Yoo Youngjae is nineteen years old and he has never had a girlfriend.
This is largely due to the fact that he waited until he was seventeen to have a sexual identity crisis, and still more to the fact that he's been best friends with Jung Daehyun since he and his older sister Hana transferred into Youngjae's school when they were thirteen.
They were just kids, but Daehyun took one look and latched on, and he hasn't let go since. They ended up at the same college as Daehyun's sister, and here they are: nineteen, and Daehyun won't let the girlfriend thing go.
"It's weird, you know," Daehyun is saying, sprawled upside down on his bed, tossing a ball into the air. "Girls are into you, right?"
Daehyun can think it's weird all he wants, but it's mostly Daehyun's fault, so Youngjae isn't about to cut him any slack, here.
Because see, Jung Daehyun has a way of fucking with the things that people think they know about themselves. He makes dumb jokes and laughs too hard and will eat anything you put in front of his face; he just unapologetically is, and lets the rest of the world do its thing around him. He is also fully to blame for Youngjae's sexual identity crisis in high school, and for the several months of awkwardness between them where Youngjae was trying to convince himself to get over his stupid crush.
And the thing is that he never said anything, but Youngjae is pretty positive that he wasn't very subtle, and Daehyun never noticed. This was actually part of what gave that final push to help Youngjae get over him, but still. Daehyun is either kind of an asshole on the inside, or he's just oblivious, and either way, Youngjae wants no part of that -- at least not romantically.
"I wouldn't know," says Youngjae, "I mostly hang out with your sister." He raises an eyebrow. "She seems to like me, though, so hey. Maybe go ask for me?"
Daehyun throws his ball at him.
"Don't be a dick, dude, I'm just saying." Daehyun rolls onto his stomach, looking like he's actually taking this pretty seriously. "I'm concerned, is all."
So, okay. Daehyun doesn't know that Youngjae is gay. Youngjae is torn between thinking that this makes Daehyun a good best friend, because he didn't pry when Youngjae clearly did not want to talk about it, and thinking that this makes him a shitty best friend, because he's actually not very good at hiding it.
It's been two years, and Daehyun doesn't know. It's not necessarily that Youngjae doesn't think he'd take it too well, it's just -- well. He doesn't know that he would take it well, and he's a fucking coward, so.
"Look," he says, not looking up from his laptop screen, where he's actually doing homework -- unlike some people. "It's not that big a deal, Daehyun. I'm busy. And you know if I started dating someone, you'd just bitch about me not having enough time for you."
"You're not that busy."
"I'm a double engineering/math major with a campus job, moron. Why do you think I'm doing homework and you aren't?"
"Because I don’t give a shit?" Daehyun grins. "You're just anal, that's all."
"No, you ass, I just want to keep my GPA and learn something. Excuse me if that means going to class is more important than partying and dating."
Daehyun rolls off of his bed and onto the floor next to Youngjae.
"Jae," Daehyun wheedles. "Jae, hey, come on. You're not really mad, are you?"
When Youngjae ignores him, Daehyun wiggles against his side, and then flops over onto his lap. Youngjae is acutely reminded of the German Shepherd he had in elementary school.
Youngjae sighs and thinks, fuck it and gives in. It's been almost seven years; he might as well not bother trying to change his habits now.
"I meant it about your sister," he says. Daehyun laughs and laughs, and Youngjae thinks to himself: if only you knew why that was funny.
"So I know this girl," he says, trailing along behind Youngjae on his way to class. Daehyun is skipping, and he’s trying to convince Youngjae to do the same.
"Oh, a female actually admits to knowing you?" Youngjae snarks, eyes trained forward and not on his stupid best friend. "Hurry, get photographic evidence. I'm sure it's never going to happen again."
"Okay, one, fuck you." Daehyun steps on his heels, first one and then the other. Youngjae's left shoe slips off. Daehyun looks triumphant when he has to stop to fix it. "And two, haha, funny, but I meant I know her and she's single and looking to date, so --"
Youngjae shoves his books at Daehyun so he has free hands. He refuses to look Daehyun in the eye as he crouches down to untie his shoe.
"Are we on this again?" he grumbles. "Seriously, let it go."
Daehyun steps on the end of his shoelace, and Youngjae's knot comes untied.
"You asshat, stop that." Youngjae swipes at Daehyun's ankles, pointedly keeping a frown on, even when Daehyun laughs and comes tumbling down next to him, leaning heavily against his side, Youngjae's books a scattered mess on the floor in front of them.
"Come on, Jae," Daehyun says, this time right up against Youngjae's ear. His voice is warm and playful, with just a hint of mischief.
Youngjae reminds himself: over it.
"I'm just worried about you, man."
"Dude, then shut the hell up about it," Youngjae says. "Seriously. I'm fine. But I won't be, if you make me late for class again."
"Then just skip with me!" Daehyun crows.
Youngjae sighs as he looks down at his watch. And, well -- he's already fifteen minutes late.
"Fine, you ass," he grumbles, "But you're buying me lunch."
It's cheap, underdone muffins from the bake sale stand outside the science building, but Daehyun inhales his and then tries to eat some of Youngjae's -- from his mouth, hands gripping either side of Youngjae's face, laughing all the while -- so it's good. It's really good.
Over it, Youngjae reminds himself. Super over it.
(Even he doesn't really believe himself anymore.)
"Shut up," he says. "He's -- okay, a little, yes. But he's cool."
"Yeah, if you're into crazy, sure." Daehyun frowns.
"Daehyun, seriously," Youngjae snaps, "Shut the fuck up."
It must come out more harshly than he means, because Daehyun immediately does as he's told.
"Sorry," he says. "I didn't think you'd take it so seriously. I just meant -- he's, you know.” Here he pauses, looking uncertain. "He's gay, right?"
Youngjae doesn't know what to say, because, see, here's the thing: he and Himchan are cool. They aren't cool in that way that people are where they hit it off instantly, not the way he and Daehyun are. They're cool in the way where they kind of hated each other at first, where Himchan kept getting putting his things all over Youngjae's half of the room and Youngjae would leave the light on to study early into the morning, where interactions were weird and passive aggressive and stilted because they had nothing in common, not even when they stretched to try and reach.
It wasn't until Youngjae had been digging through their shared closet and he'd knocked Himchan's wig loose that it had all spiralled out of control, faster than Youngjae could keep up; Himchan had gripped the long, silky hair so tightly and looked at him so fiercely, daring Youngjae to try to hurt him with this -- and Youngjae hadn't. He hadn't. He'd reached for Himchan's shaking hands instead, and it had spilled out of him before he'd even had a chance to think it through: the way that he'd never dated anyone before, the way that sometimes he thought about things and people he shouldn't, how broad shoulders and flat chests were so much more appealing than soft curves or small waists. How he's never told anyone before, how he had thought, somehow, stupidly, that he was alone in this, the way he'd resigned himself to it for the rest of his life. He'd let Himchan show him his makeup and his heels, even tried on a pair just for kicks, and gone to bed that night feeling, for the first time, like maybe this could work.
At first it was a tentative sort of truce, You and me, we're all we've got, it's us against the rest of them, until one day it wasn't so forced anymore; once day Himchan reached out because he wanted to, and Youngjae shared his space because he didn't need to hide two sides of one person, because he wanted to help, and not keep his distance.
After that, it hadn't taken much before they were something like friends. Youngjae doesn't mind it anymore when Himchan takes a million pictures of himself, partially because he shares all his music and food now, and partially because he makes Youngjae take pictures with him, too, and posts them with captions like lovely roomie ^^ and, just once, cute friend~.
But it's not like there's an easy explanation for all of that, like there's any way to tell him without giving away secrets that aren't his. It's never come up before -- but then, Youngjae has never really wanted to defend someone so much before, either.
So he says, "No, he isn't," because it's not a lie, not really.
Kim Himchan may be a lot of things -- he may sometimes like to wear makeup and wigs and skirts, and he may sometimes he likes men -- but that means nothing at the end of the day. He's not gay, necessarily.
(If he were, then Youngjae would be every bit as gay as he is, and he doesn't know if he's actually ready to talk about that just yet -- definitely not with Daehyun.)
But it doesn't matter. Whatever Himchan is, it's not Youngjae's place to decide for him, and it certainly isn't Daehyun's place to give it a name without Himchan's permission.
Daehyun really does look sorry, so Youngjae just grumbles, "Leave him alone, okay?" And then, because he feels bad, "What do you want for dinner?" as an offering. Daehyun is dumb sometimes, but he's Youngjae's best friend, too, and if Youngjae is honest with himself, he knows that there's very little that he couldn't get away with under that title.
"So I'm meeting up with these people," says Himchan, late one Friday evening. He has his mini vanity all set up, brush in hand as he applies something dark to his eyes. "You should come."
Youngjae would really just like to break his record at Tetris, okay. He has no plans to go out. Daehyun is doing some dinner thing with his acapella group, and even he hadn't been able to convince Youngjae to change out of sweatpants.
"Gee," he says, with exaggerated glee, "That sounds awesome, but you know, I have some really important stuff to do here in the room, so --"
Himchan looks stern when he turns around. Youngjae gives in then and there; he doesn't really have the best track record with disagreeing with friends who decide he's going out. He resigns himself to it, but then Himchan keeps talking, and oh, suddenly things are different.
"You think I would just invite you out with anyone?" he scoffs. "It's like a GSA, dipshit."
