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isn't this how love starts?

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“I think you need a girlfriend,” Jaehwan tells him one morning. It takes about five minutes for the statement to sink in and another three for Sewoon to react to it. Early mornings come with their own challenges, namely the overwhelming sense that he should have spent a couple more hours in bed instead of dragging himself down to the cafe down the block to meet Jaehwan, who is too loud and chipper for eight am on a Sunday.

Sewoon wonders what they put in the coffee.

“Um, what?” he speaks slowly, voice thick with sleep, and wraps his hands around the cup of Americano in hopes some of the warmth will seep into him. Once the temperature begins to drop, so do his energy levels. Admittedly, it’s not that cold yet; he can’t even see his breath outside, but the chill settles into his muscles like a promise: soon.

“A girlfriend,” Jaehwan repeats. In spite of his cheery mood, he looks exhausted. His hair is messy—windswept, one might say—the dark circles under his eyes standing out against his pale skin as he leans forward, teeth flashing. The navy blue hoodie swallows his small frame and makes him look like a little kid. He bunches his hands in the sleeves and reaches up to rub his eyes. “You know, a girlfriend. Girlfriend. Girl… friend.”

Sewoon laughs quietly. “Hyung, repeating the word ten times won’t summon one out of thin air,” he says, bringing the coffee to his lips.

Jaehwan glares at him across the table. He only maintains the expression for a grand total of seven seconds before chuckling, the same high-pitched and unglamorous sound Sewoon has gotten used to over the past few semesters. “Nah, I’m not trying to summon a ghost. Or a ghoulfriend.” Sewoon waits for him to finish laughing at his own joke. “I’m talking about a real live girl.”

“Love Live?” The look on Jaehwan’s face makes him reconsider. “Real live girl, understood. But why?” He’s not sure how to take Jaehwan’s insistence, actually. In the year and a half they’ve known each other, the question of romance has never come up. Sewoon’s own experience in the area is south of zero, so he has nothing to talk about. Since Jaehwan never brought it up, he assumed the same was true for him.

Jaehwan looks at him solemnly. Hands reach across the table to cover Sewoon’s own. “For science,” he says, straight-faced, though Sewoon can see Jaehwan’s eye twitch under the strain of maintaining the expression.

Sewoon hums. “What if I don’t like science?” He doesn’t, for the record. Jaehwan’s hands are still on his, and he leaves them there. Jaehwan is a human furnace, burning almost too hot for even Sewoon to handle. It probably comes from all that energy contained in a tiny body. Sewoon wants to leech some of the heat off him. “What if I don’t like girls?” Sewoon adds after a pause, considering. ‘Girlfriend’ is a pretty restricting term.

“Then boyfriend,” Jaehwan replies without missing a beat. “Trust me, it’s going to elevate your music. Take it to a totally different place.” Sewoon’s puzzlement is evident on his face, because Jaehwan pulls his hands away and tucks them into his pockets, clearing his throat. “I heard you were having some trouble with your performance for the winter showcase.”

“Ah.” Jaehwan’s behaviour makes more sense now. It’s true Sewoon has been having issues with his performance; he’s trying to write a new song, but nothing sounds the way he wants it to. His lyrics are too basic or his voice is too robotic and devoid of emotion or it’s just not enough. He asked Jaehwan for help because he respects him as musician and a hyung, but he expected… something else. This is strange, Sewoon decides. It’s strange advice.

Jaehwan looks down at the table. “Being in love…” he trails off. Sewoon holds his breath, like he’s waiting for a confession that never comes. “It’s good material,” Jaehwan finishes. Sewoon waits for more, but it never comes. He exhales quietly and wonders why he feels disappointed by Jaehwan’s explanation. Of course it’s good material. Of course.

Sewoon stares past Jaehwan, pulling the now tepid cup of coffee closer to him. The warmth is gone and he wishes he’d worn an extra layer. “I’ll keep it in mind, hyung.”

 

 

Hours later, he wonders if Jaehwan is right.

A cursory glance through his music makes a case for it. Most of the songs Sewoon listens to are about love and heartbreak, emotions clearly and painfully articulated in three-minute intervals. He understands it; love is a universal feeling. Losing love is a universal feeling. You can relate to it no matter who you are or where you come from. It’s as simple as this: you will always fall in love at least once, and it will always hurt you, and a good song about it will feel like yours.

