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Teenage Victory Song

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It's not until Himchan hears the tell-tale creak of the fire escape outside his window that he remembers Yongguk is on his way.

"Shit!" Himchan hisses, laying his guitar down quickly (but carefully) on the bed, and hurrying to shut his door. His parents are probably asleep, but still. He's supposed to be practicing, not having friends sneak up the fire escape into his bedroom at midnight.

Friends, Himchan thinks, running a hand through his hair nervously. Friends, or--something.

"Himchan-ah..." Yongguk peers through the window hesitantly. Himchan slides up the screen, letting him climb in through the tiny space.

"Sorry," Himchan says, even though it's not like he made Yongguk wait. It's just -- he'd forgotten he was coming, and the bed's unmade and Himchan's still wearing his uniform and there's laundry everywhere. Maybe Yongguk doesn't mind. Maybe none of this matters and he really does just want to work on lyrics tonight and that other time...was just a fluke. Maybe Himchan made the whole thing up in his head.

"For what?" Yongguk drops his backpack down on Himchan's bed, pulling his sneakers off and setting them on Himchan's floor under his desk. He takes his baseball cap off as well, running his hands through his hair so that it sticks up unevenly.

"Nothing," Himchan says. He swallows. Being around Yongguk always makes him feel like he's not quite enough, somehow. He doesn't feel that way at school. Everyone he knows is just like him; practicing obsessively, fitting things like eating and sleeping in where they can. Himchan hasn't bothered changing his clothes since school ended; what did it matter what he was practicing in?

Yongguk is wearing an oversize black t-shirt with "NYC" written on it. His baseball cap is the cool kind, with the wide flat brim, bright with an unreadable neon spraypaint tag in English. His jeans are cool and his socks are probably cool and he's just...cool. Himchan still doesn't know why they're even friends. There are a million cute girls in their arts program that Yongguk could be hanging out with and instead he's always texting Himchan.

Himchan pushes his glasses up, because now he's just awkwardly staring, like Yongguk has something on his face.

"What?" Yongguk says, frowning. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," Himchan says, because he doesn't know what else to say. "I like your shirt."

"Thanks," Yongguk says, half-smiling. "New York, you know? I want to go there." He looks at Himchan, taking in his rumpled dress shirt and khakis. "Why don't you ever change out of your uniform?"

"Why does it matter?" Himchan says, dropping down on the bed and crossing his long legs so that he and Yongguk can both fit. "It's not like anyone's going to see me practice."

"But I don't know what you look like," Yongguk says. "I mean--you know what I mean. I've never even seen you out of your school uniform."

"I'm nothing special. I look the same as I do in my uniform."

"But it's about, like--" Yongguk is digging through his backpack for his notebook. "I don't know. It's self-expression. You should change into something comfortable."

"What? Now?" Himchan says. His cheeks feel hot.

"Sure," Yongguk says. He grins and flicks his eyes down and away. His has the longest eyelashes. Himchan wishes he didn't notice these kinds of things. "I won't look, if you don't want me to. If you're shy, or something."

"Um," Himchan says. He doesn't really -- he doesn't understand why Yongguk wants to see him in just regular clothes, so Himchan can look like even more of a nerd, but okay. He doesn't want to get undressed in front of Yongguk either, but at least Yongguk won't look. Yongguk--despite all appearances--almost never lies. Sometimes Himchan wonders what his parents would think if they knew Himchan was friends with this guy.

"Fine," Himchan says, pinching his nose under the bridge of his glasses. "Just--yeah, don't look."

"I won't," Yongguk says. Himchan thinks he might be blushing as well, but he can't be sure.

Himchan gets up, crossing the room and pulling open his tiny closet door before he can change his mind. He tugs off his shirt and tie and pants and throws them in the laundry, and then pulls on a blue T-shirt from a middle-school archery tournament and a pair of jeans. The T-shirt hangs off of him now, but the jeans fit well; he bought them recently because his legs won't stop growing. They're tight--tighter than what he usually wears, anyway. He wonders if Yongguk will notice.

"Better?" Himchan asks, adjusting his glasses and sitting back down on the bed.

"Yeah," Yongguk says. He licks his lips. "So that's--if you had to go out, you'd wear that?"

"Probably," Himchan says. "Why?"