"A what?" Youngjae asks. He has a vague inclination -- people don’t use acronyms for things that aren’t important, and there are only so many things that he and Himchan have in common that could fall under the label of important -- but he'd rather have Himchan spell it out for him. Just to be sure.
"Everyone there will be either some kind of gay or at least okay with it," Himchan says. "Like, no one's going to tell anyone else, no one will judge you. And if you're not ready for it, then whatever, but it's a good support group if you ever need anyone. Not to mention it's a good place to meet people."
He goes back to meticulously applying his makeup, casual like he hasn't just totally shaken Youngjae up.
Youngjae is -- dumbfounded, to say the least. He hadn't known there was anything like that. He'd never even really thought about there being other people, somehow, stupidly. But of course Himchan would know about it. Of course Himchan would offer something like this and pretend it's so much less than what it is.
"I --" says Youngjae, attempting valiantly to pretend that his voice doesn't crack when he tries to speak. "Yeah. That sounds -- yeah."
"It's over at Hyosung's place tonight."
Hyosung is one of Himchan's friends. Youngjae has always kind of wondered how they became so close, because she is possibly the classiest woman he has ever met. He hadn't thought she might be, well -- like them. She’d always seemed too-well put together to be anything but normal.
"Is she --?"
"No, idiot. Her roommate is, and I am, so of course she'd host it."
"Oh." Youngjae fiddles with his mouse, flicking the switch on and off absently.
"So are you coming?" Himchan asks, impatient. "Because if you are, I need to know in advance, because you are not wearing that."
Youngjae eyes Himchan as he applies lip gloss with a practised ease, pursing his lips in concentration. He thinks about high school, about swallowing down all the things he thought and felt and never said, about Daehyun, smiling at him and reaching out to touch like he'd never given Youngjae a second thought -- at least not like that.
He thinks about staying here alone, about skimming through gaming forums all night and not posting anything, about staying in sweatpants and passing out when the sun comes up and waking up to Daehyun harassing him about going to get lunch. He thinks about Daehyun bothering him about meeting someone, thinks about the way that Daehyun said the word gay, so pinched, like it was something sour that he didn't know what to do with.
He thinks about being alone, and finds that he isn’t as okay with it as he’d always thought he was.
He takes a deep breath.
On the way over to Hyosung's apartment, his hands shake, and he has to keep them stuffed into his pockets to hide it from Himchan, who he is pretty sure would mock him mercilessly.
It's not like he's socially awkward or anything. Youngjae is generally one of the first people to start talking in a group, in fact. Shame isn't really something that exists for him -- possibly a by-product of growing up so close to dumb Jung Daehyun. He just goes with it. But when it comes to his sexuality, well -- that's another story.
Before Himchan, he'd never told anyone. He hadn't made the conscious decision to do it, even then; it'd just happened. So here he is, about to tell a room full of people, and he just -- panics, a little. Just a tiny bit.
"Are you freaking out?" Himchan asks as they ride the elevator up to the fourth floor.
"No," says Youngjae, with a laugh that sounds fake even to his ears. "Why would I be freaking out? I am neither of those things. Except possibly out. Or rather, I will be. Soon. Which is good! Out! Out is great."
"You're freaking out," Himchan sighs.
"I'm totally freaking out," Youngjae whimpers.
"Okay, look." Himchan reaches out and puts both hands on his shoulders, turning Youngjae to face him. He looks serious, more so than Youngjae usually sees him. It does nothing to assuage Youngjae's sudden onset of panic. "Here's the deal. This place? It's a safe space, Youngjae. But if you think you can't deal with it -- at any point while we're there -- you come get me and we will get the fuck out of there. You hear me?"
Youngjae swallows. "Yeah," he chokes out, "Yeah, I hear you."
The elevator dings and that's the end of the that, but Himchan keeps a hand on his back all the way down the hall. There really isn't a proper way to express how grateful Youngjae feels about Himchan's own special brand of abusive support.
He's almost expecting some kind of secret knock, but as it turns out, Himchan just bangs on the door and shouts, "Hey, Hyosungie! Open up!"
And then she does.
"Hey!" she greets, looking as glittery and done-up as ever. Youngjae is like 98% positive that she is some kind of sorceress. Her purple hair is done up in a way that obviously defies physics, no pins or anything visibly keeping it in place. He's not sure if that's just her inherent magic as a girl, or if she's extra magical, but he is also kind of afraid of her, so he's not really itching to find out.
Himchan ushers him inside and they slip out of their shoes, Youngjae clumsily following Himchan's lead as he shows him the coat closet. It's a nice apartment -- he had assumed she lived on campus, for some reason. He supposes it's probably because his whole life is centred around school right now; it's easy to fall into a bubble and forget that the rest of the world exists.
He’d completely forgotten that she's both older than he is and a graduate student. Of course she'd have a real job and live in a real apartment.
Hyosung lives a real life and she's still involved in this kind of thing.
It starts slowly sinking in, then, as Himchan and Hyosung lead him through the kitchen and the hall, introducing him to people as they go: all of these people are here and they're all gay (or something, according to Himchan). Every one of them seems comfortable, confident enough in themselves to be laughing and hanging out with other people and taking part in something like this. It's just a party, just a bunch of friends hanging out -- they're just like normal, except for their sexualities, and they seem to be taking it in stride.
So how could Youngjae not have known? How could he have actually thought that he was alone in this?
It hits Youngjae like a freight train: maybe he can't advertise it openly, but he isn't going to have to tuck his secrets away forever and pretend half of who he is doesn't exist.
Maybe this can work. Maybe this -- being gay -- can be okay.
Youngjae is feeling really good about all of it until they walk into the living room. Daehyun's sister Hana is sitting on the couch, curled up with Hyosung's female roommate, and she spots him the minute they walk in.
The exchange is rapid-fire:
"Oh my god," she says.
"Oh, hell,” Youngjae says.
"Oh, cool, you know each other!" Hyosung says.
Hana is on her feet in an instant.
"You can't tell Daehyun," she demands, all fear and desperation, like he's got her backed into some kind of corner. "Youngjae, you can't tell him."
Youngjae's too busy being shocked to formulate any kind of response fast enough for her. She crosses the distance between them before he has enough time for it to register, and then he's being grabbed by the shoulders for the second time that night -- yet there is a distinct difference between this time and the last. He has never in his life actually been afraid of Jung Hana until now. He's known this girl since he was a kid, and she was always tough -- she'd scare off bullies before they had half the chance to fuck with Daehyun and Youngjae in school -- but she's never been like this with him.
"Yoo Youngjae," she hisses. "If he finds out -- if he tells Mom and Dad --"
"Hana," says the girl from the couch, one dainty hand on her arm, "Hana, calm down, it's okay, let him go."
"You're gay," he croaks. "I -- I didn't know."
"Yeah, well," her face looks grim, but she lets the other girl pull her back a couple feet. Despite the distance, he is no less afraid. "Congratulations. Now you do."
"Hana-yah, it's fine. He won't tell."
It's Himchan to the rescue, stepping between them. He puts a hand on each of their shoulders, like he'll hold them apart if he has to. Somehow Youngjae doesn't doubt it for a minute.
(Youngjae has learned that wigs and heels mean very little about a person's physical strength. He is far more afraid of a person like Hyosung than of someone twice her size.)
Himchan nudges Youngjae, and Youngjae thinks, right, he does actually have to wake up and react some time this century.
"I won't say anything if you don't," he says, "Because, well.”
It occurs to him, perhaps a tad belatedly, that he is about to confess to this for the second time, and that neither times were of his own choosing. But what else can he do?
So he stands up straight and clears his throat and says, "Me too."
There's a beat, and then the tension instantly drains out of the room as Hana relaxes and starts laughing, really laughing, like she's never going to be able to take anything seriously ever again.
Youngjae's whole life is a fucking joke.
Between the girls and Himchan, he learns that Hana and Jieun have been dating since sophomore year. They're both seniors now, which means their relationship has lasted for nearly two years, and Daehyun still has no idea. She's known she was gay since middle school -- which means that Youngjae, in a very Daehyun-eque move, missed something totally obvious and then continued to miss it for a period of several years.
That’s… somewhat problematic. Youngjae is rapidly beginning to realise that although he's become more aware of himself in the past year or two, he is still incredibly unaware of the people around him. And that bothers him.
He hadn't even noticed something about someone he's known for most of his life. He tried to be angry at Daehyun for not noticing about his sexuality, but really, he's just as bad.
So Youngjae makes it a point to start hanging out with Himchan and Hana more, both at the meetings and not. He gets to know Hana's girlfriend, Jieun, and Jieun's cousin Sunhwa, and they talk to him even without Himchan there to act as a buffer.
And, well, Daehyun did want him to start meeting girls. He can't really bring himself to feel all that bad about keeping the details of it a secret.
Youngjae pretends not to know what he's is talking about.
"I'm talking about Daehyun," says Himchan, who is having none of his shit. "Obviously."
"No, of course not," says Youngjae.
Himchan rolls over in bed to stare at him in the darkness. It takes only a few seconds for him to break.
"Okay, I used to, back in high school, but I swear I'm over it now."
Himchan makes a grumpy sound which Youngjae takes to mean you are clearly delusional, but go ahead, tell me more.
"Besides, it was only for like, five minutes," Youngjae adds, somewhat hysterically, "Everyone has a straight-guy crush at some point. Right?"