It makes a certain kind of sense that, as a musician, he should be familiar with both love and heartbreak. Sadly, those are emotions he hasn't experienced a lot of. Maybe it’s weird—he’s twenty and he’s never had a crush, much less had his heart crushed. So the question is, how do you write about love if you’ve never been in it? How do you convince someone you’re singing this song for them if you have no one to sing to?

His philosophy professor once told Sewoon that music isn’t something that simply affects emotion, it is an imitation of emotion. Imitation is a powerful word, not as good as the real thing, but it comes really close. And it’s a skill Sewoon has never been accomplished at. In order to imitate something, you have to know and study it first, and thus far, he really hasn’t gotten the chance. No wonder his performances fall flat.

Perhaps Jaehwan does know what he’s talking about. Being in love is good material.

But how does one fall in love? Where does it come from?

 

 

Sewoon finds Jaehwan busking a couple of blocks from campus later in the week. There is a surprisingly big crowd gathered around him despite the chilly weather, people jostling each other in an effort to get to the front. Jaehwan’s voice cuts through the mass, clear and loud and rich in a way that reverberates down to your toes. Sewoon’s mouth tugs into an automatic smile at the sound. As always, Jaehwan sounds arrestingly, hauntingly beautiful.

He squeezes himself to the front with some trouble and is greeted by a familiar sight: Jaehwan and his guitar, eyes closed as he plays, completely lost in the music. Sewoon hears, or rather, notices the pure emotion in his voice for the first time—the words blur together, but the longing and heartache wrapped around a thread of wistfulness stays with him. It’s a song for a first love, Sewoon thinks. Judging by the amount of bills in Jaehwan’s guitar case, people relate.

Sewoon waits till Jaehwan takes a break and the crowd starts to thin before approaching him. Jaehwan’s trying to uncap his water bottle with stiff fingers; Sewoon silently takes the bottle from him to open it before passing it back with a smile. “You were really good today,” he says, brushing off Jaehwan’s ‘thanks’ and stuffing his hands back in his pockets.

Jaehwan tilts his head back and takes a long sip. Sewoon finds himself looking at the movements of his throat, then looks away, feeling uncomfortably warm. “You mean I’m not ‘really good’ every day?” Jaehwan’s attempt at making air quotes fails and he just ends up sloshing water on the ground instead. Letting out a stream of quiet curses, Jaehwan hurriedly closes the bottle and flashes Sewoon a triumphant grin before remembering he’s supposed to look offended.

“No, you’re really good every day, but you were really good today.” Sewoon puts extra emphasis on the latter half of his statement, laughing. Jaehwan is cute when he pouts, or tries to.

Jaehwan’s eyes crinkle. “Thanks,” he says, setting the bottle down. He’s dressed poorly for the weather, wearing only a light hoodie above a tshirt, unzipped to reveal an image of Gudetama with a bacon blanket. Sewoon isn’t sure if his pink cheeks are from exertion, the cold, or something else altogether. Either way, he’s shivering just looking at his friend.

Sewoon hesitates, then abruptly unwinds his scarf and holds it out to Jaehwan. “Take this; it’s cold out here.” Jaehwan sputters and tries to protest, but Sewoon ignores him and drapes it around his neck, stepping back with a satisfied smile.

Burying his nose in the fabric, Jaehwan mumbles, “You don’t have to take care of me… but thanks again.” The tips of his ears are red; it’s sort of endearing. Sewoon wishes he had earmuffs on hand to give to him.

I want to, Sewoon nearly says. He likes helping the older man out whenever he can. Maybe it’s dumb of him (Jaehwan can surely take care of himself), but having people worry about you is not a bad thing, in Sewoon’s opinion. Showing affection is not his strong suit, so this is how he expresses the things he can’t say: by worrying.

“Anyways,” Jaehwan clears his throat. “What brings you out here? Need something?” He picks his guitar back up and plucks at the strings absentmindedly while waiting for Sewoon to speak. A few people stop and stare at the sound, but Jaehwan waves them away with an apologetic grin.

