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The Adolescence Appendix

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Wonwoo is having a bad day.

Story of his life, honestly. But it’s been especially bad as of late.

He’s flipped out twice on Soonyoung this week because his Philosophy of Politics in Journalism professor is as transparent as a brick and had failed (spectacularly) in mentioning anything about the major research paper due in four days. Then Wonwoo nearly changed his profession from “suffering student” to “actual roadkill” after some asshole ran a red light because some people just can't emotionally or mentally handle waiting thirty seconds for the next light cycle.

And now, from the warm and dry confines of the library, Wonwoo watches what’s probably nature’s response to how much humans keep fucking with the environment.

He realizes, like a disappointed but unsurprised guardian, that he has no umbrella.

“I’d lend you my raincoat,” Seokmin had teased, clearly lying, “but Mingyu will yell murder if you fall in love with me,” before prancing away in his obnoxiously bright plastic parka. Wonwoo saluted him goodbye with a middle finger.

This raining trope is getting old, he thinks wistfully. The universe should find more original ways of telling him that he’s reached another turning point in his life.

But he has no time to ponder what adventures the greater cosmic powers have in store for him this time. The earlier he starts his all-nighter, the sooner he can regret his decisions, get over it, rinse and repeat.

Wonwoo reaches the lobby of his apartment building cold and tired and soaked to every bone, even those he didn’t know existed. But he’d sooner skinny dip in an Antarctic water park than get his notes wet because he still lives in the medieval ages and uses paper notebooks.

“How’s the child?” asks the guard at the front desk, eyeing the way Wonwoo is cradling his bag like his entire life lay inside—which, for all intents and purposes, is true.

Wonwoo glares when the guard offers a dainty handkerchief. He takes it anyway.

“Soonyoung won’t be happy you called him that,” Wonwoo says. “Anyway, I got an alert this morning about some mail?”

“Not expecting any?”

“Not the kind to expect. Deliberately, at least.”

“You should start,” says the guard, smiling. “Good for the heart and soul."

You say that like I have either is hanging at the edge of Wonwoo’s internal dialogue, but any degree of coherence is lost on him when he sees what the guard is nudging his chin at.

The guard clicks his tongue. “I don’t trust your roommates enough to pick it up themselves.”

Wonwoo nods. “Good call.”

Stark against the warped table is an arrangement of flowers—colorful, tall, unnecessarily extravagant relative to the dull blue-grays of the rest of the world. Then the scent hits Wonwoo, fresh and sweet in a way that doesn’t make his nose shrivel because he hates things that are nauseatingly fragrant. Clearly the sender knows that, too.

Who would even treat him to flowers? Not God, that’s for sure. The last time someone sent Wonwoo something, his grandmother had mailed him a can of beans because she couldn’t open it and hoped he could work his can-opening magic and send it back.

But the gift carries a nostalgic air to it, which is weird considering Wonwoo has never been a flowers kind of guy. He can’t even remember the last time he’d been around flowers that didn’t wilt when he so much as looked at them.

Ah, no, that’s not right. He promises he remembers this time.

Wonwoo returns to his apartment and finds it in the panicked disarray Soonyoung always leaves it in before sprinting out to teach underprivileged children how to dance or whatever a heart of gold compels people to do. It’s times like these Wonwoo reminds himself that rent for singles is expensive and severing a limb for money is not a good plan B.

But this time Wonwoo is in a moderately less sour mood, cheeks slightly flushed, and loosened enough with pleasant surprise to think up things like “budding smiles” and “blooming with happiness” despite being severely allergic to such platitudes.

The AC has been broken-stuck on “fucking freezing” degrees Celsius for a while already, but Wonwoo might be sweating because osmosis is a powerful force in the face of so much sugary schmuck. Maybe that’s why it’s raining today. Or why his relationship seems so stubbornly framed by the weather.

After setting the vase in the middle of the dining room table—the only place left untouched after threats of disembowelment—Wonwoo opens up the card. 

TO: My Wonwoo
FROM: Your Mingyu

As I’m writing this, I have this nagging feeling that you’re especially stressed and could use a pick-me-up! Hugs and kisses are hard to send, so this was the next best thing I could think of.

Being away from you is harder than I imagined, but the thought of you trying your hardest gives me the strength to do the same. Hopefully your memory has gotten better by now, too. I miss you! I hope you miss me too. x

“It doesn’t really work when I’m in a perpetual state of being ‘especially stressed,’” Wonwoo mutters through the grin.

On these occasions, Wonwoo would usually warm up with Jihoon’s not-so-secret stash of malt whiskey—top shelf of his wardrobe, behind the stacks of collectible cereal boxes (for anyone taking notes) at a height Jihoon probably thinks is inaccessible to most but requires little effort when backed by tallness and impending hypothermia.

But it turns out that all Wonwoo needs is a fondness for people thinking about him outside of his birthday, and a stable relationship to fuel that fondness tenfold.

At this rate, Mingyu’s Wonwoo senses might be giving Soonyoung’s a run for their money.

“How dare you utter such words in this household,” says Soonyoung, annoyingly dry, from the entrance. “I pay for one quarter of the place. The landlord never specified which quarter I own.”

“That’s not how rent works.”

“Did Jun eat Seungkwan’s potpourri again? It smells like cheap air freshener— I mean the place smells amazing also did you do something with your hair? You look extra handsome today, my friend. My buddy. My bestest of besties.”

At least Soonyoung’s perceptiveness has improved.

“If you manage to wrest all your orange peels from the couch crevices,” offers Wonwoo with ill-concealed malice, “then I might consider not telling Auntie about fall retreat freshman year.”

“But she already—” Soonyoung gasps. Audibly. “Not The Lake.”

“I’ll even throw in The Neck Brace if you don’t get moving.”

As Soonyoung works to unearth citrus skin from the depths of living room furniture, Wonwoo returns to admiring Mingyu’s unexpected—or maybe expected—present.

Wonwoo can see Mingyu’s adamant character in the wallflowers, his greasy declarations of love in the red roses and quiet confessions in the lavenders and jasmines. Hugs and kisses are hard to send, sure, but those heliotropes are doing an A+ job of making Wonwoo’s heart flutter almost the same.

From the kitchen, Wonwoo can hear Soonyoung muttering things around the lines of “I sprain my neck doing a body shot once and suddenly he thinks he’s better than me" and "Ugh, love is dead."

On the contrary, Wonwoo thinks confidently, love is alive and kicking and ready to bust out a kickass research paper.

He smiles again. Maybe today isn’t such a bad day after all.

 

Chapter Text

“How do you do it?” Bambam whispers conspiratorially even though loud hissing is definitely not the same as whispering. “How do you hold out on doing it for so long?”

“‘Doing it’? Are we suddenly fourteen-year-old prepubescent tweens—”

“Fine. How do you hold out on having sex for so long?”

Mingyu faintly wonders what thoughts the poor FBI agent monitoring their conversation must be having. The job probably sounded cooler on paper.

Mingyu responds, deadpan, “Step 1: Enter a committed relationship. Step 2: Don’t sleep with other people. Repeat Step 2 as long as Step 1 is in effect.”

Bambam blinks. “I lost you at Step 1.”

Mingyu closes his eyes. He imagines every pore of his body expressing some form of a sigh.

“My point,” says Bambam, a weird, foretelling gleam to his cheekbones, “is that you’ll lose both your Asian card and Hot Guy card with such a faint glow, my dear vanilla bean.”

Even beneath the sugarcoating of a seemingly unquenchable libido and an equally large thirst for expensive socks, Bambam (Mingyu begrudgingly admits) has a point.

The hardest part of living a continent away from Wonwoo is the absence of physical convenience, and, under that umbrella, the prolonged dry spells after indulging so generously in intimacy when the opportunity was still in the same city and kissing Mingyu like hourly reminders.

Besides, unless it's a special occasion, Wonwoo isn’t one to regularly express affection, especially not physically. He prefers showing affection in the form of creepy pawn shop finds and sharing his fries during nightly fast food runs. Kisses and cheek touches and textbook sex are as far down the spectrum as either of them goes. Until now, Bambam’s eyes are telling Mingyu.

“What do you suggest I do then?” Mingyu asks, immediately regretting the sounds his mouth just made without consulting his brain. Or his better judgment.

This is a feeling that will follow Mingyu for the next two weeks.

 


 

Bambam’s Cosmopolitan Sex Tip #1: Sexting  

Mingmingu:
hey babe whatre you up to

Wonu:
Gross wtf is “babe”?

Mingmingu:
i call you that in person tho???

Wonu:
It sounds more disgusting in text.
Aren’t you supposed to be asleep?

Mingmingu:
it’s only 1am

Wonu:
Exactly.

Mingmingu:
who even sleeps at 1am these days
aw does someone care about my health and wellbeing?? <3

Wonu:
When your bf’s campus culture romanticizes sleep deprivation and promotes it as a gateway ticket to social and academic acceptance
Then yes, consider me concerned.

Mingmingu:
bf!!!
you’re the best ily <333
wait this isn’t what i wanted to tell you

Wonu:
Did your roommate accidentally vomit on your comic collection again?
What did I say about party drunks being attracted to nerdy fire hazards?

Mingmingu:
excuse you
i only collect what can sell for mad bank on ebay in 20 years
i’m a forward thinker

Wonu:
Debatable.