"Uhhuh," Himchan mutters.
It's the first time he's ever lied to Himchan before. Youngjae is positive his roommate doesn't believe him, but, miraculously, he lets it go.
It takes him a long time to get to sleep that night.
"Do people still do that?" Daehyun asks, the first time it happens. They're coming back from Daehyun's acapella club -- not because Youngjae participates, but because somehow Daehyun's convinced him to come pick him up after every meeting.
"It works, doesn't it?" Youngjae grumbles. He catches the end of Daehyun's scarf and drags him off, and, thankfully, that's the end of it.
Daehyun's roommate Jongup is pretty cool (if a little intimidating, what with his biceps and all) and there is virtually never a time when Daehyun can't be convinced to go get food somewhere. They have plenty of places to go and things to do that don't involve Daehyun being anywhere in the vicinity of Youngjae and Himchan's room.
Daehyun doesn't need to know that Himchan isn't actually hooking up with anyone in there. (Well, except for that one time, when Youngjae thought it was safe to go in, and then he'd met Himchan's boyfriend Yongguk, who, as it turns out, is Daehyun's RA, and actually a really nice guy -- although Youngjae prefers him with his clothes on.)
There are a lot of things that Daehyun doesn't need to know, actually, and Youngjae thinks to himself, Well. One more secret won't hurt.
He's waiting for Youngjae when he walks out into the hall, and either something is wrong with his face, or Daehyun is thinking really hard about something.
"Dude, what's wrong with your face?" he asks.
Instead of an actual answer -- not that Youngjae expected one -- Daehyun blurts out, "Are you mad at me?"
"Time and place, Jung Daehyun," he grumbles. "You have yet to learn about either of these things."
"Are you?" Daehyun repeats.
When Daehyun's expression doesn't change, Youngjae rolls his eyes and reaches out to grab Daehyun by his shirt sleeve.
"Seriously, what's wrong with you? Why do you think that?"
When no immediate response is forthcoming, Youngjae accepts that he is probably going to have to miss class. Well, whatever. Math isn't that important for engineers.
"Come on," he says, steering Daehyun down the hall and toward the door.
Daehyun doesn't say anything at all until they reach Youngjae's dorm room, which is weird enough in itself, but Youngjae doesn't feel up to filling the silence. He waits until Daehyun starts talking instead, because seven years of friendship means he's learned a thing or two about the guy.
One of the things he's learned is that Daehyun is sometimes prone to word vomit. This is apparently one of those times.
"You know I didn't really mean it when I said you needed to go meet a bunch of girls, right, Jae?" Daehyun starts, building speed as he goes. "Are you mad at me about that, or was it something else I did? Because we haven't really been hanging out much lately, and I know I said your roommate is weird, but I didn't mean it, okay, he's fine, he can come hang out with us if you want. You've been spending a lot of time with my sister, too, and --"
His eyes grow wide, and Youngjae knows he's going to hate whatever he says next.
"You weren't serious when you said you were into her, right? I mean, she's my sister, Jae, and I know she's awesome but you can't --"
"Whoa, whoa, dude," Youngjae cuts him off, because he's had about enough of that. "I'm not into your sister. That would actually be really, really weird." Even though he can't say why. Still. No. "Are you upset because I don't spend enough time with you anymore? For real?" He snorts. "Am I not taking enough time out of my day to focus on our relationship?"
"Everything's been so hard since the kids came along," Daehyun jokes weakly. "You've been so busy with work that you hardly come home to me anymore."
"Dae." Youngjae frowns, aiming a punch at Daehyun's shoulder. It doesn't have the desired effect; Daehyun just slumps further into himself. "Daehyun, come on, I'm not mad at you. I didn't mean to ignore you. I'm not mad at all."
"Really?" Daehyun lights up like a puppy with a ball. Youngjae feels his insides go a little gooey. Over it, he thinks again.
"Really, you moron."
Daehyun tackles him backward onto his bed, all smiles again like nothing ever happened. Youngjae doesn't even feel guilty for skipping class.
So, whatever, no big deal. He can still make time to hang out with Himchan and Hana and Daehyun, separately. Daehyun doesn't have to know.
He can make this work. It'll be fine.
Hana stays pretty quiet at Hyosung's place that night. Youngjae spends the whole time moping, because Daehyun hasn't stopped prying and it's really fucking hard to lie to someone you mostly just want to cuddle the shit out of. (These are thoughts that he may or may not have while sober, but he is currently just tipsy enough to consider them. Daehyun is good for cuddling. Daehyun is great for cuddling, in fact, and Youngjae would very much like to cuddle him, if given the option, and he certain that even though Daehyun probably doesn't want to cuddle him back just yet, he would probably decide that Youngjae is great for cuddling, too, if Youngjae just had the chance to convince him.)
Youngjae is lying curled up on Hyosung's couch because he's had too much to drink, and he was only drinking in the first place because Daehyun had been annoyed that Youngjae seemed to have consistent weekend plans without him and wouldn't invite him along.
Youngjae hasn't been able to think up an excuse beyond, "It's no one you know," and, "You probably wouldn't get along," and that had been the wrong thing to say today, because Daehyun had just frowned and frowned. They haven't spoken since they parted ways at dinner.
So now he's here, just him with the girls and with Himchan, and they are all varying levels of sympathetic. Thankfully, however, they are mostly all similar levels of drunk, which is making it a lot easier to talk about the Daehyun thing.
"So you think he's mad at you?" Jieun asks, a comforting hand on Youngjae's shoulder.
He likes Jieun, Youngjae decides. He wishes Daehyun knew her, or knew that she was basically his sister-in-law, or going to be, or something. Daehyun would probably like her. Daehyun is cool like that.
"I know he is," Youngjae mutters into his arms, mournful. "He doesn't want to cuddle."
"You lying bitch," Himchan shrieks from somewhere on the floor. It's too loud. Youngjae hides his face. "I knew you liked him!"
"I don't!" Youngjae protests.
"It's okay if you do," says Hana, which is actually pretty awkward, now that he thinks about it.
It is probably not entirely appropriate to respond with a hurried, "I swear I don't want to sleep with your brother," but it's all he has.
"He's cute, though, right?" Hana nudges him with her foot from where she's sprawled out on the other side of the sofa. She has on yellow socks, and Youngjae thinks they're cute, if slightly less so when they're in his face.
"Yeah!" Sunhwa chirps, too excited by this idea. "You should totally go for it. I mean, sure, maybe he thinks he's straight, but we'll get you some tight pants and just see how long that lasts."
"I have this really great top," Hyosung calls from the kitchen, where she is presumably mixing drinks that will further ruin Youngjae's life.
"I'll do your hair," Himchan agrees, gleeful. "Kid won't know what hit him."
"Should we teach you what to do, or do you think he likes the virginal thing?" Sunhwa muses, and it's too much.
Youngjae rolls off the couch.
"Yongguk-hyung gave Himchan a ring," he blurts, mostly just to save himself. It has the desired effect, because Hyosung drops a glass and comes running, and Hana tackles Himchan, and everybody seems a lot less interested in helping Youngjae seduce his straight best friend, which is nice.
He and Himchan don't make it home until the next morning. There are two missed texts on his phone from Daehyun:
hey sry abt earlier wanna hang when u get bck??
And, a couple hours later:
nvm that was dumb sry have fun
Youngjae tries really, really hard not to feel guilty.
(It doesn't work.)
Admittedly, it's just after midnight, which is kind of a dumb time to be visiting someone. But Daehyun hasn't spoken to him in two days, and Youngjae is a little desperate.
"He's, uhm." Jongup glances behind him, which seems to solidify his resolve. Youngjae can picture Daehyun holding up a sign to remind him of his lines like a cartoon. "He's not here right now, sorry."
"Dude, I brought doughnuts," Youngjae calls, hefting the bag, just in case Daehyun can see him, even though Jongup is keeping the door mostly closed. "They're from that shop you like."
There's a rustling sound. Daehyun pokes his head over Jongup's shoulder, looking sullen as he wraps his arms around his roommate's waist.
"Did you get the banana cream filling kind?"
"And the apple fritters?"
Youngjae nods. Daehyun's eyes narrow.
"And chocolate filling, and rainbow sprinkles," Youngjae adds, just for good measure.
Daehyun looks suspicious, but Jongup leans forward to sniff the box.
"Is that true, hyung?" he asks, totally in awe. He turns to look over his shoulder. "Wow, Daehyunnie-hyung, you should seriously consider forgiving him. He brought you doughnuts. He must be really sorry."
Youngjae nods, solemn. "Super sorry. The sorriest."
Jongup's eyes turn pleading, and Daehyun sighs, because even he's not that much of an asshole. Jongup is like a puppy, which is perhaps why they get along -- Daehyun's job at the shelter means that he's used to taking in strays.
It also means it's really fucking hard to tell him no. This works out in Youngjae's favour this time, though, because Jongup lets him in, even if Daehyun still looks a little grumpy about it.
Youngjae slips Jongup a bag of skittles for his troubles, and things seem okay enough after that. Daehyun is still a little weird about it, but Youngjae is sure he'll get over it.
Youngjae spends about thirty seconds quietly freaking out. He then calmly texts her back, u ok?
She responds, He's coming over tonight
He allows himself another ten seconds of internal panic before he leaps out of bed and shakes Himchan awake.
"My life is over," he mourns.