“I just went for a walk.” Practice for his winter showcase performance hit a roadblock and he hoped taking some time to clear his head would be helpful. So far, nothing useful has happened aside from Sewoon losing himself in Jaehwan’s busking—but that might be something on its own. Jaehwan’s advice about being using love as material comes to mind again and Sewoon frowns. “Hyung, I…” He glances around, trying to discern if the area is too exposed for what he wants to ask. But aside from himself and Jeehwan, there is no one around. “Have you ever dated someone?”

Jaehwan’s fingers still. He blinks, swallowing heavily. “Why?” Something about his expression is regretful, almost guilty, and Sewoon presses his lips together attempting to figure out why.

“When you sang, I—” he struggles to put the sensation into words: like puzzle pieces falling into place all at once, like a glimpse of something distant brought into reach. “I don’t know. It made me think. I could feel the emotion in the music; it was overwhelming.”

“Oh.” Jaehwan blinks again, eyes wavering. “I—well, you know. Natural talent, natural gifts. God’s voice and all.” He laughs and glances off to the side.

“Have you ever been in love then?”

Jaehwan is silent for so long, Sewoon nearly doesn’t expect him to answer. Then he opens his mouth, closes it again, and eventually says, “Yeah.” Something about his tone makes Sewoon refrain from asking more questions. He stands still instead, flexing his fingers inside his pockets.

“You know,” Jaehwan continues carefully, “liking someone who doesn’t like you back does the same thing for your music as being happy in love does. It’s just, I mean, falling in love is the easy part. Everything that comes after is hard, but at least you get a good song out of it.” He meets Sewoon’s eyes and laughs; it’s not a happy sound. “Still, it sucks.”

Sewoon wonders who Jaehwan is in love with. His voice is raw, honest, current. Not an old love, half-healed—it’s a love Jaehwan is entrenched in right now. Sewoon can sense the depth of his feelings in his singing and hopes that whoever this person is can hear it too. The thought stings a bit, though Sewoon can’t figure out why. Maybe he’s just jealous. He wants to sing like that someday.

“I want to make you feel things, hyung,” Sewoon says finally, having decided. Jaehwan is both his inspiration and rival, and he wants to reach the same level.

“W..hat?” Jaehwan asks, taking a step back. He stumbles and almost goes sprawling, but Sewoon’s arms shoot out to steady him at the last minute.

“With my music,” Sewoon clarifies. “You’re probably right—being in love is good material. I might try the dating thing you suggested earlier.” It still sounds like a silly thing to find inspiration in, but if being in love works for Jaehwan, maybe it’ll do something for him as well.

Jaehwan stares at him, hard. Then he bursts into laughter, high pitched, manic, and a little desperate. “I’ll look forward to it.”

 

 

Sewoon has a proposal. It unfolds like this:

“Let’s date,” Sewoon says the next afternoon.

He’s sitting out in the quad with Jaehwan, enjoying the rare burst of sunshine. Sewoon tips his head back and basks in the warmth. Beside him, Jaehwan huddles over his guitar, caught up in tuning it. Every so often, they’ll both look over at each other, lock gazes, and dissolve into giggles. It’s a comfortable, lazy day. There are a thousand other things Sewoon could and should be doing, but he wants to enjoy the free time he has now.

The suggestion comes out of left field, freezing Jaehwan’s expression in a wince as he tightens a guitar string. “Ehm,” he says, then tries again. “That’s not how it works…?” Sewoon glances over at him questioningly, and Jaehwan shifts restlessly. “You should date someone you like, Sewoonie.”

“You’re the only person I like, hyung,” he replies frankly. Truth is, Sewoon has given the idea a lot of thought. You can’t just decide to date someone out of the blue like that, especially if you’re Jung Sewoon and don’t have a lot of candidates lined up. He doesn’t know how to fall in love either, doesn’t know if it’s a conscious decision or just hits you with the force of a truck out of nowhere. He doesn’t know if it can be controlled or directed. So much of it confuses him and his performance is only a month away.

But he can try to simulate the experience of dating instead. Enter a temporary relationship and hope he can trick his mind and heart into thinking he’s in love. Maybe that way he can trigger some sort of emotion or inspiration to ‘elevate his music,’ as Jaehwan put it. Sewoon knows Jaehwan is in love with someone else, but he can't ask any other friend to do this for him; the thought alone is embarrassing. Out of everyone he knows, Jaehwan is the only person who could possibly get it, and he’s the only person Sewoon trusts not to overstep his boundaries.