"I don't know," Yongguk says. "I was just curious. You're so--I wanted to know more about you." He winces, staring down at his notebook. "That sounds really dumb," he says, shaking his head. "I guess I just thought--maybe if I saw you in your own clothes I'd understand you more."

"You don't understand me?" Himchan asks, trying not to smile. Yongguk is definitely blushing.

"Not really."

"What, you want a fashion show?" Himchan grins.

"No, you don't have to--"

"Here," Himchan laughs, standing up going to his dresser. He doesn't know why he's smiling, except that Yongguk is cute when he's flustered and it's actually sort of nice to have someone interested in him for once. Even if it's just as a friend. Maybe he wasn't imagining the last time, when Yongguk came over and everything had felt...easy, between them. Like maybe they could be friends as well as colleagues.

Something like that.

"How's this?" Himchan tugs on something his aunt gave him the other day, a tight black t-shirt with a screen-printed design near the hem in green and blue. When he looks in the mirror, his shoulders look broader underneath the fitted fabric. He pushes his hair around, pursing his lips and making exaggerated faces until Yongguk starts laughing.

"How's that?" Himchan asks, dropping back down on the bed. He knows his front teeth are probably sticking out, but he doesn't care. Yongguk is smiling his real smile, with his gums showing and his eyes crinkled up at the corners. "Was that enough of a show? Think I should become an ulzzang in my spare time?"

"You could," Yongguk says, nudging Himchan with his knee and grinning. "You're handsome enough."

Himchan snorts. "Don't make fun of me," he says, picking his guitar back up. "That's--no way."

"No, really," Yongguk says. "I mean--can you take your glasses off for a second?"

Himchan rolls his eyes, and then he takes off his glasses. Without them, Yongguk is just a large fuzzy blob near the end of the bed. Himchan thinks he's holding his phone up to take a picture.

"Now look at me," Yongguk says. "Like--yeah, like that." Himchan tilts his head towards the blob, and then pushes his hair out of his eyes. He hears the click and then sees the flash of the camera.

He lets Yongguk take a few more, and then he puts his glasses back on. "Happy now?" Himchan says. He knows his cheeks are red. He doesn't like the way he looks, but he's willing to play along with Yongguk for the moment. "I guess they might look okay if you airbrushed them or something."

Yongguk is flipping through the photos on his phone, deep in concentration. When he hears Himchan's words he looks up, raising both eyebrows and giving Himchan a look that suggests that Yongguk is seriously doubting Himchan's sanity.

"What?" Himchan says, frowning as he begins to tune his guitar.

Yongguk tosses the phone across the bed. Himchan picks it up with one hand while he sets his guitar back down on his lap.

"I don't think you need airbrushing," Yongguk says, into the silence. Himchan looks down at Yongguk's phone. There's something about the way Yongguk's angled the pictures--somehow he's made Himchan's narrow features look dark and interesting, instead of just strange and skinny.

He really does look different without his glasses.

"Thanks," Himchan murmurs. He looks up to hand Yongguk his phone back, but Yongguk has moved Himchan's guitar down onto the floor. He's closer than Himchan expected.

"See?" Yongguk says, after a long pause. "There's more to you than the uniform. You know?"

"Sure," Himchan says. He bites his lip. "Yeah." When he hands Yongguk back his phone, their fingers brush. Yongguk is so close, and his cheeks are red and for a second Himchan thinks...

...but no, Yongguk is swallowing and looking away and then scooting backwards. He leans up against Himchan's headboard. Himchan feels disappointed and he's not even sure why. He doesn't know what he was expecting Yongguk to do. He doesn't understand anything lately. All he knows is that he wants to be around Yongguk all the time.

It's pretty weird.

"Um," Himchan says. He leans down and picks his guitar up, tuning it properly this time. "Anyway. You said you wanted to work out some chords for your Composition project?"

"I--yeah." Yongguk shuffles pieces of crumpled paper around in his notebook. As long as Himchan's known him--which isn't very long--he's never seen Yongguk write anything down in a nice, orderly way. His lyrics are always scrawled on the back of convenience store receipts or honor society flyers or anything he can get his hands on. Himchan has no idea how he can even remember which lyrics and melodies belong to which songs.

"Okay," Yongguk says finally, when he has all of his little crumpled bits of poetry spread out in front of him. "I wanted to start with something kind of dark for this one, maybe a diminished triad in C...