"It's going to be, if you don't get your motherfucking hands off of me," Himchan snarls, buried under his blankets. "Yoo Youngjae, I will fucking murder you, what the hell time is it?"
Youngjae doesn't answer, because he's too busy trying to suffocate himself in Himchan's pillow. It takes a distressingly long time for Himchan to notice, and then even longer for him to care.
He does eventually get Himchan to wake up, though, and once he fills him in, Himchan sobers up pretty quick. Youngjae is a mess, but Himchan takes charge, makes him get up and wash his face and put on real clothes and eat something.
"If he tries to make it a big deal or act like it's wrong, I will knock him the fuck out, you hear me?" Himchan lectures.
Himchan insists on doing his hair for him, and Youngjae numbly acquiesces, sitting still in a chair while his roommate brushes through it over and over again.
"You're going to be okay," he says, for probably the tenth time. "You don't even have to tell him. You do that shit when you're ready, and not a second before."
Youngjae tries to believe him.
Youngjae has a moment where he's freaking out, once again, when Daehyun first comes in -- but it turns out that Daehyun's too busy being freaking smiley and wonderful and a great brother for him to even notice Youngjae's there at all. It's at least fifteen minutes before he spots Youngjae, and another ten before he comes and says hi.
Youngjae tries not to feel put out, and spends nearly all of that time trying to keep from spilling his beer all over Hyosung's carpet.
When he does finally deem Youngjae worthy of his time, Daehyun saunters over like nothing at all is happening. Youngjae is immediately suspicious of his nonchalance, because you don't just find out this kind of news and not react to it. He must be missing something.
(Youngjae might be freaking out a little more than he's willing to admit, okay, but he has legitimate concerns.)
"Hey," says Daehyun. "You're here, too."
"Yeah," says Youngjae, but he doesn't offer anything else.
"So is this where you've been all semester?"
Daehyun doesn't look angry, just curious. Youngjae can't find it in him to lie -- not anymore. He's mostly tired of it.
"Kind of," he admits.
"Whoa, hey, calm down," Daehyun replies, casually taking a seat next to Youngjae on the couch, "I don't need your whole life story."
Youngjae punches him in the shoulder, and then it's just another day, and they're back to finishing up an argument from lunch.
Daehyun spends his time split evenly between Hana and Youngjae that night. He doesn't even ask Youngjae why he's there. He starts coming nearly every time they meet up, and even brings his roommate along once or twice because it turns out that Jongup's friend Dongwoo has been part of the group for going on two years now.
Youngjae is starting to think he might be just as dumb as Daehyun.
(The alternative -- that maybe Daehyun deserves more credit than Youngjae's been willing to give him -- is too much to even consider. He tries not to think about it.)
Things are fine the way they are. Daehyun seems to be over his earlier wariness of the word gay, and he even lets Himchan do his nails when Hyosung declares one Saturday night's get-together to be makeover time. He chats animatedly with some tall guy called Sungjae, who Daehyun has apparently been trying to get to join the acapella club with him all semester.
And if sometimes Himchan gives him a look -- not a look, but a look, like Bitch, we're gonna have words, Youngjae just does his best not to think about that, too.
For the first time in a while, things are good. They're great. And he doesn't know how to risk that for something as petty as a high school crush.
It's not important. No matter what Himchan says -- it's fine.
Because Yoo Youngjae is nineteen years old and, yeah, maybe he's single, and maybe he's been hopelessly crushing on his best friend for almost three years. But he's starting to get a little more comfortable with himself; he's openly gay with not only one person, but several, and thinking about sexuality doesn't make his stomach hurt anymore. It's amazing just how much of a difference that makes.
So yeah, single -- but maybe that's okay.
Daehyun clambers onto Youngjae's bed with him, while Yongguk takes a desk chair and Himchan settles into his bed, Jongup tucked neatly under his arm.
"You know 'freshman' doesn't actually mean 'child,' right," says Youngjae.
Himchan shushes him. His eyes are light when he adds teasingly, "Don't sound so grumpy, Youngjae. I hear Sunhwa likes nice, friendly guys."
"What does that have to do with anything?" Daehyun asks, too quickly.
"Nothing," says Youngjae, at the exact moment that Himchan says, "Oh, I just heard from a pretty reliable source that Sunhwa thinks Youngjae is good looking. No big deal or anything."
Daehyun is out and out frowning now, sitting up straight where he'd been slouching against Youngjae's shoulder.
"Does she like him?" he asks. "Wait, do you like her?" He turns to Youngjae this time, expectant, and Youngjae feels cornered all too quickly.
He fires back the first thing that comes to mind.
"Dude, why does it matter?"
Daehyun's expression shutters, closed off from Youngjae so quickly he feels the retroactive whiplash. He tries to say something, anything -- he doesn't even know why -- but Himchan is speaking again before he gets the chance.
"It's not like you're his boyfriend, Daehyunnie," Himchan says, a taunt. His eyes are sharp, even if his tone isn't. "Don't be so possessive."
Things are tense, then, and maybe once upon a time, Youngjae might have been mad at Himchan for starting all of this. But he knows he was teasing, and he knows Himchan by now: he knows how protective he can be. He can see the wariness in Himchan's expression, so he lets it go.
Thankfully, Daehyun does, too. He shrugs, a bright smile overtaking his face from out of nowhere, and settles right back against Youngjae as if nothing happened.
"I guess you're right," he says, reaching into his pocket. "Anyone want a gummy bear?"
And somehow that's the end of it -- except for the way that for the rest of the night, Youngjae can't get Daehyun to look him in the eye.
He's trying to work on the paper he has due next week so that he doesn't have to feel guilty for vegging out later, but that pretty much translates into him staring blankly at a word document, switching in and out of browser tabs, and then staring some more.
When someone bangs on the door after midnight, Youngjae is then equal parts relieved and wary. He goes for the bat Himchan keeps by the door, although it turns out to be useless when he cracks open the door and it flies open and out of his hands. Jung Daehyun pushes him backward into his own room and slams the door behind him, dressed in all black and wearing a ridiculous face mask.
"Close the window!" Daehyun hisses, instead of attempting to explain himself in any way.
Youngjae is not impressed. He does as he's told, but not without a great deal of consideration. He mostly just doesn't want anyone else to see that he's gotten dragged into whatever Daehyun's done this time -- because yes, he's already a part of it; there's no saying no to Jung Daehyun, not when your name is Yoo Youngjae and you've been this far gone since the beginning, even before you knew, not when crinkled eyes and a scrunched up nose and a smile can break you without a word.
Youngjae has resigned himself to this before it's begun, but he can already tell he isn't going to like it.
When he turns back around, Youngjae notices for the first time that Daehyun is holding a strange box, and ah, yes: there it is. It's covered in a towel and has a handle in the top, but Daehyun's got it cradled in his arms anyway.
Not for the first time since making Daehyun's acquaintance, Youngjae finds that he's nervous.
"Jung Daehyun," he says slowly, "What did you do this time?"
Daehyun's eyes dart to the side, but he still has the nerve to act offended. Youngjae doesn't buy it for a minute.
"What did I do?" he sputters. "Come on, Youngjae, you know me, when have I ever --"
"You got us kicked out of the movies last week!"
"Well, okay, besides --"
"Daehyun." Youngjae tries his best to look stern.
"Okay, so, I was at work today, right?" He sounds nervous, somehow, and if Youngjae weren't seeing it himself, he probably wouldn't believe it. He works at an animal shelter. Youngjae doesn't even know what could possibly have happened there to make him show up at Youngjae's door in the middle of the night looking nervous, but his confusion lasts about as long as it takes for Daehyun to continue with, "Someone brought in a baby rabbit, and --"
"Oh, no," Youngjae says, all in a rush, "No, no, no way."
"And he was abandoned, Youngjae, can you believe it? He was so cute, and it made me think of you, so I -- I don't know, I thought you'd like him, and there's not really any room for all the animals we have there right now anyway, so --"
Youngjae forces himself to ignore the fact that cute things apparently make Daehyun think of him.
"So you brought it here?" he despairs. "You know we can't have pets in the dorm, Daehyun."
"Yeah, but I thought maybe..." He shrugs. "You haven't even seen him, besides. He's so cute, Youngjae, you're going to love him."
Youngjae isn't convinced, but Daehyun decides to set the cage down and take the towel off, and okay, fine, he's a fluffy ball of adorable, goddamnit.
Youngjae breaks way too easily.
"Did you name him?" he asks.
"His name's Jello." When Youngjae stares at him, Daehyun has the grace to at least look a little flustered. "What? It was Jongup's idea, don't make fun of me, okay."
"What kind of name is that?" Youngjae huffs. "You can't just name your pet rabbit Jello, Daehyun, don't be dumb."
"Dude, I got you a rabbit. Now is not the time to make fun of me!" Daehyun makes as if to punch him, but seems to think better of it, since he's still holding Jello, and things start to deteriorate pretty quickly once they start punching each other. He reaches up and pulls on Youngjae's too-long hair instead, because yeah, apparently they're five years old.
"I thought you said you just didn't have room for him at the shelter?" Youngjae fires back.
It's intriguing, the way that Daehyun's cheeks turn a faint pink. He ducks his head, his chin tucked into the scarf he still wears, and his next words come out muffled, hurried in the way he always sounds when he's lying.
Daehyun is terrible at lying.