Silent for a long time, Jaehwan shifts in his seat. “I mean,” his voice is low, distant. “Not like that. I’m talking about a serious like.” The kind of like that eats you up from the inside out, Jaehwan doesn’t say.

“I seriously like you.” Catching the expression of bewilderment on Jaehwan’s face, Sewoon ducks his head. “It would just be for a little while, but if it’s too much, I won’t push you.” In case Jaehwan is too polite to refuse, he gives him a clear out. He could ask someone else, but, well, Sewoon is being honest when he says Jaehwan is the only person he likes. Seems like falling in love—or convincing himself he is—would be easiest with him.

“Well.” Jaehwan laughs nervously and scratches his cheek. He strums a few chords and avoids meeting Sewoon’s eyes. “I guess it wouldn’t hurt.” Uncertainty bleeds into his tone; he strums a few more chords, more aggressively than before. “It might be fun.”

“Thanks, hyung.” Sewoon rubs his nose with the back of his hand. The butterflies in his stomach settle, and he privately thinks that was a lot more nerve wracking than he expected. Is this what trying to confess to someone is like? His pulse still races when he sneaks a glance at Jaehwan, however—leftover nerves, perhaps. “So…what do we do now?” Here comes the hard part. Sewoon’s experience in dating is nonexistent and he has no idea what follows their agreement.

Jaehwan is equally lost. “We could just sit here,” he suggests after a pause. Nudging Sewoon’s foot, he grins at him over his guitar. “It’s kinda peaceful. Kinda romantic, if you squint.”

“Hmmmmm.” Sewoon leans against Jaehwan’s arm and closes his eyes. “That sounds good to me.” Things don’t always have to start with a bang, he supposes. And this is comfortably fitting.

“You can’t fall asleep here—” Jaehwan protests, but Sewoon ignores him and continues to keep his eyes shut, pressed up against Jaehwan. After a while, Jaehwan sighs and mutters something under his breath about weakness, but he doesn’t move or shake Sewoon off.

This is, Sewoon decides, a good perk of being in a ‘relationship.’

 

 

Dating Kim Jaehwan is a lot like being friends with Kim Jaehwan.

Sewoon finds it hard to distinguish between the two for the first couple of days. Not much changes. He and Jaehwan still eat meals together whenever they can. Jaehwan still books practice rooms for them where they sit, legs tangled together, and feed off each other’s guitar playing into late hours of the night. Sewoon still goes down to visit Jaehwan at his part time job at the convenience store nearby when he gets the opportunity and keeps him company during his boring shifts. Jaehwan is still the first person he texts when he wakes up and the last person he texts before going to sleep.

But everything changes too. It’s hard to pinpoint just when the shift happens, but it’s palpable and catches Sewoon off guard. Often, Jaehwan will slip his hand into Sewoon’s with the determination of a man getting ready to scale an insurmountable wall and laces his fingers with Sewoon’s. Sewoon finds himself for Jaehwan in every crowd, his breath catching when he spots him, an automatic smile spreading across his lips. He sings to Sewoon, once, and Sewoon finds himself nodding along. This is what a love song is.

The quiet moments matter the most, even more so than the dates. Sewoon will rest his head on Jaehwan’s shoulder or his lap whenever he’s drained and doze off, feeling at peace. As their practices wind down, tension hangs thick in the air and Sewoon swallows, caught between wanting to say something and wanting to run away. Jaehwan just grins at him, eyes impossibly soft, and shifts closer—”You’re cute, Sewoonie,” he says, like a secret between the two of them.

It’s about context, Sewoon realizes. On the surface, his relationship with Jaehwan isn’t earth-shatteringly different. He doesn’t come to some kind of a startling revelation about love or pain or anything in between. But his music starts to sound a little richer, his voice a little sweeter, and he learns that it really does help to channel whatever you’re feeling into your lyrics and playing, so other people can feel it too.

Jaehwan has a way of making him feel like he’s hanging weightless, suspended in mid-air. Sewoon tries to convey as much of that sensation as he can.