--

"Channie? Himchan!" Himchan is shaken awake by slim fingers and a low, urgent voice. He blinks, trying to figure out why nothing is in focus.

Oh right. His glasses.

He finds them around his neck, and slips them back on. He's leaning up against a pile of pillows near the foot of his bed, guitar still draped across his lap.

"You fell asleep," Yongguk says, smiling at him. "I started reworking that last stanza and I looked up and you were totally passed out."

"Sorry," Himchan yawns, bringing one hand up to cover his mouth. He tastes the tang of copper, and pulls his hand away curiously. Two of his fingers are bleeding, even though he'd been careful to strum quietly. Maybe he needs to take a break from the guitar for a day or two. His drumming needs some work. He can just make some new callouses while these heal.

"Hey," Yongguk says, frowning. He catches Himchan's hand. "You're bleeding."

"Yeah," Himchan shrugs. He wipes his hands on his pants. "Instruments. It happens."

"No, don't--you have to clean that out," Yongguk says, frowning deeper. "It will get infected."

"Guk, this happens like, every week," Himchan says. He yawns again. "It's why I rotate instruments the way I do. It's not a big deal."

"But it will get infected." Yongguk is giving him his best 'you know should better' stare. Yongguk is really good at that one. For someone who dresses like he's about to rob a convenience store, Yongguk is more concerned about The Rules than anyone else that Himchan's ever met.

"Fine," Himchan says, waving him off even though Yongguk's hands are warm and feel nice on his skin. "I'll go rinse them off in the bathroom and put some band-aids on them. I can tape them up tomorrow. Happy?"

"Mmm," Yongguk says, looking at Himchan suspiciously.

Himchan rolls his eyes, leaving the guitar on the bed while he tiptoes to the bathroom. He's pissed, washed his hands, cleaned the cuts, and finished putting the band-aids on when he looks up at the tiny clock near the sink.

"Shit," Himchan mutters. It's almost 3am. He has to be up by 5:30 at the latest. Yongguk lives pretty far away, too. They both should have been keeping a better eye on the time. Himchan regularly pulls all-nighters, but he hadn't been planning on one tonight.

"Hey," Himchan says, once he's back in his own room. "Guk. It's almost 3 in the morning."

Yongguk groans softly, rubbing his eyes. "Yeah?"

"I have to get up at 5:30."

"No, I know." Yongguk bites his lip. "I'm sorry I kept you up. I'll go."

"No, it's--it's okay," Himchan says, reaching a hand out instinctively when Yongguk starts gathering up his papers. "I didn't mind. I was having fun."

"Really?" Yongguk looks so surprised that Himchan can't help smiling. He flicks Yongguk in the ear, instead.

"No, I just hang out with you for my health. Of course I have fun, dumbass. I always have fun."

Yongguk doesn't reply, but Himchan catches the smile that curves the corners of his mouth up, all the time. He lets the matter drop, stepping across his room and putting his guitar back in the case.

"Um. Channie?" Himchan turns around to see Yongguk still perched on his bed. He looks nervous. Himchan frowns. Is Yongguk worried about going home this late? He's never been worried about it before.

"Mmm?" Himchan says. "What?"

"Do you think I could--No, you know what. Never mind."

"What?"

"I told you. It's stupid."

"Tell me what it is, idiot," Himchan says, falling back down onto his bed and pressing his face into one of his pillows. His sweet, sweet pillows that will soon allow him two blissful hours of sleep before his life starts all over again.

"Do you think I could just...stay here? Would you get in trouble? You just live so much closer to the school..."

It takes a moment for Yongguk's words to sink in, and then another moment for Himchan's tired brain to process them. His face feels hot, all of a sudden. If Yongguk stayed here...he'd need to sleep in Himchan's bed. Or on the floor, but Himchan isn't actually an asshole and so Yongguk is sleeping in his bed, whether Himchan sleeps there or not.

"Okay," Himchan says, lifting his head up from the pillow. His heart is suddenly beating fast, like he's just run all the way from his front door to home room. "Yeah. That makes sense. Just, um--" he makes a sweeping motion with his hand. "Get under the covers, if you want. I'll grab a blanket from the closet and sleep on the floor."