"Yeah, that's what I meant." he fidgets, uncertain, but Youngjae doesn't have time to say anything about it before he's reaching for the latch of the cage. "Want to hold him?"
Youngjae is distracted from Daehyun's momentary lapse in his usual demeanour by the sudden, overwhelming terror of holding a rabbit. What if he drops him?
"Daehyun, no, oh my god, what if I drop him?" he babbles. "No, what are you -- don't hand him to me --"
But Daehyun's grin is out in full force, eyes crinkled in that way that Youngjae has never been able to argue with, and then he's got his arms full of soft white fur.
"See," Daehyun says, "It's perfect. You love him, right?"
And yeah, okay, it's hard not to love him, when all he does is twitch his little nose and sniff at him and burrow into the space between his arm and his body. Suddenly, Youngjae is having trouble remembering all of the reasons why this is a bad idea. He tries very hard to make himself think of all of those things, instead of how soft his fur is.
"Maybe a little," he admits. "But come on, do you really think Himchan-hyung is going to let me keep a rabbit in here?"
Daehyun's face falls. "Can't you talk to him? You put up with him being weird all the time."
"Leaving facial products all over the place can hardly compare to keeping a live animal in our room, Daehyun."
"It is a lot of products, to be fair."
"Facial products don't need to be fed."
"You also can't cuddle them."
Youngjae shoves him again. "It's not like it's me you have to convince."
"It isn't?" Daehyun lights up. "So you like him?"
He wants to say no, wants to protest in some way, but -- yeah. He does.
He sighs. "Look. It's not like I don't want him, but -- dude, I don't even know how to take care of a rabbit!"
"That's what you have me for," Daehyun says proudly. "We'll just share custody of him until I know for sure you won't let him get lost or starve or something."
"Oh my god, shut up," Youngjae groans. "You are such a moron."
Still, he doesn't hand Jello over when Daehyun holds his arms out.
Daehyun's smiling, though, so it's okay. He slips his bag off and kicks his shoes into the corner -- finally -- and says, "Oh, hey, I brought that new game you wanted to try, too."
And then it's on to the next thing. They stay up late playing games, with Jello falling asleep in his lap somewhere in the middle. It's easily the most adorable thing he's ever witnessed. He tries to maintain his dignity and not freak out too much about it, but he's pretty sure Daehyun is onto him.
Youngjae protests when Daehyun tries to take him back, but he ends up back in his cage and they find themselves sprawled out on the floor with a dubbed copy of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure playing on Youngjae's laptop between them.
The sun is starting to rise when Daehyun says, out of nowhere, "But you had fun, right?"
Youngjae kicks him. "What are you talking about?
"At the movies," Daehyun clarifies. He's looking at Youngjae now, wide eyes unusually intense. "With me."
The weirdest thing about what's happening right now is not that Daehyun is asking weird questions, but that he doesn't kick Youngjae back.
So Youngjae shoves him, because it's hard to deal with a Jung Daehyun who decides to be serious, especially at five in the morning. This isn't what they do; this isn't how their friendship works.
"Don't be stupid. Of course I did."
"Even though we got kicked out?"
"And you like Jello, right?"
Youngjae knocks him flat onto his back and climbs on top of him. It is perhaps not the most mature response in the world to tickle his best friend into submission, but he goes for it, and Daehyun forgets his line of questions, forgets whatever weird uncertainty that's taken over him, forgets his insecurity, and that's good enough for Youngjae.
"What do you want from me? Was I supposed to tell him I didn't want him?"
"You're missing the bigger picture, here," Himchan informs him, prim. "And I will not be the one to spell it out for you if you are actually this dumb, Yoo Youngjae." He makes that face all the girls make when they're doing their eye makeup, which Youngjae still doesn't understand the point of, even now that he's much better acquainted with cosmetics. "Anyway, where is he?"
"He's at Daehyun's. Jongup really likes him, I guess, and I didn't know if you'd be okay with it, so..."
Himchan gives a world-weary sigh. "Of course I'll let you keep the dumb rabbit." He blinks at his reflection, seems to find a place slightly less perfect than everywhere else, and continues on with the brush. "So are you sure you don't like him?"
Youngjae glares at him. "Dude, seriously. Five minutes. When I was in high school. Let it go."
There's a beat of silence, then:
"Didn't you say you wanted me to show you how to do your own eyeliner?" Himchan asks, too sweetly.
Youngjae is confused as to why he brings it up until he agrees, and it turns out that learning to do your own eyeliner means stabbing yourself several times in the eye.
He accepts defeat for this round, and Himchan graciously does not mention Daehyun again.
Youngjae makes the mistake of bringing him once, and then it's all over; no one can quite deal with a cute baby rabbit, and no matter how many times he's forced to bring him afterward, they still squeal over him like it's the first time.
Daehyun looks proud whenever he mentions that Jello was a gift from him, and Hana seems a little too taken with the idea. It makes Hyosung giggle in a way that is, quite frankly, both suspicious and completely terrifying. Youngjae does his best to ignore it, which is easier than it should be, because Daehyun has also taken to sticking close to him the whole time they're over at Hyosung's place, which Youngjae is sad to admit is a total distraction.
They still haven't talked about anything. Daehyun has never once asked about Youngjae's sexuality, and it's killing him, because he doesn't know if he should bring it up or let it continue on as is. The thing is that the more Daehyun interrupts when Youngjae is talking to someone else at Hyosung's place, the more time he spends with an arm around Youngjae's shoulders, the less he finds he wants to talk about it.
Shit is getting weird, and Youngjae doesn't know what the hell he's supposed to do about it.
Youngjae is glad for the fact that he was too lazy for a haircut recently, because it means that the back of his neck is at least a little covered. They only have like ten minutes before they have to get back to class, so he's not willing to bother suggesting they find another spot. Locating empty benches is nearly impossible on a crowded campus like theirs, so he hunches into his coat instead, hands wrapped around his drink to keep them warm.
"Are you cold?" asks Daehyun, because he's dumb and he asks things like that.
"It's January," Youngjae points out. "Of course I'm cold."
Daehyun reaches up and unwinds the long, striped scarf from around his neck. "Here," he says, reaching over to wrap it around Youngjae's instead.
"Dude, what?" Youngjae stammers. "What's wrong with you, what are you doing?"
"Your hands are freezing, Jae," says Daehyun, concerned. He cups his hands around both of Youngjae's like they're in some kind of drama, because this is apparently his life now.
"You're being so weird, man, what the hell." Youngjae is suspicious -- rightfully so. Jung Daehyun is supposed to be predictable, and predictable this is not. This is the Jung Daehyun who gets them into trouble and tries to charm his way through making people forget he's just broken something.
"You're the one making it weird," says Daehyun. He's looking down at Youngjae's hands like they're the most fascinating thing in the world, and if things were normal right now, this would be the part where Daehyun tucked his chin into his scarf and said something muffled and insulting. But Youngjae is wearing his scarf, and Daehyun is on some kind of weird nice kick, so instead he goes, "Hey, you have really nice hands. Why have I never noticed that you have nice hands?"
"Uh, because you never held my hand before," Youngjae says, struck a little dumb, because what. What is happening right now, what the hell. "So hey, while we're on the subject: dude, why are you holding my hand?"
"I'm not holding your hand," Daehyun returns quickly, mortified. "I'm just --" He stops, clearly at a loss for a better explanation.
"... Holding my hand," Youngjae supplies helpfully.
Daehyun looks flustered. He drops Youngjae's hands, drawing his own back to his drink. "Whatever," he says, standing up, "I uh, have to go do this thing now, I totally forgot, so --"
"Yeah, okay, bye," agrees Youngjae, mostly just because he's still busy being totally confused. Daehyun flees, and he forgets to take his scarf back.
Youngjae sits there for a few seconds, baffled. And then -- after a furtive glance around to be sure no one is watching -- he winds the scarf around himself a little more securely, burrowing into it to hide his burning face.
Jung Daehyun will be the death of him one day, he's sure of it.
Himchan has worked his magic and gotten everyone out, even the girls. Youngjae hadn't even realised how nice it would be to have a change of scenery. They've managed to find one of those big, circular booths that everyone can squish around if they don't mind sharing a lap or two, and it's nice. It's loud and bright and too hot, and he's got Daehyun half sitting on his lap and Jongup squished under his arm, but everyone's together, and Daehyun smells nice anyway.
Youngjae drinks, because of course he drinks. They all do. It's perhaps a little much, but it's only Friday night; they have plenty of time to sleep it off, so Youngjae throws caution to the wind and lets Hana challenge him to a drinking contest he knows he's going to lose. He even agrees to let Jongup and Dongwoo borrow Jello for their booth at the club fair next week to help raise funds after finding out that they've claimed him as their mascot.
Jello shots are then had all around, because somehow they all decide that's a super funny joke. Youngjae can't stop giggling about it, not even when Himchan threatens to cut him off.
He's feeling agreeable in general at that point, which may be why when Daehyun leans over to says something in his ear, Youngjae just sort of flops against him, grinning like an idiot.
"What?" he half-shouts.
"Dance with me," Daehyun repeats.
It's not a particularly odd request. Youngjae and Daehyun frequent clubs in this area. They dance together all the time, especially after they've had a few drinks.
What's strange is the oddly determined look on Daehyun's face, the set of his jaw that looks resolute in a way that Youngjae has never seen before.