 

 

“Should we kiss?” Sewoon asks one day, perched on Jaehwan’s bed with a notebook in his lap. He’s trying to write. It’s not going well.

Jaehwan slowly slides off the chair at his desk like a boneless mass of flesh. “Uh.” His voice wavers as he scrambles to pull himself back up. “Uh.”

It seems like the logical next step. “It’s something people in relationships do.” Maybe he shouldn’t be asking that so casually, like it’s nothing more than a request to pass the salt at the dinner table. “So should we?” But Sewoon is the farthest thing from calm; his heart hammers in his ribcage as he waits for an answer from Jaehwan.

“Sure, I guess,” comes the eventual response. Jaehwan’s expression is complicated, but he tentatively sits beside Sewoon, who abandons his notebook to scooch closer, taking care not to mess up the sheets Jaehwan’s roommate so painstakingly made up earlier.

Jaehwan looks uncharacteristically nervous as Sewoon gets closer, and he’s tempted to ask him if he’s really sure about this. But there’s a glint of something else in his eyes as well. Sewoon can’t put a name to it, but if he had to try, he would call it anticipation. Before Sewoon can ask why, Jaehwan lurches forward and presses his lips against his, as if it takes every ounce of his courage to do so, as if he’s afraid he’ll lose the nerve.

Sewoon is frozen in shock. Jaehwan’s lips are chapped, rough, clumsy. It’s not a first kiss to write about, but as Jaehwan’s pulls away, Sewoon’s face burns. He turns away quickly, not wanting to see Jaehwan’s expression.

“Hm,” he says, picking up his notebook. He clutches it to his chest and climbs off the bed. “Hm.”

“I was going to ask you how it was—please tell me you can say more than ‘hm’ right now,” Jaehwan says, laughing awkwardly. He grabs the edge of his blanket and tries to to pull it over himself.

“Hm,” Sewoon repeats. Jaehwan groans and sinks to the floor again.

(Truth is, he doesn’t know what else to say. Jaehwan renders him speechless).

 

 

Idly, he wonders what it’s like to love someone for real. Is it more intense? Is it all-consuming? Does it burn like an unchecked flame or is it smoldering embers resting at the bottom of your heart, keeping you warm? Sewoon is too polite to ask Jaehwan, but the question is never far from his mind.

He intends to ask one afternoon, but what comes out of his mouth is not what he wants to say. “Why won’t you tell the person you like how you feel about them?” It’s a probing question, needlessly intrusive, and he braces himself for no response.

But Jaehwan just clenches his hands into fists and shakes his head. “I don’t want him to leave me because of it or—” He stops and turns away, face coloring. “It doesn’t matter.” He puts up a wall, drags a line in the sand and Sewoon steps back, respecting the boundary.

Later, he will think that he is not as oblivious as you might think. Jaehwan’s stolen glances, clammy palms, the sharp intakes of breath when Sewoon gets too close make sense in this context. Far from being egotistical, Sewoon is pretty sure that the person Jaehwan is in love with is—him.

It makes him think this whole temporary relationship is cruel. Sewoon can’t exploit Jaehwan’s feelings just because he wants to learn and experience something new. But when he considers telling Jaehwan to end it, to not worry because he has enough, a strange reluctance takes hold of him and he can’t get the words out.

It means something.

Sewoon spends hours trying to work out what.

 

 

Clarity arrives on a Wednesday, oddly enough.

Sewoon picks up breakfast for both him and Jaehwan before rushing to their meeting place in the study hall. He finds Jaehwan with his head on the table, fast asleep. His lips are parted just so, stress melting from his features. He looks years younger, innocent, and peaceful. Sewoon carefully sets the tray of coffees and bagels down near him and sits down. Sewoon should wake him up; he knows Jaehwan has a class soon.

Instead, he rests his chin in his hands and studies Jaehwan’s face, eyes passing over his nose, his chubby cheeks, his mouth, and feels something well up deep inside, and thinks, ah, this is what all the love songs are talking about.

It’s a quiet, anti climactic realization, but something about it fits: he’s in love with Kim Jaehwan.

Jaehwan’s eyes flutter open before long and he sits up, yawning widely. “Whoops, sorry. Didn’t mean to nod off,” he says sheepishly, but Sewoon waves the apology away.