Mingmingu:
anyway
what’re you wearing right now

Wonu:
Why the fuck would you need to know that

Mingmingu:
for science
for the good of the people
the people being me

Wonu:
Is this for another weird business-anthro or -psych experiment?
If so, consider my consent quintuple-locked in the deepest, most untouchable depths of the Earth.
I don’t trust business shrinks.

Mingmingu:
you wound me
have trust

Wonu:
Fine

Mingmingu:
thanks babe

Wonu:
Okay fuck no I’m out

Wonu is now offline

Quietly and to himself, Mingyu whispers, “Damn it.” He imagines his guardian FBI agent facepalming in agreement.

 


 

Bambam’s Cosmopolitan Sex Tip #2: Sending sexy photos

Mingyu isn’t body-conscious by any stretch. Sports were his life up to college, and exercising still comprises a respectable portion of his schedule. In fact, these days, Mingyu is swimming so often in work that he’s basically drowning—okay, maybe that joke would’ve been funny if it wasn’t so painfully true.

“You look too honest,” comments Yugyeom, Mingyu’s gym buddy and Bambam’s twin hellspawn, as he squints at the photo he just took of Mingyu.

Sweaty. And shirtless.

It's either death by mortification or death by abstinence. Mingyu picked his poison and is laying in it.

Yugyeom whistles. “Well, your abs are poppin’ but so are your eyes, and in less of a ‘take me to bed’ kind of way and more of a ‘save me from spiraling doom’ kind of way.”

Maybe some doom would cool Mingyu’s head with how overheated it feels right now. “That’s probably the residual trauma from yesterday’s management midterm,” he says tiredly.

“Oof your boyfriend’s been rubbing off on you.”

“God, I wish.”

Yugyeom looks stuck between yelling in disgust and sobbing in empathy. Even hook-ups don’t escape competition on campus. A guy’s gotta staple a resume to his condom just to get some these days.

“You have a new message,” says Yugyeom.

“From who?”

“Wonwoo.”

Mingyu immediately snaps to attention. “Why, it’s like 4AM over there—”

“Oh, I sent the photo.”

You what.”

“Not this one, the one from earlier when you were changing pants—”

Mingyu snatches his phone from Yugyeom’s hand, and very nearly cries in the middle of the gym.

Wonu:
I’m glad that you have a life
And that you’re taking care of yourself
I was worried that you weren’t bc you’ve been so busy
Congrats on your “gains” as the kids say
Eat more please thanks
Also don’t fucking text me when I’m about the sleep I thought we established this you walking lamppost
PSA pantslessness is still not a socially acceptable norm yet get over it
Love you x

“Cute,” Yugyeom chirps, innocent, from Mingyu’s shoulder.

“Can’t say the same for your Tinder profile,” Mingyu says, just as innocent.

Man, Wonwoo really is rubbing off on him. (Mingyu still wishes.)

 


 

Bambam’s Cosmopolitan Sex Tip #3: Skype sex

“Are you doing what I think you’re doing?”

“Booking a flight to the most unreachable parts of the Amazon so humanity will never find me after this? How did you know?”

Wonwoo’s laugh is a bit choppy and flat from the bad connection, but it sounds so like him that Mingyu’s heart flips all the same. His heart also feels like sinking to the deepest acid pits of his stomach because he just tried to strip off his pajama shirt to Bambam’s custom playlist (i.e. bad striptease music), but Wonwoo is still smiling and laughing so maybe Mingyu still has a chance at this relationship thing.

“I knew something was up with all the gym pics and sudden curiosity for my wardrobe,” Wonwoo muses, propping his chin on his hands. “Not that I’m complaining, I suppose. Seeing you mortified is refreshing.”

Mingyu groans, curling into his desk chair and wishing dearly that Wonwoo would somehow phase through the computer screen and pry away the hands Mingyu has glued to his own face.

“This is embarrassing,” Mingyu mumbles, dejected.

“It’s cute,” Wonwoo corrects. “The fucking cutest. I’d pinch your cheeks if I could.”

“Which ones?” Mingyu blurts before he can help himself. So God help him, he'll probably explode from all this embarrassment. “I might actually die right now. Tell my family I love them—and that my PS4 is following me in the afterlife.”

Wonwoo laughs again, still crackly but low and bright in all the right ways.

“Hey, look at me.” Wonwoo is firm when he says that, so Mingyu begrudgingly peeks behind his fingers. “You’re just fine, okay? I’m flattered and happy that you’d go through all this effort. My opinions about you getting less enabling friends still stands, though.”

Mingyu nods. “Same.”

“I don’t mind trying out new things,” Wonwoo says, smooth and soothing. “You’ve just gotta warn a guy first. The awareness—and the fun from that awareness—shouldn’t be a one-way thing.”

“You’re right,” Mingyu sighs. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. Honestly, just thinking about this is already making me excited.”

Mingyu tilts his head, a little confused at how Wonwoo could ever get excited by his failed attempts at a spicy sex life. “How so?”

Wonwoo tuts his tongue as his eyes wander around Mingyu’s room. Given recent events, Mingyu could easily be hallucinating, but he swears he sees Wonwoo smirk.

“Well," Wonwoo starts, eyes more hooded than usual, "If you lock your door, maybe I’ll show you.”

Mingyu really hopes his FBI guardian isn’t watching.

 

Chapter Text

It’s during one of his monthly group calls with The Gang that Minghao realizes something. (Other than how stupid “The Gang” sounds.)

“Good night everyone—well, I guess it’s afternoon where you guys are,” Mingyu corrects himself, managing to channel his handsome sheepishness through the shitty American Internet he’s been blessed with. Korea has spoiled them all. “So, second Saturday next month?”

“Can’t,” Chan says from the corner of Minghao’s screen. “Sunday morning I’ve got an econ study sesh for a Monday exam.”

“Aw,” Mingyu coos, “Poor high school baby still thinks high school is the hardest part of his life.”

“It kind of is for most of us mortals,” Seokmin argues teasingly, as much of a college freshman as Mingyu is (even if it isn’t obvious sometimes).

“Yeah,” Seungkwan adds haughtily, “Some of us don’t have the luck of falling in love and staying in love and knowing what love even feels like—”

Mingyu frowns. “Hey, that wasn’t a walk in the park either—”

Seungkwan looks fake-startled. “Oh, so you expected Wonwoo to be a walk in the park huh—”

“It’s all relative,” Hansol amends quickly, looking more than ready to bounce because he’s supposed to be prepping for his sister’s birthday party, like, an hour ago. “Anyway, we can decide on a day at a later time. Good luck with your paper Mingyu. Well, good luck once you start working on it.”

Mingyu groans something like “don’t remind me” or a garbled “uuuugh.” It’s hard to distinguish.

What Minghao can tell is that the shirt Mingyu is wearing looks unbearably familiar. It seems innocuous at first, being a loose, black T-shirt with a single pizza slice drawn in white. But Minghao swears he’s seen it before, and it irritates him that he can’t remember why.

“See you soon, losers.” Seungkwan salutes them all before clicking off his camera.

Slowly, each of them follows suit, offering some characteristic farewell to everyone until it’s just Mingyu and Minghao.

“You sure you’re doing alright?” Minghao asks before Mingyu checks out. “You’re even worse at telling us how you are now that you’re there.”

Mingyu pauses before laughing a little. “I promise I’m fine, Minghao. Thank you for asking.”

“Okay,” Minghao acquiesces, returning Mingyu’s wave good-bye before the video screen fades to the chat.

 


 

The next day, Minghao meets up with (an annoyingly late) Jun for lunch and oh. Now he remembers.

As Jun scrambles out of the taxi, Wonwoo gracefully exits the other side without the weighty social responsibility of being timely on his shoulders. When Wonwoo spots Minghao, he nods politely before walking away and huh, okay. He’s wearing a loose, black T-shirt. With a drawing in white. Of a whole pizza, but it’s missing a slice.

Minghao feels kind of sick—in the most supportive way possible, of course.

“I’m sorry, so sorry,” Jun says the moment he meets Minghao in front of the B-grade Chinese place they’ve decided to eat at (yes, they have a ranked list). “Wonwoo told me last-minute that he wanted to share a taxi because Soonyoung did a dumb again and ticked off Jihoon who may or may not have accidentally ruined Wonwoo’s pillowcases with—”

Minghao narrows his eyes, which effectively shuts Jun up and lets the guy breathe because he wasn’t doing a very good job of it.

“Your housing life is something I do not aspire to have,” Minghao comments dryly. “Since you’re late, you’re paying and you owe me a favor.”

Jun appears almost appalled, perhaps a tinge scared the more Minghao is in a good mood.

Jun says, “Paying for being fifteen minutes late? Okay, gentleman’s honor,” Minghao snorts, “But paying and an unnamed, unexplained favor? Now that’s just selfish milking.”

“It’s not a life-threatening favor.”

“This time.”

“I swear, you’re more of a drama queen than Wonwoo and Mingyu combined,” Minghao scoffs with a challenging eyebrow raise. You give someone a ghost pepper once and they think you’re playing with their lifespan. “Honestly it’s not a big deal. I just want you to tell me what kind of pillowcases Wonwoo gets.”

Junhui wrinkles his face in confusion. “His pillowcases? Why?”