But he's been drinking, so while he can make the observation of Hey, that's weird, he doesn't actually know what to do about that information. So he just downs the rest of his drink and shrugs out of his jacket, drops it on Jongup's head (to a chorus of, "Strip, strip!" from their loser friends) and follows Daehyun out onto the floor.
This is where it gets weird: Daehyun puts his hand on his waist and steps up close, and Youngjae is sober enough to know that this not how these things usually go.
For a moment, his brain insists, wait, what, stop, but the flashing lights are blinding, serving only to add to the sweltering heat to the club, and people press up against them from all sides, heavy and insistent. Youngjae decides that he would rather be all sweaty on Daehyun than a stranger, so he lets himself be pulled in, lets Daehyun set his free hand at the small of his back. He suddenly can't remember what he usually does with his hands and, without realising it, they end up slipping over Daehyun's shoulders, linking loosely behind his neck to avoid being crushed between them. It's weird, but then, it isn't, not really; Daehyun's always been pretty physical, and they've never been shy about their affection for each other. This may be on a whole new level, but the basic concept isn't weird. Youngjae decides that this is logical, and goes with it.
They settle into a rhythm relatively easy, not because they're both good dancers, but because they've known each other for too long not to be comfortable touching. There's no point in trying to have a conversation, so Youngjae closes his eyes and trusts Daehyun's hand at his hip to guide him through the motions, only half aware of anything but the immediate sensations of heat and movement and touch.
He's surprised by the mouth at his ear, but the voice that accompanies it soothes him immediately; Daehyun is singing along to the music, his lips brushing the shell of Youngjae's ear on every other syllable. Youngjae doesn't recognise the song and he feels more than hears the beat, but his brain zeroes in on the familiar, on the sound of Daehyun's voice, and everything else blurs out of focus.
Daehyun has never been the greatest dancer -- Youngjae is more than aware of this, has been since middle school -- but he is a brilliant singer. It's more than enough to make up for what he lacks in rhythm. Youngjae is sold, letting himself relax against Daehyun and not bothering to stamp down the thrill he gets when Daehyun shifts to take his weight, arms slipping around him in a hold that's way more intimate than anything he would usually take part in. This isn't a friends kind of thing, Youngjae thinks, or even a hookup kind of thing. This is a boyfriends kind of thing -- and Daehyun is not his boyfriend, he reminds himself.
"Daehyun," he tries. If it's only half-hearted, he can't really be blamed; back in high school, he would have given anything for this, but now he doesn't know what to do with it. There's no precedent for this sort of thing -- except maybe that isn't true. Youngjae still has Daehyun's scarf, and Jello, too, and he has been reliably informed by Himchan that everyone in the group thinks they're dating, and Youngjae is pretty sure Daehyun has been more cuddly in the last two weeks than in the last two years combined.
It's too loud for Daehyun to hear even if he had actually been trying (being drunk gives Youngjae enough courage to admit, if only to himself, that he wasn't) so he gives in and they just dance. The song changes and Daehyun hums in his ear and it's nice, nicer than dancing with his best friend should be. Youngjae curls his fingers around the back of Daehyun's neck and moves with him, and he can feel Daehyun's answering smile against his ear.
"Wanna go back?" Daehyun asks at some point.
Time must have passed a lot faster when Youngjae blinked, because he feels really, really tired, suddenly. It takes a moment for Daehyun's words to sink in. He doesn't think about it. He shakes his head instead, holds on a little tighter, crushes himself a little closer, because he's tired and he's been pretending he doesn't want this for way too fucking long. It’s incredible, how tiring it can be to spend so much time lying to yourself.
Somehow, amazingly, Daehyun doesn't pull away. He's stopped singing but he's still curved around Youngjae, face buried into his neck. Youngjae can feel it when he laughs.
"Okay," Daehyun says.
They're both drunk. Youngjae knows this -- he saw how much Daehyun was putting away before they had all even arrived -- but somehow he only notices then that they're not really dancing anymore, just holding onto each other and sort of letting the tide of people push and pull at them.
"Wanna go home?" Daehyun asks.
"Yeah," he says, so Daehyun pulls back and takes his hand and leads him back to the booth with the others. He takes Youngjae's coat from Jongup, or Youngjae assumes he does, because Youngjae mostly clings to Daehyun and keeps his eyes shut. He is pretty sure the room is swaying.
It's cold outside, but Daehyun sticks close by his side, stopping to buy Youngjae a bottle of water from a vending machine near the bus stop. They huddle there as they wait, Daehyun pressed way closer than he'd normal stand. Youngjae can feel himself starting to sober up, but he doesn't move away.
Their seats on the bus are sticky and smell like things that Youngjae doesn't want to even try to identify. They sit in the back row with a whole seat between them, because the bus is empty and it's late and they can.
Daehyun sets his hand on top of Youngjae's over the space in the middle of the seat. The tension thrums through the air, and Youngjae can feel his pulse racing all the way back to campus. This can't be good, but he can't think about it; instead all he can focus on is the warmth of Daehyun's palm on the back of his hand.
He could move just a little, turn his hand over -- they could be holding hands. He could do that, he thinks.
Instead, he spends the whole ride over thinking about how he could, and wondering whether or not Daehyun would pull away.
When they make it back to the dorm, they automatically go to Youngjae's room. Daehyun hovers outside the door while Youngjae shrugs off his coat and downs a glass of water, and it's weird, super weird, so Youngjae motions for him to come inside.
"Why are you standing there? Get in here," he slurs. "Here, drink water. You're so whiny when you're hungover."
"That's not even a little bit true," Daehyun retorts. He's slipped back into his dialect at some point during the night, which is not unusual for him when he's drunk or tired or both. Youngjae hardly notices anymore, beyond a vague note of fondness.
Daehyun does as he's told despite his protests. It's all so awkward, and Youngjae doesn't know why. It kind of makes him angry.
"Take your coat off." He tugs on Daehyun's sleeve until he lets Youngjae help him out of it. There's a conspicuous lack of a scarf on his neck -- and Daehyun always wears a scarf. "I still have your scarf, by the way," he grumbles. "You're dumb for not having another one."
"You're more delicate than me, obviously," Daehyun says with a grin. "You need it more."
Youngjae punches him.
"Delicate, really," Youngjae mocks. He punches him again. "Delicate."
Daehyun laughs, but it seems strained. He licks his lips. Youngjae can't help but watch.
"Jae," he begins. "I --"
He doesn't finish. Youngjae raises an eyebrow. The air feels tense, and Youngjae's sobering up, sure, but he's still not functioning at top mental capacity here, okay. Something's happening here, but he's too much of a coward to say exactly what.
"What?" he croaks.
And there it is: Daehyun makes a frustrated sort of sound in the back of his throat, and then he's pulling Youngjae forward by his belt loops and kissing him without another word. Youngjae doesn't even stop to think about it: he kisses Daehyun right back, because there was never really anything else he could have done.
"Youngjae," Daehyun says, rough against Youngjae's mouth. "Youngjae."
Youngjae doesn't really know how it happens, then, but first they're just kissing, and then they're on his bed. He's laying on his back with Daehyun on top of him, and holy shit, he's making out in bed with Jung Daehyun.
"Hey," Daehyun murmurs, "Don't get distracted."
Youngjae bites down on Daehyun's bottom lip in retaliation, and Daehyun whimpers, crushing himself closer. His free hand slides up Youngjae's side, slipping up under his shirt in search of bare skin.
Youngjae squirms at the feeling of warm fingers trailing across his stomach, sliding up, up, pushing his shirt out of the way. Daehyun makes a sound and presses his hips down against Youngjae's in response, and -- oh, whoa, Youngjae was not expecting that. It's a barely-there kind of pressure, like Daehyun isn't really conscious of what he's doing, like he's so focused on kissing Youngjae that that just hadn't occurred to him -- but it's not enough, so Youngjae hooks one of his legs around Daehyun's hips to drag him closer.
If Daehyun hadn't noticed it before, he's aware of it now.
"Okay, okay," Daehyun groans, "Needy."
"Whatever," Youngjae returns, pushing his hips up to meet Daehyun's, because despite his snark, Youngjae is well aware of the fact that he's just as into it as Youngjae is. "You want me, too, asshole."
It's hard to reconcile the guy he's known for half of his life, the guy with a too-bright smile, with the one who proceeds to push Youngjae back against his mattress and hold him there with his body, who kisses him with intent, like it's the only thing that matters in the world. Youngjae is helpless but to hold on and let himself burn up, because he's wanted this for so long now that he refuses to let himself stop and think.
It's intoxicating, the way a guy like Youngjae -- so average, so unremarkable -- has managed to capture the focus of someone like Jung Daehyun so completely, even if he had to get him drunk to do it.
Daehyun licks into his mouth with not so much grace as enthusiasm, which isn’t surprising, given what Youngjae knows about him and his dumb personality. He’s been with girls, as far as Youngjae knows, but even in his silly high school fantasies, he’d had him pegged for a sloppy kisser. It’s just so Daehyun, to be that guy. Youngjae arches against him anyway, slipping his hands into Daehyun's hair to direct him, to slow him down a little and angle his head just so.