“It’s fine. You’re fine,” he says, pushing the coffee towards Jaehwan. “Here, freshen up.”

Jaehwan murmurs out a quick thank you and grins at him over the cup. Sewoon instinctively returns the smile. It’s strange; he doesn’t fall in love so much as wakes up in it, like someone lifts his head out of the water and forces him to open his eyes.

This is how it’s been all along.

 

 

“When in doubt, go to Lim Youngmin for advice.” — Lee Daehwi, probably.

Sewoon does go to Youngmin for help when it comes down to it, because Youngmin is mature and knowledgeable about these things, or looks like he is. Daehwi gives him an 8.5 out of 10 rating when it comes to listening abilities and quality of advice. “Without him, Jinyoung and I probably wouldn’t have dated,” Daehwi explains on the way to class.

“You only dated for two weeks,” Sewoon reminds him.

Daehwi huffs. “And that’s my fault, not Youngmin hyung’s! Just go talk to him; he’s discreet.”

He buys Youngmin coffee as a thanks, though Youngmin tells him it’s not necessary. “You don’t have to bribe me for advice; I’m happy to talk to you,” he smiles, and Sewoon just shrugs. It seems polite, that’s all.

They snag a table near the back of the cafe. Youngmin sips at his drink and waits for Sewoon to speak first. His patience is appreciated, but also nerve wracking. Sewoon spends too much time studying his sweaty hands before finally admitting, “I think I’m in love with a friend.” He looks up and winces. “What should I do?”

Youngmin coughs and hastily sets his cup down. “It’s not, er, me, is it?” he asks, and Sewoon shakes his head, stifling a chuckle. What a conclusion to jump to. Relief spreads over Youngmin’s features and he clears his throat. “Do you know how they feel?”

“Yes,” Sewoon says, then hesitates. “Most likely. I think he does…” He’s sure of it, but there’s always a margin for error in everything. Jaehwan could be in love with someone else, but his gut tells him that is unlikely.

“Then it’s not that complicated, is it? You can just tell him.” Youngmin sounds encouraging, but Sewoon sighs, picking at the edges of the table.

“I don’t think it’s that easy.” Any explanation would sound stupid, so he simply says, “We have unusual circumstances.”

Youngmin is silent for a long time. “As long as you’re honest,” he says finally, gentle. “It should be fine. He’s your friend, after all.” Something about his statement rings raw and personal. Sewoon decides not to pry. Youngmin is right; Jaehwan is his friend. Even if he’s wrong and Jaehwan feels nothing for him, he trusts that it won’t ruin their friendship. If he’s right and Jaehwan accepts his feelings… that’s something else altogether.

“Thank you, hyung,” Sewoon says. There’s no use in overthinking, in worrying until his stomach is twisted up in knots. He’ll go for it—take a leap of faith.

Youngmin finishes his coffee and stands up. “No problem. Happy to help.” He ruffles Sewoon’s hair before chucking the cup in the trash and leaving. Sewoon’s hands fly to his head, quickly fixing his hairstyle as he watches Youngmin leave.

His eyes land on Jaehwan standing by the counter, wallet out and eyes fixed on Sewoon’s table. Smiling, Sewoon gives him a small wave, but Jaehwan doesn’t wave back. He pockets his change, picks up his drink, and walks out of the cafe without a backward glance.

Sewoon’s smile fades.

 

 

Jaehwan may be angry with him. Scratch that, Jaehwan is angry at him. Sewoon comes to the conclusion when Jaehwan skips out on their third joint practice in a row with a flimsy excuse sent over text message and accompanied by zero emojis.

He tries not to worry. Sewoon doesn’t want to push; he will give Jaehwan space if his friend needs it, but as the days drag on, he starts to get upset. Jaehwan is never rude, but he avoids Sewoon as much as he can. Their conversations are brief and sharp, to the point, and it’s frustrating because Sewoon misses his company and casual touches and too-bright smiles. He misses being able to talk to Jaehwan about anything without there being tension between them.