"What?" Yongguk frowns. "No. You can't sleep on the floor."

"You're the guest!"

"It's your bed!"

They stare at each other for a moment, locked in silent impasse, before Himchan gives in. "Fine," he says, rubbing his eyes underneath his glasses. He is so ready to be asleep right now. "If that's what you really want. We can share."

Yongguk's flush deepens, but he nods. He pulls off his hoodie and his socks, and then empties his pockets onto Himchan's nightstand. Himchan crawls off the bed and takes the opportunity to tug his jeans off and slip into a pair of sweatpants, keeping his body mostly hidden behind his closet door.

"Ready?" Himchan says, his fingers on the single lamp they still have lit. Yongguk nods, so Himchan switches it off, plunging the room into darkness. Himchan feels his way towards the bed and then carefully gets in, taking the side closest to the wall. He doesn't want to like--touch Yongguk too much. Or maybe he does want to touch maybe Yongguk too much. Maybe that's the problem.

"Um, I need to--" Himchan has to lean over Yongguk to put his glasses on the nightstand. Their chests brush together and even through two layers of clothing Himchan's nipples get hard. He drops his glasses on the nightstand and falls back on the bed, hoping Yongguk didn't notice.

It's just stimulation, that's all. It's just what happens. Himchan is 16. Pretty much everything he touches turns him on. The warm press of Yongguk's shoulder next to his own is turning him on, and Himchan is positive that shoulders are not sexy.

Everything is fine. They just need to sleep.

They lie there in silence for a moment. Himchan listens to the sound of Yongguk's breathing and then practically jumps when Yongguk sighs and rolls over to face Himchan.

"This is so dumb," Yongguk says. "I need to tell you something. You have to promise not to tell anyone."

"Uh," Himchan says. Yongguk is really close again. Like. Really close. Like their bodies are totally touching close. Yongguk's knees are pressed against Himchan's shins and his arm is sort of curled up in between them. Himchan tries to focus on what Yongguk is saying.

"Promise not to laugh," Yongguk whispers. "You have to promise."

"I swear on literally everything I own," Himchan says. "I'm not going to laugh. I'm too tired to laugh."

There's a long pause, and then Yongguk mutters something that's too quiet for Himchan to hear. He shifts closer. "What?"

"I said..." Yongguk sighs. His breath is hot on the shell of Himchan's ear. Himchan shivers. "I said I sleep with a stuffed Tigger, okay. My grandfather gave it to me and it's so dumb but I can't really fall asleep without it."

"Oh," Himchan says, blinking.

"You're judging me right now, aren't you?" Yongguk says sadly.

"No," Himchan says, although it's possible he might be laughing in his head. Just a little bit. "I'm just thinking about the fact that I don't own any stuffed animals."

"Oh," Yongguk says. He bites his lip. "Okay."

"Sorry."

"It's fine."

Another long moment of silence.

"Do you think, um--" Himchan feels the tentative slide of Yongguk's hand on his waist, and his stomach drops and rolls in a dizzying and entirely pleasant way.

Himchan bites his lip. He could kiss Yongguk, if he wanted to. They're close enough. He could just lean forward and kiss him but Himchan isn't sure that he's ready for that and he's not sure what that would mean and he just...doesn't know a lot of things.

All he knows is that Yongguk's hands are warm and soft and honestly, if Yongguk wants to spoon up behind him and pretend that Himchan is his stuffed animal, Himchan is A-OK with that. He tries not to think about how much of a loser that makes him.

"Yeah," Himchan says. He brushes his nose against Yongguk's nose--just for a second, just enough to let Yongguk know it's okay, because that's all he has the courage for right now--and then he rolls onto his side, facing away from Yongguk. He feels the warmth of Yongguk's skin as he carefully curls up behind him, using the arm around his waist to draw him in.

Himchan closes his eyes, because it might be the nicest thing he's felt in forever.

"You're really sure this is okay?" Yongguk mumbles, his nose pressed into Himchan's hair. Himchan reaches down and brushes his thumb over Yongguk's hand, and then loosely links their fingers together.

"S'ok," he mumbles, already halfway to drifting off. "S'nice. You're warm."

"Okay," Yongguk says. Himchan feels him smile into his hair. The last thing he's aware of before he falls asleep is the feeling of Yongguk's fingers threading more firmly through his own.