Junhui suddenly looks aghast. Minghao shakes his head.

“Not like that, you dumbass,” Minghao mutters with zero curiosity for what Jun was thinking. “I just want to see if I’m right about something.”

Junhui doesn’t look convinced. “Right about what?”

“Whether Mingyu is as ‘hashtag-couple goals’ as he says he is.”

“…I can’t believe you said a hashtag out loud.”

Minghao punches Jun in the shoulder and pushes him into the restaurant. They end up ordering half of the menu with Jun tearing up when he hands the waitress his credit card.

 


 

 

handsome_jun96:
I’m going to die
No one enters wonwoo’s room without his permission and lives
I hate you
I will die for pillowcases and I don’t want that on my grave
Dark navy bvlue w/ swirling patternsADFASDar4taERG
FCUKKFU
ABORTABTORT ABORTRJGIERsdfh349yt0u
Hi Minghao
This is Wonwoo
I respect you as a human being
But please don’t fucking invade my private space
Especially through Jun
Thanks xoxo

 


 

On the decidedly third Saturday of the following month:

“What do your pillowcases look like?”

Mingyu trips over his spiel about how much dining hall food is an insult to human civilization. “What?”

“What do your pillowcases look like?” Minghao repeats just as firmly. The group chat has reached an ominous pause with the out-of-place question hanging so firmly in the air. “Are they navy blue with a swirling pattern?”

“Um,” Mingyu starts, turning around to check his bed. “Yeah, actually. How’d you know?” Then he gasps. “Are you using me as hacking practice again?”

“Again?” Seokmin’s loud-whispers in fear.

“Because that’s the same kind of pillowcases Wonwoo has,” Minghao answers with equal parts pride and cringe—okay, maybe more cringe. “Jun told me Wonwoo bought some new ones recently. I’m guessing he bought two sets here and mailed one to you or something.”

It takes a single, silent moment of suspended realization before the video chat dissolves into uproar.

“Dear god almighty,” Seungkwan whines, high-toned, in dry shock and frustrated envy. He signs the cross and prays. “You gross, despicably adorable, lovey-dovey bastards. You did it again. Stop ruining my expectations for relationships!”

“That’s nice of Wonwoo,” Hansol offers despite his twisted expression. “Wanted to match or something?”

“I bet it was because of something even more gross,” contributes Chan, whose shoulders are up to his ears with his full-body nausea, “Like they wanted to be sleeping together every night even when they’re far apart— guh, I think I might vomit.”

Seokmin has given up on providing any coherent feedback, having been simply reduced to a gurgling mess of figurative diabetes from the deathly sweetness now injected into their group chat. All the while, Mingyu has been set on mute for once and reddened so deeply he looks almost purple.

There is a brief smile on Minghao’s face. Something of fondness, maybe of a gratitude towards Wonwoo for keeping Mingyu happy. Minghao himself has a hard time doing that with the distance between him and Mingyu as something he isn’t used to yet.

But the smile is quickly replaced by a smirk—the kind Minghao always uses in his hunger for both mayhem and Mingyu’s eternal embarrassment. It’s Minghao’s job to balance out what Wonwoo does, after all.

“Let me guess,” Minghao starts, basking in Mingyu’s agonized grumbling, “You guys are wearing the same underwear, too.”

Mingyu’s prolonged silence is enough to send the video chat into another maelstrom of chaos.

 

Chapter Text

Laundry is something Wonwoo has quickly learned to appreciate in university.

Back in the good ol’ days of middle and high school (correction: they were just days, not particularly good ones), Wonwoo always saw laundry as something to actively avoid. The trauma of discovering his mother’s bra for the first time was something he carried for a while—not that female underwear itself is scary, but connecting his brother’s porn collection to lingerie to his mother was a less-than-ideal progression of thoughts.

Nowadays, laundry has become weekly relaxation ritual of sorts. There’s a special anticipation in waiting for clean-smelling clothes and warm bed sheets that Wonwoo deeply appreciates. That, compounded with the surprisingly comfy reading corner next to the washing machine and dryer, makes for a well-deserved Sunday morning before another week of existential crises.

Then again, he should probably be less surprised to find some disorder tucked inside in his attempts at routine.

Just as he’s about to finish loading up the washing machine, Wonwoo notices that the shirt in his hand looks way too big to be his. At first, he isn’t particularly fazed because university has this unspoken quality of mysteriously migrating clothes between rooms. (That’s how Wonwoo found out that Jihoon is surprisingly not a boxers guy but a full-on briefs man. Go figure.)

But the shirt is definitely not Jihoon’s or Soonyoung’s, given the size, and it doesn’t look at all like something Jun would wear. Wonwoo is pretty sure Jun would sooner ditch his mirror museum than willingly wear a proper collared dress shirt. You can imagine how fun formal functions with him must be.

It doesn’t take long before Wonwoo surmises that the shirt is actually Mingyu’s—probably from when Mingyu was still in Korea last week over the break, on one of the many days Mingyu had invaded Wonwoo’s shared apartment and, by (a somewhat) natural progression, Wonwoo’s bedroom.

Seeing as his roommates aren’t home or are still nursing bad hangovers, Wonwoo takes the dive of curiosity and holds the wrinkled garment to his face and—behold—it really does smell like Mingyu.

It still has Mingyu’s favorite, stupidly expensive cologne from Dolce de Leche and Gabbana or something (which Wonwoo begrudgingly admitted to liking). There’s still undertones of the old detergent Wonwoo used to use before he switched to a scentless one for value pricing. Even the sleeves are still rolled up to the elbows because Wonwoo said Mingyu looked especially handsome wearing the shirt like that, even if Mingyu can’t evenly roll his sleeves for his life. (“Like a sexy but confused accountant,” was Wonwoo’s indisputable description.)

For college students, they’re both well-organized and clean, but there’s always something that accidentally slips through the cracks. This is no different. At least, that’s what Wonwoo initially thinks.

As he decidedly sets the shirt aside (yes, he knows not washing it is gross and that he is gross for wanting to keep Mingyu’s scent just—ugh, let him live), Wonwoo remembers that Mingyu did steal one of his old hoodies before flying back.

So is this a compensatory one for one? An exchange of personal tokens to remember each other by? Who knows.

Wonwoo’s just happy to add another tangible memento to the growing collection.

 

Chapter Text

When Jungkook first heard of Mingyu, he’d thought Oh god. I’m rooming with the mayor of Douchebag Central.

What else could Jungkook expect? Born and bred in the motherland; precious eldest son to a rich, business-focused family; double majoring in the most pretentious-sounding majors ever.

(“Hey, as if Computer Science isn’t notorious these days—”

“Shut your Multinational Management and Marketing Operations mouth, you twatwaffle.”)

Then the guy had to go ahead and get on God’s good side and be tall, tan, and just so god damn beautiful. Now that’s just cheating at life.

As if that wasn’t enough, Mingyu has become infamous on campus for his vague, almost mythical relationship with some faceless high school sweetheart, ipso facto keeping alive Mingyu’s attractiveness in potential availability while he enjoys the perks of lovesick commitment and sips on virgins' blood, probably.

The unethical nerve.

But then Jungkook actually started living with Mingyu and realized it wasn’t so bad. Kind of.

For the most part, Mingyu is a great roommate. Polite as fuck, cleans up after himself, can use the community kitchen without setting off the fire alarms because of half-conscious, sex-deprived taquito cravings at 4AM on a Wednesday (Mingyu will never let Jungkook live that down). All in all, Mingyu is a pretty Functional AdultTM.

Mingyu as a BoyfriendTM, on the other hand, is a nightmare.

He’s obnoxious as hell when he’s Skyping Wonwoo. He forces Jungkook to decide between stupidly romantic gift boxes to send because his “Wonwoo senses are telling him to.” Mingyu even cooks fancy dinners to eat over video calls for the one hundred and one relationship anniversaries he seems to celebrate for no reason other than to signal to people, “Yes, Wonwoo and I are in love. Yes, we think we’re better than you. Yes, we probably are.”

Then Jungkook is left to eat the extra serving of dinner Mingyu makes for him out of pity. All by himself. After a more-than-likely disappointing game of Overwatch.

God damn, it’s hard to procrastinate in peace in this household.

And it’s the moment Mingyu utters his sixth “good night, babe” in the span of eleven minutes (you bet Jungkook timed it) that Jungkook decides it’s the last time Mingyu will utter those words ever again. At least for as long as Jungkook is sober. Which he is that night, unfortunately.

He grits his teeth and slams his laptop shut (then he pets it and apologizes because his child doesn’t deserve that) before storming into Mingyu’s room.

“For god’s sakes, Mingyu, I’m getting real tired of this schmoopy-ass Korean drama sh— oh.”

Jungkook expected to see a waterfall of heart eyes and kissy faces and, in the worst circumstance, two too many dicks out. Instead, Jungkook finds Mingyu passed out at his desk.

It sounds terrible, sure, but it’s offset by the fact that Mingyu’s hair is all did up and that he’s dressed so nicely from head to waist. But then everything down is an atrocity of ragged basketball shorts, mismatched socks Wonwoo definitely shouldn’t know about, and legs a hairy forest so thick Mingyu could probably donate a wig out of it.