Sewoon is not confrontational, but he refuses to let things fester. He seeks Jaehwan out in the library a week and a half before the winter showcase and finds him near the windows, hunched over a complicated piece of musical score. Sewoon pulls out a chair beside him and plops down without preamble, then nudges Jaehwan’s shoulder when the other man doesn’t look up. “Long time no see,” he says. It sounds like an accusation. Sewoon reorients. “I’ve missed you, hyung.”

“Sorry,” Jaehwan says, still not looking up. “Been busy and… stuff.” He rubs his eyes and pulls the sheets closer to him. ‘Busy and stuff’ is an understatement; Jaehwan’s schedule is packed on the best of days, but he’s always made time for Sewoon. Perhaps he took it for granted.

Sewoon won’t let the brush-off deter him. “I was hoping you could listen to my performance for the winter showcase,” he plows on, folding his hands together. “I want to hear your opinion on it, if you have the time.” He’s been working really hard on it, even changed his plans halfway through. Instead of a cover, Sewoon’s going to be singing his original song, a song he only wrote with the help of Jaehwan, though the latter doesn’t know it yet. It’s about love, or almost about love. An attempt, at least.

“I don’t know about time,” is Jaehwan’s swift response. Then he sighs and raises his head, turning to look outside the window. The sun is half an hour or so from setting; the sky is painted a beautiful color, and Sewoon follows Jaehwan’s gaze with a small sigh. “Winter showcase… that’s already coming up, isn’t it?” His eyes narrow as he turns back to Sewoon. “I guess that means you should have enough material, right?” he asks abruptly. “For your performance or whatever.”

“I… think so?” Sewoon’s response is automatic.

Jaehwan’s expression hardens. “We can break up then, right?” His leg bounces up and down. Sewoon holds his breath. “Because this ‘dating’ thing was just for, you know, science. Let’s end it.” Under his breath, he adds, “Go date someone you really want to be with.”

Kim Jaehwan used logic; it’s super effective!

Sewoon’s mind whirs. It takes him some time to process. Jaehwan wants to end their temporary relationship. Jaehwan doesn’t want to do this anymore. Sewoon doesn’t blame him for it, but the thought of losing what they have now fills him with panic. Sewoon is too used to agreeing to what other people want, but he doesn’t want to agree this time, not until he conveys all he wants to. “It’s not just for science,” he says, smiling ruefully. “I don’t like science, hyung. But I like you.”

Jaehwan lets out a bark of laughter. “You don’t mean that.” The group at the next table over shushes them. Jaehwan rolls his eyes. “You really don’t mean that,” he repeats.

“I like being with you,” Sewoon says plainly. “I like talking to you. I liked kissing you.” His cheeks are pink now, voice dropping down to a whisper. “Every song I want to sing lately is for you, Jaehwan hyung.”

Jaehwan stares at him for a long time. Sewoon isn’t sure what’s going on his mind, but it takes a while before he opens his mouth again. “You’re serious? Because this would a really shitty joke, Sewoon,” he says hoarsely.

“I mean every word I said.” Sewoon’s mouth hurts from smiling so widely. Believe me, he wants to say. I’m sorry I’m late, but please believe me when I say—“I like you and I want you to be my boyfriend, for real this time.”

Sucking in a deep breath, Jaehwan pushes his chair back. He blinks rapidly and rubs his face with both hands, trying to hide the rapidly spreading blush that engulfs entire front. “You mind if I cheer really loudly just now?” he says through his fingers, voice muffled.

“We’re in the middle of the library.”

He lowers his hands. “That’s a no?”

Sewoon laughs. “Go ahead.” His chest is warm, ready to burst.

Letting out an inappropriately loud whoop, Jaehwan lunges forward and catches Sewoon’s mouth with his. Like the first time, the kiss is sloppy, clumsy, and rushed—the group at the next table over throw a wadded-up piece of paper at them—but Jaehwan’s lips are sincere and Sewoon smiles as he kisses him back and, despite the messiness, this is a kiss he does write about later.

The first among many.

 

 

Jung Sewoon writes and performs his first love song at twenty.

“Is it about me?” Jaehwan asks after he hears it. “Is it? Is it about me? It has to be about me, right?”

“I don’t know, hyung. It’s up to your own interpretation,” Sewoon says, but when he pouts, Sewoon laughs and winds his fingers through Jaehwan’s.

The answer's in the lyrics: it's obviously a yes.