That sparks an interesting reaction: Daehyun makes a muffled little sound into his mouth, sliding his hand down to grip Youngjae's thigh and hook his leg more snugly around his hips, grinding down against him in a way that makes Youngjae short of breath. Everything's a little fuzzy, the alcohol dragging slow through his blood, so Youngjae tugs on Daehyun's hair to see if it was just a fluke. Daehyun’s whimpered response says that it definitely wasn't. Youngjae smoothes his fingers through the strands, scratching his nails gently over Daehyun's scalp while he curls his tongue and delights in the little noises he gets in response.
"I didn't know you liked that," Youngjae murmurs, pleased.
"Oh," Daehyun pants, opening his eyes like oh, yes, reality. "Neither did I."
"Haven't you ever --?"
"Yeah, but not like this," says Daehyun, "Youngjae."
It hits Youngjae, then, for real: this is his best friend, this is the same Daehyun that fell asleep yesterday in class, that got him a stupid pet rabbit like it was no big deal, the one that cried when they watched Toy Story 3 together right before college.
He laughs, because he can't not laugh -- this is Daehyun, stupid Jung Daehyun, with his stupid eye smiles and his stupid scarves and his stupid voice. Youngjae wants to push him away and he wants to keep him forever, and it's so stupid but Daehyun quirks a smile and gets all up in his space, and yeah, that's great, that's perfect.
Youngjae kisses Jung Daehyun and it is both everything he expected, and everything he didn't: Daehyun's lips are chapped, because he's obsessive about dumb things like drinking tea for his throat and wearing proper layers in the cold, but he forgets to do his homework and wear matching socks if Youngjae doesn't harp on him about it. His lips are always chapped. He's laying on top of Youngjae, but he's not taking control -- in this, they're as evenly matched as anything else, and Youngjae likes the feeling of Daehyun all around him like this, hovering over him and focused on nothing else. He's clearly letting Youngjae call the shots despite their positions, and yeah, Youngjae likes that, too.
When Daehyun tries to pull away to get his shirt off, he protests by biting him again -- not because he doesn't want him to, but because he's enjoying what's already happening.
"Yoo Youngjae," Daehyun huffs, half reprimand and half fondness.
Youngjae relaxes his grip on Daehyun’s hair at the sound of his name. This time when he kisses him, he takes his time and does it like he means it, slow and sweet. He can't help but compare this to all of his high school fantasies -- every little sound Daehyun makes, every new thing he learns about him -- and it brings him right back to thinking about all of the things he should say.
(Except that gets him thinking about all the reasons Daehyun won't want to hear it -- all the ways this could go horribly, horribly wrong in only an instant -- and decides it's better to keep it to himself.)
"Did you want something?" he quips instead, a false show of confidence.
Daehyun melts against him.
"No, I'm good, you can keep doing that," he murmurs, lips warm against Youngjae's own. He presses closer, like he can't get close enough, like this is exactly where he wants to be. Youngjae is dizzy with it, dizzy with the feel of Daehyun so close, of having what he's wanted so much, of the idea that maybe Daehyun wants it, too.
Daehyun slides his hand up Youngjae's chest to settle over his heart. This time, Youngjae lets him work his shirt up and over his head. Daehyun's comes off, too, and Youngjae drags him back down against him the moment he's free. It's partially because, hello, half-naked Daehyun, and partially because looking at his friend’s body has forcibly reminded him that he's not in nearly as good shape, that he's got awkward places, soft places, and the less Daehyun sees of them up close, the better.
"Why are you so hot?" he complains. Daehyun rests his forehead against Youngjae's, eyes crinkling in the brightest smile he's seen yet.
"Why are you so hot?"
"Shut up, you're drunk," Youngjae grumbles, but Daehyun doesn't let it go. He settles back to look, tipping his head to the side. Youngjae fidgets and does his best to fight the urge to cover up. "Don't. What are you doing?"
"Looking," Daehyun says, simple. "I like you here," And his fingers trail over Youngjae's arm, his shoulder, "And here, and here," his chest, his stomach.
"Stop it," Youngjae protests, "Or you and your stupid perfect biceps can just go elsewhere."
"Why?" Daehyun leans forward, and then he's crawling over Youngjae, ducking his head to press his mouth to the base of his throat. Youngjae sucks in a breath, his hands coming back up to Daehyun's hair again, but he doesn't seem to mind; he works his way down Youngjae's torso, mouthing sweet little kisses here and there, and it's stupid, but this is what makes Youngjae blush.
"You're pretty," says Daehyun, and Youngjae can feel it on his skin. His face burns. "Why don't you believe me, Jae?"
"Because you're drunk and I'm smarter than that," Youngjae manages.
"You've always been the smart one," Daehyun tells him, "But sometimes you're really, really dumb, Jae. Sometimes I think you're the dumbest guy I've ever met."
Youngjae tries to respond, insulted, but then Daehyun's fingers are tracing over his zipper, teasing him through his jeans with too-light touches. Youngjae is snapped back to reality, an embarrassing sound escaping him without his permission.
"Are you paying attention now?" Daehyun asks, looking smug.
And Youngjae knew this was coming, okay, he knew where this was going, but he just -- wasn't expecting it just yet. Logically, this is what would happen next. Logically, he should want to keep going. Illogically, however, he actually really does not.
He tries to calm himself down, remind himself that it's just Daehyun, it's fine, it's just Daehyun, but somehow that doesn't make him feel any better.
Deft fingers pop open the button on his jeans, lips trailing over denim, and that's when Youngjae feels the panic hit him full force, because holy fuck, it's Daehyun. He reaches out on reflex and grabs Daehyun's wrists to stop him.
This is -- fast, too fast. He doesn't want to be that guy, but there had been no talk of feelings, none at all, and call him old fashioned, but Youngjae feels like that's important.
"Wait," he gasps, and when did his voice get so husky? "Wait, shouldn't we -- I don't know, talk first?"
"Huh?" Daehyun parrots back, dazed. His hair is a mess. It should not be half as attractive as it is.
Youngjae feels himself staring, and shakes his head, trying to will his pulse to slow the fuck down. "I just -- what are we doing?"
"Uh," Daehyun rasps, "I was about to take your pants off."
Youngjae ignores the jolt of heat that arcs through him at even the idea of that. This is so, so bad.
"Yeah, but why?" he insists.
Daehyun blinks at him, slow. "Well I was going to --"
"No, you idiot," Youngjae snaps. He gestures at the space between them, what little there is. "What is this?"
Youngjae feels his heart sink.
Daehyun must get that from the look on his face, so he says, hurriedly, "I know I haven't -- you know, before, not with a guy, but I mean I thought I'd try it and hey, what do you know, so far it's --"
"Okay, we should stop." He shoves roughly at Daehyun's chest, putting space between them while he fumbles for his shirt somewhere on the floor. Fuck. Fuck. Of course this is some kind of gay experiment.
Youngjae ignores him and tugs the shirt on, careful to do up the button on his pants again before he stands. Daehyun reaches for his hand; standing up has made Youngjae dizzy, so he’s not fast enough to avoid it.
"Youngjae, what's wrong?
"Look, Daehyun, it's fine, just --” What? He settles for, “I think you should go."
"No, Youngjae -- Youngjae, wait --"
Youngjae wrenches himself out of his hold, crossing the room to the door. His hands are shaking and he can’t stop it.
Daehyun's eyes are huge and imploring. "Did I do something wrong?" he asks, suddenly small. "Are you okay? Can we -- I'm sorry, I'll slow down --"
"Daehyun." Youngjae cuts him off. "Please."
Daehyun finally scrambles off of his bed, clutching his shirt to his chest in wide-eyed bewilderment, looking way more hurt than he rightly should.
Youngjae does not watch him leave. He goes for his phone the moment the door clicks shut. He shoots off a quick text, and then curls up on his bed and waits for Himchan to come home.
"About?" Himchan asks, kicking off his shoes as he makes his way over to Youngjae's bed.
"I like him," Youngjae moans, covering his face with his hands. "I like him so much, hyung, I've liked him this whole time, since high school -- I can't believe I thought I was over him, oh my god. I'm so stupid."
Himchan settles at the foot his bed, one hand on Youngjae's ankle. His eyes are gentle, and it makes Youngjae's stomach hurt to think of the way people take him for granted, the way that Himchan acts like a diva, but is actually one of the most dependable people he knows.
"What happened?" Himchan asks, like he actually wants to know. It's gentle, unhurried -- he's demanding nothing of Youngjae.
That actually makes him feel worse.
But he owes it to him, so he tells him, and Youngjae supposes that it's a credit to how pathetic he must look that Himchan never once mocks his poor life choices.
The best friend for whom he has all kinds of unfortunate feelings. The best friend that does not share said feelings, and is apparently experimenting with gay hookups.
He rolls over and tries not to throw up. This is made significantly easier by the fact that Himchan has left some pills and a glass of water on his desk. His roommate is nowhere to be seen, but he says aloud, "I fucking love you, hyung," anyway, and downs the pills and half the glass of water in one go.
"Hey, you," he says, peeking under his desk to check on Jello. "Are you thirsty?" And even though he feels like the rough approximation of death warmed over, he stumbles to his feet to refill Jello's water dispenser. He spends too long on the floor because he's decided that standing up is not worth his time, and instead reaches into the cage.
Jello sniffs at his hand, nibbling at his fingertips, and Youngjae picks him up because, well, screw Daehyun. He'll cuddle his damn rabbit if he wants to.
"We don't need him anyway, do we?" he mutters. Jello snuggles against him, and Youngjae takes it as an affirmative.
