher telling everyone to be nice to him, and when everyone is finished drawling their yes, teachers, she tells him to go sit beside jihoon.

“hi,” jihoon greets, “i’m park jihoon.”

“i’m park woojin,” the other boy introduces, and he takes jihoon’s outstretched hand, shaking it a bit awkwardly.

“do you want to be friends?”

woojin nods shyly, and jihoon beams.

“i hope we’ll be great friends!”

 

they are twelve when jihoon falls off a swing and woojin yells at the older boys who had pushed him off before he waddles back to his friend and carries him home on his back, determined and unwavering as he brings jihoon back home, back to safety, and jihoon decides that woojin is the best friend he could ever, ever have.

 

they are fifteen when jihoon starts noticing strange, strange things he never paid attention to before, like the way woojin fiddles with his hands when he’s nervous, and how he likes to show off his snaggletooth when he smiles, and how his eyes turn strikingly serious when he starts dancing.

they are fifteen when jihoon first starts to think of woojin as something more than his best friend.

 

“hyung,” daehwi whines, lips pouted and cheeks puffed up, eyebrows furrowed together as he sips at his boba tea, “i think i have a crush.”

“oh my god,” woojin says with a snort, and jihoon raises his eyebrows at his best friend, kicking him under the table.

“what’s wrong with that, though?” jihoon asks, because, really, what is there to be so distressed about in having a crush, other than the crush itself?

daehwi looks at him with desperate eyes, pointedly ignoring woojin. “i… i like jinyoung?” woojin gasps loudly, and jihoon kicks him again, gesturing for daehwi to continue. “and, i don’t know, hyung – he’s a boy, is it wrong for me to like another boy?”

jihoon furrows his brows, shaking his head. “i don’t think there’s anything wrong with boys liking other boys.”

“… do you and woojin-hyung like each other?” daehwi later asks, and jihoon’s eyes go wide as woojin chokes.

“no, he’s gross,” jihoon vehemently denies, sneering at woojin, who rolls his eyes. “what even made you think that?”

“jihoon drools in his sleep,” woojin shoots back, “imagine kissing that mouth – yuck.” he shudders for effect, jihoon punches his shoulder, and daehwi giggles at his hyungs.

he hopes woojin doesn’t notice the way he avoids his eyes as he talks to daehwi, or the faint flush in his cheeks.

 

jihoon and woojin are inseparable. they are nineteen and moving into their dorms for uni and, sure, jihoon is pretty disappointed they aren’t rooming together, but they’ve been friends for more than ten years¸ and he knows that no matter where they were or who they met, or how much they tried to strangle each other, they’d never leave each other behind. they’re practically glued together, and they’re never apart aside from when they’re in their separate classes and schedules, and even then they would find some way to be together. woojin had stuck with him despite having friends from his dance team, and jihoon always chose woojin over the other kids who wanted to be his friend.

they’ve been through years of unbreakable friendship, grovelling through high school together, and jihoon really shouldn’t be scared of being left behind because he knew that, at the end of the day, they’re still each other’s best friends.

so why is he feeling a little too wary of woojin’s new roommate?

“jihoon!” woojin grins at him when he arrives at his dorm, pulling him along excitedly. “ah, wait, i wanna introduce you to hyeongseoppie, he’s really cute, you’ll like him a lot – ”

the alarm bells go off in jihoon’s head when he hears the nickname roll off woojin’s tongue so easily, because no matter how much of a hyperactive ball of energy he is, he is still park woojin who has an air of awkwardness around him during first meetings, and if he’s already this comfortable with this hyeongseoppie character after a few hours, then he must really like him, and that just really does not sit well with jihoon.

it doesn’t help that after a few minutes of being with them, it becomes apparent that they had clicked really well – so well, in fact, that the best friend of ten-plus years was the one who was starting to feel like an out-of-place stranger. how close could they have grown within, like, five hours, anyway?

and it wasn’t like he could hate ahn hyeongseop. the boy is cute, jihoon admits, all bright eyes and soft smiles, features bearing some sort of semblance to that one bunny from some recent animation. he grins at jihoon when woojin introduces them, and his hands are awfully warm and nice, and jihoon thinks his heart would flutter because of hyeongseop if it hadn’t already fallen for woojin.

“- hoon?” woojin snaps his fingers in jihoon’s face, pulling him back out of his reverie. “yah, earth to park jihoon. are we going for lunch or not?”

jihoon rolls his eyes, swatting woojin’s hand away. “of course we are. ah, hyeongseop, you’re coming with us, right?”

hyeongseop nods, “only if it’s fine with you!”

jihoon swallows the bitter taste in his mouth as he says, “why wouldn’t it be?”

hyeongseop beams at him, and jihoon almost cries.

 

jihoon learns three things about hyeongseop: he was born in 1999, the same age as him and woojin; he’s a writing major who also likes to dance; and he is sunshine poured into a human body, which makes him hard not to like.

he finds himself sitting across hyeongseop in the booth, woojin having gone to order their food, and it’s awfully quiet, with jihoon shifting in his seat and hyeongseop smiling as he speaks quietly on his phone.