Above Mingyu’s head is monthly calendar stuck to the wall. There’s an orange note posted to today’s date.

At this point, Jungkook knows Mingyu well enough (and has forgotten Mingyu’s bedroom ban enough times) to know that orange notes are code for emergency calls. Wonwoo must be having a real rough time to need one.

Something warm strikes a chord with Jungkook’s cold, soulless heart (fact: he doesn’t cry watching Bambi anymore—soulless indeed), and it compels Jungkook to hike Mingyu onto his shoulders and drag the fool onto the nearby bed.

“Wonwoo…” Mingyu murmurs as he cuddles and smiles into his pillow. Jungkook suppresses a gag.

Okay, fine, even Jungkook can admit that it’s awfully sweet of Mingyu to do this. He can’t help but admire Mingyu for abandoning his own moral and academic compass, in the midst of a busy week, for someone he must really care about.

Stable relationships don’t appear out of thin air or fairy tales, Jungkook knows, and Mingyu and Wonwoo are no different. There were struggles—and there are still many more, given their circumstances—but Jungkook recognizes that Mingyu is as loyal as he is stubborn, as enthusiastic as he is nagging, and as loving as he is ready to tackle any challenge that stands in his way.

Mingyu tries to be all of those things in every part of his life, even if it can be too much at times. But if it makes him this happy, then who is Jungkook to judge?

“Good night, babe…” Mingyu repeats sweetly, unconscious, and straight into his roommate's phone's camera.

Yeah, Jungkook can't really judge, but at least he got some solid blackmail out of it. Time to find his long-lost Jeon brother.

 

 

Chapter Text

Not hearing from Mingyu for a while isn’t out of the ordinary. Mingyu has a life, other friends, big projects to finish and even bigger events to attend—Wonwoo gets that.

But Mingyu is the type of person who sends a single sentence in fourteen successive chat bubbles with either too much punctuation or none at all. He’s the type of person to be completely beholden to his snapchat schedule because keeping up his streak with Wonwoo, apparently, is comparable to life or death; Wonwoo still has a month-long backlog from Mingyu’s obsession with squirrels from last month. (“I don’t see what’s so appealing about—” “Three words: majestic tree mice.”)

What Wonwoo supposes he’s trying to say is that Mingyu always messages him. Always. Even when he’s busy, Mingyu tells Wonwoo that he’s busy because Wonwoo is a worrier by nature and hearing something—anything—from Mingyu makes all the difference.

A day without a word? Understandable. Two days? Rare, though it’s happened. But Mingyu’s absence is hitting the big three days now and Wonwoo is seriously getting antsy.

Wonwoo has been pacing around the living room for a solid fifteen minutes by the time Jihoon finally cracks.

“Jesus Christ, Susan, calm your tits—”

“Susan?” Wonwoo asks, quizzical.

“Your man’s just fine,” Jihoon continues from the kitchen sink where he’s scrubbing the communal Ramen Pot; it’s his punishment for dispelling blind rage unto Wonwoo’s poor, vulnerable pillowcases a while back. “Mingyu literally messages you about coordinating outfits because it makes him feel like you guys are, quote unquote, ‘going on a date even in separate time zones.’ Disgusting. Check me for hives?”

Wonwoo doesn’t even have time to roll his eyes because he’s frantically scrolling through his phone for any news about natural disasters in America’s east coast (even though the city Mingyu lives in nearly rivals England in the “nothing fucking happens here” department).

Are snow storms possible in the spring? Can hail fall when it’s sunny outside? God knows that Mother Nature is finicky-ass b-word.

Or maybe…maybe Mingyu’s gotten tired of him?

Maybe Mingyu’s gotten tired staying loyal to some nihilistic piece of stale bread with a resting has-seen-the-existential-void face and lives half a world away. Maybe Mingyu is tired of all this waiting, separation, lack of physical intimacy—of all this effort just to be in a relationship with someone who sends strings of hostile but loving texts in place of an actual hug or kiss.

Sure, perhaps Jihoon’s right in saying that Mingyu hasn’t stopped being grossly besotted with Wonwoo regardless of the distance. Nothing in Mingyu’s behavior so far has indicated otherwise.

But Mingyu is also a man whose veins run with an undeniable sense of pride and a burning stubbornness for challenges. Maybe that’s all this relationship, and all Wonwoo, has become: a challenge which Mingyu can’t surrender lest his pride yield to the weight of soul-crushing defeat—

“Oh, for fuck’s sake.”

Wonwoo only notices that Jihoon has disappeared from the kitchen when he feels a stinging sensation at the back of his own head. Seems like Wonwoo still sucks at closing his mouth when his thoughts are running.

“You should switch to being a theater major because you sure fucking love your overly dramatic monologues,” Jihoon grumbles as he inspects the nails of the hand he smacked Wonwoo with. “You need to have more faith in Mingyu, of all fucking people. I don’t know whether to be embarrassed for you or for him. Have you even checked your messages recently?”

“Of course I have, what do you think I’ve—”

“I mean really check your messages.” Wonwoo is still looking at Jihoon like his roommate needs subtitles. Jihoon face-palms. “Your message requests, you dumbass.”

Oh. Wonwoo didn’t think about that.

He quickly opens up and searches through his messaging app to find several long-winded message requests from someone named Yugyeom. About Mingyu. Who apparently lost his phone and broke his laptop.

“Well?” Jihoon urges, serving up one of the smugliest looks Wonwoo has ever seen.

“One of Mingyu’s friends messaged me,” Wonwoo says carefully, eyes zipping through the horrific text language and ill-placed emoticons. “Seems like Mingyu has reached peak clumsiness and technological ineptitude. No surprise there. But apparently he’s been panicking less about getting work done and more about not getting in contact with me— oh.”

“Yeah, oh,” Jihoon mimics, still smugly. “Also, isn’t his uni, like, hella funded by alumni who have nothing better to do than to assert their financial dominance? Surely the school can burn its money on a public computer. Maybe even two if they’re crazy.”

“Mingyu has some weird moral code about not using public computers for personal use.”

“Oh yeah, don’t want to accidentally leave out messages about how he thinks your skin shines like ivory, or how your voice makes his heart melt and shit.” Jihoon actually looks on the verge of throwing up. “Making people choke on his love for you would look terrible on a job application.”

Wonwoo flushes at the memory of his roommates stumbling upon that particular Valentine’s card. Soonyoung still recites the sonnet Mingyu had painstakingly written in the most inappropriate of situations. (“And, Love, your fingers thin and delicate—” “Fuck off and let me buy my bokchoy in peace.”) Good to know Jihoon still remembers that sonnet, too.

“You’re right,” Wonwoo heaves out, defeated. “But it’s hard to not be doubtful sometimes, especially when we’re so far apart.”

“People get doubtful even after the wedding and kids,” Jihoon offers, a tinge softer. “But Mingyu’s still a good guy and he’s still awfully infatuated with your sleepy, cranky ass. I’ll let you know when there’s anything worth doubting, okay?”

“Yeah, I’m definitely safe in the hands of someone with a talent for destroying bedspread accessories,” Wonwoo says dryly, earning another smack in the head from Jihoon. “Honestly though, thanks. I needed that.”

Jihoon raises his hand.

“I meant the advice,” Wonwoo amends.

Jihoon lowers his hand.

“Anyway, hurry up and message Mingyu’s friend before your boyfriend gets an aneurysm,” Jihoon suggests as he walks back to the kitchen. “I don’t get paid enough to babysit.”

“Friendship is priceless!” Wonwoo calls after him, grinning, before returning to his phone.

[9:24]

Hey there

Thanks for reaching out. Tell Mingyu not to worry so much or else he’ll give himself premature wrinkles (which will make him more worried and give him even more wrinkles).

Not hearing from him for a while was definitely concerning on my end, but I’m just glad he isn’t seriously hurt or hospitalized. Please let Mingyu know that I’m doing fine and that I miss him.

[9:27]

Also let him know that he needs to get his shit together and learn to coordinate his limbs with his brain

Or to just use a god damn library computer

He’s not going to get arrested for the one time he torrented the first Pokemon movie two months ago

The American government has more important shit to worry about

K thanks

Okay, Wonwoo admits that he can be a disaster at times—even more so now that he’s in college, far away from the people who anchored him the most. (Well, at least Jihoon is still around.)

But it’s reassuring to know that, maybe because of Wonwoo, shining glory and Perfect Human Bean Mingyu is capable of being a bit of a disaster, too.

 

Chapter Text

“Oh, Wonwoo!”

It’s an ungodly hour when Wonwoo runs into Mingyu’s mother at a convenience store. He initially thought it was a hallucination of his inner fears again, given how little sleep he’s gotten lately, but no. She’s real. Very real.

“Mrs…Mrs. Kim? I mean,” Wonwoo hurriedly rubs the sleep out of his eyes before bowing profusely, “Good evening!”

She offers an airy laugh and a queen-like wave of her free hand, the other cradling a basket of cheap edibles that look out of place, given how luxuriously intimidating her business trip pantsuit looks.

“It’s been a while, dear,” she greets, sharp and feathery. “The last time I saw you was at the airport last December, I think. Anyway, how are you?”

Wonwoo hopes the unflattering intensity of the ceiling lights washes away the color on his face. He faintly remembers the kiss Mingyu planted on his cheek. In front of the parents. And the rest of the airport. Mingyu has clearly taken too easily to American culture.

