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.
there’s this irritating itch in jihoon’s chest telling him to go to hyeongseop’s (and woojin’s) door to talk to him (grovel for his forgiveness) over something he may or may not have done (upset hyeongseop) (which he’s actually pretty sure he did, he just doesn’t want to admit it, it’s not good for his pride).
he manages to ignore the growing guilt for a grand total of two days before he throws his blankets off and pulls his phone out to ask woojin for hyeongseop’s number (what the hell, he doesn’t even have it) when he realises that woojin would ask him what he needed it for and he knows he wouldn’t be able to stand lying to woojin, so instead he stomps over frustratedly to his closet to change.
he passes by the quaint café on the way and comes out holding a small, crinkly brown paper bag filled with meringues clutched in sweater-covered hands. by the time he arrives at his best friend’s dorm, his hands are clammy, shaking, his chest feeling just a little bit too tight – why, he doesn’t know. doesn’t want to know.
the door swings open on the fourth knock, and jihoon lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. the door parts to reveal woojin, eyes squinting at him, hair sticking up in random places. his heart falls in his chest at the sight of woojin, disappointed. he’s too confused and frustrated and decides that he’ll think about it once he’s done with the problem in hand.
“hi,” jihoon breathes, eyes darting to the inside of the dorm. “woojin, hey.”
“ji?” woojin’s brows furrow. “you didn’t tell me you were coming over.”
“yeah, sorry, it was a bit unplanned,” jihoon says, smiling sheepishly, stomach flipping when woojin gives him a small chuckle. “is, uh – is hyeongseop there?”
woojin frowns. “hyeongseop’s in class right now. i don’t think he’ll be back anytime soon, though.”
“oh,” jihoon say. oh.
“why? did you need something from him?”
jihoon chews the insides of his cheeks – he’d wanted to apologise in person, but he guesses woojin will have to do. “can you give this to him for me?” the bag shakes as jihoon hands it over to woojin. “tell him it’s from me. thanks, woojin-ah.”
woojin shrugs, grinning. “anything for you, ji,” he says, and jihoon wants to bang his head on the door. “by the way, daniel hyung invited me to a party this friday and i was wondering if you wanted to come with hyeongseop and i?”
when jihoon tilts his head to the side and doesn’t reply, woojin says, “i mean, only if you wanted to go, and if not then it’s totally fine, i understand if you’re busy – ”
jihoon laughs, rolling his eyes. “yah, it’s fine, woojin, why are you so nervous, i was just thinking if i had something up for friday.”
woojin pouts. “so? do you?”
“i do now,” he says, and they grin. jihoon thinks, what can go wrong?
everything, jihoon thinks when he sees woojin and hyeongseop waiting for him right outside daniel’s place. everything can go wrong. woojin looks unbearably good in loose shirts and ripped jeans, and hyeongseop’s hair is styled, framing his face nicely (too nicely), and jihoon sort of wants to speedwalk back to his dorm and text them he’s sick, but hyeongseop’s already waving at him, so he drags his feet over to where they’re standing, and oh my god woojin smells good.
“hey.” woojin grins at him, snaggletooth and all, and jihoon almost melts.
“hi,” hyeongseop greets. he’s smiling at jihoon, all dressed up and pretty, and jihoon wants to bury himself, but hey – hyeongseop’s smiling at him, and he seems to have forgiven jihoon, so jihoon breathes and smiles back. “woah, you look really good, jihoon-ah.”
“thanks,” jihoon says, cheeks flushing. “you two look good, too.”
“only ‘good?’ you wound me,” woojin says, sniffing. jihoon punches his shoulder and hyeongseop giggles.
“well, should we go in?”
he manages to find daniel by the drinks table with his eyes crinkled as he laughs loudly at something someone said. he beams when he sees jihoon, greeting him warmly.
“jihoon, i missed you!” daniel says loudly, ruffling jihoon’s hair. “i don’t get to see you around as much as before.”
jihoon shrugs, laughing along. “college does that to people, i guess,” he says, drinking from his cup. daniel snorts.
“woojin talks about you a lot at dance practice, y’know,” daniel says, winking. jihoon’s heart sort of soars. “he mentions you a lot. hyeongseoppie, too.” daniel stops for a moment, head tilting to the side, eyes filled with curiosity as he looks at jihoon. “hm.”
jihoon doesn’t know what to make of that, so he excuses himself, holding the drinks he got for him and hyeongseop and goes back to where he left the other two. there, he finds hyeongseop watching woojin move on the dance floor, and jihoon finds himself smiling widely.
idiot, he thinks.
“here you go,” he says, handing a cup to hyeongseop and holding woojin’s in another before he snorts at his best friend. “he hasn’t even drunk anything yet,” he says. hyeongseop only laughs again.
“should you even be surprised?”
it’s jihoon’s turn to laugh now. “of course not.” he watches as hyeongseop turns his eyes back on woojin’s little battle against ong seongwoo. his eyes scan hyeongseop, from his dark, twinkling eyes to the dainty slope of his nose and falling to the pink of his lips. there’s a sudden urge to kiss him, and jihoon feels his cheeks burn under the dim lights just as hyeongseop turns his attention back to him.