“who was that?” jihoon asks curiously once hyeongseop puts his phone down. the latter blinks at him, surprised, and jihoon hurries to apologise. “ah, sorry, i shouldn’t pry – ”

“no, no, it’s fine,” hyeongseop says, shaking his head. “it was just my best friend, he was just checking up on me. he was probably worrying about me tripping over air, i do that sometimes.”

jihoon laughs lightly. “i can relate. woojin does dumb things sometimes, too.”

hyeongseop hums, smiling. “you two are really close.”

“yeah,” jihoon says, looking down at the table, “probably because we’ve known each other since we were kids.”

“oh?” hyeongseop’s head tips to the side curiously, “how long have you been together, then?”

jihoon blinks, eyes widening, and hyeongseop frowns, confused. “aren’t you dating?”

oh,” jihoon says dumbly, and both his and hyeongseop’s cheeks are blazing. “no, no, we’re – we’re just best friends, we aren’t – we aren’t dating.”

“i thought you were,” hyeongseop mutters, looking down embarassedly, “ah, you just seemed really in love, and he talked about you a lot earlier, too, and – i’m sorry for assuming, i thought you were a cute couple. ah, i’m sorry.”

if it wasn’t awkard before, then it definitely is now, and jihoon couldn’t be more thankful when woojin arrives with their food, completely oblivious to the other two’s silence.

 

they all get fairly busy when classes start, so jihoon hasn’t gotten any chance to hang out with woojin lately. the closest he gets is when they meet up to eat lunch together, usually at the same place they went to when they first met. especially when woojin brings hyeongseop along, which is more than fifty percent of the time.

not that he has anything against the food there – they have great burgers and a nice guy named taehyun who’s short and funny with his coworkers (they showed him a video of him coming in drunk and doing freestyle dance that’s better than anything jihoon’s ever done in his life).  he doesn’t have anything against hyeongseop, either – really, he’s a really sweet and funny guy and jihoon actually likes him – it’s just that he misses hanging out with his best friend, misses when they were jihoon and woojin and not jihoon and woojin and hyeongseop.

it’s not that he wants woojin all to himself – or maybe that’s exactly what he wants. he doesn’t want to admit it, but it hurt him to see how woojin’s attention was divided quite unfairly between him, the beloved childhood friend™, and hyeongseop, who they’d met, like, months ago. he wasn’t used to not being with woojin 24/7, and all… this wasn’t exactly helping him adjust. not at all.

jihoon had to admit, though not out loud, that it was adorable to see how sweet and whipped woojin was for hyeongseop. idly, he wondered if that was how they looked to other people when they were together.

 

jihoon curses under his breath as he feels the rain pelting at his face, running as quickly as he could without slipping, his bag hugged tightly to his chest. it wasn’t raining very hard, but it was unexpected, and god knows where jihoon left his umbrella again.

he ducks into the first shop he finds, and it’s just his luck that it happened to be the one he frequented.

“welcome to wanna coffee!”

it’s crowded, and there’s barely any seats left to take, but jihoon would rather sit beside some stranger to write his essay while waiting for the rain to stop than to take an impromptu shower in the streets and risk getting sick.

he takes his drink and scans the café, spotting an empty seat across a boy who’s typing furiously into his own laptop. it’s a perfect spot, near an outlet, so he plasters a sweet smile as he makes his way over, tapping the boy’s shoulder.

he’s barely even opened his mouth when he registers wide warm eyes and a soft mouth curling into a smile. “hyeongseop?”

“jihoon-ah!” the other boy greets, waving amiably at him. “oh, were you going to sit? go ahead, i don’t mind.”

“um,” jihoon says, “um, no, i asked haknyeon to bring my umbrella over since he was on the way to the library.” he doesn’t know why he’s suddenly changed his mind, but hyeongseop  ah’s, nodding understandingly as he watches jihoon fumble with his phone.

“here,” he says, reaching into his bag and handing a small, crinkly paper bag to jihoon. “minhyun hyung gave some to me for free, and i can’t really finish them all, so…”

“oh,” jihoon says, his mind completely blacked out. “i’m sorry, i – i’m on a diet.” it’s not a complete lie, but it’s not entirely true either, since he cheats on the diet anyway.

he doesn’t miss the flash of hurt in hyeongseop’s eyes as the barely younger boy slips it back into his back, and he feels like a total asshole now. “hey, i’m sorry, i didn’t mean to make you feel bad, i just – ”

“it’s alright,” hyeongseop tells him, smiling again, before he trains his eyes back on his screen. jihoon doesn't know what to say without making things even more awkward, so he just shifts restlessly as he waits for haknyeon, and when he bids hyeongseop goodbye, he only gets a quiet “bye, jihoon” in return.

the feelings hyeongseop’s unusual lethargy leaves brewing in his chest are almost as bad as those he gets when he misses woojin.