“I’m doing alright, thank you. Well, as alright as a university student can be.”

“University is difficult. Mingyu seems to have a new complaint for me every day about his studies and responsibilities.”

“Same.” Wonwoo nods, then pauses, then reroutes his brain-to-mouth connection and quickly corrects himself, “I mean, I, too, have novel issues to report daily to my own guardian figures. That is something I, like many university students, share with Mingyu. Nothing else. Only that.”

Wonwoo’s stomach shrivels. He hasn’t even had dinner with the Kims yet. So God help me.

“Do you thrift shop?”

“…I’m sorry?”

Mrs. Kim smiles a little wider, tips her chin at Wonwoo and says, “My son said he’d given away some old clothes to a thrift store. What are the chances that one of his donated shirts would end up in your closet?”

Instinctively, Wonwoo’s fingers tighten around the hem of his—Mingyu’s—shirt. No bleach-colored ceiling light or Photoshop could possibly hide his flush this time.

Mrs. Kim laughs again, flutters her manicured fingers in amused dismissal. “I’m just teasing. I’m glad some of his clothes have found a good home.”

Wonwoo bows his head because he doesn’t really know what else to do. “I’m sorry. It’s just— I hoped I could talk to his parents properly under more…appropriate conditions.”

“With Mingyu around to cushion the conversation, you mean?”

“I. Um. Yeah,” Wonwoo admits in defeat. “I’m sorry again. I don’t mean to be disrespectful.”

“You’re absolutely fine, dear,” she says placatingly. “My husband was far worse when he met my own parents. He messed up his own name introducing himself.”

Wonwoo snorts. “That’s what Mingyu did with my parents.”

“It’s good to hear that he’s like his father in some way! I always worry that he takes after me too much. Let me guess: all those snacks aren’t for you?”

“I guess we had the same thing in mind."

Mrs. Kim pauses, eyes widening slightly, and Wonwoo nearly bites his tongue in regret for even breathing in her direction. But then she laughs, the same playful lilt to her outbreaths and glint to her canines that somehow makes Wonwoo feel at home. Perhaps the fact that Mingyu takes after his mother so much isn’t a bad thing.

“I can see it,” she says, breathy, paying no heed to the irritated, 3am convenience store stares. “I can see it now.”

Wonwoo blinks. “See what?”

Mrs. Kim looks at Wonwoo with a degree of motherly contemplation he didn’t think her capable of, at least towards him.

“What are your thoughts on sending Mingyu something?”

“I was already— oh, you mean…together?”

“I’m not going to bite off your head, child."

Mrs. Kim holds out her basket for Wonwoo to deposit his own select choice of goods, and he almost does until something bright red with the promise of Satanic tongue-burning fire catches his eye.

“I thought Mingyu wasn’t a fan of heavy spice?”

Mrs. Kim doesn’t reply, just smiles.

Wonwoo pauses, glances at his armful of environmentally-unfriendly food packaging, before turning to reevaluate the aisles of food behind him.

“We should get the ramen on the bottom shelf,” he says, smiling at Mrs. Kim. “It’s even spicier.”

 

Chapter Text

It’s not uncommon to find a shit ton of Asian tourists on college campuses. They’re like sore thumb pockets of culture filled with noticeably branded clothing, sunscreen, and overly-excited foreign chatter. The funny thing is that Mingyu gets lumped in with them, too.

The “lumping” is not unfounded by any means. Mingyu takes photos of everything. He un-ironically owns a selfie stick, a moderately fancy camera to supplement his half-cracked iPhone, is always wearing some fancy trench coat and a styled coif of hair—Mingyu is just like every other pseudo-artsy Asian pretty boy who feeds their social media obsession with an apparent side hobby in photography.

(“Mingyu, that’s a squirrel, they’re all over campus.”

“Not in this lighting.”)

But what makes Mingyu so confusing is that he never posts his photos. Ever.

Well, that’s not totally true. He posts a few on the occasional request and whenever he’s asked (rather, coerced) to photograph for clubs. But given the sheer volume of photos Mingyu has taken, it’s hard for others not to wonder where the other ninety-nine percent goes.

When his friends find out why, they suppose it’s not exactly a surprise.

“I send them to Wonwoo,” Mingyu tells them at their weekly 1:00 AM nugget run at the nearby McDonalds. “I like showing him what I’m up to.”

“That’s cute,” Yugyeom says supportively behind a French fry. “What kind of photos do you send him?”

Mingyu’s eyes sparkle in the wake of opening Pandora’s box. “Oh man, where do I start?”

“What you eat for breakfast,” Bambam drones.

“So he knows that I’m eating and thinking of him every morning,” Mingyu elaborates.

“Those stupid cat-shaped paperclips you bought from Amazon the other day.”

“Wonwoo loves cats and useless stationary!”

“And the dick pics you take every night,” Jungkook coughs out.

“So he knows I’m feeling— hey,” Mingyu scolds, elbowing Jungkook. “I don’t take them every night.”

“The fact that you take them at all makes me question the existence of God altogether,” mutters Bambam with a commendably theatrical cringe.

“A lot of it sounds mundane though,” butts in Yugyeom. “Wonwoo doesn’t seem like the type of person to enjoy being bothered by that kind of stuff. No offense.”

“I veto that,” interrupts Jungkook, “and intend the offense in Yugyeom’s place.”

“Well, since Wonwoo and I are physically apart most of the time, this is one way of— of—” Mingyu scratches his neck, “of keeping each other a part of our daily lives.”

At the same time Yugyeom whines something of disgust and adoration, Jungkook chokes on his third serving of fried heart disease.

Bambam reaches out his hand, palm upturned. Mingyu swats it away.

“For the last time,” Mingyu mutters, “I’m not paying for a figurative dentist appointment for your figurative cavities. Anyway, can someone take a photo of me with this McFlurry? Wonwoo loves Oreos.”

 

Chapter Text

“We need to stop reading each other’s minds. It’s getting creepy.”

“I think you mispronounced romantic.”

“Did you hear me stutter?”

“What was that? My ears can only filter dinner calls and love confessions,” Mingyu says, grinning as he pulls Wonwoo in for a full-on attack of face kisses—not that it can really be called an attack, since Wonwoo has long since given up on resisting.

“You should get that checked,” Wonwoo comments with quiet affection, tugging at Mingyu’s ear with the hand not wrapped around the handmade teddy bear Mingyu had given him. “Love is supposed to make you blind, not deaf.”

Today is another airport day.

They suppose they’ve gotten used to it by now, but maybe saying that is still an overestimate of how they really feel; you can only feel so positive about inevitable separation. Then again, they breathe work-arounds and unintentional romantic gestures like a second air, so perhaps it’s not so bad in the end.

“Did you get the kit at the same subway shop? The one next to the old bookstore?” inquires Mingyu as he inspects the near-identical teddy bear in his own hands. It’s a cool lavender with silver stitching compared to Wonwoo’s fiery orange with dark red threads.

When Wonwoo nods, Mingyu can’t help but bark a laugh and assault Wonwoo’s face with more cheesy pecks.

“We’re in public, idiot,” Wonwoo weakly retaliates, pushing Mingyu away with a barely-contained flush. “Anyway, I lied earlier. Seokmin told Soonyoung about the bear thing. He threatened to revoke our friendship tax benefits if I didn’t make one for you, too.”

“I’m sure you put up a good fight,” Mingyu says, thumbing at the carefully-stitched silk heart on the chest of the teddy bear Wonwoo had given him.

When he looks up at Wonwoo and smiles That Smile, Wonwoo just about melts. Airport episodes—no big deal. Mingyu’s smiling face—he’ll never get used to it.

“Thank you,” Mingyu says, soft and bright. “Can I name it after you?”

“Lucifer, Deceiver of the World, Emperor of Demons, and Angel of the Abyss is a bit of a long name,” Wonwoo says. “But yes, you can.”

“Can you name yours after me?”

“So ‘Resident K-Drama and Anime Self-insert’?”

“Anything that will help anata think of me.”

“You are officially the worst,” Wonwoo says despite tightening his hold on Mingyu The Bear. “I’m going to take a shower the moment I get home. I need to wash the weab off of me.”

“Hygiene for the sake of love,” Mingyu chirps happily. “We are truly at peak romance.”

In typical Wonwoo fashion, Wonwoo rolls his eyes before briefly pressing his lips to Mingyu’s forehead. “Get going, you dolt, or you’ll miss your flight.”

“That was only once!”

“And your parents were furious with both of us!”

“No one is truly angry if the word ‘canoodling’ was somewhere in the spiel.”

Wonwoo punches Mingyu in the arm. Mingyu aggressively nuzzles their faces together and kisses Wonwoo one more time.

“I’ll miss you,” Mingyu murmurs.

“Me too,” Wonwoo says, pinching Mingyu’s nose. “Bye for now.”

“It’s never ‘goodbye’!” Mingyu replies as he slowly walks away, backwards, while waving at Wonwoo. “It’s always ‘See you later’!” He barely avoids hitting a security guard.

Wonwoo rolls his eyes again, but he still waves back at Mingyu, handmade teddy bear in hand and a warmth in his heart.