“you’re all pink,” hyeongseop teases, soft and amused, “did you drink that much already?”
jihoon’s cheeks get hotter as he tears his eyes away from the other boy’s lips. “niel hyung has pretty strong stuff,” he lies, training his eyes on woojin (news flash: it doesn’t help). hyeongseop giggles, airy and delicate, but before he could say anything else, there’s someone calling his name. he mutters an i’ll be back to jihoon before he goes.
jihoon downs his cup, the drink burning in his throat. at least he can blame the alcohol now.
he doesn’t see hyeongseop for the next few hours or so, but woojin comes up to him, giddy and loud, and jihoon only rolls his eyes at his best friend.
“yah, don’t get too drunk,” he scolds, “one of us needs to know the way home later.”
woojin sticks a tongue out at him childishly. “i know, ji, we can’t all be dumb,” he says, and narrowly misses jihoon’s fist. “where’s seoppie?”
jihoon knits his brows together. “i don’t know, someone called him over earlier and i haven’t seen him since.”
woojin hums. “i’ll go look for him. tell me if you see him, yeah? i – ” woojin hesitates for a moment. “i need to talk to him.”
the bitter taste is back in jihoon’s tongue for some reason. he swallows it back down with alcohol. “yeah. actually, i’ll go find him now.”
he turns his back and doesn’t wait to hear whatever woojin says next. he’s marching upstairs, where daniel said the bathroom was. he suddenly feels like throwing up everything he drank (not that much, actually, but still enough to make him sick and dizzy – or was it really the alcohol?).
it takes him some tries, but soon he’s opening the door to see white tiles and a tub and –
“oh,” jihoon says when he sees hyeongseop sitting in said tub, knees drawn up to his chest, chin resting on them, arms wrapped tightly around his legs. “hyeongseop?”
the other boy blinks at him, surprised. “jihoonie,” he greets, a smile forming on his face – forced, jihoon thinks, it looks forced. “hi.”
jihoon stands mutely in the doorway, staring at hyeongseop in the tub. he looks a bit dishevelled, styled hair now falling over his eyes in some places, and his jacket was draped over one side of the tub. it’s a strange silence that falls over them as they stare – him at hyeongseop, hyeongseop at his socks.
“mind if i join you?” jihoon blurts out. hyeongseop snaps his head up to him, surprised.
“yeah,” he says, smiling. he shrugs. “go ahead.”
jihoon closes the door behind him and kicks his shoes off before he climbs into the tub, settling across hyeongseop. their legs knock against each other when he sits so hyeongseop pulls them toward him, hugging them tighter. jihoon thinks they probably look ridiculous, but he can’t really focus on anything else when hyeongseop’s looking at him with undecipherable eyes.
“what’s up,” hyeongseop says, still staring.
jihoon shrugs, puckering his lips. “not much. i was gonna throw up but i found you here, so.”
“are you gonna throw up on me?” hyeongseop asks, eyes wide with exaggerated horror. jihoon and makes a gargled noise, and hyeongseop whines, hitting him with his discarded jacket. he grins as hyeongseop giggles uncontrollably.
“woojin was looking for you,” jihoon tells him after they calm down, and hyeongseop presses his mouth into a straight line. “uh, did something happen?”
hyeongseop bites his lip, eyes darting once again to his feet. he shakes his head, and jihoon doesn’t really believe him, but he mumbles an okay anyway.
“thank you,” hyeongseop says suddenly. jihoon looks at him questioningly. “for the meringues the other day. i, uh – you really didn’t need to.”
jihoon blushes, embarassed. “i had to, i felt like i upset you by being an asshole. i’m sorry for that, by the way.”
“it’s really nothing.” hyeongseop’s voice has lowered into a soft whisper. “although, i did feel like you hated me at first.” and then he looks up at jihoon, eyes a bit too shiny – “do you hate me?”
jihoon blinks dumbly at him. “are you drunk?”
the boy’s brows furrow frustratedly, and jihoon’s surprised to see him glaring at him upsetly. “no,” hyeongseop whispers. “do you hate me?”
“seoppie,” jihoon says slowly, the nickname coming out of nowhere. “i don’t hate you.” and then the small amount of alcohol must have given him a burst of confidence, because he then says, “i like you. a lot. yeah.”
hyeongseop’s eyes narrow at him, and he bursts into a forced, strained laugh. “jihoon-ah, i think you’re drunk.”
and, yeah, maybe he is, but he could care less when hyeongseop wasn’t looking so mussed up and pretty. his eyes fall to hyeongseop’s lips, soft-looking and red from all of hyeongseop’s biting, and he sees the other boy flush a deep pink.
suddenly hyeongseop’s standing up, pulling his jacket on and saying, “i think we should go home, jihoon,” as he reaches for his shoes.
jihoon frowns, a little bit put off, but he nods and lets hyeongseop walk out first before he gets up to follow.
when he finds hyeongseop holding woojin’s arm and avoiding his gaze, neither of them say anything about what happened. hyeongseop smiles, jihoon laughs, and woojin’s hand slips into his.
(his heart still jumps at woojin’s touch, but for some reason he still can’t help but worry about hyeongseop.)