He thinks over all the ways this could go -- he imagines Daehyun ignoring him, imagines him loudly ending their friendship, imagines him pretending it never happened at all. He thinks about what he'll do without Daehyun around to bother him -- probably get better grades, if nothing else.
He certainly does not allow himself to envision a scenario in which Daehyun comes over and it turns out that he also has all kinds of inconvenient, mushy feelings for Youngjae and his general person, and then they pick up where they left off last night, because that would be stupid and unrealistic, and Youngjae is smarter than that. He is. Maybe his guard slipped for just a minute, just once, but it won't happen again.
Even if he kind of really wants it to.
"You won't tell, right?" he murmurs to Jello, running his fingers through his soft fur. "You're the only one I can trust."
Predictably, Jello does not respond. Youngjae puts him away, gentle, and then flops back onto his bed to mope some more. He decides that he'd rather sleep than check his phone for the inevitable Hey let's forget that ever happened text from Daehyun.
His life is probably over, but Youngjae is a college student. He is perfectly aware that his best friend is probably going to be ignoring him from now on, but procrastination is the name of the game.
He'll worry about it later.
"Jae?" Daehyun calls through the door.
"Fuck my life," Youngjae says aloud.
He rolls out of bed and finds that he's still in his jeans from last night. His eyeliner is smeared unattractively, so he ignores Daehyun knocking and does his best to fix his hair and wash his face off in the sink first.
(If there's one thing he's learned from being roommates with Kim Himchan, it's that you never face something difficult without looking good.)
Youngjae isn't sure if it means Daehyun is stubborn or just annoying, but he's still outside the door when Youngjae finally gets around to opening it. He's in a fresh t-shirt and sweatpants, and is attempting to look like a civilised human being. He even brushed his teeth.
Daehyun doesn't look all the worse for wear, as though instead he's been awake for several hours now. Youngjae doesn't actually know what time it is, but he resents Daehyun for it, anyway.
"Dude," says Daehyun, "I've been calling you for, like, ever."
"Dude," deadpans Youngjae, "I was asleep. Fuck off."
"Wait," Daehyun says, hurried, and reaches out to stop the door when Youngjae tries to shut it. "Can we talk?"
And there it is. Youngjae shuts his eyes and leans against the door. He'd been hoping Daehyun could put it off for at least a day, but no, this is it: apparently he absolutely has to come over here and loudly claim no homo before he can even go about the rest of his life.
"Look," Youngjae says, tired, "Last night was --"
"-- Not the way I wanted to do things," Daehyun finishes. "I'm sorry. I tried to plan it differently, but then I got nervous and started drinking and, uh. Well. You know."
"Wait." Youngjae opens the door the rest of the way. "You planned that? What the fuck, Daehyun?"
Daehyun's eyes are wide, although whether it's out of confusion or the conscious attempt to look innocent so that Youngjae doesn't murder him, he's not really sure.
"I -- this isn't really how I wanted to tell you, but. I think I'm bi?"
Youngjae stares at him.
"And I was, uhm. Wondering if maybe you wanted to date me."
Youngjae shuts the door. Daehyun makes a small noise on the other side, affronted.
"Just give me a minute," Youngjae says. He leans his forehead against the door, eyes closed as he forces his mind to stop for a second. He quietly takes a moment to compose himself, counting backward in his head. When he opens the door again, he pulls Daehyun inside. He is not having this conversation in the hallway.
"Look," says Youngjae, slowly, "I don't know if maybe you think you're being funny, or maybe you're just trying to make last night not seem like a big deal. But you are straight, Daehyun, and I really fucking like you, okay, so there are actually very few things you could have said to make yourself look like more of a dick. Congratulations."
There's a pause, and then Daehyun's eyes slant into a smile. "You do?" he asks, because that was all he heard, naturally. It's not like Youngjae said anything else that was important.
"I do what?" he stutters, even though he knows exactly what Daehyun is talking about.
"You like me?" Daehyun is apparently not at all shy about getting right to the point, here. He takes a step forward, and Youngjae takes a step back, a knee-jerk reaction.
Undeterred, Daehyun takes another step, in counterpoint to Youngjae's movement backward, and then another and another.
"You said you really fucking like me, Jae."
"Well I --" Youngjae can feel the blood rushing to his face, and he suddenly hates Daehyun for having the nerve to approach him about this now, of all times. "I said other things too, moron, pay attention."
"Yeah, man. Dumb things."
"No, man, important things. If you're not going to take me seriously, then --"
"Jae, come on, you're the one not taking me seriously." he frowns. "Are you actually trying to run away?"
"I said I liked you and you didn't believe me!"
Youngjae feels his heart speed up.
"You never said that," he says, hoarse.
"Pretty sure I did."
"No, Dae. You asked if I would date you because you think you're bi. That's not the same thing."
"Dude." Daehyun looks confused. "Why would I wanna date you if I didn't like you?"
Youngjae scrubs a hand through his hair in frustration. "Maybe because you're curious about your sexuality, and I'm convenient?"
"Yoo Youngjae, oh my fucking god. Why do you have to over think everything?" Daehyun moves toward him again, and Youngjae stumbles back, trips over something -- something of Himchan's, that meddling dick -- and goes down, because he was guaranteed to lose face at some point today. Fuck his whole life.
Daehyun reaches out to catch him, since they're a movie now and all. He misses and goes down with him instead, their movie apparently of the bad comedy variety, and then they're in a heap on the floor and Youngjae is eye-level with a seriously unimpressed Jello.
And while perhaps normally, one might not want to have a life-altering sort of emotional conversation while lying on the floor, the floor is a familiar place for the two of them. Youngjae feels that he is way better suited to face this kind of situation while lying on the floor than he is standing up and looking Daehyun in the eye, so he doesn't move, stays sprawled out on his back and doesn't bother rearranging himself when Daehyun fits himself against his side.
He has very little left to lose at this point, after all.
"What the hell is wrong with you," Daehyun wheezes. Youngjae is almost concerned, until he realises that his loser best friend is shaking against his shoulder because he's laughing, not because he's upset or anything. Of course he's laughing, because he's a dick.
"Shut the fuck up," Youngjae grumbles. "I have legitimate concerns, alright."
"No you don't," says Daehyun. Youngjae can hear his smile. He reaches for Youngjae's hand, even though this is not the time for that. "You've been hanging out with Himchan-hyung too much."
Youngjae reaches over with his free hand and slaps Daehyun's arm. It is perhaps a lot of effort, but Youngjae feels that hitting him is both 1) necessary and 2) only marginally less important than holding his hand, and he is not willing to sacrifice the latter in order to make the former happen.
It's quiet, then, as the collective sound of them holding their breath blankets the room. Youngjae is tense, stubbornly unwilling to make the first move -- but then, he supposes that that's kind of how they got here.
He thinks of all the times he backed off when he wanted to get a little closer, all the times when he could have said something and didn't.
He thinks about the last few weeks, and all the times when maybe Daehyun might have been hinting, flirting a little here or there, trying to get his attention -- and how he was too stubborn to let himself see it.
Maybe Youngjae's wrong. Maybe this is exactly the time for holding hands. Maybe Daehyun isn't stupid -- maybe he never was. Maybe he's the only one who knows what's going on.
Maybe Youngjae is the idiot.
There's only one way to solve that, which means that Yoo Youngjae needs to man the fuck up and face the fact that he's a little stupid over his best friend. He rolls over onto his side to face him, and Daehyun immediately moves to mirror his position. Looking one another in the eye is probably the first step to being honest, after all.
"I like you," Youngjae says, determined. Daehyun immediately makes as if to speak, but Youngjae squeezes his hand in reprimand. "Dude, shut up for a minute, okay."
And somehow -- miraculously -- Daehyun does.
Youngjae steels himself to continue. It's more difficult the second time, which seems like that shouldn't be the case, but he's already locked himself into this one, and he doesn't have a choice, this time.
So he says, "I've liked you since high school," And ignores the way Daehyun's eyes go round, continues instead with, "Which, incidentally, is when I realised I was gay." The proximity is making this difficult, but Youngjae has spent years now being a coward, and it's now or never. "I never told you because I was stupid, and I'm still really fucking scared about it. So if you're just kidding around, or you just want to try the bi thing for a minute, you need to tell me right the hell now, Jung Daehyun, because otherwise, shit is about to get really, really uncomfortable for both of us."
There's silence again, but this time, Daehyun breaks it by surging forward and kissing Youngjae firmly on the mouth. Youngjae should pull away, but he doesn't. He resists the urge to move closer, and lets Daehyun pull back and rest their foreheads together.
"Jae," he says, sounding too fond, "You are so full of shit."
"Would you take something seriously, for once?" Youngjae glares at him and shoves at his shoulder, but it's a half-hearted gesture at best.
"I am serious," says Daehyun, who shoves him right back. "Go out with me. Be my boyfriend, whatever. You like me, right? I like you too. So say yes."
Youngjae rolls his eyes to cover up the warmth in his cheeks, the happy feeling spreading through his chest.
"We're not getting married, loser, god. Calm down."
There's Daehyun's smile. He leans forward again, but Youngjae turns his head, and Daehyun gets his cheek instead.
"Hey," he whines.
Youngjae sits up and pulls away from him. Daehyun's face falls.
"Don't get ahead of yourself," says Youngjae, with a smile. "We're not hooking up for the first time on my dorm room floor."
He has a boyfriend, though, so he figures that probably makes up for it.