 

Chapter Text

The first time Mingyu drank alcohol, he regurgitated an impressive amount of emotional goop onto his then-ex before making up the next morning over non-pulpy OJ and putrid morning breath kisses.

He promised himself that that would be the last time he drank. He was wrong.

Honestly, what else could Mingyu expect as an international student who (a) generally doesn’t know any better and (b) attends a college full of undergrads struggling with 9AM classes but have no issue hosting the “best” Thursday night parties in the entire state? He was going to get roped in somehow.

And Mingyu did. Just now. On a god damn Thursday night.

All the angles have stopped spinning by the time Mingyu graduates from the floor to a bed. He doesn’t know who moved him. Maybe it was Yugyeom. Good guy. That guy. Good guy-gyeom.

He wants to vomit, but not the gross, chunky, liquid-y kind that smells like regret and stomach acid and even more regret. No, Mingyu wants to vomit every feeling and sickly emotion he can possibly eject from this poor, mortal vessel for there is no better sledgehammer than pure vodka to smash his inhibitions so swiftly and without remorse.

But, somewhere in the recesses of his mind, where the common senses are cowering in fear, a fearless conviction arises: someone has to listen. Because, of course, what’s the point in expressing one’s suffering without someone else to suffer through the mess with you?

Mingyu manages to drag his phone out of his pocket and blearily dials a contact. Words are already leaking from his mouth like deep-sleep drool.

“Mingyu? What the hell, do you know what time it is over there—”

“I wanna make out with my boyfriend,” Mingyu grumbles, elementary speech skills barely keeping together the slurring sounds. “I wanna make out with him for, like, twelve hours. Consecutively. No bathroom breaks. Okay, maybe one. Two max.”

“Mingyu? Is that you? Are you safe? Are you at home? Shit, Yugyeom just messaged me…”

“Then I wanna cuddle him. I wanna cuddle him so hard for another other twelve hours. That’d be a nice day. Perfect day. Every day.”

“…oh my god, are you fucking drunk .”

“Drunk, not fucking,” Mingyu clarifies rather proudly. “Unless my boyfriend—”

“You’re really out of it.”

“I know! Thought I’d much prefer being in it than out of it—”

“Another word, and I’m breaking up.”

Mingyu adds nothing else (coherent), replacing any words with a petulant, unintelligible whining sound instead. On the other side of the line, there is a slow and controlled exhale, and underneath that is the quiet, if not soothing, count of one to ten. It sounds nice, sounds like Wonwoo when Mingyu forces him to meditate, or do yoga. Yoga pants. Pants in general. Wonwoo in pants, out of pants—

“Stop talking. Actually. Christ, how did you turn into a greasy menace? What happened to being an emotional drunk?”

“Was single then,” Mingyu mumbles, lips flapping heavily like raw leather. “’m not single now. Got me a Wonwoo.”

There's a pause.

“A Wonwoo?” A chuckle—no, a sexy snicker. The sexiest. Mingyu bets that the person on the other side of the line is super, proper sexy. “Tell me, how did you get one of those?”

Mingyu giggles. It pops out of him like a soap bubble in the summer. “With charm and a hell of a lot of persistence. I fell for him, he fell for me. Lots of falling. Get up, smile, hold hands. Too bad for you, though, ‘cause I got the last Wonwoo, or at least the last good one.”

Mingyu’s ear is graced with another Sexy Snicker. That should be a candy bar for adults. What a great idea. Hershey’s should call him.

“Now that you mention it,” the guy on the line says, “I have some exclusivity to a person as well.”

“Oh yeah?” Hiccup. Burp. Sigh. “Tell me about ‘em. If I started on my Wonwoo, we’d both be retired by the time I finished.”

“Well, he has a special talent for bumping into light poles and breaking my earbuds every time we share them. He also gets really moody depending on the anime or K-drama he’s watching—his current Boruto phase is a nightmare, honestly. He’s impatient on the days I don’t want to talk, and he’s a crybaby for the same seven movies he watches on monthly rotation. He's even more of a handful now that we're living apart.”

“Sounds like a numpty dumpty.”

A staticky sigh comes through the line. It sounds smiley. “But he’s also the sweetest person I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, let alone be in a relationship with. I love him a lot, and I can…definitely tell that he loves me a lot, too. When it comes to him, I never really mind.”

“Aw, you guys sound freakin' adorable,” Mingyu gushes like a waterfall. The inside of his head feels inflated with too much air, and his skull is like a cheap party store balloon on the edge of popping. “My Wonwoo and I are the same, I hope.”

“I’m sure you two are.”

“You should tell your Mingyu how you feel.” The last word comes out somewhere between sung and coughed out. “I’m sure he’ll appreciate it.”

“I already have. He probably won’t remember it, though.”

“How co—”

And that’s about the time Mingyu passes the fuck out.

He wakes up the next morning (afternoon, more like) in a bedroom environment that becomes as increasingly familiar as the pain in the space between his eyes. It feels like the world is splitting by its spine and Mingyu just so happens to be in the middle of it all.

After a couple aspirins and near-expired Saltine crackers, he manages to crack open his eyes beyond squinting and not feel like the sun birthed two other suns in his eyeballs.

When Mingyu checks his phone, there’s a message from Wonwoo. 

Wonu:
Please let me know when you’ve woken up from the dead
If I don’t get something in 24 hours, I’m calling funeral services

Mingmingu:
i feel like my brain is about to poop 

Wonu:
That’s what you get for drinking too much

Mingmingu:
fuk
my phone says i called you last night
wat did i tell you
was it stupid
it was stupid wasnt it
pls dont break up w me

Wonu:
You always say dumb things, you boob
And look, I’m still here

Mingmingu:
nooooooo so i did say stupid stuff :’(((

Wonu:
It’s okay
It was more reassuring than anything

Mingmingu:
reassuring of what?
BOI you needa tell me what i said
so i can pass out again in peace

Wonu:
;) <3

Mingmingu:
what does that mean???
wonwoo???????
you havent even told me about the last time this happened :(

 

Chapter Text

 

Wonwoo gets smashed. As in absolutely, spectacularly smashed. (He’s talking about alcohol.)

It’s out of character, of course. On the universal university student spectrum of Totally ResponsibleTM versus Blacked-Out Weekly, Wonwoo has quietly settled at a solid Mostly Sober Until Jihoon Emergency Calls for a Wine and Cheese Night Because “being a creative major in this country is so fucking exhausting so help me God.” And, honestly, who could argue with that?

He can’t recall the last time he’d drank this much, or maybe it’s the alcohol speaking for him. It’s certainly not unlike him to hand the microphone over to a spicy marg.

But there’s a difference between a margarita on a Taco Tuesday and an entire fucking cauldron of jungle juice that’s basically 99% liquor and 1% whatever else edible/sweet college students have stashed somewhere in their hand-me-down mini fridges.

Apparently, Asians have the highest risk for liver cancer. Go figure.

The scariest thing about being stupid drunk for Wonwoo is the fact that this has happened so often that he can actually think quite lucidly through the alcohol haze—doesn’t mean he can do a damned anything about it.

Imagine it: you wake up in a daze, it clears, and suddenly you’re recognizing every sign of intoxication you’ve memorized since you got peer pressured into entering a stranger’s house during New Student Orientation. But your body, brain, and mouth literally do nothing that you want them to. It’s terrifying. That’s where Wonwoo is right now.

“Hyung? You’ve gotta stop staying up so late—”

“Fuck me,” Wonwoo hiccups to his internal-self’s dismay. He realizes there’s a phone to his ear. Turns out that phone is his.

“W-What?” Even in impending liver death, Wonwoo can at least revel in his debauchery of Mingyu’s innocence. “Are you okay? What happened?”

“Liberals. They’re always happening.”

Mingyu makes confused, amused choking sounds over the line like some a-fucking-dorable asshole. “Same here, but that's 'cause I live in a blue state. Where are you right now? Are you home?”

“Fractals are fucking crazy, like, what the fuck, math? How the hell do you just visualize infinity like that? Are we in the year 3000? Are the Jonas Brothers real?”

Okay, seriously, when the hell did Wonwoo turn into a high drunk? The Mother Land has literally fear-mongered him out of just thinking of drugs; Wonwoo powers through fevers like a champ on Starbucks gift cards. There’s probably an explanation for it, but Wonwoo can’t even bring himself to speak like a human let alone give a shit about the effects of draconian legalities on his psyche.

Aaand Wonwoo gurgle-burps like an actual heathen—the secondhand embarrassment he’s getting from himself is definitely carrying over the next lifetime or so.

“Fractals really are crazy.” Wonwoo doesn’t know if Mingyu’s reassurances are comforting or insulting. Maybe both. “Did you drink water yet? Have you changed out of your clothes? You’ll feel better. Check your desk chair! That’s where you usually leave your house clothes.”

Somehow, like muscle memory, Wonwoo blearily wriggles his way across the bed so he can reach over and magically retrieve a T-shirt and pajama pants from somewhere in space. There’s even a half-empty water bottle next to something that feels like a lamp.

Wonwoo says something along the lines of, “What birthday is it today? 4pm? Leap year day,” but that’s not relevant.

Mingyu just laughs again. It sounds so nice, it’s almost sobering. “I need to head to class now. I’ll check on you when it’s morning over there, okay?”

“Can Asians be part of the Illuminati? Is that a white people thing? No, wait, Beyoncé…”

One more laugh, maybe a smile Wonwoo just knows is on the other side. “Love you, too. Control yourself next time, you madman!”

It’s as good of a time as any for Wonwoo to just shut off. Keeping up a conversation like that was draining.

The next day:

 

Mingmingu:
mornin bb how r u

Wonu:
Fucking dead
More thanu sual

Mingmingu:
that’s wat u get for drinkin ur brains out

Wonu:
What’d I tell you last night
I called you didn’t i

Mingmingu:
nothin

Wonu:
What the fuck did I say

Mingmingu:
u proposed 2 me

Wonu:
WHAT
Sorry
Please ignore everything I said last night
I was drunk off my ass

Mingmingu:
aw ur cute when u panic
t b h
actually
i had no idea wat u wer sayin 99% of the time
just sum crazy things like stuff abt liberals n math or whateva

Wonu:
Please break up with me
I would if I were you

Mingmingu:
not a chance
u proposed
we’re in it 4 LIFE bb
<3 uuuuuuuu

Wonu:
I hate you
I don’t
But I do

Mingmingu:
oh tell soonyoung thx

Wonu:
Wait
Why
WHY

Suffice to say, poor Soonyoung might be next on Wonwoo’s sacrifice list.

He may have carried Wonwoo’s drunk ass home, but taking unsolicited photos of Wonwoo during what he now (regrettably) remembers as Spiked Strip Poker—and then sending those fucking photos to Mingyu who’s probably working on a new digital scrapbook chapter as we speak—is actually asking for a death wish.

 

Chapter Text

 

“So,” Wonwoo says, “You have a thing for sushi.”

It isn’t said like a statement, nor is it asked like a question.

“I,” says Mingyu, watching Wonwoo’s eyes narrow marginally on his phone screen. “I don’t not like it.”

“You have a thing for sushi,” Wonwoo repeats. “At near nine in the evening. Several days in a row and many more this month at varying intervals.”

Mingyu feels like he’s being tested. He hates tests.

“I go sometimes after the gym,” Mingyu reasons carefully. “Protein, carbs and fat all in one—”

“Do you go with anyone? Do you see anyone there in particular?”

Ah, so this is where it's going. Mingyu supposes that it was only a matter of time before problems like this started getting wrung into the spotlight.

At some point, both of them agreed to use the Share Location functions on their phones with each other. It started off as a protective measure—more so for Mingyu since the areas around his campus weren't exactly kosher during late night walks from the library. And for Wonwoo? Well, he’s almost always at home so Mingyu just nags at him about getting enough sunlight.

Wonwoo usually hisses at him in jest. Mingyu wonders faintly if it's become unironic now.

Naturally, this situation evolved into check-ins and points of conversation:

“You went to that cat café without me?!”

“Mini golf. Please tell me you still have Asian friends.”

“Hyung, What’s a…a hookah lounge?”

When Mingyu brought it up, fear followed by regret followed by sheer devastation had quickly flashed through Wonwoo’s eyes. “Don't look it up,” he had shuddered. “And if you do, never do it. You’re too pretty to ruin yourself like that.”

And now, they have reached third base, and not the good kind.

“Mingyu?” Wonwoo prompts with an indiscernible tone.

“That's not,” Mingyu starts, suddenly feeling on edge, “You know I love you, right?”

“Doesn't mean you can't love other people,” is the dry response.

Mingyu sighs. He hates it when Wonwoo is like this.

“I could never see anyone else,” Mingyu says flatly. “Do you doubt me that much to ask this often?”

Wonwoo, for better or worse, deflates. Visibly. Neither of them realize just how tense he was.

Suddenly, Mingyu’s phone screen turns black. Wonwoo must have set his phone down—he always does that when he doesn't want Mingyu to see his face.

“It's not like,” Wonwoo mutters quietly, crackly, “It’s not there’s much for you to look forward to over here. I wouldn't be surprised if you got bored.”

Out of the few things Mingyu truly prides himself in, loyalty, especially to those important to him, is easily near the top of the list. Wonwoo knows this. But now, for that loyalty to be thrown into the interrogation room in handcuffs like this, over something so trivial, feels so incredibly belittling. Mingyu might actually be getting irritated.

But—

“Hyung…”

“Fuck, I’m sorry, I didn't mean to say something so shitty, I’m sorry, I’m sorry—”

—far worse than anything is hearing Wonwoo say something as self-deprecating as this.

He slips into that headspace sometimes, the part his brain full of crawling doubts like a pile of fire ants. It's hard not to when left to your own thoughts as often as Wonwoo is. If therapy and counseling weren't so primitive in a continental landscape blind to their benefits, maybe Wonwoo would actually consider going.

But he doesn't. This, all options considered, is probably the best form of reassurance Wonwoo can get.

“Hyung,” Mingyu says, stronger, with a cadence of command he only uses in times like this, “Please let me see your face.”

“My face is on vacation right now.”

“Hopefully to see me because I miss seeing it, and you.” Then, softly. “Please.”

That's enough to convince Wonwoo to begrudgingly lift the phone. 

He isn't crying. He never does, really. But with features like his, is there a need to? God, Wonwoo’s face of disappointment, especially the kind aimed at himself in displaced, gut-wrenching shame, always splits Mingyu’s heart like young wood to be burned.

“When I’m not thinking about classes or clubs or coordinating my feet so I don't break my face tripping into a lamppost at two AM because someone will be shitting on me about it in the best way possible,” Mingyu says with ease, “I’m thinking of you. Always you.”

Mingyu is giving his best smile, the one Wonwoo likes the most—curled just so at the ends, enough to show his canines and push into his eyes like his cheeks need to make room for all the fondness to show.

It never fails to shift Wonwoo’s expression away from the bad thoughts. Thankfully, that reputation still stands.

“You’re worth far more than a plane ride,” Mingyu continues. “You're one of the best things that's ever happened to me. You deserve the world.”

Ah, now Wonwoo’s blushing. Mingyu’s breath always stutters when he sees it.

“Is this the part where I say you're my world? Because I won't.”

“I think you just did.”

“Did not.”

“Did!”

“Did not!”

And now Wonwoo is smiling, even if it's just barely there behind the faux animosity. He’s developed a weakness for childish back-and-forths like this. Mingyu wonders if it's because those don't end as clinically as logical arguments, so calls end up longer than planned.

“I love you,” Wonwoo murmurs in lieu of Thank you. “Don't eat so late at night. It's not good for your health.”

“So is worrying about my bad habits,” Mingyu teases back. “You should think more about my good habits.”

“There aren't many though.”

“You're right. The only one I have is loving you so much every day.”

Wonwoo’s face twists into one of utter disgust. It's probably the worst Wonwoo face Mingyu has ever seen.

He can't wait to go home and smooch it senseless.

 

Chapter Text

 

So. Someone gets a tattoo.

To everyone’s surprise, or maybe no one’s, that someone is Wonwoo.

It was a rash decision, a terrible one by most accounts—scratch that, all of them, actually, now that Wonwoo is finally waking up with a headache split apart by common sense and some nondescript crust in his eyes, around his mouth, other places he doesn’t want to name. This isn’t his most glamorous moment (not that mornings ever are for most college mortals), but, man, even he knows he really hit rock bottom with this one.

“Ah,” he says to himself in the bathroom mirror. “Shit.”

Before dragging his ass to bed last night, Wonwoo, at least, had enough brain power crumbs to slough off his pants and the remnants of his favorite party shirt.

(“You ruined it, asshole,” he tells Soonyoung. “You forced me to get the alc,” Soonyoung says back, adding “asshole,” for balance. And, yeah, knowing how wild Soonyoung was during their Fake ID days, Wonwoo should’ve known better.)

So now, the morning after, Wonwoo stands in the cold asylum shine of his bathroom. Shirtless. Staring.

There it is, he thinks tiredly. “There it is,” he orates aloud, even more tired.

Despite the absence of bespectacled clarity, with a pale complexion like his, it’s hard for even Wonwoo to miss the very dark presence of…something sitting above the waistband of his underwear. The skin is still red, still tender; he yelps despite barely touching it with his fingertips. There was definitely piece of protective plastic wrap somewhere on his bedroom floor, and he’s definitely going to get infected.

Wonwoo exhales. Runs a grubby hand through his grubby hair. Grabs the spare glasses he has stashed next to his box of contacts so he can at least see the nigh-irreparable damage he’d done to himself this time.

In retrospect, it isn’t that bad. It’s not like Wonwoo got Mingyu’s name and family tree (not that Wonwoo knows…all of it) painstakingly drawn in cursive across the entire bottom half of his torso. Because that’d be weird.

Okay, fine, it was embarrassing to admit to Mingyu that, yes, Wonwoo did cave and Google Mingyu’s name and his mother’s name and father’s and sister’s and even read through the god damn Wikipedia page about his grandfather and—

No, this is nothing like that. It’s actually just a drawing of a…of a sun.

The design isn’t crazy detailed or particularly extravant. It’s rather simple, actually—the outline of a circle with shorter lines spaced around it, something you could easily teach a child to reproduce with hilariously varied results. But the sentiment is still there, still radiates out and proud like it’s own little entity in the empty cosmos of Wonwoo’s skin.

“There it is,” Wonwoo repeats, somehow feeling just a little less tired.

He never mentions it—or, more accurately, Mingyu never finds out—until a month later, when the AC in Wonwoo’s room is broken and Wonwoo can’t bear the burden of wearing mass-produced clothing any longer.

“What’s that?” Mingyu asks through Wonwoo’s computer screen as he watches Wonwoo move off camera to strip off his pajama shirt—but, apparently, not without incident.

“What’s what?” Wonwoo asks not-very-innocently.

“That thing I saw on your hip. It was dark. Did you hurt yourself?”

“Kitchen counters are dangerous.”

“As if you'd be in a kitchen long enough for anything to happen. What is it?”

Wonwoo feels the sigh through his nose before it even leaves his lungs. Now or never, he supposes. He’s an adult. This is okay. This is all okay.

“It’s an accident,” he says. “Of sorts.”

“Please elaborate for us poor laymen.”

“It’s a tattoo.”

Mingyu nearly spurts out his overpriced Starbucks drink. He’s in a Starbucks, by the way.

“I, that’s,” Mingyu bumbles, turning red for absolutely no reason—at least none which Wonwoo would like to know right now. “You got a tattoo? Why? Of what? When? It’s still there?”

“That’s kind of how tattoos work, idiot,” Wonwoo chastises. He finally spots an old tank top somewhere in the clothes heap on his floor. It might be Jun’s. It might be Mingyu’s. Clothing ownership at this point is completely arbitrary. “Got stupid drunk at a congratulations party last month. Jihoon recently signed a job with a small music company, so we thought we’d celebrate. The dude’s officially a lyricist and up-and-coming producer, you know.”

“Oh, wow. That’s actually so rad. But how’d you get a tattoo drunk? Isn’t that, like, hard to do sober in Korea?”

“Soonyoung knows people.”

“Ah. He does.”

Wonwoo coughs awkwardly. His fingers, twitchy, are hovering over That Thing On His Hip now.

“Still haven’t told me what it is,” Mingyu says. Wonwoo almost frowns at the tease Mingyu is doing a terrible job of shielding.

“It’s,” Wonwoo starts, mouth suddenly dry.

“It’s?” Mingyu prods.

“It’s a sun,” Wonwoo finishes, with effort. He grabs his phone and texts Mingyu a picture that had been sitting in his collection for a month now. At the time he took it, Wonwoo spent a good hour debating over whether to do the deed and send it. “Did you get the photo?”

Mingyu isn’t looking at him through the camera anymore, instead transfixed over something out of frame. It’s pretty obvious at this point.

“Mingyu?”

“Does it mean what I think it means?”

“Well,” Wonwoo says, suddenly very hot in the face now himself. Damn the broken AC. “Depends on what you think it means."

“Is it,” Mingyu finally looks up. He’s smiling all crooked and shy, like he’d just heard Wonwoo say I love you for the first time. “Does it mean…me?”

“No, it means the sun god Ra,” Wonwoo mutters, wanting to jump into his bed and cover himself in blankets and hide. The physical separation of the screen should make making that decision easier, but the way Mingyu is looking at him pins Wonwoo exactly where he sits. It’s blinding.

And Mingyu just chuckles. God, it’s unfair just how good he looks with nothing on his face but that stupid smile of his, maybe with a little milk foam on his lips which Wonwoo wants nothing more than to lick off right now.

“Yeah,” Wonwoo says—confesses, maybe. “It means you.”

 

 

 

Two days later, Wonwoo gets a text from Mingyu:

Mingmingu:
so i got drunk
and i may have made a rash decision

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Mingmingu:
yo bb just got my luggage
where u at

Wonu:
I’m exactly where I usually wait when I pick you up

Mingmingu:
u sure?
can’t see u
hollup gotta pee

Wonu:
Are you saying that all Asians look the same
Because that’s offensive
America has dulled your recognition skills

Mingmingu:
omg pls
bb
long ass flight
take it easy onme tyvm

Wonu:
Sorry sorry mb
I’ll find you
Where are you? What are you next to?

Mingmingu:
now in front of giant ad w kim tae hee on it
mad photoshopped but she still beautiful
also next to the trash as if I wasnt already super grosssssss frm the flight

Wonu:
You’re fine
You’re always handsome to me

Mingmingu:
❤️

Wonu:
Besides, I’ve probably seen worse of you than after a 14hr flight so relatively and objectively speaking you’re probably better looking now than that one time you got food poisoning from too much bad yukhoe (for example)
Omw dont move

Mingmingu:
💔

Mingyu is generally pretty bad at listening to what people tell him to do because Mama Kim was always about that Stick It to the Man agenda. Ironic, yes, given Mingyu’s obedience to student government norms back in the day, but he still had his rebellious moments. (“Wow, skipping out on a meeting? Because you were sick? What a concept.” “Excuse you, I missed out on two meetings.” “Okay, wild child—”)

But he waits and makes use of that time thumbing through a bunch of food porn tags on the cursed blue bird app because he hates himself and his 24/7 irrepressible hunger. Between the two of them, Wonwoo is usually the Decision Maker, but sustenance consistently hits the low end of his priorities—right above fixing his bedsheets in the morning and somewhere below writing passive aggressive peer reviews for a writing seminar he’s only taking for the requirement but discovered, to his horror, just how much fully-grown university adults can’t write for shit.

(“You literally have to write essays to get in here,” Wonwoo would groan over the phone. Again. “How can they know only one language fluently and still be so creatively bad at using it—”)

Their semesters haven’t been peachy so far, so Mingyu’s Skype calls are usually filled with Wonwoo’s hair being an air-dried crow’s nest, eyes stress-sunken and complexion an odd, translucent sort of pale. Mingyu would worry. He’d voice it out, too, and Wonwoo would reassure him that he’s fine before firing out a similar question about Mingyu’s dark circles and unplucked eyebrows. And that's…fair.

“Mingyu?”

After a fourteen-hour flight, it’s also fair that Mingyu is only half the man and even less the brainpower he usually is. But, honestly, the sound that escapes him is kind of pitiful.

The person staring right at him is Wonwoo, sure, but nothing like whatever nonsense Mingyu was thinking about.

“You good, bud?” Mingyu vaguely registers a hand waving in his face. “Still with me?”

“Always,” Mingyu says without thinking. His face floods with heat. “I, uh, what—”

What happened to you? is what Mingyu actually wants to say. Hopefully without drooling.

The home-like familiarity of Wonwoo’s inky hair is now a foreign, silver lavender, gleaming and soft and almost illegally glittery in the glow of the lit advertisement beside them. Gone are his janky Harry Potter glasses and in their place is some kind of ruby-brown smoky situation with shimmers and eyeliner and other makeup stuff Mingyu is just too dumbstruck to attempt articulation for since, oh god, what is this torn cloth of a shirt that Wonwoo is wearing in this public space

“Oh, the hair?” Wonwoo asks, one perfectly accentuated eyebrow raised all casual, as if the hair color is the only jarring thing about him. Which is vastly incorrect. “Just felt like it, I guess? I’ve always wanted to dye it. An existential crisis about our limited lifespans is a great motivator for taking non-lethal risks.”

“And the makeup and the…shirt? Thing?”

“Oh. That. Yeah, no, a fashion major friend just roped me into modeling for their annual show, which ended later than expected so I didn’t have time to clean up before coming here. Sorry, do I smell like hairspray?”

He does. Mingyu swallows.

“Yeah, but it’s not that bad,” Mingyu says, definitely not cold-sweating. “Did you get anything for it?”

“Jokbal coupons,” oh god Wonwoo is fidgeting now, like he’s suddenly conscious about his appearance and it’s so cute ugh, “So we could get that for dinner? Discounted food is always good food.”

“You’re really hot,” Mingyu more or less blurts out, choked. It’s been years now, he knows. He shouldn’t be so embarrassed still. “I mean, you’re normally good-looking on, like, a day-to-day basis. But this is kind of much.”

“Um. Thanks?”

“You look like a K-pop boy.”

“A K-pop boy,” is the dry, nonchalant echo. “Well, try to keep your stan Twitter account and Mingyu Jr. in check, I guess, ‘cause we still need to eat.”

Mingyu feels like his head is going to melt off his shoulders as he trails Wonwoo to the parking lot. Jesus, there are tears on the back of his shirt, too, and this is all just too much for Mingyu’s tired little heart—

“I realize that I made the reservation thinking your plane would get delayed, as it usually is,” Wonwoo says the moment he gets into the driver’s seat. He doesn’t buckle in. “But you weren’t delayed this time.”

Mingyu’s hand falters over his own seatbelt. “I—yeah?”

Suddenly Wonwoo is pulling Mingyu forward by frontside slack of his hoodie with a fervor that can only be read as hunger—in more ways than one. Mingyu can suddenly really smell the hairspray, layered in with just-fading cologne and skin and sweat. The makeup glitter chunks are bigger and brighter this close up. Wonwoo’s lips are softsoftsoft.

Before Mingyu’s already braindead brain can process anything humanly rational, Wonwoo is already pulling away. Just barely.

“We’ve got time,” he says quietly, fingers gliding towards a place they shouldn’t be gliding towards.

Mingyu hisses, “You did this on purpose.”

Wonwoo smiles. “I neither confirm nor deny.”